drink dogma » Spirits http://drinkdogma.com Thu, 31 May 2012 01:01:47 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 ANVIL’S BUFFALO TRACE PRIVATE BARREL SELECTION http://drinkdogma.com/anvil_buffalo_trace_bourbon/ http://drinkdogma.com/anvil_buffalo_trace_bourbon/#comments Tue, 25 May 2010 15:27:41 +0000 Bobby Heugel http://drinkdogma.com/anvil-bar-refuge-update/ Kevin and I recently visited Kentucky to select a barrel of Buffalo Trace to serve as Anvil’s own private barrel-selection. Yes, I am aware that this makes our jobs at Anvil seem like the cushiest dream jobs ever. Watch yourself there – you’re drooling with envy all over your screen. Well, truth be told, when we get to take trips like this, you have every right to be exceedingly jealous. There is arguably no other place in the country at this time of year that is as beautiful as Kentucky, and, of course, there’s the bourbon – lots of it. These types of opportunities definitely balance out those 18 hours days, and when you get to taste a barrel of bourbon as good as the one we selected for Anvil, you start to consider never leaving.

UPDATE: We’ve since received our wonderful selection of Buffalo Trace, and it is phenomenal. As of today, February 17, 2011, we still have some left in the bar, so get in there quick and give it a try!

Buffalo Trace Distillery

It’s no secret that Buffalo Trace is my favorite go to bourbon. In my opinion, you can’t find a regularly available bourbon under $40 that comes anywhere close to how wonderful this one is. However, the namesake bourbon isn’t the primary reason why I’m one of Buffalo Trace’s biggest fans; instead, it is the distillery’s ongoing efforts to push the dusty bourbon industry forward. Simply put, these folks are making the best and most exciting products available in the American whiskey category, and there’s no sign that anyone is going to challenge them any time soon.

Each year’s release of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection release consisting of the William Larue Weller, George T. Stagg, Eagle Rare 17 Year, Thomas Handy Rye, and Sazerac 18 Year Rye yields arguably the best bourbons and ryes annually. In addition to these limited products, the distillery also makes the younger version of the Sazerac Rye, Weller Bourbons, Blanton’s, the Pappy Van Winkle line, and other important non-bourbon products, such as the recently release original formula Herbsaint, Regan’s Orange Bitters, and even Peychaud’s Bitters. The lineup, which includes others as well, is really quite incredible. There are distilleries everywhere that would love to claim just one of these products as their own. There is no other distillery in the country I would rather tour, and to be given unrestricted access on our own private tour was an unforgettable opportunity.

Buffalo Trace Fermentation Tank

One of the definite highlights of the trip was our visit to the lab, where Buffalo Trace samples and blends their bourbons. In a blessed coincidence of divine bourbon intervention, we happen to be there on the day that this year’s Antique Collection was being selected. Kevin and I were actually the second and third individuals to taste what will be  the upcoming lineup, Maybe it was jut the setting, but I think the upcoming release is going to be the best yet. The Thomas Handy and William Larue Weller were two of the best whiskies I’ve ever had, and I can’t wait to pour them at the bar.

While we were definitely there for bourbon, the cocktail fan in me just couldn’t resist the opportunity to find out more about one of Buffalo Trace’s lesser-known brands. I persistently prodded every Buffalo Trace employee available to tell me more about the composition and process used to make Peychaud’s, but I was shot down time and time again. The only information the staff gave me about the secretive Peychaud’s process was that it was becoming a real pain in the ass to keep up with the continually escalating demands caused by people like me who force feed everyone sazeracs. I bet they really won’t like it when our new menu launches soon and our bartender Matt Tanner’s Peychaud’s Spritz starts using an ounce and a half of Peychaud’s per drink – sorry guys.

Buffalo Trace Lab

Yet, despite the extensive private tour, tasting lab access, and bitters exploration, we were here for one reason – to select our own barrel of Buffalo Trace for Anvil. Buffalo Trace pulled five preferred barrels out of the warehouse and let Kevin and I dive right in. Buffalo Trace is regularly blended from 25-30 barrels to acquire the signature flavor of the bourbon, but when selecting an individual barrel, the flavors can vary greatly. Kevin and I narrowed the five barrels down to tour two favorites. One was lighter and full of a unique delicate vanilla flavor that was drastically different than any bourbon I had tasted before. The other was bold and full of aggressive charred flavors; it was outstanding and reminded me of a complex rye that asks you to explore all of the spice, char, and other qualities that endlessly sing on the palate. I would have loved to have taken both, but we could only choose one.

