Cleveland Underground Apple Bourbon Whiskey Sour

Ah… there are times when a chilled whisky sour just hits the spot! Which is exactly why our bourbon evening closed with a non-traditional take on this whiskey cocktail standard.

This isn’t quite what we tried but pretty close…

Underground Whiskey Sour
  • 1 ½ oz Underground Bourbon
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 drunken cherry
  • Chickpea froth
DIRECTIONS
  1. In an old fashioned glass, add Underground Bourbon, lemon juice, and sugar
  2. Shake with ice and strain into chilled tulip glass
  3. Add the froth
  4. Garnish with a cherry

Often it is made with frothed egg white… in our case we had a less traditional “vegetarian” version made with the froth from boiling chickpeas – which works surprisingly well.

Our Bourbon trio included:

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Mithcher’s Small Batch Bourbon Sazerac Cocktail

After sampling Mitcher’s Small Batch Bourbon solo, we had a change to try it in a different avatar – an exceedingly good Sazerac… so good that a few even had a repeat!

Mitcher’s Small Batch Bourbon L16F747 45.7% (91.4 proof)

This isn’t quite what we tried but pretty close…

  • 2 1/2 oz. Mitcher’s small batch bourbon whisky
  • sugar cube
  • dashes bitters
  • Absinthe
  • Lemon peel
  • Old-fashioned glass
Directions:
  1. In an Old-Fashioned glass, muddle a sugar cube with a few drops of water.
  2. Add several small ice cubes and the whiskey and bitters.
  3. Stir well and strain into a second, chilled, Old-Fashioned glass in which you have rolled around a few drops of absinthe until its inside is thoroughly coated, pouring off the excess.
  4. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel

The quality of the absinthe makes all the difference. In our case, we had a Czech absinthe – Bairnsfather;’s Reality Absinth – that was truly exceptional.

Our Bourbon trio included:

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FEW Bourbon Manhattan Cocktail

After enjoying the FEW Bourbon straight up, it was time for cocktails!

While I’m not sure if this is exactly what was whipped up for us, this is in the same territory…

FEW Bourbon Manhattan

  • 2 oz. FEW Bourbon Whiskey
  • 1 oz. Italian vermouth
  • dashes Angostura Bitters
Directions
  1. Stir the whiskey, vermouth, and bitters well with cracked ice.
  2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a twist or a maraschino cherry.

In this case, the cherry was soaked in a rather fine bourbon, and naturally it was also a quality vermouth, hence the results were frankly fabulous.

Our Bourbon trio included:

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FEW Bourbon 46.5%

The beauty of bourbon is how its full sweet flavours can make a killer base for a solid cocktail. The better the bourbon, the better the base, the better the cocktail.

And that’s just what we explored with our FEW Bourbon Manhattan…

First we sampled it blind, then we had it in a specially crafted cocktail.

FEW Bourbon 46.5% Batch 17H30

  • Nose – Fresh yeasty, flowers… like marigold or chrysanthemums, light citrus, quite sweet, light sacred ash, honey, raisins and apricots, dusty grains, perfume and lightly sour
  • Palate – Tastes quite different than the nose indicated, spice, cloves and oils, not at all harsh, sweet, with a walnut bitterness, something odd not normally found in whiskies like pulses or lentils
  • Finish – Minimal and a bit bitter.

While it came across as a bit soft and thin, there was still plenty going on. For the bourbon fans in the room, there was no doubt this was a fine specimen. Too soon our wee snifters with just a few sips were empty and it was time to move on to the next…

But this wasn’t it for us! No siree! After the teasing sample, out came one really quite fabulous Manhattan.

What do the folks at FEW have to say about their Bourbon?

Southern Tradition meet Norther Rye…

This spirit, distilled through timeless liquor-making techniques, utilizes a three-grain recipe that infuses generations of Southern tradition with the spiciness of northern rye and a touch of malt for smoothness. FEW is hand-crafted through a small-batch process in charred oak barrels to age its bourbon whiskey.

In a terrific twist, FEW Spirits takes their name from Frances Elizabeth Willard, a key figure in the Temperance Movement, The craft distillery is based in Evanston which has seen its fair share of Prohibition…. which sparked the creation of a remarkable array of illicit liquor plus import of Canadian rye whisky that was sometimes so harsh it had to be mixed up with various ingredients… making way for the famous flapper accoutrement – the cocktail!

