Category Archives: Scotch

Blend it like Walker

At 3pm Eastern today, I’ll be in sitting in the kitchen, surrounded by bottles of scotch. How is this any different than a normal 3pm in Chez Dietsch? Today, I have an excuse. Johnnie Walker’s black-label blend turns 100 years old this year, and to celebrate, Johnnie’s jetting his master blender, Andrew Ford, over to New York City, to lead a webcast focusing on the blending process.

I received an invitation to the webcast a couple of weeks ago, and shortly after I accepted, the FedEx man brought me a large box of kit.

Inside the box, I found seven sample bottles of single malt and grain whiskies, a small bottle of Johnnie Walker Black, a nosing glass, a measuring beaker, a funnel, and an empty bottle.

whiskies

Seven brothers

Tools

Andrew Ford will be walking us through the process of blending scotch whiskies. He’ll also be taking questions, so if there’s anything you want to know, leave a comment here, and I’ll try to pass it along.

One question I have is why the grain whiskey appears to have been barrel-aged. I’m also curious about the number of whiskies they sent–one grain whiskey plus six bottles from various regions of Scotland (or in the case of the sherry-cask whiskey, a type of finishing method). Black Label is blended from at least 40 different whiskies. I know that Walker couldn’t possibly have sent 40 bottles without breaking their bank. Even this shipment wasn’t cheap, I’d wager. Now, what I don’t know is whether each of those bottles is actually a single malt, or if each bottle has a blend of several malts–say, several malts from the Islay region–to approximate the 40 whiskies that comprise Black.

Gingered and smokin’

A few weeks ago, I received a review bottle of a product that’s been reintroduced to the American market (albeit in a reformulated recipe)–Canton Ginger Liqueur. I love ginger in all sorts of forms: I love the slices you get to clear your palate between bites of sushi; I love ginger beers and ales; and I love ginger as an ingredient in food and cocktails. So I was excited to accept an offer of Canton.

As soon as I got it home, I opened it and poured a dram into a small snifter. Both Paul and Jamie have already written about their bottles, and I find no fault with their tasting notes on the straight liqueur–ginger and honey with a note of vanilla.

Alone, it’s a really pleasant quaff, delightful as an after-dinner sipper. But the big question is, how does it mix? Gotta say, I’m still workin’ on that. The first thing I did was to follow Jamie’s suggestion and mix up a Debonair, using Oban for the scotch. Wow. That Gary Regan knows his shit; the Debonair is a great drink, both smoky and gingery.

Then I started experimenting to create something new. And at this point, I made some dumb mistakes. I won’t say what they were, but if you knew, you’d say, “WTF were you thinking?! Have moths eaten your brain?” Let it suffice to say that it’s pretty easy to bury the Canton’s flavor if it’s up against aggressive ingredients.

Finally, I hit upon a winner, a simple, if somewhat obvious, blend of cognac, Canton, vermouth, and lime.

  • 2 oz. cognac
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 3/4 oz. Canton
  • 1/2 oz. dry vermouth

Technique: Shake over ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

I’m curious to try a variation of that with rye.

Double the fetish, double the fun

Don’t talk about it much here, since this ain’t the right venue, but another of my favorite hobbies is grilling and barbecuing. You can imagine, then, how happy I was to see these.

The scotch-barrel chips are unavailable here, but the Jack Daniels chips should do just as well. I’ll have to order some soon. I’ve been meaning to smoke a shoulder for pulled pork anyway.

Happy Repeal Day!

If you read any cocktail blogs other than this one (and, by God, you really should), you already know this is Repeal Day, the seventy-third anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.

To celebrate, I dove into a vintage cocktail book, Robert Vermeire’s Cocktails: How to Mix Them, which first appeared in print in Great Britain in 1922, when the untied states were in the middle of their crazy delusion called Prohibition. I thought it would be fun to find a recipe that was current during that period.

Happy Repeal Day!
photo by Jennifer Hess

Because Dewar’s has had so much fun marketing its blended scotch to Repeal Day celebrants, I thought it would be fun to drink the Kool-Aid, so to speak, and have some Dewar’s.

So I looked through Vermeire for a new scotch cocktail and found the Thistle (pictured above). Vermeire calls for 1/6 gill of Italian vermouth, 2/6 gills of scotch, and 2 dashes of Angostura bitters. Although I normally translate his gills into the exact number of ounces (1 gill is 4 oz., so 1/6 gill is approx. 3/4 oz.), in this case, I simply used 1 part vermouth to 2 parts scotch, plus the bitters.

So, my recipe:

Thistle

  • 2 oz. Dewar’s White Label scotch
  • 1 oz. Cinzano Italian vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Lemon twist, for garnish

Technique: Fill a metal shaker with ice. Pour scotch, vermouth, and bitters over ice. Stir until shaker frosts over. Strain into chilled cocktail glasses. Add garnish.