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BOM Club Tasting Notes: October 2015

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PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you the beer club tasting notes for October. This month, we’re taking a quick break from beer to feature two apple ciders. Dupont’s is a traditional Norman cider (as in Normandy, France) with protected designation of origin status. The second bottle, West County’s Redfield, is a rose-hued varietal cider from the New World (Western Mass., on the Vermont border, to be exact). Each is a delicious sip of the orchard and a great partner at the autumn dinner table.nike free run sale

Cheers!

Rich Higgins, Master Cicerone


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Cidre Bouché Brut de Normandie 2014 Domaine Dupont, Victot-Pontfol, Normandy, France 5.5% ABV
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The Norman countryside is filled with dairy cows, rolling pasture, and orchards full of apple and pear trees. For centuries, farmers have been making ciders and perries from the fruit and pairing it with dishes full of cheese and cream. Calvados and Pays d’Auge are two sub-regions of central Normandy, and both are famous also for their apple and pear brandies, known collectively as Calvados, distilled from cider and perry. The French government has recognized the cider from this green, fertile region of France as having tradition, terroir, and quality, and has protected its heritage and future with an AOC — appellation d’origine controllee — to regulate its production and promote its uniqueness. Etienne Dupont was one of the principal boosters of the AOC designation
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has been producing ciders and Calvados under the guidance of a Dupont family member since 1887. They grow 13 varieties of apples, categorizing each as either bitter, bittersweet, sweet, or acid. They celebrate Pays d’Auge terroir, describing the area’s soil as nutrient-poor and full of chalk, clay, and marl, which produces small, intense fruit. (More generous soil would yield bigger, less-concentrated fruit filled with water.) Cidre Bouché Brut de Normandie is the producer’s entry-level cider, a tasty, quaffable, sparkling cider. They also produce cider aged in oak, fortified sweet ciders, and Calvados. For the Brut de Normandie, they harvest and press estate-grown apples, then make a blend that is 80% juice from “bittersweet” apples and 20% juice from “acid” (sour) apples. In another nod to terroir, they ferment the juice with indigenous yeasts; that is, the yeast or “bloom” that naturally resides on the apple skins. After fermentation, they bottle-condition the cider, bottling it with live yeast that will produce the carbonation and more fermentation flavors directly inside the bottle. In French, bouchon means “cork,” and cidre bouché refers to this cider that is “corked” or “under cork.” The combination of live yeast in the bottle, the cork packaging, and single-vintage dating (2014, in our case), allows for the cider to age, mellow, and cellar, attaining a slightly damp, musty, leathery note that is complex and très français. (French farmhouse beers, or bières de garde, are known for this character, as well.) The cider drinks with complexity but accessibility. It has residual sweetness — about 5% apple fructose by weight — which the Duponts liken to the apple-y, caramelly flavors of another local specialty: the baked apple dessert called tarte tatin.
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Cidre Bouché Brut de Normandie pours a rich honey yellow beneath a tempest of frothy white foam. The initial foam subsides, but a persistent stream of perlage continues to bubble forth. Scents of fruit, flowers, and bread rise from the glass: a Norman bouquet of baked apple, anise, meyer lemon, and bready, yeasty sparkling wine. The palate is off-dry, offering a pleasant nectar sweetness that softens the apples’ acidity and slight bitterness as well as the carbonation’s tingle. The French prize the flavor of noyaux, the meaty nut at the center of an apricot pit; this cider exhibits flavors of noyaux and bread dough from the wisps of spent yeast and apple lees residing at the bottom of the bottle. Slight dampness and mustiness show a bit of this cider’s age. Rather than showing bracing, vibrant apple freshness, this bottle has mellowed and gained complexity with age. Subtle tannins linger on the tongue, offering a structure and astringency that beg for another sip of this enjoyable cider. Pair it at the start of a meal with charcuterie and cheese — the more French and Norman the better, to appreciate the terroir: rabbit rillettes, pâte de campagne, good Camembert, Pont l’Evêque, etc. The Normans cook with cider, too, enjoying it in cidery cream sauces to accompany chicken or seafood. Sautéing some skin-on chicken in butter and shallots, then deglazing the pan with cider and simmering with some cream and fresh thyme would be a simple, delicious partner for a glass of Dupont cidre.
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Redfield Cider West County Cider, Colrain, Massachusetts, United States 6.6% ABV  
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Move a family of Northern California winemakers to the Berkshire mountains, and you get a family with a love of the land and a passion for flavor, along with a thirst for grapes that can’t be quenched. Missing their vineyard, the Terry and Judith Maloney, along with their son, Field, got some tips from their rural neighbors and tried their hand at fermenting apples into cider. From their first harvest in 1972, they were hooked, and by 1984, they made their first commercial sales. Legally registered as a winery, these cider revivalists claim to be the first US winery to specialize in hard cider.
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Their orchards have expanded in the ensuing years, and now with 1400 apple trees, they produce a handful of varietal ciders that they ferment and bottle in their farmhouse cellar. A varietal cider, just like a varietal wine, is a cider made from a single apple variety, showcasing all the nuances of that apple. Most cideries make blends, using the juice of several different apples to get tannic structure from one, fermentable sugars from another, bright acidity from yet another, and a variety of flavors from all of them. Most cider apples, as opposed to table apples that you eat out-of-hand, are too tannic and sour to be enjoyable when eaten. They can make for great cider, when allowed to ferment and age properly, which shows the cider maker’s skill. Redfield is an apple variety that is known in the cider world for its crimson-colored flesh, searing acidity, and bold tannins — pretty to look at it, terrible to eat, and a challenge to turn into a varietal cider. Developed in New York state in 1938, the apple is a cross between a Wolf River Apple and a Niedzwetzskayana Red Crabapple. (Obviously.)

