Remember when patience was a virtue? I remember watching an episode of 60-Minutes when I was younger and Andy Rooney was doing one of his little bits at the end, and I remember him saying “Patience is a virtue. Impatience is also a virtue.”
That quote has stuck with me for years, and today it’s as true as ever. Although I’m going to amend it due to something I have been witnessing over the past several years: a dramatic increase in the number of motor vehicles I see running red lights.
This past December 25, which most of you will recognize as Christmas Day on the Roman calendar, a young lady named Briana Murphy was killed by another motorist who ran a red light. The accident occurred at the intersection of Highway 55 and Floating Feather road in Eagle, Idaho, a short drive from where I live and work. Someone, who is as yet unnamed, decided that their time was so much more important than that of the remainder of Earth that they need not stop for the all-important red light demanding that we stop for cross traffic.
What an incredible — and avoidable — shame!
I know this is a whiskey blog, but I’ve decided to take this opportunity to plead with all of my two readers to take a moment and think about the consequences that a lack of patience can bring into our lives. Let’s use this accident as a study in giving up approximately one minute of our day in the exercise of patience:
1) A woman was killed;
2) The person who ran the red light will be charged with manslaughter;
3) The young woman’s family will forever remember the 25th of December as the day their daughter/sister/wife/niece/friend was unceremoniously slaughtered at the hands of a reckless driver;
4) The person who caused the accident has ruined his/her own life, the life of the young woman, and the lives of both party’s family members, as well as several other victims who were in the car.
I’m sure there are other things to consider, but those four are the big ones. Fortunately, I suppose, we live in a litigious society and the family will be enriched. So, there’s that.
All that over a pesky one minute! And don’t even get me started on the possibility that the driver had his/her nose stuck in their phone checking to see what some look-at-me’s cat had for breakfast.
So, this week’s blog post has exactly one purpose: I want to encourage all of you to slow down, be patient, and stop for that red light — and, no, you do not get to use the “light was pink” excuse. The yellow light means “Prepare to stop,” not “step on it!”. While you’re there, remember that when the light turns green there is a very real likelihood that someone in the crossing traffic does not give a hoot about you, your life, or your family, and will step hard on that accelerator in order to save that one minute. Thus, you should take a deep breath, look both ways, and proceed with caution — all the while ignoring the impatient jackass behind you blaring their horn because you didn’t gun it like a drag car at the exact moment the light changed.
People, get a grip on yourselves! Yes, I know the world has sped up and every single second counts, but if you allow yourselves to get roped into that system you are either going to hurt someone or get hurt yourself. Take a break, go home, kiss the other and the kids, and have a drink of your favorite whiskey.
Trust me, your life will be better for it, and so will the lives of those closest to you.
Organic American Whiskey; Warfield Distillery; Ketchum, ID; $85
This week, Ken’s Bar has taken a gigantic step into the world of social media. Yes, it’s true. I’ve decided to YouTube! I’m not sure what direction that will take the blog, or perhaps it will circle back around and thrust its ugly social-media-head straight into my eyeball.
I don’t know.
I eventually plan to upload a weekly video along with the blog, but we’ll wait and see how that goes. I mean, I do have a life. I think.
It all started when the wife and I took a weekend trip to Ketchum, Idaho for our anniversary. Looking for a place to eat, we found this joint stuck right smack dab in the center of town that had some pretty nice food and some very nice whiskey.
So, the subject of Episode 1 of the Ken’s Bar YouTube channel is a cute, little whiskey from Ketchum. It’s called Organic American Whiskey and it’s made by Warfield Distillery and Brewery. The super cool thing about Warfield’s whiskey is that they use Scottish pot stills and distill their hooch in the Scottish style, which means something!
In fact, it means something wonderful. And what is that? Well, it means that Warfield Organic American Whiskey tastes an awful lot like Glenlivet 12-year. Yeah, it tastes like Scotch, and not the bad kind, either. More like the really good kind. Glenlivet 12-year was my gate-way Scotch, and Warfield’s little gem reminds me so much of Glenlivet that I would likely have a hard time telling the two apart in a blind tasting.
But, there’s a subtle difference that most whiskey lovers should pick up on: Glenlivet has that peaty, smokey thing going on — although subtly — where the Warfield does not. Instead, Warfield’s Organic American Whiskey is light, with a subtle apricot thing on the sides of the tongue and a delightfully playful finish that is smooth as glass. I might say it’s one of the smoothest finishing whiskies I’ve ever tried. Basically, it’s Glenlivet 12 without the Glenlivet.
