EZdrinking

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary.

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary. EZdrinking is a drinks blog by Eric Zandona that focuses on distilled spirits, wine, craft beer and specialty coffee. Here you can find reviews of drinks, drink books, articles about current & historical trends, as well as how to make liqueurs, bitters, and other spirit based drinks at home.

Review: J&B Rare Blended Scotch Whisky

AT A GLANCE

  • Owned by: Diageo

  • Distilled by: Multiple Scottish Distilleries

  • Still Type: Pot & Column Stills

  • Spirit Type: Blended Scotch

  • Strength: 43% ABV

  • Price: $20

In 1749, Giacomo Justerini moved to from Bologna, Italy to London and with his business partner George Johnson, they established a wine and whiskey shop in the upscale Pall Mall shopping district. Years later in 1831, Alfred Brooks purchased their company and renamed it Justerini & Brooks. During Prohibition, J&B sent Eddie Tatham to the United States to evaluate the potential market for their Scotch. On his return, Justerini & Brooks designed a new blend which they named J&B Rare and released in 1933, as soon as Prohibition was repealed. By 1963, J&B Rare sold over one million cases and by 1974 it was the number one selling Scotch in the US. Competition from Cutty Sark, Dewars and Johnnie Walker slowly chipped away at their lead and in 2018 J&B Rare was the sixth most popular Scotch Whisky in the world, selling 3.2 million cases.

J&B Rare is a Blended Scotch which means it is a mixture of both Sottish malt whisky and Sottish grain whisky. J&B claims that their Rare blend is made from 40 different whiskies and according to one source these include grain whiskies from Cameronbridge and North British distilleries as well as malt whiskies from Auchroisk, Benrinnes, Glen Spey, and Strathmill.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: Very pleasant and light aromas of red apple, malt, and a slight confectionery note like salt water taffy and a light note of smoke.

Palate: On the palate the whisky has a medium body that starts sweet and then develops a slight sharpness. The flavor has notes of oak, smoke, and malt all backed up with a corn sweetness.

Finish: The finish is medium long and semi-sweet with light flavors of malt, oak and a touch of iodine from the peat.

Conclusion: The malt madness that has overtaken many Scotch drinkers has caused them to overlook great blends like J&B and should definitely be given another chance. J&B Rare Blended Scotch Whisky is a great value blend that is a little too sharp to drink neat but works great on the rocks, or in a highball. Check this out of you are looking for a good blended Scotch with a bit more smoke and malt character then Johnnie Walker Red Label.

Review: Paul John Kanya Indian Single Malt Whisky

AT A GLANCE

  • Distilled & Owned by: John Distilleries in Goa, India.

  • Still Type: Pot Still

  • Spirit Type: Indian Single Malt Whisky

  • Age Statement: 7 Years

  • Strength: 50% ABV

  • Price: $200-$350

In 1996, Mr. Paul P. John founded John Distilleries in Goa, on the west coast of India. Their flagship brand, Original Choice was created for the Indian market and in 2018, it was the 7th best selling whisky in the world with more than 11 million cases sold. While John was living in the US, he discovered single malt whiskies and decided to make his own.

In 2008, John completed the instillation of his pot stills and began distilling malt spirit from six row barley grown north Indian foothills of the Himalayas. Situated on the eastern edge of the Arabian Sea, Goa is known for having both high temperatures and high humidity. To better manage the maturation of the whisky John set up two separate barrel warehouses. A 4000 barrel underground warehouse slows the whisky’s maturation and lost angel’s share because it is both cooler and less humid. While the 6000 barrels in the above ground warehouse are expose to the heat and humidity of Goa, which speeds up maturation and causes the barrels to lose more alcohol. The result is a wide range of barrels that can be blended to produce different expressions. In 2012, John and master distiller Michael D’Souza launched “Brilliance”, an un-peated non-chill filtered Indian single malt whisky. Today Paul John produces three core single malts and a number of limited expressions.

In 2017, Paul John launched their zodiac series of limited release whiskies named and blended to match the characteristic features of the Indian zodiac. The first in this series was the virgin Kanya (Virgo) and meant to be an “earthy, feminine [and] sensuousness” single malt. D’Souza used barrels that were a minimum of seven years old and bottled non-chill filtered it at 50% ABV.

