After last week’s scotch week we’ll continue our whisk(e)y kick with Jameson Irish Whiskey, which Hemingway mentions specifically in the “Three Day Blow.” We were not actually familiar with Jameson, aside from knowing that it is an ingredient in Irish Coffee. Jameson is different from the scotches we reviewed last week, as it is not only produced and aged in Ireland, but it is blended.
Honestly, we didn’t have high hopes for Jameson, especially compared to the varied scotches we had last week. We have large Scotch and Bourbon collections, so the prospect of a run-of-the-mill Irish whiskey, was worrying.
The nose was bright and simple with surprisingly low alcohol vapors, followed by a simple body. The aftertaste was crisp and simple. Overall it was pretty bland and simple, but not at all unpleasant. However, our tasting was done after a few rounds of scotch, and the alcohol had gone to our head, so feel free to disagree with our judgment.
We finish up scotch week (hopefully the first of many) with a review of Amrut’s Peated Cask Strength whiskey. Technically, this is not a scotch, as it is not produced in Scotland, instead being from India. Indian whiskey regulations are very lax, and Amrut strives to produce a world-class product, and the Peated Cask Strength certainly delivers. It’s by far the most expensive product we’ve reviewed on Drink Like Hemingway at about $90/bottle when we got a bottle.
Due to the smoked peat this is very functionally similar to a scotch in everything but the country of origin. Because it is cask strength (62.8% ABV) you must add water to it. If you don’t, the alcohol might burn off your taste buds and leave you with a still good, but not at all worth the price whiskey.
The nose is smoky peat, with dark herbal notes on the back and light. Online tasting notes suggest hints of ‘moldy shoes’ which come out if you look for them. The body is bright, smoky body (versus the dark heavy Islays). There is sweetness throughout with smooth undertones. The finish is crisp and herbal, finishes excellently.
Glenmorangie is a Highland scotch, with alcohol production at the site of the distillery dating back to 1738. The lasanta is aged for 12 years with the first 10 in bourbon casks and then moved to sherry casks for the last two years, imparting very distinctive sherry flavors
The nose is mild acidic fruitiness with a dark, sherry-based sweetness throughout. The body follows with heavy but simple notes with some caramel. The drink finishes with blatant sherry with hints of vanilla and some caramel. Our tasting panel was split on whether or not this is a good thing.
The Glenlivet is a Speyside whisky, founded in 1824, one year after the . We tasted the Nàdurra, which is a 16-year whisky, bottled at cask strength (52.4% ABV). We’ll taste a cask strength whisky later in the week, and it’s important to remember to add plenty of water to the whiskey if it’s cask strength. Water should be added to most scotches, and if you don’t add it to a cask strength you risk having the alcohol kill your tastebuds and ruin the drink (or at least any follow-up drinks)
We got it at approximately $60 a bottle, and it has a fascinatingly light amber color, which becomes truly yellow when you add water.
The nose is light and nutty with some hints of oak. The body is light sweetness without complexity. The finish is very complex, goes from the light body becoming suddenly heavy with darker notes and very oaky. Finally, some bourbon notes come through and stay with you.
It’s better than the Glenlivet 12, which is not at all a bad base scotch. Recommended.
Lagavulin 16 is commonly cited as one of the best scotches, and after having a pour at a local restauraunt (a bottle costs $75-$90) it’s immediately apparent why.
Lagavulin is another Islay whisky, and unlike the Bruichladdich Rocks, it does not shy away from peat or smoke. The nose is a heavy, smoky peat, which carries through the body and finish. It’s hard to identify individual flavors within the drink, but wow is it delicious.
The distillery itself dates back to 1816, with illegal distillation on the site as far back as 1742. In its youth, the distillery was accused of attempting to copy the nearby Lagavulin’s style, but due to the different water source the resulting product was (and still is) very different. It’s very important to note how important the water is to a distillery, and indeed most distilleries are situated on or near a water source which they rely upon for their product’s specific characteristics.
The first scotch we’ll try is Bruichladdich Rocks. Bruichladdich is an Islay whisky, although the Rocks is somewhat uncharacteristic of Islay whiskys.
