We’re All a Wee Bit Scottish Today

A long-time friend gave me a limited-release bottle of single malt scotch as a gift several months ago, and I had resisted opening it until this evening. In honor of Robbie Burns Day, I chose to crack open and share with you something of an unusual offering from my favorite distillery:

Ardbeg Blasda


I’ve been a big fan of Ardbeg‘s heavily-peated whiskeys for many years, and always jump at the chance to try something new from their wonderful lineup. Their limited-release Blasda is pretty unique among their offerings with only 8 parts per million phenol (8ppm, compared to 24ppm in their flagship 10-Year-Old), a really noticeable difference in peat character.  This has resulted in the bottle being dismissed as “Ardbeg Lite” by many of the brand’s long-time fans, but I’m of the opinion that it should be judged on its own merits.

This is clearly a young whiskey, looking for all the world like a light white wine when poured into the glass.  The similarities end there, however.  Even with the relatively low concentration of peat in this scotch, I found its aroma still dominated the nose, along with the faint touch of old leather that I love so much in my spirits; however, it did allow a healthy amount of lemony citrus and hints of apple to come through in the end.  Overall, it smelled very fresh and for a little while I thought I could have gone on simply breathing it in all night.

The taste was primarily well-balanced fruit such as apples and pears, with the barest hints of butterscotch and toffee.  The spicy peat that Ardbeg is famous for did come in on the back end, though the finish was pretty short-lived.  The smokey character seemed to become more pronounced as I progressed through the glass.

A great gift that is most happily received, I recommend this for anyone new to single malts who doesn’t want to get overwhelmed by starting with the peatier offerings out here, or for any seasoned drinkers who want something a little different than the usual fare.  Hardcore peat-freaks will likely find this to be too light for their liking, but it’s really their loss.

Some hae meat and canna eat, 
   And some wad eat that want it; 
But we hae meat, and we can eat, 
   Sae let the Lord be thankit.

Classic Cocktails: The Manhattan

A Perfect ManhattanOne of my favorite cocktails is an old classic:  The sweet, smoky, and slightly spicy Manhattan.  It’s simple to make and can be easily modified in a number of ways to suit individual taste.

Like many classics, the true origin of the Manhattan is unclear.  One of the most common explanations is that the drink was invented at New York’s Manhattan club in the 1870s for a banquet hosted by Jennie Jerome (Lady Randolph Churchill), Winston Churchill’s mother.  There are reports that the Lady was pregnant in France at the time, so the story is likely untrue.

The traditional recipe calls for only three ingredients (four if you include the garnish):

  • 2 parts rye whiskey
  • 1 part sweet vermouth
  • a dash of Angostura bitters
  • maraschino cherry for garnish

Simply combine the first three ingredients and gently stir* them with ice for 15 to 20 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with the cherry in the bottom of the glass, and enjoy.

Variations include changing the whiskey (I prefer bourbon) or the bitters (try orange bitters, or chocolate if you have them), using different vermouth (replace half the sweet vermouth in the basic recipe with dry to make a Perfect Manhattan), or adding some cherry juice for extra sweetness (making it a Sweet Manhattan).  Many versions change the spirit to something entirely different than whiskey, such as port (a Ruby Manhattan), dark rum (a Cuban Manhattan), or Anejo (aged/vintage) tequila (a Tijuana Manhattan).  The possibilities are endless.

How do you like yours?

Skål!

* Shaking or over-stirring your Manhattan will introduce air bubbles, causing it to not be as smooth as it should be (i.e.: like silk).  It will also “bruise” the alcohol (a small amount of ice will melt, diluting your drink).  Both of these are bad things, and you probably don’t want them.