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Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Daily Bulleit(in)

Sometimes you just need to shut the front door, turn your phone off and draw the curtains -  a sure sign that you're in full on 'Do Not Disturb' mode.  

Today was such a day. Braving the Christmas rush on Oxford Street (seemingly all my present ideas had been exhausted from a blast of online shopping over the previous weekend) I had a list of must-buys - i.e. 'if you don't get these, you're in serious trouble.' (Mrs Ridley) The pressure was on and my two fall back options were department stores John Lewis and Debenhams.  Both seem like havens for lost souls like me; vast palaces of gift ideas for people with desperate, blank looks on their faces, the fear of returning with a pair of too-small slippers weighing heavily on one's mind.  

'What if she already has this?'  'Is the colour right?'  'Does she even like Turkish Delight?'  All questions that lashed my cerebral processing ability into submission - to the point that I completely wandered past the well-stocked drinks section in John Lewis, without even giving it a second look.  

I emerged, blinking, broken and laden with crockery, slippers that looked too big, boxes of sweets and cookery books from chefs that I personally detest. But I had emerged victorious. My list was complete, the recipients of my six large shopping bags of presents unwittingly safe and content for another year.  

Stopping at Berry Bros & Rudd on the way home to place my festive wine order made things feel a lot better (a case of their Extraordinary Claret, a smattering of Sancerre and a cache of Chablis), but the weight of the bags were beginning to take its toll and by the time I eventually arrived at my front door through the fine drizzle that had descended, I was truly shattered -  and need of three things:  

A large whisk(e)y 

My wonderful Bose Soundlink Mini (if you don't own one of these, get on it - they're amazing, especially coupled with a Spotify account) 

And bizarrely, an bag of Cadbury's giant chocolate buttons.  Quite why, I honestly don't know, but they seemed enormously comforting to a chilly, aching, slightly damp confused man. 

As for the whisk(e)y - several options immediately emerged: dive into the brace of old White Horse blends that Caskstrength just won in an auction, a wee sample of Bowmore's stupendous 50 year old or a miniature of Auchentoshan 1975 that had arrived this morning.  (All will be reviewed before the festive period is complete...)

No today, I needed a spicy, warming shot to the system that not only delivers a big flavour but also something rousing, dry and complex. Something to curl up to and revisit the perfect vocal pairing of Ray LaMontagne -  an artist who I fell in love with several years ago and a man whose voice and captivating delivery can stop just about any one in their tracks.  Tonight, as a thunderstorm passes over head, I pour a full-bodied-yet-smooth glass of rye whiskey.  Take it away, Mr Tom Bulleit.

Bulleit has an amazing story to tell, for those who don't already know it.  Changing careers from the legal profession, Tom Bulleit had a desire to follow in his great, great grandfather Augustus' steps and start a bourbon company. He tracked down a recipe of his ancestor and began experimenting with a mash bill containing a particularly high rye content (around 28%, which to the uninitiated may not seem like a lot, but the spicy flavour of rye goes a very long way indeed.)

Tom decided that his love of rye needed to go a step further and recently he produced his very first straight rye. Throwing together 95% rye to 5% malted barley his intentions were to develop something with a classic peppery backbone that might have been served by Augustus, but with an up-front smoothness. Guess what... He succeeded.

Bulleit - Small Batch Frontier Rye Whiskey - 45%  

Nose: An effortless peppery note, slightly toasted rye bread, creamy vanilla custard, stewed banana notes and a deft touch of orchard fruit. Dig deeper and you'll find an earthy tobacco note and dark cocoa powder.  

Palate: The higher strength (Bulleit was previously bottled at 40%) really carries the delivery of spicy peppercorns, hints of clove, flamed orange zest, more of the chubby vanilla pods and a dash of menthol-infused dark chocolate.  If I could be bothered to get off the sofa and head to my home bar, I could be enjoying this in a blinding Manhattan. But I suddenly feel VERY comfortable - just as Michael Kiwanuka's breathtaking 'Home Again' album drifts out of the Soundlink. I think i'll save that option for another day. 

Finish: Lingering notes of white pepper, vanilla and a thick sweet oaky richness, laden with vanilla.

Overall: If you don't own a bottle of rye in your whisk(e)y arsenal, you need a remedy as soon as humanly possible. Rye is a wonderfully complex spirit, full of husky dry complexity and devilish spice  and Bulleit's recipe is undoubtedly a whiskey of extremely high calibre.