2014 Holiday Must Buy Whiskey

Each holiday season the BWG execs put our heads together to name a “Holiday Must Buy Whiskey.” We base our recommendation on local availability, what we would love in a whiskey gift and above all, on quality. Last year we named Balcones Texas Single Malt our 2013 Holiday Must Buy Whiskey — an accolade still worthy this year and an excellent Christmas gift no whiskey lover would scoff at.HP_18In 2014 BWG is naming Highland Park 18 our Holiday Must Buy Whiskey. This world class single malt is balanced and complex from nose through finish. Read our official review here. BWG regards the Highland Park 18 as a high-end whiskey staple worthy of a regular spot anyone’s liquor cabinet and a flawless gift idea for anybody looking to give the gift of whiskey during the holidays. Highland Park 18 is available in store or online at Gates Circle Liquor for $134.

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Kilchoman Loch Gorm

loch_gormEven though Loch Gorm, Kilchoman’s sherry cask aged staple has been in production for a few years, it has only recently been distributed to Western NY. BWG has reviewed several Kilchoman products, all of which are nothing less than excellent (you can read them here). Loch Gorm starts off with sherried oak on the nose, more oak than sherry… lots of oak. Peat smoke and vanilla ease through with a touch of water. The palate is an extension of the nose. More oak, vanilla, some toasted biscuits and peat smoke. Typical, dark fruit type sherry cask flavors aren’t developed at all with this bottling. The complex Kilchoman “autumn camp fire” type peat smoke is barely there at all. More oak than is welcome takes its place. This follows through from nose to finish. Distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2014, this five year old sherry cask whisky very much seems to need more time in the casks to develop. Loch Gorm marks our first disappointment from Kilchoman, lets hope they remain seldom… Locally available at Gates Circle Liquor for $100. BWG rating: 79/100.

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Connemara Cask Strength

conn_caskstrength-2Connemara Cask Strength is the only Irish whiskey to be bottled at natural strength. It is not chill-filtered, or aided by coloring and matures in oak casks. The Cask Strength Connemara has all the base flavor profiles of the regular version (which we review here) – just more of them. An herbal, grassy, peaty smoke with honey and orange zest. Connemara’s peat smoke is much more soft and mild compared to its Scottish counterparts, even in this 57.9% cask strength version. But we love Connemara’s natural tasting, farm-yard-sh type grassy peat smoke flavors – and the Connemara Cask Strength gives it to you with the volume turned up. Sadly, this version is not available for purchase in the US. Our bottle was obtained whilst visiting Ireland. BWG rating: 92/100.

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Visual Recap: Autumn 2014

Another busy Buffalo NY Autumn is in the books. Every year we feel like there’s so much to do before winter arrives and try our damndest to pack it all in. The weather didn’t quite cooperate as much this year as in years past, but BWG didn’t let that dampen our mood for good drink. Here’s a visual recap from BWG’s Instagram and Tumblr pages, of this year’s Autumn drinks of choice. Enjoy…

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Irish-Style Pumpkin Spiced Latte

October, or “Pumpkin Month” as it could be called in the current American societal culture, bombards us with the round, orange, vine-growing, infinitely versatile vegetable, integrating it with virtually every consumable product known to mankind. BWG does not scoff at, but embraces this American truth by giving you our take on a pumpkin-ized Irish Coffee.

Irish-Style Pumpkin Spiced Latte

Ingredients:

8 oz coffee
2 oz evaporated milk
1 tbsp pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp sugar (or to personal taste)
1 or 2 oz Great Lakes Distillery Pumpkin Spirit
Dash of nutmeg

Directions:

Vigorously shake all ingredients together in microwave safe container. Microwave one or two minutes (until desired temp is reached). Shake again to get the frothy consistency of a latte. Pour into mug. Add pumpkin spirit — one ounce if you’re feeling traditional. Two ounces if you’re feeling rather libertine. Stir, add a dash of nutmeg, enjoy.coffee_pour

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latte_finalThis quick, easily concocted latte oozes that delicious pumpkin-spice flavor while not being overly pumpkin to the point of nausea. Giving it the Irish-coffee style twist will most certainly hit the spot and do wonders for your mood.

Great Lakes Distillery Pumpkin Spirit is available to purchase in store and online at Gates Circle Liquor (on sale in October) for $44.99.

Try this recipe and let BWG know what you think, cheers.

