A Brave New World: American Whiskey

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Whiskey is a centuries old story. You can imagine recipes and instructions for distillation on ancient pages now browning with age. Though whiskey?was probably around for longer than the books?seem to indicate, the first actual confirmed written record (according to Wikipedia) is from Ireland in 1405. In Scotland, evidence of production dates from the year 1494.

Here in the new world, whiskey was used as a currency during the American Revolution and George Washington is known to have operated a distillery at Mount Vernon. During Prohibition (from 1920-1933) whiskey was available with a prescription from a doctor and was sold through licensed pharmacies. It was during this time that Walgreens pharmacy chain grew from 20 to nearly 400 stores. Coincedence? I think not. While Kentucky is the American birthplace of the barreled spirit, states all over are now creating their own versions of?this tasty libation.

Whiskey?s presence is enduring.

Lately, there?s been something of a craft spirits revolution; it seems like more and more whiskey is being produced than ever before. I see bars all over Portland catering specifically to lovers of bourbon, whiskey and even moonshine (unaged and clear corn whiskey). Ok, let?s be honest, I don?t just see them, I visit them. I?m a huge fan of Multnomah Whiskey Library (it?s like stepping back in time and entering a classic speakeasy, something you have to experience to comprehend), and other favorites include Pope House Bourbon Lounge, Branch Whiskey Bar, The Rookery (at Raven and Rose) and Swine Bar.

American whiskey uses cereal grain to produce the fermented mash. There are many different types of American whiskey, including bourbon whiskey (at least 51% corn), corn whiskey (at least 80% corn), malt whiskey (at least 51% malted barley), rye whiskey (at least 51% rye), rye malt whiskey (at least 51% malted rye) and wheat whiskey (at least 51% wheat). A couple of rules apply, American whiskey must be distilled under 80% alcohol by volume and must remain under 125 proof. Some people say the only whiskey is Scotch whiskey. I beg to differ. But I?m American, so maybe my opinion doesn?t count to some. While there are whiskeys from practically every country and at every price tag, it would be impossible to review them all and there are some lovely new world expressions to explore. Let?s start by looking at two: one from right here in the Pacific Northwest and a classic bourbon whiskey straight from Kentucky.

Westland American Single Malt Whiskey
Westland?s flagship whiskey, this spirit represents the brand?s house style. The malt is grown in the state of Washington and they even own their own peat bog (which can be better experienced with their Peated Malt Whiskey). This whiskey, though complex with sweet aromas of graham crackers, caramel and cr?me brulee, the creamy mouth feel further enhances the enjoyment. And though it sounds like dessert any kid would love, this whiskey is mature and solid, developing in flavor and complexity. Enjoy it neat or blend it into an Old Fashioned. It will not disappoint.

I.W. Harper:
I.W. Harper spent many years trying to bring bourbon out of the backwoods. Athey were winning awards back in the late 1800?s. Now, after is spending 20 years abroad in international markets, they are making their debut back in the United States. Welcome back and where have you been all my life? Consider them the Urban Bourbon, ideal for the modern consumer who values the beverages rich history. I.W. Harper should be appreciated, not just consumed. Their offerings include: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey ? 82 proof with a golden amber color, caramel, vanilla and toasted coconut on the nose with a long finish of chocolate and malty goodness. 15-Year_old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey ? Showcases the rye spice. Darker, deeper amber color, with a higher viscosity, showing flavors of vanilla, burnt sugar, and cr?me. Hints of allspice and white pepper add depth to the mid-palate structure.

 

RECIPE:

Satiate Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned is one of the oldest cocktails and has never gone out of fashion. Though this is considered a no-no by some traditionalist standards, I prefer to muddle one boozey cherry into the sugar syrup. I love the way the sweet cherry compliments the smokiness of the whiskey.

2 shots of good rye whiskey
1 t simple syrup
3 dashes of bitters
Gourmet brandied cherries (DIY or try Luxardo or Unbound)
Splash of club soda
Ice (preferably the big cube)
Orange twist for garnish

Muddle the cherry with the syrup and bitters, add one oversized ice cube, whiskey and the soda. Rub the orange twist around the rim of an Old Fashioned tumbler?and then add to the drink for?garnish. Feel free to throw another cherry on top – first of all, because you can, and secondly, cause you’ll win bonus points with the girlfriend/wife.

