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March 4 2015

The Bourbon Boom

I was contacted a few weeks ago and asked if I was interested in a guest blog post about the Bourbon documentaries as there has been a fair few of them recently.
Of course I said yes, and here it is.

Thank you to @MariaRamos1889 for writing this excellent post!

The Bourbon Boom:
5 Documentaries Showcasing America’s New Favorite Spirit

In recent years, craft liquor distilleries have sprung up across the country like so many small geysers spouting whiskey and bourbon. Bars designed to look like speakeasies, increasingly popular as well, serve dark spirits to younger and younger clientele – a growing number of them female. Programs such as Mad Men have also helped to bring old-school drinks like the Manhattan back in style. Given the mini-renaissance bourbon and whiskey are currently experiencing, it makes sense look at a few films charting their rise to new heights.

Rumrunners, Moonshiners and Bootleggers (2002)

When the production and distribution of alcohol was prohibited in the United States, bootleggers and criminals built an empire around the illegal rum-running industry. American history was forever changed, even after liquor became legal again. This History Channel documentary focuses on the secret history of American distilleries – many of which had their humble beginnings in someone’s uncle’s bathtub. Rumrunners, Moonshiners and Bootleggers includes rare footage and photos to help showcase America’s past and present relationship with illegal alcohol and focuses on how whiskey can and has been illegally produced for decades.

Addicted to Pleasure: Whisky (2012)

This BBC documentary explores the origin and history of Scottish whisky and the alcohol addictions that have arisen alongside it. Because urban life in Scotland was hard, the people turned to whisky to forget and avoid dealing with the difficulties they inevitably had to face. However, this came with a reputation that Scottish people still deal with today. Addicted to Pleasure: Whisky showcases this history and teaches us that there is a story behind this heavy drinking reputation and it isn’t just caused by lack of will power.

Bourbontucky (2015)

Bourbontucky is a new documentary from DirecTV’s Audience Channel that explores the traditions and processes behind the making of Kentucky bourbon. It explores Kentucky’s role in bourbon history, and interviews top-notch distillers and bourbon aficionados to give viewers a closer look into the culture of the Bluegrass State. Kentucky bourbon is more than just another hard liquor to these folks, their passion for grain alcohol borders on religious fervor.

Made and Bottled in Kentucky (2003)

Dating back to the 18th century, the story of Kentucky bourbon is almost as old as the state itself.  Made and Bottled in Kentucky dives the oldest bourbon-making traditions, charting its rise and fall from public favor throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition to tours of old and new Kentucky distilleries, this documentary gives us interviews with some of the best – Kentucky’s premier historians, bourbon distillers, and industry leaders who tell us their own stories surrounding the Kentucky bourbon experience.

Great Scotch Whisky (2006)

This documentary gives us a tour on the history and process of distilling whisky in Scotland, proudly showcasing the hardworking Scottish spirit. Many have considered the making of whisky to be an “art form” and this is clearly seen throughout the documentary. Travel to Scotland in Great Scotch Whisky and learn about the remarkable traditions and values that are imbedded in the old tradition of creating whisky.

The cycles of popular culture can be fickle; how long whiskey and bourbon remain at the forefront of craft cocktails remains to be seen. However, no matter its airtime on television, or its popularity with the younger generations, whiskey and bourbon are ingrained in the fabric of America.
The tradition of whiskey and production and the families that preserve the love of the spirit are unlikely to go anywhere.

Maria is a writer interested in comic books, cycling, and horror films. Her hobbies include cooking, doodling, and finding local shops around the city. She currently lives in Chicago with her two pet turtles, Franklin and Roy. You can follow her on Twitter @MariaRamos1889.

July 29 2014

Balls of Steel – Cool Your Whisky For a Cause

There are many different ways to cool your whisky, from the standard method of ice to chilled stones and more.
The other day I was contacted by a company that has come up with an alternative, Balls of Steel.
These are literally, balls of steel and not just a cool product name.

As well as being rather cool looking, the company that came up with them, “OriginalBOS“, are also raising money for a great cause, testicular cancer research, so another reason to give them a look.

Here’s what they had to say:

While there are many types of whiskey, there is only one way to drink it: chilled.

Balls of Steel are stainless steel whiskey chillers that allow you to enjoy your drink without diluting it the way water does. These stainless steel balls will allow you to drink your whiskey the way it was made to be enjoyed. You will no longer have to deal with the unwanted dilution that drowns out the flavors when your ice melts.

Balls of Steel

Balls of Steel

Inside each ball is an arctic core, developed by OriginalBOS, which allow Balls of Steel to get cold fast and stay cold longer. Place the balls in the freezer for at least 90 minutes and then drop them in a glass to enjoy whiskey at the perfect temperature.

Chilling whiskey is not the sole purpose of Balls of Steel. Just by purchasing Balls of Steel, you are supporting mens’ health. For every purchase, OriginalBOS donates a portion of its proceeds to testicular cancer research.

Now you can enjoy your perfectly chilled whiskey and have Balls of Steel.