Our Bourbon trio included:

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Mitcher’s Small Batch Bourbon

Our Bourbon explorations continued with Mitcher’s Small Batch Bourbon.

We began sampling it completely blind, to share our impressions without any influences beyond what was in our glass, then had the reveal followed by a brilliant cocktail.

Here is what we found…

Mitcher’s Small Batch Bourbon L16F747 45.7% (91.4 proof)

  • Nose – We were welcomed by mandarin oranges, sweet vanilla, jasmine, Cointreau, chocolate, creamy, butter rice, toffee, caramel, Chinese sweet red bean buns, fresh bread
  • Palate – Ooh! Very nice spice. Well rounded, has more substance than the FEW bourbon, orange blossoms, cinnamon gum like a Big Red, very smooth, lots of dried fruits
  • Finish – Lovely sweet light clove student oranges… long finish

It was universally pronounced “delicious!” A clear favourite of the evening – bringing enough character to make us happy to keep enjoying.

This was followed by an exceedingly good Sazerac… so good that a few even had a repeat!

Something to note about Mitcher’s is their master distiller, Pam Heilmann, was the first woman since Prohibition to serve as Master Distiller at a Kentucky Distillers Association distillery and their Mast of Maturation & Exec VP, Andrea Wilson, was the first woman to ever serve as Chair of the Kentucky Distillers Association.

What do they say about their Small Batch Bourbon?

Michter’s US1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon is made from a carefully selected mashbill that features the highest quality American corn. It is then matured to the peak of perfection. Truly “small batch” each batch of our US1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon is batched in a holding tank sized to fit a maximum of twenty full barrels, leaving no margin for “blending out” imperfection and thus necessitating excellence from every barrel. Reflecting the spirit of the Bluegrass State, Michter’s US1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon is nuanced, mellow and earthy.

Michter’s tasting notes:

  • Rich caramel with balanced vanilla, stone fruit notes, smoky depth, with an oak finish.

Our Bourbon trio included:

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Bourbon Cocktail Hour with FEW, Mitcher’s, Underground Apple

Sometimes its good to shake things up! And that’s exactly what we experienced in our recent session. Literally shaking up some bourbon to make cocktails!

To get us in the mood, our evening began with a pop quiz on Bourbon, with fun factoids like a crash course into the confoundingly confusing mix of prohibition and restrictions (wet, dry, moist, wine, limited, golf…) to be found around alcohol consumption in the very state that boosts of bringing bourbon to the world – Kentucky!

Once our trivia round was finished, we dove into the Bourbons. We started with just a few sips of each… then the “main event” commenced…carefully crafted cocktails playing with the different elements of the drams.

So what did we enjoy?

Read on over the coming days to find out more about our brush with Bourbons brought back to Bombay!

This wasn’t our 1st rodeo with American whiskies either… We’ve had some past adventures such as:

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Port Charlotte MP5 10 year Bourbon/Bordeaux Cask #0013 59.9%

One of the ‘traditions’ of our original whisky group is to taste blind… In this case, I gave a bit of a twist by openly sharing we were sampling whiskies from the same distillery, peated at the same level and nearly the same age with the only difference the cask.

My goal was to eliminate wild speculations to instead focus on the narrow range of variable – cask. With the reveal made only after we tasted each whisky separately and then compared them to each other, sharing thoughts on the possible cask(s) used.

We began with the Cognac cask – while not part of the MP5 series – I chose it to calibrate the palate. We then moved on to the Bourbon cask, then this one… which added a Bordeaux finish.

What did we think?

Port Charlotte MP5 10 year (2005/2016) Bourbon/Bordeaux Cask #0013 59.9%

  • Colour – A clear touch of red – which we later found clearly came from the Bordeaux cask finish
  • Nose – Initially greeted with curd and tobacco, quite strongly spirit driven, some sulfur – like we just set off some crackers ‘patakar!’, then settled down with less peat, revealing chocolate, and a range of aromas that went from wine to sweet and salty dried fruits, pistachios and raisins
  • Palate – Very spicy at first, with an interesting over brewed tea quality, like tannins from red wine, sweet with an interesting spice, shifting into raspberries and walnuts
  • Finish – A long finish with a strong peppery close
  • Water – Initially made it spicier then really opened up with many finding it quite fabulous once opened up with a splash of water

While we found this one a bit thin on the palate, lacking the body of the MP5 Bourbon, it had quite a distinctive and appealing quality. We also found it less salty than the 1st with almost negligible peat.

