Sunday, April 28, 2013

Spoiler Alert: Fall Whiskeys Revealed

Fall is the big whiskey season when all the special release whiskeys come out, but because of the TTB label approval process, we get a preview of them in spring and summer.  Here are some of what awaits us this fall (other than Zachory Boone):

Stay tuned for more new releases as I find them.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tennessee Whiskey: A New Definition

Most whiskey drinkers know Tennessee Whiskey as a particular style of whiskey made by Jack Daniel's and George Dickel which is essentially bourbon in which the spirit undergoes filtering through sugar-maple charcoal, known as the Lincoln County Process.  For years, that process distinguished Tennessee Whiskey from other whiskeys.

Despite that widespread understanding, Tennessee Whiskey is not a legally defined term in the federal regulations that define other whiskey classifications such as bourbon and rye whiskey.  Therefore, when new distilleries started popping up, there was nothing stopping them from making a "Tennessee Whiskey" that did not use the Lincoln County filtering process.

Now, Tennessee has stepped in to fill the gap.  The state legislature has passed a bill which would set out a formal definition of Tennessee Whiskey.  Sponsored by the state house member who represents Lynchburg, the home of Jack Daniel's, the new bill requires that:

 An intoxicating liquor may not be advertised, described, labeled, named, sold or referred to for marketing or sales purposes as"Tennessee Whiskey", "Tennessee Whisky", "Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey" or "Tennessee Sour Mash Whisky" unless the intoxicating liquor is:

(1) Manufactured in Tennessee;
(2) Made of a grain mixture that is at least fifty-one percent (51%) corn;
(3) Distilled to no more than 160 proof or eighty percent (80%) alchol by volume;
(4) Aged in new, charred oak barrels in Tennessee;
(5) Filtered through maple charcoal prior to aging;
(6) Placed in the barrel at no more than 125 proof or sixty-two and one-half percent (62.5%) alcohol by volume; and
(7) Bottled at not less than 80 proof or forty percent (40%) alcohol by volume.
This definition mirrors the federal definition of bourbon except for the requirement that it must be manufactured in Tennessee and filtered through maple charcoal.

Prichard's Distillery, in Kelso, Tennessee, received a specially tailored exemption from the law, which grandfathers in distilleries licensed in the year 2000, which apparently covers only Prichard's.  The exemption for Prichard's is permanent, so under the law, it will be the only distillery allowed to sell a non-charcoal filtered Tennessee Whiskey.  Other distilleries have three years to comply.

William T. Cheek is an alcoholic beverage law specialist at the law firm of Bone McAllester Norton in Nashville.  In an article he posted on the firm's website, Cheek wrote that the new law "favors a local giant at the expense of Tennessee entrepreneurs."  I followed up with Cheek, who represents several small distilleries which will be directly impacted by the bill.  He said the bill originally regulated distilleries' transferring of whiskey between counties and that this amendment was added at the behest of Jack Daniel's.  He also noted that, since it is a state law, the law will not affect companies that sell "Tennessee Whiskey" outside of the state.

Others have speculated that the major focus of the law is Popcorn Sutton's Tennessee White Whiskey, an unaged, unfiltered whiskey utilizing the name of legendary Tennessee moonshiner Popcorn Sutton.  It's not clear, however, if Sutton's use of the term "Tennessee White Whiskey" on the label would conflict with this law.  Given that the penalty for violating the law, however, is a suspension of the manufacturer's license for a period of at least one year, most producers will likely comply rather than risk being shut down. 

At the very least, this law provides a somewhat clearer answer for the question of what "Tennessee Whiskey" is, at least within the confines of the state of Tennessee.

The bill is headed for the Governor's desk, where he is expected to sign it.

UPDATE:  The Governor signed the bill on May 13.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Some Interesting Whiskey Blogs

In compiling my complete list of whiskey blogs, I stumbled on more than a few that I hadn't seen before and was reminded of others that I really enjoy.  I'm always looking for whiskey blogs that provide an alternative perspective, and here are a few I've been reading lately that I find particularly interesting. 