Anvil Buffalo Trace Barrel Selection

As is typical of Kevin and I, we argued back and forth about which barrel to select. I won’t tell you who won, but we eventually decided to select the bolder barrel for Anvil as our guests typically enjoy more aggressive whiskey such as rye and assertive bourbons. With our patrons in mind, we know we chose the ideal house selection for Anvil. Our barrel is slowly working its way through the distribution channels and will be at the bar very soon. We are even considering allowing a local retailer to make a few of these bottles available for sale. Personally, I can’t wait until the barrel gets here so that we can taste the bourbon side-by-side with the Buffalo Trace White Dog and standard bottles of Buffalo Trace. We just started offering cocktail classes at Anvil on the last Saturday of each month (our gin class is this weekend), and I am really looking forward to offering this comparison when we do bourbon in a few months. By the way, if you want to get a jump start on learning about bourbon you should check out the first article I wrote as one of my weekly cocktail columns for the Houston Press in a two part series on the Mint Julep – it’s Bourbon 101.

I’ll re-post when our private Buffalo Trace selection comes in. Next time, I will tell you about our the barrel-aged beer collaboration we are working on with the barrel we selected. That’s right house Buffalo Trace Bourbon, house barrel-aged beers – watch out; there’s that jealousy again! Fortunately, the best part of my job is getting to these experiences with everyone that comes into Anvil. Kevin and I will try and remember the sharing aspect of our job and not drink all the bourbon when it comes in. We’ve been craving it for months!

http://drinkdogma.com/anvil_buffalo_trace_bourbon/feed/ 6
THE TEXAS MICRO-DISTILLATION MARKET http://drinkdogma.com/the-texas-micro-distillation-market/ http://drinkdogma.com/the-texas-micro-distillation-market/#comments Mon, 04 May 2009 22:34:59 +0000 Bobby Heugel http://drinkdogma.com/?p=546 Since my return to Houston a couple of years ago, I have anxiously monitored the Texas spirits market. In Chicago, I had the great small-batch spirits from North Shore Distillers, including Distiller’s Gin No.6 and their Aquavit. But, despite the boom of Tito’s Vodka years before, the Texas market remained relatively quiet, adding only Paula’s Texas Spirits until 2007. I was always puzzled by these circumstances because if there is anything that Texans are fanatical about, it is products made in Texas. Nevertheless, over the last year, several new brands have been released – a clear sign that Texas interest in spirits and cocktails is on the rise.

Amid, all of these developments, I thought it would be appropriate to profile each of the existing Texas micro-distilleries and preview those on the way. The Texas micro-distillery market is still young, and for it to survive and resemble anything like what can be found in California and Oregon, cocktail fanatics in Texas need to support these brands. So please, become familiar with the producers and consider them a viable, and often preferable, option to other global and national brands.

Paula’s Texas Spirits
Established: 2003
Founders: Paula Angerstein
Location: Austin, TX
Profile: I want everyone to be aware of Texas spirits, but more than any other, I wish more people would buy Paula’s Texas Orange and Paula’s Texas Lemon. There may be no other more tediously crafted spirit made in Texas; they actually hand zest every single orange and lemon used in the production of this spirit. Recently, I had the opportunity to try the new and improved Paula’s which is charcoal filtered, and it is incredible. If you are making your margaritas or any other cocktail without Paula’s, you’re missing out on what is clearly the freshest and most vibrant orange liqueur on the market.

The Margarita
1.5 oz Tequila
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Paula’s Texas Orange Liqueur

That’s it; don’t add anything else. No margarita mixes, no simple syrup, just booze and lime juice (which comes from limes, not bottles with the brand Rose’s on it). Shake them all with ice and strain into a cocktail glass or on rocks if you prefer. Salt the rim if you feel the need. And for the love of God, please don’t put it into a machine or blend it.

Tito’s Vodka
Established: 1997
Founder: Tito Beveridge
Location: Austin, TX
Profile: Tito’s is the most well-known Texas spirit. Tito’s helped to launch the national micro-distillery movement, and it has since become a nationally recognized brand.

Savvy Vodka
Established: 2007
Founder: Chad Auler
Location: Austin, TX
Profile: Chad Auler, who may also be known to some through Fall Creek Vineyards, started this Texas vodka.

Dripping Springs Vodka
Established: 2007
Founder: Kevin Kelleher
Location: Dripping Springs, TX
Profile: Dripping Springs just refuses to quit fighting after two fires and flood. Dripping Springs is located just outside of Austin – there must be some sort of vodka-making disease going through that area.

Railean Rum
Established: 2007
Founder: Kelly Railean
Location: San Leon, TX
Profile: Instead of buying a one time distilled spirit, like most micro-distillers, these folks actually ferment their molasses on site just outside of Galveston. Additionally, they were the first to release an aged spirit with their Railean XO Rum in addition to their white rum. Here is my winning recipe from the Tipsy Texan Drink Local Cocktail Contest which features Railean XO Rum and Paula’s Texas Orange:

False Dichotomy
2 oz Railean XO Rum

1 oz Lemon Juice

.75 oz Honey-Lavender Syrup
1 Egg White
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Shake all ingredients except the bitters with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Mist the angostura bitters on top and garnish with a lemon twist.

