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The thread for hard liquor

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#1 Ryan H.

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 10:03 PM

We have a thread on wine, and while I'm a big fan of wine, I'm also a big fan of hard liquor (bourbon being my go-to drink). Are there any recommendations along those lines that the A&Fers crew might make? Right now, I believe our liquor cabinet is stocked with Vox vodka (a slight upgrade from the bottle of Smirnoff we previously had; we're not particularly big on vodka), Woodford Reserve bourbon, Plymouth gin, Kraken rum (quite a hearty rum, at that), and Corralejo blanco tequila, and a great assortment of other liqueurs and mixers, all of which suits us just fine, but we're always looking for new brands to try.

#2 John Drew

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 10:24 PM

I'm not a big hard alcohol drinker, but I used to have a ritual at the dinner theatre that I used to work for as technical director. We'd have about a week to change over shows, doing a load-out/load-in after the final Sunday matinee - working for five days installing the new show with technical rehearsals each night, then previewing on Friday. That Friday night, I'd get a corner table, set out my notebook for final notes, order a steak dinner, and enjoy a carafe of Long Island Ice Tea (light on the ice). I'd usually have a few touch ups to finish on the set after preview, and then enjoy a nice night on a cot in the dressing rooms. I still enjoy the occassional LIIT, although that's only about once or twice a year now.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah, 15 April 2012 - 10:25 PM.


#3 Overstreet

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 12:57 AM

I'm a big fan of Singleton of Glendullan Single Malt Scotch Whisky and Woodford Reserve.

#4 Darren H

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 07:45 AM

Over the years, my liquor preferences have narrowed gradually to the point that I now pretty much only drink bourbon and gin, and I tend to vary them based on the weather -- bourbon for cold, dark days; ice-cold gin in the spring and summer. I have a couple bottles of bourbon in the house, including some of the boutique "Master's Collection" blends from Woodford, but my go-to is Maker's Mark. I drink bourbon neat, so it has to be a smooth and sipable. Even Maker's 46 is too much for me.

I have simple tastes for gin and usually just buy Bombay Dry. I've declared 2012 the "Summer of the Luis Bunuel Martini" and have been experimenting lately with variations on his recipe. I prefer a tad more bitters and vermouth. From Bunuel's amazing memoir, My Last Sigh:

To provoke, or sustain, a reverie in a bar, you have to drink English gin, especially in the form of the dry martini. To be frank, given the primordial role played in my life by the dry martini, I think I really ought to give it at least a page. Like all cocktails, the martini, composed essentially of gin and a few drops of Noilly Prat, seems to have been an American invention. Connoisseurs who like their martinis very dry suggest simply allowing a ray of sunlight to shine through a bottle of Noilly Prat before it hits the bottle of gin. At a certain period in America it was said that the making of a dry martini should resemble the Immaculate Conception, for, as Saint Thomas Aquinas once noted, the generative power of the Holy Ghost pierced the Virgin's hymen "like a ray of sunlight through a window — leaving it unbroken."

Another crucial recommendation is that the ice be so cold and hard that it won't melt, since nothing's worse than a watery martini. For those who are still with me, let me give you my personal recipe, the fruit of long experimentation and guaranteed to produce perfect results. The day before your guests arrive, put all the ingredients — glasses, gin, and shaker — in the refrigerator. Use a thermometer to make sure the ice is about twenty degrees below zero (centigrade). Don't take anything out until your friends arrive; then pour a few drops of Noilly Prat and half a demitasse spoon of Angostura bitters over the ice. Shake it, then pour it out, keeping only the ice, which retains a faint taste of both. Then pour straight gin over the ice, shake it again, and serve.

(During the 1940s, the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York taught me a curious variation. Instead of Angostura, he used a dash of Pernod. Frankly, it seemed heretical to me, but apparently it was only a fad.)



