5 Picks for Fall

Fall is upon us and PlumpJackSport has the must have items for this season. These are our picks for the styles that will take you from the office to the bar and everywhere in between.

Every wardrobe’s must-have this season is an army-style cargo jacket or vest. Our favorite picks are the Jack Argi Jacket and the Sanctuary Globe Trekker Vest. Either one of these essentials are sure to complete any autumn outfit.

Layer this over a cream colored cashmere Crewneck Sweater from Velvet to feel luxuriously warm or a plain tee for those warmer fall days.

This seems to be the season of the faux leather pant. When the plain black legging just isn’t enough, dress up any outfit with a pair of Alyssa Leggings from BB Dakota, or, my personal favorite, the Faux Leather Leggings from Spanks.

This whole look can be completed with a pair of Frye booties. We love the Reina bootie in black for a dressier look or the Anna Shortie in cognac for a more classic, everyday look.

Accessorize with a chunky necklace and clutch from Big Buddha to take this look from day to night.

All available at PlumpJackSport in Squaw Valley

 

American Whiskey Club: Quarter 3, 2015

PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you the American Whiskey Club tasting notes for quarter three. For this quarter we’re excited to feature two new single barrel selections, chosen exclusively for PlumpJack. This time we’ve sourced barrels from Old Forester and Jefferson’s, both first timers to our private collection line of whiskies. One is an old established stalwart in the bourbon industry, the other an up and coming entrepreneur, both with long generational whiskey heritages. Un-complicated and tasty, these whiskies are perfect for summertime sipping and cocktails. Enjoy!

Josh Thinnes, Whiskey Buyer PlumpJack Wine & Spirits

Old Forester Single Barrel Bourbon, PlumpJack Wine & Spirits Barrel Selection
Distilled by Brown-Forman Distillery, Shively, KY
Bottled December 10, 2014 – Barrel yielded 228 bottles at 45% abv (90 proof)

Downtown Louisville was a bustling port city in the mid 19th century. Situated right on the banks of the Ohio River, it was a hub of shipping commerce situated on the boarder of the North West and Southern territories, tons of commodities floated up and down the Ohio River on flatboats, sometimes up to 40 feet long. Corn, wheat, cotton, meats, produce, lumber, fur, seeds, honey, of course whiskey, and many other goods were shipped on over 3,000 flatboats a year, increasingly so up until the mid 1850s. By 1830 Louisville passed Lexington as Kentucky’s largest city with over 10,000 residents and the city continued to grow during the railroad era. Low quality un-aged whiskey predominated the market, and it was usually adulterated with flavoring agents like tobacco and molasses (or worse) to make up for the age. Around the late 1860s, George Garvin Brown, a young pharmaceutical salesman from Kentucky saw the obvious need for consistent and reliably good whiskey that remained pure after distillation. He saved about $5,500 and together with his brother opened the J.T.S. Brown & Bro. Distillery, which promptly began distilling and aging bourbon. Conveniently they began distribution initially to pharmacies for use as a medicinal product. The name chosen was ‘Old Forrester’ (originally with two r’s), the name reportedly inspired by Dr. William Forrester, a physician who initially endorsed the product. The first commercial batch was launched in 1870, under the name ‘Old Forester’.

By 1902, J.T.S. Brown & Bro. Distillery underwent a series of partnership and name changes, eventually ending with George Garvin Brown owning about 90% and George Forman owning 10% of the new company re-named Brown-Forman & Co. Whiskey times we’re booming and they relocated to West Main Street in downtown Louisville on a strip of buildings that become known as ‘Whiskey Row’. What followed was a decade or so of stupendous growth in the whiskey industry that coincided with debauchery, crime and a temperance movement that eventually meant prohibition of alcohol in the United States. Only ten federal permits to distill alcohol were granted during prohibition, one of which was obtained by Brown-Forman in 1920. Having survived prohibition makes Old Forester the longest standing bottled bourbon to this day. The company is currently involved in a $50 million dollar project to build an urban distillery and visitor center in historic downtown Louisville in the very same strip that once was home to its founding father.

