Friday, August 29, 2008


I've been drinking bourbon and for about 5 years. I try new ones whenever I can, and have a nice little collection.

My ancestors are rolling in their graves, but I just can't get into Irish Whisky - and while I've only tasted a few, the range of tastes seems pretty narrow, unlike the Single Malts where there are such differences it's sometimes hard to believe two scotches from across the island from each other are even the same spirit.

Bourbon is somewhere in the middle. There's enough variance to make it interesting, but not so much that you need to spend a lifetime to try everything.

I actually got into bourbon after trying to learn some things about scotch. There was a passage in Michael Jackson's Complete Guide to Single Malt scotch talking about Glenmorangie; and how they were getting white oak barrels made in the Ozarks, that were then on loan to Heaven Hill for bourbon aging, before being sent back to Scotland to age scotch.

I was living in Kentucky at the time, and really was completely unaware of that bourbon played a role in the making of scotch, and then I found out more and more rich heritage of this American spirit. So I began reading, tasting, and collecting. Never did go on any of the distillery tours though, and I'm really bummed about it.

One thing I'm very interested in is who makes what. There's only a handful of actual distilleries in Kentucky. I forget the number, but I'm fairly certain it was under a dozen. However, there are probably a hundred different bourbon brands - so what gives?

I'd like to track the brands to the stills. I'm guessing Heaven Hill makes more than half; and half of those are their own brands, the other half to other labels. I don't know if Wild Turkey or Jim Beam do any distillations for other labels.

I just tried "Johnny Drum" at my aunt's place in Mrytle Beach and I'm 90% sure it came out of Heaven Hill's stills.

Some folks think bourbon has to come from Kentucky to be called bourbon, but that's not true. There are a handful of bourbons made outside the state. There's the odd case of Virginia Gentleman bourbon which is first distilled in Kentucky, (By Buffalo Trace) and then re-distilled (twice) in a copper pot still (although not one of the bulbous type ones used for scotch) and aged in Virginia. Weird eh? There's also one I just read about being distilled in Cincinnati called Woodstone Creek.

As far as my personal favorites; you just can't go wrong with Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 15 year old. (There's a 20 year old offering too, but I've never had it.) From what I've read it's a 'wheater', meaning the mashbill contains wheat. Maker's Mark and W.L.Weller are 2 other wheated bourbons. This surprised me, because I generally prefer the rye heavy notes in Wild Turkey to the rather bland Maker's Mark - but there's just so much flavor and depth to this bourbon.

And plain old Wild Turkey 101 is a damn fine bourbon in my book; and they've got a premium cask strength bottling called Rare Breed that is just outstanding.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

3 year olds are awesome

Papa? Papa are, papa, are you like, papa, are you like my elephant pajamas?

Yes sweetie, I love your elephant pajamas.

Blenheim ginger ale is crazy hot.

I do a lot of shopping at the Raleigh Farmer's Market. I was there this past Saturday, and I was looking for something specific; canning supplies. Specifically, I was looking for powdered ascorbic acid. I didn't find any there, but I did see something unusual in one of the vendor's coolers - Blenheim ginger ale.

I think maybe I've heard of it, a long time ago, maybe I read something about it. Pretty sure this was the first time I saw it in person, available for purchase. If you're going to be at the Farmer's Market soon, this was a vendor in one of the indoor buildings. Pretty sure it was close to the end of the building near the snack bar, on that side - but I didn't catch the name.

The guy running the stand saw me looking at at, and asked if he could help me. I asked him what he knew about it. He said he had 2 varieties, hot and "not as hot" and that it was bottled near "Pedro's South of The Border". I know of Pedros. At a dollar a bottle it wasn't a bargain, but I wanted to try it anyway. I opted for the "hot" and he obliged me with a bottle opener.

Wow! To say this ginger ale is hot just doesn't do it justice. To say it 'slaps you in the face, steals your lunch money and makes you cry' would be more accurate. The stuff has quite a few fans. It's really too hot to drink casually, but my mouth did become somewhat acclimated to the burning. It's an enjoyable burn though, and I want to get another few bottles the next time I'm there, I think my wife would like it a lot. No High Fructose Corn Syrup either - just good old sucrose.

Irradiated Food

I've been reading up on the issue of using radiation to protect our food supply from contamination; e.coli and the like. Evidently, a recent decision has given the green light for it's use on lettuce and spinach.

Prima facie, such arguments as:

"When ground beef is irradiated, at least 99.99 percent of E. coli and other harmful foodborne bacteria are killed."

- and -

"The CDC estimates that if just 50 percent of the meat and poultry consumed in the United States were irradiated, the number of foodborne illnesses would be reduced annually by 900,000 and deaths by 352."

It almost seems a no brainer, but the more I think about it, the less I like it.

First of all it just seems patently absurd to me; that these most basic food elements off the farm; spinach, beef - they just aren't safe. Gotta nuke it! Cheez Whiz and Twinkies? Perfectly safe.

I know there are logical flaws with that argument, but even so - is this really the best solution we can come up with? Seems to me the tail is wagging the dog.

And it's not the issue of lingering radiation in the food that scares me. (It doesn't give me warm fuzzies, but it doesn't scare me) What worries me most is that we've just closed any real incentive to keep poop away from food in the first place. Don't worry about it - the radiation will kill it!

And there are other concerns..I was reading a decent debate on Bill Marler's Blog when I noticed this tidbit from Linda Greene - testing director for Food & Sensory Sciences at 'Consumer Reports' regarding radiation treated meat:

"Does irradiated meat taste different? - When presented with pairs of food, our trained tasters were able to detect the irradiated beef or chicken 66 of 72 times because it had a very slight "off" taste. But the average consumer may not notice the difference."


And there's some vitamin loss caused by the radiation that we know about. Are we so arrogant that we don't think there could be unintended consequences from a nutritional standpoint from eating this stuff?

Lastly, one other thing to keep in mind - irradiated produce lasts longer. Why is that a bad thing? Because produce is supposed to rot. That's how you know it's no good for you anymore.

Are you in favor of irradating food?