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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Tasting Whiskey dinner at the Bulls Head, April 10!

We'll have more than two whiskeys, trust me.

Finally got the menu for my whiskey dinner at the General Sutter in Lititz, Penn. next Sunday, April 10 (that's Sunday a week, as we say in Pennsylvania Dutch country up there, now).

The details are below: I'll add that I'll have copies of Tasting Whiskey you can get signed, that these are some excellent whiskeys, especially...actually, especially ALL of them. That's a top-notch selection, and one you will NOT see at just any dinner. Paul and I picked some real beauties for this dinner, and I'll tell you all about them. This dinner is definitely worth the trip from Philly, the Main Line, Harrisburg, Lebanon, York, or Reading; I guarantee. Just be careful about getting home!

Join us for a Whiskey Dinner with Lew Bryson, the former managing editor of Whiskey Advocate and author of Tasting Whiskey

The event will feature the following "All American Whiskeys" 
• Smooth Ambler 10yr
• Henry McKenna Bourbon 10yr 
• Hochstadter's Vatted Rye 
• Pikesville Rye 6yr 
• Booker's Oven Buster 

• First Course | Smooth Ambler served with Grilled Peach, Toasted Almond & Manchego
• Second Course | Henry McKenna Bourbon served with Orange Tea Smoked Duck Breast, Blueberry Balsamic, Boxty Chive Pancake
• Third Course | Hochstadter's Vatted Rye served with Arugula, Watermelon Radish & Cucumber
• Fourth Course | Heaven Hill Pikesville Rye served with Venison Sausage, Roasted Parsnip Puree, Crispy Shallots
• Final Course | Booker's Oven Buster served with Sage Cheesecake, Organic Honey, Spiced Crisp Apple

• $68 plus tax and gratuity
To make reservations, please contact us at 717-626-2115.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

New Brewery Tour in Montgomery County April 9!

Some good friends of mine are raising funds to bring a music camp to poor kids in Guatemala, using a very clever technique: beer. Here's the story -- THREE brand new breweries, transportation, raffles, music, fun stuff -- and HERE is the link to get your tickets. If I weren't judging a homebrew competition that day, I'd be on the bus (and I may drop by Stickman for a couple beers after things wrap up). Do this, for the fun, for the mission!

JOIN US ON THE CRAFT BEER BUS! Visit Stickman BrewsStable 12 Brewing Company, and Tuned Up Brewing Company with us. Tickets are $50 with $10 going to Music in Motion to help fund our mission trip to Guatemala. Read below for more details! 
Have you been wanting to try the three amazing new breweries in Royersford, Spring City and Phoenixville, but just haven't had the time? Well, mark your calendar for April 9th, because you'll get the chance to visit all three in one great afternoon. 

The tour begins (pick up location) at the new Stickman Brews brewery in Royersford then heads to Stable 12 Brewing Company in Phoenixville. Our last brewery is the newest of them all, Tuned Up Brewing Company in Spring City. We will then head back to Stickman Brews for more fun, food and beer!

This is the first tour of these new local breweries and you do not want to miss it. Each brewery has a unique way of creating beer so this local tour is a must for the true beer geek in your life! Each brewery is donating a portion of their sales back to the MIM mission while we're there, so let's fill the bus!!

At each stop you'll have the opportunity to try various styles of beer from three different types of breweries, learn more about craft beer and Music in Motion, buy some food and a beer (or two, or three - that's why there's a bus!), and take chances on raffles and other fun prizes. We'll have a 50/50 raffle going on all day! Rumor has it, there will be A LOT of singing on the bus, too. :) If you have a guitar, bring it along!

Help us raise money for a mission trip to Guatemala in August, to support a music-centric "band camp" for children.

Need I say more? Don't worry, I will. Music. Kids. Need.

(Irish) Whiskey Wednesday #7

I had good intentions ("paving the road to hell," as I like to say) of doing Irish whiskey reviews on the run-up to St. Patrick's Day, but as I've said several times, my health had other ideas. One of the worst colds I can remember laid me and my sniffer low for almost five weeks, and I'm still not completely recovered. But I'm well enough to review whiskeys, so I'm going to go ahead and do the Irish I had lined up, because they tell me that Irish whiskey isn't just about March 17th anymore.