Treaty Oak Rum
Established: 2007
Founders: Bruce Graham & Daniel Barnes
Location: Austin, TX
Profile: Treaty Oak is named after a 500 years old Live Oak that is at the center of countless stories and legends in Austin. Treaty Oak is also house-fermented and is made from Texas molasses. Currently, Treaty Oak is only available as a white rum, but I hope to see an aged version in the future. Treaty Oak, with Railean, has definitely raised the standard for spirit production in Texas.

Texas Gin
Established: Under Construction
Founders: John Manicom
Location: Austin, TX
Profile: I talked to John recently by phone, and he told me he was getting closer to launching Texas Gin everyday. He mentioned using Texas juniper and other herbs in the process – sounds very Texan.

Temptryst Rum
Established: Under Construction
Founders: John Manicom
Location: Austin, TX
Profile: Temptryst Rum was all the rage at Tales last year when a few samples were made available during rum competitions and gained widespread notoriety. The rum is pressure aged with various woods, which creates a unique spirit. I’ve yet to try any myself, but those I trust love the stuff. The mesquite aged rum sounds amazing. I sent Temptryst an e-mail recently; they are still trying to get started and hope to release the rum soon.

Garrison Brothers Distillery
Established: 2008
Founders: Dan Garrison
Location: Hye, TX
Profile: Garrison Brothers has barreled over 100 barrels of bourbon, and they plan to let each age the necessary amount of time until it matures. The wheated bourbon is mashed on site and uses Texas Panhandle corn. I spoke with Dan Garrison at the Edible Austin Drink Contest, and he said that he hopes the bourbon will be available in 2011 but is willing to wait until it is ready. He also mentioned that he would like to launch a Texas Rye in the future too called Hye Rye.

Balcones Distillery
Established: Under Construction
Founders: Chip Tate
Location: Waco, TX
Profile: I haven’t talked to Chip and can’t find a website, but I have heard that he plans to use peated malt to create a distinct Texas whiskey. They also plan to make Rumble, which is a rum-based liqueur flavored with mission figs, Texas wildflower honey, and turbinado sugar. Sounds awesome!

Well, there you have it – the booming Texas micro-distillery industry. I really enjoy these spirits, and I hope that you will give them all a try and support our local producers. I am excited about the growth of this market, but more than anything, I am thrilled to have met most of the folks behind these brands. I must say they are some of the most genuine people I know making spirits. But, I guess you already knew that – they are from Texas after all.

http://drinkdogma.com/the-texas-micro-distillation-market/feed/ 19
OLD OVERHOLT RYE & THE 30 SECOND STAREDOWN http://drinkdogma.com/old-overholt-rye-the-thirty-second-staredown/ http://drinkdogma.com/old-overholt-rye-the-thirty-second-staredown/#comments Mon, 02 Feb 2009 09:08:09 +0000 Bobby Heugel http://drinkdogma.com/?p=492 Old Overholt is arguably the most enduring staple of the American whiskey landscape.  The next time you find yourself near a bottle, do me a favor.  Grab that dusty bottle of rye and look Mr. Overholt right in the eyes.  Now, you have to do this for at least a good thirty seconds, for this to work, so don’t give in to his penetrating gaze.  If you don’t crumble like some seventeen year-old kid who managed to sneak into the strip club only to be stared down by a half nude mid-thirties stripper named Candy who knows the jig is up, Ole’ Holty might take it easy on you.  If not, those yellow label manhattans, in classic Candy fashion, are likely to get the best of you in a dusty hallway closet that smells strangely of moth balls and StarKist tuna. I found this out the hard way, after I disrespected Mr. Overholt and two of his older brothers from 1930 and 1940.

Overholt’s harsh resentment towards those who disrespect him are rooted in a deep bitterness towards a drinking society which seems to regard this once proud ruler of the American whiskey market as a mere “budget brand”.  You see, back in the day, Overholt and his family were among the most respected of American farmers.  When they opted to begin distilling their rye into whiskey because of the longevity and profitability associated with selling whiskey over grain, their reputations as great farmers and distillers made Old Overholt whiskey one of the most respected brands available.

Today, the Old Overholt brand is only a lingering shadow of what had once been.  So what gives; why did this once proud whiskey lose such an admired status?  Well, it seems that, despite being the oldest continuing operating brand of American whiskey, Old Overholt is hardly the icon he used to be.  Recently, I had the opportunity to taste three different offerings of Old Overholt, and the differences in each were striking.

Old Overholt (1930) – Old Overholt was one of only a few brands allowed to be sold as a medicinal whiskey during Prohibition.  This version, bottled during this period, was fourteen years-old, sealed, and tax-stamped.  The “medicine” was bonded, with a proof of 100.