Balls of Steel are available for purchase at www.OriginalBOS.com

What are Balls of Steel? from Original BOS on Vimeo.

Get your set at: www.OriginalBOS.com

DISCLAIMER: I received no compensation, monetary or otherwise for writing this post. I just thought they looked pretty cool and wanted to spread the word.

June 17 2014

Samurai Beer from Sapporo

To coincide with an NHK drama about Samurai (one of many!), Sapporo have changed the designs of their Sapporo Beer Black Label and Sapporo Mugi and Hop The Gold Daisan cans and added some rather cool Samurai drawings.

Sapporo Samurai Beer

Sapporo Samurai Beer

Sapporo Samurai Daisan

Sapporo Samurai Daisan

The beers are from Sapporo so are pretty drinkable, even the daisan (third-category “fake beer”).

June 16 2014

Father’s Day Sake

My son (with some help from his mum, he’s only 3!) bought me this excellent personalised bottle of sake for Father’s Day this year!

Fathers Day Nihonshu

Fathers Day Sake

It has my name on it in Japanese, and “Thanks Dad” down the side.

Not sure if the nihonshu inside the bottle is any good, but the bottle itself is definitely going to be treasured!

March 4 2014

The Science and Commerce of Whisky : Book Review

I recently received “The Science and Commerce of Whisky“, the new book from Ian Buxton and
Paul S Hughes, to review.

The Science and Commerce of Whisky

The Science and Commerce of Whisky

Now, I got an A in Chemistry ‘A’ level many, many years ago, so I know my inorganic chemistry from my organic chemistry (there’s carbon in one of them!), but it was a long time ago, and would it stretch to the science of whisky making? Hmm…more on that later.

As the books title states, this book is about the science of whisky so a large section of the book is concerned with the chemistry of whisky distilling down to the molecular level, but it also covers the commerce side, discussing branding and marketing of the finished product.

It doesn’t stop there though, there are other topics covered such as the history of whisky, in particular Scottish whisky.

The book is divided into 8 chapters, each covering a specific area of either historical, scientific or commercial relevance to whisky distilling and is extensively researched with references to books (scientific, culinary, poetic and more) as far back as the 1600s and even earlier.

Chapter 1 is Whisky’s Historical Development which gives a good overview of the history of whisky from alchemy (I told you they went far back in history!) up to modern day, with Chapter 2 giving itself over entirely to the history of whisky in Scotland, going fairly in-depth into the companies, distilleries and industry as a whole there.

Things change pace with Chapters 3 and 4, as this is where the science kicks in…

The book is written with whisky industry practitioners and chemistry undergraduates in mind but is also accessible to whisky enthusiasts and laymen like myself.
However some of the chemistry here was way over my head and I spent a lot of these chapters, thinking…”Ok, I’ll take your word for it.“…or…”What do those words even mean?!“.

Maltase liberates β-D-glucose, either from α-1,4-linked chains or terminal glucose residues linked by α-1,6 linkages.

Does it? Oh, right. Cool.

If you’re an undergraduate or actively involved in the distilling process, this I’m sure is
a) understandable and b) very useful to know.
For the rest of us, just go with it, it’ll be worth it in the end.

So Chapter 3 is about the production of New Make Spirit, and Chapter 4 moves on to the casks and the maturation of whisky, which I found particularly interesting as they go into some detail about how casks are made, the maturation and natural colour process and also how the American standard barrels are adapted to hogsheads (larger casks) for the long maturation process.
The barrelling part of whisky production (and wine for that matter) has always fascinated me.

Chapter 5 discusses blending and bottling with Chapter 6 going into detail on branding and marketing of the finished product.

Throughout the book there are tons of fascinating little facts and tit-bits of information, for example, about 70 odd % of the price of a bottle of Scotch Whisky in the UK is actually tax! Which explains why it’s so much cheaper to buy foreign whisky here in Japan where the tax on alcohol is much lower!

The final two chapters discuss “New Whisky Countries” and “Today’s Global Market” which, as can be expected from these authors, contains very detailed tables and statistics on sales and market share for the different kinds of whiskies (blends, American, etc).
There is also some discussion about the new kids on the block – the artisan and craft distillers and their place in the “modern” history of whisky.

All in all, this book is a fascinating and easily accessible study of what goes on “behind the scenes” at distilleries around the world, from creating the whisky through to maturing it, bottling it and perhaps more important than ever these days, the marketing of the product and brand.

One welcome addition however, would have been a glossary for some of the less well-known scientific terms for the non-chemistry-undergraduate whisky enthusiast like myself, but I guess once you start down that road where do you stop – the glossary could end up being pages and pages long.
People who need to know the technical jargon, will probably know already or can look it up, while the rest of us can just be grateful there are people who know this scientific stuff and can capture it in a bottle for us!

The book is published by The Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK and is available from their website http://www.rsc.org/shop/ priced at £27.99.

Disclaimer : I was sent this book free of charge to review but I have received no payment for the review nor am I an affiliate, so won’t receive any percentage of sales for any purchases made after clicking the above link.

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