Whiskey Business Part 1

Two weeks ago, the challenge cards at The Rockstone were reset. Over the Friday and Saturday of that weekend I drank 30 different bourbons to become the first person to get their name up on the new boards (as I sit here typing this two weeks later, I remain the only person to have done so, so far)

Today I have returned, tempted by the Ska, Folk, Gypsy and Hip Hop of the band that will be playing here tonight. For now though, I am yet again sat at the bar, with a glass of whiskey, and a glass of coke.

For this round of Whiskey Business, things are going to be much more structured (like the first round of Bourbon on the Forth of July was). Like last time, there are 40 whiskeys for me to work through. Over the next five visits, I shall be working my way through eight whiskeys, and writing about the experience as I go along.

First up today is Aberlour 10Yr. It’s one of those whiskeys that just smells nice, the sort you sit and admire the nose for a while before tasting it. It drinks well too, nice and peaty, which is good for me as I rather like nice and peaty. The whisky below Aberlour on the card is Ardbeg, which I had to finish things off two weeks ago. I like Ardbeg, a lot.

The next bunch of whiskeys will be four from Glenfiddich, 12Yr, 14Yr, 15Yr, and 21Yr.

The 12Yr is one I’ve had before, and thanks to being gifted a bottle, the first whisky I owned. I’ll be honest here and say I’ve never really been a fan. I can drink it without issue, but it’s never had me rushing to drink more, which probably explains how I’ve had the bottle I have for so long, when others have come and gone long since.

The 14yr is new to me, though I have been tempted by a bottle when they have been on offer, or passing through duty free at airports. Either it has little aroma, my nose has gone (again), or this glass really doesn’t help, which would be strange, as it’s a branded whiskey glass. Taste wise, it has somewhat of a burn on it, yet that does give way to a rather nice oaky aftertaste.

The 15Yr is another I’ve had before, thanks to one of those boxes of 12,15, and 18Yr bottles you can find in supermarkets, usually around Christmas. Despite having drunk it several times, I can never remember if I like it or not, which probably means it’s drinkable, but not memorable.

I come to it after consuming a rather delicious plate of reasonably priced pork ribs, marinaded in a spicy BBQ sauce that has left a nice tingly feeling around my lips, and a satisfying feeling of fullness in my stomach. I can smell more from this, despite the fact that it’s in the same style of glass. There’s a slight hint of apple in there. Taste wise it seems to be overpowered by a strong alcoholic burn, I don’t particularly like strong alcoholic burn, nor can I see why anyone would.

Last but not least, the 21Yr. This time, back in a small straight glass. I always expect whiskeys with higher years on to be much nicer, which is probably why I’m always slightly disappointed. As with the previous two, the burn of the alcohol seems to distract from whatever taste there may be in this whisky, of which there is some, but I can’t quite place what it is.

Now that I’ve finished the run of Glenfiddich, it’s back to darting around the card, picking off random whiskeys until I reach the eight for this session. As a result, I’ve gone for Jamesons. I had a glass of Jameson 12Yr, and the Distillery Reserve earlier in the week. Regular Jamesons couldn’t be further away if it tried. It smells odd, not too far away from the smell of a permanent marker pen. It’s also nowhere near as enjoyable as the aforementioned other Jamesons whiskeys, which are actually deceptively drinkable. It probably says something about regular Jamesons, that whilst everything else today has been savoured and drunk straight, this has had two sips taken from it, before having coke added to it to get the experience over with quicker.

Finally, to finish off today’s session, and to bring the number of stamps on the card to eight, is the wonderfully named, Pete Chimney. From the name, I’d expect it to be a peaty whiskey, which it is. It smells lovely, more so than the Aberlour this session began with. It tastes good too, with a whole multitude of delicious peaty flavours overpowering the alcoholic burn. I like this one, a lot. I could have easily chosen a disappointing whiskey to end with, but today, I didn’t.

As I write now, it approaches half two. The lunch time crown, a much smaller one than usual, has been and gone. I am about to leave a pub that will, for a while, be relatively empty. I could easily stay for more, but this time I won’t. 8 at a time, those are the rules, and I’m sticking to them.