For now, Old Forester whiskey (along with Early Times) is made at the Brown-Forman Distillery on the southern outskirts of Louisville. They bottle a range of four different expressions; Old Forester 86 proof & 100 proof, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon and Old Forester Single Barrel. All products are then aged and bottled at its sister distillery, Woodford Reserve. The mashbill is the same as Woodford’s – 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% malted barley – though the distillation is different. Old Forester Single Barrel is reserved exclusively for private bottling only and is bottled at 90 proof, usually yielding about 220 bottles or so. The nose showcases aromas of spices, stone fruit like peaches and apricots and bitter orange peel and vanilla bean. The palate is a continuation of the nose, with further notes of mango, pepper, vanilla and wood spice. Not a shy, nor a shabby sipper, this whiskey shows best in a properly made old fashioned cocktail. The spice in the whiskey with the sweetness from the sugar chilled and topped with an orange rind is perfect on a weekend afternoon while firing up the grill.

Try this recipe for instant gratification: In a mixing glass put three to four full shakes of angostura bitters along with a half-ounce of simple syrup and 2 ounces of Old Forester whiskey. Fill with ice and stir for thirty seconds or so. Pour into a citrus zested rocks glass over one fat rock of ice.

Jeffeson’s Reserve ‘Very Old, Very Small Batch’ Bourbon
Bottled by McClain & Kyne, Louisville, KY
PlumpJack Wine & Spirits Barrel #482 yielded 216 bottles at 45.1% abv (90.2 proof)

Louisville native, entrepreneur and bourbon export Trey Zoeller founded McClain & Kyne in 1997. Trey’s past relatives had a long history of distilling, sometimes illicitly as evidenced by an 8th generation grandmother who was arrested for moonshining in 1799. Trey, having strong connections in the whiskey industry, but no distillery by which to make it, launched a range of bourbons and ryes that he would blend himself from stock that he purchased. He decided to name it Jefferson’s, loosely inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s experimental spirit and known good taste. The brand began with a Reserve line then branched into a line of older more select whiskies called Presidential Select. It was an immediate success, as some of them contained whiskey produced at the famed and silent Stitzel-Weller distillery (think older Pappy Van Winkle). Those whiskies, like the Presidential Select 17yr and 18yr bourbons are now extinct, except for trading floors of secondary markets where they fetch astronomical prices upwards of ten times their release.

Alongside occasional special release bottling like Ocean and Chef’s Collaboration and Presidential Select they bottle a Small Batch, Reserve Very Old Very Small Batch and a Rye. All of the whiskey is purchased and then blended and bottled accordingly or in this case, further rested in another barrel for single barrel purchase. The whiskies that make up the Jefferson’s Reserve Very Old, Very Small Batch are most likely between the ages of 10-15 years old. The producer of origin is un-known for sure, and varies between the line up, but multiple producers do go into each bottling.

This barrel #482 of Jefferson’s Reserve yielded 216 individually numbered bottles. When lined up against other potential barrel selections offered as well as non-single barrel official bottling of Jefferson’s Reserve, this was a clear stand out favorite amongst us all, with more depth and pronounced character in all three key areas of analysis – nose, palate and finish. The whiskey pours a hue of orange-brown and elicits aromas of vanilla, tobacco, leather and oak spice. Savory in the nose it continues on the palate with a very silky texture greeting you with flavors of lemon and bitter chocolate followed by more earthy flavors of tobacco and wood succeeding each other on the finish. This stuff is easy to drink because of the balance and texture. It starts off sweet and chewy but finishes dry and spicy, kind of like a bold new world wine. It is perfect neat as is, but wouldn’t mind you splashing it over ice. It also makes the perfect accompaniment to a Monte Cristo or mild cigar, where the flavors dance in harmony developing a sum greater than its parts.

BOM Club Tasting Notes: July 2015

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               PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you this month’s beer club tasting notes for July. This sunny, summer month we turn to gose, a German style of sour beer. Gose has quickly become a trendy beer with zesty, savory sourness. Let’s raise a couple glasses of gose this month, tasting a clean, precise, session version from Off Color Brewing in Chicago, and sipping an artful, barrel-aged version from Colorado’s Paradox Beer Company.

