There aren’t many perks available to the freelance writer. Sure, you get to hone your supplicatory skills when editors take seven months to cut your check. And, similarly, way too many publications operate under the sad and foolish notion that their offer to print your words on paper is all the payment you could possibly require. And, of course, you get to field emails from every colander-headed fuckwit with access to a Gmail account. But really good stuff, shiny stuff, is as rare as genetics majors at Liberty University.
That being said (and the whining is over for now…probably) I am, every so often, on the receiving end of manna from Booze Heaven. Since I write mostly about alcohol, you see, producers of that delicious nectar occasionally send me sample of their product in order to collect my opinion of same.
So, in case you are on the lookout for something yummy to pour into your tummies, here are some thoughts.
Whistle Pig Straight Rye Whiskey
Rye is one of my very favorite tipples. Sipped straight, over ice, with a splash of water, or as the base component for such classic cocktails as the Manhattan and the old fashioned, rye is a vital part of any well-stocked liquor cabinet. It has fallen out of vogue in the last thirty-or-so years, sadly, and is due a comeback. Thankfully, the good people at the Whistle Pig Distillery in Shoreham, VT, are on the scene to aid in that revival.
My oh my, but this is good stuff. Distilled from clean New England water, and the process overseen by master distiller Dave Pickerell (formerly of Maker’s Mark), Whistle Pig fits the bill for every one of my above-stated uses for rye whiskey. On its label you will see “100/100,” which means the goodness inside is 100% rye and 100 proof.
Enjoy it neat, or mix up a fine batch of old fashioneds. Either way, you’ll be satisfied.
Sometime around 1840, a fella called Don José Trinidad Contreras founded the Mexican town of Valle de Mazamitla (today known as Valle de Juárez), and immediately began distilling tequila. Because his tequila was of the highest quality, the distillery grew like wildfire water, and is still with us today, owned and managed by descendants of the Contreras family.
Available in Silver, Reposado and Añjeo (generally speaking, Good, Better and Best), Distinguido is one of the few tequilas I have ever tried that is truly sippable. Which is not to say it won’t improve a pitcher of margaritas, or add a few more rays to a tequila sunrise—it will do both, with gusto. But before you start sullying it with OJ or splashing it into a blender, first dribble a couple of fingers (of the Añjeo, naturally) into a rocks glass, find a comfy seat, and then sit back and just take it in. Swirl it, smell it, sip it. That feeling on your tongue? It’s 150 years of Mexican ingenuity and art.
Give it some props.
Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Cask
This delectable Scottish Stout has a flavor unlike any I have ever tasted. Aged in oak barrels that have previously been used to age a fine, triple-distilled Irish whiskey (or whisky, and shut up about it…), it lands on your palate in a decidedly non-barley-pop sort of way. It hits, in fact, if only for a moment, like a fine, triple-distilled Irish whiskey—your taste buds curl up and giggle in the same way, and your uvula dances the Lochaber Broadsword.
And if all that wasn’t enough, this limited edition beer, with its 7.9% ABV, packs a splendid alcoholic wallop. So, don’t pound it (unless, for reasons unknown, you’re after some kind of fucked-up fraternity flashback). No, just pour it off into a chilled mug, and enjoy.
Perfectly lip-smacking, and that’s a fact.
Newcastle Summer Ale
Newcastle has been one of my brews of choice for over 20 years. Until recently, they have avoided entering into the mostly tedious seasonal market, but I’m glad they did. While it’s not as exceptional as their traditional red ale, this summer version is quite tasty.
A tad lighter than the red, and slightly hoppier, the Summer Ale is perfect for backyard shindigs, or as a restorative after an afternoon’s car washing or lawn mowing. It easily surpasses most American microbrews, and treats conglomerate beers in much the same way Joe Pesci treated people in Goodfellas.
Pink Pigeon Rum
And, at last, we come to Pink Pigeon Rum. Flying in the face of the Cuba Libre crowd, my favorite way to take rum is unblemished but for an ice cube or two. For years I’ve been a Sailor Jerry fan, but no longer, fellow drunkards, no longer.
Assembled from organic sugarcane on the hypnotic tropical island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, and flavored with a secret assemblage of spices—among them nutmeg, and vanilla from Moroccan orchids—Pink Pigeon stands above all other spiced rums, in much the same way Andre the Giant might stand over Verne Troyer.
It alights on your tongue and puts down its spicy roots, as at least five separate flavors go on a walkabout to the back of your throat, where, when you swallow, a burn sweeter than a Beiderbecke solo slaloms downward, into your stomach, and suffuses your belly with a warmth of such potent contentment it would cause Bacchus to grin in the moonlight.
But please—oh, please—don’t ruin this astonishing libation with some foul soft drink or fetid daiquiri fruit. Just decant a few ounces into a glass (I suggest crystal, as it is worthy) and introduce your senses to alcoholic ecstasy.
And, so, there you have it, friends. A few ideas that will set fire to your next get-together, your next special event, your next Monday afternoon.