Barrel-Aged: The Grouse Hunter, Matured

This hiatus has ended and it was for a very good cause, but we’ll get into that during tomorrow’s announcement. As it were, time compounds and I haven’t gotten suitably ahead for the next month’s worth of posts, which will carry a focus a la the month of vermouth. Today though, we recap something that was born and blossomed since those chilly, February days.

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I’ve featured Madeline Popelka (and her blogmate, Ken Woody) before and in that post I made the following confession:

I’ll give her full credit for kicking my ass into gear on buying a barrel for aging cocktails, something I’d been putting off for far too long (…)

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It was a 1 am weekday purchase as I perused Instagram in a skull-kicking insomnia and had seen, by virtue of the culmination or crankiness, the last of the barrel-aged cocktail posts that I could muster seeing before declaring, “That’s it!! I’m just going to buy this damned thing!” And so I did in that moment from Oak Barrels LTD.

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As the two week period between purchase and arrival passed, I settled on what would be first in the bin — the Grouse Hunter. I had experienced the magic of barrel-aged Negroni and Manhattans before, and ultimately resolved that I wanted to see how a favorite of my own creations would fair with an injection of oakiness. So I made up a large batch, a little extra to top off as the angels took their share, and in the bin it went (after proper preparation, of course)!

Photo by Ali Winston

Photo by Ali Winston

I tasted it daily and it was the closest thing I’ve experienced to watching my own child grow (and yes, I know the actual growth of my own child, when that time comes, will dwarf this event: I’m not that crazy). So in love with this affair was I, however, that it became difficult to let it go and remove it from the barrel, effectively ending the transformation and allowing it to arrive at adulthood. I did it though, a full 35 days after its first kiss of oak.

Photo by Ali Winston

Photo by Ali Winston

Magic. Pure magic. My good friend, Stone, remarked, “Ooo, that is enjoyable.” I would have to agree. We’re all given to our own tastes, but my preferences favor six profiles:

  • Chocolate
  • Peaty
  • Bitter
  • Meaty
  • Oaky
  • Smoky

And Doc! Rinsing the glass with a peaty, Islay Single Malt like Laphroaig, Ardbeg or Lagavulin adds a tinge of peatiness/smokiness to the Averna (chocolate and bitter), the Carpano (meaty and bitter) and the Famous Grouse. The barrel-aging imparts the oakiness and fosters the marriage of the ingredients, with softer edges and heightened notes of vanilla and toffee, which I attribute to the love affair of Barrel & Scotch. The mature Grouse Hunter is slightly sweeter than its raw expression, but pleasantly so and so much more complex.

Photo by Ali Winston

Photo by Ali Winston

It should be noted that I used Angostura bitters in place of the cranberry bitters of the original recipe.

Photo by Ali Winston

Photo by Ali Winston

So now it’s out and in went a Boulvardier. Tasting it daily, I have to say that I’m liable to always have a barrel (or more) soaking something somewhere. My interest in barrels, coopering and aging grows — signs that whisk(e)y is my destiny.

Photo by Ali Winston

Photo by Ali Winston

Photo by Ali Winston

Photo by Ali Winston

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