Normally, Islay whiskies are very smokey and heavily peated. Scotch in general is characteristically peated due to a shortage of wood in Scotland. Scotch is made from malted grains, which are allowed to sprout and then toasted. In order to toast them, fuel is needed, preferably wood. However, the wood needs of both Scotland and England, as well as the development of agriculture destroyed the Caledonian forests that once covered most of Scotland. By the time the scotch whisky industry was beginning to rise in Scotland there was not enough wood to use to toast the grain to make whisky. Instead, the scottish used what was available – peat.
Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation, primarily mosses. It is formed primarily in wetlands, specifically bogs. Peat can be dried and then used as a fuel, which is what happened (and still happens to a lesser extent) throughout Scotland. When the peat is burned to toast the grain it imparts distinctive flavors on the grain which persist throughout the distillation process and are part of what makes Scotch unique.
Bruichladdich Rocks, however, is an unpeated scotch. Therefore, the barley was not toasted using peat, but some other heat source. Theoretically this should mean that the resulting whisky does not have any peat flavorings, but there definitely is a peaty smokiness, although it’s much less than one would expect from an Islay. Apparently, the peat comes from the groundwater, because the water used in this whisky has percolated through millions of years of peat, so it picked up a peaty flavor without the distillery having used peat to toast the barley.
Overall, it’s a very very light Islay, and is really wonderful. There is some frutiness in the nose, flavor and finish, with some pleasant sweetness. It’s extremely smooth. Definitely a whisky to try.
Today’s “drink” will be a quick overview of scotch. Next week we’ll cover 5 of our favorites, from the Islays to the Highlands, to an Indian whisky that ranks among our favorite scotches despite not technically being a scotch. Hemingway mentions scotch and soda and scotch highballs a few times, but we’ll focus on the base spirit, because frankly if you mix some of the brands we drink with anything but cold water you should probably find yourself a different source of alcohol advice.
Hopefully you’ll enjoy the trip through a classic type of whisky.
Scotch is a type of whisky distilled in (wait for it) – Scotland. In order to legally be called Scotch it must be:
- Produced at a distillery in Scotland from water and malted barley (to which only whole grains of other cereals may be added) all of which have been:
- Processed at that distillery into a mash
- Converted at that distillery to a fermentable substrate only by endogenous enzyme systems
- Fermented at that distillery only by adding yeast
- Distilled at less than 94.8% ABV.
- Wholly matured in an excise warehouse in Scotland in oak casks for at least three years
- Retaining the colour, aroma, and taste of the raw materials used in, and the method of, its production and maturation
- Containing no added substances, other than water and caramel coloring
- Comprising a minimum 40% ABV
There are a few classifications of scotch, from single malt to single grain to blended, and we’ll cover those distinctions as we drink them in the upcoming week.
Historically, scotch evolved from a drink caled uisge beatha, meaning water of life. Documentation of scotch distillation dates back to 1494. The unification of England and Scotland drove scotch distillers underground. Many of the older distilleries in Scotland trace their origins, and their remote locations, to the era of illegal distilleries. However, the 1823 Excise Act legalized the creation of distilled whisky with relatively small licensing fees, which legitimized the scotch industry. Combined with a collapse of the French wine and brandy markets in the late 19th century, scotch’s popularity exploded across the UK and world to modern levels.
Scotch is often distinguished by where in Scotland it comes from, with the Highlands and Islay being the major regions of production we’ll cover, but the islands of Mull, Orkney and Skye, as well as the Lowlands, Speyside and Campbeltown being important. As we go through the individual scotches we’ll cover some of their individual quirks and oddities.
Also, if you’re like us and don’t know how to pronounce the collection of seemingly random letters the scottish use to spell, here is a handy pronunciation guide
Oxford Universiy Hot Rum Punch
- 1 oz silver rum
- .5oz dark rum (aged, not spiced)
- 1 oz cognac
- 3 oz boiling water
- .5 oz lemon juice
- 1 barspoon brown sugar (or to taste)
- a few cloves
Garnish with a spiral of lemon peel.
