Whiskey Review – Crown Royal Monarch 75th Anniversary Blend


Crown Royal Monarch

We love our whisky, of this there is no doubt, but for some reason, whisky from our friendly neighbor to the north, i.e. Canadia, has rarely made an appearance during our research sessions. Thankfully, over the past couple of years, this situation has changed quite a bit. In addition to a Crown Royal expression or two, we have also had the opportunity to try some fantastic whiskies from Forty Creek, Still Waters Distillery, Corby Distilleries (their Lot 40 to be specific), and the ever present Whistle Pig (while this whisky may be “bottled in Vermont”, according to Davin de Kergommeaux of canadianwhisky.org, this 100% Rye whisky is actually made by Alberta Distillers), to name just a few. When the whisky from Canadia is that good, you can rest assured that it will always have a spot in our respective whisky cabinets. Never let it be said that we aren’t open minded when it comes to our whisky, and unlike Peggy Olson of Mad Men, we know that Canadian whisky isn’t JUST about rye.

And now for a review of yet another Canadian whisky that found its way to our mailbox way back in June….

Below is an excerpt from a press release that we received via email about Crown Royal’s Monarch 75th Anniversary Blend:

In 1939 the Royal Couple, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, made history when they became the first reigning monarchs to journey across North America, traveling  the vast distance by train.

Upon hearing the historic news, a Canadian entrepreneur set out to craft a whisky suited for the pair. With perfection on his mind, he sampled over 600 blends and reviewed hundreds of different types of glass, labels and caps, before cloaking the final product in a purple bag to represent the purple robe of royalty and, fittingly, calling the whisky blend Crown Royal. The train carrying the couple was stocked with 10 cases of the exquisite blend. Rumors of the unrivaled Canadian Whisky quickly spread and Crown Royal was officially born.

75 years later, Master Blender Andrew MacKay has created an exceptionally smooth limited edition whisky to commemorate the brand’s monumental anniversary and celebrate the illustrious Crown Royal blending tradition. Crown Royal Monarch 75th Anniversary Blend combines hand-picked whiskies from the brand’s extensive stock, including a special whisky from the historic Coffey rye still, residing in Gimli, Manitoba Canada.

Here are our impressions of Crown Royal’s latest expression…

  • Appearance: Somewhere between dark gold and pale amber.
  • Aroma
    • Limpd: I’m not sure if it is because I know that it is from our neighbors to the North, but I get a big hit of maple syrup, a sugary sweetness that is quickly followed by baking spices and a lingering aroma of cake icing.
    • G-LO: Oodles of rye spice on this one. There’s a hint of maple sweetness, but it’s the spice that dominates, i.e. clove, allspice, cinnamon, and a bit of wintergreen mint.
  • Taste
    • Limpd: There is some initial sweetness that is quickly replaced by a big hit of pepper that continues to build through the palate. The finish finds a return of the sweetness and a nice warm burn.
    • G-LO: Medium mouthfeel with a hint of oiliness. Starts off lightly sweet with a maple or light brown sugar thing going on. A spicy tingle immediately follows with lots of cinnamon and cracked blacked pepper coming through. Mellows a bit as you approach the finish with the mild sweetness coming back. The flavors linger for about a minute with a hint of mint in the aftertaste.

The Verdict

  • Limpd: I haven’t had all that much experience with Canadian whiskies. There is too much whiskey (a good thing) and too little time (a bad thing); so, I have spent a lot of focus on Scotch and Irish and lately a lot more Bourbon. The Monarch has made me rethink my strategy. There was a great deal of balance and character in this flavorful whiskey. I think I need to direct a little more attention to the Great White North.
  • G-LO: I know I usually complain about whiskeys being too low in ABV, but for whatever reason, this time around, 40% ABV really works. This is a well balanced and easy drinking whisky with a mellow rye spiciness that I really enjoy. Definitely worth a try.

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Many thanks to the good people at Taylor Strategy for providing us with this very generous sample!