The Maloneys make two different Redfield ciders: a Redfield varietal and a Redfield/Golden Delicious blend that’s 75% Redfield with 25% Golden Delicious; evidently, some drinkers find the Redfield to be too intense an apple to be fully tamed on its own in a bottle of cider. Your bottle of Redfield is the pure varietal, and so the Redfield’s personality (red hue, bright malic acid, firm tannins, and sweet-savory flavor) is powerfully on display in this cider. Furthermore, the Maloneys ferment it with neutral commercial yeast, rather than an indigenous yeast that might muddy the waters with its own flavors. (To taste some more of West County’s terroir, their Kingston Black varietal cider is fermented with wild yeast.) It’s not just the Redfield apple’s character that’s on display, here, but also the Maloneys’ impressive cider making skills, in order to make this Redfield so a smooth and elegant a cider, certainly not as sour and austere as some ciders can be, nor as tannic and coarse as others.
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Redfield pours an elegant salmon rose color, topped with a hint of bubbly pink lace. The delicate nose shows cut apple, persimmon, grass, and chamomile, along with sweet-savory hints of roasted carrots and winter squash. It tastes clean and pure, a perfectly apple-y, refreshing juice at first. Then more intriguing flavors of chestnut, cucumber, and blood orange chime in, intermingling with the smooth acidity and firm tannins. With its restrained carbonation and savory flavors, it has less in common with most bright, zesty ciders and instead recalls an Italian rosato wine — a negroamaro rosato, perhaps. It’s delicious, complex, and shows an alluring, romantic side of cider. Pair this with grains, mushrooms, and dairy products, allowing the cider to provide savory harmony and fruity counterpoint to the pairing. Tagliatelle with creamy-mushroom sauce and truffle (either truffle oil or the real thing — November is white truffle season, after all); squash ravioli with chestnuts and brown butter; a grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough; pizza with mozzarella, tomatoes, and good salame; or even a quesadilla with queso fresco, chicken, and cilantro would all be great partners with this cider.

 

Champagne Club Tasting Notes: October 2015

Champgane Blog Post BannerPlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you the Champagne club tasting notes for October. This month we are showcasing two wines with very different pasts. The Lilbert-Fils domain has a centuries long history cultivating vines and making wine in Champagne, while the J-M Sélèque domain is relatively young, starting in just 1964. Lilbert-Fils is a classic Côte des Blancs champagne, while J-M Sélèque has become a leader in the organic and biodynamic movement amongst vintners in Champagne. We bring you theses two very different but very delicious wines just in time to celebrate the arrival of fall and the bounty of the season it brings with it.new balance 1

                                          A Votre Santé,
Your Friends at PlumpJack Wine & Spirits
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Champagne Lilbert-Fils Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc Brut NV

Champagne J-M Sélèque Cuvee Tradition Brut NVcurry 1

            Lilbert-Fils is a tiny Champagne house, but a very old one. The Lilbert family is another family of Champagne that has been cultivating vines in the region for centuries. Records show the family has been at it since at least 1746 and possibly longer (the oldest part of the family cellar dates back to 1712). They have been bottling their own wine for commercial sale since as early as 1907. With only 8.6 acres of vines the Lilbert’s are able to produce 30,000 bottles a year making this a difficult wine to come by.
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Bertard Lilbert and his father, Georges, currently run the estate. They make all of their wine from their own vineyards, which break down into 15 parcels all from Grand Cru villages in the Côte des Blancs. Wine-producing villages in Champagne are classified as grand cru, premier cru, or simply cru. If a producer makes a wine using only grand cru or premier cru fruit, he may use these terms on the bottle’s label, and the Lilberts’ do just that. Unlike Burgundy, where the vineyards are rated according to their quality, the quality classification in Champagne is rated according to villages. Established at the end of the 19th century, the Échelle des Crus (ladder of growth) ratings are expressed from 80% to 100%, taking into account the quality of the soil, the nature of the sub-soils and the microclimate. The 100% wines are considered to offer the highest qualitative potential and are given the status of Grand Cru. There are 17 Grand Cru villages in all of Champagne, six alone in the Côte des Blancs. The Lilberts’ own holdings in three out of those six – 10% of their vines are in Oiry, 30% in Chouilly, and 60% in Cramant.
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All Lilbert-Fils Champagnes are 100% Chardonnay and 100% Grand Cru. They produce a non-vintage blanc de blanc, made from grapes farmed from all three Grand Cru villages and comprised of two or three consecutive vintages. It is then aged on its lees for a minimum of three years and dosed with 6-8 g/l of sugar. Along with the non-vintage ‘Perle’, the house’s rarest and most sought-after wine produced from old vines sourced from all three communes, they relase a vintage wine that is only produced in the best of years. All of the wines are made in steel vats and all undergo malolactic fermentation. The bottles are riddled by hand in a deep, hand-dug chalk cellar, and the wine is disgorged the old-fashioned way (without freezing). The end result is a true connoisseurs champagne.
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The Champagne Lilbert-Fils Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc Brut is a classic Côte des Blancs with great purity and finesse and the unmistakably chalky perfume of the region. This is not a fruit forward wine. Though fruit is present (on the palate more than the nose), it is reminiscent more of a fruit tart than that of a fresh apples or pears. Aromas of flaky pastry become noticeable first, followed by baked orchard fruit. What you find in this wine is an elegant combination of chalky, silky minerals, a delicate creaminess similar to an éclair (without the chocolate), and the buttery flakiness of the best croissant you’ve ever had. This is a wine with true staying power and longevity. Enjoy it with a spread of fine aged French cheeses, accompanied by various nuts and dried fruits. It also pairs well with roasted pork tenderloin glazed in stewed apples and onions.
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Compared to the long history of the Lilbert Family, the Sélèque Family are relative newcomers to growing and producing Champagne. Henri Sélèque planted his first plots of vines in 1965 with the help of his father-in-law, Jean Bagnost. Bagnost was the president of the Pierry wine cooperative at the time. In 1974 Henri’s son Richard, joined the domain and began making Champagne after earning a degree in enology. He helped to update the winery facilities as well as expand its vineyard holdings. The third generation in the family to join the domain was Richard’s son Jean-Marc, after returning to Pierry in 2008 after internships at Chandon’s facilities in Napa Valley and in Australia’s Yarra Valley.

