Go on, make his day Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Go on, make his day
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Neat Stuff 28: Timothy Olyphant shoots bourbon, Scotch Whisky Masters winners and whiskey grains explained

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Sheriffs don’t get much better than simmering Seth Bullock, played by Timothy Olyphant in Deadwood, HBO’s whiskey-soaked revisionist Western. Now Olyphant is back in the saddle with a movie based on the legendary show, gunned down in 2006 after just three seasons. Foul-mouthed Al Swearengen, brothel keeper in the 1870s Gold Rush town of Deadwood, can’t have been happy about that.

Olyphant recently shocked GQ’s Scott Meslow by showing up for dinner sporting a white cowboy hat, but he was predictable in other ways. “You suspect he will order a whiskey cocktail, and after that, another whiskey cocktail.” Meslow writes. “(He will, and he does.)”

The important thing is that I drink something

The personable actor, who also logged six seasons of Justified as volatile U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens and three of undead-themed comedy The Santa Clarita Diet, likes his bourbon. In 2015, Olyphant told Bon Appétit that “good ole American whiskey” is a regular tipple. “When I get home late from work, I tend to pour some whiskey over an ice cube. The important thing is that I drink something,” he added, blaming his three children.

Olyphant’s go-to bourbons? Booker’s and Blanton’s. “I wish I could enjoy that Pappy [Van Winkle] on a regular basis, but that’s like liquid gold. I only drink it on occasion.”

The bourbon flowed in Kentucky-set Justified, but it was actually Diet Coke and water. As Olyphant has revealed, the prop folks poured the real thing into jars for him. When the show got killed, he and Conan O’Brien broke TV rules by toasting it with some leftover Blanton’s. Apparently the man is above the law.

The Lowest Tide will have you on Islay time Credit: Woolf/Sung Brands
The Lowest Tide will have you on Islay time
Credit: Woolf/Sung Brands

Judgment day: Scotch Whisky Masters 2019 winners

It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it. The Spirits Business just revealed the winners of its Scotch Whisky Masters 2019 blind tasting competition, panelist Amy Hopkins reports.

The four panels of judges, who convened in London, sampled 50 categories of Scotch and awarded 16 Master medals. Taking one was Scots Gold by Charles Edge London, in the Blended – Premium category. “This level of complexity and elegance is great to see at this price point,” said panelist Tobias Gorn, whose group liked its “candied fruit peel” and “slightly smoky” profile.

From brioche and croissant to mocha and seaweed

In Single Malts: Highlands & Islands – Ultra Premium, Atom Brands’ Glengoyne 17-year-old Batch 1 from That Boutique-y Whisky Company also walked off with a Master prize. Panelist Joshua Joyce’s tasting notes: “This Scotch has real finesse. It reminds me of what I love in my favourite Champagnes: brioche, croissant and light pastry.”

The Lowest Tide, by Woolf Sung, won Master medals for both Single Malt Islay – Ultra Premium and Single Malt Islay – Cask Strength. “This whisky had an expressive and sweet start,” Gorn said. “It is spicy and powerful but balanced and smooth, with notes of mocha and seaweed on the aftertaste.” It’s high time we found a bottle.

Moominpappa (top left) shows the kids how it’s done Credit: Moomin Characters
Moominpappa (top left) shows the kids how it’s done
Credit: Moomin Characters

World’s coolest dad: Moominpappa’s whiskey crush

Ever since we learned to read, we’ve loved the Moomin books, which are like no others. At Scotchwhisky.com, Richard Woodard reminds us that Moominpappa, father of central character Moomintroll in the series by Finnish author Tove Jansson, is a whiskey fan.

Don’t know the Groke from a Hattifattener? We encourage you to spend some time in Moominvalley, where beauty and terror are neighbors and a hippo-esque creature with a snout, tail and top hat drinks the hard stuff. Polymath Moominpappa’s favorite dram, Old Smuggler, is a real Scotch blend. And in 2014, Woodard relates, Swedish distiller Mackmyra Whisky made 300 bottles with the same name to mark the 100th anniversary of Jansson’s birth.

Lost at sea

Whiskey helps drive the plot in one of the later novels, which sees Moominpappa move the family to a remote island where he plans to start over as a lighthouse keeper. Cabin fever sets in—until the sea makes his dream come true by washing up a crate of Old Smuggler. Suddenly all is good. Sounds perfectly reasonable.

You had us at barley Credit: Epic Beer (Flickr)
You had us at barley Credit: Epic Beer (Flickr)

A matter of taste: Whiskey grains and their flavors explained

You can’t make whiskey without grain, but how does it impact a dram’s flavor? The Whiskey Wash’s Tim Knittel gives us some answers in No. 1 of a four-part series.

As Knittel notes, most whiskies are made from a fermented mash of grain, which typically yields all the carbs that yeast needs to produce alcohol. He kicks off the series with a flavor rundown of the Big Four grains: barley, rye, wheat and corn.

First, you’ve got your barley, malted and unmalted, the go-to base for whiskies outside North America. “Malted barley produces nutty, smoky, some chocolate or cocoa flavors and a flavor often described as cereal or possibly toast,” Knittel says. “There’s also a distinctive characteristic simply referred to as malt.”

And unmalted? It “enhances the grain and cereal qualities of the whiskey and introduces light sharp and sour fruity notes like green apple and lemon.”

Hold the popcorn

Rye “gives spicy flavors of black and green pepper, anise, mint and, of course, rye bread,” Knittel says, plus a dry mouthfeel sometimes called leathery.

Although wheat offers little flavor by itself, he observes, it yields “a very light bready-ness, some honey and touches of mint. It can provide a gentleness to whiskey and showcases flavors from the other grains or the barrel.”

A staple among U.S. distillers, corn doesn’t give bourbon its sweet notes, Knittel stresses. In fact, its flavor contribution should be minimal, unless you like your whiskey to taste of popcorn. “This is why bourbon recipes always include a proportion of the ‘flavoring grains’ of barley, rye and/or wheat,” Knittel says. Whatever works.

For our favorite drink, extreme weather is a hot mess Credit: Apologies to KC Green, The Nib
For our favorite drink, extreme weather is a hot mess
Credit: Apologies to KC Green, The Nib

Dry country: Global warming hits Highland Scotch whisky

If you still think climate change is someone else’s problem, maybe this will get your attention. Last year, thanks to a severe heatwave, some Scotch makers in the Highlands missed up to a month of production.

At Glenfarclas, the private spring that supplies its water ran dry, the Guardian explains. The Speyside distillery lost all of September, pushing output down by as much as 300,000 liters.

You’re paying the price

Drinks giants Diageo and Pernod Ricard, which own a bunch of Scottish distilleries, had little to say. But environmental scientist Helen Gavin broke it down: hot, dry summers + weird weather = biological and agricultural chaos.

The upshot: crop yields fall and production costs rise, along with consumer prices. “And it means if we take more water from the environment to try and save whisky, a farmer’s crop, or so we can still turn on the taps, it comes at a huge cost,” Gavin said. We know what we’d save.🥃

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