Category Archives: Food & drinks

…let´s listen to the snarl of the White Dog – American whiskey tasting no 15.

I must confess going from finding white dog quite vile to learning to appreciate it´s special character has been quite a trip. Whether you should call it whiskey or not is another question that I´ll leave unanswered for now. In storage I have about a dozen bottles for later review, but I´m going to start with these two.

George Dickel No 1 White Corn Whisky, 91 proof (45,5%).

George Dickel White Whiskey

Made from the same mash bill as their No. 8, No. 12 and Barrel Select whiskies, meaning 84% corn, 8% rye and 8% malted barley, followed by their trademark chilling and charcoal mellowing. No barrel-maturing whatsoever.

Crystal clear in colour with some viscosity in the glass. The nose is big and open, with loads of corn and slight hints of rye and barley at the finish. There´s also some faint floral notes reminiscent of a crude grappa. Neat in a tasting glass you get strong corn notes, initially somehow without much of the sweetness that will hit you in the middle. The finish decreases the sweetness and morphs into fairly dry spice. Probably my favourite white dog so far.

Coming in a bottle instantly recognizable from the rest of the Dickel range. Not exactly stylish but I like the consistant idea behind their design. Together with the No 12 a drink that should have a permanent place in my collection.

Platte Valley Corn Whiskey, 90 proof (45%).

Platte Valley Corn Whiskey

Produced by the McCormick Distilling Company, with a history going back to 1856. Made from a mash bill of 100% corn and then matured for three years this is a pretty unusual corn whiskey.

Light yellow colour. A nose dominated by corn and buttery popcorn. Sweet and without much complexity. Neat in a tasting glass it´s dominated by corn without that much sweetness. The finish is short and carries a slight burn.

Special mention must be made of the earthenware jug that this whiskey comes in. I find it quite classy and it will earn a place on my kitchen counter together with my wooden boxes of 25 and 30 year old Highland Parks.

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…the big Jack Daniel´s tasting is long overdue – American whiskey tasting no 14.

Jack Daniel´s Old No. 7, 80 proof (40%).

Tasted and written about before (https://danolofohman.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/american-whiskey-tasting-no-1-is-on-the-schedule/), this is the most popular and basic product of the Jack Daniel´s distillery. A very enjoyable drink with its smooth and mellow vanilla, caramel and fruit notes. The first American whiskey I ever tasted, and still one of my favourites.

Jack Daniel´s Single Barrel Select, 90 proof (45%).

Unlike the Old No. 7, that´s blended from many different barrels to achieve a consistent taste, this whiskey comes from a single barrel, chosen for its special character. Only about one in a hundred barrels are chosen to be matured in the higher parts of the Jack Daniel´s barrelhouses. The high location on the storage ricks makes the whiskey mature faster, as well as concentrating both alcohol content and flavour. My particular bottle is from rick L-16 and barrel 13-7230.

Jack Daniels single barrel select

Dark copper colour. Neat in a tasting glass we have a much more complex nose compared to the Old No. 7. The usual vanilla and caramel notes are initially hidden by a strong whiff of oak, giving way to corn sweetness, cocoa and fruit. On the palate you get a medium bodied feel, with initial sweetness, caramel and cocoa, giving way to wood, peppery rye and a slightly bitter finish. In a tumbler with ice the sweetness is enhanced, while reducing the length and bitterness of the finish.

Coming in a heavy, decanter-like bottle of thick glass, embossed with the Jack Daniel name, the wood/cork stopper adds to the exclusive feel of this whiskey. Tasting a variety of different single barrel releases would certainly be interesting.

Jack Daniel´s Silver Select Single Barrel, 100 proof (50%).

Another single barrel whiskey, from selected barrels stored high in the Jack Daniel rickhouses. Bottled at a higher proof and without any mentioning of the exact barrel identity.

Jack Daniels Silver Select Single Barrel

Slightly darker copper compared to the Single Barrel Select. A distinct nose with initial sweetness giving way to cherry notes and a finish of oak. Neat in a tasting glass you get a mellow whiskey without much burn despite the high proof. Smooth sweetness and cherry, followed by vanilla and caramel, with a medium long finish of peppery spice. In a tumbler with ice the smoothness is accentuated while lifting the cherry notes and the oaky finish.