The Friday Pint 2 #34 – Bourbon Again

So, here I am at The Rockstone, drinking the second bourbon of the day. The new cards aren’t here yet, so I’ve begun by drinking the ones I enjoyed most in each session when I completed the first challenge. Over the course of this afternoon I’ll be live blogging, and updating this blog with each new bourbon, so keep checking back, or wait until the end to see how several bourbons affect my writing skills…

First up was the JW Dant Special Reserve, which was my favourite of the third session. This time round though, I wasn’t as impressed. The second bourbon however, Planton’s Special Reserve, which I declared my favourite of the fourth session, is still enjoyable.

Third up is the champion of week one, Rebel Reserve. It has the most afterburn of what I’ve had so far, but it still tastes good. There’s somewhat of a sweetness to it. This is being followed by the week two stand out, Cabin Still. It doesn’t have as much of a burn (yet still does), and is slightly easier to drink.

The bourbon is flowing, and yet the new cards are still to arrive. I have a list though, and next up will be the best of week five, which although I didn’t say it, was the John B. Stetson. As I said before, it’s possibly too easy to drink, and rather delicious too.

Of this best of run, I’d say that the Planton’s Special Reserve is my favourite of the lot, and therefore my favourite of the first set of 20 bourbons.

Next up, after a bit of help choosing (okay, a conversation consisting of “Makers Mark?” “Okay then”) I am now drinking Makers Mark. There’s somewhat of a burn immediately, rather than on the aftertaste. Saying that though, the aftertaste is somewhat nicer than most other bourbons I’ve had. The burn gives way to a rather nice aftertaste.

The cards have now arrived, and so I now know which 30 bourbons, and which 40 whiskys I’ll be drinking this time around. Six down, 24 to go…

The first “post card” bourbon is Rebel Yell. (I’m working along a shelf that I can see). It’s warming to just the right level, and there isn’t really too much of an afterburn. A little bit of trivia for you fact fans out there, this was originally on the whiskey card, and was what I finished the four boards on.

I’m now moving onto two bourbons at a time, but with reason, I am now drinking two Wild Turkey Bourbons side by side, the 81 Proof, and the 101 Proof. Whilst I can’t discern much difference in the taste between the two, the 101 does seem smoother, and also has more of a warming burn in the aftertaste. The 101 also seems somewhat sweeter than the 81.

Continuing with the comparison theme, I am now going for the two Four Roses bourbons on the card, Yellow Label and Small Batch. Both of these were on the card last time round, so some of you may be interested to see how my descriptions compare (myself, I can’t be bothered. I’m starting to feel nicely inebriated).

The yellow label has quite a nice taste to it, though I can determine any defining characteristics. I like it. Though that may be because I’m starting to get somewhat drunk. The single batch has more of a burn, yet tastes just as good. Of the two though, I’d say I prefer the Yellow Label.

Moving back to single sessions, bourbon number 12 is Jack Daniels Single Barrel. Despite its popularity, I’ve only just started to “get” Jack Daniels recently. It isn’t a bourbon in the standard sense, and so tastes somewhat different. Saying that though, it’s still not my favourite drink. The single barrel has a rather vanilla-y oaky aroma. The taste though is filled with burn, followed by a sweet aftertaste, which is distinctly vanilla for a few brief moments.

Staying with the Jack Daniels theme, bourbon 13 is Gentleman Jack, a bourbon I found instantly more enjoyable than standard Jack Daniels. This time round I’m hit instantly with banana. I like it. I can’t say I’ve been hit by banana in a bourbon before. There’s still the burn, which I’ve come to accept from bourbons and whiskys, but banana is a nice surprise. I like it.

Number 14, almost half way through, and it’s Wild Turkey American Honey. I’m now starting to make numerous spelling mistakes, but thankfully myself, and the iOS spell checker, are picking up on them. The bourbon smells sweet, very sweet. It tastes it too. I’ve had honey bourbons before and I have to say, I’m not a fan, mostly due to the aforementioned sweetness.

15! Half way there. The honourable bourbon is Buffalo Trace. It smells of bourbon (imagine in your mind what bourbon smells like, it smells like that.). It seems warmer that the other bourbons so far, almost like drinking warm ale. It’s somewhat meh.

