Whisky Review: SMWS Cask No. 93.61 and Cask No. 36.67


SMWS Cask No. 93.61 and 36.67

At the end of January, I received an email from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America (SMWSA) announcing that we would soon be receiving a small Valentine’s Day gift in the mail. As a general rule, I don’t care for Valentine’s Day, but when there’s delicious whisky headed our way, I’m all for it! This cheery little email from the SMWSA made us feel a little like this…

Let’s get on with our reviews…

Cask No. 93.61 aka CalMac Welder’s Tea Break

What they say…

On the nose, the sweet charabanc of sugar puffs, Crunchy-nut cornflakes, fudge cookies, honey and chocolate flapjacks collided into the savoury wall of smoky bacon crisps, barbecued prawns and baked ham. The palate was also a crash site – big, rich and chewy, with cinder toffee, spiced sultanas and dark honey on toast scattered in a frightening wreckage of charcoal, ash, liquorice sticks, peat reek and industrial garages. The reduced nose suggested a welder on a Calmac ferry enjoying a Daim Bar. The palate – sweet and (we thought) acceptably dirty with a big spicy finish. From the ‘quiet outsider’ distillery in Campbeltown.

Drinking Tip: To aid the visceral enjoyment of a brutal rugby match

Region: Campbeltown
Date Distilled: June 1999
Colour: Orange sandstone
Cask Type: Refill hogshead

What we say…

  • ABV: 58.3%
  • Age: 14 Years Old
  • Appearance: Ahhhhh, Amberlita! Or however you say Amber in Scottish.
  • Aroma
    • Limpd: Astringent at first, which is exactly what I was expecting from something with a 58.3% ABV. Once I work past the alcohol, I get cane sugar, toffee, Earl Grey tea, buttered popcorn, and treacle.
    • G-LO: Ohhhhh! The nose on this is sweet and luscious. I’m picking up dark brown sugar, caramel, clove, cinnamon, some musty grapes, pipe tobacco, and a healthy dose of nuttiness (no wisecracks please).
  • Taste
    • Limpd: Hot and a little salty with a medicinal and metallic taste. It then transitions to a buttery toffee sweetness. With water, there’s a heightened medicinal quality and it loses some of its pleasant qualities, i.e. I get more sea salt and cinnamon.
    • G-LO: Surprisingly mellow in the beginning given its high ABV. Definitely tasting the Sherry cask influence with lots of dried fruit and baking spices from start to finish. Not as intense as I was expecting with pretty consistent flavors from start to finish. And speaking of the finish, it lasts for quite awhile with oodles of lingering fruit and spice.

Cask No. 36.67 aka Intensely Tasty

What they say…

A good example of whisky transformed by water – we didn’t know what to make of the nose – quite fruity (baked apple, fruit salad, watermelon, lemon curd, pear-drops) with an odd assortment of other aromas – Hawaiian pizza (pineapple, ham, pizza dough) pine forests and model kits. With water, suddenly the sweetness was released – caramel wafers, honeycomb crunch ice-cream and vanilla fudge. The unreduced palate seemed sweet and sour – pineapple dusted with chilli and salt, peppery Cream Soda and a slightly metallic finish – but water settled it down to zesty key lime pie and biscuity flavours – intensely tasty. Named after Speyside’s biggest mountain.

Drinking Tip: As an aperitif or to awaken the senses

Region: Speyside
Date Distilled: June 2004
Colour: Fake gold
Cask Type: First-fill barrel