The bottling is very similar to the Single Barrel Select, with heavy decanter-like glass and an embossed metal-looking label. A very well-made and smooth expression of the Jack Daniel´s way of making whiskey.

Jack Daniel´s Master Distiller Series No. 1, Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel , 86 proof (43%).

The first in a series of releases honoring the seven master distillers of the Jack Daniel company. Jasper Newton Daniel, the founder of the company and its first master distiller has given his name to the first edition of this series. Apart from being the founder of the company, Jack Daniel also served as master distiller for the time period of 1866 – 1911.

Jack Daniels Master Distillers 1

Copper colour. A nose characterized by corn sweetness, vanilla and caramel, finishing with rye spice and oak. Neat in a tasting glass you get a light mouthfeel, mellow sweetness and a fairly short finish of wood. A very smooth and easily drinkable whiskey still not without allure. In a tumbler with ice not very much happens, the whiskey pretty much keeping its character.

Packed in a bottle very much similar to the Old No. 7, but in a box with a picture of the master distiller, this limited edition surely will make an impact.

 

Jack Daniel´s Master Distiller Series No. 2, Jesse Butler “Jess” Motlow, 86 proof (43%).

Known for his storytelling abilities as well as his taste for good whiskey, Jess Motlow was the man who took the Jack Daniel´s distillery through 28 years of prohibition. Not only rebuilding the distillery from memory, but also keeping the family recipe of distilling and charcoal mellowing through his service during the years 1911 – 1941.

Jack Daniels Master Distillers 2

Light copper colour. A nose slightly stronger on rye pepper than caramel and vanilla. Neat in a tasting glass there´s a light and elegant mix of spice and sweetness, with a fairly short finish of sweetness and oak. In a tumbler with ice the sweetness comes to the front, making it even more drinkable.

The packaging is identical to its predecessor and gives this limited release a similarly exclusive feel.

 

 

Jack Daniel´s Master Distiller Series No. 3, Lemuel Lee “Lem” Tolley, 86 proof (43%).

The grandnephew of Mr Jack, Lem Tolley, steered the distillery through a period of increased demand without compromising the quality of the whiskey. Serving as master distiller during the years 1941 – 1964, this is a man who left a distinctive mark on the legacy of Jack Daniel´s.

Jack Daniels Master Distillers 3

Light copper colour. A nose with the perfect mix of caramel and spice. Neat in a tasting glass you get a well-balanced take on the Old No. 7. Smooth and mellow sweetness, with a short but still distinct finish.

Packed in the by now easily recognizable variation on the classical Jack Daniel´s bottle, this release carries on the design characteristics of the series.

 

 

Gentleman Jack, Rare Tennessee Whiskey, 80 proof (40%).

In many respects similar to the Old No. 7, but with an additional mellowing procedure. This whiskey is filtered through sugar cane charcoal first after distillation and then after barrel maturation, all to achieve a smoother character.

Gentleman Jack

Amber colour. The nose has a complex mix of fruit, caramel sweetness and rye spice, making it an elegant variety of Tennessee whiskey. The palate is smooth and light, with a pleasant corn sweetness and a short rye finish. A very refined and smooth whiskey which might be too polished for the adventurous, or a way in for those who believe they dislike Tennessee whiskey.

Coming in an elegant square bottle quite unlike the other Jack Daniel´s products. With embossed glass and faux-metal label, it´s look is quite high-profile.

 

Jack Daniel´s Sinatra Select, 90 proof (45%).

Paying tribute to big Jack Daniel´s fan Frank Sinatra, this whiskey is a blend of regular Old No. 7 and whiskey matured in special “Sinatra barrels”, meaning barrels with ricks inside of them to increase contact between spirit and wood.

Jack Daniels Sinatra Select

Darker amber than the ordinary Old No. 7. A nose with hints of smoke followed by oak, balanced with corn, vanilla and hints of orange. Neat in a tasting glass you definitely get more oak than you´re used to from a Jack Daniel´s whiskey, but really no astringency. Wood is followed by smooth vanilla, corn and some citrus tones. Fairly long and smooth finish. Elegant and refined.