After spending time at larger production operations Jean-Marc had a definite idea of what he wanted to bring back to his small family domain. In 2008 he steered the estate towards organic viticulture and in 2010 he began farming biodynamically. Today 10 of the 19 acres are farmed accordingly. Jean-Marc’s goal in going organic and biodynamic has been to encourage better vine and soil health and limit the amount of ‘corrections’ needed to be made in the cellar. The goal is to let the vineyards speak for themselves. Today the grapes are in much better health and are harvested with higher acidities allowing Jean-Marc to stop the practice of introducing malolactic fermentation in barrel (low pH inhibits malo). Some wines undergo no ML, while some spontaneously undergo partial or full ML.
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What started in 1964 has today expanded to include vines growing in 36 parcels across 7 different villages producing around 5,400 cases of Champagne a year. Most of the Sélèque vines grow in the communes of Pierry and then Moussy, followed by Epernay, Mardeuil, Dizy, Vertus, and Boursault. About 60% of the vines are Chardonnay, 30% Meunier and about 10% are Pinot Noir. Jean-Marc’s unwavering dedication to quality and natural approach in the vineyards guarantee that J-M Sélèque will have just as much staying power as Lilbert-Fils.
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What the Lilbert-Fils shows in elegance and finesse, the Champagne J-M Sélèque Cuvee
Tradition Brut
shows in vitality and playfulness. The chalky minerals, while present, are secondary here to the more spirited fruit characteristics. The Sélèque has a texture similar to the fluffiness of a cream cheese Danish and the richness to match. The nose smells like a lively mixture of lemon curd on top of piecrust, hazelnuts, almonds, and the chalky minerality coming into play to keep everything in balance. On the palate the fruit has more of a candied characteristic with a hazelnut and almond finish. A great pairing would be table full of fresh cracked Dungeness crab.

Italian Wine Club Tasting Notes: October 2015

We hope you enjoy the October Italian Wine Club tasting notes, courtesy of Elio Longobardi of PlumpJack Wine & Spirits.

Autumn is finally here with its glowing gold colors all around, and it is one of the best seasons to be in Tuscany. Between September and mid-November you can really enjoy this region and its countryside taking on a different pace. Even big cities like Florence and Siena aren’t crowded with zillions of tourists and you are able to get a glimpse of true Tuscan authenticity.new balance basketball

Talking about Toscana with all its history, art and beauty can become overwhelming. So much so, the term ‘Stendhal’ syndrome’ originated here – which is described as becoming so overwhelmed by beauty (particularly as it pertains to art) that one is overcome with rapid breathing and heart rate, dizziness and sometimes even hallucinations. Dante, Leonardo, Giotto, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, the Medici; they all came from here. This month we will journey to ‘la mia Toscana’, or my Tuscany, where I used to call home. I hope you will enjoy the trip.

Elio Longobardi, Italian Wine Specialist

PlumpJack Wine & Spirits – Noe Valley


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Toscana, a.k.a Tuscany is part of central Italy. Firenze is the regional capitol with nine provinces (Arezzo, Grosseto, Livorno, Lucca, Massa e Carrara, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena). The main economy of the region was agriculture until the 1960s, followed by what is called Boom economico (the economic and industrial expansion at the end of the 1950s). After that, many people that used to farm left for higher paying jobs in safer industries, leaving the countryside abandoned and neglected. It severely affected the wine production in the land of Sangiovese. It was not until the passionate and wealthy people from northern Italy started to rediscover Chianti that the renaissance of Tuscan wine restarted. Germans, Swiss, English and then Americans soon were buying even the most decrepit estates and bringing them back to a second life. Only a few Tuscans were able to preserve their properties, the noble Florentine families who have owned the land for centuries. Nowadays we see a more democratic distribution of the wine production, with younger farmers interested not only in the vineyards but also in agriculture other then grapes.url
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My family and I arrived in Toscana in 1960, leaving our hometown near Napoli. We left the south searching for a better life, and arrived in the countryside north of Firenze in a town called Prato. Not the fancy hilly Tuscany of many books and tourist pamphlets but a humble and active working community whose main occupation was textile production. Outside of town was an agricultural world with its rhythms and hard work ethic. The people, the food, the landscape – was all so different from where we come from. I was only four, but I distinctly remember feeling the difference and I felt in love with this region right away.
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Nowadays only a few patches of field have survived: industrial buildings and factories cover the rest. I was lucky to have witnessed the last of that agricultural world. Where my parents and I were living was mostly in the countryside, next to farmers and their land. When I wasn’t at school I was following Corrado, the old farmer, around the field or in the stable, where he had cows and pigs. I was helping carrying wheat to the combine in June and with harvest in September. Crushing grapes in the barrels on the wagons and taking them to the cellar. I still remember the smell of the must starting to ferment. The last day of the harvest there was this huge dinner with all the workers seated at this long table set in the farmyard. Great food, wine, and many stories the old farmers knew. After the ‘vendemmia’ it was time to prepare the land for the following season, so we would plow the fields. I can see the tracks of fresh soil dark, dense, almost wet and with intense smell of fresh clay.
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Now everything has changed and if I want to see a countryside that reminds me of my younger years I go toward the west side of Prato’s flatlands. Carmignano lies on the hills below the Montalbano ridge. The mountain systems divide the provinces of Prato and Pistoia from the western part of Florence province and the lower Valdarno valley toward Lucca, Pisa and Livorno.
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The hills are no less charming than those in Chianti or Val d’Orcia. The Medici family chose Poggio a Caiano and Artimino for two of their most beautiful villas for good reason. Easy to reach from Florence, clear visuals on the valley below, pleasant weather to escape the cold winter and the humid hot summer in the city. I recommend visiting if you are planning a trip to Italy, get a car and drive to those places and you sure will be rewarded with an enriched experience.

Conte Contini Bonaccossi, Trefiano, Carmignano Riserva DOCG, 2007
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The Capezzana estate was purchased by Count Alessandro Contini Bonaccossi from Marchese Niccolin in the beginning of the Twentieth century when he moved back from Spain with his family. He had made his fortune with a successful business in antique trades. Capezzana is situated in the commune of Carmignano in the province of Prato, 20 km from Florence, on the slopes of Monte Albano and close to the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines.
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The Tenuta Capezzana estate comprises 670 hectares, of which approximately 100 acres are vineyards and 140 acres olive groves. The estate is home to a Renaissance Villa with an adjacent farm, it has historic cellars beneath the complex which date to the 16th century, a modern olive mill and a huge “Vinsantaia” (where Vin Santo grapes are dried), above the cellar.  The “Tinaia” (fermentation cellar) was built in 1938 by Giovanni Michelucci, who was one of the most innovative architects of the 1900s, having designed both the Florence train station and the church of San Giovanni Battista on the Autostrada del Sole near Florence.