            Prost!
Rich Higgins, Master Cicerone

Back in January of 2012, we featured a newly imported beer from Leipzig in this Club. At the time, it was a rare sighting of an esoteric sour German beer style, and I was excited to give the beer some daylight. The beer was Bayerischer Bahnhof brewery’s Gose, resurrected and brewed by a pioneering craft brewery in the center of Leipzig. Leipzig’s beer culture had somberly deteriorated during its time in the Eastern Bloc, and Soviet culture and pilsner economics had turned this city — home to dozens of gose taverns in the 1800s into a tomb for this tart, spiced ale.

Gose (pronounced GO-zuh; different from Belgium’s gueuze, which is pronounced GEU-zuh) is a low-alcohol, low-bitterness, slightly sour, spiced wheat ale. Gose derives its name from the town and river where the style coalesced: the town of Goslar, on the Gose River, 100 miles from Leipzig. Goslar was a salt mining center in the Middle Ages, and its well water is naturally a bit salty. In addition to brewing with this salty water, beer in pre-industrial Goslar and Leipzig was fermented in part by bacteria that produce lactic acid. Thus, for centuries the wheat beer from this area was slightly salty and slightly sour. Historically it was common to add spices to beer, and dash of coriander became a common addition to gose. As Goslar’s mining economy faded and Leipzig became a larger, industrial city, the center of gose consumption moved to Leipzig in the 1700s. Unfortunately, in the 20th Century wars and Soviet occupation were not kind to East German breweries, and between 1945 and 2000 gose was only intermittently brewed.

In the past 3 years, a hundreds of American craft brewers, and even handful of new German breweries, have added gose to their line-up and gose’s future is looking up. Not for the first time, the exuberance and growth of craft beer in the US saved a style. (Last February, Thrillist published an article claiming craft beer had jumped the shark in embracing gose; I hope you’ll disagree after tasting this month’s beers.) Fitting nicely into the fast-growing thirst for sour beers, gose has helped add diversity within the sour beer range. Gose satisfies a demand for sour beer in a faster, less-expensive production cycle. I call it a “fresh sour,” since it doesn’t take any longer to ferment than a non-sour beer, and it’s meant to be drunk fresh and not be aged. Just as yogurt and bread dough will sour within a couple days, gose wort turns from wheaty and bland to zesty and tart within just a few days, courtesy of fast-souring lactobacillus bacteria. The beers lack the complexity of a lambic or a wild ale, but just a few weeks after brew day, they’re in mugs out in the marketplace, while more complex sours sit in barrels (and on brewery ledgers) for months or years longer.

Gose is also press-ready — freedom in a glass — as American brewers play with this spiced, sour style that had lingered as a non-compliant, red-headed step-child appendix in Germany’s Reinheitsgebot brewing culture. This side of the Pond, hey: adding verboten spices and flavors, is, in a way, what American craft beer is all about! The most successful American contributions to beer history are all upsets to established beer recipes: look at steam beer (brewing lagers at warm San Francisco temperatures), American lagers (sneaking corn and rice into pilsner’s malt bill), and American pale ales and IPAs (using bold, brash American hops in place of delicate, refined European hops). Where the Saxons stopped at salt and coriander in their gose recipes, Yankee ingenuity is infusing goses with delicious blasphemies like cilantro, lemon verbena, hibiscus, marionberry, and sumac.