There were dramatic differences between the three bottles of Old Overholt.  The 1930 bottling was one of the best whiskies I have ever had.  Forced to sit in barrels for extended periods of time during Prohibition, the whiskey was far less hot than the younger five year bonded.  The smoothing effects of aging and complex flavors imparted by the wood were outstanding, creating a finish that lasted forever.  In my opinion, this whiskey would be able to go head-to-head with the very best of the well aged ryes on the market today, including the Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye, the Sazerac 18 Year Rye, and the Rittenhouse 21 Year Rye.  This was a rare experience, and I was grateful for the opportunity.

Old Overholt (1940) – This bottle was far younger than the first.  Nevertheless, this five year version was also bonded, sealed, and tax-stamped.

The second rye was also an excellent whiskey.  The higher proof of the Old Overholt really helped to create a unique and exciting rye.  This version was far spicier than the current bottling and had qualities similar to today’s lower-priced darling, the Rittenhouse Bonded.  We actually tasted this rye with the Rittenhouse Bonded because it was a more apt comparison.  And, for your information – yes, we had a lot of rye that night; so what?  In this case, the Old Overholt was dramatically different from the Rittenhouse.  The Overholt seemed more dynamic and lively than the Rittenhouse, which is aged for an additional year.  There was an intriguing peppery, grassy element working there that I couldn’t get away from.  I was tempted to make a manhattan with the rye because it was so ideal for this purpose, but I just couldn’t bring myself to mix with such a rare product.

Old Overholt (2009) – The Old Overholt at your local store is bottled at 80 proof and is only four years old.  Mr. Overholt is a bit upset about it.

Currently, Old Overholt is among the most subdued ryes being produced in the U.S.  Its lower proof and four year age leave quite a bit to be desired.  Granted, it is still a decent whiskey that works surprisingly well in certain cocktails, but, it is by no means close to the previous two versions.  Sure, comparing it to the fourteen year-old version is a little unfair; however, the five year-old version really only has a one year and twenty proof difference.  The Old Overholt brand was also distilled by different producers since 1940 and is now owned by a larger corporation, but something in me tells me there is still a good whiskey there.  There is a long list rye freaks who for years have asked for a 100 proof Old Overholt that is aged longer, but I guess we will have to continue to wait.  There is potential and history in that bottom shelf bottle; let Overholt gain his sense of pride back!

Still don’t believe me about the power of the Old Overholt gaze?  Well, the next time you and Mr. Overholt venture down the long, painful road of excess, you’ll regret not taking my advice as you pull your face from a rocky, stained porcelain lover and flush – the portrait of Ole’ Holty will appear.  From the swirling waters, his powerful eyes will stare you down; only this time, you won’t dare look away.

http://drinkdogma.com/old-overholt-rye-the-thirty-second-staredown/feed/ 45
THE EVOLUTION OF AMERICAN WHISKEY http://drinkdogma.com/the-evolution-of-american-whiskey/ http://drinkdogma.com/the-evolution-of-american-whiskey/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2009 05:05:57 +0000 Kevin Floyd http://drinkdogma.com/the-evolution-of-american-whiskey/ With construction work on Anvil moving ahead at a feverish pace, I have found it next to impossible to sit down and string together a post for months. The blog updating which Bobby and I hoped would continue with one or two posts a week has been traded for refining countless details at Anvil. Thankfully Bobby has been able to keep writing a little, while I on the other hand have stopped writing, shaving, and maintaining any professional appearance whatsoever.

Recently however, I found a moment to sit down and start going through the pile of beer and spirit tasting notes that I have in my note book. As the weather is trying to grow colder, (this is Houston, after all) I find myself opting for darker and heavier options. Whiskey has always been one of my favorite spirits to consume in any way I can get it, and it just happens to work out that the bar just down the street from Anvil, Poison Girl, has one of the best bourbon and American whiskey selections in town. On one recent trip, I was fortunate enough to drink my fill of one of the most limited and interesting whiskeys on the market; the Buffalo Trace Experimental 8 Year Cab Franc Finished Whiskey. Because I am a lazy blogger, I like to abbreviate this name with BTX for Buffalo Trace Experimental.

Whiskey is, by its simplest definition, a spirit distilled from fermented grain mash then aged in a wood cask. There are six major whiskey producing regions in the world; Scotland, Ireland, America, Canada, Japan and Wales. The Japanese and Welch whiskeys are fighting an uphill battle for international respect, and others, like India, are vying for positions as additional significant players. American and Scotch whiskeys are the most subdivided. Scotch is recognized by 5 or 7 regions (depends on who you ask).