For one, he confessed that if he wasn’t already told this was a peaty Islay whisky, he never would have guessed. We wanted to know how that could possibly be the case – given similar ppm from other distilleries retain a much more pronounced peat.

The answer in part can be found in the Laddie MP5 broadcast in which the head distiller Adam Hannett speaks with Allen Logan, distillery manager.

Around the 20 min mark, they shared how their PC style is to always start at 40 phenolic parts per million (PPM). However the phenol content changes as it is mashed, malted and further softened through the slow distilling process. The shape of the still is another factor, which enables lighter flavours to come through. Then, as the spirit ages, it loses more phenols…

The result? You end up with considerably less ppm than you started with… And for Port Charlotte (PC) specifically, it means the whisky is surprisingly versatile with different cask types, particularly if it is aged for a longer period.

Yet without this insight or knowledge of the re-casting, what did our merry malters think?

After much speculation, most votes veered to sherry with one clear it could not be sherry as it had a wine quality. Clearly this taster was exceedingly close!

What Adam shared in the broadcast is this whisky began in an ex-Bourbon cask for 10 years then was finished for 9 months in the fresh Bordeaux cask from the town of Margeaux.

When asked why they recast the spirit, the answer was:

“We wanted to see what else we could explore, do and try new things.”

In part this was motivated by a recognition the whisky needed an extra ‘boost’ from re-casking.

And when the topic of the wine cask finish arose, Allen spoke of their early experiments with finishing 15 and 20 year stock using ex-Bordeaux casks, which turned the whisky pink after only a short period of time! What to do? Jim McEwan suggested releasing the whisky as a special edition for Valentine’s Day, what else?

As for this whisky? I revisited it the next evening and found the wine element unmistakable… and think we underestimated it in our first foray. Or perhaps with just a little oxidation, it revealed its balanced complex character. Superb!

What more do we know?

  • Barley type: Optic
  • Distilled: 29.11.2005
  • Bottled: 2016 – Aged 10 years
  • Cask Type: Bourbon / Bordeaux
  • Warehouse: WH5. L2 – Dunnage

I purchased this 200ml tasting set trio for an embarrassingly high amount from The Single Cask in Singapore.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

Before we tasted the MP5 series, I opened a Port Charlotte 8 year Cognac Cask 57.8% to help calibrate our palate to the Port Charlotte style.
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Port Charlotte MP5 10 year Fresh Bourbon Cask #1999 56.9%

For over a year, I waited impatiently to dive into this Bruichladdich Micro-Provenance aka MP5 trio!

I came across the set in Singapore at The Single Cask. taking a good long whiff of their open bottles and was intrigued. I kept thinking about them… and on my next visit, I was delighted they still had a closed set remaining. So I packed it up and brought it back to Mumbai for our merry malters!

I decided to do it in the same order Adam and Allan did on their YouTube broadcast… so we began with the ex-bourbon. While I knew what we were sampling, my fellow whisky explorers tried it blind.

Port Charlotte MP5 10 year (2005/2016) Fresh Bourbon Cask #1999 56.9%

  • Colour – Bright straw
  • Nose – Bounty chocolate with roasted coconut, tropical fruits – particularly pineapple, cashew fruit when nearly ripe, subtle peat, ripe bananas, dates, lightly leather and wood polish, faint iodine then evolved into a fresh clean delicate citrus
  • Palate – Spicy cinnamon, jute kopra, coconut barfi, lightly oily, a wonderful mouth feel, coffee, coconut shell
  • Finish – Medium length, a bit bitter, chillies, coconut
  • Water – Opened up beautifully, lovely balance of spice then sweet, delicious with a gentle orange citrus

We loved it! It began as a pure tropical treat and evolved into creme brule, bubblegum… We really enjoyed this whisky And found it was a fabulous easy drinking dram. It had a lovely balance, very tasty, becoming even more enjoyable as it opened further with water and had a little more time sitting in the glass.

Remarkably, there was very little peat – just a light leather curl of smoke enveloped in creamy sweet goodness. Equally no one came even close to predicting the alcohol strength – there was talk of 46% or 48% with no one imagining 56.9%!

I challenged my tasting cohorts to give their best guesses on what cask(s) went into creating this dram. After the Cognac surprise, speculation ranged from rum to virgin oak to bourbon… with the last spot on!