In 2018, Kanya was named the Best Asian Whisky in Jim Murry’s Whisky Bible.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: The nose is beautiful and inviting with layers of fruit, nuts, caramel, vanilla, and wood. As it sits, tropical fruit aromas of banana, under ripe mango and green apple peal intertwine with notes of cooked oats, seasoned with cinnamon, vanilla, and honey.

Palate: On the palate, the whisky is light and smooth with a balanced mix of grain, wood, and caramel. At 50% ABV the whisky glides across you tongue with zero burn and lots of flavor.

Finish: The finish is long and soft with lingering flavors of cashews, malt and a touch of honey.

Conclusion: Kanya is a delicious malt whisky that shows excellent balance between the distillate and the barrel. In my imagination, aging whisky in India for seven years would prove challenging given the climate but Paul John did not just copy the techniques of malt whiskies made in cooler climates. Instead, they have demonstrated a firm grasp of how to make an elegant and delicious whisky designed for the climatic conditions of Goa. At over $200 per bottle this definitely should be enjoyed neat with close friends or family that understand the specialness of the whisky.

Review: Workhorse Rye Virgin Cask California Rye Whiskey

AT A GLANCE

  • Owned by: Workhorse Rye

  • Distilled at: Sutherland Distilling Co. in Livermore, CA

  • Still Type: Hybrid Still

  • Spirit Type: Rye Whiskey

  • Strength: 50% ABV

  • Price: $80

In 2011, Rob Easter founded Workhouse Rye to be a “progressive and sustainable” producer of whiskey and bitters. For the past eight years Easter has operated as an itinerant distiller, renting still time and space from distilleries to ferment, distill, and mature his whiskeys. From 2012-2014, Easter was able to refined his distilling chops at Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn, New York helping to develop their award winning Peated Bourbon. Since 2014, Easter has focused on sourcing most of his grains direct from farmers who are growing non-irrigated heirloom varieties of rye, wheat, corn and barley. Hybridized and GMO grains have been designed to maximize starch production and respond positively to modern farming techniques, (irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides), the consequence however is that these plants has lost a multitude of other compounds that added flavor and depth of character when made into bread or distilled into whiskey. For Easter, he has to use more than 1000 pounds of grain to make one barrel of whiskey, but he believes that despite the lower yield, these grains result in a better spirit that is also less taxing on the environment.

Each expression of Workhorse begins with the same mash bill of 70% west coast rye, 20% malted barley, and 10% malted wheat. The mash is fermented, pot distilled, and then filled in a variety of barrels. As the name infers, Workhorse Rye’s Virgin Cask is a Rye Whiskey as defined by the US Government because of its mash bill (min 51% Rye) how its distilled (below 80% ABV), and how it is matured (barreled below 62.5% ABV in charred new oak barrels). For this expression of Virgin Cask, it was matured for one year, and bottled at 50% ABV.

In 2019, Workhorse Rye’s Virgin Cask California Rye Whiskey earned a silver medal from the American Distilling Institute’s Judging of Craft Spirits.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: First thing you notice on the nose is a grainy sweetness that is both floral and fruity with notes of green apple, nectarine and dark chocolate cherries, under girded by soft aromas of toasted oak.

Palate: At 50% ABV the palate is pleasantly smooth and full bodied. The flavor is strong with grain and wood notes up front followed with lighter flavors of nectarine and grape skins. The palate also has a soft spice character mixed with the flavor of homemade marshmallows without the intense sweetness.

Finish: On the finish the whiskey blossoms and then gently fades with light notes of white grape juice and raspberries.

Conclusion: Workhorse Virgin Cask is a beautiful example of heirloom rye grown, distilled and matured in California. In the shadow of Mt. Diablo, this whiskey soaked in the soft cool marine air and captures a beautiful snapshot of the terrior of California. It has elements that will please both fans of traditional rye whiskey and those who love the restrained and elegant California wines.

Review: Workhorse Rye Redhorse Whiskey

AT A GLANCE

  • Owned by: Workhorse Rye

  • Distilled at: Sutherland Distilling Co. in Livermore, CA

  • Still Type: Hybrid Still

  • Spirit Type: Whiskey distilled from Rye

  • Strength: 60% ABV

  • Price: ~$35 (200ml)

In 2011, Rob Easter founded Workhouse Rye to be a “progressive and sustainable” producer of whiskey and bitters. For the past eight years Easter has operated as an itinerant distiller, renting still time and space from distilleries to ferment, distill, and mature his whiskeys. From 2012-2014, Easter was able to refined his distilling chops at Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn, New York helping to develop their award winning Peated Bourbon. Since 2014, Easter has focused on sourcing most of his grains direct from farmer who are growing non-irrigated heirloom varieties of rye, wheat, corn and barley. Hybridized and GMO grains have been designed to maximize starch production and respond positively to modern farming techniques, (irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides), the consequence however is that these plants has lost a multitude of other compounds that added flavor and depth of character when made into bread or distilled into whiskey. For Easter, he has to use more than 1000 pounds of grain to make one barrel of whiskey, but he believes that despite the lower yield, these grains result in a better spirit that is also less taxing on the environment.

