Toasting the first of many Credit: Late Night With Seth Meyers
Toasting the first of many
Credit: Late Night With Seth Meyers

Neat Stuff 31: Rihanna drinks to that, top Tennessee whiskies and tips for avoiding fake drams

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Not so long ago, we bought floor seats to Rihanna and got more whips, chains and Nuno Bettencourt than we bargained for. To steal a line from one of the Barbadian pop star’s racier hits, she may be bad, but she’s perfectly good at it. In his latest day-drinking binge, Seth Meyers downs a few with RiRi, who isn’t shy about her love of whiskey, either.

The Late Night host steps behind the bar to mix cocktails named after her tunes: Under My Rumbrella, Bitch Better Have My Bunny and Diamonds in the Rye—an iced combo of Blue Diamond almond milk and, of course, rye whiskey. “It’s a nut milk,” Myers explains of the former. Rihanna’s response: “What? Don’t you say that ever again.”

She’ll have what the man on the floor’s having 

Whether or not there’s cash involved, Rihanna has arguably done more than anyone besides Lady Gaga to raise the profile of a certain Irish whiskey. “Got a drink on my mind and my mind on my money,” she sings in “Cheers (Drink to That),” her 2011 ode to the weekend. “Let the Jameson sink in.”

Not always on an empty stomach, mind you. “I like a Jameson and ginger cocktail,” Rihanna reportedly once said. “It’s usually what I drink when I’m eating.” We can’t say the same, but who’s judging?

 *With apologies to Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” 

Bond...bottled in bond Credit: George Dickel 
Bond...bottled in bond
Credit: George Dickel 

It’s hardly an obscure corner of the whiskey world, but here’s to the home of Jack Daniel’s. At Wine Enthusiast, Kara Newman gives us the lowdown on Tennessee whiskey, plus a handful of ryes and bourbons from there, Kentucky and elsewhere.

As she points out, Tennessee is often overshadowed by neighboring Kentucky because it has relatively few distilleries. Also, there’s disagreement about what qualifies as Tennessee whiskey, which is meant to be bourbon—more than 51% corn spirit aged in new charred oak—made in the Volunteer State and filtered through sugar-maple charcoal. For example, rye doesn’t get to join the club.

Newman’s favorite of the four Tennessee whiskies she selects is George Dickel Bottled in Bond ($36*), which earns 95 points and a best-buy rating. “Burnt caramel and toffee telescope into espresso, black pepper, clove, unsweetened chocolate and a hint of black licorice,” she says. “Overall, the effect is earthy, woodsy and complex.”

Knockout punch

Among the three ryes, Bare Knuckle American Rye Whiskey from Virginia-based KO Distilling ($66) gets 92 points. “While this overproof spirit is predictably fiery”—clocking in at a mere 62.4% ABV—“adding water lets bold mocha, burnt hazelnut and espresso bound forward, drying to clove and black pepper sizzle on the finish.”

Given our pick of Newman’s three bourbons, we’d take Four Roses 130th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch ($140). “The aromas are warm and delicious, suggesting vanilla, oak and allspice,” she writes of the Kentucky distillery’s offering, which tops her list with 97 points. 

“The palate reflects some of the older, spicier whiskeys in the blend, singing with gingersnap and cinnamon fireworks up front, but underpinned with some of the lushness promised by the aroma: vanilla, cocoa, hazelnut,” Newman adds. “There’s a brisk lemony snap to the spicy finish that leads off into a long vanilla fade.” Over and out.

*All dollar figures in USD

Whiskey webs of intrigue Credit: Louisville Courier Journal
Whiskey webs of intrigue
Credit: Louisville Courier Journal

Let’s see some ID: Scientist closes in on bourbon’s fingerprints

Somebody please buy this man a whiskey. While fooling around with a case of bourbon, University of Louisville professor Stuart Williams made a startling discovery.

Diluting the drink to 40- or 50-proof and evaporating a drop of that produced a microscopic lattice pattern that Williams calls a whiskey web, Morgan Watkins of the Louisville Courier Journal relates. The mechanical engineering prof has a hunch that this “fingerprint,” which he thinks consists of fatty acids and other flavor constituents, is a unique marker that could be used to ID bourbons.

Although Williams tried his experiment on Scotch and other drams, so far only American whiskey has yielded fingerprints. The case remains open for now.

Pushing tins of the Hebrides’ finest Credit: Larkfire
Pushing tins of the Hebrides’ finest
Credit: Larkfire

Canned answer? Wild whiskey water and a clear-ice machine 

Science has shown that whiskey can taste better with water, but will any old drop from a tap or bottle do? Not according to Larkfire, a U.K. outfit launched by two whiskey fans that will start selling cans of “wild water” this fall.

Claiming that tap and bottled are too heavy on chlorine, fluoride and minerals, the company sources its liquid from the Isle of Lewis in Scotland’s remote, rain-swept Outer Hebrides. The pitch: Lewis is home to some of the world’s oldest rock, which is also metamorphic and insoluble, making the local water soft and almost mineral-free. Adding Larkfire to your dram will reveal complexities that no ordinary water, uh, can—or so they claim. 

The hottest thing in ice-making Credit: FirstBuild
The hottest thing in ice-making
Credit: FirstBuild

They’ve got balls, we’ll give them that

Moving on to another First World problem, don’t you hate it when your ice isn’t crystal-clear? Wince no more, friend. FirstBuild, a startup backed by GE Appliances, is taking crowdfunding pre-orders for its Forge Clear Ice System. Judging from the look of this countertop unit, The Sharper Image must be kicking itself.

Shilling for Forge is spirits author Fred Minnick, who calls its slow-melting ice globes a game changer. “It gives you a refreshing feel, but it’s not altering the whiskey in a bad way,” he insists. “And one of the best parts is, a big old sphere in your glass makes a heck of a conversation starter.” If you say so, Fred.

Get in on the ground floor, and a setup that will fetch $1,500 retail can be yours for just $1,200, including ice maker, heated ice press and tongs. Operators are standing by.

Friend or faux? Credit: BBC 
Friend or faux?
Credit: BBC 

Get real: 3 rules for avoiding fake whiskies

No matter how much you spend, counterfeit whiskey is spreading faster than backlash against Kim Kardashian’s new shapewear line. George Koutsakis of offers these three tips to avoid getting burned by a fake or misleading bottle.

First, trust the seller, Koutsakis advises. “Buy from reputable retailers, sellers and well-known auction houses, and be sure to do your due diligence beforehand,” he says. “Often, even large companies that don’t specialize in whisky or spirits don’t have the proper experts in place to check for counterfeit products.”

Second, sweat the details: cask number, source, number of bottles released and so on. “The provenance and full details should be readily available, and if they are not, treat that as a warning sign.”

Third, Koutsakis warns, provenance is crucial. For example, Japanese whisky’s loose rules make it ripe for false advertising. “If it’s a single malt or single cask release from the well-known Japanese whisky makers, you’re safe,” Koutsakis says. “If it’s a blended whisky and an unknown company bottling it and promoting it, check again with a whisky specialist.” And repeat.🥃

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