This week it's two from Ciaran Mulgrew's new "The Quiet Man" line, blended and bottled in Derry, Northern Ireland. I talked to him back in January about his whiskeys, which are named for his father, John Mulgrew, who was a "quiet man" behind the bar he tended for 50 years: heard your stories, but kept them to himself. Ciaran's a bit of a quiet man himself when it comes to revealing the source of his whiskeys; Bushmills, given the location of his operation and the 8 year old single malt bottling? Cooley, where they've also done single malt? Neither are selling a lot of whiskey to bottlers. Nothing is confirmed or denied.

I asked Mulgrew what set his whiskeys apart from the growing flood of new entries to the category. "The Quiet Man is matured in first fill bourbon barrels," he said, "which have had bourbon in them but never any other whiskey. Most Irish whiskey and Scotch is matured in bourbon barrels, but the barrels may have had whiskey filled into them four or five times. This reduces the impact of the wood upon the spirit. In addition, the traditional blended variety has a high malt percentage, making it more premium and giving it a smoother finish."

Mulgrew's not a pro; or rather, he wasn't before he released the whiskey last year. "It has been a long time coming, but this is my first entry into the whiskey market." The Quiet Man is being distributed in the U.S. by Luxco, who should be able to supply fresh bourbon barrels. Luxco is supporting the brand with tastings both on and off-premise; keep an eye out for them.

The Quiet Man Blend, 40%
Quick grainy smell as I open and pour. Sweet grain in the glass, along with penny candies, cornmeal, and orange marshmallow. Quite sweet on the tongue, very Irish in character. Light, friendly, no overt oakiness. Sweet but not cloying, with some light golden raisin fruitiness. Pleasant and approachable; maybe a bit too sweet from the bourbon barrels, without corresponding depth, but a good whiskey for introductions and carefree drinking.

The question would be whether to have this, at a common price of about $35 a bottle, or Jameson/Tullamore/Bushmills/Paddy/Powers at anywhere from $7 to $15 less. This seems a bit pricey.

Verdict: Okay

The Quiet Man 8 Year Old Single Malt, 40%
Hoping for a bit more here. The blend, while not labeled for age, is thought to be about 4 years old. Expecting a bit more structure from an 8 year old single malt. Yup, more oak in the nose; nougat, sandalwood. A lot more oak on the tongue, more of the sandalwood, a nice warm cereal character, as well as a pleasantly oily texture. This has a lot more going on, not simply sweet and fun. If I didn't have more tasting to do today, I'd pour another full measure and just enjoy this one.

Verdict: Good

Coming up next: Egan's whiskey and poitin. 

Jester King and Cantillon vs. Texas

I don't normally plug events outside my region, but this one's supporting an excellent cause: beer freedom. Jester King, in Austin, has locked horns with the Texas ABC before, so it's no surprise that when the TABC thwarted their plans to host Cantillon's "Zwanze Day" release event in September of 2015 (the TABC has rules about what beers can be sold in Texas!), they cried "Bullshit!" and let loose the dogs of beer. They won — naturally! — and will be holding their Zwanze Day next month, and proceeds from the event will go to a fund to reform Texas beer laws. Brilliant. I'm so pleased that I copied the whole press release below (okay, partly it was to use that really cool graphic). Well done, Jester King!

We’re very excited to finally announce the date for “2015” Zwanze Day at Jester King — Thursday, April 14th, 2016 from 6pm to 10pm.

If you’re not familiar, Zwanze Day is the time of year when Brasserie Cantillon simultaneously releases a new, very special beer at dozens of locations around the world. 2015 Zwanze Day happened back on September 19, 2015. Although Jester King had the honor of being a location, we postponed 2015 Zwanze Day (with Cantillon’s blessing) until Cantillon could officially be licensed for sale in Texas. Unfortunately, Texas law makes it very hard to get beer from small breweries into our state. The Texas government sends the message that if you’re not prepared to sell at least 1,000 cases of beer per year in the state, you have no business being here.
Fortunately, due to help and good will from Cantillon, Shelton Brothers ImportersFlood Independent Distribution, and Jester King (if we may say so ourselves), Cantillon is now licensed in Texas! We previously wrote last year about our efforts on this front. As we mentioned, we’re using Zwanze Day as a vehicle to raise money for Texas beer law reform and to make it easier for small, out-of-state breweries to enter our state. 
Half the cost of every ticket ($25) will be donated to the Texas Craft Brewers Guild Legislative Committee and/or Open the Taps. Tickets are $50 and include a 4 oz. pour of 2015 Zwanze (a spontaneously fermented stout), a cheese pairing from Antonellis Cheese Shop, a custom Jester King 2015 Zwanze Day souvenir glass featuring the artwork shown above, and the aforementioned $25 donation. Two-hundred tickets will be available.