Troublesome Off Color Brewing, Chicago, Illinois, USA 4.3% ABV
Much like bakers, Off Color’s brewmasters John Laffler and Dave Bleitner keep a couple lactic fermentations in their Chicago brewery. A baker calls it a sourdough starter or a mother, and pinches off a portion of this sourdough to knead and bake into that day’s sourdough bread, and replenishes the mother with some fresh flour and water to be soured overnight for the next day’s bread. That concept is alive and well in liquid form at craft breweries like Off Color. In two rigged “farmboy” tanks, Laffler and Bleitner keep a population of lactobacillus bacteria happy, borrowing some lactically-soured beer from time to time in exchange for keeping those sour tanks topped up with fresh wort on brew days. Lots of breweries (not the majority, but not a few) keep “lacto beer” on hand to blend into the mash tun, into the wort kettle, and into fermented batches of beer — in small and large amounts, tweaking pH here and adding bready, yogurty tartness there. German brewers do it, too, and in concert with pasteurization, it’s a valuable way to add a hint of refreshing acidity without letting a beer become more sour during its time in the bottle. For Troublesome gose, Laffler and Bleitner hew to the modern German approach, brewing a base plain wheat beer, harvesting and pasteurizing the exact right amount of lacto beer for blending, and adding it to the wheat beer along with salt and coriander to create a subtle, precise, refreshing beer. It’s the perfect biergarten beer, whether you’re in Leipzig, The Loop, or on Lombard Street: drinkable (gulpable, really), refreshing, and great with sunshine, sweat, and sausage.

Troublesome is a hazy, pale straw color, pouring into the glass beneath a fleeting white head. It smells supremely doughy, with faint hints of orange peel, meyer lemon, and hay. It’s the ultimate refresher, drinking easily with slight sourness, saltiness, and woody spice. It explores tastes that most beers ignore: it’s a balance of sour and salty (both of which tease the faintest sweetness from the dry malts), rather than being a tangle of bitterness and residual sugar as most beer styles are. Though it’s low in alcohol and sweetness, its mouthfeel isn’t thin, instead offering nice breadiness to chew on (it is a wheat beer, after all). Troublesome shows gose’s softer side, and is a supremely refreshing craft beer that can be the beer geek’s quaffer or the quaffer’s geeky beer. Drink it with a burrata salad, a plate of sushi, bagels with schmear, lox, and capers, or a Chicago hot dog.

Skully Barrel No. 25 – Salted Sumac Gose
Paradox Beer Company, Woodland Park, Colorado, USA 7.6% ABV

 

 

 

 

 

 
Gose is the inspiration for Paradox’s Skully #25, but it breaks the mold in some anachronistic ways, both into the past and the future. This is to be expected from a brewery whose ethos is to be “unflinchingly wayward.” Gose is normally a clean, stainless-steel-fermented wheat beer bolstered by salinity and tinged with simple acidity; charting a new path while borrowing from age-old traditions, Skully #25 (like all of Paradox’s beers) is entirely fermented in oak by a host of wild Colorado yeasts and bacteria. This slow, rustic fermentation in used chardonnay barrels produces the style’s requisite lactic acid, but also imparts depth, complexity, and structure that take this beer beyond the clean lines of a Germanic beer. The beer’s tartness is accompanied by the wild microflora’s earthy, barny hints of wet wool and goat cheese. Also, rather than showing other goses’ snappy finish, Skully #25’s aftertaste is a lingering, wheaty breadiness layered with the oak’s slightly drying tannins and oxidized softness. Rather than relying on the woody, lemony hints of coriander for aroma, sumac is used to show hints of lemon blossom and a wind-swept, piney, thyme-like scent (it reminds me of the garrigue scent that’s prized in coastal Mediterranean wines) along with lip-smacking, sour berry hints like red currants, all while sea salt mixes with oaky toast to evoke a beachy, sandy element.

Brewer and blender Jeff Airman drew inspiration from sumac when he enjoyed its complex flavors on a trip to Istanbul. For Airman, the “challenge was to bring all these ideas together in liquid form while creating a balance between them that kept nothing in the shadows.” White wine barrels, coolship, wild yeasts and bacteria, sumac, sea salt, lactic acidity, sour beer from Rocky Mountain Foothills via Goslar and Leipzig. That’s quite a list, and fraught with potential for over-exuberance, gimmickiness, and imbalance. But a taste of this beer reveals that it’s all there; balanced, complementary, graceful, and delicious.

