Booker’s Bourbon

Yellow Spot 12 Year Old Irish Whiskey

Yellow Spot Irish Whiskey



I was not an Irish Whiskey fan…..or so I thought.  All of the Irish whiskey’s I had ever sipped tasted metallic and left an awful finish on the back of my tongue.  So when I went to Ireland a few years ago and ordered a Scotch, I think the music stopped and all eyes were on me.  I think the fact that I’m the size of a defensive end saved me.

One of the people in my party (who was from Ireland) asked me why I preferred Scotch over Irish whiskey.  I didn’t tell him about the tin like taste, but pointed out the great smoky flavors of Oban and the saltiness of Talisker.  “They have character!” I said in a boastful rant.  The guy smiled and signaled for the bar tender.  The bar tender was still pissed when he arrived and my host ordered me a flight of fantastic whiskies.

Now I say, “Irish is the new Scotch”!  I purchased a bottle of Green Spot along with two other treats which lasted all of 4 months.  I had to nurse them of course.  But recently, I found myself in the company of a bottle of Yellow Spot.   What a treat.

Yellow Spot is the older brother of Green Spot.  It’s also different because it spent some nights inside a Bourbon cask, Spanish Sherry butts, and Spanish Malaga casks.  Now this guy sleeps around, but the results are awesome.  No metallic taste, but a nice mild fruity flavor from its Spanish trysts while its Kentucky time imparted a smooth vanilla finish.  Good structure and great legs.  Take your time with this one.  Its pricey but worth it.

Teeling Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Teeling Single Malt Irish Whiskey Non-aged



The Teeling Distillery reopened in 2015 and is the first distillery to open in Dublin in over 125 years and is the second to open in Ireland over that same time.  While this is a new opening, Teeling is an old brand.  Started in 1782 by Walter Teeling, they have been distilling their whiskey for over 230 years.  Apparently Teeling fell on hard times like the other Irish distilleries and must have shuttered their doors a few years back.  They are back now and in a big way.

Recently at the Whiskey Revival at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, I had the good fortune of sampling a few of their offerings.  My friends know I’m not a huge Irish Whiskey fan but this whiskey blew me away.

First, this is a Non-Aged whiskey which means……. nothing to me.  Look, No Age Statement whiskey does not mean cheap or unrefined.  It simply means that the age of the youngest whisky did not meet the 3 year minimum by Irish law.  However, the 100% malted barley comprising this elixir includes malt distilled back in 1991!  Yup, that would be 25 years! That was point number 2.  Finally, this offering has been vatted in 5 different wine casks.  They are Sherry, Madeira, White Burgundy, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

That all sounds impressive until you taste it.  It tastes as impressive as it sounds.  There was so much complexity to this that it was stunning.  Some dried fruit, citrus, vanilla and herbal notes swirled about my taste buds, but there was some hidden punch inspired by the oak and tannins that were used in the aging process.  I don’t usually rate on my blog, but this is a solid 9 out of 10.  Yes, it would be higher on a 100 point system!

I don’t know what the price point is for this yet, but this is a perfect Friday night, after the kids are in bed sip. Neat for sure. In the winter by a fire, or in the summer on the deck with your favorite cigar.  Teeling nailed it. Can’t wait to taste the aged offerings when they produce some.

Taconic Double Barrel Bourbon with Maple Syrup



This one is going to be hard to convince people to try but it’s your loss if you don’t.  For the true “Bourbon” aficionados it’s not bourbon.  It’s an American Whiskey distilled in Ney York; not Kentucky.  If you make that teeny, weeny allowance, then we can move on to the next hurdle, the maple syrup.  To qualify my opinion, let me state for the record that I despise these infused whiskeys.  Peach, cinnamon, apple, honey whatever.  As a chef, I know the crap in the bottle cannot be made with real stuff or it would turn the liquor rancid!  Also, it is your job or the mixologists’ job to carry these flavors to a well-crafted spirit at the point of consumption.

Vodka is the only exception to this rule!!

This in my humble opinion, is not an infusion.  It’s a marriage.  Just like the marriage between a port cask, sherry cask, or madeira with an Irish whiskey or Scotch, the Maple Syrup casks imparts its own special kiss to this bourbon, err whiskey!

Taconic produces only 10 barrels of this exceptional bourbon a year.  They take 53 gallon barrels and fill them with grade A maple syrup which they age for several months.  After they empty the barrels and bottle the syrup (also available on-line), they fill the barrels with their whiskey which was previously aged 2 years and 8 months in barrels stored in storage containers! Don’t let the youth full you.  New York is subject to a greater range of temperatures than Kentucky.  Shipping containers exacerbate the impact on aging and provides as much or more complexity over a shorter period. The result, one of the finest sipping whiskeys to hit my mouth, but you won’t get a maple dominant profile!!