Guests will also have the first opportunity to purchase Cantillon bottles and draught legally sold in Texas.We expect to have Cantillon Gueuze and Kriek available for purchase on draught, and bottles of Bruocsella Grand Cru, Kriek, and Gueuze available to go. Due to the small number of Cantillon bottles we will be receiving from Shelton Brothers, customers will be limited to purchasing one bottle of Cantillon (either Bruocsella Grand Cru, Kriek, or Gueuze). We’ll have just enough bottles so that every ticket holder can buy one bottle. Also, we will just apply our standard markup to the Cantillon bottles and draught. No price gouging from us.

We’re hosting a lottery for the 200 tickets. To enter, please follow the link below and enter the requested information, including whether you wish to purchase one or two tickets if your name is selected. Lottery entry will close at midnight on Sunday, April 3rd. We’ll then notify lottery winners by the close of business on Monday, April 4th. Lottery winners will have 48 hours to purchase tickets. If tickets aren’t purchased within 48 hours, we’ll randomly select another entrant to offer the tickets.

You must be 21 or older to enter the lottery. One entry per person. Double entries will be eliminated. You must show up with a valid ID that matches the name on the ticket. Tickets are non-transferrable.

Finally, we’ll be announcing a few surprises for Zwanze Day in the coming days, which will include some special beer releases and special guests. We’ll also be allowing a bottle share for ticket holders at Zwanze Day again this year. We’re excited the long wait to have Cantillon in Texas is over and that “2015” Zwanze Day is finally here!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Good Beer Friday #8

Normally at this time on Good Friday, I'd be running through the music for the 3:00 services with the St. Andrew Chamber Group. This year, sadly, I'm sidelined with lingering effects from the cold that's kept me from reviewing most of the past three weeks: gravel voice. So I'm going to drink beer and listen to the songs I'd otherwise be singing. Join me: Johnny Cash's version of "Were You There". (putting this up on the day after Good Friday because I didn't get out for a draft till today...)

Omer Traditional Blond, 8.0%
I love the family-owned Belgian breweries. Brouwerij Omer Vander Ghinste has been owned by the Vander Ghinste family for four generations. They mostly make pilsner -- gotta pay the bills -- but they're making a set of traditional ales as well, and Omer is the big blond in the family. A Vander Ghinste named Omer has run the brewery for all four generations; kinda solid. I like that, too.

So what do we have here? Bright yellow beer, clean white foam with tenaciously tight little bubbles. All beers are beautiful, but this one's especially captivating to the eye. Oh, and the nose, too. Sweet clovey candy, orange marmalade, sweet and spicy without being sticky or cloying. It smells interesting, which is what I'm looking for.

Sipping time. First thought: 8%? Really? That's scary. Because this drinks like about 5.5%. Well-attenuated but not thin, and still spicy-sweet without being sticky. The fizzy fine carbonation runs all over my tongue and teeth and roof and cheeks, what a rush! This is more spicy than sweet, and there's no stickiness in the finish at all. That's by God well done, and I'm kinda regretting that I gave half of it to my wife!

Verdict: Good

Goose Island Four Star Pils, 5.1%
Whatever shall I do? Goose Island is owned by ABInBev! I believe I shall taste the beer with an open mind and leave my readers (both of you) to decide what to do with the information. I will say this: Goose has always made refreshing and thirst-quenching beers, and I expect more of the same in this 16 oz. can. Let's crack it.

Hmmm...kind of funky smell like pineapple and sweet cream; not unpleasant, just totally unexpected. Is this some more of these new hop strains brewers have been experimenting with? Still, it looks proper, with a beautiful white bloom of foam. Tastes better: malt, bitter hop, the right body, clean finish.

