291 rye

The world whiskies award winners are in. Not a huge surprise, gear patrol has a summary. Best single malt is Hakushu 25, best blended malt is Taketsuru 17, best blended is jw gold.


In the bourbon category, best bourbon is 1792 full proof, best rye is from distillery 291 in Colorado. It’s harder to find outside Colorado, so I need to make sure we try to look for it when we drive through the state this summer. The distillery itself is in Colorado Springs, an hour south of Denver, so it means around 2hrs’ detour. May be I’ll just try to find a store. Breckenridge distilley, on the other hand, seems to be along our route.

whisky vs whiskey (again)

I was browsing through amazon, looking through the first few pages of a book that I thought may be interesting. Seemed promising until someone got a drink. The drink was even named: Chivas. A few sentences later it was described as whiskey. Argh. I was so put off I browsed for another book instead.

In this day and age, a simple google search will give the answer, and another one that gives more colour and explanation. Quite interesting that even the mighty NYT had to change its house style after stubbornly, and wrongly, defending their use of the word whiskey when describing a Speyside whisky. A rare case of Americans acknowledging the rest of the world is correct. Now onto fahrenheit, paper sizes, voltage and socc(–argh, I can’t use that word), haha.

Anyway, TWE has a simple graphic using flags so people can remember. I’ve also read somewhere that countries with ‘e’ in their name–United States of America, Ireland–use whiskey and countries without–Scotland, Canada, Japan, India–use whisky. Hmm, may be not anymore as many countries are bringing out their products; the English Whisky Company, Penderyn, Mackmyra, Millstone all use whisky and they have ‘e’ in their country names.



I think the easiest way is also the most respectful: look at the label. What do the distillers and bottlers, ie the people whose product it is, call it? So it should have been easy for the everyone involved in that book I was looking at to google an image of a Chivas bottle and see that it’s whisky, not whiskey.

With so many choices of books available to me, this poor book has now been pushed to the bottom of the queue. While it may seem a trivial reason not to buy a book, this is one of my pet peeves. Readers are fickle and books have been rejected for lesser reasons.


bourbon heritage month


September is bourbon heritage month so I thought I’d bring out my collection of bourbon and other American whiskeys and have a toast.

From back: Jim Beam Black, Woodford Reserve, Makers Mark 46, Breckenridge, Blanton’s, Knob Creek single barrel, Bulleit, small Jack Daniels. The tasting glass is from 1792 distillery.

I really like bourbon. The good ones are smooth and sweet with a nice finish. (Although, some are rubbish.) One of my favourite meals is Hawksmoor steak with Blanton’s. It’s also at Hawksmoor that I learned to appreciate rye whiskey.

bbmm pub and bar day out


We met up for lunch at the scottish pub. They have a nice 3-course set lunch: salad, roast pork with trimmings and ice cream. Free refills on soft drinks and iced tea/coffee. I was early so ordered a bottle of porter before I spotted the free refills. Anyway, it was at happy hour prices and it’s so rare to be able to get proper ales.

We chatted for a long time, or rather mm updated me on things she’s been up to recently. We went to the cable company to sort out her renewal and then went to the irish pub for a couple of irish whiskies. She had bushmills and I had kilbeggan, we prefer the bushmills.

wine, bourbon, whisky

smsfwine01display smsfwine02sign

Went to a liquor store to look for wine with Car. I got a california cab and a washington pinot. The store had a great selection and I mainly looked at US wines—when in Rome, do as the Romans do, which means go for the local wines. It’s like drinking chianti in Italy, chateauneuf in France and sauvignon blanc in New Zealand.

There was a tasting of save me san francisco wine which are wines launched by a band called Train. I’ve never heard of Train before, but the wines were very decent and good value. I tried the (very generous portions) cab, pinot and blend. The proceeds go to a non-profit organisation in California. One of the band members, Jimmy Stafford, was there to autograph the bottles so I bought a bottle of their pinot too.

After the wine, I went to look at the whisky shelf and wow, there were 2 shelves full of very tempting whisky. One shelf was bourbon and rye; the other shelf was whisky and Irish whiskey, including Tullamore Dew Phoenix which was only available at the distillery and at the airport in Dublin. Even Yamazaki, Hibiki and NIkka Coffey.