Skully Barrel No. 25 pours a golden orange hue topped with an attractive, sturdy head of foam. Its bouquet is complex, like a walk through an open-air market in Casablanca or Guadalajara, wafting scents of sourdough, corn masa, pomegranate, pineapple, herbs, and spices, amidst a breeze of beach and barnyard. A sip brings in a wave of smooth, salty, lactic sourness that’s supple and supported by oak tannins. On the mouthfeel, the hardness (from salt, acid, carbonation, and tannins) is perfectly balanced by the creamy nature of the lactic acid, the bready wheat malt, and the smooth oxidation from barrel aging. Skully #25 sidesteps the simple, freshness of a traditional gose, but wayward Paradox has crafted a delicious, savory, supple sour ale, expanding along the way the conversation around what a gose can be. Serve it alongside a board of salumi and aged sheep’s milk cheese, or pair it with Moroccan-style couscous with apricot, za-atar, and harissa. It especially loves all kinds of fish, including olive-oil-poached tuna, clams in Chinese black bean sauce, and even uni draped over garlicky pasta.

Days of Denim

days of denim

Denim is one of my favorite categories. There’s a wash for every occasion, a fit for everybody type and style for every age.

At the moment, I’m especially loving a good boyfriend jean in a medium worn in wash, like the Fidelity Denim Axl jean and pair with a wedge or heel to balance the relaxed leg. For a cleaner style, I’ve always been a fan of a good J Brand dark rinse skinny and often wear with a flat or sandal. The Indio wash from Hudson offers a lighter wash and cropped fit, so you can pair with a white tee in the fall months and still have a summer vibe.

Right now, we have the whole spectrum of new washes and fits to take you into fall and winter and we cannot wait to pair with cozy sweaters that will be arriving in the coming weeks!

 

Fall Pieces We’re Currently Falling For

 

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Even though temps have been hotter than hot here in Napa, they’re not stopping the fall arrivals from coming our way. Which makes us wish we could sport the latest hats and sweaters sooner than later. In the meantime, we can lust over some pieces that we can’t wait to wear full throttle in the next few months.

SUNNIES: if you typically reach for a black or tortoise frame, this olive color is a good way to switch it up + the fit is fantastic.

BLACK PANT: an updated fall staple + the softest fabric ever.

TEE: the color of the year + goes with your fall color palette.

NECKLACE: the necklace you’ll wear all year long + the most dainty piece to pair with everything.

FLOPPY HAT: two words: instant chic + just the right amount of flop.

SWEATER: asymmetrical hem + neutral color, makes for your not so average fall sweater.

 

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The Bag We Can’t Get Enough Of

perry Collage

Everyone loves a good tote bag. I mean, it’s a must in this day and age. At the same time, it’s hard to not have 52 different ones. Until we came across Tory Burch’s latest bag – The Perry Tote. This bag is fantastic in every aspect. Constructed with Tory’s signature buttery soft pebbled leather and contrast color inside, it fits all your essentials and then some. If you’re in need of an upgraded staple tote bag, you might want to meet this new guy, Perry and add to your collection. The makes 53.

Conversations with Hilary: Daniel Lurie

This month I have the honor of featuring someone I admire immensely, Daniel Lurie, the founder of Tipping Point Community. Philanthropy is a big part of my life and I admire Daniel and his mission to eradicate poverty in the Bay Area. Tipping Point raises money to support Bay Area nonprofits focused on improving the lives of those in poverty through employment, education, housing, and wellness initiatives. Since 2005, they have raised more than $80 million to support nearly 365,000 people in need. I love that Daniel saw a need for immediate action, and took it on with such passion and focus.

1. What do you believe to be your greatest accomplishment?
Marrying my wife, Becca Prowda. And starting Tipping Point Community in 2005.

2. If you could do anything other than what you currently do, what would it be?
With my work at Tipping Point and with the Super Bowl 50 Host committee, I have two great roles. I wouldn’t change it.

3. What do you like most about what you do for a living/career?
My job allows me to interact and learn from the best leaders in the non-profit and business world.

4. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
It’s not usually up to me. Either my four-year-old daughter has woken me up or I go to get my giggling one-year-old son from bed. It’s usually pretty cute, except when it’s really early.