And here’s our take…

  • ABV: 59.9%
  • Age: 9 Years Old
  • Appearance: Golden yellow.
  • Aroma
    • Limpd: Despite the high ABV, the first notes are of lemon drop candies and honey. After that I get a blast of alcohol and the smell of a fresh haircut, i.e. Clubman Talc and Barbicide.
    • G-LO: You would think that this 59.9% ABV whisky would singe your nose hairs, but that’s not the case. The alcohol is there, but it fades away quickly. Quite light and fruity with vanilla nougat, canned peaches, a touch of cinnamon, some tobacco leaf, and maybe some menthol.
  • Taste
    • Limpd: WOW! This whisky is hot, sweet, and tangy! It’s like barbecue in a glass. I’m thinking sweet and sour short ribs over a fire with a side order of cinnamon tart for dessert. With water, the heat is reduced and more of the barbecue is released. Also getting some fresh cut wood and tea biscuit notes.
    • G-LO: When I took my first sip, I said to myself, “Self, this doesn’t burn at all”. But then I took a second sip and let it sit on my tongue for a few seconds and then “WHAM!”, this whisky really opened up! Starts off lightly sweet and fruity with those peachy notes, and then it heats up with a cinnamon and chile pepper heat. Some tobacco leaf comes through in the middle and the spice builds even more. The finish brings some vanilla as all the flavors some together. There’s a pleasant, lingering burn with some herbal notes coming through in the aftertaste.

The Verdict

If you put a gun to our heads and forced us to pick a winner in this head to head tasting, we would go with Cask No. 36.67 because it definitely lived up to its name. What we liked most is how the nose is all light and fruity while the palate is intense and flavorful. According to the Whisky Portal, Cask No. 36.67 was sourced from the Benrinnes Distillery. This might be our first experience with a Benrinnes. If the rest of their expressions are as good as this one, then we’ll definitely be on the lookout for more from this distillery.

With regards to Cask No. 93.61, we enjoyed it, but the palate just didn’t live up to its fabulous nose. Our biggest gripe is the fact that it lacked the flavor transitions and intensity of Cask No. 36.67. Cask No. 93.61 was a good whisky, it just wasn’t a great one.

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Many thanks to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America for sending us these very generous samples!

 

A Burns Night Inspired Cocktail From the Makers of Cutty Sark


Burns Night is just two nights away. On Burns Night Eve (i.e. January 24th), the West Coast Office will be leading a whisky tasting with friends, and Limpd will be hosting a whisky gathering at The Barthenon with his Pappy as Guest of Honor. While it’s highly doubtful that we’ll be making any cocktails (Bartending takes too much time away from chatting and drinking. And then there’s the clean up. Oy vey!), if we were breaking out the bartending tools, we might consider making this cocktail from Cutty Sark that landed in our inbox just this past week. Cheers!

GlasgowDagger_bottle_v2

January 25th marks the annual Scottish holiday honoring the country’s most celebrated bard: Robert Burns. If you’re hankering for some haggis, neeps and tatties (what?!), the best thing to wash down a traditional Burns Night supper is none other than Scotch whisky.

However, much like every spirit, one is often not like the other, so it’s important to pay attention to the right Scotch. The most appropriate one would be Cutty Sark, aptly named from a character in the poet’s famous poem, Tam O’Shanter. While the brand’s backstory is quite long, the name is indirectly inspired by the famous witch in the poem who wore a cutty sark – a Scottish term for a very short nightgown.

Here’s a simple, seasonal recipe to make for a proper Burns Supper with the new Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition, a 100 proof blended Scotch whisky.

The Glasgow Dagger

  • 2 oz. Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition
  • 0.5 oz. Lustau Amontillado Sherry
  • 0.5 oz. Lustau Pedro Ximenez Sherry
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Directions: Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into chilled cocktail glass with an orange zest.

Happy Booze Year! A Few Cocktail Recipes to Help You Ring in 2015…


It’s December 31st, aka New Year’s Eve. A time for gathering with friends and family to look back on the 365 days that flew by at amazing speed, and to look ahead to the next 365 days. Since you’ve landed on a drinking blog, I think it’s fair to say that much like the Boozedancing crew, you too will be reminiscing about 2014 and looking ahead to 2015 with a drink in your hand. Below are two cocktail recipes from Captain Morgan Rum and one from Crown Royal that landed in our inbox a few weeks ago, along with a variation of a cocktail that we read about in Brooklyn Spirits: Craft Cocktails and Stories from the World’s Hippest Borough.