Beer Review – Rising Tide Zephyr IPA


Rising Tide Zephyr IPA

We’ll call this review of Rising Tide Brewing Company’s Zephyr IPA, Part 2 of my Summer 2014 “travels in Maine” series. Part 1, which was basically a bunch of photos from our summer vacation, posted last Thursday. I say this because there isn’t much of a back story with regards to the purchase of this beer, and you all know how much we love a back story around here. In a nutshell, I saw a four pack of this beer on the shelves at the Belfast Hannaford’s, a beer which I had never seen and had never had, so I bought it. It doesn’t get much simpler than that!

Before we get to my review, here is what Rising Tide has to say about their Zephyr IPA:

Zephyr (n)—a westerly breeze or wind, considered by many to be the fairest of wind direction

Heady like the sweet breath of Zephyrus, our India pale ale is redolent of citrus, apples, and pears, balanced by a touch of caramel. We use malted barley grown by local farmers and add a special blend of Cascade, Centennial, and Calypso hops to create this juicy, hoppy ale.

And now for my impressions of this beer…

  • Appearance: Pale orange color. Slightly cloudy thanks to its unfilteredness with an off white and slowly dissipating head of fluffy foam.
  • Aroma: Lightly sweet and mildly hopped with hints of honey, tea biscuits, light citrus (tangerines perhaps?), and some pine.
  • Taste: Smooth and creamy mouthfeel . Lightly sweet, biscuity malts in the beginning. Gets a touch bitter towards the middle, but not overly so. The finish is crisp and well balanced with sweet and bitter notes that complement each other beautifully.
  • ABV: 7.5%

For a 7.5% beer, Rising Tide’s Zephyr is ridiculously easy to drink. It’s so smooth that I might dare call this session worthy, but having more than 3 in a row could prove to be a problem. I really liked this beer! I had a four pack over the course of the week while I was on vacation, and even brought back a four pack to share with my fellow Craft Beer aficionados, cause you know, sharing IS caring. Cheers to you Rising Tide!

Summer Vacation 2014: Yet Another Glorious Seven Days in Mid Coast and Downeast Maine!


Summer 2014 went by so so quickly! When I dropped the kids off at school on the Wednesday after Labor Day, it felt like the last day of the last school year never happened. Time is funny like that. Thankfully, we saved the best part of the summer for the last possible moment.

During the last week of August, Mrs. G-LO, The Boys, and I headed back to Maine so that we could disconnect for a bit from our our everyday lives before heading back to the reality that is school and work.

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Before picking up the keys to our vacation rental, the crew gave me permission to make a quick stop at the Maine Beer Company in Freeport where I picked up a twelve pack of super fresh beer and sampled “a tiny beautiful something” and “Another One.”

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We once again rented a cozy cottage in Bayside Village, which on Tuesday morning was blanketed in fog.

Our second stay in Bayside Village was all about reliving the things that we enjoyed the first time around in Summer 2013

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Digging in to some delicious seafood at Young’s Lobster Pound in Belfast.

Penobscot Narrows Bridge

Admiring the majestic Penobscot Narrows Bridge.

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Enjoying some truly delicious Asian Cuisine in Belfast along with a super fresh Maine brewed Craft Beer.

Afternoon Sail in Camden Harbor

Taking a relaxing afternoon sailing trip aboard a Schooner in beautiful Camden Harbor.

WIldflowers in Owl's Head State Park

Wondering what types of wildflowers we saw in Owl’s Head State Park.

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Sinking our teeth into the 7 Napkin Burger at the Owl’s Head General Store.

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Beachcombing for marine life on the beach in Owl’s Head State Park.

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Hiking along the rocky coast at Acadia National Park.

Diving In

Diving into the frigid waters of the Penobscot Bay.

Posing for Pics on Sand Beach

Taking a stroll on Sand Beach in Acadia National Park.

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Spotting a creepy gnome statuette in the Fort Knox gift shoppe window!

Echo Lake

Relaxing on the beach at Echo Lake.

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Enjoying one last local beer while watching a favorite movie with Mrs. G-LO after the kids went to bed.