  • Clay Risen is a staff editor at the New York Times who writes the Mash Notes blog.  He also writes whiskey articles for the Times, and unlike most whiskey articles in the mainstream press, Risen makes sure his articles are accurate and not always about Pappy Van Winkle.  He's not the most prolific blogger, but he's an engaging and honest writer which makes his blog a real pleasure.  He's also working on a book about American whiskey.
  • Linh Do is the Los Angeles based blogger who writes Bliss in a Barrel.  Her posts tend to revolve around some of the local whiskey clubs and on-line networks she's involved in, but she also works in the industry, and has some fascinating posts about working as a liquor company representative.  I'm hoping she'll continue to blog in that direction.
  • If you're looking for something a bit different, check out Rob Gard's The Whisky Guy. Rob is another LA based blogger who previously worked at Bruichladdich.  Rob's blog is not as much about whiskey as it uses whiskey as a background to examine human nature.  Rob is also working on a book about his experiences working at a distillery.
There's lots of good whiskey stuff to read out there (in fact, there are 259 whiskey blogs at present count), and these are just a few of them, but they're good ones so check them out.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

And the Award for Label BS goes to... Zachory Boone

In the past, I've poked fun at some of the questionable claims on whiskey labels, but occasionally, I see a real one that out does my parodies.  A case in point is the newly registered label for Zachory Boone Bourbon.  This label comes to us from Levecke Corporation a distributor/rectifier (i.e., not a distiller) in Mira Loma, California.

Here is the excellent label description for this Kentucky Straight Bourbon:

From legend long ago...At the age of 21 years, Zachory T. Boone cooked up his first batch of bourbon whiskey using the same distilling techniques used by his great grandfather. At the heart of the recipe was a wonderful blend of premium American grains and pure Kentucky mountain water used to create the perfect sour mash for fermentation. The sour mash was distilled in a multi-column still and the patiently laid to rest for over 3 years in charred oak barrels.
Today our modern distillery still uses Zachory Boone's same quality ingredients, same Kentucky mountain water and the same care in aging the whiskey to achieve the full bourbon character that makes Zachory Boone one of Kentucky's finest bourbon whiskeys.
If there were an award for whiskey label bullshit, this would clearly get it.  It does a great job of saying a lot without telling us anything.  Zachory Boone was such an innovator that he used  "American grains" and "Kentucky mountain water" to make his bourbon.  He then distilled it in a "multi-column still" and "patiently" laid it to rest in charred oak barrels (well, not that patiently given that it's only three years old).  So based on this detailed description, we now know that this is a bourbon that was made like pretty much every other bourbon in the world.  Wow, that's helpful.

In the second paragraph we learn that "our modern distillery" (I'm sorry, whose modern distillery?  I'm not aware that Levecke Corporation has a distillery) uses the same quality ingredients.  Imagine that, just like old Zachory used grain and water, so does the distillery that makes it now.  It's like a bourbon time machine to bring you back to a time when bourbon was made with grain and water (which of course, have always been the ingredients).  Speaking of which, the label never mentions when the alleged Zachory Boone allegedly made his first bourbon.  Was it in 1875? 1908? 1972?  Last week?

But it gets stranger.  The bottom line on the label says "Distilled from barley and malt mash."  Er, what?  A "whiskey distilled from malt mash" is defined as distilled from not less than 51% barley and aged in used barrels whereas bourbon is composed of at least 51% corn and aged in new barrels.  I guess old Zachory really was an innovator; he made a Kentucky bourbon that isn't even a bourbon.  (Oh, and note to the TTB who are supposed to be making sure that labels comply with their classifications before approving them:  Wake the fuck up!)

But hey, the proof is in how it tastes, and this guy liked it (Seriously, watch the whole video.  It's almost as funny as the label).