The Boozedancing Crew wishes all of you a very Happy New Year! Please drink responsibly, but if you choose not to, make sure to have a designated driver on hand, or at the very least, reserve yourself an Uber! That’s what the New York and West Coast Offices would do. Cheers!

Rye, Averna, and Sorel Cocktail

The Old Man Dance

The original recipe for The Old Man Dance, a cocktail creation from the good people at Post Office in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, called for 1 ounce of Rye Whiskey, .5 ounce of Sorel, and .5 ounce of Ramazotti Amaro. Since I didn’t have any Ramazotti on hand, I instead went with my “hometown favorite”, i.e. Amaro Averna (Caltanisetta, the home of this elixir. is less than an hour away from my hometown of Agrigento, Sicily), and doubled up on the Rye Whiskey, cause that’s how I roll, Yo! Here’s the recipe:

  • 2 ounces of High West Double Rye
  • .5 ounce of Sorel
  • .5 ounce of Amaro Averna

Instructions: Pour ingredients into a tall, ice filled glass. Stir thoroughly. Pour over ice into an Old Fashioned glass and garnish with a wedge of orange.

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Captain’s Holiday Cocktail

Captain's Holiday Cocktail

  • 1.25 oz. Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum
  • 0.75 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 0.25 oz. Fernet Branca
  • 0.5 oz. Simple Syrup
  • 3 Pieces Blackberry
  • 3 Dashes of bitters
  • 2 oz. Cola

Instructions: In a shaker, combine all the ingredients but the cola. Shake and strain into a Collins glass with cola. Garnish with an orange peel, expressed and inserted.

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Island Stopper

Island Stopper

  • 1 oz Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum
  • 1/4 oz Hazelnut Liqueur
  • 1/4 oz Coconut Rum
  • 5 oz Cola

Instructions: In an ice filled collins or rocks glass combine all the ingredients. Stir to blend. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

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Crownberry Apple

Crownberry Apple

  • 1.5 oz. Crown Royal Regal Apple Canadian Whisky
  • 4 oz. Cranberry Juice

Instructions: Serve in a rocks glass over ice and garnish with apple wedge.

Book Review – Brooklyn Spirits: Craft Cocktails and Stories from the World’s Hippest Borough


Brooklyn Spirits Cover

Though we’ve dabbled in the occasional cocktail concoction, the Boozedancers are simple men when it comes to drinking (some might even go so far as to call us simpletons. I’m looking at you, Madame Rouge and Benita!). If a libation involves more than just pouring it into a glass and adding ice and/or water to it, then we probably won’t bother making it, and will instead pour ourselves a glass of Craft Beer or Whisky. This is not to say that we don’t appreciate a beautifully crafted cocktail. We do! Bring on the Margaritas, Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, Daiquiris, Sazeracs, Negronis, or anything else you can think of, and please be sure to keep our glasses full (we tip well, so it’s in your best interest to keep us hydrated)! While we’re too lazy to make one of those drinks ourselves, we respect and appreciate those that consider bartending a labor of love.

Speaking of people that take their drink very seriously…

Way back in late October, we were asked by Second Self Media (a Brooklyn based PR firm) if we’d be interested in reviewing a book about the Craft Distilling and Craft Cocktail movement in the “World’s Hippest Borough”, i.e. Brooklyn. Since you’re currently reading a review of the book in question, we obviously said yes.

The title of the book is “Brooklyn Spirits: Craft Distilling and Cocktails from the World’s Hippest Borough”. It was written by Peter Thomas Fornatale and Chris Wertz, and features photography by Max Kelly along with cocktail recipes from various bars and restaurants in Brooklyn that are crafted with Brooklyn made spirits and mixers. The book opens with a bit of a Brooklyn back story (they reference an excellent article by Esquire’s David Wondrich about the Brooklyn Renaissance, which is the first thing that popped into my head when we were first approached to review this book), and then goes on to tell the tale of the following Brooklyn based spirit producers:

Each chapter starts with the individual spirit producer’s back story, and then features those Brooklyn spirits based cocktail recipes that I told you about. For the majority of the people featured in the book, spirits producing is a second career choice. One guy was a former underwear model. One guy was a successful stock trader for Deutsche Bank. And another guy was the former owner of an aerospace company. As you can see, this book is filled with stories of very smart people that decided to take a chance and follow their dream. I can totally respect that. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I am also a wee bit jealous.

