It wouldn’t be wine without oak

Why oak? At first glance it would seem unlikely that the wood from a tree and the fruit of the vine would have such a longstanding relationship. While both oak barrels and wine are ultimately made from plants, they are certainly cultivated, harvested, developed and utilized very differently. Yet without oak, the wide world of… Read More

Travails of whisky-making in Taiwan

The world of Scotch whisky lost one its great behind-the-scenes practitioners this month. Dr. James Swan died Feb. 14 at his home in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was 75. As a drinks industry consultant to wineries, breweries, whisky blenders and distillers, Swan was a highly sought after expert. Among the many distilleries around the world Swan… Read More

When bad guys sell bad wine

The other day I watched the documentary “Sour Grapes” about a crime that rocked the wine world. The crime and the nature of the victims make this compelling and genuinely enjoyable film an indictment of a certain invidious elite class of wine collector. It also impugns some of the vagaries of the necessarily subjective world… Read More

Kosher single malts with a peaty tang

The Tomintoul Distillery distillery is situated in the “Strath” or valley between the Glenlivet Forest and the hills of Cromdale, east of the Avon River. Like nearly all distilleries of the region, Tomintoul was built to produce whisky for blending purposes, and although single- malt releases from Tomintoul have been available since 1973, they remained relatively hard to come by until… Read More

The tide has turned for Beaujolais

Until a little after World War II, Beaujolais Nouveau was little more than a traditional light vin de l’année (wine from the current year) produced for locals to celebrate that harvest, and to be consumed before the end of that year. It is called “nouveau” (“new”) because it is only fermented very briefly, just long… Read More

A snootful with the presidents

Like clockwork every four years we regular consumers of adult beverages do so either to toast a new administration, drown our sorrows, or maybe just to count our blessings and celebrate the nonviolent transfer of power. Regardless, this calls to mind trivia tidbits about U.S. presidents and alcohol. George Washington was, for example, the only… Read More

The Jews in Jim Beam’s family tree

Last week brought news of the passing of a bourbon whiskey legend: Parker Beam, master distiller emeritus of Heaven Hill Distillery, at the age of 75, after an arduous and public battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). Born Earl Parker Beam in 1941, he was son of Earl Beam,… Read More

Here’s Johnnie with a new blended Scotch

Blended Scotch is a mix of malt whisky and nonmaltmalt grain whisky. Non-malt grain whisky is easier and less costly to produce, using large, highly efficient continuous distillation in the form of column stills. The resulting spirit is thought to be lighter, less interesting and less full of character and flavor. Malt whisky, which is… Read More

Toast Chanukah, New Year’s with these festive wines

Chanukah and New Year’s Eve coincide this year, so festive libations are most definitely in order. Whether having friends and family around for cocktails and candles, or for a full-on celebratory dinner party, adult beverage offerings are a must. Celebratory wines, whether bubbly or sweet, suit the Chanukah season’s festivities and make for great gifts…. Read More