American whiskeys are a little less strait forward being divided by region and styles. The 5 major types of American whiskeys are Bourbon Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, Corn Whiskey, Tennessee Whiskey and Straight Whiskey (Which can make it confusing because you can have a Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Straight Rye Whiskey… or just Straight Whisky which are not the same thing). Buffalo Trace by tradition and reputation is a generally recognized as a bourbon distillery. In 1964 the U.S. Congress recognized Bourbon Whiskey as a distinctive product of the United States and established a list of legal guidelines for the production Bourbon Whiskey. Bourbon must be:

-Made of a grain mixture consisting of more than 51% corn

-Distilled to no more than 160 proof

-100% natural including no artificial flavors or colors

-Aged in new charred American White Oak barrels

-No higher than 125 proof when introduced to the barrel

The production process for Bourbon is fairly straight forward; a mash of selected grains (most commonly about 70% corn) is allowed to ferment, this low alcohol mixture is called the wash. The wash is then distilled yielding a clear spirit that is then put in the barrel to age anywhere from 2 to 25 years. There is almost an endless amount of modifications that can be made to the production process to create unique and distinctive whiskeys. The experimental collection is as the name suggests a series of very small batch experiments that buffalo trace has been working on for the past two decades. The notable modification in the aforementioned whiskey is the finish in Cab Franc Barrels. The word finish in reference to bourbon means the movement of the bourbon from the white oak barrel to another cask or barrel. By finishing the spirit in a second barrel the whiskey can take on a world of different flavors and nuances. The finishing process is what makes the BTX line so intriguing. While finishing in a second barrel adds a lot to the bourbon it comes at a cost; increased product loss (angel share) and increased time. The action of pouring the bourbon from one barrel to another increases the amount of product lost. The dry second barrel will eagerly drink up at least some of the whiskey over the first year or so. Second; in order to take full advantage of the second barrel, the bourbon must spend at least a few more years in the barrel house. Because the second barrel in this case is used it will take it longer to give up its flavors. The BTX whiskeys are the most notable in the recent trend in the industry toward new (or very old) variations of traditional whiskey.


This might be the most badass label I have ever seen on any bottle of booze ever. It’s badassness comes from the fact that is all business and no bull. You have to remember that these are very limited single barrel runs meant as an experiment in both production methods and consumer taste. The label has all the information an enthusiast would need to understand how the bourbon was made and what factors affected its taste. The label gives the following information; The type of spirit: Whiskey, The total amount of production: 1 barrel, The date it was distilled: 7/2/90, Date barreled: 8/19/98, Recipe: BT Rye Mash #1, Mash type: Sour, Still proof: 140, Entry proof: 126.5, Warehouse/Floor: I/1, Rack/Row/Slot: 0/0/2, Barrel Type: French Oak Cab Franc, Maker: Barrel Associates, Staves: 6 mouth air dry, Treatment: medium toast, Bottled: 2/26/07, Age at bottling: 16 years, Evaporation: 43.oo%, Filtration: chill filtration, bottle proof 43% ABV – 91 proof. At the bottom of the bottle the distiller gives a brief tasting note. The only issue I have with the label is the ambiguity with the barrel description. When the label talks about the maker, the treatment, and the staves is it describing the new white oak or the finish cab franc cask?

In this tasting I had a shot of the cab franc 8 and 6 next to each other. They are made with a rye mash that adds a very hot spiciness. Although it is called an 8 year, it was really 16 years old when it was bottled, the bourbon spent 8 years in new oak and 8 in the cab franc cask. The deepest difference between the two was the alcoholic heat and the rye flavor. You can really taste the 2 extra years on the 8; it is much smoother despite noticeably more rye flavor. In the 8 year, the color of the more than generous 2 once pour was a deep reddish brown amber. The nose is all about the rye and wine, you can really get the cab in the nose; however, if I didn’t know it was a cab franc finish, I would have just called it a dark fruit. It is more than drinkable and is really smooth; but there is less wine on the palate, the oak is lost to the wine cask flavor. The 6 while hotter is heavier on the wine, the 8 is smoother but more about the rye. The mouth feel is smooth round and buttery. Both the 6 and 8 years were made with the same rye mash. Personally, I think a wheat heavy mash would have allowed the wine to come more to the front, but then again this stuff is called experimental for a reason. We are going to do our best to try and carry as many future releases of the BTX collection at Anvil in the future, so you will be able to weigh in with your own opinions.

