December 21, 2011 § 8 Comments
I just spent a full week checking out the whisky scene in the sunny city of Los Angeles, California. On my last day, I was driving around like a crazy person (as you do in LA) trying to squeeze in a few last store visits.
Up until then, I had really only be focusing on specialty shops (K&L for example) and authentic whisky bars (hello, Seven Grand) but I found myself sitting in a parking lot in Beverly Hills staring at a somewhat dingy looking store that, for whatever reason, I felt I was being gravitationally pulled to enter.
Sigh. Ok! I hop out of the car and go into what I would describe at first look as being a pretty standard American liquor store. Neon signs, branded posters, old linoleum floors complete with a faint smell of cat (or is the cat smell only in my memory?).
A quick overview of the room tells me the liquid gold that I’m looking for is in the center of the store (interesting … whiskies are usually along the sides or back walls). Hmmm. I keep walking.
At the start of the aisle, there is a cheap, locked display case that I’m quite sure was been held together with discretely placed duct tape. Now, here’s what I didn’t expect to see in it:
1 beautifully displayed 750ml Baccarat crystal decanter holding non-other than the Louis XIII cognac for around $2500 (see earlier post about this spirit HERE)
1 box (on the bottom shelf, tucked off to the side) of a Compass Box 50ml Sample Gift Set.
Gasp. WHAT!?! I have never seen this kind of set in the States before… ever. SOLD!
This is the perfect way to familiarize oneself with a brand, style, region, etc. I picked up a few sets like this from La Maison du Whisky in Paris back in July (see earlier post HERE, reviews of the sets I bought to be posted in 2012).
In this Compass Box set, it contains five 50ml tubes, one of each of the following:
-1 x Hedonism
-1x Peet Monster
-1x Spice Tree
-1x Oak Cross
I also really appreciate the pull out information card that is secured on the underside of the box lid. This is beautifully done, clean, well organized and a perfect gift … for oneself or someone special!
Sadly, a quick google search produced only one place online with stock and that is a single sellers on eBay (click HERE) but I’m not even sure that’s legal and that guy is selling his box for $89.99 (compared to the $49 I paid at full retail).
IF you can find one – I encourage you to buy it. It’s a great set. I’ll definitely be asking my local store later today to see about getting a few in stock!
Lastly, here’s the information for the store from which I purchased this awesome set:
Vendome Wine & Spirits9153 W Olympic Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Hopefully they can ship to you!
1 ADJUSTMENT SINCE I FIRST PUBLISHED THIS POST: I HAVE SINCE HEARD FROM COMPASS BOX AND THEY OFFER THIS SET FOR SALE IN THEIR ONLINE SHOP HERE: http://compassbox.specialitydrinks.com/
WITH SHIPPING TO THE USA (FROM THE UK) YOU CAN GET IT HOME FOR AROUND $64 USD.
December 12, 2011 § 20 Comments
Earlier this year, I had the absolute pleasure of visiting the distillery of perhaps one of the best kept secrets in the whisky world (but not for long!).
Celtic Whisky Compagnie’s most popular brands are Kornog and Glann ar Mor. (Specific product reviews in part 2 of this series). On the heels of the Winter issue, before you send your 1st edition Fall 2011 Whisky Advocate magazine out to the recycling bin (or storage bin), check out their nice mention!
Stepping off the train from Paris to Brittany, you arrive in this beautiful, small, sunny, sea-breeze soaked town where it’s easy to start imagining ones’ early retirement. Shortly there after, we were graciously picked up by my dear friend and head distiller, Jean Donnay. As he drove us down the windy coastal streets, we watched the tide quickly retreat and the oyster farmers rushed in to collect their crops. After a blissful tour of the distillery, we shared the most delicious seafood lunch on the top floor of the distillery where we talked about and drank Jean’s amazing whiskies.
And amazing, they are. This is truly a labor of love. Everything they make is hand-crafted and produced by Jean and his wonderful wife, Martine. They do everything right; 100% Scottish malt, live fire, slow distillation, wooden washbacks, worm tube copper stills … but still, given the right skill, patience, investment and knowledge, all of that can theoretically be duplicated anywhere. However, in addition to their passion and drive, what Celtic Whisky Compagnie has that you can’t copy is their perfectly strategic location for “Seaside Maturation.”