Something's different, though, and it's not the pineapple. I'm not liking the way the bitter and malt balance, and the hops taste...burnt, or blaring, or harsh. It's just not clean, integrated. I'd maybe have another pint...but I wouldn't buy a case.

Verdict: Okay

A Bunch Of Barleywines, 7.5% and up, draft
First flight
I went down to Tattooed Mom in Philly today for Split Thy Skull XXI, the long-running barleywine/strong beer festival I blogged about Thursday. Hoo-whee, it was a good time. I didn't taste everything, but I had 8 of them, Here are some capsule reviews.
New Crustacean Barleywineish Imperial IPA Sorta -- Way different from the old Old Crustacean. Blonde, not dark; sweet and light and bitter, not bitter and hard and menacing. New age stuff.
Southern Tier Back Burner -- Everything Southern Tier does well: big malt, big hops, big body, and not clogging the pipes. Finesse? Yeah, in 14" naval rifle style.
Alesmith Old Numbskull -- A clearly big beer, but light on its feet, nimble. Orson Welles dancing ballet. Impressive achievement, and one I like...but I like da heavy heavy monsta sound, too.
21st Amendment Lower De Boom -- Only one I finished. Good stuff, big but drinkable, and not overly zealous on the hopping.
DuClaw Devil's Milk -- Fat all around, big in every direction, this is a great example of how Jim Wagner hits the mark every damned time...but never gets the cred. Underrated brewery.
Summit Old Blaggard -- Tasted kind of worty, grainy, but delicious. Sometimes that really, really works, and this is one of them, because it adds a huge note of freshness in a style that benefits from it.
Pizza Boy Wonder Whine -- Always impressive, Pizza Boy delivers again in a beer that was one of the biggest I had all afternoon (12.5%) but the fruitiest and most varied. Fun!
Smuttynose Barley Wine -- Wow. A throwback, not a fossil. One guy at the bar was not impressed, I told him: this is what barleywine tasted like in the 90s. Back when there were fewer of us to please, and brewers brewed for themselves. Hat tip to Smutty for staying on that: heavy malt, big yeasty esters, just enough hop. An unshaven, unapologetic barleywine.

Verdict: Stellar event!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Split Thy Skull XXI in Philly tomorrow!

Back in the day...way back in the day, like in the 1990s, one of the premiere beer events in Philadelphia was Split Thy Skull, a barleywine/strong beer event at Sugar Mom's in Old City, originally put on by Philly's pioneer beer promoter, Jim Anderson. For whatever reason, it was always held on the day before Easter, and -- thank you! -- in the afternoon. We'd crowd in the basement bar, eat sandwiches and red beet eggs, and scarf down glasses of beers that started at 7% and headed north from there. That's where I had my first Yards Old Bart, various iterations of Dock Street's barleywine, draft Kulmbacher G'frorns, and Rogue Old Crustacean. That's also where I first met Nodding Head founder Curt Decker, when both of us were "pretty well banged up," as Tom Peters puts it.

Oddly enough, Split Thy Skull was, in a way, the earliest genesis of the Session Beer Project. I distinctly remember supping a glass of cask-conditioned Young's Old Nick barleywine (at a quaintly mellow 7.3%, which would damned near get it laughed out of today's STS), and thinking -- I could point to the spot where it occurred to me, it's so sharp in my mind -- 'My God, this is so good; I wish it were about 3.5% so I could drink it all day.' The seed of an all-day drinking tasty beer was planted, and would come to fruition years later.

But enough history! Because tomorrow is Split Thy Skull XXI, to be held from 1-6 at Tattooed Mom, 530 South Street, and as always, it's gonna be a doozy. It's PAYG, with singles and flights, from over a dozen big fat beers of all types (and I hope some true barleywines are among 'em!). They don't usually release a list until the actual event, but they slipped me a few names that will be there. Check it: Pizza Boy Wonder Whine (12.5%); Southern Tier Back Burner (10.5%); Alesmith Old Numbskull (11%). Woof!

