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Scotch & Whiskey

This page is dedicated to the greatest liquor around: whiskey. Aside from a dirty, dry, gin martini, a glass of scotch and/or whiskey is probably the greatest thing to happen to the male sex since the discovery of female tits, ass and vagina. Read and learn all about these great accompaniments to dinner.

You may sometimes see it spelled “whisky,” or generically (and often erroneously) referred to as “scotch.” You might also see scotch lumped in with things like bourbon or rye. Shit, you’ll even see single malts confused with blends. But words have meanings, my friends, and this is where you will learn them, and where you will find my opinions about which are the best.

Terminology

Whiskey/Whisky: Whisky is alcohol that’s been distilled from fermented grain mash. All whiskey must be distilled at a minimum of 40% and a maximum of 94.8% ABV. The spelling is generally different based on which country it is from. A nice rule of thumb is that countries that do not have an E in their name do not spell whisky with an E. Examples: Scotland/Japan = Whisky; America/Ireland = Whiskey

Where Brooklyn at???
Where Brooklyn at???

Grain Whisky: Whisky made, at least in part, from grains other than malted barley.

Malt Whisky: Whisky made primarily from malted barley.

Irish Whiskey: Yup, you guessed it… whiskey made in Ireland. It must be distilled to an ABV of less than 94.8%. Additional rules are that it must be aged three or more years in wooden barrels, and if two or more distillates are used the whiskey must be labeled as a “blend.”

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Scotch: The mash must be barley, it must be from Scotland, and it must be aged in oak barrels for three or more years at an ABV of less than 94.8%. Pretty simple.

Single Malt: Essentially this just means that the whisky is a product of a single distillery.  A single-malt Laphroaig may contain whisky from many barrels produced at their distillery, but it must contain whisky produced only at Laphroaig.

Blended Malt: Also known as vatted malts, these are a blend of single malts from two or more distilleries.

Single Grain: Very misleading. It means barley and one or more other cereal grains were used, produced only at a single distillery (similar to single malt).

Blended Grain: Blend of single grains from two or more distilleries.

Blended Scotch Whisky: A mix of both single malt whisky and single grain whisky, sourced from several different distilleries.

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Single Barrel: This is a whisky from a single barrel, unmixed with other barrels. Very rare.

Bourbon: Grain mix must be at least 51% corn, and bourbons are from the USA and aged in new charred oak barrels. Straight bourbon is a bourbon that has aged two or more years. While most bourbon is made in Kentucky, it is not a requirement. Bourbon can be no more than 80% alcohol (160 proof) and no more than 62.5% when put into casks for aging in new charred oak barrels.

Tennessee Whiskey: Straight bourbon made in Tennessee and filtered through charcoal.

Rye: In Canada, there must be some rye in the mash. In the USA, however, there must be at least 51% rye in the mash, and they must be aged in new charred oak barrels. Like bourbon, straight rye is a rye that has aged two or more years. Rye can be no more than 80% alcohol (160 proof) and no more than 62.5% when put into casks for aging in new charred oak barrels.

Personal Preferences

I have two distinct likes when it comes to scotch. I enjoy the extremes of the spectrum: creamy and sweet like butterscotch, and super medicinal and peaty.

Let’s start with the peaty ones: Laphroaig 10 is like baseball glove leather, and I mean that in the best way possible. Very smokey and definitely an acquired taste. I absolutely love it.

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That, Ardbeg (both the 10 year and the Corryvreckan) and Lagavulin are my favorite of the smokey, peaty varieties.

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I have a great book called “Michael Jacksons Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch” that I found to be very useful (Not Jacko – some other dude). It also rates them out of 100. Lagavulin 16 (their most common) gets like 96/100. That’s pretty fucking amazing for a bottle that typically costs $75-$100 (depending on how hard you are being raped in cities). Tasting anything higher ranked is going to cost you a shitload of scratch. In fact, I don’t think I’ve tasted anything rated higher than Lagavulin. Get it. It’s fucking totally mint.

For the smoother types: I like Macallan 18, Glenlivet 21, Balvenie Double Wood 12, and Glenmorangie 18.

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That Glenlivet 21 is as clean as a freshly shaved snatch too, assuming there was a shower taken afterwards, and no STDs or weird rashes… One Christmas Eve I drank nearly half a bottle of GL21 and had no hangover whatsoever the next morning. Happy Birthday Jesus!!! The smoothies I listed here are all a bit more expensive (though Balvenie is not) but well worth it.