That Warfield has found a way to distill a whiskey in the Scottish style and get so close that I have a hard time telling the difference is just awesome! Hundreds of years of tradition are hard to conquer, but I think Warfield has accomplished that.
But, there is a caveat. Warfield’s entrance into the world of “Scotch” comes at a price. The stuff is $100 per bottle, or more than double the cost of the Glenlivet 12-year. That’s a big ask, and one that I have a difficult time with. Still, I do own a bottle, mostly because my wife bought it for me for our 26th wedding anniversary, which tells me that she’s buttering me up for something. Probably a shopping spree some place expensive.
At any rate, Warfield is incredibly good whiskey, if you like Scotch. If you’re looking for the atypical Kentucky Bourbon or Tennessee Whiskey you’ll be disappointed. This stuff tastes like it just fell off the island yesterday, and that’s a very long way from the whiskey capital of the USA. Oddly, Warfield’s Idaho distillery is also a good long ways from that same place.
My only grumble about this stuff is that it’s best competition is half the price, but don’t let that stop you. I sure didn’t.
Warfield Organic American Whiskey
Today, I am going to introduce a new section to the website called Quickies. Sometimes, when I’m out and about, I may try something that I don’t really get an opportunity to review, or that may warrant a more in-depth review sometime down the road.
This past weekend I took the family (daughter, wife, mother) to McCall, Idaho for Thanksgiving. We stayed in a wonderful AirB&B house just a few blocks from the lake and had a very peaceful, relaxing 4-day weekend.
On Saturday night, we went out to dinner, and then we went to the Shore Lodge for a drink. I got pretty excited to discover that the lounge had Larceny Barrel Proof on the list for $14/pour, so I ordered one. Turned out the bottle was empty, so the bartender suggested I try Colonel E.H. Taylor KSBW Barrel Proof, instead.
So, I did.
Apparently it’s expensive, hard to find, and was tucked in the “Under There” cabinet. And, since I have one of those and know what’s hiding in it, I knew the stuff would be good.
Also, my friend Mike from the Whiskey Wonder Podcast has been nagging at me to try The Famous Grouse Scotch, so we tried that, too.
Thus, to start out the Quick Notes page, I’ve got a few words to say about each of these fun whiskies, one of them cheap and easy to find just about anywhere, and one of them a money-vacuum that you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere.
Michter's Small Batch KSBW; Michter's Distillery; Louisville, Kentucky; $45
Every few months a friend of mine and I get together for a little whiskey tasting. This friend, Mike from The Whiskey Wonder Podcast, is a genuine lover of all things whiskey, and he knows how to pick a good bottle. Then again, he also shoved some swill down my throat that still has me having nightmares. So, you win some, you lose some.
Well, Mike was over the other night and pulled out a happy, little bottle of Michter’s Small Batch KSBW. Upon first taste, I knew it was a nice, easy-drinker, but I really try to give any whiskey a second go before I make a call on it. There are few whiskies I’ve reviewed that I’ve made a decision on with just one drink. The reason is simple, or should be. Other things I might be eating or drinking may have an influence on my taste buds, so I like to get a second opinion.
Mike came over on a Friday night, and as I write this it is Monday evening. Three days should be enough for that second opinion, and indeed it is.
Michter’s claims their KSBW Small Batch is faithful to a recipe from 1753, which was a minute or two before I was born and just before America came into existence. Great! So, it’s been around for a while.
Tastes like it, too. The distillery knows how to convert corn into delicious, amber daddy juice loaded with a nice, alcohol bite and a delightfully smooth finish. There’s a fun, smokey thing going on right in mid-swallow, and some marshmallow-vanilla happening that makes me smile.
And then I coughed, because 90-proof will do that to me at 9:15 in the evening.
It's good stuff, and while it won’t be getting a spot on my Bottom Shelf anytime soon, Michter’s Small Batch is worthy enough to find a home in my bar. And, while I only have enough room on the shelves for about 50 bottles and have to be somewhat selective, this one is good enough to find a semi-permanent home — at least until it’s gone. With so many options out there to choose from, the only “safe” bottles live on The Bottom Shelf. Everything else is expendable. Also, with enough selection to keep me busy for a few days, it will likely be around for a while.