It was very hard not to buy up the entire shelf of whisky and whiskey. I couldn’t not get the Ardbeg Perpetuum, which was released during Feis Ile 2015 to celebrate Ardbeg’s 200th anniversary so is very, very special. I was bummed I wasn’t in London for its launch and had been resigned to never getting a bottle. $90 plus tax, which probably works out cheaper than the £90 at TWE.

It was impossible to limit the bourbon purchases to one. I got another bottle of Blanton’s, after seriously considering Bookers, Redemption, Rittenhouse Rye and Weller. Also got a bottle from ch distillery—they are a vodka distillery and bottled this bourbon— it was on sale and the company is in Chicago, all towards my goal of buying local. All this to add to the Knob Creek single barrel I bought yesterday.

I’ll have to finish drinking the wine and figure out how to bring all these bottles of whisky and bourbon back with me. Ah well, I have a few weeks to think of that.

europe day 24: cork to tullamore to dublin


Checked out of hotel and were on our way at 10.30am. The destination was Tullamore D.E.W. distillery visitor centre. When we were at heathrow, we met a lady at the whisky tasting counter who had lots of whisky stories and suggested that we visited the visitor centre. She also gave us a note to give to their brand ambassador. Tullamore is 1hr west of Dublin and was a detour from our planned route, so we had high expectations.


We know better now to skip the tour, especially since it was an exhibition rather than actual working distillery. Enquired about the expressions that would be part of the tasting afterwards, and as usual were not impressed by the selection. The very nice lady at the cash desk gave us 3 even better expressions to sample, free of charge. Generous tasting portions too—12 yr sherry cask, 10 yr four casks, special reserve. First time we tried this whiskey. We were most taken with the 10 year single malt that had been matured in 4 different casks: bourbon, oloroso sherry, port and madeira.

Had lunch at the restaurant, just sandwiches and shared a rhubarb crumble. Sandwiches were good, the crumble was more like crumble pie. Finished with more whiskey tastings—bonded warehouse (available at the visitor centre only) and Phoenix (retail bottles sold out). Still liking the 10yr four casks.

Even though we didn’t take the tour, we enjoyed our visit to the visitor centre. The shop had cool stuff, the tasting samples were generous and the food was fine. Great location next to a canal, so peaceful on a sunny day. I’d recommend this to anyone visiting Dublin, it’s only about 1hr’s drive.


When we got back to Dublin we hit a bit of rush hour traffic. Luckily we were booked in the same hotel as before so we knew the way. Checked in and were back out quickly. Strolled to Trinity College for pictures, then made our way to an early dinner at Bear. I’d read that this restaurant offered less popular cuts of steak like onglet, bavette and flank so we were keen to try it out. We were not disappointed. A huge (900g-1kg) bavette, chargrilled rare, arrived at our table together with the 2 sides we ordered—crispy kale and cauliflower cheese. Delicious and definitely different from the usual sirloin and rib-eye. We would definitely come again.

Still enough time before sunset to walk to St Patrick’s and Christchurch cathedrals then to Tesco before returning to our room.

how bourbon is made

Gear patrol spent 5 days visiting a bunch of bourbon distilleries. Fascinating posts, for all bourbon, whiskey and whisky lovers.

I recognised some of the distilleries that I visited myself when I went on the bourbon trail a few years ago. The bourbon trail passport now requires stamps from 9 distilleries (used to be 6 when I went). This means a longer trip, which I guess is what they want. Ah, commercialism.


One of the people interviewed on the video looks familiar. Yep, it’s our guide at Buffalo Trace. I have a picture of me and him too at the tasting bar, he was super nice and a great guy. No, I don’t post pics of me. 

why are these alcohol ads so good

Prompted by this bell’s whisky ad spotted at gizmodo, I’ve been coming across great drinks ads lately.

I don’t drink bell’s but this ad, for the south africa tv market, really tugs at the heart’s strings. Now this is what a whisky is for, to celebrate something wonderful.

