Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bourbon Bargain Alert - Four Roses Single Barrel

Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey

Not too long ago I was doing some bourbon research online, searching for anyone who would be carrying the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection when it came out here in South Florida.  Well, in the midst of that search, I noticed that Crown Wine & Spirits had a great bargain on their website.  It listed Four Roses Single Barrel at $29.99!  That's at least a 25% savings from anywhere else I'd seen it advertised.  A google search for "Four Roses Single Barrel" will show 3 results at $29.99, $39.99, and $49.99, with the $29.99 being Crown Wine & Spirits.  Even Total Wine & Spirits had it at $39.99 on my last visit. Today I was in South Miami running some errands so I stopped by and picked up one of the last couple bottles they had on the shelf.  Being that it's been some time since I last saw this deal, I think it could be a set price.

A little background on Four Roses...  Four Roses was named Distiller of the Year by Whisky Magazine in November 2010, a year that happened to be the 100th anniversary of the distillery's building. That award is quite an achievement considering the rollercoaster ride this brand has gone on.  The award can be attributed to Master Distiller Jim Rutledge whose passion for bourbon gave new life to the Four Roses brand, a brand that has been around for over 120 years.

After being sold in 1943 when Seagram's purchased the Frankfort distilling company, the Four Roses brand was turned into rubble.  In 1947, Seagram's, owned by a Canadian liquor baron named Sam Bronfman at the time, took Four Roses (which had become the #1 selling bourbon after Prohibition ended in 1933) off the market and turned it into a blended whisky.  A blended whisky usually refers to whiskey1 that is blended with a neutral spirit such as vodka or grain alcohol.  Once this change was made, a decision followed to take Four Roses off of the market altogether in the United States.  It had gone from a #1 selling bourbon to a bottom shelf blended whisky in no time at all.

Luck would have it that Four Roses would become the bourbon of choice in Japan in the 1980s and the demand for bourbon from the Japanese market exploded later in the decade.  Rutledge was there to capitalize on this demand.  In 1996, Rutledge lobbied for Four Roses to at least be available in Kentucky and Seagram's granted his wish but said it would not support the decision with any marketing dollars.  Shortly thereafter, Seagram's met it's doom thanks to some poor decisions by Sam Bronfman's grandson, Edgar Jr, who had taken over as CEO.  Lo and behold, Japanese brewer, Kirin, was there to pick up the pieces and they quickly rid themselves of the blended Four Roses whiskey, bringing back Four Roses bourbon at the urging of Jim Rutledge.  The fire was built for the resurrection of Four Roses bourbon the second the new Japanese owners took their first sip.  They knew they had a winner and believe the US market was a gold mine waiting to be excavated.  They were right.

Four Roses Single Barrel Private Selection (photo credit: David Kehr)
The first order of businesss was to focus on introducing a premium spirit and in 2004, Four Roses Single Barrel hit the market.  The following year it received a Gold Medal from the Whiskey Magazine Best of the Best Awards for Best American Whiskey under 10 years of age.  Two years later and Four Roses returned to the top spot as the #1 selling single barrel bourbon whiskey in the state of Kentucky.  In 2006, Four Roses introduced their Small Batch bourbon, one of 6 different brands that now exists under the Four Roses name.  They also have a really cool program for distributors to select their own barrels made from specific mash bills consisting of various proprietary yeasts. These bourbons are bottled at barrel strength - no water is added to alter the flavors or lower the alcohol content.

At $29.99, this is a great deal on a phenomenal bourbon.  It's one of my personal favorites and is always on my home bar. Not ready to spend $30?  Locally you can find Four Roses Single Barrel on the shelf behind the bar at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink as well as Sustain.  I recommend sipping this one neat or with very few (1-3) ice cubes.  A sweet, oak-y nose along with flavors of caramel, dried spice, and a little citrus on the finish are the standouts.  If you are a bourbon fan, this is a must try.

You can thank me later ;)

1. I'm spelling whiskey two different ways on purpose. There is a difference and here is a little history I learned on a tour of the Buffalo Trace distillery. It is said that back in the 1800s Scotch whisky developed a bad reputation for being a cheap whisky because it was being produced quickly through the use of a continuous still known as a coffey still. It flooded the market and tarnished the reputation of whisky producers. As a result, Irish and American producers began inserting an "e" into their whisk(e)y to distinguish it from the poor Scotch being produced.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

2011 Taste of the Grove Lacks Flavor

During this past week while traveling the Pacific Northwest for business, I was catching up on some blog reading on the Miami New Times Short Order blog when an article reminded me that the Taste of the Grove would be held this weekend.  The article also made the ridiculous claim that over 30,000 people attended this event last year.  I'd really love to know where that "fact" came from considering last year the event was held in January and it was freezing cold and rainy all weekend.  I'd be surprised if even 3,000 people attended.