It’s good stuff, and I can recommend it to anyone looking for a reasonably priced treat come Friday night. Or Monday.
Michter's Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof Tennessee Whiskey; Jack Daniel Distillery; Lynchburg, Tennessee; $65
Mr. Jack Daniel makes his everyday, reasonably inexpensive hooch for the masses. Of all the names in the industry, few invoke greater fandom than good, ol’ No 7. In fact, a quick Google demonstrated that Jack Daniel’s whiskey is the number one-selling whiskey in the United States, and the 6th best in the world. (For those of you who are curious, McDowells — out of India, no less — is number one. I would probably be accused of being naughty if I made a phone support joke right now, so I won’t.
Knowing this piece of information, is it any wonder that you hear the following phrase no matter which dive-bar you drop into?
“Gimme jagandgode …”
And the bartender knows exactly what to do! He calls Mrs. Pedandercough and asks her to come and collect Hank from off the bar.
I talked very briefly about my feelings on Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 in my Roaring 20’s post last week. This week, we’re talking about Old No. 7’s big brother, Single Barrel Barrel Proof which, at 131.7 proof, makes for a dandy rust remover, and an even more dandy sobriety remover. The stuff is just absolutely potent, and brilliantly good (mine is from barrel 19-01208, which tells me only that the distillery has more than 1 barrel laying around). JD SBBP (I’m abbreviating to save the one’s and zeroes from extinction) has a touch of cinnamon, some light honey, charred caramel, and fuzzy vision all mixed up into one helluva nice sippin’ whiskey.
So what’s the story? Well, it’s quite short and straight to the point. I have a friend who loves the stuff, and he made me try it. That’s right, he tied me up, put a gun to my head, and forced it down my throat, which is the usual tactic necessary to get me to drinking. He’s the same friend that I met half-way to collect some Eagle Rare, and from whom I was first introduced to Westward Stout Cask. Like me he’s got an uneducated palate, but he knows what he likes, and he’s a Jack Daniel’s fan through and through.
Which means something.
I wouldn’t call myself a Jack Daniel’s “fan” per se, but I can drink the stuff easy enough. But, this Single Barrel concoction is straight-shootin’ and darn-fallootin’! It’s got that muscle-car kick that I like in a brilliant whiskey, and it pulls it off without being all high-and-mighty, or burning the hair out of my nostrils. It’s “smooth” in the sense that it has a nice mouth feel, and razor-sharp when it falls across the back-side of the ol’ licker. Hey, is that why they call it “liquor”?
Anyway, I can easily recommend this dandy nectar to anyone that likes a stiff, hard drink, whether as a straight shot or a bad-day-ending sipper by a hot fire. But, please, don’t mix this one with coke. Leave that for the little brother.
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof Tennessee Whiskey
I've decided to expand what I do on the blog just a whee bit. This week, instead of writing another boorish tale of discovery, I thought I'd offer up a review of eight decent whiskies that have their prices fixed in or near the 20's. So, from $19 per bottle to $32 per bottle, I'm reviewing some common picks that can be had at just about any liquor store within the borders of the good ol' US of A. I thought I would do this because a good percentage of my reviews involve whiskies that can be north of $50, with some well north of that.
So, here they are. I love some, I like some, I … well, I don't hate any of them — although one is close. They're all reasonably priced, easy-drinking, and available in tiny bottles for a couple bucks — which is what I bought for the purposes of this write-up. You know them all by name, they're mostly a bit average, and there isn't a rockstar in the group. But average also means consistent, so they all have wide followings and are very good values. That said, here are my thoughts on The Roaring 20's:
Jim Beam KSBW; James B. Beam Distilling; Frankfort, KY; $19
Jim Beam's Black Label is the house whiskey at Ken's Bar. It's just brilliantly good. But, it's not on this list for one reason: Because this is my blog and I said so! Instead, Jim Beam KSBW is on this list, and it's the cheapest of the lot at just $19 per bottle. It's got some caramel and honey going on, and is smooth enough that some might consider it a good sipper. But I don't, it's too gritty for me. It needs a coke. Not lemonade, mind you — that's reserved for Jack — but a good, old-fashioned Coke. I have a bottle of this stuff beneath the bar just in case I have someone over that just has to have it. So it stays below and out of sight. But it still has a home in my bar.