Monday, April 22, 2013

DC Whiskey: Jack Rose

I've been to whiskey bars, but Jack Rose is beyond a whiskey bar; it's a temple.  Located on the edge of the hip Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington DC, the walls of this spacious "dining saloon" are stacked high with bottles.

The pickings are broad and deep.  Malt whisky advisor Roberto Cofino has done an amazing job of stocking the single malt selection with over 1,000 malts.  It's one of the few drinking establishments in the US that offers Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottlings (of which it has many), and there are countless rare independent bottlings from every region of Scotland.

The American whiskey selection is equally impressive, as could be expected given that the Saloon has two sister establishments that specialize in bourbon.  Among the 500 or so American whiskeys on the shelf, of particular interest to the true geeks are the proprietary bottlings of Willett's from KBD, including the vaunted 1983/1984 rye whiskeys from the old Bernheim distillery.  They had some of the renowned Doug Phillips bottlings, the Red Hook Rye from LeNell's and their own bottling, known as the Iron Fist (they also have a corresponding Velvet Glove but were out of it the night I visited).

How many bars can you walk into an order a 1960s era Old Fitzgerald from the Stitzel-Weller distillery?  You can at Jack's.

Prices were surprisingly reasonable for what they sell, and best of all, they offer one ounce pours for half the price of regular two ounce pours (those old Willett ryes went for $30 for a one ounce pour).  In addition, if you order your whiskey neat, they offer a choice of glasses:  tumbler, Glencairn or snifter.  This is a bar made for whiskey geeks.

If you are anywhere within 3,000 miles of Jack Rose, you have no excuse not to go there.

Jack Rose Dining Saloon
2007 18th Street NW
Washington, DC  20009
(202) 588-7388

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dusty Thursday: The Real Michter's Original Sour Mash Whiskey

Yesterday, I sampled the new Michter's Original Sour Mash Whiskey.  That one is a Kentucky whiskey from an undisclosed distillery (or distilleries), but long ago, when Michter's was a real distillery, the sour mash whiskey was made in Pennsylvania from a mashbill of 50% bourbon, 38% rye and  12% malted barley and aged in a mixture of new and used barrels.  I was lucky enough to have a generous friend who shared a sample of a miniature bottle of the real stuff with me (pictured, right); I know he likes some char on his bourbon, let's see what it's like.

Michter's Original Sour Mash Whiskey, 43% abv.

The nose is a bit soapy with some of the sandalwood notes that I often get on old Pennsylvania ryes.  The palate too is soapy with a lot of sandalwood.  Spicy notes dominate the finish.  This is much more similar to the old Pennsylvania ryes than it is to any bourbon I've had.  I generally like the sandalwood notes in those old ryes, but the soapy notes in this clashed with them.

This is absolutely nothing like the contemporary version I reviewed yesterday.  Whereas that one tastes pretty much like any current bourbon, the original Michter's tastes nothing like a modern bourbon.  Of course, the original Michter's was not only made in Pennsylvania, it was made in a pot still, which imparts a very different flavor to a whiskey.  The new Michter's was almost certainly made on a continuous still, which probably accounts for some of the differences between the two.  (UPDATE: Sam K. points out in the comments that the pot still was the doubler and the whiskey went through a typical continuous still first).  In addition, soapiness is a characteristic that I have found in a number of dusties, and it can be a result of poor storage or handling over the years, and the small quantity involved in a miniature bottle makes it even more susceptible to the ravages of time.  All this is to say that the current state of this whiskey might not reflect what it tasted like in its prime, but that's always a risk with dusties.

Despite its flaws, I'm intrigued by this old Michter's, particularly the Pennsylvania rye notes.  I'll have to see if I can track down some more of this stuff.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Michter's Original Sour Mash Whiskey

Long ago, Michter's was a distillery near Schafferstown, in Southeastern Pennsylvania.  The distillery shut down in 1989, but as with many American distilleries, the name lived on.  After the original name was abandoned, it was registered by Chatham Imports which used it as a label on sourced whiskey that it had bottled at Kentucky Bourbon Distillers.