The Long Ride Home

Getting one last look at the beautiful countryside as we head to the Interstate for what was thankfully a very quick and uneventful drive home.

Whisky Review – The Exclusive Malts Ledaig 2005


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Drinking whisky is fun, of this there is no doubt, but it’s also educational. Getting together for a tasting session is like a mini trip around the world without ever having to leave the comforts of The Barthenon. During our “travels”, we’ve been to Scotland, Ireland, Japan, India, France, Sweden, Tasmania, Canada, many states in the good old U.S. of A. (Kentucky, Texas, Pennsylvania, Washington, Illinois, Indiana, and California just to name a few), and even Thailand (we won’t be going back there any time soon. Next time around, we’ll stick with the Pad Thai and Drunken Noodles. Thai food good! Thai whisky bad. Very very bad!).

When it comes to Scotland, we’ve had the good fortune to do some truly extensive booze traveling. We’ve been to Speyside, Orkney, Campbeltown, Islay, and the Isle of Skye, to name just a few, and now, thanks to this wee dram of Ledaig, courtesy of The Exclusive Malts, we’ve now paid a visit to the Isle of Mull. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Ledaig, it is produced at the Tobermory Distillery which is the only working distillery on the Isle of Mull.

Before we get to our tasting notes and review, here is what The Exclusive Malts has to say about this Ledaig single cask bottling:

With youth on its side, this cask demonstrates all that is great about heavily-peated Scotch malt whisky. Taken from a distillery not normally associated with peaty whisky, this cask is full of smoke, seaweed and the smells of the Isle of Mull. A brute of a whisky bottled before time dulled its full powers.

Let’s find out if this whisky is any good…

Appearance: Very pale yellow color with thick, slow moving legs.

Aroma

  • Limpd: Almost like a peated Irish whiskey, with lots of heather and maybe a little honeysuckle along with a big blast of peat.
  • G-LO: Sweet peat when you smell it neat. As if there’s any other way to nose a whisky! Once you get past the delightful smoke, some green apple and herbal notes come through, i.e. licorice, rosemary and some menthol.

Taste

  • Limpd: Wow! A big blast of smoke followed by leather and licorice and little bit of chili peppers and then some vanilla. Despite the high voltage, the lingering and pleasant finish is almost soft compared to the big flavors in the front. With a little water, the smoke subsides a bit and is replaced with smoked meats and then herbals and then the familiar chiles.
  • G-LO: Wow is right! There’s no slow going with this one. It’s like I just boarded the Rocking Rollercoaster at Disney Hollywood Studios. There’s a healthy hit of alcohol at the onset which is to be expected given this whisky’s 56.7% ABV. Once you get past that, there are some big smoky flavors to start things off. There’s also a jalapeño like spice there too. The smoke drops off a bit at mid palate and those green apple and herbal notes start to come through. While the smoke subsides a bit, the chili pepper heat lingers. At the finish, the spice intensifies again and lingers for a good bit in the aftertaste which is very dry and astringent.

ABV: 56.7%

The Verdict

  • Limpd: I’m not as big a fan of the peat as G-LO, but he has dragged me kicking and screaming (ok, so it might be closer to G-LO pouring out a peated whisky and then I drink it) into the world of peat. I have to say that I’m starting to like it. I had had a taste of Ledaig from a SMWS sample (42.10 Straightforward, sweet and spicy) and it left me intrigued. This sample was even better and I think while Islay still scares me a bit, I am growing rather fond of the Isle of Mull and the very nice whisky there.
  • G-LO: It’s good to know that the Islay distilleries don’t have a monopoly on deliciously peaty whisky. I really enjoyed this Ledaig single cask whisky. Much like a younger Islay whisky, it was bold and very in your face (in a nice way of course!). This whisky totally reminds me of a really young Ardbeg or Kilchoman (though a notch or two below them), both of which I enjoy immensely.

One more thing…

For a completely different take on this whisky, click here to read what Jordan of the Chemistry of the Cocktail blog had to say about it.