Old Forester KSBW; Old Forester Distilling; Louisville, KY; $23
As I write this it will be the very first time I've ever tried Old Forester. Upon first impression it has just a touch of black licorice going on. It's smooth with notes of pear and campfire, although that's not a bad thing in and of itself. Of the whiskies in this list, I think it has the most unique flavor, but not one that I enjoy as an everyday sipper. It's not as chemically as Buffalo Trace, and perhaps on par with Jim Beam. In other words, it needs a mixer. Not sure what that mixer is, since the flavor profile doesn't seem compatible with Coke or lemonade. Sprite, maybe?
Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey; Jack Daniel Distillery; Lynchburg, TN; $25
The only whiskey in this list that refuses to call itself Bourbon is Jack Daniels Old No. 7. Few whiskies are better known — worldwide — than Jack, of Lynchburg, Tennessee! Nowhere near Kentucky, Tennessee heralds itself as being on an entirely separate world from Bourbon County. It's Tennessee whiskey, you morons! There are lemonades named after this one, cocktails de' jour, aperitifs, teas, and just plain, ol' Jack & Coke. Drink it straight, mix it up, pop some cubes in there, whatever. Jack covers all the bases. It's smooth, a bit pear-ish, clearly filtered through burnt wood, and simple.
Buffalo Trace KSBW; Buffalo Trace Distillery; Franklin County, KY; $26
The very front end of this stuff has a bit of a lingering chemical thing that I cannot place. It's harsh and reminds me a bit too much of paint thinner. I know that's a rough thing to say about a whiskey like Buffalo Trace (especially when I consider that they're the folks behind Eagle Rare), but that's just what I get from it. It's inexpensive and tastes like it. I don't honestly know what makes it such a dead-end in this crowd, but it's my least favorite. Maybe it's that I just don't like really "corny" whiskies, especially when that corn is accompanied by something like rotten apricots. I'm just not a fan. In fact, I've removed the bottle from the shelf and put it down in the "drink it till it's gone" spot. I think that's the worst thing that can happen to a whiskey at Ken's Bar.
Wild Turkey 101 KSBW; Wild Turkey Distilling; Lawrenceburg, KY; $27
The ultimate shot! Wild Turkey 101 is quite possibly the best straight shooter that exists on the market. It's crisp, gritty, and has a back-of-the-throat, acidic alcohol bite that makes for a great shot, preferably with a chaser to catch the bitter after-taste and knock it down the pipe. To this average, ordinary, everyday Ken no other whiskey says "party" like WT 101. It just has that … flare? It's definitely not one that I like straight, so tasting it this way is rough. It needs a coke like few others, and just doesn't work for much else. So, get yourself some shot glasses, pour a few, line them up, and prepare yourself for a rough night!
Maker’s Mark KSBW; The Maker’s Mark Distillery; Loretto, KY; $30
I originally thought it would be a toss-up between Maker's Mark KSBW and Elijah Craig as to the best of this crowd (boy, was I wrong). Both are very smooth, easy-drinking whiskies that I can drink neat with no regrets. There's cinnamon and honey in there, some smokey-oak, and notes of a diesel pickup firing up on a cold morning. Maker's is well-balanced and doable in any fashion, but I like to sip away at it slowly. It's also one of my wife's favorites, and at $30 that's a good thing. As with most of the others in this list, take it however you want it.
Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey KSBW; The Bulleit Distilling Co.; Plainfield, IL; $30
I gave this fellow's older brother 3 stars in my review a couple of months ago. It's a nice whiskey, easy drinking and smooth, just not something that jumped out and made me say "Whoa!" The younger brother, aged a bit less — a lot less, actually — is better. In fact, I'm 5 samples into 8 and this one is my favorite thus far. I like it even more than Elijah Craig, which is a couple bucks more per bottle. Bulleit's entry-level contender has a bit more corn (although not as much as Buffalo Trace) and a nice little kick on the sides of the tongue. It's also one of the few in this crowd that holds its own as a daily sipper, not needing anything else to help it go down.
Elijah Craig Small Batch KSBW; Elijah Craig Distillery; Bardstown, KY; $32
This one is pretty easy for me. It's been a favorite for many years and still holds up, even now that I've been experimenting with far more expensive samples. A bit of caramel, some zesty citrus, a solid kick from of a well-used oak barrel, and enough bite to make it a good sipper. It's the most expensive of the bunch, but just a few nickels outside the 20's. This one can be mixed with coke or blended into fancy recipes, but I'd rather sip it neat.
