Tag Archives: scotch

Warm Weather. Cold Drinks.

When warm weather approaches, many imbibers switch from sipping whiskey to an icy concoction.  I too enjoy a cooling beverage on a hot day, but often keep my beloved whiskey as a base.  To start Memorial Day Weekend off with a bang i’d like to share my favorite whiskey cocktails on ice!   NEW YORK SOUR I have to admit, I never thought of mixing red wine with whiskey, but hey why not!  Liquor.com contributor Jacques Bezuidenhout shared this cooling sweet and sour tipple. recipe-ny-sour-290x290

  • 2 oz Rye whiskey or Bourbon
  • .75 oz Simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water)
  • 1 oz Fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Egg white (optional)
  • .5 oz Red wine

Add all the ingredients except the wine to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake well and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Carefully pour the wine over the back of a spoon so it floats on top of the drink. (recipe from Liquor.com)

PENICILLIN For those who cannot get enough of the smokiness of an Islay Scotch, The Penicillin is the way to go.  A spirit forward cocktail balanced with gooey honey and citrus and topped off with your favorite Scottish smoke. penicillin-cocktail-ftr

  • 2 ounces blended Scotch whisky (such as Grant’s)
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 ounce honey syrup 
  • 3 slices fresh ginger
  • 1/4 ounce Islay single malt Scotch (such as Laphroaig)

Muddle fresh ginger in the bottom of a cocktail shaker until it is well mashed.  Add blended Scotch, lemon juice, and honey syrup to the shaker.  Fill the shaker with ice and shake quickly until chilled.  Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass and pour the Islay Scotch over the back of a bar spoon so that it floats atop the drink. MONKEY JAM SOUR Last but not least is my personal favorite of the moment.  Mixing this with Monkey Shoulder is a MUST but it will not disappoint! 52e91b4a59c18

  • 1.5 ounces Monkey Shoulder
  • .2 ounces sugar syrup
  • 2 tsp Jam (of your choice – any and all work!)
  • .7 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • Soda water (optional)
  • Dash orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker.  Add fresh ice and shake quickly until chilled.  Strain into an ice filled glass.  Top with soda water if you choose! I would love to hear what your favorite whiskey cocktails are and add to my ever growing recipe book. Cheers and Happy Memorial Day!


The Balvenie Announces Winner of The American Craft Council Rare Craft Fellowship Award

On February 6th The American Craft Council along with The Balvenie declared Douglas Brooks, Vermont Boat Builder, as the winner of the American Craft Council Rare Craft Fellowship Award.  The award was presented at an exclusive luncheon at Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York City where a select group of influencers including the longest standing Malt Master in history, David Stewart honored the five nominated craftspeople and their respective traditional art forms.


The American Craft Council Rare Craft Fellowship Award in association with The Balvenie recognizes one winner and four finalists who are awarded annually in recognition and support of contributions to the maintenance and revival of traditional or rare crafts in America.  To be considered for the Fellowship, individuals must demonstrate a contribution to the preservation of traditional and rare craft techniques, processes, or products and meet a quality criterion.  Hundreds were vetted and five were selected as finalists with Douglas Brooks honored as the 2014 Fellow.  Brooks will receive an exclusive trip to Scotland and a $10,000 endowment to go towards materials and continuing his craft.  The four additional finalists received a $5,000 endowment and a trip to New York City where they showcased their work at the awards luncheon.


The once-in-a-lifetime trip to Scotland awarded to Brooks will provide the Fellow with an opportunity to spend time at the legendary distillery, apprenticing under a local craftsman of his choosing.  The two-week Fellowship will feature a week at the historic Balvenie distillery, where Brooks will learn more about the traditional crafts of whisky making while also receiving the rare opportunity to work with legendary malt master David Stewart, who was part of the jury that selected the finalists and awarded Brooks with this unique opportunity.


To illustrate the passion and commitment to craft of the Fellow and the nominees, each of them were showcased in a short film that was premiered at the luncheon.  The beautiful films were shot over two months from FYM Productions, a New York City based production company.  Click on each of the names below to take a look in to the workshops some of the men and women who are keeping craft alive in America!

Douglass Brooks |Boat Builder Vergennes, Vermont *2014 Fellow

Scott Baxendale | Luthier Athens, Georgia

Stephen Bilenky | Bicycle Builder Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Ubaldo Vitali | Silversmith Newark, New Jersey

Ina Grau | Shoemakers Minneapolis, Minnesota


Stock Up for the Super Bowl

Dear Whisk(e)y Lovers,

With temperatures hitting record lows a little whisk(e)y is wonderful way to keep warm; and what better excuse to enjoy a dram than the Super Bowl!  For all of you who will be watching, or pretending to watch, the big game here is a great way for you to order your spirits.  ReserveBar.com is a new and innovative website that allows you to shop for liquor online and have it delivered straight to your home.  In other words, no trekking out in sub-zero temperatures!



Cheers and stay warm!


Charlotte Voisey Mixes Up a Spring Cocktail

Whoever said whisky is a winter drink has not been introduced to the wonderful world of Scotch cocktails!  Mixologist extraordinaire and William Grant & Sons Ambassador Charlotte Voisey teaches us how to make a delightful twist on a New York Sour.

Click here to take a peek at Voisey in action!



New York Sour Recipe

2 oz Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

1 oz fresh lemon juice

1 oz simple syrup

float of Lillet Rouge


Shake first three ingredients with ice.