So...get on your bike, call up Uber or Lyft, take the bus, or get a friend to pick you up when you're done, because if you do this right, you'll be done. Not sure if I can make it this year or not, but if I see you there...Cheers!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hoarders Are Already in Hell

Back in January I wrote a piece titled "All Flippers Go To Hell." It was an observation, not a command, and I was expressing my disgust with the people who bought rare releases of beers and whiskeys with no intent other than turning around and reselling them at a sharp markup. They distort the entire market, they make it harder for people who really love the drinks to get them, and they pervert the intent of the makers. Ergo, I opined, they are likely to wind up in hell (assuming such a place exists in your philosophy, Horatio...)
Almost to The Bunker...but the Wasters are Waiting
I also said that wouldn't be my final word on the subject, and here is Canto II of Bryson's Inferno: the Hoarders and Wasters. I couldn't find flippers in the Divine Comedy (I'm looking at the people who flip genuine bottles, not counterfeits). But the Hoarders are already there in Circle Four, pushing about huge, unmanageable amounts of whatever drove them in life, only to meet the Wasters, who hurl identical loads at the Hoarders, smashing their loot. Then the whole thing starts over, of course. (I'm not really sure who the Wasters are; drunks? Don't stretch the analogy too far.)

What Hoarders am I talking about? These guys. And these. The guys who hear that a whiskey is being dropped, or changed, or may be in short supply...and immediately go out and buy up every bottle on the shelf to put in their "bunker." It's in short supply, they say, better stock up.'re part of the problem! It doesn't take a math genius to see that if you're buying up all the stock you see, that someone else is going to find nothing, and report that as a shortage.

Is there even a bourbon shortage? There is a shortage of some bourbons; rather famously, Van Winkle is no longer simply placed on the shelf, but allocated and auctioned and apportioned. Weller is harder to find, but I bought my last bottle (about two months ago) right off the shelf. There have been some bourbons change to No Age Statement (unhappily, the Elijah Craig 12 is one), and those quickly disappear. Buffalo Trace bourbons in general are harder to find (some of that is their relatively small production; Willett suffers from a similar problem). But I have not seen any shortage of excellent bourbons like Baker's, and Woodford, and Evan Williams Single Barrel, and Old Grand-Dad 114, and Old Forester Signature, or any of the bonded bourbons I love.

Hoarders tend to be driven by single-mindedness. They feel they simply must have a supply of the bourbon (or bourbons) they think are the best. I empathize, but the fact is...things change. We don't want them to, but they do, inevitably. You can find lots written on how whiskeys have changed; sometimes for the better, sometimes worse. For every regret, there is a corresponding joy, but nothing is made the way it used to be. Nothing. Hoarders are the Canutes of Consumption, trying to hold back the tide of change by stashing away booze. You know what happens when you stash booze? This. And this. And most of all, this

Hoarders put away the booze, and all too sits there. Doing nothing. Contributing to a panic over nothing. I'm guilty myself, or I was. I hoarded beers, big beers, specialty beers. I was saving them for a special night, a special friend, a special occasion that just never seemed to come (because when it did, we were having too much fun drinking fresh, delicious beers). Last year I decided I would start drinking them. And what did I find? Now they're nothing but a curiosity, and aside from a perishing few exceptions that aged well, mere shadows of what they were when fresh. I'm in hell, a hell of my own making.

Whiskey, happily, has never met that fate in my home. No matter what, out it comes when thirsty guests arrive. Lesson learned; hell avoided. Hoarders: learn the lesson. There are always good whiskeys available, good beers available. Stop worrying and enjoy them. Relax with your whiskey, enjoy beer as it happens, or...well, as Slayer says, Hell Awaits.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Beer Friday #7

Missed a few there.

I got really sick for a while; a head cold that knocked out my sense of smell, and a cough that kept me from getting any kind of decent sleep for about five days. Add to that a quick trip to Ireland to visit the new Tullamore Dew distillery (much more on that soon), on which I may have pushed things just a bit...and I was in no shape to even write a blog post, much less one in which I was reviewing beers or whiskeys. My apologies. But I'm back now, with enough of my senses and wits about me to get to work on this!

Music? I'm in Colonial Williamsburg for the Ales Through The Ages symposium this weekend (more on that very soon as well!), and I'm working right next to Chowning's Tavern, where this song, "Nottingham Ale" was recorded in 2010. Seems appropriate. Enjoy!

Hardywood Cream Ale, 4.4%
A fine pour

I totally crushed one of these when I arrived in Williamsburg last night after about six and a half hours on the road from Philly, and let me tell you: refreshing. Looking forward to a more relaxed and reflective sampling today. (My thanks to Carl and Joan Childs, my brother/sister-in-law, who are hosting me in Williamsburg this weekend, and whose refrigerator I'm raiding for these samples!)