After the war in 1945, Count Alessandro’s son Ugo earned a degree on farm management and joined his father on pursuing excellence in wine production along with the other cultures such as olive oil, wheat and fruit trees. The Tenuta Capezzana estate is divided into three parts and incorporates more than 120 sharecropping farms, producing high quality wine and oil.  Today, Capezzana is in the almost unique position of having bottles dating back to the 1925 vintage.

Wine production in Carmignano dates back to the Etruscans and later the Roman period. Carmignano was designated in 1716 by the Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici as one of the four best areas for wine growing in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany – Chianti, Pomino and Valdarno Superiore the other three. The ‘Motu proprio’ Decree and ‘Bando’ laid down precise rules for production, set out geographical boundaries and regulated trade for the wines from these areas, thereby making up the first “D.O.C.” in the world. The Carmignano wine disciplinary allowed the use of Cabernet Savignon because this varietal was introduced here by Caterina de’ Medici in the Sixtieth century when she was queen of France, and the grape is still called Uva Francesca by the old farmers.
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Trefiano Carmignano Riserva is a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 10% Uva Francesca and 10% Canaiolo. The harvest occurs between the end of September and beginning of October. All the grapes are handpicked. The initial fermentation takes places in stainless steel tanks, followed by malolactic fermentation in French oak where it ages for 16 months, followed by another 12 months in the bottle prior to release. The wine presents a rich ruby color with purple highlights. The nose offers dark fruit and spice nuances with fresh hearty notes. The palate is elegantly wrapped with ripe fruit and berries. The tannins are smooth with a long finish. Pair with Sedani alla Pratese (see recipe), grilled meat and aged cheeses.

Assolati, Dionysios, Vermentino, Toscana IGT, 2013

The Assolati estate has a different history from Capezzana. Here are the humble grandparents of Loriano Giannetti. Farmers who acquired this small property in the 1950s and through hard work and perseverance cleaned a large area covered with Mediterranean shrubs to uncover the fertile soil underneath.

Assolati is located in the hilly west side of Mount Amiata near Montenero d’Orcia, in the province of Grosseto, not far away from Montalcino, Pienza and Siena. Loriano and his family are dedicated to the vineyards as well as raising the indigenous Chianina cows, famous for their tender and exquisite meat and used for the famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina. This two inch Florentine steak is a must for meat lovers and can be eaten only in Toscana! Besides farming, the Giannetti’s are running a beautiful agriturismo in their restored casale that faces the valley below toward the Maremma. The main grape grown here is Sangiovese with a small amount of Colorino, Ciliegiolo and Cabernet for the reds, along with Vermentino and little Chardonnay for the whites.

The ‘Dionysos’ Vermentino is a simple yet beautiful wine crafted with the same care and passion dedicated to the reds. The vines are growing on mix of clay and calcareous soil that provide a nice vein of acidity and minerality to the wines. Yellow stone fruits on the nose and mouth with a citrusy touch. The grapes are harvested manually in late August/beginning of September. After a gentle pressing the wine goes through cold maceration and fermentation in stainless steel tanks, where it rests for six months before bottling. This Vermentino would be a great pairing for squash or pumpkin soup, and an absolute hit with fresh cracked Dungeness or a Crab Louie Salad.

 

Sedani alla Pratese

(Stuffed celery Prato’ style)

This is a classic example of a cucina povera dish. Using left over meat and ingredients that are cheap and available. That said, this preparation requires time and attention.

Ingredients (serves 4)

Prepare a tomato sauce, with or without ground meat enough for 4 serving

8 large celery stalks, about 2 inches wide at the bottom

200gr ground veal

150gr chicken livers, chopped

200gr ground mortadella

4 eggs

2 garlic cloves chopped with a spring of parsley

Black peppercorn, freshly grounded

Nutmeg freshly grated, plenty to smell

Parmigiano

2-3 tbsp. of flour

Breadcrumbs

Olive oil

Vegetable oil

Salt

  • Cut the celery by the root side about 4 inches long and blench in plenty hot salty water for 10-15 minutes along with some celery leaves
  • Drain the celery and set them on kitchen towel, cover with another towel where we place a cutting board with some weight, to help squeeze the excess water
  • When the celery are cold and drained remove the stringy parts
  • In a bowl mix the ground veal, chopped chicken livers, mortadella, 2 eggs, garlic, parsley, nutmeg, salt and pepper
  • Scoop the mixture in the 8 wide celery pieces, using the other one as cover
  • Tie the two pieces of celery with kitchen string on both end and let rest for 20 minutes
  • Using the other 3 eggs, flour and 2tbsp of olive oil mix together to obtain a batter enough dense to coat the celery
  • In a fryer or cast iron pan, using high heat vegetable oil, fry the stuffed celery, being careful do not overcrowd the pan
  • Fry the celery for about 10 minutes, until they get a golden color. Let them rest on paper towel to lose some of the oil
  • Transfer all the celery in a large pan, with the tomatoes’ sauce and cook for about an hour over low flames
  • Serve two celery in each plate, scooping on top some sauce

Now, tutti a tavola, it is time to eat!

BOM Club Tasting Notes: August 2015

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PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you this month’s beer club tasting notes for August. This month, we look at English craft beer from two different angles. In Coniston Bluebird Bitter, we’ve got a fairly traditional British beer, but its high bitterness takes it a shade beyond the balanced approach of so many British bitters, and the brewery, which opened in 1995, is one of the pioneers of the English beer revival. The second beer for this month is Modus Vivendi, The Wild Beer Company’s flagship English old ale soured with wild Brettanomyces yeast and aged for months in used wine and bourbon barrels. It taps into a sourness more famous in Belgium and the US, but with a yeast that is wildly English.nike free 3.0 v2

Cheers!