16, and still on the first session, is Bulleit Bourbon (feel for my poor liver). Like the Buffalo trace before it, it seems warm and meh. This is probably a sign it’s time to stop and return tomorrow.

14 to go…

Hello again. Did you all sleep well?

For those reading this as I post, I am now back at The Rockstone, for round two of the Bourbons. Yes, it is 11:15.

I’m kicking off with a two glass comparison, between regular Jim Beam and Devils Cut. Regular Jim Beam was the first Bourbon I took a liking to. I tried Jack Daniels, but at the time I just didn’t get it (I still don’t to be fair). I then tried Jim Beam and found it much easier to drink. This time though, it tastes somewhat odd, and not enjoyable at all.

The Devils Cut appears to have a bit more flavour, hidden behind a nice calm burn (I realise that description may not make sense to you, but it does to me, and it really is the best way I can describe it). Neither bourbon is one I’d rush to drink again.

Next up is the last double header (and last comparison). This time round it’s Old Fitzgerald and Old Fitzgerald 1849 that are going up side by side. The standard Old Fitzgerald seems to have a slight nutty taste that emerges after the burn of the alcohol starts to fade away. Both of them seem to have a rather distinct aroma, much unlike any of the other bourbons I’ve had so far this weekend. The 1849 had been deemed nice enough to gain a tick on my card, marking it out as one of the few that have really stood out for me, and that I’d buy again.

Next up, on the beginning of the final stretch, is Eagle Rare, which is being accompanied by a slice of Britain’s biggest burger. My initial reaction was “It burns!”. There’s far too much alcohol burn on this one. I’m not at fan at all.

Going back to buying two at a time (mainly due to the bar being busy, and not wanting to wait), I now have Elijah Craig and Evan Williams in front of me. The Elijah Craig has a slight mouldy taste about it, which is somewhat offputting. The Evan Williams in comparison tastes rather vanilla-y, and is much more enjoyable.

Now up is Fighting Cock, which has slight cinnamon smell to it, which just gives way to the standard aroma of alcohol. Taste wise it burns, too much to be enjoyable. If I’m honest, I think my palate has become far too tired to really discern any sort of flavour, and I’m now just drinking these to complete the challenge, and be first.

With just six to go, I order a Kentucky Vintage and a Knob Creek. As I reach the table, I think I can remember which is which, but an element of doubt creeps in. I take a sip of what I think is the Kentucky, and proceed to pour coke into the glass to make it easier to drink. A discussion between myself and my friend sat opposite me, has made me realise that I am close to completing this in 24 hours. I won’t, but I could do.

I take a sip of what I think is the Knob Creek (a bourbon which comes with an obligatory “heh, knob”, each time it is referenced.). I prefer this one, whichever it actually is. I still mix it with coke.

Four to go. This time the order consists of Pikesville and Rittenhouse Rye. I like the Pikesville. Despite the fact that palate fatigue is setting in, it has some nice flavours that come through. I like it enough that I’m going to drink it without mixing it with coke.

The Rittenhouse Rye tastes nicer than I remember it being (I seem to recall my reaction to it last time was somewhat of a “meh”). That being said though, in order to complete the challenge today, I’m going to be mixing it, in the coke goes…

And finally, the end. I have no idea which is which in front of me, I know I have a Willet Pot Still Reserve, and a Woodford Reserve. The fact is, I don’t really care. I’m number one. I completed the challenge, in little over 24 hours. In related news, I now don’t want to drink another drop of alcohol for a good few days.

What do these taste like? Who knows, who cares, I’m nicely inebriated and I’m number one.

I’m number one.

I’m number one.

You knew live blogging when 30 bourbons was involved would turn out good didn’t you.

I’ll be more civilised about the others, with much more structured sessions. Until then, I’m done for the weekend.


The Friday Pint 2 #30 – Rum!

So, after a week off involving the Birmingham Beer Bash, I returned this week to “The Year WIthout Buying Beer”, and actually did quite well. This may have something to do with having to work for most of it, but ignoring that, lets call it a success.