Another one spotted is for tullamore dew irish whiskey — created by new york agency opperman weiss, via fastcompany — from the weather to the music to the graveyard to the hat worn in the film, so quintessentially irish. I had tullamore dew in dublin, although I prefer redbreast, it was a nice dram

Here are a couple of guinness ads by agency AMV BBDO, more tears. First, the famous basketball one:

And last but not least, this fantastic, dapper one with sapeurs, the society of elegant persons of the congo:

Where the narrator says at the end,

I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul

Truer words have never been spoken.

bourbon trail day 3

makers mark bridge booker noe at jim beam

Woke up at 6am, had breakfast (plain waffle today), checked out and was on the road before 7.30am. I’d planned the day last night with military precision, and I needed the early start. The destination was Barton distillery at Bardstown, an hour away. I hadn’t heard of them at all, and they’re not on the official trail, but I saw a leaflet and I was able to work them into the day.

Barton is actually owned by Buffalo Trace and has a huge, huge, huge site. BT bought it not for the distillery but for the warehouses (a new one will cost $2m to build) and the bottling plant. They were bottling tequila and other stuff today, it was a big operation. The bourbon wasn’t bad either. Oh, backup, they had the only 9am tour and there were only 2 of us on that tour — a girl from London who is living in New York and is taking a 3 week drive across the country to Alberqueque for a wedding. Imagine meeting another Londoner all the way in the deep south, heh. In a typically British way we chatted very amicably but did not exchange personal details, nor did we “promise” to keep in touch. It’s just not done.

Only 5 miles and 10 mins away is Heaven Hill. Unfortunately their tour was due to start at 11.10am, 10 mins later than the advertised time and I was under time pressure. This was the one distillery were I wasn’t sure if I could stay, and it turned out that I only had the chance to browse around the shop and get my passport stamped. Ah well.

Another 45 mins drive and I was at Makers Mark. A very slick operation indeed. Not in production, and a tour group that numbered at least 30 people. Tasted 4 varieties: their new make spirit, aka white dog; normal Makers Mark; an over-matured expression to show how it didn’t work; and Makers 46, which I bought a couple of years ago at ORD when it first came out. Very smooth, very nice. Bought a souvenir glass with their signature wax detail.

There was time for lunch. Everything is in the middle of nowhere, and it was perfect timing and location to lunch at the café at Makers. Pulled pork sandwich was pretty standard, nothing special but it filled me up. Interestingly in the café were a bunch of Japanese people having a casual meeting with obviously people from the distillery. The Japanese contingent presented them with a bottle of Hibiki. Not sure if the bourbon people quite understand that this is one of the best single malts in the world, they did seem a bit unsure. I think they were talking about business partnerships, I wish I could eavesdrop more, but it was time to go.

Doubled back to Bardstown and further to Jim Beam. They don’t have a production tour, just a demostration model of the stills and tuns. Did go into the warehouse though. Got to try their double aged black label and one of their small batch labels, Bakers. Wow, their small batch labels are absolutely fantastic. I’ve already tried Bookers, Basil Hayden’s and Knob Creek. Bakers complete the series and I can say I totally love all of them.

The only large bottle I bought on this trip was the bourbon cream at Buffalo Trace. I have a few miniatures, it’s the only way I can fit everything in my suitcase. Sigh. I have a glass from each of the distilleries, and I’m very pleased with my souvenirs.

Tonight I’m at Clarksville IN, just north of Louisville. I looked at hotels last night, and I guess I could have reserved one even further north along the I-65. As it was, there was a big delay on the highway because of a couple of accidents and broken down vehicles, so I’m glad I didn’t have far to drive. Another Best Western. Had a sizzling steak and a margarita at the Mexican restaurant opposite the hotel and I’m back in my room watching food network, reading and messaging mm. Back to Chicago tomorrow.

bourbon trail day 2

woodford reserve

The hotel has breakfast included, I made blueberry waffle and tea from their hot water. Set off on the longest day of the year to my first stop, Woodford Reserve. About 15 mins away, and I was parked and in their visitor’s center in no time. Beautiful grounds. They charge $7 for the tour, the only one that charges on the bourbon trail. For this we got an hour long, detailed tour. And technology, we had these spiffy earphones and the guide had a mike, so no problem hearing him even in the noisy distillery. They only make one product, and we got a nice shot glass to take away with us too. Since I’m driving, I only had a tiny sip and then took the rest with me to the car.