Again, as I sit here on Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg, carriages and contemporary-clothed guides rolling and strolling by, I thought it would be a good idea to have a truly American beer, and cream ale is all that. Snarl and snark as you may about light, fizzy beers, cream ale is, in my opinion, the apotheosis of that whole category; light and fizzy brought to a peak of not lightness and fizzyness (because that would be this shit), but to the optimal intersection of light-mouthfeel-sweet-bitter-tasty-refreshing,

Hardywood's version zeroes in on that intersection pretty closely. I've been drinking a lot of the classic Genesee Cream Ale recently (the brothers-in-law in upstate NY always have a suitcase of it cold, and that's a long drive too!), and if anything, the Hardywood's maybe a little too flavorful. If so, that's a 'flaw' I'm more than happy to overlook. Nose is sweet, even a little fruity, with a yeasty-hoppy cut to it (the beer's unfiltered, and that's my only issue here: did it have to be hazy?), and that all follows through on the palate. The finish manages to be...wet, almost like a little splash on the tongue (and just a hint of bitter pull) that makes this such a refreshing beer that I'm a third of the way through it without intending to have had more than a sip or two. Beautiful session beer at 4.4%, too.

Very impressed with the way Hardywood Park Craft Brewery has handled beers from their barrel-aged big boys (including the vaunted Gingerbread Stout) down to this light, happy drinker; haven't had a bad beer from them yet. Add to that a cool sense of history: Richmond was where canned beer was first introduced, in 1935, so of course this comes in cans. Well done, Hardywood, well done.

Verdict: Good

Sierra Nevada Five Hop Experimental IPA, 5.8%

Oh, Sierra Nevada. It's been an interesting trip. First they were pioneers, then they were solid citizens, then they were staid and boring, then they were cutting-edge pros. Erm...from where I sat on my barstool, they never changed. They were simply, consistently, amazing. I've rarely been disappointed by Sierra Nevada.

That said, I've been let down through over-expectation, so I'm trying to tamp that down here. The new rush of experimental hop strains has not always left me impressed: "tropical" fruit, limp lemon, kinda-pine, wood grain, coconut...really? So I'm actually a bit skeptical going into this, but let's have at it. has a beautiful cap of foam, I gotta say: Sierra Nevada brewing quality at work, there. The nose is full, but subtle; I want to say, it's this...but then I smell something else, too. Orange creamsicle, soft pine (sweet spruce?), and a fluffy general richness. A poofy pillow of a nose, but then the beer splashes in and it's sharper, brisk, and then hop-sticky on the back end. Nice change-up; you could make it to the majors with a pitch like that.

In the end, though...tasty, and well-made, but not exceptional. I'd have one, and keep hunting. Or maybe just launch another Torpedo.

Verdict: Okay

SweetWater Hash Session IPA, 4.2% 

(draft, at the Green Leafe, Williamsburg)
I wandered down to the Green Leafe, a student oasis, and it was cool and quiet on this summery March afternoon. What to have...the choices were good, but then I saw one I'd meant to try: the Hash Session IPA. SweetWater does this "hop hash" thing where there's more resin/lupulin and less leaf in the hop addition (I think that's right), and it's supposed to give the beer a more intense hop flavor/aroma without the "tannic" effect of the leaves. (Again, I think that's right.)

Well, I'm all for that. Let's try it. Light yellow, bright and clear, with a lemony-pine lilt to the nose. It's a bit thin on the palate, but not watery, and the good thing is that it's just right on the bitterness; it pulls and dries, but doesn't crush on the close. That's a nice beer: it's not overly bitter, it's not overly sweet, but it's not dull either. Thing is...does it call for another? I don't think so. I'm already thinking about my next beer, and it's not this one.

Verdict: Okay

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Why You Don't Like Canadian Whisky

Five years ago, I didn't know much about Canadian whisky. I thought I did, and I wrote about it like I did, and I'd been to one Canadian distillery (the Canadian Mist distillery in Collingwood, Ontario). Mostly though, I had written Canadian whisky off, with the exception of the stuff John Hall was making at Forty Creek. I was just another smug whiskey snob: Canadian? Brown vodka.