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Many thanks to the good people at Impex Beverages for supplying us with this very generous sample!

Peatin’ Meetin': The Southern California Summer Whisky Party!


How about a bit of Peatbog Faeries music to set the proper mood for this peaty post? 

There are many famous Peats. Peat Rose (not in the Hall of Fame). Peat Townshend (wrote Quadropeatia). Peat Seeger (“On Top of Old Peaty”). Peat Rozelle (NPL commissioner). St. Peater. Peater Dinklage (of House Peatnister). Peater Gabriel. Peater Pumpkin Eater. Peaty the Dog. But my favorite, for Peat’s sake, is this guy:

Peatin Meetin 04

He shows up once a year at a dram-happy Los Angeles event in his honor, The Peatin’ Meetin’, pouring whisky, posing for the 250 strong event, and graciously accepting all of the accolades the smelly guy deserves. Organized by those fine folks at the L.A. Scotch Club, Peatin’ Meetin’ is an outdoor shindig celebrating all things “partially decomposed remains of plant material” in Whiskyland. This year’s event was held at the Brookside Golf Club (“Gambling is illegal at Brookside, sir!”) which is next to the historic Rose Bowl in sunny, quaint Pasadena, home of a very large parade, a big football game and a little old lady. And when I say AT Brookside Golf Club, I really mean ON Brookside Golf Club. It’s a prepositional thing.

The kids at LASC outdid themselves again with various vendors pouring many iterations of peated whisky at this early evening soiree. After receiving a Glencairn glass, I headed right to the “special” side of the Whisky Tent where the not so common drams were being poured. For better or worse, mostly worse, these tables were positioned right in the Sun’s burning rays making those first pours’ effects a bit quicker than expected. Should have brought the Neutropeata SPF 50.

Peat Logo VIThere was quite an array of choices at this first stop: Bowmore Laimrig 15, Caol Ila Port Askaig CS 19, Connemara Turf Mor, Knockdhu anCnoc Flaughter, Bowmore 10 Dorus More, a 2002 K & L Signatory Bowmore, Caol Ila 12, Amrut Fusion, Amrut Peated Single Malt, Springbank 1995 CS, Caol Ila Whisky Trail 1999, and the St. George’s Peated English Whisky Company to name a few. I’d venture to say that I had only seen or tasted 3 or 4 of these before so it was quite fun delving into the new finds. Baseball cap wearing LASC President, Andy Smith says that most of the list was purchased by the Club from Los Angeles and London locations based on their “we-haven’t-had-them-before-ness” while some bottles were donated by sponsors that couldn’t attend. Exploring new and rare whisky is a goal of LASC. Having fun seems to trump that though.

The hard-to-find items were on one side of the whisky tent. The other three sides had great choices all around as well. The Ardbeg table was next to the Laphroaig table which was next to the Jura table which was next to the Lost Spirits table. There was no peat-free table for the peat-allergic. Peat, peat and more peat. Peat wafted in the air so thick that the AQMD could have issued an alert. How thick was it? Well, Ed, it was so thick I believe I saw smokejumpers parachuting in. Uh, ya-ha. May a peated yak marry your sister!

The Other Door, a bar in North Hollywood, had a interesting table of infused versions of Ardbeg Ten. One with pepper, one with apricot, and one with vanilla (my favorite). You don’t see that everyday. There were other cocktail tables with peated favorites but I’m not one to waste my time on mixology experiments when there are drams to try, and food to eat.

At Peatin’ Meetin’ food is served when it’s ready (you can’t rush good peat smoked BBQ).  This definitely had an effect on the crowd that had been tasting whisky in the bright sunshine for 2+ hours. Stumbling on the golf course was more common than putting at night with the fifteen year old daughter of the Dean. But the wait and stumbling was well worth it. Hickory Creek BBQ served up peat smoked chicken and beef with all the fixins. The smell was so intoxicating for the first few hours, I could have gnawed on the leg of a golfer, or gopher.