I never set out for this to be a competition. It's really more of a simple comparison of the Roaring 20's, that is, whiskies in or close to the $20 mark. There must be a zillion that fit the description, but the ones in this list also happen to have been available at my local liquor store in those cute, little 50ml bottles that cost two or three dollars. I didn't want to get saddled with a bunch of 750's sitting on the "Drink it 'til it's gone" shelf, so I intentionally reached for the tiniest bottles I could find, and all of these suckers made that cut.
Either way, though, I do have a winner, although there will be no trophy or fancy labeling. Of the eight whiskies I sampled for this post, I've decided that Bulleit's Frontier Whiskey is the best of the Roaring 20's. It stood out the most, is a decent value, and I could sip away at it without squinting.
But! If you want the best of the Roaring 20's, get down to the liquor store and spend $25 on a bottle of Jim Beam Black Label KSBW. This average, ordinary, everyday Ken thinks there's nothing else in the price range even close, and not very many below $50.
Maker's Mark KSBW Idaho Director's Cut; The Maker's Mark Distillery, Loretto, KY; $70
This past weekend my wife and I traveled to Ketchum, Idaho to celebrate our 26th anniversary. For those of you with a spouse, you know what that means. “How did I make it 26 years with this crazy person?” Well, we made it because of whiskey. And beer. And there was definitely some wine in there, too. No, not that kind of whine … well, I guess there was some of that in there. It was a nice weekend, with some fun times, games, hanging out, eating out, and the discovery of a new whiskey that I’ll review in a later entry.
Prior to leaving town, we did what we always do before a road trip: We loaded up on whiskey. Two bottles were neatly packed into my luggage to insure we had enough for two nights away. I took a bottle of Eagle Rare (which I wrote about over here), and she took a brand new bottle of Maker’s Mark Idaho Director’s Cut. She wanted to try it, so I bought her a bottle.
The Idaho Director’s Cut is part of Maker’s Mark’s Wood Finishing Series, a series of whiskies that are finished after oak aging using the staving process, whereby some chunks of wood are tossed into the whisky to add to it’s aging and flavoring process after the fact. You can experiment with this process by ordering some cute, little oak bits online and dropping them into your (insert favorite beverage here) and letting it sit for a few days/weeks/months/years. It’s a cheap way to dink around with a whiskey’s flavor profile, thus allowing you to create lots of different batch’s from a single barrel — or barrels.
Maker’s Mark uses ten different oak staves for this series and, according to the bottle, lets their fans choose their own profile, whereby “fans” I assume they have some hand-selected folks do the picking for the rest of us. In other words, I didn’t get to pick, because someone else already picked for me, and bottled it as 2021 Batch #1.
Okay, so what does that mean for a whiskey lover like me? Well, for the purposes of this non-video, I happen to have a bottle of regular, ol’, everyday Maker’s Mark KSBW hanging around. It’s easy-drinking, smooth, and carries apricot-oak, a bit of honey, and soft, chewy caramel. It isn’t my favorite — although my wife loves it — but I’ll drink it in a pinch. Someday I’ll write it up (soon, too, wink, wink).
Now, let’s add some staves to it. Baked American Pure, Maker’s Mark 46, Roasted French Mocha, and Toasted French Spice. Roasted and Toasted! For the “exact” numbers, see the picture up there, since Maker’s scribbles them right on the label.
And you know what I think?
Seriously. I’m sure the folks that picked that stave combination know what they’re doing, but I don’t like it. The original, at $30-ish dollars per bottle, is better, in my opinion, than the $70 Director’s Cut, and by no small margin. Somehow, someone at the distillery found a way to ruin an otherwise decent whiskey. The nose is off, the profile takes on a rather “cheap” chemically after-taste, and there’s something in there that reminds me a bit of rotten apples.
The first time I tasted this thing I was up in the hills with the wife, it was Friday night, we had just gotten to our condo, and I had already had a glass of Buzz Buzz Coffee Porter, so I thought maybe my taste buds were off. I was originally going to write this from there, but decided to hold off for fear that my taste had been affected by dinner and beer and maybe the Eagle Rare, which also seemed off after the Buzz Buzz. Waiting was the prudent thing to do.
So, wait I did, and am glad I did so, because my first thought proved to be true: That this stuff isn’t worth $70 per bottle, and I could have had two-plus bottles of the much nicer Maker’s Mark KSBW. I mean, why ruin a good thing with some random bits of wood?