Dominio IV Viognier

A New World Viognier Worth Making Exceptions For

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I love European wine. Maybe it?s the centuries of history, or the connection to culture and cuisine.?Or maybe I just like the earth-driven character of the wines better than the fruit-driven wines of the new world. But not always?

The girlfriend and I were at a tasting the other day, staining our teeth purple with some local Syrah and other Rhone varieties. We approached a table featuring the wines of Dominio IV, one being a Viognier. I announced, with certainty, that I actually prefer the new world style of Viognier over the French.? She just about fell over.

French Viognier hails from a small corner of the Northern Rhone region, from two appellations. Condrieu is well recognized, but there is also a tiny appellation named for just one estate, Chateau Grillet. I love other Rhone Valley whites but for some reason, the French style is to overload Viognier with oak. New oak even (gasp). Gobs of it. I mean, the stuff is like the toast I make for the daughter at breakfast, dripping with butter!

Luckily, Oregon’s?local winemakers take a different approach.? Fermenting in stainless steel and aging in old oak barrels with a neutral taste, these?Viognier comes out fresh, lively and exuberant. The Dominio IV jumped out of the glass with aromas of flowers and tropical fruits. Honeysuckle, jasmine, orange blossom, honeydew, passion fruit were all present. The palate had some weight to it, with some leesy or biscuit aromas left over from fermentation. It all finished well with echoes of the flowers and fruits. The wine was dry, but not bracing and overall, a lovely improvement on the French original.

Dominio IV 2013 “Still Life” Viognier – The price for this wine wasn’t available on the?winery’s?website, but I?purchased it for an astonishing $18/bottle at the Celebration of Syrah?(though I’ve?seen it listed for as much as $22 retail). A?very worthy purchase.

Aioli – You’ll Never Look at Mayo the Same Way Again

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The ex-boyfriend was?always waxing poetic about France. The fact that he spoke endlessly?about his dream to live in Italy is in stark contrast to his love of and connection to French wine and food. He did make me dream.

I used to imagine wandering arm in arm with him down the promenades on the C?te d’Azur in the summertime. Caf? tables with views of blue waters are lined with platters of crudit? and the long sexy necks of pink wine bottles peak out of ice buckets dripping with condensation. Romance is heavy in the air.?And served alongside each delicious platter of crudite is a generous side of aioli.

Aioli hails from the Proven?al region of southern France. But first things first, we must get one thing straight; aioli is NOT mayonnaise. It may resemble mayonnaise in both looks and taste, but aioli (from the Latin for garlic oil) is actually more like mayo?s classic and much more exotic euro-cousin, and it?s far more versatile too. Yes it?s true, aioli will still be delicious on your BLT, but this topping is at its best when served alongside fried salt cod, crudit?, boiled eggs and most certainly with a bottle of dry ros?.

And though you can utilize current technology to whip up a quick batch of aioli in a food processor, traditionally this rich sauce is made the old fashioned way, by hand with a mortar and pestle. Technique aside, the main ingredients that distinguish aioli from its American counterpart is the use of garlic paste and fruity olive oil rather than a bland canola.

A dependable topping for meat and a savory dip for vegetables, aioli is also well-suited for dairy-free and Paleo diets. The addition of different herbs and spices will result in a complete change in the sauce?s personality. Try chopped fresh tarragon for more of a bernaise-style topping on your filet, mix in cumin for a South American feel to your flat iron steak, or use minced chipotle peppers for a real kick on potato fritters, steamed artichokes or just about anything you can think up.

Despite the difficulty in spelling, aioli is quite easy to make. In fact, you may find you?ll never want to buy a jar of Hellmans again.

Aioli Recipe:

3 small cloves of garlic mashed into a paste
Juice of half a lemon
1 egg yolk
? t cold water
Salt to taste
? cup of good olive oil
Optional – Dijon mustard, tarragon, chipotle peppers or other herbs and spices

Preparation:
1. Whisk garlic paste, egg yolk and salt in a mortar and pestle or small food processor.
2. Add half of the oil in very thin stream until it emulsifies.
3. Incorporate water and lemon juice, then slowly add the remaining oil.
4. Add optional herbs, spices or experiment with other ingredients that inspire and excite you.

Aioli can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Classic Old World Ros?:

Domaines Ott Chateau Romasson Bandol Ros?
Domaine Tempier Bandol Rouge

New World Ros?:

Colene Clemens 2013 Ros? of Pinot Noir
J.K. Carrier 2013 Glass White Pinot Noir
Alexana Ros? of Pinot Noir
Abacela Grenache Ros