Anyhow, I was happy to be in town to be able to attend and met up with a friend to walk in and check it out.  We purchased $20 worth of tickets and began to do a walkthrough to see what sort of offerings were available.  We quickly realized we would need more tickets after buying two beers at $5 apiece.  I guess I was thinking that was acceptable for an "event" beer but it bothered me later on when I attended a movie at the O Cinema in the Wynwood district and got a Brooklyn Lager for $3. 

After grabbing more tickets we decided on the mixed ceviche offering from Panorama.  I'd had a few meals at this restaurant that were ok but I mostly enjoy their spot on the 8th floor of the Sonesta for a mojito and a great view of the bay.  The ceviche was a nice portion for $8 and contained a variety of seafood.  Clams, scallops, calamari, and even some octopus were tenderized in citrus and mixed with onion, cilantro, and some Peruvian cancha.  For a dish marinated in citrus it really lacked that flavor.  Instead an overpowering dose of garlic was the main flavor punishing our palates.  It was too bad because other than that the dish was quite tasty.

As we looked for our next bite to eat, a highschool band took the stage and began cranking out covers of Nirvana before launching into some death metal that I couldn't recognize.  It was really awkward at a food festival like Taste of the Grove.  I guess they took anyone that wanted stage time.  As we neared the end of the last tent, I smelled smoky barbecue and found a booth offering some ribs, chicken, and conch fritters.  I think it was called Master C Culinary or something like that.  I'd never heard of them but we were hungry and barbecue sounded great.  We had $10 left in tickets and were able to negotiate a deal for a plate of ribs and two conch fritters (instead of 4) with the nice people in the booth who also recommended we had some hot sauce.  The ribs were tender and I was impressed with how meaty they were but the sauce wasn't anything special.  The fritters were just ok.

I was pretty disappointed in the lack of variety at the Taste of the Grove.  Most of the food sold at each booth was stuff you could find at any carnival, fair, or average outdoor festival.  There were sliders, greek gyros, barbecue, and pizza.  Wow, big deal.  It all amounted to a bunch of overpriced, underwhelming food.  Popular Grove spots like Le Bouchon, Greenstreet, and Lulu didn't even take a booth at the festival.  I guess it shows the culinary state of the Grove these days isn't really too impressive at all.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Angel's Envy Coming to South Florida!

Miami is about to get a taste of Louisville.  Next month, I'm told, a new bourbon called Angel's Envy will become available in South Florida as part of the spirit's launch schedule.  Not quite sure how Miami ended up as a launch city for bourbon but I'm lovin' it!

Angel's Envy is the product of living bourbon legend, Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson, who came out of retirement to create this bourbon in a no-holds-barred kinda way.  It's a small batch bourbon aged over four years (5-7 I've read elsewhere) and finished for 3-6 months in two different types of port wine barrels - Vintage and Ruby.  With bourbon, as it ages in the barrel a little is lost to evaporation.  This is known as the "angel's share".  The legend has it that Mr. Henderson told the angels that he'd give them a little more share if they'd leave behind a better product.  They left a product that was so good they became jealous and just like that Angel's Envy was born.  I'd heard a little buzz about Angel's Envy and went to their website to find out who would be carrying it in the Miami area.  Nothing was listed yet so I sent an email.  I got an email back from Samira Seiller, EVP & Director of Marketing for Louisville Distilling Company, and after a short conversation she sent me a few press samples to try.

Angel's Envy testers arrive!
A few days later a couple corked vials of Angel's Envy arrived.  I poured myself a glass later on that evening and I can tell you this - it's a winner!  The nose is nutty with notes of vanilla and dried fruit.  I really enjoyed the viscosity of this bourbon.  It coats the tongue in a velvety way before the flavors of vanilla, dried fruit, and a little shaved chocolate begin to shine through.  The finish continues with the vanilla and shaved chocolate flavors and this is also where the port wine makes its appearance.  I was worried that the port wine finish would make it too sweet but it doesn't.  It really just compliments the other flavors in this bourbon.  At 43.3% alcohol (86.6 proof), there is enough punch to keep the sweetness in check.  One thing I did not try was sipping this bourbon on the rocks.  Each glass I had was served neat and I was enjoying it so much that I didn't think to try it with ice to see how the flavor would open up. 

photo credit: Angel's Envy website
I'm looking forward to Angel's Envy hitting the South Florida market as the last of the sample I was sent was consumed while writing this post.  Whether you're a bourbon drinker or just looking to try something new, Angel's Envy is definitely one to keep an eye out for.