Maker's Mark KSBW Idaho Director's Cut, 2021 Batch #1
Evan WilliamsSingle Barrel KSBW; Old Evan Williams Distillery; Bardstown, KY; $40/btl
Tonight, I sit outside for what will likely be the last time before the nasty Idaho winter crushes all my hopes and dreams. I like few things less than winter. Everything dies, it’s cold and yucky, the ground gets either hard or muddy or both, the sun goes down at, like, two in the afternoon, and winter sports people crowd the roads with their skis and snowmobiles hanging off the back of their cars like trophies.
Since it’s such a nice day, though, I decided to write today’s blog entry from the comfort of the back patio where it is delightfully peaceful. That is, it was, right up until my kid decided she needed to be in the bathroom with the fan on right behind my head. Can you hear me grumble?
Anyway, enough of that nonsense. This a booze blog. No more complaining!
Many, many moons ago I was drinking Jack Daniels as my everyday sipper. Good ol’ Tennessee No. 7! Then one day I accidentally grabbed a bottle of Evan Williams. The bottles are similar and I wasn’t paying attention. By the time I made it home I realized my mistake and wanted to smack myself. But, I didn’t want to drive back to the liquor store to make the exchange, so I just dealt with it.
And do you know how I dealt with it?
A) I cried and threw a tantrum
B) I set the bottle on the shelf and stared at it
C) I drank the stuff
If you answered “C” to the above question, then you’re just the type of person that I want reading my blog. Yep, I drank the stuff, because I am neither a snob nor am I terribly picky (that annoying sound you hear is my wife laughing in the background).
As it turned out, Evan Williams wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was good. Not great, but good. And it was cheaper than Jack Daniels by a few dollars, so I kept buying it from that day forward. My wife learned that I was okay with it, and so she kept buying it for me, too, because she likes to keep me inebriated so I’m easier to control.
Someone else figured out I was drinking Evan Williams and one day a bottle of their Single Barrel KSBW showed up on the dining room table, and to this day I cannot remember where it came from, or who put it there. Either way, it landed there and then promptly went under the house with so many other bottles patiently awaiting the reality of Ken’s Bar.
But, now it's out and my bottle says it was put into an oak barrel sometime on August 31, 2007, which makes it 14 years old as I sip away at it while tapping the keyboard. The bottle also says it was bottled on February 29, 2016, and came from barrel #504. I like that. The whole “custom labeled” thing gives the bottle a little extra character, especially once you realize that the lettering is hand-written. That Evan Williams takes the time to scribble on their bottles makes me think that they might care. And good for them. If you put that kind of effort into the bottle, then you might also put some effort into what’s inside the bottle.
And I’m convinced that they do. This Single Barrel stuff is lusciously smooth (in mouth feel and alcohol) and drinks easy. Its honey-colored and honey-flavored and smacks of caramel candy and charred wood with a touch of cinnamon way back in the back of the mouth. It looks nice, tastes nice, and feels nice.
I think Evan Williams has this sort of “bottom shelf” vibe to it (whereby bottom shelf I’m referring to the world’s definition, not my own). But, their Single Barrel is anything but. To this average, ordinary, everyday Ken it’s a smooth, nice sipper that I can easily enjoy while sitting out back and enjoying the last of the year’s reasonable weather. It actually makes a nice finish to a day of back-breaking chores as I get the place sorted out before the snow starts making a mess of things.
So, to finish things off, my whiskey drinking past is full of accidental treasures, oopses that lead to favorites, and favorites that got supplanted by oopses and accidents. Evan Williams makes a nice whiskey, but heir black-label, traditional fair is easily passed over for bottles found higher up on the shelf, even though they do a nice job. And this Single Barrel stuff is right up there with some of the greats. It’s not very expensive, it’s pretty easy to find, and a treat to sip upon on a beautiful October evening.
Evan Williams Single Barrel KSBW
Ferrari Carano Chardonnay, 2018; Ferrari Carano Winery; Healdsburg, CA; $30/btl
It seems like a million years ago, but I used to dabble in the restaurant business. In fact, it was a long time ago. For 15 years I waited tables, bussed tables, cooked, and managed. Mostly in fine dining, and most of that in private clubs. The Arid Club, Crane Creek Country Club, Spurwing Country Club.