Rich Higgins, Master Cicerone

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It’s 2015, and English craft beer brewed has fully come into its own. It’s making waves in pubs, shops, and the media, and the beers are even starting to make their way to the US. In 2014, Britain had about 1,300 breweries, and most of them stick to traditional English ales (which are “craft” in their own right, having never slid entirely into industrial mediocrity the way American beer did prior to starting the craft revolution). Traditional English ales are often about balance, subtlety, and, well, tradition. The English craft brewers of today are brewing with American hops, higher bitterness, wild yeasts, non-traditional ingredients, while cobbling nooks for their oak barrels and second-hand dairy equipment and revitalizing urban cores and country barns alike. Frankly, English craft brewers are hard to differentiate from their Yankee counterparts, which shows how far craft beer culture has come in what many regard as a stodgy, albeit high-quality, beer culture. The more esoteric and extreme beers didn’t happen overnight, though, and pioneering breweries like Coniston Brewing Co. helped lay the foundation for flashier brewers like The Wild Beer Co.

Bluebird Bitter Coniston Brewing Company, Coniston, Cumbria, UK   4.2% ABV   
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ConistaBrewing Tucked in the center of the cozy town of Coniston in the Lake District National Park is Coniston Brewing Co., nestled on the shore of Coniston Water (that’s English for “lake,” to you and me). Ronald and Susan Bradley owned the Black Bull, the town’s 400-year-old pub, and in 1994 they opened a small brewery in a building behind the Black Bull in order to provide fresh beer for the pub.
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They hired their son, Ian Bradley, as brewmaster, and retained brewing consultant David Smith to write the recipes. Within just a couple years, David’s flagship bitter recipe brewed by Ian won Britain’s highest beer award: it was crowned Champion Beer of Britain at the 1998 Great British Beer Festival. The beer is a triumph of English malts, English hops, and English yeast: incredible biscuity maltiness from heirloom Maris Otter malts mingles with orangey, earthy bitterness from classic Challenger hops, while subtle poached pear aromas from the yeast soften the bitterness and garnish the malts. I was surprised to learn that Bluebird’s name is actually more macabre than bucolic: “Bluebird K7” was the rocket boat piloted by daredevil Donald Campbell, who died in 1967 in a famous boating accident at 300 miles per hour on Coniston Water.
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Virtually every British brewery brews a “bitter,” often called an ordinary bitter to distinguish it from the brewery’s slightly stronger bitters, which in turn sport names like best, special, premium, and extra special. While Bluebird Bitter does, in fact, taste bitter, not all bitters are markedly bitter. Bitter, as a style of ale, earned that moniker in the 1930s and 1940s, decades after porter and IPA had had their heyday and wartime rationing and ingredient taxation had reduced much English beer to low alcohol and low bitterness levels. In a time of fewer and fewer beer choices, English pub-goers ordered either “mild” ale or “bitter” ale, two colloquial names that eventually coalesced into distinct beer styles.
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While Bluebird doesn’t set out to be a self-styled “craft beer,” it shows its crafty soul in upending a complacent English beer cart, a beer envisioned in a 1990s brewpub as a single-hop beer charged with the boldness of more than 35 bitterness units (more than most pilsners). If Bluebird was a wake-up call to the steadily diminishing character of English ordinary bitters, Coniston used its momentum and offering more craft brewery calling cards, such as a slightly stronger Bluebird XB with American-grown Mount Hood hops, a crisp, decidedly un-English Continental pilsner, as well as a towering, 8.5%-ABV barley wine (which was crowned Champion Beer of Britain in 2012). But it all started with Bluebird Bitter, still a classic expression of characterful English brewing.
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Pour Coniston Bluebird Bitter in a large glass and make sure sure you let it warm up a bit from refrigerator temperature. Like many English ales, it’s way too tight at fridge temperature, and only shows its soft maltiness and the fruitiness of its hops and yeast when it’s warmer than 45 degrees; 55 is perfect. It’s a gorgeous burnished orange color with a persistent white head of foam. It smells like pears, dried orange, biscuits, and a hint of waffle with butter and maple syrup. A sip of it greets your palate with pronounced, black-tea-like bitterness, a bright Pippin apple freshness, along with dashes of bread dough, woody thyme, and ginseng. Complex, savory yeast flavor and a whisper of salty, sulfate minerality accompany the finish. It’s light in body but bready at the same time, amazingly smooth and plush for only 4.2% ABV (on cask in Britain, it’s even lower alcohol at 3.6% ABV). Pair this, as brewer Ian does, with fish and chips, or else enjoy its versatility with cheeses, veggie lasagna bianca, saag paneer, or falafel and baba ghanoush. In addition to fried food and cooked veggies, it finds great harmony with minerally foods like asparagus, artichokes, and even seaweedy ramen and hijiki salad.
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Modus Vivendi The Wild Beer Company, Shepton Mallet, Somerset, UK   7.0% ABV