What more do we know?

  • PPM: 40
  • Barley type: Optic
  • Distilled: 17.11.2005
  • Bottled: 2016 – Aged 10 years
  • Cask Type: Fresh Bourbon
  • Warehouse: P2. R19 – Dunnage

We loved this whisky and wished there was more! By the end of the evening there were just a few drops remaining… clearly a good sign.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

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Random whisky tasting at KODE

When we started our different whisky tasting clubs in Mumbai it was at a time where the offerings readily available beyond whiskies personally brought into the country were rather limited. Fast forward and today it is possible to have a respectable flight… right here in the city… for a price.

That shared, we likely won’t see many single casks entering anytime soon… in part because to import requires donating a “sample” for testing purposes. When a product has only say 100 bottles in the world and to sell at best a handful in a particular state, it becomes impossible to justify such a “donation”.

So while the more unusual limited edition specimens likely won’t show up anytime soon,  the overall range is sufficient for those curious to be inducted into the world of single malts and whiskies in general.

Which is exactly what we sat down to accomplish one fine evening at KODE in Mumbai early April.

My sampling companions and I warned the waiter that we would be requesting different bottles, sniffing then selecting so to be patient with us. And they were.

We began with a clear progression from light to distinctive profiles…

I’d initially thought to start with Compass Box Hedonism as it is such an unusual yet light whisky. They were just out of stock, so shifted instead to a readily accessible “appetizer”:

Our palates now acclimated, our real journey began with:

I then wanted to shift gears to start to discern more subtle complex flavours… It was wishful thinking to hope Glendronach 18 year might be available however did have a choice between the 12, 15 and 21 year... We went with:

  • Scotland – Glendronach – Glendronach 15 year “Revival” 46%*

Then split into the following to cater to the emerging different palate preferences of my sampling companions:

As conversation veered towards talk of casks and the difference between a Scottish single malt and Bourbon, I thought it would be good to do a wee detour to the US to contrast what we sampled so far with Bourbon & Rye:

Then proceeded to compare the nuances between very similar whiskies from Glenmorangie that have different finishes:

  • Scotland – Highland – Glenorangie Lasanta 12 year 46% – Olorosso & PX Sherrry finish
  • Scotland – Highland – Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 year 46% – Port finish

And finally we closed with a split between revisiting whiskies that “stood” out for my companions:

*Just in case you were wondering what all the “asterisk” mean… each of these bottles were brought into India thanks to Keshav Prakash with The Vault Fine Spirits. I’m incredibly proud of what Keshav and his team have achieved and have made a huge impact on the range now available in Mumbai. Thank you!

KODE – Freestyle Bar and Kitchen

Ground Floor – 11, Oasis City, Kamala Mills – Entrance #2, Lower Parel,, Mumbai, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013. Tel: 077188 82924

PS It may seem like an insane quantity of whisky but keep in mind we were splitting 30 ml singles – focusing more on sniffing, swishing and savouring.

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Bourbons in Bombay – The mighty Stagg Jr 64.75%

Last of our explorations of American drams was another bourbon from Buffalo Trace… from Blanton’s we turned our attention to the mighty Stagg Jr.

What did we think?

Stagg Jr 129.5 proof / 64.75%

  • Nose – Fresh wood, sawdust, cherry, pepper spice, raisins, buttery, vanilla ice cream fruit cake, then back to cayenne, a citrus twist, strong sherry like qualities
  • Palate – Whoo boya! A full on bourbon, very sugary, nice mouthfeel, quite concentrated, a big boy bourbon
  • Finish – Long finish

First swig and one exclaimed “Me on the horse I rode in…” It was full on cowboy action.

We thought it might go rather well with ice… so out came the big balls. It did indeed work well, taming that bad boy to something rather drinkable with the citrus quality coming out even more.

And what do the folks over at Buffalo Trace have to say?

George T. Stagg built the most dominant American distillery of the 19th century, during a time known as the Gilded Age of Bourbon. Uncut and unfiltered, this robust bourbon whiskey ages for nearly a decade and boasts the bold character that is reminiscent of the man himself.

Rich, sweet, chocolate and brown sugar flavors mingle in perfect balance with the bold rye spiciness. The boundless finish lingers with hints of cherries, cloves and smokiness.

What all did we sample in our American whiskey night?

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