Friday, December 26, 2008

"The Grey Goose Effect"

I wrote this post after reading an article on a different blog. When I got to the end of a review praising a certain alcoholic beverage, I saw that the author added a postscript stating that the particular beverage is “reviled by most pros” and it is possible that he lucked out and got a good batch.

At first I figured that maybe there is some truth to this: Perhaps different bottling from different vintages or even bottling plants, can produce different results.

“I was reading some reviews of (various) Whiskys in Whisky magazine. Occasionally they review the same Whiskey twice or more, by the same people, e.g. Michael Jackson or Jim Murray, etc..., they will remark how a Whisky used to be better or how it improved since the last time they tried it… So this could mean that the quality of drinks fluctuates depending on quality and availability of ingredients. They have their ups and downs, so to speak.” (An excerpt from a comment I posted on chowhound: Vintage & Older Liquors vs. today's versions.)

But then I remembered a number of articles and posts I read in about Grey Goose and other “super-premium” vodkas, which I am using as examples.

According to Wikipedia:

“Grey Goose was tailor-made for the American market in 1997 as the brainchild of Sidney Frank, a self-made billionaire. His concept was to create a super-premium vodka for Americans. He took the idea from the notion of French manufacturing having an inherent link with high perceived quality… When Sidney Frank created Grey Goose, he priced it well above established competitors such as Absolut. This high price created a perception of quality. Frank's strategy proved successful, as Grey Goose was a financial hit and led to significant changes in the market. Many people attribute Grey Goose as being a major inspiration for the various other high-priced vodkas.” (

Let’s not forget vodka, unlike Champagne or Cognac, was a “peasant’s drink” until the vodka craze, circa 1960’s, courtesy of James Bond. So essentially it would seem that Gray Goose is just higher priced vodka, but this didn’t stop the rise of self-described “vodka snobs”. We hear these “snobs” ranting how they only drink Grey Goose and how it is the only vodka they would have in their “Martini” (forgive me but a “Martini” is made with gin! Substituting vodka in a Martini is called a “Kangaroo”).

But how dose Grey Goose taste? Does it justify the high price tag? Well, the New York Times and ABC-20/20 both had exposes how all the “vodka snobs” were unable to distinguish “their brand” in a mixed drink, and even worse, they disliked “their vodka” when doing a blind tasting of various vodkas served neat. When the 20/20 interviewer asked the king of cocktails, Dale DeGroff, why the testers preferred Grey Goose vodka after they had tasted it blind and said that they didn’t like it. DeGroff responded: “I guess that says something about the marketing…’cause their not relying heavily on their taste buds…their relying on the status.” ABC-20/20 Vodka taste test (This Video is worth watching)

The Times article, A Humble Old Label Ices Its Rivals, found that Smirnoff, the cheap (~$13) American Vodka, bested the super-premium vodkas in their tasting report.

Finally we come to a report on the National Institutes of Health’s website, Can malt whisky be discriminated from blended whisky? The proof. A modification of Sir Ronald Fisher's hypothetical tea tasting experiment. In which the following was deduced:

“These results suggest that, although "uisgebeatha" has unique properties, the inexpert drinker should choose his whisky to suit his taste and pocket and not his self image.”

I see that there are essentially a number of factors influencing people on how they relate to alcohol. One is marketing. The fact that something is more expensive, comes in a cooler bottle or has a killer ad campaign does not mean that it is necessarily better. The second is that people overvalue the opinions of alcohol reviewers and “gurus”. We should rely on our own personal taste to decide what we like and what we don’t like Mr. DeGroff said – and not follow some MARCOM manager or self-proclaimed alcohol guru blindly because “they know best”. In fact, many of the latter (reviewers/gurus) actually stress that their critique is not objective and your own personal taste may differ.

The blogger of whom I spoke of at the beginning of this article decided to try the beverage again because he had seen so many negative reviews after he wrote that he enjoyed the said beverage. This bothered me at first, because I felt that he was going to re-write his review due to “peer pressure”. But on the other hand, I should probably give him the benefit of the doubt if so many reviewers hated the same beverage. I had tried the same beverage almost a year ago and no, it was not the best in the world, but I personally enjoyed it.

So to all my readers out there the message is “go with what you like”. The reviewers out there are there to give their opinions and guide lines and that’s all what they are in the end.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Strut Your Stuff: Show Off Your Liquor Collection!

You've worked hard finding the very best spirits and cocktails. You've amassed a respectable collection. But now its time to see how you stack against the big boys. We'd like to see you take your best shot - a picture of your liquor cabinet/collection. So here's the deal:

1. Upload a picture or video of your prize-worthy collection to your favorite web host (or video/image host, like YouTube or ImageShack)

2. Post a link to your entry in the comments section of this thread.

3. Vote for your favorite entry.

So eat, drink, upload, and be merry!

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Singha Lager Beer from Thailand

From time to time I will try to "mix things up a bit" by throwing in an oddity or two. I saw this beer while I was at the supermarket and decided that I'd give it a go.

Singha (Pronounced: Sing or Singh in Thailand but Sing-ha by foreigners to Thailand) is produced by the Boon Rawd Brewery in Thailand in order to preserve the "original" taste. Singha has been the best selling beer in Thailand until recently since it has encountered competition in the form of cheaper and more alcoholic beer.

