Have you visited 'Toasts & Crumbs'?

The late Mr. Carson
“Happiness is having a rare steak, a bottle of whiskey, and a dog to eat the rare steak.”

-– Johnny Carson

Interested in more of this sort of silliness, perfect for cocktail parties, bar bets and the like? Me, too.

One of the fascinating aspects of writing about adult beverages is coming across bits of rhyme, free verse and just plain doggerel devoted to one’s favorite tipple.

For several years now, I have maintained a blog called “Toasts & Crumbs,” replete with bits of language fun from around the world. And, no matter how old some of them are, they keep striking responsive chords with readers. Some are just plain fun. Like the humorist Dave Barry’s comment:

“Without question the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.”

Some are more of a philosophical bent, like this quote from the Bible’s Ecclesiastes 9:7: “Eat thy bread with joy and drink thy wine with a merry heart.”

Join me there and, if you come across anything you think would make a good addition to the blog, just send it along.

Kilbeggan not just for the Irish anymore

Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey, which comes from Ireland's oldest operating distillery, is making its first-ever true U.S. marketing push.

Kilbeggan this month launched a national multi-media campaign. One of the more entertaining aspects of it is a six-part video series featuring humorous antics undertaken by Kilbeggan residents distraught over their beloved Kilbeggan no longer being just for the Irish. The series can be accessed on YouTube.

"Irish Whiskey is quickly becoming the popular spirit of choice for many Americans, so now is the perfect time for us to let our secret out," said Bob Gorman, director of marketing for World Whiskeys at Beam Inc. "With our new campaign and packaging, Kilbeggan is now primed to contribute to the continued growth of the category."

Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey is an 80-proof blended whiskey made from grain and barley. Unlike other Irish whiskeys, it is double distilled to retain more flavor. Its new packaging features a new label with a copper color and shape are representative of the 180-year-old pot still used to make the whiskey. An image of the distillery and its iconic water wheel are the focal point of the design, along with the year the whiskey was founded, 1757.

Dewar's to debut first flavored Scotch in April

A Dewar's portfolio.
Flavored whiskey is an emerging niche category in the spirits industry, but until know tradition-bound Scotland has not entered the field.
  Now, Dewar’s has announced it will roll out a honey-flavored whisky in the U.S. in April, targeting younger and female drinkers.

“When you look at what’s happening in bourbon and the overall flavor trends in the U.S., we figured it was time to create an offering that is still truly Scotch, but gives those who play with flavor trends an option to play within Scotch,” said Arvind Krishnan, brand managing director for Dewar’s.

“Younger consumers are migrating to bourbon because of all the energy and excitement the flavors have created, and I think Scotch brands can do the same for their category.”

Wild Turkey American Honey has been particularly successful, with sales up by 45% during last year. Other flavored whiskies have been introduced by Beam (Jim Beam Honey, Red Stag), Brown-Forman (Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey), Diageo (Bushmills Honey, Crown Royal Maple Finished). Look for even more to come, especially from craft distilleries.

Smirnoff adding an espresso flavored vodka

Startling news from the London-based Diageo alcoholic beverages company: a new flavored vodka.

Espresso Smirnoff will be rolled out in April to join the tsunami of flavored vodkas already on the market.

That competition doesn't scare Diageo, however. No wonder, considering that flavored vodkas account for 18% of total vodka sales in the U.S.

Espresso Smirnoff is a blend of Smirnoff Red and espresso coffee. The brand's other flavored vodkas already on the market are lime, green apple, vanilla, blueberry and -- honest to god -- fluffed marshmallow.

Iowa distiller marries local grain with magic

SWISHER, IA -- Iowa is the nation's leading grain-producing state. Now, someone finally is putting the stuff to good use.

Jeff Quint, owner and distiller at the Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery near Cedar Rapids in Johnson County -- the state's only winery/distillery, is producing whiskey from 100% malted Iowa barley, believed to be the state's first legal such whiskey.

 If the stuff were being made in Scotland, he points out, he would be able to call it single malt scotch.

His initial goal is to produce just a few barrels of the scotch-like spirit to handle local demand, with releases planned for August and November.

Quint already has been producing such spirits as Cedar Ridge Iowa Bourbon (70-75% corn, with the remainder split evenly between rye and malted barley), Clearheart Triple Distilled Fruit & Grain Spirits and Griff’s Cowboy Whiskey.

Quint says of the Cedar Ridge Single Malts: "Almost every barrel will be unique because we finish each cask differently. First of all, every 'barrel' of our Single Malt will actually have aged in at least two different barrels. As our Single Malt matures, we dump it from the first barrel we age it in and transfer it to another barrel for finishing.

"We use a variety of different casks for this process –- ex-bourbon casks, ex-port casks, ex-rum casks, ex-brandy cask, ex-wine casks, even ex-sherry casks we are shipping in from Europe. Secondly, we are experimenting with different styles of malts. We use two-row, peated, six-row –- whatever we can get our hands on, as long as it is malted. This allows us to establish a unique pedigree, or history, for each finished barrel."

'Sensorium' studies effects of ambiance on tasting

Go here for a sensory slideshow.
From BBC News

Does the same whisky taste different in different surroundings?

Professor Charles Spence, from the department of experimental psychology at England's Oxford University has teamed up with The Singleton whisky distillery to find out. He has been carrying out a multi-sensory science experiment, exploring the senses and the taste of whisky in a bar known as "The Singleton Sensorium."

"We are looking for competing flavors and notes so you can draw people’s attention to those notes and their surroundings," says Spence. "So we have three rooms: grassy, woody and sweet."