Instead of talking about all of the stories that piqued my interest in the book, I will just tell you about one cocktail recipe that completely blew me away. It didn’t blow me away because it was incredibly complicated or incredibly unusual (there are plenty of those cocktails in this book, and while they all sound incredibly delicious, there is no way that I’m making any of them). It blew me away because it left me asking myself, “Why didn’t I think of that?”. Here’s the cocktail tale that I’m talking about:

The Wedding SlingerThe Wedding Slinger. A Manhattan with a healthy dose of ginger ale. I’ll say it again, “Why didn’t I think of that?”. I love a well crafted Manhattan, and whenever I attend a wedding, a Bourbon and Ginger Ale is my drink of choice. Why oh why didn’t I ever think of combining the two? This is why I have complete respect for people that know what they’re doing behind a bar. They can take something simple, and elevate it to something that is positively drool worthy.

If you’re looking for a well written book that features (a) great stories about people living their dreams, (b) beautiful photography, and (c) mouth watering cocktail recipes, then Brooklyn Spirits was craft made just for you. In case you don’t believe me, here are a few screen captures from the book:

That’s just a small taste of what you will experience if you choose to peruse Brooklyn Spirits. Even if you don’t go ahead and make your own Dried Lavender Syrup (page 142) for that River’s Edge cocktail (also on page 142) that left your mouth watering after reading all about it, at least you can never say that they didn’t tell you how it’s done. Just so you know, I won’t be going to that kind of trouble either, but the next time I’m in New York, I may just head to the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, because I now know about a little place called Lavender Lake that will definitely go to that kind of effort so that I can enjoy this delicious sounding cocktail in their award winning beer garden. Brooklyn. It’s that kind of place. Let’s just hope that it never becomes THIS kind of place…

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Many thanks to Second Self Media for sending us a PDF version of this beautifully crafted book!

The Old-Fashioned Cocktail: Do Bitters Make a Difference?


Old Fashioned CocktailWhile doing a bit of research for this blog post, I stumbled upon the following quote by Leonardo da Vinci:

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Simple and sophisticated is the perfect way to describe a well crafted Old-Fashioned. A cube of sugar, a few dashes of Bitters, a teaspoon of water (still or fizzy. It’s your choice),  a couple ounces of whisky (usually Rye or Bourbon), and some ice, all blended together in the glass that you’ll be drinking out of. Sounds simple right? Then again, like most things in life, simplicity is a relative term…

Once you read a bit about the history of the Old-Fashioned, you realize that there have been numerous incarnations of this cocktail over it’s long and muddled (see what I did there?) history. Prior to Prohibition, it was as simple as I described, but once whisky became illegal, the Old-Fashioned evolved into something very complicated, and according to the experts, something positively dreadful since all kinds of stuff was added to this once simple drink in order to mask the flavor of the low quality whisky.

Rather than bore you any further with my rehashing of history, here are links to a few in-depth articles that discuss the evolution of the Old Fashioned (they also include some recipe variations):

So now that you’ve been schooled a bit on the origins of the Old-Fashioned Cocktail, let me tell you a bit about why we’ve decided to write about it…

In early December of 2013, we received an email from the company that hooked us up with Absinthe samples back in late 2012. Since Absinthe.net has expanded into the Bitters and Digestif markets, they wanted to know if we’d be interested in writing up a post that featured their Cocktail Bitters Traveler’s Set by The Bitter Truth. Since you’re currently reading a blog post about a Rye Whisky Old-Fashioned made two different ways, we obviously accepted their offer.

