Whisky Chat: Do you like Whisky?     Yeah.. We do too!

Cheers to home-brewed whiskey!

People from Methuen have produced movies, world-class apple pies, novels and now the latest on the list: moonshine. Actually, now that everything is legal and the smooth amber spirit is sailing off shelves, we’ll refer to it as whiskey. It’s hardly rotgut, that’s for sure.

According to Methuen native Rob Robillard, his Cabin Fever is the only maple-flavored whiskey in these parts. The 1984 graduate of Methuen High lived most of his 43 years on Pelham Street before moving to Chester, N.H., more conducive to his early moonshine operation.
“It started in my back yard. Then before I knew it, half the neighbors wanted it, then half the town and all my relatives. It took me five years to create something good enough for the shelf,” explains Rob who legally gave away the product, as opposed to illegally selling it.
In September 2007, the New Hampshire Liquor Commission told him that if he could sell 104 cases statewide they’d stock Cabin Fever, which is infused with Vermont maple syrup.
“By October we made quota. By December we were selling 104 cases a week,” says Rob. “That gave us momentum because distributors don’t want to carry a product that won’t move.”
It moved to the head of the line of the 850 tasters who attended a Whiskey A-Go-Go event at Julio’s Liquors in Westborough. Hundreds of whiskeys were sampled, but Cabin Fever was the Number One-selling brand at the event.

Rob, who shares a large colonial home with his wife Melissa and children Hunter, 12, and Chantel, 9, says he is on track to sell 20,000 cases this year. Selling 5,000 to 20,000 cases is difficult, but the tipping point – 20,000 cases – indicates widespread social acceptance. At that point, sales escalate and 20,000 to 100,000 cases sold is easier than the first 5,000.
Not bad for a guy who got into distilling on a whim.
An electronics sales manager, Rob was at a pub in London with some Brits. Knowing that Rob lived in area known for maple syrup, they inquired about the quality of maple whiskey.
Rob paused and realized no such whiskey existed. Yet.

He returned from his business trip and sought a still and other components to create whiskey. For two years it was a hobby where he experimented with amber and dark syrups to different proofs and filtered or unfiltered spirit. Then three years ago he began working on his blend full time, taking multiple courses, a Master Distillers class and earning a federal wholesalers license.
He introduced yeast to a “mash” of rye, grain, maple syrup and a few secret ingredients. The yeast consumes the sugar, producing alcohol.
This fluid is then pumped from the fermenting tank to the still where it’s heated. At 178 degrees the alcohol converts to vapor, rises through “separator plates” that purify it before it wafts into the cool copper tubing where it converts back to alcohol and drips at 130 proof (yeeha!) into another tank.
Maple syrup and water are added to bring the white lightning back to 80 proof. But then it’s too sweet, so it’s chill filtered in a refrigerator that reduces sugar.
“We could sell it then, but the flavors are fighting each other. So it goes into (American white oak) barrels that give it a spicy, peppery flavor. After three years, the flavors come together in harmony,” says Rob, who eventually settled on Grade B dark syrup.

The days of a few jugs produced next to his garage are long gone; ingredients are now shipped to a bottling facility in Ohio that makes 1,000 cases a month.
The finished product – which qualifies as liqueur or whiskey – sells for about $20 a bottle. That key ingredient doesn’t come cheap. Rob’s first batch of 500 cases required $650 of maple syrup. The most recent 500 cases saw the cost of syrup to $3,000.

The entrepreneur estimates he makes about $4 a bottle but he … pours all of his profits back into marketing. Cabin Fever – named by his brother John – is sold at the New Hampshire state liquor stores, Andover Liquors, all over New England, Wisconsin and Tennessee. A dozen other states have requested it.

{Source: http://www.methuenlife.com/102009/ML_article2.html}

Waco distillery now offering 1st legal Texas whiskey since Prohibition

Now pouring in a bar near you: Texas’ first legal whiskey since Prohibition, made right here in Waco.

Balcones Distilling Co. is now shipping its Hopi blue corn whiskey, called “Baby Blue,” to liquor stores and watering holes in Waco and Texas’ biggest cities.

Joining it on the shelves is a unique 94-proof liquor called Rumble, distilled at Balcones from Texas wildflower honey, Mission figs and raw sugar. Still to come this winter is a Scotch-like malted barley whiskey.

Balcones owner Chip Tate built his distillery system from scratch with his two-person crew in an old warehouse in the shadow of the 17th Street railroad bridge. He started distilling after getting his license late last year. Tate has been a dedicated homebrewer for 18 years and has spent the past two years learning the science of distilling, including an apprenticeship in Scotland.

But Texas is his inspiration and his target market.