Luxuriously packed, as you might expect from the pretty steep price. A cloth covered special cardboard box holding the bottle in place, also containing a small booklet celebrating the relationship between Sinatra and Jack Daniel´s. A heavy, specially made bottle riffing on the regular one but still recognizable as Jack.

Jack Daniel´s No. 27 Gold, 80 proof (40%).

Probably conceived as the smoothest Jack Daniel´s distillate ever, this is basically the Old No. 7 that´s been primarily aged in new American oak, finished in maple-wood barrels and then charcoal mellowed twice.

Jack Daniels no 27 Gold

Golden colour. Mellow on the nose with wood, corn, vanilla and toffee notes. Neat in a tasting glass it´s very smooth and balanced, showing oak with a slight astringency followed by a finish of oak, vanilla and fleeting banana notes. Elegant but in my opinion losing some of what I like in the original No. 7.

Coming in an upscale golden cardboard box and with a similarly heavy bottle variety that was used for the Sinatra selection. Very nice to have tried it, but will not be a repeat buy at this price.

 

Jack Daniel´s Rested Tennessee Rye, 80 proof (40%).

For the first time since Prohibition Jack Daniel´s has changed it´s mash bill, and made a whiskey with predominantly rye (the exact proportions being 70% rye, 18% corn and 12% malted barley). The distillate was first released as Tennessee Unaged Rye in 2013. The limited edition made it very expensive in my part of the world, and I must confess to not having tried it. The new iteration is called Rested Tennessee Rye, and has been matured for a short time in barrels. Also quite expensive and released in limited quantities as a way of following it´s maturation from the unaged rye, through this and finally to the finished rye that will be released later.

Jack Daniels rested Tennessee rye

Clear gold in colour. The nose has a clearly detectable rye spiciness even though the period of barrel maturation has bestowed it a more marked sweetness than could be expected, with both vanilla and faint banana notes. Neat in a tasting glass there´s fairly overpowering initial wood, followed by some sweetness and a pretty short finish where some weak spice can be found. Interesting as a waypoint in a work in progress, but certainly not something I would buy again at that price.

Coming in a classy bottle a bit similar to the Single Barrel Selects, with batch number and what seems to be a genuine master distiller autograph. Really looking forward to the rye-proper release.

Since this tasting was done a while ago, several new iterations of the Master Distillers series has arrived ( nr 4 – 6, apparently quickly sold out), as well as a matured rye in two variations. Hopefully something that can be returned to.

…Koval is inventive and unique – American whiskey tasting no 13.

Koval

The Koval distillery was established in 2008 in Chicago, by Robert and Sonat Birnecker. Building on traditions from Robert´s Austrian family the distillery chose to make spirits from locally produced grains, processed and distilled at their facilities. A decision setting them apart from many of the whiskey-boom producers just bottling spirits made somewhere else.

Koval Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey, 94 proof (47%).

Koval bourbon

Made from a unique mashbill of the requisite 51% corn with the rest being millet, a grain used for food as well as alcoholic beverages mainly in parts of Africa and Asia. To my knowledge Koval are the only producers using millet for whiskey.

Liquid honey coloured and a nose with light fruit notes, mostly apricot, followed by more subdued vanilla and caramel. Neat in a tasting glass you get initial fruit, more apricot, leading over to some sweetness and ending with pepper and a light burn. Very elegant and sophisticated.

Koval Single Barrel Whiskey Four Grain, 94 proof (47%).

Koval four grain

Made from a mashbill of corn, malted barley, wheat and rye, this is a whiskey with a totally different character from the previous one.

Very similar to the bourbon in colour, but with a nose beginning with pretty powerful banana fudge and treacle, malt, fleeting vanilla and ending on dry spice. Neat in a tasting glass you get a whiskey with a full mouthfeel, beginning with a short burn giving way to caramel, fruit and a closing rye spiciness mixed with oak. This one packs a lot of taste and is really, really nice.

Koval Single Barrel Whiskey Millet, 90 proof (40%).

Koval millet

Here we have another unique product from this inventive distillery. A whiskey with a mash bill of 100% millet farmed in the American Midwest.

