A star by any measure Credit: Thunder Road Pictures
A star by any measure
Credit: Thunder Road Pictures

Neat Stuff 26: Keanu Reeves kills it, African-Americans like their bourbon, and best indie whiskies

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We can think of worse people to be than Keanu Reeves. A postmodern Buster Keaton, the Canuck has spun his laconic version of method acting into a lucrative Hollywood career that includes films from The Matrix to Point Break to way-back machine Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Lately, Reeves is best known for John Wick, an ultraviolent revenge series whose third instalment, Parabellum, is slaying at the box office. As the bodies pile up in balletic fashion, wounded hitman Wick has opted for Blanton’s Single Barrel bourbon as a painkiller. Solid choice.

And wouldn’t you know it, Silver Screen Bottling Co. recently dropped Continental Bourbon, a shameless tie-in with the NYC luxury hotel and safe space frequented by Wick and his fellow assassins. Let us know if you give it a shot. Reeves is nowhere to be seen with this concoction, but as we’ve noted before, he’s done his time as a shill for Japanese giant Suntory.

Strange things are afoot at the Circle K

Reeves is a rocker of sorts, too, having played bass in (we’re being kind here) grunge band Dogstar. He’s since fallen behind when it comes to new music, he tells GQs Alex Pappademas. “But once in a while, I have the moments, where you drink the whiskey and you get the records out and you start doing the DJ thing until four in the morning.” All we are is dust in the wind, dude.

Finding Harmony won’t get easier Credit: Beam Suntory
Finding Harmony won’t get easier
Credit: Beam Suntory

Art show: Japanese whisky blending revealed

Like so many other things, the Japanese have brought blending of the spirit they spell whisky to a new level. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Tokyo this weekend (May 25 and 26), let Suntory take you behind the scenes with the Hibiki Art of Blending event.

The producer’s premium Hibiki range is a big reason so many people drink Japanese whisky, Forbes.com’s George Koutsakis explains. That popularity has triggered a shortage, prompting Suntory and rival Nikka to cut whiskies from their lineups.

Blends with benefits

So why not go to the source? At the exhibition in Tokyo’s Roppongi district, visitors can nose 220 glasses poured from the roughly 1.2 million casks in Suntory’s warehouses—plus 10 of the drams that make up the Hibiki expressions.

But wait, there’s more: a 30-minute tasting seminar—10 people at a time only, please—featuring Hibiki’s four main whiskies. Suntory is also showing off some of the line’s most gorgeous bottles, among them many ceramic pieces, Koutsakis notes. And speaking of bottles, you can grab some Hibiki Blender’s Choice and Hibiki Japanese Harmony to go. Not too shabby.

Our favorite Uncle Credit: Uncle Nearest
Our favorite Uncle
Credit: Uncle Nearest

Culture shift: African-Americans get to know bourbon

We’re all for smashing stereotypes, and bourbon is no exception. Contrary to popular belief, a growing number of African-Americans love the drink, Clay Risen of the New York Times reports.

Although three-quarters of U.S. bourbon fans are white, big producers like Diageo see a gap in what they call the multicultural market. However, black devotees of the premium stuff complain that distillers still snub their community.

The man behind Jack Daniel’s

As Risen points out, the bourbon industry has had some atoning to do, given the racist history of its marketing efforts. Brands still focus on white consumers, but one that aims to be more inclusive—and give African-Americans their due—is Uncle Nearest, launched three years ago by author Fawn Weaver. Its namesake: former slave Nathan (Nearest) Green, the first master distiller for Jack Daniel’s. Enough said.

Your flight awaits Credit: Levitating X

Hover bar: A whiskey cup with big air

Choosing the right whiskey glass is serious business, but maybe everyone should just lighten up. Or, failing that, go with a vessel that literally floats. Thanks to its chargeable wireless base, the Levitating X whiskey cup will leave your fellow drinkers spellbound, at least for several seconds.  

The catch? OK, we can name a few. First, if you plan to drop $230* on this chalice, it helps to have a thing for undead 1980s gadget peddler The Sharper Image. Second, the tumbler is made of “shatterproof faux-glass,” which we take to mean plastic. Third, it’s just one of several styles, including a coffee cup and a dessert cup. Pull up a chair, Buzz Killington.

*All dollar figures in USD

Scotland, meet Virginia Credit: Virginia Distillery Co.

Independent spirits: America’s best whiskies not owned by you know who

Now that Big Whiskey has swallowed up just about everything you thought was a mom-and-pop shop, it’s time for some detective work. At Uproxx, editor Steve Bramucci enlists writers Zach Johnson and Christopher Osburn to suss out the top independent U.S. whiskies.

Among Johnson’s faves is Port Cask Finished Virginia-Highland Whisky, from Virginia Distillery Co. If rules are made to be broken, what’s wrong with combining Virginia whiskey and Scotch? Sounds like the judges at the recent World Whiskies Awards agree—they named it Best American Blended Malt.

“Expect a dark, fruit-forward sip here,” Johnson says. “There’s a real sense of dried figs, raisins and plums. Next, a wonderful roll of buttery toffee comes into play with a nice Christmas spice edge. There’s a subtle alcohol burn on the back end that gives way to a hint of dark port sweetness.”

Portlandia in a bottle Credit: Eastside Distilling
Portlandia in a bottle
Credit: Eastside Distilling

This rye is a tiger

Like big, spicy rye whiskies that can carry a tune? New York Distilling Co.’s Ragtime Rye is all that, Osburn says of the Brooklyn tribute to life before Prohibition, which is made from New York State grain and spends three years and change in American oak. “The spice is there, but it’s not so prevalent that you miss out on the other aspects of the whiskey. The subtle peppery spice makes way for a complex, warming finish that will leave you wanting more.”

Bramucci puts his money on Burnside Oregon Oaked Bourbon, by Eastside Distilling in his hometown of Portland. “This bottle is about as close as you can get to rum in a whiskey,” he says of the blend, adding that its strong fruit and vanilla notes would make a nice Old Fashioned. For Bramucci, there’s also a minerality that “leaves the sensation of water sipped straight from an Oregon stream as it cascades over the moss.” Cool.🥃

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