The original Michter's is most known today as the source of the A.H. Hirsch bourbon, a series of private bottlings of bourbon distilled in 1974 (For more detail, see Chuck Cowdery's book The Best Bourbon You'll Never Taste).

But A.H. Hirsch was a one-off; Michter's had its own brands, the most known of which was their Original Sour Mash Whiskey.  According to Whiskey Advocate's resident Michter's expert Sam Komlenic, the Original Sour Mash mashbill was 50% corn, 38% rye and 12% malted barley, and it was aged in a combination of new and used cooperage. It couldn't be called bourbon both because it had less than the required 51% corn and because some of it was aged in used barrels.

When Chatham took over the label, they put out bourbon, rye and an "American whiskey" but they didn't use the Original Sour Mash label, until now.  Last December, Chatham released an Original Sour Mash.  They don't give much of a description of it so there's no telling if anything about it is similar to the original version, except they say it is aged in new charred oak and it appears to be distilled in Kentucky, two things that were not true of the original Michter's brand.  Of course, the use of the term "sour mash" tells us nothing since sour mash is the process used by nearly all American whiskeys to keep a consistent environment for their yeast from batch to batch.  But let's see how it tastes.

Michter's Original Sour Mash, 43% abv, Batch 12 LID ($45)

The nose has candy corn and wood.  The palate starts with lots of sweet corn and some grassy notes.  Then wood and spice kick in.  The spice takes over and gets peppery into the finish, then turns to corn flakes.  It certainly tastes like bourbon. The prominence of corn reminds me of one of the Beam Small Batch bourbons, but the way the spice mixes in is more akin to Elijah Craig or another Heaven Hill product. 

The new Michter's isn't bad at all, but there's nothing in it that is at all compelling.  It's a decent whiskey which I would be able to recommend if it were about half the asking price.

How does this new label compare to the original Pennsylvania Michter's Original Sour Mash?  There's only one way to find out.  Tune in tomorrow for Dusty Thursday.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The State of Craft Whiskey

Given the recently reported division among craft spirits trade groups, I thought it would be a good time to review the state of craft whiskey based on the information I've culled in my Complete List of American Whiskey Distilleries.

As of 2013, I count a remarkable 190 craft distilleries that are making whiskey (though not all are on the market yet).  A year ago, the count was 117.

Washington leads the pack with 25 craft whiskey distillers, but four other states have more than 10: California (16), New York (14), Colorado (13) and Oregon (11).

Clearly, the craft movement continues to grow at an impressive rate. It will be interesting to see where it goes.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Things go better with Gazoz Tarragon Soda

I was intrigued by the idea of a tarragon soda when I heard they had one at Taron Bakery, my favorite Armenian bakery in Hollywood.  From what I can tell, gazoz means soda (or gas) in Turkish, but this brand appears to be Armenian.  The bottle claims it's a "fresh and natural choice," though it's hard to believe that the fluorescent green color comes from anything natural.

Gazoz has a nice, minty/licorice flavor, and indeed, tastes a lot like tarragon.  It actually tastes a bit like absinthe, which makes sense since tarragon is an ingredient in some absinthes.  Overall, it's a pleasant, refreshing drink, perfect to wash down some boreks.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Uncovering Sourced Whiskey: Produced, Made, Bottled or Distilled?

One of my pet peeves is companies that bottle whiskey they bought from elsewhere and pretend they made it themselves.  There is a TTB regulation that requires whiskey to include the state of distillation on the bottle.  That used to be a good way to tell if something was sourced.  Even if an Idaho company was bottling the whiskey, it would have to say that it was distilled in Kentucky or Indiana.  Unfortunately, as I pointed out last fall, the TTB does not seem to be enforcing that rule.  So now, how can we tell if a whiskey is sourced?