Monday of this week was my big drinking day, in that I took myself to The Rockstone in Southampton to drink rum whilst doing various things on my netbook (mostly consisting of playing Civilisation 3 and Doom 2).

I spent a good few hours there, sat at the bar, ordering rum after rum, and watching as people passed through. Considering it was a Monday lunchtime, the amount of customers was very healthy, and credit should be due to Aimee for dealing with them all admirably.

Despite a mention in my Golden Pints nominations at the end of last year (I nominated it for best pub, and deservedly so). I don’t think I’ve ever given it the focus it deserves. As such, here is why you should visit The Rockstone…

The Rockstone is situated north of the city centre, on the corner of Bevois Valley Road and Rockstone Lane. It’s a bit of a walk from the station, but it’s worth it, and seeing as you’re there, you might as well walk the extra bit and visit Bitter Virtue as well.

The Rockstone was formally known as the Bevois Castle, which was bought by current owners Max and Aimee Greenwood in November 2010. A year later after refurbishment, a name change, and licencing issues, The Rockstone opened. In less than two years since, The Rockstone has become reknowned for it’s food, obtaining highly positive reviews on many respected websites, and in several national newspapers.

Whilst I generally go for steaks, I can’t help but feel envious of those ordering the burgers. I reguarly go to The Rockstone with a friend, and we have commented many times that we’re sure the burgers are getting bigger. As well as being reasonably sized, they are also reasonably priced, at £12.95 for most burgers on the menu.

Whilst I can’t speak for The Rockstone’s vegetarian offerings, I can say that, rather than being an afterthought, the team have put some real effort into them, and there’s a whole page of the menu that I’ve never read dedicated to vegetarian options.

For those wanting liquid refreshment, The Rockstone has 8 ale taps, a set of keg taps containing more standard lagers, and the best selection of spirits you’re going to find anywhere in Southampton, and probably Hampshire for that matter. The whisky, rum, gin and bourbon selections all have challenge cards, which you can complete to obtain a place on the board, and a t-shirt. (The challenges are being reset at the end of September though, so it may be worth waiting if you want to start).

The Rockstone has a beer festival coming up over the August bank holiday weekend. Coincidentally, this is also the weekend that The Platform Tavern are having their beer festival. (Also, it’s the weekend I’m working, but fortunately, I can visit The Platform’s on the Thursday, and The Rockstone’s on the Monday). On the basis of the last festival’s list, which included beers from Tiny Rebel, Sadler’s and Vibrant Forest, it should be worth a trip down.


The Friday Pint 2 #23 – Bourbon The Fourth Of July Part 5

The end is in sight. Just four bourbons stand between me and a place on the board, and a free t-shirt.

Today’s line up begins with one that would have featured last time, had it not run out. John B. Stetson is a rather light, yet flavoursome bourbon. It’s warming, rather than harsh and burning. I could happily sit and sip something like this over an evening. If I have any criticism of this, it’s that it might just be a bit too easy to drink. If I feel like I could down several, it’s probably slightly dangerous.

Next up is Willet Pot Still Reserve, which comes in a rather nice looking bottle. It’s darker than the John B. Stetson, which based on previous sessions, probably means it has got a harsh burn on the aftertaste. It smells sweeter, which I’ve found is also an indication that it will have a harsh burn aftertaste. In a way, it has, though not as strong as some of the other bourbons I’ve tried over the last few weeks.

The penultimate bourbon on the card (following a rather lovely Beef Wellington, The Rockstone is a great place to get food if you’re ever in Southampton) is Jim Beam Devil’s Cut. Normal Jim Beam was one of the first bourbons I tasted, and my preferred choice for quite some time, on the rare occasions I actually drank bourbon. Whilst the Devil Cut isn’t bad, there isn’t enough reason for me to want to drink it again, unlike some of the bourbons encountered during these sessions.

Which brings us to the end, Kentucky Vintage. There doesn’t seem to be as much aroma to this as the others in this session. Taste wise, it doesn’t really seem that inspiring either, with the burn not really accompanied by any sort of enjoyable flavour. Ignoring all of that though, I’ve finished. I have a T-shirt and my name on the board.