5. What’s your favorite thing to do on a Friday night?
Hang with my wife at home and watch a movie.

6. What were you passionate about in your younger years growing up?
I always had the urge to want to make a difference, but I didn’t know how. And sports, I’ve always loved playing and watching sports. I still do.

7. What are you passionate about now?
The San Francisco Bay Area. We are living during a historical time. There is so much exciting innovation and progress happening, but there are still a million people here struggling just to survive. If we don’t take care of our neighbors I wonder how history will actually remember us. I am excited to help make this a time we look back on with pride.

8. What’s your favorite season and why?
I grew up in the San Francisco so I feel like that’s a tough one to answer. Probably fall because San Francisco’s weather is at its best!

9. If you were stuck on a deserted island, what three items would you want to have with you?
Honest answer: a cell phone with service to get me off the island. Otherwise, a great spy novel, some beers, and a surfboard. I am terrible surfer, so it would give me a chance to learn without anyone watching.

10. If you were a cocktail or a drink what would it be? 
A good tequila on the rocks with a little lime juice.

11. What’s the #1 most played song on your iPod?
I listen to Murph and Mac on KNBR 680 religiously. And ever since Prince played a Tipping Point concert last year at The Fillmore, he’s been at the top of my list.

12. If you could have lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Franklin D. Roosevelt. His leadership during this country’s most challenging time is without equal. I would have loved to see his optimism up close.

13. If your life was made into a movie, what would it be called?
I would go see any other movie (even Sharknado 3), before going to see my life story on the big screen.

14. Do you have any regrets?
I’ve been given so many opportunities and have taken advantage of them to the best of my abilities.

15. Define Freedom.
That everyone regardless of the zip code they are born into has an opportunity to have a great education, access to high-quality health care and the chance to chase their dreams.

16. What are your personal core values?
Service, respect, and humility.

 

 

Top Five Picks for Summer

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Fall & Winter might be right around the corner, but the weather is still beautiful and hot in Tahoe this time of year. Here are 5 must have’s in Tahoe this summer. Whether you’ll be lounging on the beach, lake or pool this summer these pieces are perfect for keeping you looking stylish this season. All items are available at PlumpJack Sport located in the Village at Squaw Valley in North Lake Tahoe.

Fringe Bag from Big Buddha
Update your bag collection with a new shade and trend, fringe continues into this fall & winter.

Two Piece from Tart Swim
An update on the traditional polk dot bikini, super cute and an easy fit.

Sienna Tomboy Shorts by Level 99
Can’t go wrong with cutoffs while you are cruising down the bike path to the lake.

Perfect Fit dress by Tysa Designs
In love with this dress & print! Throw it on after your hike or swim and wear it out to a casual dinner or happy hour. This versatile dress is a must have for your summer wardrobe.

Large Aviators by RayBan
And you can’t forget the most essential accessory for summer, a pair of stylish shades. We love the green & blue statement mirror lenses from RayBan.

Summertime Beers You Need to Try

Beer selections from PlumpJack Wine & Spirits in Noe Valley

Beer selections from PlumpJack Wine & Spirits in Noe Valley

Summer, the ideal season to crack open a cold beer and enjoy the sunshine. Beer is tailor made for this time of year, a time full of festivals and parties. From pilsners to lagers to summer ales and saisons the flavor possibilities are endless. Allow me to show you some of my personal favorite beers to enjoy during the summer season.

Stone Brewing Company: Delicious IPA
Stone Delicious IPA is an intensely citrusy, bitter beer that caters to today’s modern hop heavy tastes. This beer pours a beautiful golden hue with a light body. Sporting a slight spiciness this beer is a great beer to enjoy at a BBQ. Lemondrop and El Dorado hops bring magnificent lemon candy like flavor to the palate. Stone Delicious IPA is a perfect pairing with pulled pork or a spice rubbed pork loin.

Stillwater Artisanal Ales: Cellar Door
White sage graces this beer in both taste and aroma, which is then joined by a wonderfully pleasant taste of tangerine and valencia oranges. This beer finishes dry and crisp making it perfect for a hot summer day.