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Gene McCarthy’s / Old First Ward Brewing

mccarthy's_signOver the summer months, BWG kept hearing about how good the beer was at Gene McCarthy’s (a Buffalo restaurant staple since 1963), who just opened a brewhouse earlier this year. We contacted brewer Alex Placito who graciously invited us down to check out the goings on at what Gene McCarthy’s has titled, Old First Ward Brewing. In addition to the fun, Buffalo-style pub food. Gene McCarthy’s has an eclectically South-Buffalonian atmosphere. The Irish theme runs from floor to ceiling and unique stained glass windows are strewn throughout the bar area. OFW has several original beers on tap, all varying in style from ales, to stouts, to saisons. The OFW brew house is modestly nestled next to the restaurant connected by an outdoor stone patio with picnic tables, adirondack chairs and umbrellas.IMG_8863

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IMG_8834 After a tour of the brewhouse Alex brought us into the bar for a sampling. We tasted the IPA, the pale ale and the saison – and good lord, they were all fantastic. Each beer had a full, robust flavor, with distinct complexities and a beautiful freshness.IMG_8908

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IMG_8874To say OFW beer is fresh would be an understatement. They don’t keg their beer. They ferment it in their fermentation tanks, then pump it into their cold storage tanks along with CO2 for carbonation. When ready, they pump the beer with NO2 and CO2 directly from the cold storage tanks to the bar taps. It’s as clean and fresh a process from brewing to drinking as can be.

The beers we sampled from OFW were all excellent, but the stand out for us was their pale ale, cutely titled “Not a Pale Ale.”mccathy's_palealeAlex described Not a Pale Ale to us like this: “It’s made to be a vehicle for intense American hop aromas, while also being very drinkable. Most of the hopping for this 5.6% ale is done in the dry hop to really drive home that robust hop aroma – while not being overkill and tearing apart your palate.”

We found Not a Pale Ale to be exactly that. On the nose it’s full and sticky with an absolutely delicious citrusy hop aroma. It’s one of the most effervescent brews we’ve had in a while. The palate gives you full, chewy, citrus flavors like orange, grapefruit, peach, mango and lemon zest. With all these juicy fruit flavors going on, you might think it’s sweet, but it’s more of a savory tart fruitiness. Despite these intense flavors, this pale ale is as smooth as it gets. It’s beautifully airy and crisp on the palate and fades tightly through the finish, making it incredibly drinkable. Not a Pale ale is available in pints, or in a growler to go. BWG rating: 94/100.

As the young Buffalo craft beer scene grows, right now, Not a Pale Ale is definitely our favorite local brew. BWG highly recommends a stop at Gene McCarthy’s for a bite and some delicious, excellently produced Buffalo-made craft beer. Cheers!

Gene McCarthy’s
73 Hamburg Street
Buffalo, NY 14204
Phone (716) 855-8948

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Buffalo Bluegrass Kentucky Barrel Aged Cider

The executive branch of BWG decided to change things up a bit throughout October. Most of our reviews this month will be of spirit products that have been barrel aged. Whiskey is exclusively aged in wood barrels, but there are countless other products that use the process of aging in barrels to affect the flavor and texture of the spirit. Some are affected in a positive and complex manor, while others, not so much.

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Our first barrel aged review comes to us in the form of a hard cider produced just north east of Buffalo in Barker, NY. Black Bird Cider Works is a fully licensed apple farm and cidery. They take pride in the entire production of their ciders all the way from the farm, to the bottle. This is an excerpt from their website:

“BlackBird Cider Works uses apples specially selected from our own orchard. The apples are pressed and the juice (or “must”) is then fermented. After fermentation, the must is racked off into either oak barrels or stainless steel tank for aging. Once the aging process is completed, our hard cider is bottled and finally ready for consumption.”

Blackbird’s Buffalo Bluegrass Kentucky Barrel Aged Cider is bottled at 9.9% abv. It’s made from a blend of four apple varieties, fermented using an open air fermentation process and aged in ex-bourbon barrels. The flavor profiles right off the bat remind us of champaign more than anything else. There’s a unique funk to the nose, as well as apples and oak as one would expect. But oddly, the apple is subtle, you have to dig for it behind the pronounced champaign-like funk. The palate is bright, bubbly and crisp with a short, dry finish. The uniqueness of the Buffalo Bluegrass Cider was a bit hard to wrap our palates around. But after a few sips and letting it breathe for a bit, it’s funky flavors grew on us and the finish leaves you with a pleasant, quaffable flavor. Although it’s different enough for some cider lovers to balk at, we rather enjoyed our first foray into Blackbird Cider Works. Buffalo Bluegrass Barrel Aged Cider is available for purchase at Gates Circle Liquor for $14. Rating: 88/100.

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