One of my favorite things about whiskey is the protracted length between conception and introduction of a new product. Because my favorite whiskeys generally spend at least 7 years or so in the barrel (this number can grow very quickly when you start talking about second barrel finishing), the time between a distillers initial conception of the experiment and the final bottling of a commercial ready product can be as long as 3 to 4 decades. That is why the BTX bottles are so exciting – it gives you a glimpse into the creative and evolving world of American whiskey. We might see a mass release of the BTX products, but it may not be for 15 or 20 more years, the experimental release is a glance in to the world of gut feeling and wild ideas that are the foundation of innovation in what is a classic American spirit.

http://drinkdogma.com/the-evolution-of-american-whiskey/feed/ 10
MEZCAL: A CAN OF WORMS? http://drinkdogma.com/mezcal-a-can-of-worms/ http://drinkdogma.com/mezcal-a-can-of-worms/#comments Fri, 07 Nov 2008 06:55:31 +0000 Bobby Heugel http://drinkdogma.com/mezcal-a-can-of-worms/ American conceptions of mezcal generally involve drunken college escapades south of the border, putrid liquids mistakenly referred to as tequila, and, above all, the legendary worm. It is this mere possibility of contracting some sort of super Mexican West Nile virus from a shot of mezcal that is powerful enough to dissuade most consumers from even touching that dusty bottled next to the much safer tequila. This is unfortunate because some argue that the most beautiful spirits from Mexico are traditional mezcals, not tequilas.

The problem with mezcal isn’t the worm; most mezcals don’t even have one. The problem is the myth connected with the worm which is primarily used as a marketing device for certain producers. These mezcal brands are focused on profits associated more with twisted novelty than a legitimate authenticity. Fortunately, some pioneering brands are finally gaining notoriety for their outstanding quality and delicate complexity. My favorite mezcals are produced by Del Maguey, though more are appearing on the market nowadays.


Unlike tequilas, which must be produced from a minimum of 51% agave, mezcals must be made from 100% agave. There are several different species of agave, and mezcal may be produced from close to thirty recognized species; though, Espadin is used in most. The fermented juices of agave are used to produce both tequilas and mezcals, but mezcal producers also roast the agave hearts to impart a smoky flavor similar to that found in Islay scotches.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to meet Ron Cooper who imports mezcal from several different villages in Oaxaca. Each single village mezcal is a distinct expression of the traditional methods used by local villagers, and they are not only the best mezcals I have ever tasted, they might just be among my favorite spirits in the world. Really – they are that good. Each batch is limited and produced without modification to technique or the organic ingredients used by villagers for hundreds of years.

Of the line that Del Maguey produces, my two favorites are the Tobala and the Chichicapa. Rather than being made from the more common Espadin, the Tobala is made from 100% tobala, a traditional type of agave used in some of history’s earliest mezcals. The Tobala has an almost grassy element that compliments a more lightly styled mezcal. The Del Maguey Tobala has the longest finish of anything I have ever drank; it is amazing.

The Chichicapa, however, definitely has the most complex, wonderful, evolving character of any spirit in my opinion. The flavor is by no means subtle and is as powerful and intense as Laphroaig 15, but there is the added complexity of the agave flavor and traditional Mexican process. Again, the finish is insane, and Islay scotch seems increasingly boring ever since I started drinking this stuff. I’m not sure the Chichicapa is for everyone because if you aren’t familiar with the bolder flavors found in tequila and scotch, you may find this spirit to be too overwhelming. But, if you enjoy these types of flavors, or you just want to experience what an outstanding mezcal and world-class spirit tastes like, you need to pick up a bottle of this as soon as possible.

For a long time, I didn’t use the Chichicapa in cocktails because it was just too perfect to mix with. The mantra that a cocktail must be better than the sum of its parts sets the bar far too high when if one of the spirits is the Del Maguey Chichicapa. I hadn’t felt this way about a spirit in a long time, but eventually, the cocktail enthusiast in me won out.



1 oz Del Maguey Chichicapa
1 oz Hacienda del Sotol Plata
.5 oz Averna Amaro
1 Barspoon Orange Curacao
3 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Stir in a brandy snifter without ice and mist Angostura bitters on top. Flame an orange zest above the cocktail for garnish.

I am really intrigued by the concept of room temperature cocktails currently. I think the above combination is a winner, but you must be ready for a bold experience.

It’s a shame that mezcal has such a notorious reputation. I love the Del Maguey’s mezcals so much I am conflicted in writing this post. Sure, I want others to experience a great spirit or cocktail – that’s why I started this blog. But, the selfish human nature in me is creeping forward, and I don’t want to face the day where I walk into Spec’s and can’t find the Del Maguey Chichicapa. It is so rare to find something so authentic and indicative of its cultural origins here in the United States. We are extremely fortunate to be able to sit down with a glass of Oaxaca and feel for a moment a connection with a history and lifestyle that is so much simpler and beautiful than our own.

http://drinkdogma.com/mezcal-a-can-of-worms/feed/ 17
JIM BEAM NEW (ri)1 RYE REVIEW http://drinkdogma.com/jim-beam-new-ri-rye-review/ http://drinkdogma.com/jim-beam-new-ri-rye-review/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2008 08:06:01 +0000 Bobby Heugel http://drinkdogma.com/jim-beam-new-ri-rye-review/ After spending most of the last decade of my life surrounded by shelves of liquor, I have come to the definitive conclusion that different spirits have distinctive personalities. And, up until today, I was pretty sure who rye was. Now, I’m not so sure. There was a day when I knew everyone in the bar, and I then this whole new Jim Beam (ri) thing happened. Now I’m wondering what the heck is going on and re-evaluating everyone trying to figure out who is who.