The second stop, about 25 mins away, Wild Turkey. Hahaha, the same people are on the tour!! The distillery is huge, and I got to taste 4 different spirits: wild turkey 101, kentucky spirit, russell reserve 10 year and this fabulous liqueur called American honey. The car is filling up with samples in shot glasses for enjoyment later, can’t wait.

Wild Turkey gave us directions to a nearby bakery for lunch, I had a reuben sandwich. Nice. Then onto the final distillery for today, Four Roses. I’d never heard of this brand before, apparently it’s the best selling bourbon in Japan and there are 2 Japan export only expressions. Interesting, I must look out for it when I’m next in Japan. The distillery wasn’t in production so we just briefly toured the premises. There were 3 tastings: standard yellow label, small batch and single barrel. I got a miniature bottle of single barrel for souvenir.

Dinner was at the Cattleman steakhouse near the hotel. Now I know why Americans are so wedded to their cars. It’s a 5-10 min walk from the hotel to the restaurant, which in any other part of the world I’d happily walk. The problem is that here, there is no pavement and I would have had to cross a busy 8 lane highway that makes no allowance for pedestrians. Argh. I couldn’t finish the steak, only 11oz. Either it’s the heat or the salad bar I had as starter I don’t know. I did take it away and finished it at the hotel later while I sipped the rest of the whiskey samples I’d saved earlier.

Booked tomorrow night’s hotel, planned tomorrow’s schedule and did laundry. I discovered another distillery, Barton that isn’t on the trail but also worth visiting so I have to plan the day almost to the minute. Let’s see how it goes.

bourbon trail day 1

buffalotrace00casks buffalotrace00warehouse

I have a extra week in the US after the con, and I decided that I really needed to do something so as not to waste the airfare. So I did research and internet booking yesterday. This morning I picked up the rental car at 8am and started the drive to Kentucky. Yep, going on the bourbon trail.

Google maps said 6 hours to the hotel at Frankfort, and it was pretty correct. I stopped at a McDonalds outside Louisville for a quick lunch. By the time I approached Frankfort it was around 2pm, which turned into 3pm because of the time change. 10 miles before the supposed exit for the hotel there was a sign for Buffalo Trace distillery so I followed it — it was in the plan to go to Buffalo Trace today so I just reversed the schedule. Correct decision given that I hadn’t realised I lost an hour.

I’d missed the beginning of the tour, but managed to join when the group visited the warehouse and the bottling plant. My first impression of the distillery is how huge it is! The warehouse alone is 9 storeys high, and where a barrel is housed will make the bourbon. Those higher up will mature quicker in the hot Kentucky weather; those in the lower floors are the premium bourbon. Then we were at the bottling plant, where a small group of workers were hand bottling Blanton’s. Even the wax and stickers were done manually. We got a small taste, a choice between Eagle Rare and Buffalo Trace. I picked the Eagle Rare but only had a tiny sip. The second glass was bourbon cream, the bourbon version of Bailey’s. Our guide taught us how to enjoy it with root beer and bourbon chocolate. Yummy!

Checked into the Best Western Park Inn at Frankfort, a nice clean standard room. It was only 5.30pm so I drove to downtown Frankfort. Most shops were closed, with the exception of a bookstore, a café, a craft shop and a few bars. I had pizza from home so I just went to CVS to buy iced tea and a beer. Also bought a few bottles of miniatures for souvenir. Time to watch tv and plan tomorrow’s visits.

writers tears


This relatively new product scored 93 points in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible so I was curious to find Writers Tears when in Dublin. It’s a pot still blend that markets itself as a salute to the great Irish writers who drew inspiration from the water of life. People like James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw etc. The label has some words to the effect of

I traded my tomorrows to remain in yesterday
Whiskey tears are fallin’ here and each one cries her name

Now any fool would have thought that this was a poem from one of those esteemed Irish writers. But googling showed that it’s from a song by an American country singer I’ve never heard of. Again, just to show, marketing. That said, pretty nice whiskey, on the sweet side, mild.