The night cooled off and the party went on. There were more drams to try and more visiting with old and new friends. Members of LASC are known for walking around Peatin’ Meetin’ with a bottle of something and pouring it into any random empty glass they come across. Lucky for me, my glass was empty when LASC member Bino Bopal came by with a bottle of Paul John Indian whisky. And there was live, raucous music from The Brick Top Blaggers and Green Ashes, both playing traditional and not-so-traditional Celtic tunes on a stage with the San Gabriels as a backdrop.

Next year’s Peatin’ Meetin’ promises to be bigger and better. President Smith says the LASC’s merry band is made up of smart and talented members who love the event. Damn it, Jim, we’re scotch drinkers, not event planners. “We want more people!” Smith goes on, “There’s no reason why this can’t be the biggest whisky event in the country. It’s already the most fun and most unique…and we don’t have to make a profit.” The brain trust will spitball new ideas as “every great element was a crazy idea that at some point became real.”

Peatin Meetin 05

Live music, a cigar lounge, a peated barbeque, wacky cocktails and a dedicated app for the event. What more CAN they offer? How about a Mrs. Peat Monster? Where is she hiding? “Mrs. Peat Monster is still just Miss Peatina. Unfortunately Peat Monster won’t commit, much like he can’t commit to any one peated whisky. The ladies love Peat Monster and this causes a bit of jealousy in the relationship. Perhaps if she learned to peat-smoke bbq…” So, maybe Mr. Smith isn’t exactly qualified for a stint on Loveline doling out relationship advice. But he’s more than qualified to put on a Southern California Peatapalooza. He is the Perry Farrell of peated whisky events. And anything that keeps the Big Guy happy is ok with me.

Beer Review – Otter Creek Fresh Slice White IPA


Otter Creek Fresh Slice

I wish there was an interesting story about how I acquired this can of Otter Creek’s Fresh Slice White IPA, but sadly there isn’t one. During a recent lunch time Craft Beer run to The Foodery, I noticed this bright and cheery little can in their beer fridge and decided to pick one up for an eventual review. I get to pick up mixed six pack of beer during my lunch hour. That’s certainly much better than having to do stuff like paying your mortgage or argue with the Philadelphia Parking Authority during your lunch hour. When you put it all into perspective, a lunch time Craft Beer run may not make for much of a story, but there are a hell of a lot worse things that I could be doing.

Before we get to my review, here’s a brief video from the good people at Otter Creek Brewing that explains what their Fresh Slice is all about:

And now for my review…

  • Appearance: Cloudy, pale orange color with a good bit of sediment floating throughout. Thick off white foam that tops out at about 1.5 inches and dissipates really slowly.
  • Aroma: Hints of coriander and clove along with a blast of citrus. The brewer says they added clementines and I am inclined to believe them. Push past all that stuff, and you definitely get a healthy dose of citrusy hop notes.
  • Taste: Moderately carbonated with a creamy mouthfeel. Starts off like a Belgian Wit, i.e. with some prominent clove and coriander flavors. At the middle, the tart citrus and hops take over, but never overwhelm. Gets quite astringent at the finish with a pithy tartness thats leave your mouth kinda dry.
  • ABV: 5.5%

I’m intrigued by the White IPA. It’s an interesting mash up of beer styles, i.e. the thirst quenching qualities of a Belgian Wit mixed with the hoppy bitterness of an IPA. While I enjoy the occasional Belgian Wit, they can get boring after awhile, so adding a dose of hoppiness into the mix definitely adds a bit of intrigue. As far as the Fresh Slice goes, while I definitely liked it overall, I’m a little disappointed by the finish. It’s a wee bit overly pithy, i.e. the aftertaste is what I imagine my mouth would feel like after chewing on an orange or lemon rind.

August Beertography…


Beertography Logo

Once again, taking a cue from our friends Ed of The Dogs of Beer blog and Bryan of the This Is Why I’m Drunk blog, I thought I’d share some of my latest experiments in Beertography that will hopefully inspire you to crack open a couple of cold ones on the week before the last great holiday of the summer season. Cheers!