Of the five bitters that were included in the Cocktail Bitters Traveler’s Set, we decided to use the Aromatic Bitters and Jerry Thomas’ Decanter Bitters since they seemed best suited to this cocktail. For the whiskey, we decided to go with a Rye since that’s what most experts recommend when they offer up Old-Fashioned cocktail recipes, and after reading Shane “How To Drink Whisky” Helmick’s review of the High West Double Rye, I decided to pick up a bottle expressly for this post (FYI, his review is right on the money, i.e. High West Double Rye is super tasty AND reasonably priced!).

After reading several Old-Fashioned recipes, I settled on David Wondrich’s recipe from Esquire.com which recommends using Angostura bitters. Here it is:

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Club soda
  • 2 ounces Rye Whiskey

Directions: Place the sugar cube (or 1/2 teaspoon loose sugar) in an Old-Fashioned glass. Wet it down with 2 or 3 dashes of Angostura bitters and a short splash of water or club soda. Crush the sugar with a wooden muddler, chopstick, strong spoon, lipstick, cartridge case, whatever. Rotate the glass so that the sugar grains and bitters give it a lining. Add a large ice cube. Pour in the rye (or bourbon). Serve with a stirring rod.

Here’s how you do it:

Now that you have some Old-Fashioned history as well as the reasons behind this post, lets get on with our tasting notes…

Old Fashioned #1: The Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters

  • Limpd: On the nose, I’m getting candied herbal notes that are kind of Cognacish. I’m thinking Brenne and iced animal crackers. As far as the actual taste, it was mildly sweet. Just a very nice blend of the Double Rye and herbs. This drink goes down really easy which leads me to believe that having several of them in a short period of time is not a difficult task.
  • G-LO: Once you add ice to a drink, I have a hard time picking up on the aromas. The Rye definitely comes through, and I get hints of the bitters, but nothing really specific. Drinking it is a completely different story. This is a nicely balanced drink with a tasty mix of Rye spice, sugar sweetness, and a hint of herbal goodness. Much like Limpd, I see this as a drink that goes down way too easily.

Old Fashioned #2: The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas’ Decanter Bitters

  • Limpd: On the nose, I’m not getting as much of the sweetness this time around. This one is definitely more on the herbal side with some celery seed, sage, and Old Bay Seasoning notes coming through. This version tasted a good bit different from the Aromatic Bitters Old Fashioned. It was a tiny bit harsher with very little sweetness. It’s not a bad drink by any stretch, but not as easy drinking as the first one.
  • G-LO: Again, tough for me to evaluate the nose on this one. As far as how it tastes, it’s definitely not as sweet with these bitters. I like it, but prefer the regular aromatic bitters. There was some of that celery seed that I picked up when I smelled the bitters straight which I think threw things off a bit. Still a nice cocktail, but a notch or two below the other bitters.

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Our takeaway from all of this Old-Fashioned cocktail making business is this: ingredients matter, and even something as minute as a few dashes of bitters can make all the difference in the world. While we can’t claim to have created the ultimate Old-Fashioned, we have definitely learned to appreciate what it takes to make a well crafted cocktail. There will definitely be many more Old-Fashioned creations in our future!

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Many thanks to Bitters.com for sending us these very generous samples!

Boozy Milkshake Recipe – Divine Chocolate Bourbon Shake


Divine Chocolate Bourbon Shake

Thanks to perpetual snow storms and a Polar Vortex or two, Winter 2014 has definitely been interesting. Just last night we were hit with yet another storm that dumped around a foot of snow on us (just so you know, I’m writing this on 2/13/14, just before midnight, and guess what? It’s snowing AGAIN!).