Ok let’s see here; there’s Bourbon. You know Bourbon that down-home, play you an old song until you admit you like it too, Red State voting, will get you drunk and lecture you the next morning for having a hangover, only seen him get really upset like three times but when it happened it was really bad, retired fellow that compensates for it by mowing the lawn three times a week. He owns a tractor that he parks in his front yard that hasn’t moved in fifteen years that people use as a landmark when giving directions, and he is an uncle to 23 kids without having any of his own.


Then, you’ve got that smart-ass gin. He’s the professor who will give you an F while gesturing with your 40 page term paper and tell you it’s ok because the real value is some absurd life lesson. He makes everything more complicated than it needs to be, tries too hard to be philosophical in a coffee shop so others can hear, balances out better when he’s bitter, but somehow grows on you as you get older until you finally admit that he’s just the type of person you have to get used to.


That sleazy frat guy in the corner trying to get people as drunk as possible without them knowing, who would slip you a roofy in a freaking heartbeat if he didn’t already have two felonies on his record, used Pontiac car salesman dressed in the nicest suit he can afford, bragging about how may times he slept with the prom queen fifteen years ago, boring personal history that gets over exaggerated when sharing stories, guy I hate is Vodka.


Rum is a pirate and always will be.


The unemployed guy always looking for someone to bum a cigarette off of, known as Jager, is the person you seem to run into every time you go to a bar making you wonder if he’s following you. Tomorrow he is probably going to buy the most expensive impractical vehicle he can’t afford with two or three wheels. He doesn’t show up early in the morning when you have to move and owns a freakin’ python, but you’ve know since him you were in college so you just can’t seem to not answer the phone when he calls – even though you don’t want to talk to him because you know it will result in a five hour long pointless conversation that leaves you exhausted for your presentation at work the next day.


And then there’s your best friend. Sure everybody’s best friend is different, but there’s something about them that’s just grows on you. They’re not perfect by any means, but you’ve just been through so much that they’ve kind of become a part of you. This could of course be any of the personality types listed above or some of the others I haven’t, like that slut Chambord who seems to have been knocked up like 8 times since she was 14. It all just depends on who you are I guess. But for me, it’s rye. There’s just something genuine about it.

So today, when I tried Jim Beam’s new offering, it was kind of like having a day on which my best friend came to me and confessed his undying love for this bitch we both worked with two years ago he’s been secretly seeing and blowing me off for every weekend since. It was almost as if my friend rye, the guy I could always count on to be there, was sleeping with the freaking enemy while I watched the rain delayed, anti-climactic World Series by myself.

There are just so many things about this rye that contradicts the very nature of what rye is. To begin, the words “ultra-premium” are on the label. We could probably just end things there, but since blogs need some sort of content now and then, even while you are building your own bar and short on time, we’ll discuss further. Whenever I see the words “ultra-premium” red flags and alarms start going off. This phrase which has been used to describe every new brand of vodka over the last five years is so played out that it makes Nickelback seem like a refreshing alternative to other mainstream radio choices.

I understand that this is what pr firms do. They identify trends and sales potential, and after numerous focus groups and endless rhetorical analysis, create a new marketing campaign that squeezes as much financial sweat out of a product until the trends turn south just in time for a new product and initiative. That’s the world we live in, and generally I just ignore it. The marketing team for Ri1 probably is onto a lot here, and they will likely be very successful. Since, this is their job – more power to them.

jim-beam-ri.jpgBut, if rye starts to change in any way; I’m going to have to start reading some more Chuck Palahniuk novels. When boutique offerings starting fading and cucumber or root beer rye infusions start appearing, you guys are going to have to find a new bartender. I’m sure it won’t get to that point, but I do think that recent trends in spirit marketing demonstrate that when popularity is noted by a large spirit conglomerate interested more in money than maturation, quality may suffer tremendously. Rye is so critical to the revitalization of the cocktail, and this concerns me tremendously. This not only threatens to diminish the genuine nature of rye, but moreover this may indicate that some individuals are interested in recasting the classic cocktail as the next wave of trendy drinks to be priced at $15 in every sweaty nightclub in America charging a cover charge for a bad DJ. I can’t help but think that if Thomas Handy were alive today he’d be rethinking the switch from Cognac in his sazeracs. This doesn’t necessarily mean that this is what this brand is trying to accomplish, as it is quite a bit far off from all of this. But, I do think that Jim Beam’s latest release of a rye shows the spirit is now on the map for marketing firms looking for the next in spirit.