#5 Anders

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 07:58 AM

I mostly drink wine and beer (mostly micro-brews and local beers), but I am a big fan of single malt Scotches and occasionally dabble into vodka or gin. I just got a bottle of Hendrick's small-batch gin from Scotland, which is fantastic (infused with rose-petal and cucumber). For single malt Scotches, I currently have Lagavulin 16 yr old, Talisker 10 yr old, Tullibardine, and a Robert Burns from the Isle of Arran.

The Lagavulin is a nice and peaty Islay. The best Islay I've had. You would swear it is evaporating into smoke on your tongue, but it's not as overpoweringly peaty as, say, a Laphroiag. The Tullibardine and Robert Burns are lighter, straw-sunshine in colour. I've been enjoying some of those lighter, more subtle scotches lately. The Tullibardine has notes of vanilla.

Edited by Anders, 16 April 2012 - 07:58 AM.


#6 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 09:30 AM

... but I am a big fan of single malt Scotches ... The Lagavulin is a nice and peaty Islay. The best Islay I've had. You would swear it is evaporating into smoke on your tongue, but it's not as overpoweringly peaty as, say, a Laphroiag. The Tullibardine and Robert Burns are lighter, straw-sunshine in colour. I've been enjoying some of those lighter, more subtle scotches lately. The Tullibardine has notes of vanilla.

I've been slowly developing more and more of a taste for Islay Scotch single malts. The Lagavulin is very good (and usually more expensive), but believe it or not, you can actually develop a taste for the Laphroiag - the flavor is so unique that I'm in the middle of a fascination with it. But sometimes an Ardbeg is stronger than a Laphroaig, but somehow Ardbegs are more complex. I tried an Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist 1990 and it was absolutely amazing (and I'd recommend trying one before they are discontinued).

The McClellands, the Bowmores and the Eads are usually available at any local BevMo, and out of those three I probably prefer some of the Bowmores most. Bowmores are definitely more smooth going down than Ardbegs or Laphroiags while still capturing a little smokiness and a little peatiness. And some good Bowmores can come at half the price of a Lagavulin if you're resources are limited and you start finding yourself consuming with more and more regularity (for example, you can get the Bowmore 12 year for under $50, and it's night and day different from some of the cheap McClellands).

I also remember a friend sharing a Bruichladdich with me years ago, and I remember being highly impressed, but I'm ashamed to say I can't remember anything about the taste. It was before I started comparing all the different varieties.

The fact is simply that, sometimes, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - better than a glass of good scotch (sometimes with an ice cube or two, sometimes without).

I have nothing against all the other hard liquor out there, but Scotch (along with some Bourbons and Irish Whiskey) seem the most distinctly designed for pure enjoyment. Other hard liquors almost seem to be designed for getting drunk, and sometimes for getting drunk fast. Other hard liquors don't seem to have much of any taste at all unless you mix something fruity or sugary or syrupy with them. Other hard liquors can be drunk happily, without losing or wasting anything, as shots. But a good old Scotch is really meant to be left alone, mixed with nothing at all, and sipped slowly and savored.

#7 Attica

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 11:52 AM

I'm mostly interested in a good micro-brewed beer, but back in the day I'd enjoy the occasional spiced rum. Hard liquor is too sweet for my tastes now though.

#8 Darren H

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 12:09 PM

If hard liquor is too sweet for you, Attica, you spent too much time drinking spiced rum. ;)

#9 Attica

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 01:15 PM

Well. Unfortunately, in my late teens there were a few times when I spent to much time drinking to much spiced rum. That also might have something to do with it. Posted Image

#10 Overstreet

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 01:21 PM

Well. Unfortunately, in my late teens there were a few times when I spent to much time drinking to much spiced rum. That also might have something to do with it. Posted Image


... thus answering the age-old question:

Posted Image

Edited by Overstreet, 16 April 2012 - 01:21 PM.


#11 Attica

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 01:52 PM


Well. Unfortunately, in my late teens there were a few times when I spent to much time drinking to much spiced rum. That also might have something to do with it. Posted Image


... thus answering the age-old question:

Posted Image

Yeah. Something like that. Posted Image

Edited by Attica, 16 April 2012 - 02:26 PM.