One of the key things to look at is the wording on the label. Under the TTB regulations, only someone who distilled the whiskey can use the term "distilled by" to identify the source of the whiskey.  The terms "made by" or "produced by" mean that the whiskey was made by a rectifier (i.e., someone who did not distill it).  The problem is that instead of using any of these terms, the term "bottled by" can be used by distillers or rectifiers.

To summarize, if you see the term "distilled by" on the label, you know that the company actually distilled the whiskey, and if you see "produced by" or "made by", you know they did not.  If you only see "bottled by," it could go either way.  Even so, my new rule of thumb is that if the label doesn't say "distilled by", it's sourced.

So look for the D word on that new brand of whiskey.  If you don't see it, chances are they didn't make it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Osocalis Brandy

Along with Germain-Robin, and Anchor Distillery, Osocalis Brandy is one of the grandfathers of the craft distilling movement in California.  Founded by Dan Farber, Osocalis is in Soquel, California in the Santa Cruz area. I recently attended a brandy trade event with Dan and he is one of those guys whose enthusiasm is contagious.  He prides himself on doing things the old fashioned way.  He only makes a few expressions, he only makes brandy and he doesn't use shortcuts, additives or coloring.  He offered his entire range for tasting as well as some others whiskeys by his co-host Nicolas Palazzi. Here are my impressions of the Osocalis range.

Osocalis Rare Alembic Brandy, Lot VII, 40% abv ($43)

The Rare Alembic is made largely from Pinot Noir, Colombard and Semillion grapes and aged around six years, though there are older brandies in the mix.  The nose has a nice must grape note without being two sweet and a pleasant earthy notes.  The palate is sweeter than the nose lets on but it maintains the earthiness which lasts into the finish.  This is a fairly light, wonderfully drinkable brandy.  For $43, this is a huge deal.

Osocalis XO, Bottling 2, 40% abv ($106)

The XO is made from Colombard, Chenin Blanc, Semillon and Pinot Noir grapes. The nose on the XO has more earthiness than the Rare Alembic with some fruit notes in the back.  The same dynamic occurs on the palate with a blast of earthy notes, some spiciness and then sweetness on the back end leading into the finish where some of the pepper comes back.

Osocalis Heritage, Bottling 1, 40% abv ($130)

The Heritage is made from 50% Pinot Noir  and 50% Colombard grapes and the brandies that go into it are around 20 years old. The Heritage has a fantastic nose with strong woody notes; it's almost bourbon like though a bit of fruit creeps in.  The palate has a great balance of wood and fruit.  It starts in with those strong, bourbon-like notes of oak, caramel and spice, then the fruit emerges and leaves you with a lighter brandy like finish, though still with some oak notes.  This is a beautiful, complex brandy and a perfect one for bourbon lovers.  If I were tasting blind, I'm not sure I wouldn't have guessed it was bourbon.

Osocalis Apple Brandy, Bottling 1, 40% abv ($70)

Osocalis also makes an apple brandy made from over a dozen varieties of apples. The nose has apples and vanilla, like an apple pie a la mode.  The palate is very pure, sweet apples, and the finish actually has some sherry like notes of dried fruit.  This one is a bit on the sweet side for me, though I bet it works well in cocktails.

Osocalis is making some really fantastic stuff.  The Heritage is clearly their masterpiece and has a complexity that makes it shine.  The Rare Alambic, as I noted, is a fun easy-drinking brandy.  I was less enamored of the XO; it just didn't seem as special, and I found the apple brandy to be overly sweet.

Like most brandies, Osocalis shies away from anything over 80 proof, but as I was sipping the Heritage, which is great, I was thinking that it could be transcendent at cask strength.  Dan has thought about every element of his spirit making and has been doing this for a long time, but I would appeal to him to think about pushing the abv barriers a little bit.  There's an audience of whiskey drinkers out there that I bet would snap up a cask strength version of the Heritage with it's bourbon like profile.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Non-Kentucky Bourbon

Those of us who know bourbon get tired of constantly correcting the enduring myth that bourbon has to be made in Kentucky, but nothing has been a bigger blow to that myth than the craft distilling boom.  Ten years ago, if you wanted to show someone an example of a non-Kentucky bourbon, you had to find a bottle of AH Hirsch or Virginia Gentleman.  Now, in any good liquor store, you will likely find numerous examples of non-Kentucky bourbon.

