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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Wakey Whiskey: St. Augustine Single Barrel Select Florida Bourbon

By Eric Ducote

Good morning everyone and welcome to 2019!  As if the dawn of a new year wouldn't be enough reason for a wakey whiskey, it's also LSU Gameday!  There are a few firsts going on in the game... it will be LSU's first ever Fiesta Bowl appearance, as well as the first ever meeting between LSU and UCF.  Going into this season, I'd have been thrilled with a Fiesta Bowl appearance, so this is the most excited I've been about a bowl game in several seasons.  

Back at Thanksgiving I was in Florida, obviously before anyone knew that it was going to be an LSU/UCF matchup, but I picked up a bottle of St. Augustine Distillery's Single Barrel Select Florida Straight Bourbon Whiskey from the Total Wine & More in Sarasota, Florida.  This is a 96 proof straight bourbon (aged at least two years) blended and bottled exclusively for Total Wine & More.  According to the employees I talked to, St. Augustine Distillery is the only distillery in the state that distills, ages, and bottles their own bourbon.  I saw a few other sourced options from the state, but ultimately settled on this barrel pick.  

St. Augustine Single Barrel Select Bourbon

Although this bourbon doesn't have a distinct age labeling, it must be at least 2 years old to be labeled as straight, and the darker color makes me think that it's mostly older.  It could also be aged in smaller oak barrels which increases the surface area to volume ratio which accelerates the maturation process.  The result is a darker deep caramel colored bourbon that has an incredible oakey aroma with hints of vanilla and molasses.  The flavor is well developed, with strong oak flavors, a pleasant backing of sweetness, and a clean finish.  This drinks like an older mature bourbon, which is a fantastic compliment.  I had never heard of St. Augustine Distillery before, but if you find yourself in Florida and see some, don't hesitate to make a purchase.

Cheers, and GEAUX TIGERS! 

Friday, November 30, 2018

Feature Beer Friday: Melvin's 2X4 Double IPA

By Eric Ducote

Hello everyone, and welcome to another Feature Beer Friday!  This might be my last one for a few weeks due to upcoming knee surgery, but it certainly won't be my last post ever.  This week's feature is the 2X4 DIPA from Melvin Brewing out of Alpine, Wyoming.  I found a selection of their beers last weekend in Florida at a Total Wine store.  Apparently Total Wine in Florida contracted with Melvin a large enough order to make a one-time distribution to the state.  A pretty good idea if you ask me, if the demand is there for a certain brewery and that brewery can meet the supply, why not make a special order?  

Melvin Brewing started off as a nanobrewery in the back of a Thai restaurant and has grown into a powerhouse in the NW part of our country.  The 2X4 DIPA, which won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2012 to really put Melvin Brewing on the map nationally.  It's a 10% ABV, 100+ IBU beer loaded with American hops such as Columbus, Centennial, Citra, and Simcoe.

Melvin Brewing's 2X4 DIPA

The first thing I notice is the slight haze to the pour.  This is certainly not brewed in the NEIPA style, but it's not filtered clear either.  It's a little on the copper/orange side for color, with as you can see a prominent frothy head.  The aroma is pure hop joy, with pine notes coming through strong as well as citrus.  It's an excellent blend of hops, with multiple layers of flavor shining through, and that extends to the taste as well.  The malts are there, but they lay low and allow the hops to shine through, with even more pine and citrus flavors bursting through every sip.  This is a phenomenal DIPA, and I feel like it really serves as a bridge between the old school malty IBU heavy double IPAs and the trendy hazy NEIPAs.  This beer really allows the hops to shine through without making them the only performer in the show.

I know this one won't be easy to find around Baton Rouge, but if you do see some or get the chance to try it, don't pass it up.  Cheers! 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Wakey Whiskey: Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon

By Eric Ducote

Good morning everyone and a happy last (regular season) LSU football gameday to you all!  Not too long ago I saw a post on social media about the old fashioned cocktails at Mouton at White Star Market being fantastic and being made with Old Forester, so when I saw some Old Forester on the shelf when out running errands last weekend I decided it was a good time to grab some and give it a try. 

Old Forester has been around since 1870 and makes the claim to be the first ever bottled bourbon.  It's distilled in Louisville, Kentucky and is owned by Brown-Forman, one of the largest American companies in the alcoholic beverage industry.  Among their brands are Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve, Coopers' Craft, Korbel, and many more throughout the industry.  The company started in Louisville with the Old Forester label and obviously has grown significantly since then. 