Now, for Mission: Ginpossible…


Bourbon the Fourth of July Part 4

So, once again, for the penultimate time, I find myself at The Rockstone, for another four of the bourbons on the card.

First of today’s four is Seagram’s VO. It has a slightly sweet aroma to it, which also transfers to the taste. It drinks rather nicely, with the burn being more warming than offputting. Seagram’s VO fits in nicely with the types of bourbons that have been my favourites from the three previous sessions.

Next up are two bourbons from Old Fitzgerald, Old Fitzgerald and Old Fitzgerald 1849. The 1849 is slightly darker, which is to be expected from a bourbon that has been in the barrel longer. There seems to be a slight difference in aroma, with the 1849 seeming less sweet.

The standard Old Fitzgerald has a burn that lingers at the front of the mouth. The burn seems pretty much instant in its attack as well. Whereas previous bourbons have had some sort of taste, then an afterburn, this seemingly doesn’t.

In comparison, the 1849 had to linger somewhat longer before some sort of burn starts to kick in. Even then it’s not as strong as the standard Old Fitzgerald. The 1849 also has an aftertaste that comes through after the burn, which is a pleasant surprise.

Last of the session today is Planton’s Special Reserve. It is tempting to work through the remaining four today and get my t-shirt and name on the board, but I feel that a plan should be stuck to, and that another four would have me drunk, rather than just feeling nicely warm and pleasantly happy.

The Planton’s Special Reserve has an unexpected aroma, in that I’ve never detected it before on a bourbon or whiskey, and that is summer fruits. I’ve gone back to it a few times, and it’s definitely there.

There also seems to be summer fruits on the palate as well, a mixture of raspberries and blackberries and strawberries. They’re not overly strong, but they’re detectable, and it makes a pleasant change from all the bourbons that have been either vanilla or burn.

Of this session, The Planton’s Special Reserve has been my favourite. I now have four bourbons left to go. After the next session, I shall be finding a time to drink my favourites from each of the five sessions, in an attempt to determine which one I like the most.

And then, Mission: Ginpossible…


Bourbon the Fourth of July Part 2

A few weeks ago, as part of The Friday Pint’s “Year Without Buying Beer”, I visited The Rockstone, in the Beovis Valley area of Southampton and started working through the range of bourbons listed on the collection card. There are 20 in total, and I have decided to work through them in five sessions of four.

Today’s session begins with Eagle Rare. It’s nicely mellow, and doesn’t burn much on the aftertaste. Saying that though, it does seem a bit too easy to drink, and doesn’t really have any characteristics that would make me want to buy myself a bottle

Next on the list is Cabin Still, it’s slightly darker, and somewhat harsher, yet seemingly better for it. The aromas and flavours, whilst similar, seem somewhat stronger.

Bourbon number three for today, and seven in total, is Pikesville. It smells sweeter than the others, with a hint of orange in amongst the vanilla that has been present in the others. In terms of taste, it seems the harshest so far, though the aftertaste doesn’t linger as long as the initial taste would suggest.

Lastly for this group of bourbons is Rittenhouse Rye. It seemingly has little to no aroma. I can detect slight hints of vanilla, but nothing as strong as any of the seven that have preceded this. Tastewise there doesn’t seem much to it either.

Overall, my favourite of these four is the Cabin Still. It had a good bit of flavour to it, and wasn’t too harsh.


The Friday Pint #17 – Bourbon The Fourth of July Part 1

When I started this year of The Friday Pint, there was one place I knew I’d probably end up at quite regularly.

The Rockstone in Southampton has developed a reputation, both locally and nationally, for it’s rather generous menu. Imagine the tallest burger you can, The Rockstone Burger is probably taller, and it tastes great too. It’s just one of a selection of around 30 on the menu, and then there’s the steaks, and the fish, and the veggie options, all made from locally sourced ingredients.

Usually, it would be the food that is the reason for my visit. Today though, I’m visiting to make my first dent into the Bourbon The Fourth of July card. 20 Bourbons are on the list, and I’ve decided to go through in order, doing four each session (that’s five sessions, Math fans!)