Beer is generally made from four ingredients: water, malted grain, hops, and yeast. Brewers Andrew Cooper and Brett Ellis founded The Wild Beer Company to brew each of their beers with a “5th ingredient,” be it fruit, oak, or time. When they became drinking buddies, Cooper was training to be a certified Beer Sommelier (a European Cicerone equivalent) and Ellis was an out-of-work California chef who had moved to the UK to marry his English girlfriend. They homebrewed and mused over pints, finally having their eureka! moments while drinking Jolly Pumpkin La Roja and George Gale’s Prize Old Ale. La Roja, from a Michigan craft brewery, was oak-aged, winey, toasty, delicious and beguiling; Gale’s Old Ale is sherryish, toffeeish, and tastes like dates dipped in wine. These are beer flavors and attitudes Cooper and Ellis decided were too rare in England, so they opened their own craft brewery to do something about it.
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To harness the ever-elusive 5th ingredient, Cooper and Ellis tap into a variety of influences, including Ellis’s culinary training, Cooper’s knowledge of beer history, and the terroir of Somerset’s dairy and apple country, south of Bristol and Bath, where the brewery is located. Their proof-of-concept beer is aptly called Modus Operandi, though in the States it’s sold as Modus Vivendi (I can’t find the reasoning online, but my guess is that Ska Brewing Co., Colorado-based brewer of Modus Hoperandi IPA, encouraged the renaming). Modus Operandi/Vivendi is based on a traditional English old ale, a chewy, malty, toffeeish ale often brewed as a winter warmer. Old ales age well, and they tend to develop some winey, sherryish acidity with age, sometimes with a tinge of Brettanomyces yeast. Brettanomyces is Latin for “British fungus,” and while Belgium is more famous for its Brett-influenced sour ales, when Brett was first identified under a microscope, it had been harvested from aged English old ales and stock ales, which often have subtle scents of cellar, wool, and dust (and sometimes pineapple or Juicy Fruit flavors) and a touch of lactic acidity. The barnyardy and horsy flavors Brett is known for are from Brettanomyces species cultivated in Belgium; the British strains on the other hand tend to be less feral in flavor. In 2012, Cooper and Ellis toured the orchards near their farm brewery, picking apples and fermenting them into cider using only the wild, indigenous yeasts and beneficial bacteria on the apple skins. Then they pitched the resulting mixed yeast-bacteria culture into their first batch of old ale and let it age for 3 months in barrels, allowing it to transform into the mature, sour, oaky, terroir-driven Modus Operandi/Vivendi. They first used bourbon barrels for the aging, but found the finished beer lacked some of the desired fruitiness and complexity, and now they age in a mixture of bourbon barrels and red Burgundy wine barrels from Le Grappin. In a 2014 interview with The Grill And Barrel blog, Ellis summed up Modus Operandi quite nicely: “It is the beer that Andrew and I built the brewery to brew and we are only now getting to know that beer.”
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Modus Vivendi pours an attractive garnet brown-mahogany beneath an off-white head of fine bubbles. Immediately, the bouquet promises a complex beer, showing scents of strawberry, hazelnut, chocolate, sherry, licorice root, and rooibos tea. On the palate, it invites you more deeply down the rabbit hole, showing sourness like goat cheese and Balsamic vinegar, the brambly earthiness of an aged red Rioja, and echoes of once-raisiny, once-toffeeish malts that have fermented to a tart, winey dryness. Barrel-aging has dropped out the classic balance and malty treacle of this English stock old ale, and it has emerged from the chrysalis poised, lean, and muscular, trading tradition for attitude in a brave new world of English beer. Pair this beer with rich, earthy dishes, like roast chicken with mushroom sauce, apples and sheep’s milk cheese, New England clam chowder, or Issan-style catfish — sweet, sour, salty, and pungent with garlic and fish sauce.

Champagne Club Tasting Notes: August 2015

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PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you this month’s Champagne club tasting notes for August. As summer draws to a close, we bring you a champagne with deep family roots in the Cotes des Blancs region. Champagne is perfect for all kinds of celebrations, whether they be a celebration of a new beginning or the last celebration of the season. What better way to say goodbye to summer than with a crisp and refreshing blanc de blancs champagne from a fantastic grower-producer in one of the top regions of Champagne? Gather your friends and give a final toast to summer!stephen curry grammy shoes

A Votre Santé,

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Guy Larmandier Vieilles Vignes Signe Francois Grand Cru Blanc De Blancs Brut 2007new balance 760

The Larmandier family has been tending vineyards in the Cotes des Blancs of Champagne for over a century. Starting in 1899 as Larmandier Père et Fils, the Larmandier Champagne family tree now includes relations on some level to many different champagne houses. In the 1970s brothers, Philippe and Guy Larmandier branched off from the original family estate to create their own estates. Philippe began the Larmandier-Bernier champagne house in 1971. His son, Pierre is currently the proprietor of Larmandier-Bernier. Now run by his wife Colette and son Francois, Guy Larmandier began the Guy Larmandier house in 1977 in the same village as his brother’s estate, at the base of the Cotes des Blancs in Vertus. Sharing a village and a name does not seem to have posed too many problems for these two exquisite champagne houses and the cousins who run them.
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There is one other branch of the Larmandier tree involved in viticulture. Francois’s sister Marie-Helene along with her husband Vincent Waris established their own estate in 1989, Waris-Larmandier, in Avize. The original trunk of this champagne family tree, Larmandier Père et Fils, is now currently owned and operated by another cousin of Pierre and Francois’, Didier Gimonnet. As if things weren’t connected enough or confusing enough – Didier, along with his brother Oscar, are owners of the Pierre Gimonnet Champagne house. As you can see, the roots of the Larmandier family do indeed run deep and wide.
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Located in the heart of the famous Côte des Blancs, the vineyards of the family Guy Larmandier can be found in the grand cru classified villages of Cramant and Chouilly and premier cru villages of Vertus and Cuis. Larmandiers’ vineyards total almost nine hectares (22 acres) with Chardonnay vines covering 95% of this land and pinot noir accounting for just 5%.  Colette and Francois Larmandier maintain the vineyards meticulously with a constant desire to reduce their environmental footprint harvesting their grapes manually so as to assure the best quality of the finished product.
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The Champagne Guy Larmandier Vieilles Vignes Signe Francois Grand Cru Blanc De Blancs Brut 2007 is made with 100% chardonnay giving birth to an elegant finish, with subtle and fragrant flavors. A vintage champagne from 2007, this wine is still showing fresh and vibrant characteristics. The grapes used were from vieilles vignes, or old vines, giving the wine a lush, concentrated body. In the glass this champagne glistens with a lovely golden yellow hue and ultra fine bubbles. The nose has a fresh, fruity and floral finesse with notes of yellow apple, tropical fruits, quince, and citrus. There are hints of sweet herbs, and a slightly nutty, brioche aroma. The palate is equally as fruity with the brioche and nutty characteristic showing up stronger and a faint, chalky minerality to balance it all out. The finish is long and focused with notes of sweet citrus, toasted almonds making this the perfect champagne to bid adieu to summer. This champagne is perfect as an aperitif before dinner, however it also pairs well with scallops, shell fish, and citrus baked halibut. The best pairing for this champagne though is gathering a group of friends for one last summer hoorah!

Italian Wine Club Tasting Notes: August 2015

We hope you enjoy the August Italian Wine Club tasting notes, courtesy of Elio Longobardi of PlumpJack Wine & Spirits. With its characteristically shaped heel of a boot at the tip of the Italian peninsula – Puglia has a similarly long history with wine like the other southern regions. The region has benefited from cultural and commercial exchange with the Greeks due to the close vicinity of its coasts with the Hellenic civilization. The particular geography of this territory was perfectly suited for the two main Mediterranean crops: olives and vines. There are still orchards of millennially old olive trees in the region. These beautiful monuments of nature are worth the trip there alone – the wine is the bonus.stephen curry blue and yellow shoes

Elio Longobardi, Italian Wine Specialist

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Puglia a.k.a. Apulia, is located in the south eastern region of Italy. The geography of the area is mostly flat with a big plain called Tavoliere that covers just over half of the territory, leaving the other half full of rolling hills and a few scattered mountains. With almost 500 miles of Adriatic coastline, Puglia is a region with lots of coastal development. The weather is typical Mediterranean, with hot dry summers and mild winters and very low precipitations. With the Adriatic Sea on the east and the Ionian Sea to the south, it borders with Molise in the northwest and Campania and Basilicata along the western boarder.
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The wine history of Puglia has been less noble than the olive cultivation because up until just a few decades ago the grapes where pushed to massive production. Long months of hot weather in a flat lowland area produced grapes rich in color and sugar. That meant they were traditionally used in blending wines to add body and alcohol to other non-mature grapes. Today the quality standards are up to par with the more advanced regions. There are six major provinces: Bari (the regional capitol), Foggia, Andria-Barletta-Trani, Brindisi, Taranto and Lecce – containing about 25 D.O.C.’s. The most planted grape varietals are all red and indigenous to the region, such as Primitivo di Manduria, Malvasia Nera, Negroamaro and Uva di Troia – which legend says was brought over by Diomedes who came to Italy after the fell of Troia. They also plant some Sangiovese, Barbera and Montepulciano. White varietals are found in lesser quantities, and you will find Fiano, Malvasia, Verdello, Coda di Volpe and Trebbiano.
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Cantine Menhir Salento, Sale, Salento IGT, 2013
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Salento, in the southern part of Puglia, has become one of the major tourist destinations in the last few years. It includes the entire province of Lecce and is full of the finest Baroque architecture. The pristine sea, the food, and laidback lifestyle help to attract people looking for places not totally exploited by commercial tourism. Here you will find Cantine Menhir, a winery owned by the Marangelli family in Minervino di Lecce, located very close to Otranto in the extreme southern part of Puglia. The vineyards are situated on 25 acres along the fertile coastal strip of Laghi Alimini adjacent to the Adriatic Sea. The Alimini Lakes are part of a protected natural wildlife reserve rich with rare species of flora and fauna.
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Marangelli has planted Primitivo, some vines as old as eighty years, along with Negramaro, Malvasia Nera, Fiano Minutolo and Malvasia Bianca. In honor of the connection with archaic traditions deeply rooted in the territory, they named their property Menhir (from the Breton words men and hir meaning long stone). The area is full of Neolithic relics.

Sale is made from 50% Fiano Minutolo and 50% Malvasia Bianca. Fiano Minutolo is an aromatic varietal not related to Campania’s Fiano. Malvasia Bianca is another native Puglia grape, different than the Malvasia Moscata of Piedmont. The vines are planted on red clay soil. The harvest is done manually in the early morning hours at the beginning of September. Soft pressing and fermentation takes place at controlled temperatures for 60 days. The wine then spends 4 months on the skins, sur lies, and another two more in the bottle prior the commercial release.
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Sale, which means salt in Italian, here is short for Salento, but it is aptly named because this wine has certain salinity qualities to it. The nose is surprisingly rich with yellow and white flowers; stone fruits such as peach and apricots also come to mind. Notes of acacia flowers, elderberry, dry oregano and a whiff of seaside air permeate from the glass. After a few initial sips, the sensations are supported with a refreshing acidity. This wine brings to mind a warm late afternoon, after a day spent on the beach. It pairs well with grilled octopus and boiled small potatoes, dressed all with quality olive oil, parsley, garlic and a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt flakes.

 Tenute Rubino, Torre Testa Susumaniello, Salento IGT, 2012
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In the mid-80’s the Rubino family started the acquisition of several parcels of land and began building their farm, stretching from the Adriatic coast to the hinterland of Brindisi. Tommaso Rubino was one of the first to understand the potential of Salento. His son Luigi followed his father’s footsteps in the beginning of 2000 when he took on the leadership of the family business. He set out to upgrade and modernized the winery, with a focus on promoting the quality of the indigenous grape varieties of Salento: Malvasia Bianca, Negroamaro, Primitivo, Susumaniello. Luigi also understood the possibilities other grapes can add to their panel of wines, so he planted some Montepulciano, Aglianico, Alicante, Vermentino and Chardonnay. There are four estates on their property, Jaddico, Marmorelle, Uggio and Punta Aquila, all planted with the same varietals in different soil compositions and microclimates – all individually reflecting wines produced from each estate.
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Luigi Rubino dedicates the same passion for each wine he makes, but there is a special spot in his heart for Susumaniello. This varietal doesn’t have the respected pedigree of some other southern red grapes such as Aglianico, Nero d’Avola or Primitivo. Matter of fact, it has been treated as the workhorse vine of Puglia, or more accurately the loaded donkey of the regional viticulture. Susumaniello has been thought to be of Dalamatian origin but recent DNA test shows that it is the result of crossing Garganega with Uva Sogra, a varietal now extinct. The name Susumaniello means in Apulia dialect to ‘load up the donkey’. The vine produces a huge number of grapes if not properly pruned or stressed. When these vines receive the proper care, they reward you with a wine that shows depth and elegance that is usually unexpected by other big southern reds.

The Torre Testa Susumaniello fruit comes from the Juddica estate, situated on over 123 acres of loose sandy limestone terrain, providing the perfect drainage of any excess of water and letting the roots thrive by reaching nutriments in the sub soil. The oldest vines were planted in 1930. This wine shows a deep and dense dark red garnet color with violet reflections in the glass. As Torre Testa opens up, it shows you the multilayers of perfumed dark fruits; cherry, blackberry, black currant jam and brandied plums. Spices like cinnamon, clover, nutmeg emerge when you swirl it in the glass. This wine is rich and intense, with notes of dark chocolate on the finish. This ‘little donkey’ goes a long way, providing solid enjoyment after being opened for a few days. Big wines like this need intense flavors in food. Pappardelle with sausages, Penne with cinghiale sugo, grilled meats and aged cheese such as Canestrato Pugliese DOP will all make exquisite pairings.