“We’re using very traditional methods to distill this stuff,” he said. “But we’re very proud to be a Texas distillery. This is what it makes sense to do. Why shouldn’t there be a whiskey that’s good with barbecue?”

Balcones’ liquors are now available in Waco at Waco Bar Supply, Dicorte’s and River Bend liquor stores, costing about $40 for a fifth, Tate said. They’re also available by the glass at the Green Room Grille, Diamondback’s and Treff’s.

“I think it’s a good product, and it’s going to sell great in the Waco area,” Green Room Grille owner Davin High- tower said. “I have customers who told me they’re waiting to come to the Green Room to try it.”

Hightower said the liquor should have hometown appeal, especially since the distillery is only 10 blocks away from his restaurant on Austin Avenue.

The distillery can’t sell its products retail but can offer samples on its tours, which can be arranged by appointment. Information on the distillery is available at www.balconesdistilling .com.

Tate and his crew make everything from raw ingredients, creating a mash that ferments into a beer, then running it through copper stills that condense the steam into more concentrated alcoholic liquor. The liquors are then aged in small oak barrels.

Tate said his first two products are unique, and not just because of where they’re made. Baby Blue is the first blue corn whiskey anywhere, he said. To make one 96-proof bottle requires two pounds of toasted blue cornmeal bought from Hopi farmers in New Mexico. Compared with mass market blue corn, the real thing is richer both in color and taste, he said.

Tate said Baby Blue should appeal to bourbon drinkers, since bourbon is at made from least 51 percent corn mash. Following an early American tradition, he decided to make it purely from corn, with no wheat or rye.

“We call it corn whiskey because we want you to taste the corn,” he said. “If you ask people what they know about corn whiskey, they either don’t know or they think moonshine.”

Rumble is more difficult to categorize, but Tate hopes it will appeal to both the novice drinker and the more open-minded aficionados.

“It’s a play on rum but not really a rum,” he said. “It’s between rum and brandy, with single malt and tequila notes.”

Rumble isn’t notably sweet but has a honeyed and slightly smoky aroma. Tate said just smelling the liquors is a pleasant experience.

“We sell a consumable fragrance,” he said.

Tate said a lot of hard work and expensive ingredients go into each bottle.

“If I’m going to do this, it’s got to start with the best, most flavorful ingredients,” he said. “We didn’t do this to compromise. There are a lot easier ways to make money.”

Diageo rejects ‘unworkable’ plan to save Johnnie Walker whisky jobs

The drinks giant announced it will close the Johnnie Walker bottling plant in Kilmarnock, ending 200 years of links with the town, and a distillery in Port Dundas, Glasgow.

However, the loss of 900 jobs will be offset by the creation of 400 posts when a new factory is built in Leven, Fife

Diageo said the alternative blueprint, submitted by John Swinney, the Scottish finance minister, would cost the firm significantly more and still lead to 500 jobs losses.

Despite the promise of a sizeable taxpayer-funded subsidy, the firm said Mr Swinney had provided “no workable alternative to deliver what Diageo needs”.

The Scottish finance minister described the rejection as “deeply disappointing”, but did not respond to criticism that his plan would have cost the public purse millions of pounds and saved few jobs.

The announcement is also a blow to Alex Salmond, the First Minister, who joined a rally in Kilmarnock protesting the cuts and told the cheering masses: “We’re going to achieve something for the workforces of Scotland.”

The alternative plan would have seen production continue at Port Dundas and the creation of a new plant in Kilmarnock, albeit with only about half the 900 jobs being saved.

It would also have meant scrapping the 400 posts earmarked for Fife, prompting accusations SNP ministers were “playing off” one area of Scotland against another.

David Gosnell, the firm’s managing director of global supply, said: “We examined the alternative proposals thoroughly. They don’t deliver a business model that would be good for either Diageo or Scotland.

“We need a sustainable Scottish operation that supports our international spirits business and provides a future for the 4,000 people we would employ in Scotland after this restructuring is completed.

“I appreciate their efforts but the taskforce has no workable alternative to deliver what Diageo needs.”

He said the alternative blueprint had failed to breach a “significant economic gap”, with the closure of the Kilmarnock and Port Dundas plants projected to save the company £75million.

Keeping both sites open would “embed inefficiencies”, he said, and Mr Swinney presented no long-term plan for saving Port Dundas other than delaying closure.

Significantly, there would still be a net loss of around 500 jobs and “no investment at Leven and minimal job creation there”.

Diageo has ended its discussions with ministers, and will now focus on consulting with employees and trade unions on how the job losses will be implemented.

Mr Swinney said the “strongest arguments” had been submitted for keeping the two plants open, and insisted the alternative plan had been deliverable and cost effective.

