An Opinion on Metallica’s Blackened American Whiskey

An Opinion on Metallica’s Blackened American Whiskey

So…Metallica has its own whiskey now. Ugh.   Everyone has their own whiskey, it seems. Nothing new, of course. Celebrity sells. There have been celebrities moving distilled products since advertising’s infancy. Beautiful people, famous people, successful people…from doctors recommending a brand to silver screen actresses insisting that a brand will make you irresistible…it’s all been done. Here are just a few modern celebrities selling booze- Matthew McConaughy- Wild Turkey and Longbranch Whiskey Mila Kunis- Jim Beam Christina Hendricks- Johnny Walker David Beckham- Haig Club Dan Aykroyd- Crystal Head Vodka Ryan Reynolds- Aviation Gin George Clooney- Casamigos Tequila (though I think he sold that) Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt- Miraval Rosé Drew Barrymore-...

Aren’t All Barrels Made From American White Oak?

Aren’t All Barrels Made From American White Oak?

 Someone recently asked me, “Aren’t all barrels made from American white oak?” My answer was “No,” but the elaboration was probably a bit longer than he expected. Most of us know that barrels are made out of oak staves. White oak is a part of the genus Quercus from the family of Fagaceae. It is a fascinating wood in that it is water resistant (not water proof) and can be shaped into containers to hold liquids. While all wood has pores, white oak produces seals over those pores called tyloses that make it water resistant. (Red oak barrels, for instance, might work better for dry goods because the open pores in the wood would keep its contents dry and aerated.) Oak trees tend to grow tall and straight, which works well for coopers that need to cut long, clean...

What is a Cooper?

What is a Cooper?

What is a cooper?  Seems there are many children with the name Cooper, but not a whole lot of actual coopers out there. Traditionally, a cooper was the man that made barrels, or staved vessels.  A stave is a length of wood, usually cut from the center of a tree trunk, that is cut into a plank (think 1×3”-1×4” wood planks at Home Depot).  Anything a cooper produces is referred to as cooperage.  The facility where casks or barrels are made is also called a cooperage.  The cooperage produced necessary storage vessels for their communities and often the cooper was needed aboard ships and by the military. A “tight” cooper, historically, made barrels that held liquid.  White oak is the only wood that successfully holds water and other liquids due to the...

St. Bernards and Their Whiskey Barrels

St. Bernards and Their Whiskey Barrels

Legend tells that Saint Bernards carried barrels of whiskey around their necks to aid stranded travelers. In order to help travelers, an Augustine monk named St. Bernard de Menthon founded a hospice and monastery around the year 1050.   Sometime between 1660 and 1670, the monks at Great St. Bernard Hospice acquired their first St. Bernards.  The breed they raised were descendants of the mastiff style Asiatic dogs brought over by the Romans.  They were smaller than modern St.Bernards and had shorter reddish brown and white fur with a longer tail.  The earliest image of their dogs was depicted in two paintings done by well-known Italian artist Salvatore Rosa in 1695. At first, the dogs were companions to guides called “marrioners” that helped bring travelers...

John Hall’s Forty Creek

John Hall’s Forty Creek

I have found that many of the new distillers in America have come to distilling from breweries and beer production. It’s a logical step, as “beer” must be brewed before whisky can be distilled from it. (I’ve always liked the saying, “Whisky is what beer wants to be when it grows up…”) Some distillers come to whisky with wine expertise as well. Why make cognac when you can make whisky, right? One such wine producer in Canada that has made the transition to whisky production is John Hall of Forty Creek Distillery. The international community is paying more attention to Canadian whisky largely because of Mr. Hall’s contributions to craft production. John Hall started making wine in the 1970’s and purchased Kittling Ridge Estates Winery in Grimsby, Ontario in...

What Defines What Barrel is Used?

What Defines What Barrel is Used?

What defines the type of barrel that whiskey is aged or finished in? Different styles of barrel aged liquors use different style oak casks. Sherry, for instance is aged in larger barrels called a sherry butt or sherry puncheon which can hold 132 gallons. Originally, scotch was aged in mostly sherry casks because sherry casks were readily available. The sherry industry shipped their product in barrels, not bottles, and the whisky industry made good use of those used oak barrels. In the 70’s sherry began being shipped in bottles, and scotch producers turned to used bourbon barrels from the U.S. This use of different barrels changed the flavor of scotch significantly and many producers turned to using the more expensive sherry butts as a finishing barrel to reclaim...

Angel’s Share Effect

How does the angel’s share affect my whiskey? A lot of different things affect the flavors in whiskey, not least of which is the addition of water or loss of ethanol from the barrel. The “angel’s share” is the loss of alcohol from evaporation during the aging process. Depending on where and how a whiskey is aged will determine how much is lost. (or how much water is gained) Barrels “breathe”. They are watertight, but molecules of water and ethanol will move in and out. If the microclimate within the barrel changes due to external temperature or humidity changes, the pressure within the barrel will change as well. Anyone who owns a glass barometer knows that pressure affects liquids. The change in the microclimate pushes water and alcohol into or out of the wood....

The Science of Nosing

Why does my bourbon smell like vanilla? There’s no added flavorings or additives, right? Correct. Bourbon can not have anything added to it like colorings or flavor additives. The vanilla you smell is in its chemistry… You may read tasting notes that look like this (for Elijah Craig 12 year old)… “Nose: Quite thick and full. There is a beautiful sweetness with notes of toasty oak, toffee, spicy stewed fruits, a touch of resin and a lovely crème anglaise character. Palate: Full and sublimely smooth with notes if stewed Bramley apples, malmsey, a touch of aniseed and a hint of spice. Finish: Good length with toasty oak notes and a creamy sweetness.” What does that mean? How can whiskey taste like toffee or apples? Let me start by saying that...