Given all of the cold weather nastiness that we’ve had to deal with, you’d think that this post would be about a Hot Toddy, spiked Hot Chocolate, or maybe even an Irish Coffee, but no, I decided that tonight would be a fine time to finally try the Divine Chocolate Bourbon Boozy Shake recipe that’s been in my inbox for a couple of weeks. While a cold beverage on a cold day might be considered counterintuitive, everyone’s favorite US Postal Worker, the great Cliff Clavin, says otherwise…

Here is the recipe for this delicious sounding frozen concoction…

Ingredients:

Method:

  • For the chocolate syrup:
    1. Bring water and sugar to a boil and whisk in cocoa powder, vanilla extract and salt.
    2. Stir until blended.
    3. Store in the refrigerator for use in chocolate milk and hot chocolate, as well as milkshakes.
  • For the Boozy Milkshake:
    1. Put all ingredients in a blender and mix until frothy.
    2. Serve in a pint glass with two straws, garnished with some chocolate shavings.

Now for the good news and bad news. First, the bad news…

As I was pulling out what I thought were all of the ingredients to make this drink, i.e. Bourbon, cocoa powder, milk, and ice cream, I suddenly realized that I had never read the actual recipe. Once I started reading it, I learned that there was some actual cooking involved. Since I was missing an ingredient or two to make the complete original recipe, I decided that I would modify it a bit and make my own version. Here is what I used to make my version of the Divine Chocolate Bourbon Shake:

Directions: Put everything into a blender and mix until smooth and frothy.

And now for the good news…

While my version may lack the richness of the original recipe (less sugar, no Light Cream, etc.), I was very pleased with the finished product. The bittersweet nature of the cocoa powder and the rich and flavorful Bourbon both came through and complimented the smooth creaminess of the ice cream. I’m sure it’s worth it to go the extra mile to make the chocolate sauce (given all of the delicious ingredients that go into it, how can it possibly be bad?), but in a pinch, my version will do nicely. I’m definitely making this again!

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Many thanks to Divine Chocolate and Four Roses Bourbon for sending us the recipe and generous samples!

New Year’s Eve 2013 Cocktail Recipes from Brugal Rum and George Dickel No. 1


Since 2013 is rapidly coming to a close, we thought we’d share a few of the cocktail recipes that have landed in our inbox over the past couple weeks. The “It’s just the booze dancing…” crew wishes all of you a very Happy New Year! 

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Brugal Pomegranate Bliss Cocktail

Brugal Rum Cocktail Recipe – Pomegranate Bliss

Created by Micaela Piccolo, Distilled (NYC)

  • 2 oz. Brugal Extra Dry
  • 1 oz. Fresh-squeezed Lime Juice
  • .75 oz. Agave Nectar
  • 4 Basil Leaves
  • 3 tbsp Pomegranate Juice

In cocktail shaker, add basil leaves, pomegranate juice, agave nectar, lime juice, and Brugal Extra. Add ice to shaker, shake and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a fresh basil leaf and serve.

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George Dickel No. 1 Cocktail Recipes

Tennessee Roots

In a cocktail shaker combine:

  • 1.33 oz. George Dickel No. 1
  • 0.33 oz. lemon juice
  • 0.33 oz. simple syrup
  • 0.33 oz. pineapple juice

Shake all ingredients and strain over ice into old fashioned glass. Top with 1 oz. ginger beer. Garnish with lemon wheel.

Mr. Loveless

In a mixing glass combine:

  • 1 oz. George Dickel No. 1
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 0.2 oz. maraschino liqueur
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir all ingredients and strain into old fashioned glass over ice. Finish with lemon wheel.

Southern Spritz

Combine in a cocktail shaker:

  • 1 oz. George Dickel No. 1
  • 0.25 oz. Italian aperitif bitter
  • 0.5 oz. lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz. honey syrup (equal parts honey & hot water)
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Top with 3 oz. dry sparkling wine. Garnish with orange twist.

Dale DeGroff’s Holiday Old Fashioned

Combine in a mixing glass:

  • 1.25 oz George Dickel No. 1
  • 1 dash DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters
  • 0.25 oz Dale’s Cherry Liqueur
  • 0.5 oz Simple syrup
  • 2 orange slices
  • 2 cherries

Muddle a cherry and orange slice with the syrup and liqueur and the dash of bitters in a bar mixing glass. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass. Add the whisky and ice and stir. Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry.