Yep, that Jefferson. President, diplomat, farmer and winemaker. Might be called the “Mixologist of Monticello,” too. Like Washington and other colonials, Jefferson made his own alcohol including a terrific pumpkin beer from real pumpkins (not orange dye and spice). Two centuries later, clever young artisanal brewers and distillers now bring Jefferson’s pumpkins back every autumn, and it’s a very serious drink. Amazed me when I tasted it in Miami last month.
Golden color, with a honest pumpkin flavor, and lots of clove, ginger and nutmeg, like a peppery gingerbread. It’ll give a Manhattan a truly seasonal edge and let your inner bartender go wild.
This year is batch six of the collaboration between smart kids at Lakefront Brewing and Great Lakes Distillery in Milwaukee. Lakefront found Jefferson’s recipe and started brewing America’s first pumpkin lager. Their pals at Great Lakes loved the result and decided to distill the lager into a liquor. Sort of a beer concentrated into a whiskey and then aged in a melange of barrels (used rum, cabernet and whiskey as well as new oak).
Like nothing I’ve tasted before. But there’s a very limited supply in individually numbered bottles. Order now to have this great taste of harvest and history on your bar.
Great Lakes Distillery Pumpkin Seasonal Spirit …What’s it taste like? Well, think of a malty whisky with a pumpkin and spice flavor -nutmeg and clove leap out. We were pleasantly surprised by how much pumpkin flavor is retained in the spirit after distillation.
I’m still trying to recollect all the glories of Spain for you let me pour you a stiff one. My amiga was so right about the spanish passion for gintonics. They hold the “and” while adding a slew of extras. Very different drink here. Bigger, wildly popular, and painstakingly diverse. I had planned to make a study of them on this trip but didn’t try a one in my first three days of wine tastings. I confessed my failure to the irrepressibe Juan Muga after a day of tasting and a four bottle dinner. Musta been close to 1 am. Great lamb, btw.
No problema, Juan said, we’ll have gintonic with coffee and dessert. The waiter wheels over a gleaming cart and the ritual began. Which gin of a dozen or so, dry or flowery? Juan and I went dry (Seagrams). Which tonic? The hip choice is Fevertree, which must excel in malaria control. Delivery was not the usual sleek long drink but a fishbowl goblet. I passed on a second round. There were more encounters than I could accept in good conscience, often after dinner, some available with extra botanical punch from freshly ground spices. However, a week of professional drinking with Spanish winemakers reminded me of the secret tonic universally loved in the wine world. Cold beer.
Drink it neat or splash it over a single cube. In the glass El Dorado 21 is a rich, golden hue with sappy aromas of caramel, honeysuckle, praline, maple, brown sugar and butterscotch. Like fine cognac, it has legs that stretch for miles down the inside of the glass too. Caramel carries through to the palate and joins spice and dried fruit, evocative of chilly winter days spent dunking apples into a steaming pot of melted Brach’s cubes. Hints of orange zest and vanilla accompany the long and sustained finish as this amazing spirit inches off into the distance. An incredibly complex whisky that will truly upgrade your backbar. This is serious rum.
Mark Stitt, B-21
“Copper color. Rich mocha, toffee, pipe tobacco, and brown spice aromas. A rich, satiny and vibrant entry leads to a smooth, dry-yet-fruity full body of toffee, coffee, and brown spice flavors. Finishes with a seemingly endless, sweet nutty fade with evolving layers of tobacco, chocolate, and spice. A monumental aged rum that is one of the world’s greatest rum drinking experiences.”
98 Points (Superlative)
International Review of Spirits
“Well, show me the way to the next whiskey bar
Oh, don’t ask why oh, don’t ask why” -the soon-to-be-pardoned Jim Morrison
“The last time I turned down a whiskey, I didn’t understand the question.” -Anonymous
Prior to the Revolutionary War, rum was America’s “go to” tipple. Produced by a host of our Caribbean neighbors, rum was plentiful and wildly popular. Domestic whiskies were rare with the exception of remote, rural areas to which shipping was difficult and home distillation more cost effective. The onset of the American Revolution greatly inhibited the exchange of rum and molasses between the U.S. and the British West Indies, creating a new market for Scotch-Irish farmers skilled in the art of distillation, and whiskey quickly became an important staple for a young U.S. at war. During his stint as commander of the Continental Army, George Washington openly lamented about the morale of his charges. “[W]hen they are marching in hot or cold weather, in camp, in wet, on fatigue or in working parties,” he asserted, whiskey was “essential” for the retention of confidence. Distillers kicked production into high gear, using rye as the basis for America’s new spirit, at one point forcing a shortage of grain that hampered bread production. A newspaper reporter wrote that “in the neighborhood of Pittsburgh almost every other farm has a stillhouse on it…”
Following the Revolution, the U.S. government found itself deep in debt. Legislators sought to ease financial pressure through the taxation of the throngs of successful distillers, inciting a Whiskey Rebellion. In the wake of the revolt, many fled to Kentucky – where corn replaced rye as the preferred crop – and put down roots for what would become the birthplace of bourbon. America’s affinity to whiskey in its various incarnations continued into the 20th century. In his 1952 address to the Mississippi State Assembly, Congressman Noah Sweat argued, “If when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows…then certainly I am for it.” Damned straight, Noah.
Known for world class rye and bourbon, Hirsch lingers on the lips of whiskey aficionados around the globe, despite having closed its doors in 1988. Rewind for a moment to 1987 – Congress investigates the Iran-Contra affair, Cosby sweaters warm our Thursday TV, Prozac arrives to calm the ailing, Cadillac debuts its Italian-designed Allanté convertible, which – by the way – you could fill for 89¢ a gallon while blasting Bon Jovi’s, “Livin’ on a Prayer,” and, as we eagerly shoveled in hot, buttered popcorn, Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko told us, “Greed is good.” That same year, the folks at Hirsch quietly filled one hundred and twenty oak casks with bourbon mash whiskey. An astonishing twenty years later, new owners sprang the rested juice from its wooden cocoon. Since the cooperage employed was used, the whiskey couldn’t legally be labeled bourbon (which must age in new, charred oak barrels), so they bottled it as Hirsch 20-Year Aged American Whiskey. Artisanal importer Henry Preiss quickly snatched up the lot of this American treasure, the population of which currently stands at fewer than two hundred cases. The last of its kind in the world, we were lucky enough to secure an allocation of this treat to share with you.
Twenty years on oak is pretty rare for an American whiskey and puts the Hirsch on par with the world’s finest Scotches. A nose of maple, ginger, spice, and a hint of cereal grain complement a palate oozing with warm, caramel butter, toasted almonds, baked biscuits, and apricots. With a mashbill that boasts over 80% corn, the Hirsch 20 borders on semi-sweet. Used casks add a new dimension, softening the spirit without contributing too much wood. As the distillery no longer exists, what’s left is left, so this is a fleeting chance to own a piece of American history.And for the sake of history I leave you with a quote from actor, comedian, and huge fan of the sauce, W.C. Fields, who once suggested, “Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite…and, furthermore, always carry a small snake.”
95 points, Shannon Sprentall B-21’s Spirits Director 94 points, Shawn Reynolds B-21’s Resident Historian
5 Stars (Recommended) – F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal
“Pretty amber/topaz/burnished gold color; very good clarity. Smells enticingly of buttermilk biscuits, salted butter, and fudge; the additional seven minutes of air contact bring out roasted scents of almond paste, nougat, corn bread, oatmeal, and caramel corn. Entry is semisweet, spirity warm, corn-like, and dry breakfast cereal-like; the midpalate, however, is the star of this evaluation, as the flavor profile turns buttery, rounded, maplelike, and nutty. Ends up clean, biscuity and keenly spirity, but never hot or fiery. The reined-in spirit is properly managed, creating a firm foundation on which the grain and wood influences shine, in particular, at entry and midpalate.”
4 Stars - Beverage Experts
“Brilliant, deep copper color. The nose is absolutely beautiful offering aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger accenting the solid fruit and grain core. The palate echoes the nose offering layers of flavors that are amazingly fresh for a whiskey of this age. This is sold as an ‘American Whiskey’ as used barrels were utilized as opposed to new, charred barrels as is prescribed for Bourbon. The result is an old Whiskey with a wood compliment rather a wood dominance. Very fine.”
If you’ve already tried El Mayor in the slick and crisp blanco or the rich reposado and anejo versions you have a small clue what happens when the Gonzalez family ages the luscious juice of blue agave twice as long. If you haven’t tried any El Mayor at all, this new ultra-aged tequila will be a special thrill.
I’m not just talking about the bottle, although it’s gorgeous, a beautifully odd fiasco signed by Rodolpho himself. The true beauty is in the emptying. The liquid inside is distilled from hand-selected “piña’s” at the center of the plant, fermented with the family’s signature yeast, double distilled and aged at least 37 months in oak.
It’s as smooth as fine brandy or very old scotch with flavors of caramel, vanilla and spice, as if the piña were an elixir of roasted pineapples and other tropical fruit with a whiff of fruitcake.
This is not everyday tequila, margraitas need not apply, but an elegant tribute to Mexican spirit. Worthy of Cinco de Mayo. This is a rare treat sparsely distributed, but B-21 has secured a few lovely bottles.
NO KEGS. Unless your guests are under 30 and number more than 60, you and your pals will sadly realize you can no longer finish a keg (remember running out to get a second or a third?). Without your own kegerator at home you won’t finish it the next day no matter how badly the Bucs do. If you’ve got to have draft fun, get the cool new mini kegs from Heineken. (which B-21 carries in their store)
NO OPEN BARS. Hire a bartender or designate a non-drinker to mix cocktails. Leaving a wide range of open bottles of 80 proof booze to pour into a Coke-machine selection of soft drinks is asking for trouble.
Besides, to provide a range of cocktails for even a small party requires at least a half dozen bottles, one rum, one bourbon, one scotch, one tequila, one vodka and one gin. Better to pick a limited a number of cocktails, say dirty martinis, Manhattans or mango daiquiris. Buy 1.75 liter bottles of quality liquor, and have someone make them with a steady – and measured hand. BTW, real cocktail drinkers do use jiggers.