Because it is a high rye whiskey, you will get spice and a little pepper!  “Where did all of that sweetness go?” you might ask.  It gracefully steps back to the finish.  This is one of the finest whiskeys I have ever tasted.  I like the unique character and flavor profile it projects.  It is not pretentions and I believe it will make the finest Manhattan in the world.  But it is also a nice fireside sip.  I like whiskey that is full of character.  If you like that to, you will get a bottle of this!

Suntory Whisky Toki

Japanese Whisky Suntory Toki


I don’t have an abundance of experience with Japanese Whisky.  Recently at the Whiskey Revival held at the Golden Nugget Hotel in Atlantic City, I took advantage of the opportunity to sip the Suntory.

Japanese whisky in my opinion has more in common with Irish whisky than it does with Scotch or American Bourbon.  It tends to fall on the lighter more delicate side than the full-bodied scotch or bourbon.  That said, the Suntory was very good.

Suntory’s roots date back to 1899 when Torii Shinjiro opened a store in Osaka to sell imported wines.  In 1923 after several changes, it became Japan’s first Malt Distillery changing their name to Yamazaki Distillery.  By 1929, Japanese whisky was sold from this distillery.  By April 2014, Suntory owned Beam Distillery (Maker of Jim Beam and Makers Mark) making it the third largest distillery in the world.

Suntory is a non-aged whisky.  It is a blend of Chita heavy type grain and Yamazaki malts and is aged in Hakushu American white oak casks.  The result is a subtle but balanced whisky that has a variety of nuanced flavors.  It is not as brown as typical bourbons.  It has a crispness to it.  Tart apple, citrus and mild herbal notes.  The oak gives a little vanilla finish that rounds out all the other flavors.  There is a little sweetness and some pepper which means this will pair well with a Nicaraguan cigar.  Excellent for an everyday sip or a possible mixer.  Very good.

Mezcal Sacrificio Joven

Mezcal Sacrificio Joven


I had been to Chicago dozens of times but never thought to visit Frontera Grill despite my admiration for Rick Bayless.  It just never seemed to be top of mind!  Finally, a few years back I got my chance.  While apartment hunting for my new (and brief) job at a large mid-west Canadian Bank, I drove from Naperville to downtown Chicago to Frontera.  A review on the restaurant will come at some other time.  I was finally seated after an hour and wanted to try as much as I could, so I started with the cocktails.  An extremely knowledgeable and professional waiter made some suggestions and so I was served my first drink with Mezcal.  I’ve been using it in my margaritas ever since.

Apparently, Rick is as awesome a boss as he is a Chef!  He takes his staff to Mexico every year where they get kind of infused with the Mexican culture on an individual and very personal level.  This included trips to distilleries.  I’m telling you, this waiter knew his stuff.  He gave me a quick class on mezcal with several free flights.  I was hooked.  When I moved to the area, I found Binny’s and purchased my first ever bottle of Mezcal.  The Sacrificio.

“What in the hell is Mezcal?” you may ask.  My favorite description is that it is Tequila’s great grandfather. But this depends upon whom you believe.  It is a fact that the Aztecs were fermenting agave before the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire which started in 1519.  It is a fact too that when the Spaniards ran out of brandy, they looked locally for something to ferment as a substitute.  Hello agave, and Mezcal was born.  Tequila followed over 80 years later (that would make Mezcal a very old dad or grandfather tops!) but again, it depends upon whom you are talking too.

Mezcal is made from over 30 Agave species.  Tequila is made with only one, Blue Agave.  Sacrificio is made from 100% Espadin agave.  They are picked at an age of between 8 and 10 years, the hearts are cut out, wrapped and baked in mesquite and ocote pine wood fired ovens low and slow for two days!  The word mezcal means “oven-cooked agave”. The juices are then extracted and left to ferment in wooden tubes.  It is distilled twice and viola, a great smoky potent version of tequila.  Like tequila, mezcal can be a blanco, repesado or anejo which denotes the different levels of aging.

This stuff is a walk on the wild side.  I like to use the same recipe for a top shelf margarita (including some Grand Marnier) but I use the Mezcal instead.  During hot, hot summer days, I make it even wilder with a sliver of jalapeño, and a dash of tobacco sauce.  It’s a real Hot Momma (my name for the drink).  Some mescals (I think this is the plural for mezcal) try to process out the smoke character but I stay away from them.  If I don’t want smoke, I drink tequila.  This stuff is awesome but not cheap.  Sacrificio should be your first foray into this forbidden land.  Don’t go for the cheap yellow stuff with a worm in it.  Mezcal is to be enjoyed, not “shot”.  You can sip this but its best in mixed drinks.  For sipping, try the repesado.  Again, no shots.   Respect your elders!!