Life, the Universe and Everything

Week 42 in the Year of Drinking Adventurously – supposed to be hopped cider and whiskey.

I have no real excuse for not following the adventure this week beyond sheer laziness. I could have found some of the recommended hopped ciders and I might have been able to scrounge up an artisan American whiskey. But this week was a bit of a killer. I realize that it probably seems like I’ve been on perpetual vacation for better parts of the last month. And it’s true that I haven’t been home for a good part of that time, so finally work and life and everything caught up to me. I feel like I’m finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel after this weekend. I actually got to read (for pleasure) for a good part of the day on Sunday – something I’ve been neglecting.

I do have a potent potable to talk about, and it is whiskey, just not an artisanal American one. It’s my favorite Irish whiskey: Yellow Spot Single Pot Still whiskey from Mitchell and Sons Distillery in Dublin. I have yet to find it here in the USA. Bostonians and New Yorkers, keep your eyes open for it.

Here’s the story with the Yellow Spot:

The Mitchell family began selling wines and fortified wines on Grafton Street in Dublin in 1805. When they got into the whiskey business, they marked the barrels with a ‘spot’ of colored paint to differentiate the ages of the whiskeys within. What makes a single pot still style? A pot still is like a huge kettle where the batch is boiled, the vapors rise, are collected and cooled to produce the whiskey. Since the pot has to be cleaned after each use, only one batch of whiskey is produced from the single pot. Most whiskeys are distilled in column stills which can be used over and over to create large batches of product.

So in the tradition of the original ‘yellow spot’ barrels, this whiskey has been matured for no less than 12 years in a combination of American bourbon, Spanish sherry and Spanish Malaga casks. And drawing on the Mitchell family history of purveying fortified wines, the final maturation takes place in the Spanish Malaga casks, giving the whiskey an exotic sweetness. Listen to the description of the tasting notes from the bottle:

Nose: Mown hay, cracked black pepper, red bell peppers, nutmeg, clove oil and green tea. Sweet honey and peaches from the Malaga casks.

Taste: Honey sweetness with pot still spices. Flavors of fresh coffee, creamy milk chocolate and creme brûlée. Notes of red apple and toasted oak.

Finish: Sophisticated and complex. Sweetness throughout, with a mix of red grape and dry barley upon exit.

That is quite a melange of flavors! Trust me, though, none of them are so pronounced so as to overpower. This is a truly marvelous whisky. And for nearly $100 a bottle it should be.

Hopefully, Lula can tell you about hopped cider this week. Don’t forget to go see her!

You all figured out the significance of the title of this post, right?

Moonshine, y’all!

Week 23 in the Year of Drinking Adventurously! Moonshine!

Sunday, June 5th was National Moonshine Day here in America. A day to celebrate the spirit of Prohibition. When America went dry in 1920, the movement gave rise to an illegal industry that –now legal– has become romanticized in the hearts of Americans.

Moonshine wasn’t invented during Prohibition, but distillers that were just making the stuff for their families and for local sale saw an opportunity to cash in on the demand for illegal booze. Unfortunately, because of the huge and sudden spike in that demand, the moonshiners often added inferior and sometimes dangerous ingredients to stretch their batches. Things like paint thinner and antifreeze made drinking moonshine a real gamble. Ever hear the term “blind drunk?” It was a real possibility!

Now if I’d been on my game a couple of weeks ago, I’d have realized that my visit to Eastern Tennesee, Gatlinburg in particular, left me plunked right in the heart of moonshining country. Gatlinburg is home to Ole Smoky Original Moonshine Whiskey. By the way, Kevin, you could have shared that with me. Thanks for nothing!

Fortunately, that’s not the only place I’ve visited that has a moonshine connection!

I spent a week in the Blueridge Mountains of Southern Virginia last year with an incredible view and a lousy internet connection.  (Not complaining, just explaining.)  The summer had been ridiculously busy and a do-nothing vacation was just the ticket.  Coffee on the deck to watch the sunrise, a daily walk along the mountain roads with the valley falling away to one side, a nightly soak in the hot tub in the moonlight with a beer and nothing but stars overhead, thanks to no light pollution. Idyllic!

Part of the joy of traveling is taking in local culture and cuisine.  And well, in that part of the country, the local cuisine is barbecue and the local heritage is moonshining.  The house we rented was only about 20 minutes from Mt. Airy, North Carolina — home to Mayberry Spirits.  At the time, the distillery was in its “soft opening” stage and only open Friday and Saturday afternoons.  Nevertheless, we had a nice tour from the very knowledgeable and enthusiastic owner and distiller himself. It’s a small operation, making just enough booze to supply the local liquor stores with product.

We were able to sample their main products: Mayberry Moonshine, toasted oak whiskey and toasted vanilla whiskey. IMG_2810 While most moonshine is 80% corn based, Mayberry’s products are sorghum based.  Weird, right?  Maybe, but it makes a unique and deliciously smooth whiskey.  (Even the straight moonshine went down easy, almost like a high-quality white rum.)  Needless to say, I brought home a supply!  So if y’all end up in that neck of the woods, stop on into Mayberry Spirits and have a sip of Carolina moonshine! Careful though!  It’s 100 proof!

Now, how should you drink your moonshine? You can substitute it for whiskey in whiskey-based cocktails or for rum in rum-based cocktails, so instead of a Long Island Iced Tea, here’s an idea:

Appalachian Iced Tea!

In a mason jar, over ice, combine:
3/4 oz tequila
3/4 oz vodka
3/4 oz tripel sec
3/4 oz gin
3/4 oz moonshine
1 oz sour mix
Splash of cola to top it off and stir
Garnish with a lemon slice and drink on your front porch in your rocking chair!

Since Lula is also plunked smack dab in the middle of moonshine country, I expect she had no trouble with this week’s adventure!

Whiskey #NationalLimerickDay

It’s National Limerick Day! And I couldn’t resist…

Choose a drink of admirable quality
Sip and savor, let it give you clarity
The muse to a writer
Fires the passion inside her
And releases her artisitic verity

Amber, smoky, smooth and mellow
Buoys the spirit or drowns the sorrow
But that loyal friend
Till the evening’s end
Becomes a nasty foe upon the morrow