He added: “I still do not believe that Diageo appreciate the social consequences of their financial decision in turning their backs on 200 years of history in Port Dundas and Kilmarnock.”

Willie Coffey, SNP MSP for Kilmarnock, accused Diageo of acting “shamefully” and described the job losses as “a devastating blow for an intensely loyal workforce.”

But Labour blamed SNP ministers for the closures. Iain Gray, the party’s Holyrood leader, said: “I am deeply disappointed that John Swinney has been unable to bring forward a plan capable of convincing Diageo to save these jobs.”

However, Tavish Scott, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said: “There’s no point in a political blame game, because that won’t bring one job back.

“Everyone needs to pull together to help those who have lost their job today get back into work as quickly as possible.”

(source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/epic/dge/6162148/Diageo-rejects-unworkable-plan-to-save-Johnnie-Walker-whisky-jobs.html)

What is rye whiskey?

Rye whiskey used to be the most popular brown spirit in the United States before Prohibition began in 1919. Rye whiskey is one of three straight American whiskey styles, the other two being Tennessee and Bourbon. With straight whiskey, 51% of the spirit must be made of grain, the spirit must not exceed 160-proof, must be aged for at least two years and can only be diluted with water to no less than 80-proof.

There are two types of rye: American rye whiskey and Canadian rye whiskey. With American rye whiskey, the spirit must be made with at least 51% rye. With Canadian rye whiskey, there is no law that requires how much rye must be used to make the spirit. Wheat and malted barley are other ingredients that are used in making rye.

American rye whiskey must not exceed 160-proof. Before the rye is barreled in a charred, new oak cask for aging, the spirit cannot be any higher than 125-proof. In order for a rye to be considered “straight”, the spirit must be aged for at least two years.

Rye whiskey has a similar taste to bourbon. Rye is generally spicier than bourbon and tends to have a bitter taste due to the main ingredient being rye. With corn as the main ingredient, bourbon tends to have a sweeter taste and have a slightly more heavy body than rye.

Old Overholt is the only straight rye whiskey that survived Prohibition and is still in production and available on the market today. Rye whiskey is slowly coming back into fashion due to producers putting products out on the market such as Old Potrero by the Anchor Distilling Company here in San Francisco and (ri)1 Whiskey produced by Beam Global.

Rye Whiskey-Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mr. Boston’s Platinum Edition

What’s the difference between bourbon and whisky?

Bourbon drinkers swear by Bourbon. Whiskey drinkers swear by whiskey. And they both swear at each other, proclaiming the indisputable superiority of their drink over the other. The rest of the world stands back, bemused, wonders what all the fuss is about, and hopes that matters don’t turn violent. In honor of Bourbon Month, Drinking 101 examines the differences, and the debate between these two similar, yet wholly incongruous spirits.

Devout bourbon drinkers will instinctively dispute the following blasphemy, but bourbon and whiskey share a similar derivation: whiskey. Bourbonites are not moved by the fact bourbon is, in truth, called bourbon whiskey, and thus the speed at which rational discussion breaks down is not terribly surprising.

So what is the difference? It has to do with preparation, though as described in the Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide, the differences are subtle:

Whiskeys are distilled from a fermented mash of grain (usually corn, rye, barley or wheat) and then aged in oak barrels.

Bourbon Whiskey is distilled from a mash of grain containing not less than 51 percent corn and is normally aged four years in new charcoal oak barrels.

So why the empassioned contention? It’s mostly territorial. Bourbon gets it’s name from “Old Bourbon” County, Kentucky, whence this type of whiskey first gained popularity and general distribution (circa 1800). In a demonstration of regional pride, and jealousy, distillers in neighboring territories developed their own whiskeys. The characteristic sugar-maple, Tennessee whiskey is one that survived, and in 1941 received legal recognition in the US as a separate style. Distinct from bourbon simply because of how it is filtered, and where it is made, yet you couldn’t convince a Kentucky bourbon loyalist that Tennessee whiskey is anywhere similar in color, viscosity or taste, and certainly not quality.

While the inherent differences are slight, it is the philosophical disparity that keeps whiskey and bourbon at odds. Those who favor Kentucky bourbon do not necessarily despise whiskey for being whiskey, or for not being bourbon, they hate it for it’s association with Tennessee whiskey. And by birthright, Tennessee whiskey drinkers hate bourbon for not being Jack Daniels.

So, the argument makes as much sense now as it ever has, and as much sense as it will make the next time you here two bar-rags hashing it out in your local saloon. The best advice is to move away from the combatants, order a beer, or some neutral spirit, and accept that there are some issues you may never understand, and in which you needn’t participate.

(Source: http://www.examiner.com)