Old Forester Classic 86 Proof Bourbon

This particular whiskey is the Old Forester Classic 86 Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.  It's the base expression of Old Forester bourbon, and as usual I gave it a first try neat.  The aroma is pretty strong, a burn stronger than expected for 86 proof with notes of oak, vanilla, and a floral character.  The taste is sharp as well, with a noticeable alcohol burn and a good bit of sweet corn flavor to go with the oak.  Honestly, I'm not a fan of this one as a neat sipper.  

After a glass of Old Forester neat, I checked on what I had on hand to make a cocktail and gave it a bastardized attempt at an old fashioned, with some cherries and simple syrup.  As a cocktail bourbon, this definitely comes closer to hitting the mark, the strong flavors come through but blend well with the rest of the cocktail to give a distinct bourbon flavor without being lost in the mix.

With that, the regular season editions of #wakeywhiskey is over, so let's all hope for an LSU win tonight, and look forward to some holiday and bowl game wakey whiskeys in the near future!  

Friday, November 23, 2018

Feature Beer Friday: Gnarly Barley's Lion Up Wheat Ale

By Eric Ducote

Happy Black Friday to you all!  I sure hope everyone reading this is enjoying some quality time with friends and family and not fighting the crowds for the deals.  Or if you are out there shopping, maybe hit up some local small businesses.  Regardless, you're not going to find me joining in on the shopping madness!  For this week's offering I dug into the beer fridge to find something that was worthy of FBF praise, and found a can of Lion Up from Gnarly Barley Brewing.  

Gnarly Barley is no stranger to this space, and for good reason.  They put out some of the best beers in the state and the taproom is always a great spot to visit.  Co-owners Zac and Cari Caramonta are usually there hanging out and similarly to how LSU and Tin Roof put out the licensed Bayou Bengal, Gnarly Barley partnered with Southeastern Louisiana University to put out the licensed Lion Up.  It makes perfect sense with Gnarly Barley being located in Hammond and both Caramontas being alumni.  Lion Up is brewed with football season in mind, and although it's been cooler and dreary lately, most of football season in south Louisiana is on the warmer side, so this American Wheat Ale is brewed with late Summer and Fall in mind. 

Gnarly Barley's Lion Up Wheat Ale

The beer pours a deep yellow color, some haze from the heavy wheat bill, and a bubbly champagne-esque white head.  The aroma is very floral with some sweet notes from the malt underlying the Cascade and Amarillo hops.  The taste is clean and refreshing, with the hops holding up well to the wheat and barley base, giving the beer an excellent blend of sweet and bitter and packing plenty of flavor into the 4.5% abv.  The result is exactly what they describe it as, "an easy drinking beer, great for football season!" I could definitely see plenty of these making it into my cooler next year, unless the Tigers are playing the Lions again.

Cheers everyone, and I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!  

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Wakey Whiskey: Blade And Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon

By Eric Ducote

Good morning everyone, it's already the last home game of LSU's season, which has seemed to fly by.  I know this space is primarily for whiskey talk, but I've been really surprised by the success this season.  Obviously losing to Florida and Alabama hurts, but assuming nothing insane happens this weekend LSU football will be a 9 win team with a shot at 10-2 and a new year's day bowl game.  That's far better than I expected going into this season. 

Enough football talk though, how about the whiskey?  Today's selection is the Blade And Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey produced by the legendary Stitzel-Weller distillery.  It's created using a unique "solera" aging process where older whiskey is bottled without draining each barrel, and then the barrels are topped off with the next oldest, which are then topped off with the next oldest, etc., until freshly distilled whiskey is put into oak barrels at the top of the pyramid.  Blade And Bow is released as both a "straight" bourbon and as a 22-year old vintage.  The Bite and Booze crew was sent a sample of the straight bourbon, so... time to give it a try.  

Blade And Bow Straight Kentucky Bourbon

The whiskey pours an amber to brown color, "straight" means it has been aged for at least two years but the solera process means that a lot of the whiskey in the sample could be years older, apparently the oldest barrels in the solera go back to 1992!  The aroma is ripe with oak and vanilla, a hint of plum sweetness, and a bit of spice that makes me think about rye although I'm pretty confident this is a more heavily wheated bourbon.  The burn is minimal, and the aroma is overall very pleasant and inviting.  The taste is an excellent follow through on the pleasant aroma, with notes of fruit, oak, vanilla, honey, and some cinnamon spice as well.  The finish is smooth, and makes this Blade And Bow an excellent neat sip.  

I'd never heard of this brand before, but after giving it a try and learning more about their story, I'd be confident picking up a bottle if I see one out in stores.  And if I ever saw the 22-year, it would be headed straight into my cart.  Cheers!