I suspect that it´s the similarities of the barreling techniques used for these whiskeys that makes their colours so similar, if not to say undistinguishable. The nose begins with light and pleasant citrus notes, fruit and ending on black pepper. Neat in a tasting glass you get mild and delicate notes of almost liqueur- like sweetness, with a drier ending of spice. Certainly a most unusual whiskey and an interesting experience.

Koval Grain Spirit Rye, 80 proof (40%).

Koval white rye

I´m a bit confused over this one, though. There seems to be an earlier series of products from the distillery with different bottles and labels, including a white rye whiskey. The present Koval webpage lists a “White Whiskey Rye” in their product line, while my bottle says “Grain Spirit Rye”. Not entirely sure that these two are the same.

Regardless of that, here we have a distillate based on rye that has not been affected by maturing in oak barrels. The drink is crystal clear, with an aromatic nose of citrus and pine needles. Neat in a tasting glass you get a drink almost totally without any of the spicy notes you´re used to expect from rye. More like a less botanical gin or a more tasty vodka. There´s initial sweetness giving way to floral notes and ending on very discrete, almost imagined peppery spiciness. Not a drink I would enjoy on its own again, but I would very much like a trial of exchanging gin and vodka for this one in several cocktails.

Koval Single Barrel Whiskey Rye, 80 proof (40%).

Koval rye

Colourwise resembling their other output. A fruity nose with apples, pears and grain. Neat in a tasting glass you get fruit, apples and pears, followed by a finish of light pepper spice. A most unusual rye with a character all its own.

Without a doubt a distiller worth following through the coming years of experimentation. High ambitions and skills, as well as a willingness to go beyond what is expected when it comes to process and raw material.

…it´s great and straight from Kentucky – Whiskey tasting no 12.

fighting-cock-6yo-kentucky-bourbon-whiskey

Fighting Cock Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 103 proof (51,5%).

One of many in the huge line of products from the Heaven Hill distillery (or Heaven Hill Brands as it is now called) www.heavenhill.com , this is a whiskey aged for 6 years and bottled at a fairly high proof. The mash bill is an undisclosed percentage of corn, barley and rye, with an extra dose of rye claiming to add increased spiciness.

Pretty deep amber colour and a nose with vanilla, caramel, leather, pepper and nutmeg. In a tasting glass with a few drops of water you get a beginning of corn sweetness together with some alcohol burn, giving way to a finish dominated by rye spiciness and some oak. In a tumbler with ice the sweetness of the nose is toned down, instead dominated by spice and oak. The palate remains about the same, but with a toned down intensity.

All in all not an unpleasant whiskey, packing quite a punch. Much better than the first impression you get from the hideously ugly bottle. Still not something I´m likely to return to.

John B Stetson Kentucky Bourbon

John B. Stetson Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 84 proof (42%).

Making every effort possible to look old and traditional, this is a fairly new brand of bourbon manufactured by the Stetson company, www.stetson.com/bourbon mostly known for the Stetson hat. Distilled by an undisclosed Kentucky distillery (rumoured on the net to be Heaven Hill) and containing a mash bill of corn, barley, rye and wheat. The whiskey is aged for four years before bottling.

The colour is light amber, and the nose first hits you with sharp ethanol. Repeat swirlings and sniffing gives first a strong rye spiciness and then some softer vanilla and caramel notes. Neat in a tasting glass there´s sweet vanilla, white pepper and grain with a pretty short finish. A smooth bourbon not without character, that becomes even smoother in a tumbler with ice.

As mentioned earlier, the bottle goes for old and traditional. Embossed glass, drawings of the Old West on the label and a small booklet attached to the neck by a leather band. In spite of it being all marketing it looks kind of nice. This whiskey could be a good entry bourbon but is nevertheless really no match for today´s artisanal distillates.

Kentucky Vintage Bourbon

Kentucky Vintage Bourbon, 90 proof (45%).

One of four small batch whiskey´s distilled by the Willett Distilling Company (formerly Kentucky Bourbon Distillers) www.kentuckybourbonwhiskey.com . The production of small batch bourbon in Kentucky goes back to the 1779 “Corn patch and cabin rights” law, giving settlers who built a cabin and grew a patch of corn the right to free land. Distillation of bourbon as a way of keeping the corn from spoiling soon became popular and gave rise to a tradition continuing to our day.