Ok, so I’ve given my opinion on the bottle and marketing past what anyone was likely interest in, but how does it taste? There’s nothing overly offensive about the rye; it just happens to not be as bold as some of the ryes I’ve tasted. It is fairly smooth for being 92 proof, but I’ve never valued smoothness as a characteristic in rye. Rye isn’t supposed to emphasize drinkability; it’s a bold spirit that should demonstrate spicier characteristics with an evolving, extensive finish. The Jim Beam (ri) is a spirit perfectly aligned with its marketing campaign focused on fads, not flavors. Admittedly, I haven’t tried the new rye in any cocktails yet, but, I’m predicting it will make a less than desirable Manhattan. At $50 for a 750ml a bottle, there are some notable alternatives – three bottles of Rittenhouse bonded, two bottles of Wild Turkey rye, or chip in another five for a bottle of Thomas Handy. You could also take that wad of cash and buy the Sazerac 6, a bottle of Vya sweet vermouth, and some Angostura bitters.

Before I tried the Jim Beam (ri) I ran into a friend who told me all of what I have written (in a much more straightforward manner), but I just had to try it myself. I am sure some of you reading this will do the same. I understand. New rye – got to try it. After all, rye is your best friend; he’s always been there for you. He would never do this to you. Well, you’re wrong; he’s marrying that bitch because he thinks it’s a good move for his future. And, there is nothing you can do about it. You can either pretend you’re okay with it and hope she doesn’t want to come along for your annual trips to visit a new baseball stadium, or you can do what I did and tell him how you feel to his face…err…on a cocktail blog. Who knows; maybe you”ll learn to love her.

I’m really curious to find out what others think about the new offering from Jim Beam. Obviously, I am a fan of other styles of rye, but I wonder if I’m way off base here. I think the marketing certainly shows that they are appealing to a mainstream audience, but does anyone who has tried the rye like it? There doesn’t seem to be very much actual feedback online to this point, so let’s get some comments going on here.

]]> http://drinkdogma.com/jim-beam-new-ri-rye-review/feed/ 40 RATTLESNAKE INFUSED VODKA…SERIOUSLY http://drinkdogma.com/rattlesnake-infused-vodkaseriously/ http://drinkdogma.com/rattlesnake-infused-vodkaseriously/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2008 22:26:19 +0000 Bobby Heugel http://drinkdogma.com/?p=119 rattlesnake-vodka.jpgWell, it’s official; the flavored vodka plague has gone as far as it can. Last Thursday, the Texas Alcholic Beverage Commission seized over 400 bottles of rattlesnake-infused vodka. Don’t believe me? Just check out the story on Fox News. There are all kinds of crazy things at work here.

First of all, what is this supposed to freaking taste like? Seriously, I’ve heard of rattlesnake roundups (another confusing phenomenon altogether) resulting in rattlesnake steaks and other culinary delights, but what do you do with this? Are we to assume that, if popular, the rattlesnake vodka trend would inspire “rattlesnake tinis”? Man, I’d hate to see the garnish on one of the things. Then again, I know given a bottle that I’d put it to use and have to experiment with a few classic recipes. Rattlesnake negronis anyone?

Rattlesnake Negroni

1 oz Rattlesnake Infused Vodka
1 oz Campari
1 oz Martini & Rossi Sweet Vermouth

Stir and thoroughly and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a severed rattle from snake.

I wonder who wins this battle – the rattlesnake or the cochineal beetles present in older bottles of Campari? Actually, I don’t think the negroni twist would work as the snake infusion is actually supposed to act as an aphrodisiac. That’s right, nothing like downing shots of decaying snake vodka to put that girl on the stool next to you in the mood. If this is the type of mate you’re trying to attract, best of luck to you, but I might start at an underground exotic pet store, not a bar.

Infusing snake and other exotic critters, like scorpions, for romantic purposes is actually a common practice in some Asian cultures. Now, I don’t want to be culturally insensitive here. I am a vigilant supporter of respecting cultures worldwide and reducing ethnocentrism, but this was South Texas. There aren’t any Asians there, and if I’ve missed in my visits to this area of the country, they certainly aren’t going to consume the 411 bottles that were seized last week by themselves.

Instead, this is just another example of that weird portion of Texas that continues to dominate the world’s view of our state. For the record, we aren’t all cowboys. I’ve never rode a horse, and I don’t own a cowboy hat, boots, or an obscenely large belt buckle. The only thing that me and these rattlesnake vodka producers might have in common is our lack of understanding for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. I get the snake vodka seizure thing, but when are we going to be able to get a decent selection of liquor in this state? Surely if this is even an underground possibility, we can finally get some creme de violette down here right? I’m not holding my breath, but you can be sure I’m checking every bottle on my local liquor shelves a little more carefully nowadays.

http://drinkdogma.com/rattlesnake-infused-vodkaseriously/feed/ 4