#12 Darren H

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 01:53 PM

Attica, I have a similar story involving vodka. Which is why, 22 years later, there still isn't a bottle of vodka in my house.

#13 Attica

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 02:34 PM

Attica, I have a similar story involving vodka. Which is why, 22 years later, there still isn't a bottle of vodka in my house.

You know its kind of ironic. I grew up in a family that was basically a bunch of tee-totallers, but used to pour the odd drink for friends when they were over. But when I was growing up their friends would often bring over bottles from which only a few shots were consumned. So into the liqour cabinet the bottles would go waiting for the next time friends were over, who of course brought over more bottles that ended up in the cabinet. So now over the years my parents have amassed a bulging liqour cabinet that just kind of sits there, while they enjoy their morning coffee and late night tea.

Edited by Attica, 16 April 2012 - 02:49 PM.


#14 Jason Panella

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 10:14 AM

I have nothing against all the other hard liquor out there, but Scotch (along with some Bourbons and Irish Whiskey) seem the most distinctly designed for pure enjoyment. Other hard liquors almost seem to be designed for getting drunk, and sometimes for getting drunk fast. Other hard liquors don't seem to have much of any taste at all unless you mix something fruity or sugary or syrupy with them. Other hard liquors can be drunk happily, without losing or wasting anything, as shots. But a good old Scotch is really meant to be left alone, mixed with nothing at all, and sipped slowly and savored.


I love scotch (and other whiskeys), but why are you so easily dismissing other kinds of liquor? I feel like there are great liquors of every kind. I've become a big fan of gin over the past year or two. Sure, lots of mixed drinks use it, but I almost exclusively drink it straight. Lots of nuances, there; I especially love catching hints of coriander and other spices.

Scotch is can be great. But so can other liquors.

#15 Darren H

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 10:34 AM

The whiskey distilling process is probably the closest hard-liquor analogue to winemaking and beer brewing. There are so many variables involved that flavors vary not only from maker to maker, but from barrel to barrel. So I get where you're coming from, Persiflage, but as I mentioned above, like Jason I've become a real fan of gin, too -- the drier the better.

Edited by Darren H, 17 April 2012 - 10:35 AM.


#16 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 11:26 AM

I love scotch (and other whiskeys), but why are you so easily dismissing other kinds of liquor? I feel like there are great liquors of every kind. I've become a big fan of gin over the past year or two. Sure, lots of mixed drinks use it, but I almost exclusively drink it straight. Lots of nuances, there; I especially love catching hints of coriander and other spices.

Scotch is can be great. But so can other liquors.

No, you're right. Vodka, Brandy, Tequila, Rum and Gin all have their rightful place (see Dueteronomy 14:22-26). I don't mean to dismiss them. While I'm most partial to the Scotch/Whisky/Whiskey/Bourbon branch, I'm sure the other liquors can have flavor and nuances to be appreciated in their own right. Just because I have an impression some of them are flavorless doesn't mean I haven't missed out on something.

In the future, I'll start trying more Gin. So how do you go about selecting the good gin from the not so good?

Speaking of Gin, the Daily Beast ran a fun little piece by Christopher Buckley a while ago.

#17 Jason Panella

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 11:45 AM

No, you're right. Vodka, Brandy, Tequila, Rum and Gin all have their rightful place (see Dueteronomy 14:22-26). I don't mean to dismiss them. While I'm most partial to the Scotch/Whisky/Whiskey/Bourbon branch, I'm sure the other liquors can have flavor and nuances to be appreciated in their own right. Just because I have an impression some of them are flavorless doesn't mean I haven't missed out on something.

In the future, I'll start trying more Gin. So how do you go about selecting the good gin from the not so good?

Speaking of Gin, the Daily Beast ran a fun little piece by Christopher Buckleya while ago.


For what it's worth, I can also see what you're saying. (Even thinking of bottom-tier liquors, all of the various types — usually with plastic bottles and barely attached labels — taste awful across the board, but the worst scotches are usually still worth drinking.)