Remind you of somewhere? Starts with an “S” ends with a “land”… exactly.
This carefully produced spirit comes off the stills and relaxes on the earthen floor right by the sea. The warehouse is on the tip of a peninsula so you get the wonderfully moist, salty sea air continuously swirling around the aging whiskies. When you sip Jean’s products, you are transported to this place and the amazing journey for your senses begins.
Those of you in Europe – get your hands on a bottle or two (if you’re lucky!). As for us Americans, definitely pick up a bottle on your next pass through Europe! You’ll be glad that you did!
December 5, 2011 § 13 Comments
I have been attending so many whisky events recently that it got me thinking: what would make these even better?
Answer: To be surrounded with my close friends.
So this holiday season, I offer you this: The Whisky Woman’s Guide to Creating Your Own Whisky Tasting Party . It’s time to stop fretting and start celebrating!
WHAT YOU NEED:
Tulip Shaped Glasses (to help focus your nose to the delicate aromas, check out Glencarin, -found HERE at Amazon)
Room temperature spring water (if you want to kick it up a notch, buy a dropper or 2 for easier control of the water-adding situation – found HERE at Amazon)
Unsalted Crackers (to cleanse your palate between spirits – also found HERE at Amazon)
Coffee beans (not necessary but I find very helpful when smelling lots of different whiskies during one sitting)
Opaque Container (for spitting and/or dumping – in a pinch, I use mugs – found HERE at Amazon)
Friends (this party can be done by yourself, but it’s WAAAAY more fun to dive into your whisky exploration with your pals around! – easily found HERE at Facebook) 😉
NEED TO KNOW:
For the novice, familiarize yourself with the different types of whisky. “Whisky” or “Whiskey” is the main category under which you have Scotch, Bourbon, Rye, Single Malts, Blends, Irish, Canadian, Japanese, American Craft, etc. If you are new to whisky, I suggest choosing bottles from different categories and going as pure as possible (single malts, straight Bourbons, straight rye) and not because there aren’t good blends out there (there are!) but because the authentic characteristics of each type of whisky are often more diluted or altered in a blend.
“Bring a bottle” – you can have each guest bring a bottle (though perhaps it’s best to confirm choices before hand so you can make sure you have some diversity)
“Vertical” – like a Vertical Wine flight, you can do a tasting of the same producer but different years
“Single category” – having different producers from the same category (like all Ryes or all Canadian whiskies) to start to understand the different nuances between the distilleries (think about their production methods and their climate & altitude locations as these effect how the whiskies age in the casks).
“Single Region” – look at trying Scotch’s all from the same area, Bourbons from just Kentucky or Tennessee
“Craft vs Mass Producer” – look for a small producer (perhaps one that is close to your neck of the woods?) and compare their product to one of the “big boys”
Feel free to get creative! This is the fun part!
1) Pour whisky & pass around to friends
2) Observe color and clarity (murkiness is OK! If your whisky is cloudy, the distiller did NOT use chill-filtration before bottling which removes impurities but also removes flavors)
3) Smell! Putting your nose gently above the glass (give it some space!) start to inhale and enjoy the different notes you find. Get in there – move your nose around to different points around the mouth of the glass, top, bottom, sides, open your mouth as you inhale through your nose … this will help you find different flavors. Move your head away from the glass, inhale non-whisky air, and go back in again.
4) Chew – Take a very small sip that is enough to prep your palate but not enough to swallow. “Chew” it by moving it around your mouth, letting it dissolve on your tongue.
5) Taste. Be taken away by the spirit! Pay attention to how it changes as it moves around, how it feels once you’ve swallowed it and the lingering effect it leaves in your mouth (called the “finish”)
6) Be a chemist! Time to add a few drops of water. This helps to calm down the alcohol and bring out the more delicate notes of the whisky. Nose it again than drink and enjoy!
7) Rinse and repeat!