Tiella alla barese

(Rice, mussels & potato pie)

Paired with the Cantine Menhir Sale

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This recipe takes its name from the baking pan used to cook the dish. Tiella is a commune name used in the southern regions of Italy, and each one has its own version of it. The tiella is a low rim pan with a cover. It could be a clay, ceramic or metal pan. In the past it was the only dish cooked by farmers during the week, when time and ingredients were scarce, basically one dish meal. Tiella alla barese is a recipe from Bari, Puglia’s capitol town. This dish is fun to make, a feast for the eyes and the palate.

 

Ingredients (serves 4)
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1 Kg Mussels
500 g Potatoes
500 g Tomatoes
1 white onion
1 garlic clove
1 spring of parsley
300 g rice (superfine Arborio or Roma)
100 g Pecorino or Parmigiano, grated
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

  • Clean the mussels under cold running water pulling the beard and scraping each one. Then open the mussels with a flat blade knife reserving the liquid. If it’s too hard you can get the mussels in a pan under high flame for 2 minutes until they start to open. Discard the top shell and keep them face up.
  • Slice the onion very thin, then potatoes and tomatoes (~ 1/8th inch)
  • Rinse the rice and the potatoes if you don’t like to starchy.
  • Chop the garlic and parsley.
  • Drizzle the olive oil in the baking pan
  • Start to build the pie by placing the onions on the bottom of the dish, and then fan the potatoes to cover the dish, add the tomatoes on top, then sprinkling with garlic and parsley.
  • Set the mussels face up, and add the rice over the mussels.
  • Slowly pour the mussels juice on the side of the pan.
  • Build another strata of potatoes, tomatoes.
  • Sprinkle the cheese and finish with breadcrumbs
  • Pour slowly enough water to cover the rice but not the cheese and breadcrumbs!
  • Set in the oven at 400F for 1 hour.
  • Let rest 10 minutes and serve.

 

 

Cocktail Club Tasting Notes: August 2015

 PlumpJack Wine &Spirits brings you this month’s cocktail club tasting notes featuring Grand Poppy Liquer and Bette Jane Club Soda. Another August has passed and another summer gone bye. This one seemed to be warmer than most in recent memory – even for San Francisco standards. When it turns hot out, our go to summer cocktails usually involve light aperitif based drinks, spritzes and drinks infused with bounties from the garden in bloom during this time of year. This month, we feature a large variety of ingredients to make an array of summery inspired drinks – all supported by Grand Poppy Liqueur, an aperitif liqueur from California native Greenbar Craft Spirits.

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Your Friends at PlumpJack Wine & Spirits 

Greenbar Craft Distillery was founded by husband-and-wife team Melkon Khosrovian and Litty Mathew in 2004. Enamored by the quality of the local produce mixed with a taste for quality beverages, they began by sourcing neutral grain spirits to infuse with local organic produce. Aside from the obvious health benefits of organics, they discovered it contributed to a more intense flavor and aromatic profile when used in spirits. The company also claims and aims to be carbon negative through using only certified organic ingredients, reducing packaging waste through lightweight bottles produced without chemical treatments (like frosting, plastics or metallic paints), using 100% post consumed wasted recycled labels and by planting a tree for every bottle sold.

The Grand Poppy Liqueur is a California inspired interpretation of a Lillet or Cocchi Americano European style aperitif liqueur. Made with the best of California’s bounty like the California Poppy (state flower), oranges, lemons and grapefruits, bay leaf, dandelion, artichoke, gentian, geranium, cherry bark, cane sugar and more! It is easily enjoyed in a simple preparation over rocks with a citrus rind twist, occasionally topped with sparkling water. It’s floral and bitter qualities shine with a base spirit, and proper ratios of tart citrus juice balanced by a sweet and floral liqueur or syrup. Try subbing it for Lillet or Campari in Corpse Reviver and Negroni inspired drinks as well!new balance vintage

Bette Jane Club Soda, made by Kirk Pearson of Pearson Soda Works, got its start as a home passion project and quickly grew into a contract soda company supporting the likes of San Francisco’s bar scene. It all started with the ginger beer as Kirk was tinkering away in his home kitchen trying to find the perfect recipe – at the time all for home consumption. He gave away his samples to friends and family and eventually was asked to produce some for the menu of a San Francisco bar. After that the requests kept rolling in it was time to move to a co-packing facility. One of the best things about this club soda is how fizzy it is, never going flat no matter what you mix with it.
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Cocktails

Ciudad por el Prado Quema
1oz Peloton Mezcal
1oz Grand Poppy liqueur
1oz fresh lemon juice
1oz simple syrup

Build all ingredients over ice into a cocktail or cobbler shaker. Pour over rocks filled glass and garnish with lemon wedge.
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Poppy Patch Daiquiri
1oz Grand Poppy Liqueur
1oz Caña Brava Rum
½oz fresh lemon juice
1-2 fresh strawberries
2 dashes Bitter Queens Orange Bitters

Muddle strawberries in mixing glass with lemon juice and bitters. Add the rum and Grand Poppy followed by ice. Shake vigorously and double strain through a fine mesh strainer into a chilled coup or cocktail glass. Garnish with lime twist
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Grand Boulevard
1 ½oz Bulleit bourbon
1oz Grand Poppy Liqueur
1oz Noilly Pratt rouge vermouth
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Stir ingredients over ice in a mixing glass until well combined. Pour into rocks glass over a single large ice cube. Garnish with expressed orange rind.

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)
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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’.
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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.
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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.
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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)


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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.
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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.
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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
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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.
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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.

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

 

 

 
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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.
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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.
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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.

Scotch Whisky Club Tasting Notes: 2015

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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

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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,
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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.
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Kirkwall, Scotland

                            Kirkwall, Scotland


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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.
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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.
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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!
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