All posts by The Scoutmaster

The North American Whiskey Guide from Behind the Bar

The North American Whiskey Guide from Behind the BarA few months back I was able to visit one of the more notable whiskey bars in the country, Aero Club in San Diego. While there I was able to speak at length about whiskey to manager Chad Berkey. During our conversation, he told me about a writing project he was working on with coauthor Jeremy LeBlanc, and I was intrigued. One of the key elements would be a panel of his bartenders also giving their thoughts on the whiskey, showing how every review, no matter how in-depth, is still just a collection of personal preferences. Having multiple voices gives every drinker a more informed opinion from which to make better selections.  So when I had the opportunity to review the book, I was definitely up for the task!

There are, of course multiple whiskey review books available.  Some go for quantity, covering over 4,000 spirits, but lack meaningful comments for the majority of its listings. Others focus on a specific region, cutting back on quantity to make room for quality. This book goes a little further, focusing on North American whiskey, and specifically ones that can be found in the Aero Club itself. I suppose you could see this as a very elaborate commercial for the bar. That it may be, but it is no less valuable to all drinkers. One benefit is that the whiskeys reviewed are all available to some extent. No rare gems you’ll never see outside of the auction block!

The book is divided into two sections: Whiskey and Cocktails. The whiskey section is further categorized into these sections, with each section getting a short, educational write-up:

Extra content includes a whiskey and cigar pairing chart and a “bucket list” of rarer whiskeys that the authors recommend you keep on eye out for.

The write-ups for the whiskies give a small summary of the experience along with interesting facts. One nice touch is the “Related” line that lists whiskeys you might find to be of similar experience. Each is also rated by “Propellers” instead of stars in keeping with the Aero Club theme (the bar is just a stone’s throw from the airport).

A page from the whiskeys section.
A page from the whiskeys section.

The cocktails section gives a full-page treatment to each of the 34 recipes, mostly to make room for the coffee-table book style photography of the finished drinks.

Their selection process is obviously not inclusive, and there are some notable holes, but that is really just the nature of this type of book. I can’t really cite that as a negative since even The Whisky Bible misses some. The weakest section is Wheat with only four inclusions, but then again there are fewer to chose from. Curious is the absence of Burnheim’s Wheat Whiskey primarily because it is a featured ingredient in one of their cocktails.

A plus is the inclusion of Canadian, a category that often gets short shrift in other whiskey books.

The Introduction and the section intros are well-written, contain just enough information to be interesting, but short enough to not sound like a textbook. Perfect for this book.

Overall, my excitement when I first heard about this project was justified. This is the way whiskey books should be written. Good photography, easy-to-read layout and just plain-old good information make this an excellent book for any whiskey lover’s home bar.

“I Need My Girl” – Blake Shelton

I don’t need another drink of Johnnie Walker Red
And I don’t need another drag off a Marlboro cigarette
And I don’t need me telling myself everything’s gonna be alright
And I don’t need me lying here alone again tonight

I need my girl, I need my baby
I need you, ninety miles an hour down the interstate
Headlights shining in the driveway
In my arms, and I need you right now
I don’t need nothing else, baby, in this world
I just need my girl

Blanton’s Corks

Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon is one of the more delicious bourbons out there. It is smooth and accessible, a treat for the aficionado as well as the novice. But that’s not what this is about. It’s about the bottle. Or, more significantly, the cork. Blanton’s has one of the most easily recognizable bottles on the shelf, with its hand grenade shape and horse on top of the cork. What might not be known to everyone pulling out that stopper to pour some of the whiskey out is that there are actually eight different cork designs. Well, actually seven.
Blanton's Bourbon L CorkLet me explain. In the lower left corner of every stopper is a circle with a letter in it. One for every letter in the word “Blanton’s.” That’s eight letters, although the “N” stopper is the same for both letters in the name for a true count of seven different designs. What makes this the absolutely coolest stopper design is that each letter has a unique horse position, sort of 3-D film strip! The first letter, “B” has the horse in a walking position. The letters L-S (with the two N’s appropriately placed) show the horse in a run.

So the next time you have a glass of this tasty treat, take a look at the stopper! Here’s a look at the L-S loop!


“Drunk on a Plane” – Dierks Bentley

Buyin’ drinks for everybody
But the pilot, it’s a party
Got this 737 rocking like a G6
Stewardess is somethin’ sexy
Leanin’ pourin’ Coke and whiskey
Told her about my condition
Got a little mile-high flight attention
It’s Mardi Gras up in the clouds
I’m up so high, I may never come down
I’ll try anything to drown out the pain
They all know why I’m getting drunk on a plane

“Perfect Storm” – Brad Paisley

If she was a drink
She’d be a single-barrelled
Bourbon on ice
Smooth with a kick
A chill and a burn all
At the same time

She’s Sunday drive meets
High speed chase
She ain’t just a song
She’s the whole mix tape
She’s so complicated
That’s the way God made her
Sunshine mixed with
A little hurricane

“Homegrown Honey” – Darius Rucker

Sitting at a bar in New York City
Everybody here looking New York pretty
But you’re the kinda girl that’s got that something
Dancing to the groove like it just ain’t nothing
They ain’t never seen nothing quite like you
Long stem legs in your cowboy boots
Throwing back whiskey straight, no water
Girl there ain’t nothing hotter

Proof – The Science of Booze

by Adam Rogers
by Adam Rogers

While not strictly speaking a “whiskey” book, this offering is an enjoyable and informative read for any whiskey lover. At times a bit academic, it is always a rewarding experience.

The author takes us on a world- and time-spanning journey as humans discover distilling and eventually its revolutionary application to beverage making.

Beyond just the “science of booze,” Mr. Rogers also delves deeply into the social aspects of our favorite drinks. Or not so favorite as he explores the interesting possibility that we don’t actually like the taste of alcohol.

He tackles the questions of hangovers, drunken behavior, social expectations, and the limits of our current scientific knowledge. We learn about how our senses, experiences, and expectations are inexorably linked every time we take a sip.

At times he seems to overturn some cherished notions we have have about booze. My favorite being the discussion of how many flavors and aromas we can accurately identify, throwing some serious questions about the validity of the flowery and esoteric drink reviews we read.

This is a must-read for anyone who has held a glass up to the light and swirled the liquid inside around a few times wondering, “what is this?”

264 pages

“Better Dig Two” – The Band Perry

It won’t be whiskey, it won’t be meth
It’ll be your name on my last breath
If divorce or death ever do us part
The coroner will call it a broken heart

So put me in the ground
Put me six foot down
And let the stone say,

“Here lies the girl whose only crutch
Was loving one man just a little too much.”
If you go before I do
I’m gonna tell the gravedigger that he better dig two

“Angel Eyes” – Love and Theft

She likes whiskey with her water
She starts dancing when the stars come out
She ain’t your typical preacher’s daughter
She’ll leave you dreamin’ yeah there ain’t no doubt

There’s a little bit of devil in her angel eyes
She’s a little bit of heaven with a wild side
Got a rebel heart a country mile wide
There’s a little bit of devil in her angel eyes
A little bit of devil in her angel eyes