First up is one called Rebel Reserve, which is going down rather nicely. There’s two on the card that I’ve had before, Gentlemen Jack and Evan Williams. The rest though, are complete strangers.

After drinking the Rebel Reserve possibly a bit too fast, I’ve ordered a Four Roses. It’s darker than the Rebel Reserve, and also has a bit of bite to it. It seems sweeter too. There’s a burning aftertaste to it, which isn’t quite as unpleasant as some. Such is the Awesomeness of The Rockstone, I’ve also been given a glass of Four Roses Single Barrel to compare (it’s not for sale). There’s a slight difference. It seems slightly smoother, and not as sweet, though the after bite is still there.

Third up is Evan Williams. It’s actually the single barrel, and not the standard stuff that I bought a bottle of after enjoying it at the Midland’s Whisky Fest a few weeks ago. As I determined then, I prefer the regular Evan Williams to this, which is why I bought a bottle of that, and not this. It’s still nicer than Jack Daniels though.

Lastly for this session is the Elijah Craig, which I believe is the darkest of the four (it’s somewhat hard to determine without having the previous three to line up against it. Rebel Reserve was certainly the lightest of the four). There’s a definite burn to this one, though underneath it, there seems to be hints of orange and chocolate.

Of the four bourbons tried this time, the Rebel Reserve is the one I have enjoyed the most. I’ll be continuing to complete the card on the next four Fridays I’m off. On the basis of today, it’s going to be fun, and an education. As for now, I’m popping down to The Platform Tavern. You should join me…


The Friday Pint 2 #13 – Bunnies, Doctors and Blues.

It would seem that amongst all the anticipation and excitement that I forgot to write this post. Next Thursday is my birthday, and so this weekend I’ll be using the second of my ten passes to do a bit of drinking. It’s going to be some weekend.

My first port of call, in just a few short hours from writing, will be the William IV in Leyton for the annual Brodie’s Bunny Basher festival. There’s a lot I want to try and get my hands on here. For starters, Elizabethan, the 22% stout which will be available in bottled form for the first time this year. It’s a beer I’ve had a few times before and it’s one that makes you savour and enjoy it, which amongst the rush is a good thing.

Then there’s the sours. I had Brodie’s Peach Sour at the Euston Tap last year, and introduced a few of my work colleagues to the Cherry Sour in The Old Coffee House to positive reaction. I’m hoping to try one or two of what’s on the list for this festival.

Also on the list are a number of single hop pales, a few barrel aged versions of beers like Romanov (their Russian Imperial Stout) and Big Mofo Stout (the collaboration with Mikkeller). There’s certainly enough to get a beer geek or ticker excited, and I believe the William IV will be full of both.

Which means that Brewdog Camden may be relatively quiet for the launch of the 2013 IPA is Dead series. The range, which launched in 2011, consists of four IPAs in each series, each brewed with the same base beer, but with different hops. This year, the hops are Dana, El Dorado, Waimea and Goldings, three of which are complete strangers to me. Depending on time, and the state of myself and my wallet, I might pop round to give them a try. Though it’s much more likely I’ll head for the train to sober up a bit, and return home to watch Doctor Who, most likely on iPlayer.

Sunday will see me headed to The Rockstone in Southampton, for their Easter Beer Festival. Amongst a rather good beer list is Sadler’s Mud City Stout and Dr Hardwicke’s. I’ll be drinking both of these straight, and combined to form what I dubbed last year a “Muddy Doctor”. I’ll also be eating steak, possibly something other than the Rump Jive and Wail. If you’re in or around Southampton this weekend, or at any point in the future, I recommend popping in.

Which I can also say for Monday’s point of call, The Platform Tavern’s Blues and Cider festival, which will also feature beers from the onsite Dancing Man Brewery, who are now on Twitter. Amongst those will be their Choc Chilli Stout, which was launched late last year, and featured in The Friday Pint #46 and #49. I’m also hoping that I’ll be able to get hold of a pint of Pole Axed, which is currently my favourite of the beers brewed by Dancing Man.

After all that, I have to go back to work. Just two days later however, and I turn 28. I think that’s an excuse for more beer isn’t it?