No age statement except “long beyond that of any ordinary bourbon”, and no information on the mash bill. Manufactured wih the sour mash method in small batches and numbered bottles.

Medium amber colour. A rather short nose which initially is only alcohol, but after a few swirls shows mostly corn, vanilla and oak. Neat in a tasting glass you get an initial alcohol burn followed by some caramel, black pepper and a hint of almonds in the surprisingly short finish. In a tumbler with ice the whiskey mellows considerably and tones of caramel and vanilla appears. On the palate it´s considerably smoother but mostly sweet.

The bottle is designed to give feelings of tradition and age, and actually manages quite well. There´s a wax seal (almost impossible to remove), a wax medallion and a mini-booklet attached to the neck of the bottle with a piece of string.

Although sometimes much lauded, I find this whiskey to be pretty much a disappointment. While much effort has been put into its making there´s not that much real character here.

Larceny Whiskey

Larceny Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 92 proof (46%).

Taking its name from the crime defined as “the unlawful taking of the personal property of another”, this is yet another whiskey from the Heaven Hill distillery. Again having a fascinating backstory, that may or may not actually be true, this distillate still intrigues.

In 1870 John E. Fitzgerald started a Kentucky distilling company, selling his wares to railway lines, steam ships and private clubs. During prohibition the Old Fitzgerald brand was sold to legendary bourbon profile Pappy Van Winkle, who changed the mash bill into using wheat as the second grain instead of rye. According to bourbon lore, John Fitzgerald was later revealed to be a treasury agent, using his access of keys to the whiskey storage facilities to pilfer whiskey from the best available barrels.

Larceny bourbon is made as a heir to the wheated bourbons of the Old Fitzgerald brand. A small batch bourbon produced from 100 or fewer barrels selected from the 4th – 6th floors of Heaven Hill´s warehouses in Kentucky. Larceny is blended from barrels 6 – 12 years of age under the control of Master Distillers Parker and Craig Beam.

Dark, glowing amber. A complex and enjoyable nose that opens to vanilla, caramel, toasted oak and a dry spicy finish with traces of cinnamon. Neat in a tasting glass you get a very well-balanced whiskey with a rounded mouthfeel beginning with corn sweetness and ending in dry spice. In a tumbler with ice the nose keeps its complexity while the palate turns smoother while still keeping the basic character.

Coming in a large, chunky bottle that´s very appealing to the eye, with the key and lock implicated in its background story neatly implemented into the design. I think this whiskey is a real find and together with Knob Creek one of those bourbons I would like to always own a bottle of.

…Björn Frantzén finally gets the recognition he´s deserved for a long time.

Shortly after our visit to the new Restaurant Frantzén the establishment received the first Swedish Michelin three-star rating that´s been in the pipeline for so long. Very well deserved and not entirely unsurprising. Nordic gourmet dining doesn´t really get better than this. While very happy for the chef and his team it´s still slightly disturbing. How will an ordinary guy like me ever get a reservation at this exceptional place again?

…there´s a new king of gourmet dining in town.

Frantzén entre

For some time now Stockholm has had it´s superstars when it comes to Michelin-style dining. One and two stars has been awarded but still no three-star establishment. Surprisingly Oslo and Copenhagen has beat us to that honour. That doesn´t mean that Stockholm hasn´t had (and still has) a series of genuinely outstanding restaurants.

One of the chefs fighting for the ultimate approval has been Björn Frantzén, with his small but extremely high-end restaurant in Stockholms Old Town. Going forward for this maverick chef included a prolonged closure of operations, while planning and designing a new centre for culinary excellence in the middle of town. Much more space on several floors, but still with a severely limited number of served clients per day.

Getting a table at this establishment literally means waiting online for the exact moment of the release of tables for the next month. A few minutes and it´s all booked. How I managed to get a reservation on a Friday night in January is actually beyond me. It might have had something to do with the chronically post-christmas empty wallets of the Swedes, and the fact that the place doesn´t seem to have been widely registered by gastronomically interested tourists yet. This is undoubtedly about to change and securing a reservation will probably only get harder.