Of course, there are many craft distilleries, and they don't all make bourbon, but in 2013, you can buy bourbon distilled in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

In addition, there are craft distilleries planning to sell bourbon distilled in Georgia, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Maybe now people will get that bourbon doesn't have to be made in Kentucky.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

New Coffee in Town: Caffe Vita

The newest entrant into the LA coffee scene is a Seattle import: Caffe Vita.  Caffe Vita has numerous Seattle shops along with a couple in Portland and one in Manhattan.  They recently opened right at the Sunset/Hollywood/Virgil intersection in the space that used to be the hipster junk shop Uncle Jer's.

I enjoyed their espresso, which I found a bit less acidic than some of the others in town, though the lack of acidity that makes for a nicer espresso makes for a bit blander of a milk drink.  That being said, it's quite good and a welcome addition to the local coffee scene.

Caffe Vita
4459 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA  90027
(323) 661-6535

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cognac Navarre Vieille Reserve

Navarre is a small grower/producer from the Grand Champagne region of Cognac. They harvest grapes by hand, which is unusual in this day and age and don't use additives of any sort. The Vieille Reserve is made from 100% Ugni Blanc grapes and bottled at cask strength. The vatting includes brandies as much as 50 years old.

Navarre Vieille Reserve Cognac, 45% abv ($200)

The nose on this is fantastic with rich, dry wine, green grapes, wood, earthy notes and some raisins.  The palate starts with dry wine, transitions to a somewhat bitter, oaky, earthiness, then recovers with spicy, peppery and then earthy notes.  The finish is spicy and a bit bitter with table grapes.

I'm normally quite sensitive to bitterness, but the bitter notes in this Cognac work to complement the spirit, almost like in an Italian bitter like Campari.  Between those notes, the grape and the oak, there's a level of complexity that makes this really interesting.  It's one of those that continues to reveal itself with each taste.

This is a wonderful and intriguing Cognac.  It's old and rare but seems to be available at a number of major US retailers.  If it's in your price range and you are a fan of edgier Cognac, I would definitely pick it up.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Germain Robin's Older Brandies

I'm a big fan of Germain-Robin, the craft brandy distillery in Ukiah, California.  I've reviewed a number of their brandies in the past, including the Germain-Robin XO, Shareholders' Reserve and apple brandy, but I've never reviewed any of their line of older brandies.

The first three of these come from the single barrel varietal series, each made from one grape varietal.

Germain-Robin Colombard, 23 years old, 42.8% abv ($180)

The nose has sweet molasses with some rum notes followed by more typical grape brandy notes.  The palate starts with sweet bubblegum, then fades into a nice earthy note with a touch of bitterness that flows into the finish.

Germain-Robin Muscat, 44% abv ($150)

This has an amazing nose of spice, not a rye spice or even an Armagnac spice, but more like the sweet spice you get in a good gewurztraminer; it's also a bit perfumy.  The palate is very floral with rose petals against some spice and a peppery note as it fades.  It starts a bit sweet but dries out on the palate.  The finish is rose on the nose and pepper on the palate, which sound like something you'd get at Grant Achatz restaurant.  Normally perfume and floral are not notes that I prefer, but in this one it really works, possibly because of the layer of spice or because it's not exceedingly sweet, really interesting and fun stuff. It manages to retain the crispness of the muscat grape without being overly sweet.