As we at Drink Like Hemingway hunker down for winter and overhyped weather events, the time of year has come for warm drinks! We aren’t in the miserable depths of a February winter yet, but a nice warm drink occasionally helps make things more enjoyable.
Hemingway mentions a hot rum punch, so we decided to try one out. The recipe we tried is quoted as an old Oxford recipe, so hopefully it’s somewhat similar to any rum punch Hemingway may have tried.
We made it by mixing the ingredients and then bringing them to a simmer on a stove, which may not have been the best option. The result was fantastic, but it’d be easier and probably boil off less alcohol if you followed the recipe and added boiling water to the other ingredients.
Also, we only had about an ounce and a half of brandy among 3 people, so the resulting drink was tiny. Once we get some more brandy or cognac we’re definitely going to make this again.
- 2 oz Pisco
- 1 oz Lime Juice
- .75 oz Simple Syrup
- 1 Egg White
Shake hard with ice and strain into old fashioned glass. Add a dash of bitters to the top of the foam at the top of the drink.
Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises mentions “aguardiente,” which unfortunately is about as specific as “liquor from Spain, Portugal, or Latin America.” Aguardiente translates to ‘fiery water’ or ‘burning water,’ and is a broad category of high-proof clear alcohol. We’ll start exploring aguardientes with Pisco, a Peruvian brandy.
Pisco is yet another brandy, made in Peru, and (with some controversy) Chile. It’s made from various wine grapes, fermented and then distilled. It’s aged for a short period of time, although it is aged in vessels which do not alter its color or other properties. This makes it different from brandies like cognac or armagnac which are brown due to the casks they are aged in. By law Pisco must be made in Peru, but due to the popularity of the drink, and some historical roots in Chile, there exists “Chilean Pisco” made in Chile.
For our purposes we used Don Cesar Pisco Puro. Pisco Puro is made from only one type of grape, while other piscos may be from a mixture of grapes. It has a surprisingly funky smell, reminiscent of somewhere between tequila and cachaça. The flavor is a relatively neutral vaguely brandy flavor, although completely free of the normal oak or wood-related flavors of other brandies.
We also mixed up a few Pisco Sours, which were quite good. The funk of the pisco remains through the drink, but it’s somewhat reminiscent of a daiquiri made with tequila instead of rum. We made them using a blender instead of hand shaking, which caused the very small amount of foam shown in the picture above. In the future, it’d be better to have used a shaker instead of a blender, as that might have actually created a proper foamy head. The egg white should serve to provide protein to support a strong foam, which didn’t really happen in this case.
Ah well, that just means this is a drink that will have to be tried again. Which isn’t remotely a problem.
Vieux Carré is another brand of absinthe verte (previously we reviewed Vieux Pontarlier). We at Drink Like Hemingway are somewhat split on how we feel about the two compared, because they don’t seem like the same drink at all.
But, before the review of the drink itself, a note on the packaging. Absinthe Verte gets its green color from naturally occurring chlorophyll present in the various herbs and spices. If you’ve ever seen a dead leaf you know what happens to chlorophyll in light over time – it breaks down and changes from green to brown. Because of this, absinthe should be stored in dark bottles that do not let in light. The creators of Vieux Carre decided for some reason to store their product in a fancy clear glass container with some decorations on the surface. As a result, instead of being green, Vieux Carre is brownish-green. Whoever decided to make the bottle clear should have done some basic research into their product.
The drink itself is less complex than Vieux Pontarlier, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The nose is very grassy, with almost zero initial flavor followed by a simple anise aftertaste. It cost the same as Vieux Pontarlier (although part of that is Pennsylvania v. California alcohol taxes) and for the price Vieux Pontarlier is the better product.
That being said, we used some to make a Death in the Afternoon using Vieux Carré and midlevel champagne and wow was it better. There was a lot more complexity in the drink, although the expected woodiness from Vieux Pontarlier didn’t come through as Vieux Carré has no woodiness. There were some grassy notes, but once again – a thoroughly drinkable and enjoyable drink. That being said, Pernod and André is good enough that if you’re on a budget you should skip the real absinthe and champagne for the cheaper substitutes.