The restaurant is situated in an old estate on the Klara Norra Kyrkogata in central Stockholm. A part of town previously known as a bohemian stronghold, as well as a sanctuary for artists. The actual property has been developed with the help of a considerable cash infusion from a domestic investor, and is worthy of it´s own story.

Our night at the new establishment began by ringing the doorbell of the stylish but deceptively simple street-level entrance. The door was immediately opened by an affable member of the staff, doing something I´ve never experienced in a Michelin restaurant before, namely shaking our hands and introducing himself by his first name. This was something that was continued all through the evening, as a stream of new faces appeared to guide us through the sensory rush of having dinner at the new Restaurant Frantzén.

After having our coats taken care of we were shown the way through a dimly lit corridor to an elevator, the overall impression of entering the restaurant in some respects reminiscent of our earlier visit to the fantastic Alinea in Chicago. A slightly disorienting experience that raised expectations of what was to come.

The first stop was the living room, with small groups of armchairs and sofas, as well as a cozy fireplace. Here small groups of guests were served wonderful amuse-bouches at a leasurely pace, before being treated to a display of the ingredients of the dinner to follow. After that we were led to the main dining room, where most of the magic was performed. A large L-shaped table facing the open kitchen where all the final preparations were done. Never a dull moment while watching the peerless dishes getting their last adjustments, often not finished until right before you at your table.

GMTMAG

What followed was an incredible meal where every course was special and different from the others. Top notch produce, modern techniques never getting in the way of classical cooking, and a combination of aesthetics and taste not surpassed by any of the great restaurants we´ve previously visited in Sweden or abroad. For this particular evening we had decided to go totally alcohol-free, and got to try a series of in-house produced beverages characterized by lots of thought and innovation. Definitely recommended even if you´re like us not non-drinkers.

After this wonderful dinner we were again led to the living room for a seemingly endless row of desserts, pralines, sweets, fruit and a finish of coffee with a freshly baked cardamom bun. Absolutely stuffed to the gills, all we could do was relaxing by the fireplace and enjoying the end of a perfect evening.

While always being great and with ambitions way higher than most, the later incarnations of Restaurant Frantzén in the Old Town sometimes felt like a machine a little too well honed. Extreme gourmet dining perfectly choreographed to last for 2½ hours before the next batch of customers arrived made a certain bitter aftertaste taint the experience.

Nowadays it´s just an all on assault of all your senses. A whole night´s worth of perfection with extra everything. Regardless of the amounts of stars eventually awarded to this wonderful place it´s unique in every way. Things doesn´t get better than this.  I can´t wait to go back and do it all again.

Here´s the menu in Swedish, please use Google translate or something similar to bring you up to speed.

Menu Frantzén våren 2018

 

…Imouto is mind-blowingly good.

Although it´s been around for some time, we haven´t so far managed to try this chef´s table little-sister of the fabulous Esperanto restaurant in Stockholm. Since Esperanto has been such a source of extraordinary culinary experiences through the years, the expectations were obviously very high. And I can tell you that they didn´t disappoint.

Arriving early we were quickly ushered up the stairs to the lounge for a glass of wonderful champagne. Then after a few sips swiftly invited to the secluded table with seats for 9 people, at the far corner of the Esperanto dining room. What followed was a seamless show of peerless presentations of seafood originating in the Nordic countries.

Imouto Stockholm

A wonderful selection of Otsumami was followed by a wide variety of nigiri, expertly prepared by the two Japanese chefs right in front of our eyes. Thinly slicing the fish, grating the wasabi, rolling the rice and combining it into one delicious bite was a treat to watch, and an even greater treat to taste. Everything was so fresh and delicious, creating oohs and aahs all around the table. After so many years of high-end restaurants, I don´t think I´ve ever tasted anything better than their langoustine. Just fantastic.

Delicious desserts followed, with the exclamation mark being the apple tarte. So good, and made even better by my wife getting an extra piece.

All this gorgeous food was accompanied by a selection of sake proposed by our very friendly head waiter. For me, a look into an enterily different universe of tastes, with just as much complexity and variety as the world of wine made from grapes. Definitely something to look into further.

I´m already longing to go back and do it all over again. Below is a scan of the menu for the evening in Swedish. If you want to read it in English that can be done here: Menu Imouto 2nd of December 2017

Imouto 171202