Strain into a cocktail glass.

Spritz with lemon peel and discard peel.

Garnish with orange wheel.

Happy mixing!


The Scotch Whisky Experience


Just a tiny corner of the largest private collection of Scotch whisky in the entire world.  You could call it a whisky lovers heaven.  Much more to come from my Scottish journey!


Production: Breaking it Down

What is it that actually goes into a fine Scotch whisky bottle?  Why are there distinctive flavor profiles in each bottle of single malt?  These are questions that come to mind when analyzing a beautiful spirit.

Given the diversity in the single malt Scotch whisky world, it is amazing that each bottle starts off with only three ingredients: barley, water and yeast. Whisky is then fully brought to life by the Malt Master, also known as the Master Distiller. This true artist has the consummate knowledge and skill to craft the liquid into each unique variant of every brand.

At times, the process of creating the perfect single malt might seem overwhelming, confusing and a bit intense.  Fear not!  I will now give you – the captivated, eager enthusiast – a simple guide to help you understand just how whisky is made. I promise the guide will be free of baffling Scottish slang or whisky jargon.

Before I take you though the five-part process, it’s important to remember there is no exact science to distilling superior whisky.  In fact, the most exciting spirits are often created by “happy accidents” – the unexpected magic that happens within the distillery walls.

Step 1: Malting

The Balvenie Distillery

First, barley grains are soaked in water for a couple of days and allowed to germinate.  Germination is the process of releasing starch and then converting it to sugar.  After about a week, germination is halted in a kiln where the malted barley is dried.

Step 2: Mashing

During this step, hot water is added to milled malted barley.  This causes the starch in the grains to convert to sugars thereby creating a syrupy liquid called wort.

Step 3: Fermentation

The hot wort is cooled down and poured into washbacks.  A washback is a giant vat holding tens of thousands of liters of wort mixed with brewer’s yeast.  The yeast turns the wort and the sugars into alcohol.  This process takes 2 to 4 days and results in a liquid called wash that is like a strong beer with about 8% volume alcohol.  It is important to remember that the length of fermentation time drastically affects the flavor of the liquid.

Step 4: Distillation

Wash is then transported to the still room where Scotch whisky is classically distilled twice in copper stills, which look like giant kettles with an open fire underneath.  The size, shape and number of stills play a large role in the taste of the liquid.

The first distillation happens in the wash still, the larger of two stills where the wash is heated until the alcohol is turned to vapor.  The vapors return to a liquid known as “low wines” which are about 20% alcoholic strength.  The low wines are heated again in the second smaller spirit still.  The alcohol is turned into vapor again and the resulting liquid is now about 68% alcohol.  This liquid is collected in a spirit safe where the Malt Masters use their expertise to select only the highest quality middle cut.

Step 4: Maturation

This is the last part of the process where new-make spirit is poured into oak casks.  The casks chosen for maturation have a direct effect on the taste of the final product.  Casks made of American Oak previously contained bourbon; European oak casks once held sherry.  It is over time that whiskies pick up the flavors of each cask and create the individual characteristics of the final product.

Across time, each distillery perfects its own unique techniques for each step of the process as talented Malt Masters strive to satisfy both the casual consumer and the most discriminating connoisseur.  That’s the wonderful thing about whisky.


The Perfect Present



Recently, at Tales of the Cocktail I met a fellow whisk(e)y enthusiast while waiting on one of the many long bathroom queues.  What initially caught my eye was a shiny plate of pure silver with the word “Scotch” engraved into it dangling around her neck.  I was instantly curious and envious as I had never seen something quite like it.  After speaking for a few minutes I was able to collect that the silver plate was a decanter tag from one of her grandfather’s Scotch decanters that was later made into a necklace for her.  The rest of the night I ran around telling everyone about this AMAZING piece of jewelry I saw and secretly planning in the back of my mind on how I was going to score one myself.

About a month and many unsuccessful Google searches later, I was sitting on my couch with one of the most important people in my life.  He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a tiny package disguised in layers of bubble wrap.  I carefully opened it and to my astonishment, out fell the most striking decanter tags I had ever seen.  Not only was this a one of a kind piece, but it was also produced in the early 1740’s (that’s almost 300 years ago)!  Won in a bidding war from a reputable jeweler in London, this decanter tag is literally the only one of its kind.  I was completely speechless and so overwhelmed at receiving such a thoughtful and significant gift.

After a bunch of research I discovered that the silver decanter label is one of Britain’s distinctive contributions to European culture.  It first appeared as a practical device to identify the otherwise anonymous wine in a decanter.  In the 17th century the English began most of their wine drinking after the ladies had retired for the evening.  The servants left, and unmarked rough green glass bottles were passed around the table filled with claret, port and sometimes Madeira.  It was in the early 18th century that the silver ‘bottle ticket’ was created to hang around the neck of each decanter to identify its contents.  Every British silversmith tried his hand with these little labels often known as ‘gentlemen’s jewelry’.

I was able to clearly identify the maker’s mark on my decanter tag tracing it back to the famed Sandylands Drinkwater of London.  Sandylands Drinkwater is well-known for his Escutcheon Labels and has been dubbed as the grandfather of wine labels!  With the word “Whisky” engraved into the silver this specific tag is considered unusual as it was separate from traditional wine labels. 

I am not sure how anyone is going to top this gift!