Sunday, March 29, 2009

Monthly update: Latest acquisitions

Welcome to the first monthly bar acquisition update. Each month I'll at least try to remember what I've obtained for my bar. This month, it's pretty easy to remember, since most of it came in recently:

I took a jaunt downtown to visit fellow WS member, Joe Riley at Ace Beverage in NW DC after a meeting. While it's not the biggest store I've seen, as he said, "We make due with what we've got." That he does. They've got an amazing selection of some great liquors and wines that I haven't been able to find anywhere else, including all of the Del Magey Mezcal offerings, Marteau absinthe, the full line of Haus Alpenz offerings and a ton more. I took the opportunity to complete my Haus Alpenz collection as well as pick up some other syrups I'd been meaning to get.

Along with that, I received some nice goody bags throughout the month too.


Scarlet Ibis bespoke rum
Battavia Arrack
Fee Brothers Orgeat
Agave Syrup
La Fee X.S. (yuck)
Bob's Bitters from the U.K. - Lavender, Cardamom, Coriander, Vanilla, Licorice, Grapefuit, and Ginger

New Totals:
Absinthe (not including vintage): 135
Gin: 16
Rum: 15
Scotch: 57
Tequila/Mezcal: 10
Vodka: 16
Whiskey: 29

Others (cordials, schnapps, etc): 97

Latest Absinthe Tasting

It's been too long since I last updated the blog, but I've been overwhelmed with projects, both in my real job, and outside of it. Since noone here cares about my finance stories, I'll totally skip over that and update you instead on everything else!

1) Big news on the absinthe education front. I've enlisted the help of several Wormwood Society members to contribute to an upcoming absinthe feature in a prominant magazine. It will be both the cover story and also an 8+ page spread. It should be great! I'll hold off on announcing which publication until everything is finalized.

2) I'll be visiting with Gary 'Vay-ner-CHUCK' on WineLibraryTV to go over several brands of absinthe that are now available in the US. We tape on April 8th. I'll post airing info as it becomes available.

3) The latest date for the TasteDC Absinthe Tasting event has been set for May 14th again at the Chi Cha Lounge in NW DC. I believe the house absinthes will still be featured (Kubler, Lucid and Pernod) as well as several others that I've been able to procure, which at this point will probably be Marteau, Leopold Brothers and Obsello with a potential showing of Pacifique. The last event went fabulously, although I did have some trip ups with the history presentation. I'd tried to throw too much into too little time and it got a little sloppy. This time it should go much more smoothly, since I know exactly how much time I have.

4) Posted a point/counterpoint article regarding some new 'absinth' (notice there's no 'e') products coming to the U.S. market over on The Real Absinthe Blog.

Upcoming entries:
1) A post about the last absinthe tasting event
2) Another Scotch tasting event recap
3) A roundup of the WineLibraryTV taping

See you around!

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Durian cometh...

For years, I'd been hearing about a fruit that was so offensive to the olfactory sense, that in some countries, it's against the law to consume it in public, or even carry it on public transportation. Trouble is, until recently, I never had a clue where I could find any.

In the past two years, I've seen many a travel show have a segment or two on the Durian fruit. Andrew Zimmern tried it in three separate episodes, and could never finish more than one or two bites. Here's one of his experiences.

Anthony Bourdain on the other hand, slops it up like the best stinky cheeses.

If two of my favorite food show hosts had such disparate views on it, which side of the coin would I fall on?

First was my quest to find a purveyor. Luckily, the DC area is chock full of Asian markets that sell all sorts of durian comestibles: Fresh, frozen, durian juice, durian ice cream, durian Popsicles, etc. I thought my best bet would be just to go with durian au naturale.

On my way home from the market, I quickly realized that there was no way my wife was going to let me eat this thing in the house. Even in it's partially frozen state, it still stank to high heaven! Think rotten egg, onion and vanilla pudding all mixed up in a big ol' bucket. That's durian aroma for you.

Grabbing a cutting board, I brought it out onto the deck to continue to thaw. It would be mine the following day...

Properly rested and prepared for my culinary journey, I grabbed my trusty cleaver and walked out to meet my new friend.

Now thoroughly thawed, I could tell that I was a very very lucky man to have kept it outside as opposed to in the house overnight. Even with the breeze, the smell permeated everything. It's unmistakable, and unavoidable. And it only gets stronger when you cut into it. As you open it, you do get a bit more of a sweet scent, which makes it a bit more tolerable, but still not a scent that most Americans equate with anything other than spoilage. Something similar to old pumpkin. You know, the smell you get about a week after Halloween, when your carved pumpkins start to get a bit gamey?

I'd heard from several sources that durian is best eaten with your nose plugged, as the smell and taste aren't necessarily linked. I'd beg to differ.

The taste itself is odd. Not totally off-putting, but not totally enjoyable either. It's a combination of custard, papaya, celery, squash, and shallots. The sweetness is what you first taste, then you get the shallot/light sweet onion flavor in the back of the mouth. It's something that brings two distinct emotions, one of wanting to gag, but one wanting to have more. You have to keep reminding yourself that the oniony flavor isn't due to rotting, or going bad, it's just the natural flavor.

The texture is probably the strangest part. The only way to describe it is like very hard scrambled eggs, with a bit of the membraney/stringy type texture of overripe mango. It's tough to get used to.

I think the hardest thing to deal with is the 'recurrences'. Durian seems to fester in your stomach, creating a lot of gasses that you regurgitate for the next several hours, which taste and smell just as strongly as the actual fruit. Definitely keep stocks of breathmints and Beano.

Overall, it's not bad, but you definitely have to have an open mind when you attack it. It's something that, at first taste, I wasn't very fond of, but becomes an acquired taste. Now, I can eat them without a problem. But, as Anthony Bourdain said, durian is definitely best eaten alone.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My empire expands!