The highlight of those three places was The Arid Club, where I managed the wine program for four years. Prior to that, I wrote the wine list for Crane Creek Country Club with the guidance of our Clubhouse Manager. Between those two places, I probably opened a thousand bottles of wine, and I got very good at it. The technique I learned to de-cork a bottle was one of presentation and efficiency, and I’m proud to say that, 17 years later, I’ve not lost my touch.
There was a day, though, when King Estates released a Pinot Noir with — *gasp* — a screw-top. And it was a very nice wine! So nice that I roamed the dining room of the Arid Club pouring samples for our members and their guests, and I literally sold cases of the stuff that night. But, there was one member who flat out threatened my job if I even dared to bring him a sample. Seriously, he told me that if I put a free sample on his table that he would demand I be fired.
In fact, one of the reasons I wanted to begin writing about adult beverages was because of that encounter. I remember thinking, “What a complete snob!” I mean, I would just never behave like that. At least, I hope I wouldn’t. You see, I loved what I was doing. I was in love with wine, with selling wine, with collecting wine. Everything about it mesmerized me. I loved it! And I wanted to tell people about it.
And I also became acutely aware that screw-tops were going to be making a profound entry into the world of premium wines. No longer would screw-tops live only at the head of names like Ernest and Julio Gallo and other bottom dwellers. No, many of the industry's big names were beginning to read the writing on the wall, and they were curious, if not outright experimenting behind closed doors.
With so much of the industry wrapped up in tradition, though, the idea of screwing the top off of a $30 bottle of wine rather than plucking out a cork was a bit hard to, umm, swallow. It would be especially difficult for traditionalists who would rather their expensive wines go to waste in a million-dollar, bragging-rights cellar than have it last for many years simply sitting on a shelf.
So be it.
That said, If you’ve read my last few posts you’ll know that I’ve been touching on the Feast of Tabernacles. This year, I was supposed to attend in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, but was unable since COVID got my wife all sick and stuff. Fortunately, we were able to send my daughter to a location a bit closer to home — Bend, Oregon — and with her I sent some wine. I was training her to taste and open and such, and we had a little event planned. Not being Able to do it with her, I thought she might enjoy having it there to try by herself. Fortunately for me, she’s not much of a solo drinker and brought all three bottles home.
The three were King Estates Pinot Noir, Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, and Ferrari Carano Chardonnay. This past weekend we opened the Ferrari Carano, and I was shocked — shocked, I say — to find a screw top! I mean, I’ve opened at least a hundred bottles of Ferrari Carano wines, and they always had screw tops. But, I haven’t opened a bottle of it in 17 years. So, seeing that screw top caught me by surprise — pleasant surprise, mind you. Here I was going to show my daughter my patented technique, and all I got to show her was how to do the twist. It was actually funny, but you had to be there.
Anyway, the bottle is open and so I’m scribbling digitally about it. Ferrari Carano Chardonnay is a stalwart in the wine industry. Consistent, loaded with buttery oak, grapefruit, medium-bodied and dry, but absolutely stuffed with fruity character. At $30 per bottle it’s pricey, but worth every drop. Chardonnay is actually kind of difficult to nail. Too much sugar and it falls apart. Too dry and it sucks the life out of you. This stuff nails that balance, and always has.
The moral of this story is that screw-tops are the future, and Ferrari Carano is embracing that future. Fortunately, their wine is as consistently good as my past remembers. They’ve demonstrated definitively — just as King Estates did all those years ago — that screw-tops do not ruin the wine. Just the snobs! And if Mr. Carano can do the twist, anyone can.
Ferrari Carano Chardonnay, 2018
Who is this guy?
I'm just an average, ordinary, everyday Ken, and nothing more. I like wine, whiskey, and beer. I write when I'm bored (and to prove it I've published three books). I like to garden, work with wood, and laugh with family and friends. Ken's Bar is an expression of my enjoyment of adult beverages of all shapes and sizes, but especially whiskey. My tasting notes are as much about stories and connections with people as they are about fluffy, snobbish adjectives. I've tasted a lot of whiskey (including the costs-way-too-much Rip Van Winkle stuff) and decided to start writing about it. Or something. So, sit back and read. If you can.
How do I rank?
Cost per Bottle:
$ - $0-$25
$$ - $26-$50
$$$ - $51-$75
$$$$ - $76-$100
$$$$$ - Over $100
* - Swill. Dump it out.
** - Mix it with coke
*** - A good sipper
**** - Straight from Heaven.
***** - Heaven called and wants its whiskey back!
Shoot me an email with comments, suggestions, or hate mail!