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The Macallan and Glen Livet 12 years are nice to start with if you’d like to try something smooth as well, but I prefer the Balvenie Double Wood by far at that price point. They call it “double wood” because it has two hard cocks. No… because it is aged for most years in oak casks, but then finished in sherry casks, so it has a unique flavor.

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Scotch Flavor Map

I came across this pretty cool chart thing a while back, and kept it handy for quick reference. This gives you a little visual of the flavor profiles people often discuss with scotch:

Map
From http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/01/03/all-hail-scottish-whisky-flavour-map

Regions of Scotch Production

There are essentially four main regions of scotch production in Scotland, and each region has flavors that are often typically associated with their scotches.

Speyside: fruity and delicate. The valley of the river Spey is often associated with flavors like vanilla, honey, apples and pears.

Lowlands: fresh, light. These malts are fragrant, floral, taste of cereal and are light in color.

Highlands: smooth and floral. In the west, you have some maritime influence in the flavor, and in the central highlands you get some honey and heather.

Islay/Skye Islands: peaty and briny. These robust malts are laden with the medicinal / iodine aromas of the sea.

Drinking Tips

One thing I like to do: drink the first half of my glass neat, then throw one or two ice cubes in and allow the flavors to change. It’s like having two different glasses of scotch in one, because the ice and water allow the scotch to open up (kind of like wine), and different aromas and flavors can be more easily detected.

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The ice sphere is so much cooler than the ice cube. The ice cube is such a square.
The ice sphere is so much cooler than the ice cube. The ice cube is such a square.

Another cool thing I learned at a tasting: splash a little scotch on the palm of your hand and rub your hands together like Mr. Miyagi. Then smell your hands. All sorts of aromas are unleashed. You’ll smell florals, vanillas, nuts, wood, etc. Very cool.

An interesting trick: suck air in through your teeth as you have some scotch in your mouth and on your tongue. The break-up and aeration of the liquid will release aromas and flavors that you might have otherwise missed.

Most important: take your time. I sometimes see scotch amateurs order a nice scotch and then shoot it fast. What a waste! Don’t be that fucking guy.

Organize a tasting: maximize your exposure to various scotches. If you’re anything like me, you have a bunch of buddies who love to drink. Chances are, a good crew of them dig scotch. Call them up and organize a scotch tasting. Everyone can bring their stash and you’ll have a really big selection to work with. Check out this selection we amassed last Christmas. Fuck yeah! I think we had 30 bottles total when a last minute arrival showed up, and it was something he brought back from China. Sweet!

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A final note: scotch isn’t for everyone. Some people just don’t like this shit. Tastes are subjective, but tastes do change over time. I always hated tequila, for instance. But I respect the spirit and understand how tons of variety exists in the product lines. In fact I’ve recently started to come around to tequila through my enjoyment of aged mezcal. Maybe you’ll come around to scotch if your first impression is bad. Keep trying. You never know – your taste buds might have adjusted and now you might love scotch if you tried some good ones.

Other Resources

For a more in-depth dive into terminology, check out THIS SITE. Start at A, and work your way through Z. Do it. Don’t be a bitch.

Www.Maltmadness.com is a great resource, as is www.Malts.com. Whisky Magazine (out of the UK) is fantastic as well, also online at www.WhiskyMag.com.

You should also check out my post on the Whisky Advent Calendar. Needless to say that was a great December – a December to remember for sure.

day 24: master of malt 50 yr speyside (3rd edition)

Burger & Barrel

This place easily comes in as one of my favorite burgers in the city. I tried the bash burger (bacon and onion jam), and the classic (lettuce and tomato). Both came with American cheese as the standard, and both were fucking amazing: great bun, and astounding meat flavor. The fries were perfectly cooked and seasoned as well, and the batter on the onion rings was so crisp and delicious.. I’ll definitely be dining here again, especially for the prime rib dinner.

The bash burger was so good that you didn’t miss the crunch from the lettuce or the coolness of the tomato:

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The classic was firing on all cylinders. Every aspect of this thing worked. Tomato was sliced a little thicker than I normally like, but it was not unwieldy because the other stuff was all the right thickness.

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It’s no wonder this place, which is run by the same folks at Bowery Meat Company, is running away with all sorts of burger awards.