As for gins, I try as many different kinds as I can. Some of the better-known gins (Hendrick's, Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray) really are good, but I can't always afford them. I've really come to enjoy some of the middle-shelf brands like Beefeater (personal favorite) and Gordon's. I think Gordon's is a good gateway beverage for gin; it's ABV is a bit less than its peers, and I think that makes it a bit easier to let you palate get adjusted to what's going on.

#18 Greg P

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 06:34 PM

For what it's worth, I can also see what you're saying. (Even thinking of bottom-tier liquors, all of the various types — usually with plastic bottles and barely attached labels — taste awful across the board, but the worst scotches are usually still worth drinking.)

I still haven't tried it, but a friend of mine who owns a restaurant swears by a cheap scotch upgrading process he uses at home with strips of cooked bacon... He says after 3-4 days and some filtering-- even with a bottle of Ballantines or Cutty, voila! expensive scotch! I'm very skeptical, but the guy generally knows his stuff and I'm secretly dying to try it.

These days with budget constraints I'm a pretty strict Johnny Walker Black drinker.

#19 Judo Chop

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 02:56 PM

I love this topic! I tend to get longwinded about it.

I much prefer the Scottish single malts to bourbon, and for that matter to all whiskey produced outside of Scotland. I can drink Bourbon, but can’t totally love it for its sweetness and, IMO, one-dimensionality. A well-aged scotch is a thinking-man’s drink; just as smooth, but with layers to ponder. And nothing whiskey offers can challenge a drinker like the peaty island Scotches. Of course a great whiskey is going to beat out a bad Scotch, but when pitted by weight class (however that may be fairly determined) Scotch will always win me over.

The Balvenie 12 yr is a great entry Scotch for bourbon lovers. Probably among the sweetest of the Scotches, and also very fairly priced.

I really like the Aberlour A'bunadh cask strength for its value. The sticker may look out of range, but keep in mind that you’ll be blending a good proportion of distilled water into your drink [unless you’re a maniac], so you’ll be getting more than the bottle holds in the end. Plus, half the fun of the drink is the search for your perfect blend!

I’ve found the Macallan 12 year may be the best for its price and age. Now you’re getting into the deeper, darker wooded fruit flavors that I’ve never found (or heard of) in bourbon.

If you want to splurge, or buy me a present for offering such great advice here, the Cragganmore double-matured is probably the best all-around dram I’ve experienced.

Best heavily-peated Scotch I’ve had is the Lagavullin 16 yr. (Imagine what a bottle of antiseptic might have tasted like before The Fall.)

Just this year I decided I was ready to start sipping tequila, and I went and splurged on a bottle of Don Julio’s 70 year anniversary blanco Tequilla, which sits half empty on my shelf. It appears the other half isn’t going to last long at all. Pricey. And for that, it’s very dangerous. ‘Cause once you’ve had a tequila as frightfully smooth as this one…

As for gin, in a martini, I have a bottle of Tanq 10. Works wonderfully, but then I haven’t experimented with any others. I’m not as fascinated with the subtleties of different gins. Something about the fact that it is merely vodka with spices makes it seem less natural, less divine. And because it doesn’t require the mysteries of time to develop those flavors, less romantic.

Grey Goose is my vodka. It’s the cleanest I’ve tasted, and as far as my palate tells me, that must be the one and only objective for vodka.

That’s my hard liquor list. I rarely mix. I’ll do the margarita in the summer, or a G&T with a cigar. I take great delight in the purity of the abundantly-aged distilled spirit.

My true passion is craft brewing. I brew it. I drink it. And, who would’ve thunk it 30 years ago, but America is indeed the place to be for the beer lover.

Ryan. Buy a bottle of Karmeliet Tripel and serve it in a tulip or wine glass. Please. And let me know.

Edited by Judo Chop, 18 April 2012 - 02:59 PM.


#20 Ryan H.

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 05:55 PM

That's quite a post there, Judo. (I mean that in a good way.)

Ryan. Buy a bottle of Karmeliet Tripel and serve it in a tulip or wine glass. Please. And let me know.

Will do. Might have to order it online; PA's liquor stores are state-owned, and the selection tends to be a bit limited.