Sipping Scotch in Sophistication

Ever had a whisky older than you? Opportunities such as this don’t come along very often, especially as “you” get older and older and older. When I was in my 20s, for example, finding 30-year-old scotches was relatively easy and only relatively expensive. Now that I’m 45, though, finding a 50-year-old scotch is not just logistically difficult; it’s expensive by nearly anyone terms.

Case in point: the inaugural release of the Glenlivet Winchester Collection, barreled in 1964 and bottled for release this year. Want one? Sell your children; only 100 bottles are available worldwide, and each bottle will run you $25,000.

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But what a bottle. Each bottle is hand-blown glass, capped with a silver stopper, and accented with gold. The bottle sits in a cabinet with a lock and a hidden key, just in case you don’t sell the kids and one of them tries to sneak a sip.

I had a chance to sample one of the 100 bottles this past Wednesday, at a dinner at Le Bernadin. Along with about 30 other journalists, I had a fantastic multi-course meal with wine pairings, punctuated by samples from the Glenlivet range: the 18, XXV (25), and 50.

All three scotches are typical of the Glenlivet style–honeyed, lightly fruity, tasting of toffee and a hint of barley malt, and only the barest, lightest hint of smoke. The 1964 was barreled in used bourbon casks, and for the age it has on it, it didn’t taste woody at all. I found that, all told, it had lighter, more subtle flavors than the 18 or XXV, though I was enjoying it after rounds of seafood and wine, and so my palate may have been a bit dulled.

All in all, this is clearly a whisky for collectors. Scotch, after all, is a luxury good, and all luxury markets have to cater to the collector segment. Glenlivet has put together a beautiful package and a tasty dram. If only I had the $25,000. Anyone in the market for kids?

Bibliophilia

When I was a child, I loved books. I still do, but when I was a child, I was endlessly fascinated with them. I would pick up a book and study it closely, examining the slip jacket; the corners of the cover, where the paper folds over the boards; the point where the body of the book is glued into the hardcover; the little fabric strip at the top, where the spine is glued in. I was fascinated with books as objects, and not just as storehouses of literature or information.

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I used to daydream as a child, wondering how books came to be. Who wrote them? How? What happened after that? How did an author’s words become this physical object I’m holding?

When I went to college, I majored in education, but I never pursued it as a career. I entered publishing instead, working first as a proofreader, then as a page-layout tech, and then finally as a copy editor.

Twice, I had the chance to travel offsite to a nearby printing facility to see books being produced. I saw giant rolls of paper; I saw machines making metal plates for the presses; I saw large sheets of paper roll across the plates to collect the ink, and then those sheets folded into signatures. I saw the signatures folded up and collected together and bound up in a certain way, and then inserted into their covers and glued to make a book.

Meanwhile, at the office, I learned how editors acquired and developed new projects, shepherding authors through the writing process to produce a complete manuscript, and then, in my role on the backend, I saw how the manuscript became a fully designed, full laid-out book, ready to go to press.

I even know a thing or two about how indexes are written.

As a child, I daydreamed about how books come into being, and as an adult, I had the chance to see it happen, and to help authors in my own small way to see their words take physical form as a printed book. Even that small part felt like fulfilling a childhood dream; even just the part about seeing the physical processes of printing and binding books was weirdly thrilling to me.

Now, here I am, with one of my own out there, and I cannot explain how much joy I felt to come home on Friday and see these.

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Odd Drinks To Be Had.

I came across an unusual article in the purpose of researching Shrubs. It ended up having no bearing whatsoever on the final manuscript, but I was fascinated enough by the piece that I OCR’d it, and cleaned up the inevitable typos.

Here, from the December 26, 1893, issue of the New York Sun, is an article about the various drinking establishments of Lower Manhattan, from the Battery up to about 28th Street. Be aware, some of the ethnic attitudes expressed in this piece are very much of their time. You’ll also note peculiarities of style and spelling; those are all in the original.

Continue reading

SHRUBS Update

The book still comes out October 6, and you can and should still preorder it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Powell’s.

I recently spoke with Kara Newman at Tasting Table about shrubs. You can and should read that here.

I also recently spoke with Paul Clarke at Imbibe magazine. Paul was doing a photo feature on shrubs, and the piece included a quote from me and a couple of my recipes. You can’t find it online, but here’s a supplemental piece on the website.

We’re currently firming up other media appearances, a radio appearance or two, and possibly some in-person events, if you want to see my mug live and up close. More to come.

New Standout Bitters

Man. Every time I think humankind has created every form of cocktail bitters imaginable, someone goes and proves me wrong. New bitters brands just keep coming, some with unusual flavors and others with delicious variations on classic styles. I’m working my way through the growing cornucopia of cocktail bitters, sampling the wares of upstart bitterers to let you know which bottles are worth buying.

The offerings I’ve reviewed here demonstrate the creativity of today’s producers of bitters. From your traditional cherry and orange bitters to more esoteric styles such as hop and fig, here are several bottles to seek out (and a couple that are skippable).

Read on.

SHRUBS in the Washington Post

I seem to have forgotten to mention it here, but Carrie Allen of the Washington Post called me up recently to discuss the past, present, and future of shrubs. We talked a bit about the book (she enjoys it! neener neener, she’s seen it and you haven’t!) and discussed why shrubs are good to drink, either as a non-boozy treat or as a boozy one.

The conversation was fun, and her piece, which ran last week, captures my voice well, so I’m really delighted with it. Check it out here!

10 Best Budget Rums

My posting frequency at SE has slipped to about twice a month these days, because BUSY. Anyway, here’s my latest.

We who love rum are very lucky people. It’s a category of spirits that offers many wonderful values—bottles that taste like they should cost way more than they actually do. You can very easily find great rums, both white and dark, under $20, and today, I’ll introduce you to a few of my favorites.

[Get the list!]