Each expression of Workhorse begins with the same mash bill of 70% west coast rye, 20% malted barley, and 10% malted wheat. The mash is fermented, pot distilled, and then filled in a variety of barrels. US labeling laws for rye whiskey require the spirit to be aged in charred new oak barrels, but because Redhorse matures in used wine barrels, it is just labeled whiskey. For this particular bottling, Easter aged the whiskey for two years in used Broc Cellers Syrah casks before being bottled at 60% ABV.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: On the nose there are fantastic aromas of a nutty Manzanilla sherry intermixed with notes of dried dates, raisins and prunes compote cooked with cinnamon sticks. As the whiskey breaths aromas of dark cherries and chocolate strawberries start to break through.

Palate: On the palate the whiskey is intense with big flavors of cinnamon spice, dried fruit and hazelnuts. With a little water the flavor broadens and opens with more oak notes from the barrel and a touch of milk chocolate.

Finish: The finish lingers with notes of roasted nuts, baked apples and a touch of orange blossom honey.

Conclusion: Redhorse Whiskey is an intense and decadent whiskey that should be sipped over a large ice cube or used to make a fantastic Manhattan. Drinkers who like nutty sherries should search this out and sip judiciously.

Review: Workhorse Rye Palehorse Whiskey

AT A GLANCE

  • Owned by: Workhorse Rye

  • Distilled at: Sutherland Distilling Co. in Livermore, CA

  • Still Type: Hybrid Still

  • Spirit Type: Whiskey distilled from Rye

  • Strength: 55% ABV

  • Price: ~$35 (200ml)

In 2011, Rob Easter founded Workhouse Rye to be a “progressive and sustainable” producer of whiskey and bitters. For the past eight years Easter has operated as an itinerant distiller, renting still time and space from distilleries to ferment, distill, and mature his whiskeys. From 2012-2014, Easter was able to refined his distilling chops at Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn, New York helping to develop their award winning Peated Bourbon. Since 2014, Easter has focused on sourcing most of his grains direct from farmer who are growing non-irrigated heirloom varieties of rye, wheat, corn and barley. Hybridized and GMO grains have been designed to maximize starch production and respond positively to modern farming techniques, (irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides), the consequence however is that these plants has lost a multitude of other compounds that added flavor and depth of character when made into bread or distilled into whiskey. For Easter, he has to use more than 1000 pounds of grain to make one barrel of whiskey, but he believes that despite the lower yield, these grains result in a better spirit that is also less taxing on the environment.

Each expression of Workhorse begins with the same mash bill of 70% west coast rye, 20% malted barley, and 10% malted wheat. The mash is fermented, pot distilled, and then filled in a variety of barrels. US labeling laws for rye whiskey require the spirit to be aged in charred new oak barrels, but because Palehorse matures for a year in used whiskey barrels, it is just labeled whiskey. The used barrels and shorter maturation period also explains why Palehorse has a nice light straw color.

In 2019, Palehorse Whiskey earned a bronze medal from the American Distilling Institute’s Judging of Craft Spirits.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: The aroma is round and inviting like freshly baked bread with a touch of yeastiness and salty air.

Palate: A little heat from the higher ABV but there is an immediate sweetness like biting into a ripe plum that still has a little bit of tannins in the skins.

Finish: The finish lingers with note of malted chocolate, plum skins, stone fruit and a touch buckwheat which slowly evolves and fades into soft notes of oak.

Conclusion: Palehorse Whiskey is very good however, those looking for a powerful rye whiskey like those coming out of Kentucky or Indiana will be disappointed. Palehorse is a delicious dram that should be tried by those who like soft grain forward whiskies like those from the lowlands of Scotland or Japan. Other than drinking neat or with a little water, I would pick delicate cocktails like a short whiskey soda or whiskey sour with fresh lemon juice. Overall, this a very beautiful whiskey.