Modern Times: Fortunate Islands
Characteristically this beer shares a lot of similarities of an uber hoppy IPA and an easy drinking wheat beer, a large dose of Citra and Amarillo hops give this beer a huge rush of tropical hop aromas; fresh mango, tangerine and passion fruit tones will take you back to that tropical vacation. You will feel as if you are back on the beach sipping a cold glass of sunshine.

Prairie Artisan Ales: Funky Gold Amarillo
Funky Gold Amarillo is a dry hopped sour ale which is a blend of Prairies sour golden ale and a whole bunch of fresh Amarillo hops. The result is a beer that is a mix of tropical fruit and pure prairie funk. Peachy notes are swallowed by big orange citrusy tones, notes of white wine can be found in both the flavor and aroma. This beer is perfect to enjoy as the sun starts to set and the colors of the sky turn bright and colorful.

Baird Beer: Temple Garden Yuzu Ale
This beer pours a hazy amber peachy color, a delicate aroma of orange and tangerine play with your senses. The flavor is similar to candied citrus making this beer an excellent pairing for fish tacos on the beach, ceviche, or a bright summer citrus salad. The yuzu fruit adds a lemon cream aroma and flavor to the beer making it perfect for a warm summer day.

- Joshua Thinnes
General Manager and Wine & Spirits Buyer, Noe Valley Location

Love beer or need to send a fellow beer lover a gift? Then order PlumpJack Wine & Spirits Three Cheers for Beer in a Bucket gift basket. This perfectly curated gift comes with three kinds of beer, plus delicious snack pairings.

Scotch Whisky Club Tasting Notes: 2015

Alexander Murray & Co Ltd ‘Highland Park’ 13yr
Distilled in 2000 at Highland Park Distillery, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland
Bottled by Alexander Murray & Co Ltd at cask strength 56.1 % abv

Summer is in finally here, and we have the second quarter Scotch Whisky Club Tasting Notes for you! We’re excited to be featuring another new broker bottler to the Scotch Club, Alexander Murray & Co Ltd. While they specialize in custom label bottlings for individual customers and businesses like Trader Joes and Costco (Kirkland), they also bottle their single malts under their own name. We tasted nearly 30 expressions and this was one of our favorites. It didn’t hurt that it was one of few that were bottled at cask strength! Highland Park is a favorite of many regular scotch drinkers (myself included). The last time we featured an expression from Highland Park was in our inaugural release of the Scotch Club in 2007. While most of the core expressions of Highland Park are matured in sherry casks, this one was matured entirely in bourbon casks, making it daytime appropriate and summer approved.

 Sláinte,
Joshua Thinnes

The island of Orkney is simply a magical place. Definitely not British, not really Scottish, as it was a Norse settlement for more than 700 years until it was assumed by Scotland through a marriage. Civilization has occupied this land since 8000 BC. Orkney, along with all the other Hebridean islands including Islay remained loyal to Norway until the 13th century. In 1262 Angus Mor, the Lord of Islay, fighting alongside the Vikings lost control to Scotland in the Battle of Largs. Scotland needed the land for strategic naval positioning fighting off the Danish as they settled on lease terms with Norway. Later in the mid-1400s, after years of unpaid rent to Norway’s King Christian I, Scotland’s debt was forgiven in exchange for the marriage of Scotland’s King James III to Christian’s daughter. The next 300 years solidified a Scottish Norwegian alliance that resisted countless attempts at Danish overrule to no avail. Though Orkney had officially become part of Scotland, most Orcadian people never considered themselves Scottish, and the islands have truly a distinct feel.

