Neat Stuff #5: Irish whiskey goes to pot, top bottom-shelf bourbons and a Scotch-mad sea captain

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That’s some wicked pot: Irish whiskey has still got it

Irish single pot still whiskey is back from the dead, for your sipping pleasure. Daily Beast’s David Wondrich has been following the comeback of this delectable dram, often triple-distilled in copper pots from malted and unmalted barley. As Wondrich explains, the latter brings the funk like peat smoke does for some Scotches. 

Speaking of: “I’m going to spell it ‘whiskey’ here, no matter where the stuff comes from, because that whole ‘Irish with the “e” and Scotch without’ thing is twentieth-century bullshit and a waste of time and brainpower,” he huffs. 

Yellow, red, green—are we in Dublin yet?


To follow his lengthy pot still history lesson—yeah, he knows he’s a nerd—Wondrich has put together a primer on bottles available in the U.S. He kicks off the tasting with Redbreast 12 Year Old Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey ($58*), no lightweight: “rich and grainy, it has the hint of forest-floor-in-summer muskiness that is characteristic of the class.”

Irish Distillers’ Green Spot ($60) also throws its weight around, as does older sibling Yellow Spot ($105), some of whose contents have lounged in Malaga wine barrels. And anyone who fancies the light music of whiskey falling into glasses won’t want to miss fellow 12-year-old Powers John’s Lane ($46), “heady and dark, with a rich/dry dichotomy that conjures up a pint of Guinness stout.” While you’re at it, pour us one of those too.

*All prices in U.S. dollars

Credit: Evgeny Tchebotarev (Unsplash)
Credit: Evgeny Tchebotarev (Unsplash)

Drinking and driving gets a do-over

We can think of better uses for the water of life, but sure, if it’s good for the planet. And to be fair, a Scottish (natch) startup’s process to create biofuel from whiskey uses byproducts pot ale and spent grain, not the precious liquid itself.

The Drinks Business reports that Celtic Renewables has signed a deal with India’s Dross Energy (get it?) that could see such waste fuel the nation’s cars instead of pouring straight from distilleries into the Ganges River. Anything to help the world’s largest whiskey market clean up its act.

Credit: Barton 1792 Distillery
Credit: Barton 1792 Distillery

Kentucky straight: Best bargain bourbons

Why zero in on a choice cheap bourbon by trial and error? Jim Vorel of Pastemagazine has saved you the trouble, and the burn, by blind-tasting and ranking13 of the finest bottom-shelf bottles. The price point: $15 or less in the state of Georgia. Bourbons from nearby Kentucky took the top three spots. 

You get what you pay for—and then some

At No. 1 is Very Old Barton 90 proof ($12.99) from Sazerac Co.’s Barton 1792 Distillery. “On the nose, this feels like a classical, decently aged bourbon,” Vorel says. “On the palate it feels slick and moderately viscous, with plenty of peppery rye spice and a growing hint of black cherry that swells on repeated sips.”

Another Sazerac offering, McAfee’s Benchmark Old No. 8 Brand by Buffalo Trace Distillery (a bargain at $8.49), finishes second. Vorel’s takeaway: “For less than $10, I’m not sure you’re going to find a better bourbon for neat drinking.” Claiming No. 3 is Heaven Hill Distillery’s 100-proof Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond ($13.99), “a strong, classical bourbon that would make a dynamite, highly intoxicating old fashioned.”

Credit: Hergé
Credit: Hergé

The Captain and the kid: Tintin’s Scotch-swilling buddy

If you’ve never cracked a Tintin comic, fix that right away, OK? At, Richard Woodard takes the measure of whiskey-loving Captain Archibald Haddock, trusted friend of the series’ eponymous boy reporter.

A foil to straitlaced Tintin, the cantankerous Haddock swears like the sailor he is—“Thundering typhoons! Blistering barnacles!”—sometimes with help from the Devil’s water. In the English editions of Belgian author Hergé’s books, he’s partial to Loch Lomond. That fictional Scotch became a real brand in 1966, to be precise, the same year it debuted in the comic.

Credit: Difford's Guide

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Mix and match: Whiskey cocktails for everyone


No one says you have to play it straight. This whiskey cocktail rundown offers 15 alternatives, from a rye-and-coconut Slow & Low to a shaken Naughty or Spice, where Laphroaig meets ginger and cinnamon under the mistletoe. 

Credit: Lakes Distillery
Credit: Lakes Distillery

Happy Holidays!

Thank you for reading Neat Stuff. We raise a glass to you and yours for 2019, and we’ll be back on January 4!

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