The grassy room features a green light, real grass, foliage, the sounds of lawnmowers and sheep and the smell of the countryside, which evoke the nose of the whisky, says Spence. Participants have to taste the whisky and score it in each room in the sensorium.

"In a real environment, when I went from one bar to another, and I say 'I want that drink I had the other day', but it tastes different, why is that? I think it’s the environment."

"Everyone thinks I am just tasting the food or drink, I wouldn’t be fooled. But people are contradictory, and say this wouldn’t work on me. But they say this wine, it tastes great, I had it on holiday in the sun –- so they buy the wine which tasted great, and they open it on a cold winter night and it tastes horrible. We've all had a version of that experience," he says.

The sensorium's red room, which tests the taste of the whisky, is "all round, red, with lots of roundness and lots of tinkling notes from the ceiling," says Spence, which studies have found represent sweetness.

"Sweetness is about a taste, but also sweet smells like vanilla and caramel. The taste of The Singleton is described as dark berries and dried fruits."
Red lights in the room help set the tone for participants, who are asked to rate how much they like the whisky, and the room, on their scorecards.

Spence says the modern deconstructed food movement known as molecular gastronomy was "all about technology in the back of house, in the kitchen, you didn’t see it but tasted the results of it." He thinks in the next five to 10 years the focus will be on technology in restaurant dining rooms and bars, with more "things like directional soundscapes, and harnessing mobile technologies at the table."

In the woody room, tasters noted their perceptions while enjoying the whisky's finish, described as a "the lingering finish" which "reveals the specially chosen wood in which it matures."

The results of participants' sensory perception of whisky in different environments will help inform hosts in the future, says Spence. "Maybe people will use it in bars, or maybe it is in the home environment."

Spence says the sensorium experiment ties in with other work he is doing around embedding sound while dining or drinking.

"We are thinking about clever designs where you can link the music or a soundscape to food or drink and have it in responsive mode, so it plays in real time when put the fork to your lips or glass to mouth."

Three hundred people took part in the experiment, which is part of a wider scientific study titled "Tasting Notes: Assessing the effect of the multisensory atmosphere and ambiance on people’s perception of whisky." It is scheduled to be published this summer.

WhistlePig expansion plans fuel 2-pronged debate

SHOREHAM, VT -- The very old line about whiskey being great for medicinal purposes led most people to believe that spirits can sterilize anything.

The reality is, not so.

Take the case of entrepreneur Raj Peter Bhakta and his pricey craft whiskey called WhistlePig (another name for a groundhog or woodchuck).

He began bottling his Canadian-distilled whiskey at an old 500-acre dairy farm here several years ago and has achieved quite a reputation within the trade, but isn't winning over all state officials and neighbors with his plans for changes.

He wants to begin making whiskey on-premises from rye grown on the farm. That has set off a debate on whether his property -- located near Lake Champlain opposite Ticonderoga, NY -- still qualifies as a farm, which would subject it to different developmental and operational regulations than those governing other businesses.

 In addition, some neighboring fruit and berry growers are concerned about the possible threat of whiskey mold, a black fungus that flourishes in areas with lots of moisture, such as distilleries.

Vermont Public Radio has a thorough report on the controversy you may find of interest.

Cape Cod's first distillery is in the works

Skip Wrightson at Kilchoman Distillery, Islay, Scotland
HYANNIS, MA -- Locals and regular visitors to Cape Cod are familiar with the traffic jams near the Airport Rotary. It's a place people try to avoid.

Not so for Skip and Rick Wrightson, the son-father entrepreneurs who hope to renovate a vacant building near the rotary to create a distillery they call the Cape Cod Distilling Co.

They would use the former Western Tools Supply building at 411 Barnstable Road as their production facility, and give public tours once work is completed on what is projected to be a $3.2 million renovation and retrofitting.

No whiskey would be sold on the premises, although small tasting samples would be available to visitors. Their plans are scheduled to go before the town planning board on April 8. If the town approves the project, applications must be made for state and federal licenses.

Skip Wrightson said he expects one of the company's core products would be a four-year-old "American single malt" whiskey. No brand name has yet been chosen for the Wrightsons' proposed products. He and his father will use Scottish-made copper pot stills in the operation of what will be the first distillery on the Cape.


Fledgling Albany Distilling debuts its first rum

New distillery's newest product.
ALBANY, NY -- The latest product from the fledgling Albany Distilling Company goes on sale this Saturday, March 23.

Quackenbush Still House Original Albany Rum, a small-batch creation, is made following the tradition of colonial-era distilling with a recipe from that era and molasses from the Caribbean. It is the company's first rum product.

"Albany has a long history of rum production which dates back to the 18th Century, when the Quackenbush Still House produced rum for both local residents and wayfaring soldiers," says an announcement from partners/distillers Johnny Curtin and Matt Jager.

"Back then, Caribbean molasses was mixed with water from the Hudson River and allowed to ferment with wild yeasts in huge, open wooden vats -- the remains of which can still be seen at the New York State Museum -- before being distilled and bottled. Our original Albany rum follows this tradition, with a recipe from that era and molasses from the Caribbean - but with an updated production line -- and different water."

A spiced version of the amber rum is expected to be introduced in the fall.

Albany Distilling opened last October, and already has produced a bourbon, a new-make   whiskey and a rye whiskey.

The operation is located downtown at 78 Montgomery Street, adjacent to the Albany Pump Station brewpub behind historic Quackenbush Square. Phone: (518) 621-7191.