OK, that's overdoing it. But in either case, I'm happy to announce that I have been asked to become a co-author of Alan Moss' baby, the Real Absinthe Blog!

I'm excited to be part of such an active resource. I think it will fit well as a companion to the Wormwood Society, as each focuses on separate yet related issues. The Wormwood Society's main page focuses mainly on educational resources, while the RAB focuses more on current events and interviews. Both are sorely needed during this all-too-important time of absinthe's infancy in the U.S. market, where as much TRUE information as possible is required to see absinthe become a staple in every bar. We'll also be working towards the goal of separating inherent product interests from unbiased information.

Further, I feel it will help to bring to fruition our goal of providing a Wormwood Society e-zine. While it's not at the forefront of most agendas right now, I think it will be an indispensible addition once it gets off the ground.

Thanks to Alan Moss for his consideration. I'm looking forward to the blog's continued success!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Bruichladdich Octomore edition 01.1

I was lucky enough to be able to snag one of only 6000 bottles issued of the Octomore. Clocking in at approximately $200, it ain't cheap, but it's a piece of history. It also sold out before it even hit the shelves.

Octomore contains 131 ppm (parts per million) phenol, making it the world's most heavily peated whisky. According to the distillery, it's three times more peated than any other whisky on the market. Although, that's obviously not taking into account the new Ardbeg supernova, which is calculated to be 100 ppm.

Overall, I was really impressed with how delicate the peating was. I was expecting to be punched in the face with an ashtray full of spent churchills, but instead, the smoke gently played on the tongue and married well with the honeyed sweetness that is characteristic of it's young age. Don't get me wrong, it's a lot of smoke. But it's not overwhelming. Unlike the sharpness of the smoke from something like the Lagavulin 16, this whisky has much more depth.

It's invigorating, with lots of vanilla and pear competing (or should I say playing nice) with the tar and cigar smoke. The mouth feel is velvety, and the finish lasts forever. Overall, this is a wonderful whisky. Much more appealing than I'd imagined it would be. I'm hoping to be a contender to get a bottle when they release the 10 year and 15 year editions.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Scotch tasting on 1-16-09

I had been discussing Scotch with a client of mine when he mentioned that he had a Scotch club that meets once a month or so to review a few. I offered to do a tasting out of my personal stash, which was well received.

After going over a few options as to what to present, we decided on a rundown of the Whisky producing regions of Scotland. Since the Highlands area has such a wide diversity of flavors, I chose to include two separate offerings from that region.

We went over some of the basics of Scotch, including how it's produced, the laws surrounding Whisky production in Scotland, and also what influences the flavor of the final product. Then we got into the drink!

From lightest to heaviest:

Lowlands: Auchentoshan 16 y.o. 58.9% - A.D. Ratray Special bottling
Nose: soda bread, sweet meringue and citrus
Flavor: citrus, honey, malt and grass
Notes: Very easy to sip. I'd consider this closer to the profile of an Irish whisky than a Scotch.

Central Highlands: Edradour 10 y.o.
Nose: creamy and nutty with a light sweetness
Flavor: Sweet with almonds with a gentle hint of smoke. Dry on the finish

Speyside: BenRiach 16 y.o. 46%
Nose: hazlenuts, honey and toast
Flavor: malty, fruity and sweet with soft mulled spices and vanilla. Just a touch of smoke.

East Highlands: Glen Garioch 15 y.o. 46% - Whisky Galore Special Bottling
Nose: Lavender and oak
Flavor: medium bodied, fuller mouth feel than the previous three, slight smokiness, quite peppery in the finish.

Campeltown: Glen Scotia 12 y.o. 62.3% - Gordon McPhail Special Cask Strength Bottling
Nose: Spicy with hints of mulled wine and plums
Flavor: Very peppery, spicy and oily with good peating
Notes: Watering brought out strong notes of milk chocolate

Islay: Lagavulin 16 y.o.
Nose: cognac and chocolate with a touch of clover
Flavor: heavy and oily. Starts sweet and finishes very smoky.
Notes: Water brings out a bit of plastic in both the aroma and flavor

Overall, the tasting went wonderfully. The crowd favorite for the evening was the Glen Garioch.

Meager beginnings...

With so much going on with my food and drink explorations, I thought it was apropos that I begin a formal blog to document everything.

So, let me introduce myself.

My wife and I moved to the DC area back in 2000, where I immediately began setting up and growing my financial planning practice. I love what I do. I sleep good at night knowing I'm helping clients reach their financial goals. I also have an obsession with the psychology of investing, and how it affects someone's ability to make the right financial decisions. My job helps me quench that thirst.

My alter ego is a major foodie and enjoys all types of liquid delights. Liquor, beer, wine, tea, coffee, etc. It's all golden to me. This site will be a repository of all of my experiences.

I regularly do Scotch and Absinthe tastings for clients and others, so those events will be recorded here, as well as any other event I deem worthy of publishing.

I'll be doing several 'distillery reviews' in the near future as well, going down the list of offerings from many of the artisinal producers and giving you my thoughts.

So, here's a list of some of the things you can expect in the coming few months:

1) Distillery reviews of Leopold Brothers and Tuthilltown.
2) Write-ups of two Scotch tasting events recently done
3) Write-ups of several absinthe tastings held at Chi-Cha Lounge in conjunction with
4) Hour by hour updates of the 2009 Tales of the Cocktail event in New Orleans in July.
5) Updates on several formal absinthe blind tasting events which will be held in July and September
6) Several restaurant reviews
7) Overviews of some of the better liquor stores in the DC area
8) Cocktail reviews

Be seeing you soon!