Kirkwall, Scotland

                            Kirkwall, Scotland

Highland Park distillery was established in 1798 by Magnus Eunson. The famous 18th century rogue smuggler set up shop on the former site of an illicit still that had been in operation for decades before. Ironically, in the basement of a church where he was a preacher that once stood on the site. It was known as ‘High Park’ for its location on a hill above the town of Kirkwall. In one telling story, it is said that Magnus got word of an imminent inspection by the local exisemen John Robertson, looking for evidence of whisky smuggling. He quickly assembled some of the parishioners and moved all the barrels of whisky from the cellar into the church, where they put coffin lids over the barrels, and draped them with white funerary shroud. When the taxmen arrived, the mass launched into a roar of loud and soulful mourning. One of the parishioners mumbled to the visitors “smallpox”, and just like that, Robertson bailed without completing his search. Eunson was finally arrested in 1813, and as irony would have it, the distillery was sold to the same tax excisemen John Robertson, who promptly turned it legit and began legal distillation. Highland Park distillery has been in continuous operation ever since. Today Highland Park along with sister distillery Macallan is owned by the Edrington Group. And both are renowned amongst collectors and drinkers alike as one of the best, most well-rounded drams.

Highland Park also boasts the title of northernmost distillery in Scotland. The distillery’s location in the Orkney Islands provides a setting that encompasses the very best of all of Scotland’s distilling regions. The Orkneys are now considered a part of the Highlands, and its whiskies share many of the traits of the more familiar highland distilleries, like aromas of heather, wildflowers and honey. The barley for their whisky is malted and then slowly kilned dry over a period of 5-7 days using peat smoke, imparting a slight smoky quality to the whisky, although this peatiness is not nearly as strong as malts from Islay. They are one of the few distilleries peating their own barley, up to 20% nowadays. The island location also exposes the whisky aging in cask, to strong breezes and storms coming off of the North Sea, imparting a slight saltiness on the whisky as it matures. Whisky at Highland Park is aged predominately in used Sherry casks, which imparts a vinous, fruity quality to the malt, as well as a touch of sweetness (although this particular bottle saw no Sherry cask).

The Highland Park that you hold in your hands was not bottled by the Highland Park, but by independent spirits bottler Alexander Murray & Co. As we’ve discussed before, prior to the last quarter of a century or so, almost no Single Malt Scotch was bottled with the intention to be consumed straight. Nearly every cask of whisky was sold to the blending houses, who, according to their house style, would blend dozens of different single malts, along with more neutrally flavored grain whisky, to achieve their house style. Frequently these blends will contain in excess of 50-60 different whiskies, each used sparingly to lend a bit of their character to the final product. Starting in the mid-1800’s, specialized wine & spirits brokers, and even a few licensed grocers began purchasing casks that they thought were especially distinctive. These merchants would bring the whole casks to their shops, and display them on site. Their customers would come in, frequently bringing their own flasks, bottles, or other containers, and buy their whisky by the liter, tapped straight from the barrel. When the bottling of whisky became cheaper and more commonplace, these merchants switched over to selling their whiskies by the bottle, so that they could market their products to a larger audience than just their local customers.

After distillation, the ‘new make’ spirit was filled to what is known as a refill American hogshead: a barrel of specific size (a hogshead is 66 US gallons, or 250 liters) that was previously used to age Bourbon whiskey in the United States. According to law, bourbon must be aged in brand-new, heavily charred casks. After bourbon is bottled, there are a lot of used barrels left over that are of no further use to the Bourbon distiller. Most are sold to Scotch distilleries, as the more neutral qualities of used wood are great for the milder, subtler Scotch whiskies made of malted barley. This type of barrel will slowly lend its color to the aging Scotch, without imparting any overt oaky flavors. This whisky is lightly peated, providing just a hint of smoke on the nose and palate. The nose expresses an unmistakable Highland Park quality of orange, honey and heather that is further developed on the palate. Flavors of spiced orange, burnt orange peel and heather linger on the finish. Every sip conjures aromas of zested orange and memories of summertime flowers while aromas of salty seaside air permeate. At cask strength the finish is spicy but with the addition of a dash of water the flavors really open up and develop. I’ve also noticed that as I drink the bottle past the shoulder mark the whisky continues to open up and develop. This whisky is a perfect summertime sipper – light enough to sip in the sunshine while still being expressive and full of character. If it gets hot out, try it with splash of chilled soda water with an orange twist. Enjoy!

PJWine&Spirits