Eddie Russell nostalgically recalls his first taste of bourbon straight from the barrel at the Wild Turkey distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. It was a few decades ago, and he jokes that the sensation of the bourbon shooting through his veins made him realise that he should never leave the place.
He never did.
In 1981 Eddie started working at the distillery, and in 2015 he became its Master Distiller thus following in his Dad Jimmy Russell’s footsteps (Jimmy has been making Wild Turkey whiskey for over 60 years!). About 35 years after Eddie started work at Wild Turkey, he would enter into an unlikely collaboration with Matthew McConaughey to create a new expression of Wild Turkey: Longbranch. Continue reading “Wild Turkey Longbranch: alright alright alright!”→
“Moonshine” is now a fashionable word. You may know it as hooch, bootleg, firewater, rotgut or white lightning, or as just plain old moonshine. Some dictionaries will tell you that “moonshine” is illegally made alcohol while others will explain that it is smuggled liquor that got its name because it used to be transported at night.
The story of the “moonshiner” seems to start in the 1800s in southern Appalachia, which stretches along Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. During that time, people would illicitly distill spirit because they saw it as the best way to make money from corn crops. Interestingly, according to the Dictionary of American History, the liquor they made was commonly known by locals as “brush whiskey” and “blockade”, and not many people called it “moonshine”. By the time Prohibition came around in the 1920s, “moonshine” was used to describe any illegal liquor.
Moonshine may conjure thoughts of bathtub hooch and smuggler bootleggers but, these days, the stuff is going legit. While perusing bottle shop shelves or online liquor stores you may notice a product labeled “moonshine” which certainly is legal.
What gives? What the heck is this legal breed of “moonshine”?
Kavalan’s Ex-Bourbon Oak is the Solist Ex-Bourbon expression (which is 58.2% alcohol), reduced down to 46% alcohol by volume with spring water. This whisky, as the name suggests, has matured in oak barrels that have previously held bourbon which means that you can expect a lot of American oak flavours in this whisky. The addition of water, as the below tasting notes suggest, seems to accentuate and tease out Kavalan’s distillery character and this is a theme to definitely look out for when tasting this whisky.
Imagine the whiff of melting vanilla ice cream over a freshly made warm banana fritter, and layered with caramel and honey. The smell of crushed nuts and sharp acidic pineapple cuts through the sweetness, as the oak tannins nip at the nostrils and then slowly fade with each consecutive sniff.
On the entry the whisky is not as sweet as the nose suggests, and the flavour profile bursts with oak spice and semi-dry tropical fruit – pineapple, longan and snake fruit come to mind. The wood bites at first, with the taste of black tea leaves, but the oak then dissolves into gushy wood vanillas and coconut; flavours which attest to the big impact of the American oak in this whisky. The bourbon is there with a sugary glow, sitting beneath the malt and American oak initially but then dimming towards the finish.
The finish is warming with spice pricking the palate, dark chocolate, chili, banana and star fruit.
Buy it, if you want to try a Taiwanese whisky with lots of exotic tropical fruit, oak spice and all the lovely wood vanillas and coconut flavours commonly associated with American oak. The Kavalan malt and distillery character shines through the layers of American oak influence, with its tropical fruit theme lifting the whole flavour profile of this whisky and re-inventing the “done to death” ex-bourbon malt whisky. This whisky is a job very well done by Kavalan.
This cigar is made from tobacco that has been aged for 12 years, first bale aged for 10 years and then in white oak bourbon barrels for a further two years.
Excellent, though it did burn quite evenly and it needed some touching up.
Very smooth, soft notes of vanilla and coffee soaked brown sugar underpin a mild dark chocolate infused tobacco smoke that fades into a woody finish that showcases the Connecticut wrapper. Bourbon flavours have certainly infused into the cigar. The flavours of wood are prominent, but they are softened by mild hues of caramel and the faint flicker of brown sugar as the sweet flavours of the Jalapa tobacco counterbalances the richer heavier tobaccos (such as from Esteli). With each draw the wood notes in the cigar evolve, from woody splinters into more nuanced and delicate wood spices as buttered burnt toast lingers on the finish, accompanying the woody notes. Half way through, and the strength of the tobacco smoke intensifies with more pronounced burnt hay/bonfire and soft notes of bitter dried herbs. A harshness then develops, which is too much for the sweet components of the cigar to counteract – that bonfire note remains on the palate, producing a mismatch with and almost spoiling the enjoyment of paired spirits. The first half of this cigar was sublime but unfortunately after the half-way point it became harsh and unenjoyable, ruined in my view by the taste of burning paper/bonfire. What a monumental change of enjoyment I experienced smoking this cigar, at first I could not get enough of it but after two thirds I had no desire to continue smoking it.
The first half of this cigar was divine with some spirits, while the second half went off the rails and did not produce the same caliber of carefully balanced smoke that made it worthy of a pairing with a fine spirit. This will sound cliché, but the first half of this cigar paired beautifully with a bourbon – Eagle Rare 17 year old was my bourbon of choice with this cigar, a combination which released a lovely buttery note with seeded raisins and sweetened coffee. It also pairs nicely with whiskies that showcase delicately cultivated oak notes from careful aging, and I found it was delicious with Glenlivet 18 year old and Glen Grant 16 year old. A number of rums also brought a welcome shimmer of sweetness to the party, but the oak notes underlying them really brought to life the cigar’s wood infused heart – try it with Pusser’s 15 year old or Havana Club 7 year old.