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UPDATE 4/20/15

I went back yesterday with my wife and my parents to celebrate me and my wife’s 6th wedding anniversary.

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We did the prime rib dinner for four, which you will need to reserve in advance because they need lots of time to prep the roast (I think it cooks for 8 hours). Check out the menu:

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We started with a few brews since we were walking around a lot that afternoon and needed some refreshments:

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The family style apps were pretty delicious. First were these little chicken lollipops. Super crispy skin, some Korean style BBQ sauce drizzled over with sesame seeds and some greens. These are addicting. I only wish there were eight instead of six in the order, that way we each could have eaten two. They’re a little too good to stop at just one, despite the massive amount of food yet to come.

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The tuna tartare was nice, light and refreshing. It was topped with an avocado spread and served with waffle-cut potato chips. Everything was just right on this dish.

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Next up were the individually ordered salads. Since there were three to choose from, we had one of each and then an extra that was doubled. So we ordered two of the beet salads. The beets were perfectly roasted, and the toasted walnuts gave good texture and crunch to the salad. The goat cheese was so soft and velvety, and the orange segments added a citrus pop that really made this salad stand out as the best of the three.

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The kale salad had butternut squash, faro and cranberries. This was dressed nicely with a honey mustard vinaigrette.

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The last of the salads was apple and arugula with shaved fennel, pine nuts and parmigiano, lightly dressed with a light apple vinegar.

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The star of the show is this Creekstone Farms roasted prime rib.

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This is a LOT of beef for just four people. The waiter said that it comes out to about 14oz per person, but that is a serious understatement. I think my cut alone, which wasn’t as big as my dad’s, was about 24oz.

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So thick and juicy. The seasoning got way down into the meat, and the crust of spices along the outside edges was incredible. The fat was pretty much all edible meat jello – so tasty. Not one bite became monotonous or boring, as is the case many times with prime rib. This had a ton of character. I can’t even describe to you how amazing the restaurant smelled when they carried this bad boy out to us. They also served it with two sauces: bordelaise and peppercorn poivre sauce. Both were great but I tended to hit the peppercorn sauce a little more often.

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Even the sides were amazing here. First, I’ve never tasted a tater tot so good in my life. They were perfectly crisp, and herbed up nice with rosemary flavor.

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The brussels sprouts were crispy and light, but packed a ton of flavor. I could eat this like a snack while watching TV.

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The spinach was perfectly seasoned and sautéed in garlic and oil – no heavy cream to weigh down the meal.

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And the potatoes were so unique. They seemed like they were ripped up, baked and fried fingerlings with caramelized onions. They had a really dynamic texture of crisp and soft mixed throughout.

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Finally, for dessert we had apple fritters with chocolate truffles, topped with ice cream and caramel sauce. These were like little doughnuts made from apple. Nice and crisp on the outside, with a perfectly cooked apple on the inside. I’m usually not a huge fan of chocolate but that truffle was excellent!

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The staff was really great here, and they brought us out a complimentary pair of mini bottles of rose champagne when they overheard us talking about the fact that we were celebrating an anniversary. Really nice touch, and the champagne was tasty!

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Overall this is one of my favorite places to eat in the city right now.

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The bar has a great, fun atmosphere, and every item I’ve tried here is pretty much an example of the best I’ve had. This doesn’t come as much of a shocker though, because all of the restaurants in their group as just as amazing. If you haven’t been here yet, get your ass down here ASAP and try some of the items pictured above. I promise, you will not be disappointed.

UPDATE 3/26/18

Unfortunately two subsequent return trips to B&B for the prime rib caused me to lower the score on the meat. The first return was the same sized rack, but boneless and for six people instead of four. It was still tasty though. Lets call that 9/10 instead of 10/10.

On the second return, the rack was a slight bit smaller still, boneless and for four people. However the real problem is that we didn’t get the whole rack. The four slices we received were thin – much too thin to add up to the full rack that was presented.

Additionally, the meat kinda sucked. It was grainy, overdone, and flavorless.

Let’s call that a 5/10. So that averages out to an 8, but I’m taking it down to a 7 due to the disppointing downward trend in the prime rib here over the course of a few years time.

My suggestion: stick to the burgers here. I can no longer recommend the prime rib, despite it being a low price tag for the amount of food you get.

BURGER & BARREL
25 W. Houston St.
New York, NY 10012