Then I read Davin de Kergommeaux's Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert. If you haven't read it, you really should click on that link, go to Amazon, and buy it. I'll wait.

Done? Great, because it's fascinating. Canadian whisky has every bit as interesting (and long) a history as American whiskey, and — remember — they made most of the whisky that was consumed in the U.S. during Prohibition...and a hell of a lot of the whisky we drank during the Civil War, too. But Canadian, like the majority of Scotch whisky, is blended, and that's led whisky snobs to ignore it.

After reading Davin's book, though, and visiting more Canadian distilleries with him and Dave Broom (you really should read his The World Atlas of Whisky, too), and talking to Canadian distillers and blenders...that's when I really got it. First, they've only recently started sending the good stuff down here. We've been getting the Canadian equivalent of Jim Beam White and Johnnie Walker Red: big-selling stuff that goes in a glass with ice and soda. Fine, for your grandfather, and your father (and likely your mom, too), but you want more, right? I know you, I am you: we want more, and the Canadian distillers are finally getting it.

The second part, and this is the key, is that Canadian whisky makers just don't think the way American whiskey makers do. Everything is blended to them and they really don't look at the whiskies they're blending in the singular, as possible soloists stepping aside from the choir; "it's a unique landscape," as one of them told me.

A moment that really brought it home to me was when Don Livermore, master blender at Hiram Walker, was having us sample various whiskies at various ages, all the way from fresh new make to Wiser's 18 year old. He'd done some experiments with red oak, and we tried some at, I believe, 4 years old. It was blastingly woody, like vodka lapped off a deck; I'm afraid I made a face. What are you  going to do with that, I asked him. "I'm going to blend it," he said, with a slight emphasis that almost sounded disappointed, like, 'I've been telling you for three hours that we blend whiskies; don't you get it?'

I didn't...but now I do. I get that blends are what they're making, that the package of flavors is what they're thinking about, and that really, they're making whiskies for drinking, not delicately tasting. Highballs, simple whisky on the rocks, cocktails; that's what Canadian's made for. If we don't get that, if we try to force it to be a sipping whisky, we may as well be putting Islay whisky in a Manhattan. I mean, you can do that, but it's hardly what it's meant for, is it?

So when I taste Canadian whiskies now, I do try sipping them...and then I try them in a highball, or I make a Manhattan (with two cherries, and a full measure of vermouth). Some of them are fully delicious as sippers, like that Wiser's 18 Year Old, and some of the latest Crown Royal variants, like the wholly excellent Monarch (75th Anniversary), and yes, the Northern Harvest Rye.

I also like the Alberta Rye Dark Batch, which is made with 1% sherry...which is allowed in Canada. The folks at the distillery followed up with me on that, and they asked: if you were going to make a cocktail with it, what would you do? I thought about it, and told them that I'd like a Manhattan balanced to Dark Batch's flavor profile, something that calls out the sherry, and isn't afraid of the whisky's lush sweetness. I usually like a more austere Manhattan, a rye Manhattan, but sometimes I like to play Dean Martin and have something sweet and fun.

And you know, they got hold of Chris Goad at Canon, in Seattle, and gave him that description to work with, and here's what I got; they call it

The Prairie Triangle
7 parts Alberta Rye Whisky Dark Batch
1 part cream sherry
1 part Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao (go find it; play with it; worth it)
2 dashes bitters (the recipe called for 4 dashes; that dominated the drink, IMO)

Add all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and prepare your glass, letting the ice slowly melt in the mixing glass to reduce your stirring time. Add a large ice cube to your double rocks glass and garnish with a wide orange peel, cut and trimmed clean. (Don't hate me: I added a brandied cherry.) Finish mixing your drink and pour into glass. Cheers!

I found it wonderfully juicy, and the actual add of the sherry was, I thought, ballsy and brilliant. It's a great drink, and it needs Canadian to make it...and it needs verve to make it the right drink for Canadian. Thanks, Chris; thanks Alberta Distillery!

So think about Canadian as Canadian. And go out and pick up the latest copy of Whisky Advocate, where my latest column talks about the eureka moment I had with Canadian whisky at a tasting I did last year, and the happy results that came out of it. If this didn't show you the Canadian Way, that column will.