Originally Singha had a 6% abv content but it was changed in 2007 to %5 abv. I sampled from the 5% abv bottling. Singha had a smell of fruits and its complexion was pale gold. It tasted good, crisp and slightly fruity, although it lacks a certain uniqueness it is very refreshing and will definitely quench your thirst on that hot summer day.

**1/2 (out of 5*)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Jasmine Cocktail

Being a Cointreau, Campari and Gin fan I felt that tonight I would try, for the first time, Robert Hess' take on the Jasmine cocktail. The original recipe was designed by Paul Harrington in the 1990’s and calls for different ratios than Hess' version. Robert Hess, who I’d like to thank for introducing me to this cocktail, was dead on when he described this cocktail’s color and flavor as being similar to grapefruit juice. This cocktail is essentially like drinking a complex alcoholic version of grapefruit juice straight up. I love the fact that you can clearly taste the Campari’s bitter orange along with the sour lemon juice and sweet Cointreau. For those of you who tend to stay away from gin I recommend that you give this one a whirl since this cocktail is so well balanced that the gin works in harmony with the other ingredients to help give you that robust grapefruit flavor without the over powering pine tree taste. If you like sour/bitter cocktails in the style of the cosmopolitan, sidecar and White lady you won’t be disappointed.

The Jasmine Cocktail (courtesy of Robert Hess):

  • 1 1/2 oz gin
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 3/4 oz Campari
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice

Shake with ice (for roughly 15 seconds or until cold), strain into a cocktail glass

Garnish with a lemon wedge

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky 12 Years

Highland Park is a single malt Scotch from the "Islands" region, it is distilled in Kirkwall, Orkney Islands. The 12 year old won double gold medals at both the 2007 and 2008 San Francisco world spirits competition. One can see why Highland Park 12 year is a great whisky, balanced, flavorful and easy to drink it is definitely recommended for those looking to dive into the "single malt" world as well as seasoned vets. I really enjoy this whiskey it starts out with a pleasant citrus flavor and then slowly develops hints of smokiness. I recommend adding a drop of water after you have tasted it neat so that you can further explore the smoky flavor of this whisky.

Color: Amber, Golden.

Nose: Honey, Sweet fruits, Citrus and a slight peatyness.

Palate: Citrus, Honey, Some smoke, Slight sherry and a faint medicinal taste (in a good "peaty" way)

Finish: A warm smoky finish with hints of spice.

Give this one a chance it won't disappoint.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Plymouth Gin

Gin is a spirit flavored mostly with Juniper berries. The most common type of gin used today in mixed drinks is "London dry gin", which has a dry, robust juniper berry flavor which some people consider to be akin to "drinking a pine tree". People these days tend to lean towards vodka since it is neutral in terms of flavor. Martinis, which were originally made with gin, are usually being made with vodka because of James Bond.

Gin is considered by some as a "flavored vodka", but to me it is much more. It contains a complex blend of botanicals which includes some or all of the following: juniper berries, lemon and orange peel, anise, coriander, licorice root, cinnamon, cassia bark, orris root and angelica root.

Now, on to the issue at hand.

Plymouth gin, which can only be produced in Plymouth England is a unique style of gin, similar to how cognac and champagne, etc... can only be called that if it is produced in that geographical region. Plymouth Original Strength is 41.2% alcohol by volume. It is also available in "Navy Strength"which is 57% alcohol by volume, being the traditional strength demanded by the British Royal Navy since it was the proof that would not prevent gunpowder from igniting should the spirit be spilled on it. Plymouth gin differs from "London dry gin" as it has more of a mellow citrus flavor with a hint of juniper. According to the distillers website Plymouth gin contains 7 botanicals: lemon and orange peel, coriander, orris root, angelica root, juniper berries and cardamom pods.

According to Wikipedia: "
Plymouth Gin was favoured by such notable individuals as Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ian Fleming (Ironic how James Bond always orders a vodka and not a Plymouth martini *sigh*) and Alfred Hitchcock. "

The Nose: presents you with pleasant citrus and juniper aromas as well as other "earthy notes".

The Palate: Citrus flavors along with mild juniper

Finish: lingers with a dry finish

***** (out of 5*)

Although gin is not for everyone people may find Plymouth gin to their linking. I seriously recommend trying Plymouth gin.

Here are a couple of mixed drinks which contain gin:

  • 2 1/2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
Stir with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with either a lemon zest or a green olive.

  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 ounce Campari
Stir with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a orange slice.

Gin & Tonic
  • 2 oz gin
  • top with tonic water
  • 2 1/4 ounces gin
  • 3/4 ounces Rose's lime juice
Stir with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Tom Collins
  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon superfine sugar
  • 2 ounces soda water
Shake with ice. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with soda. Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry and orange wheel.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Jameson's Original Irish Whiskey

Jameson's is a blended Irish Whiskey. The original, has no age statement (NAS). It is made from malted and unmalted Irish Barley. The barley is dried in a closed kiln fired by clean-burning anthracite coal to preserve its clean malty flavours. Unlike Scotch Jameson's does not have a Smokey or peated flavor and unlike Scotch which it double distilled Jameson is triple distilled.

Nose: fruitcake richness, Malty, dried fruit

Palate: citrus fruitiness, Light, soft, creamy, Sweetness, Vanilla

Finish: some sherry, a little bit of spice

Although I prefer Scotch, all in all I enjoyed this Whiskey and would prefer this over certain
blended Scotchs.

***1/2 (out of 5*)