Germain-Robin Anno Domini, 40% ($350)

This is a pinot noir brandy with another fantastic nose.  It's got some grassy notes, some bready/yeasty notes and a good amount of oak.  The palate is gorgeous with dark chocolate, raisins and some spicy tobacco/pepper notes; sweetness kicks in at mid-palate and binds the whole thing together.  The finish is sweet and peppery.  This one is very well balanced, sweet but not too sweet, spicy and woody.  It's really nicely done.

Overall, this was a great tasting.  The Colombard, while good, wasn't thrilling to me.  The Muscat and the Anno Domini, however, were both fantastic, very distinct and very well crafted. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Korean Fusion Hot Dogs at King Hot Dog

First there was the Kogi Truck, then Kalbi Burger.  Now, the latest in the wave of Korean fusion is King Hot Dog, a hot dog shop on Western and First.

I love hot dogs, but I've never been a huge fan of the Korean fusion movement, so I was both excited and skeptical on my first trip to King Dog.

Let's start with the hot dogs themselves, since hot dog meat is important to me.  The dogs are huge, one -third pounders.  Their flavor is very good with some nice spice, but they don't have any snap at all.  These are pretty much no-casing dogs. They are served on a toasted sweet-Hawaiian type bun, which is soft and buttery and goes well with the dog.

In typical Korean-fusion style, they are loaded up with toppings and sweet sauce.  In fact, the things are so big and messy that they give you plastic gloves to eat them with.  The Kalbi Dog (spelled with a K on the menu but with a G on the wall) has kalbi, cheese and sweet sauce.  The kalbi is very good and despite being a bit overly sweet, the whole thing works pretty well.  We also tried a Kogi Dog, with bulgogi on it which had a nice spice and was a little less sweet than the Kalbi Dog.

Sides were a bit lackluster.  Fries were thick and hand cut and looked great, but weren't crispy enough. Onion rings were pretty standard.  They also have tater tots and spiral potato chips, and they serve burgers as well as dogs.

Overall, despite the sweet sauces and snapless dogs, the things came together pretty well. Given that it's in the neighborhood, I will likely be back.  It's not destination dining, but if you're in the mood for a hot dog in Koreatown, it's a good bet.

King Hot Dog
151 N. Western Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90004
(323) 460-4744

Monday, April 1, 2013

Macallan to Make Flavored Whisky

In doing some historical research, I found an interesting Times of London article dating from 1828 about the Macallan distillery:

Macallan to Make Flavored Whisky

The Macallan, a new whisky distillery in New Moray, Scotland, announced last week that they would be aging their whisky exclusively in sherry casks to impart a "delicate, sweet sherry flavour" to the whisky.  Macallan owner Alex Reid said he was going to make this flavoured whisky "the heart of our new, innovative operation."

Reaction by whisky experts was quick and harsh.

"This is an atrocity," said Sir James Murray, author of The Book of Common Whisky, "this will open the floodgates to whisky flavoured with everything from kippers to cup cakes.  Flavoured whisky is NOT whisky and we must oppose it!  People have no right to be drinking such filth."  Other critics agreed, claiming that the experiment would led to cherry, honey or even peat flavoured whiskies.  John Walker, maker of the Kilmarnock Whisky, was similarly dismissive:  

"Macallan, oh sorry, The Macallan, is nothing but a flash in the pan start up anyway.  They'll be lucky to last a fortnight making this flavoured junk."

But not all were in opposition.  Robert Hay, who is looking to start a distillery in Ballindalloch said he might even consider it for his new distillery.  

For his part, Macallan's Reid was unconcerned, "We have so much demand for whisky in the PUSS countries that we could sell it all abroad and make a low-grade non-sherry brand for domestic consumption."  (The acronym PUSS is often used in the industry to refer to the burgeoning new markets in Prussia, the United States and Scandinavia.)  "Those guys in the States," Reid continued, "they'll drink anything as long as it's sweet."

Time will tell if flavored whisky finds a lasting audience or is a mere trend, like the much ballyhooed "light mead" of several years ago, but one thing is for sure, The Macallan will be known as the pioneer of flavoured whisky.