Sexy Bottles!!! An Interview with Graphic Designer, David Cole

For those of you that know me, I clearly spend a significant portion of my free time learning about, tasting and hunting whiskey. So much of my energy is invested in the quest to find that next bourbon, rye or Scotch that will blow my mind, shift my point of view, and further expand my palate. I’m quick to share my thoughts about each and every pour, and I do my best to be objective and focus on the whiskey itself, ignoring marketing, hype, or in some cases whatever the opposite of “hype” is. Anyone??? Does that word have an antonym?

Despite my best efforts to ignore all but the whiskey itself and judge it solely on its merits, I’d be silly to think that I’m not influenced by other factors, such as price, brand backstory, scarcity, reputation and… the most obvious factor that presents itself when you walk into the liquor store and set your eyes upon the whiskey aisle: packaging!

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Northern Virginia Bourbon History

So many times over the years I would carry my mountain bike down the three flights of stairs of my Reston, Virginia condo, strap on my trusty helmet and CamelBak, and head out in search of urban terrain to practice my trials skills on. In case you’re not familiar with mountain bike trials riding, I highly recommend you watch this video of Danny MacAskill. It will help paint the picture of what was floating around in my head as I headed out on each of these sessions. I dreamed big and aspired to ride like Danny one day, but in reality, simply doing a pedal kick off a four-foot wall was enough make my heart pound out of my chest.

Despite my dreams and hard work, I was no Danny MacAskill! It just wasn’t going to happen. Nevertheless, I went out riding daily, and many of those rides took me past a mysterious old building that I always admired. It was an abandoned building with boarded-up windows that looked like it was once a warehouse with a small loading dock on the side. I didn’t know the history of this building and I never bothered to do any research. I simply admired it. I hoped it would one day go up for sale and I’d have enough money to buy it, renovate it, and make it my home. It was on the market for a while, but I believe they were asking just north of $1,000,000 for it. So much for that idea!

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Beehive Bitters Whiskey Cocktail Challenge

Thanks to the awesome whiskey community and the generous folks at Beehive Bitters Company, I was able to try something new and fun on Instagram this past week. When Beehive Bitters recently released their Bourbon Barrel Aged Caramelized Orange bitters, the idea suddenly came to me: why not host an online cocktail challenge? Has it been done before? I like whiskey. I like cocktails. I like Beehive Bitters. It seemed like a sound idea to me, so I got in touch with Mike D’Amico, the founder of Beehive Bitters, and pitched it to him. He loved the idea and we quickly worked out the specifics. Here’s what we came up with…

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Tasting Blind to Help Us See

Whiskey aficionados spend a lot of time tasting and reviewing whiskey. We search for new and exciting releases, hoping the next one will be the best we’ve ever had. Many of us, myself included, are quick to share our opinions in blogs and social media circles. We try to be impartial and unbiased when tasting; to observe the color, viscosity, aromas and flavors, and judge the whiskey solely on its merits, not its provenance or pedigree. However, despite our best intentions, we rarely judge a whiskey by its physical or sensory characteristics alone.

As devotees to the refined enjoyment of our beloved intoxicants, we must appreciate that tasting is a subjective exercise, and our judgement is often influenced by any number of factors. How much did the bottle cost? Has it received good (or bad) reviews? Did it come recommended by a friend? Is it a “limited” edition? Was it some mysterious lost barrel that might be from Stitzel-Weller (don’t worry, it’s not!)? All of these things come into play when we’re tasting, whether we realize it or not. Even the most experienced whiskey drinkers are influenced by these factors. It’s human nature. Our expectations often influence our perception. So how do we eliminate these factors from the equation? It’s easy! Taste blind.

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Jack Rose Dining Saloon: Whiskey Nirvana

Nestled within our nation’s capital, located on the south side of the culturally diverse neighborhood of Adams Morgan, you will find the rarest of gems. An establishment that once visited, will change your whiskey-loving life forever. I’m referring to Jack Rose Dining Saloon, a bar unlike any other. Actually, to even refer to Jack Rose as a “bar” is borderline insulting. A more appropriate term is “whiskey library”; a vast and mind-boggling collection of bourbons, ryes and Scotch whiskies; a collection that likely surpasses any you’ve come across before, and one that’ll make a grown whiskey nerd like myself weep tears of joy. If you’d like to hear more about this magical place I speak of, please read on my friend.

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If Angel’s Envy Is Bourbon, Then so Is Jack Daniels!

When I was a kid, I thought that Jack Daniel’s was about as cool as the musicians I saw drinking it. My walls were plastered with photos from Circus and Metal Edge magazine, and it certainly wasn’t uncommon to see Nikki Sixx, Slash or Lemmy pulling from a bottle of JD. In my youth, Jack Daniel’s represented rock-and-roll, rebellion and good ol’ bad-assery. As a middle-aged bourbon aficionado…not so much. Die-hard bourbon fans just aren’t interested in Jack Daniel’s because it’s a “Tennessee Whiskey” and not a bourbon. Well, my opinion changed recently when I decided to buy a bottle of JD Single Barrel Select and give it a fair shot. I actually liked it. I liked it a lot! And that got me thinking about how biased I had been against the brand, simply because of its’ classification as something other than a bourbon. I know there are scores of bourbon purists out there that feel the same way, which is a shame. It’s not like I feel sorry for Brown-Forman. Jack Daniel’s is the number one selling whiskey in the world, after all, and I’m sure they’ve gone out of their way to separate the brand as a Tennessee Whiskey. I also understand why a bourbon fan wouldn’t be into the standard JD offering. It’s only 80-proof, it’s syrupy sweet, and it’s lacking in complexity. Be that as it may, it seems that Brown-Forman is now releasing some quality JD expressions, and I think it’s unfortunate when folks won’t try them simply because they aren’t bourbons… or so they think. I’d like to make the argument that Jack Daniels is, technically speaking, a bourbon! So, if the only reason you won’t give JD a chance is its classification, please read on, and perhaps I can help you to see it in a different light.

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Elijah Craig Small Batch: Younger Days Are Here

Bourbon lovers from around the world breathed a collective sigh of disappointment as our suspicions were confirmed last week: Heaven Hill would be dropping the age statement from Elijah Craig Small Batch. It’s hard not be bummed by this news. One of the last high-quality bargain bourbons, relegated to the ranks of the non-age-statement offerings. Oh well. What are you gonna do, drive around to all the local liquor stores in search of some remaining age statement bottles for the bunker? Yep! That’s precisely what I did yesterday, and I was shocked to find the NAS version on the shelf of the first store I visited. Already? Really?!?! I didn’t think it would happen so soon after hearing the news, but I was clearly wrong. Even though I planned to continue searching for some 12-year bottles (I found some, don’t worry), I couldn’t help but wonder how the NAS bottle would compare to its predecessor. Let’s find out, shall we?

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Aromasising – P90X for the Nose

From the moment I first picked up a whiskey book and read that first review, I was amazed how the author/taster could pull out so many aromas from the nose. Before reading those early reviews, I often nosed my bourbon, but that’s just because I loved the smell of it, like a drug. I would happily smell bourbon all day long if I had nothing more pressing to do with my time.

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2015: What a Year!

Well, being that this is my first blog post, and this past year was my first as an aspiring whiskey aficionado, I thought I’d take some time to write about where I started at the beginning of the year, where I’ve landed at the end, and several missteps and lessons learned along the way. This post will serve as my introduction to you all, and will hopefully provide the backdrop and context for all of my future posts. If such things are of interest to you, please read on, although I do feel compelled to warn you. This introduction may be a bit long-winded. I promise my future posts will be a bit more succinct. 🙂

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