Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Miami Trip (Miami, FL)

I took a trip to Miami this past weekend to take care of some family matters, but with them looking rather less bleak upon my arrival than anticipated, I took advantage of some of the happier aspects of this ridiculously hot city.  I should just mention first though that the people at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach are incredible, and anyone who goes through that hospital should be thankful.
My second night in town, my uncle and I went to a whiskey tasting event, which included Scotch, bourbon, rye and even Japanese whisky, which I had never had before.  Ten dollars got you a tasting glass (which you were welcome to keep), samples of about fifteen whiskys, and paella, plus ten percent off any of the bottles being sampled.  The paella was good but not great, featuring a variety of meats, which I enjoyed, though my uncle was thus forced to pick through it.  The liquors varied from terrible to amazing, but the real treat of the night was meeting a couple of the people who work for the distributors.
(L-R) Basil Hayden's, Knob Creek, Jim Beam Honey, Laphroaig 10yr

The folks from Beam Inc., best known in this country as the producers of Jim Beam, were the first I sampled from.  They brought Laphroaig 10 year, a Scotch that my mother loves and that I cannot stand.  They also brought Jim Beam Honey, Knob Creek 9 year (a very good bourbon, but one I have had enough times not to need to try it that night), and Basil Hayden's, which I had never had before and was very pleased to see, having heard very good things about it.  It was not quite as good as I was expecting, but that is simply an issue of expectations being raised unrealistically high; in fact, it was a very solid whiskey, and I really enjoyed it.

Heaven Hill Distilleries
"Kentucky Powerpoints"
Second up were the offerings from Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., which included some really spectacular and unique spirits.  This is the home of Evan Williams, one of the best drinks for your money out there, so I figured they would be decent, but I was really taken aback by a couple of things.  The Rittenhouse Straight Rye was exceptional for a 4 year old whiskey, having an insane amount of flavor and smoothness despite its short aging period, nearly equal to Redemption Rye.  The really incredible drink though, was the Bernheim Straight Wheat Whiskey, made in the same way as bourbon or rye, but with wheat as the primary ingredient, was like nothing I've ever had before.  It was not my favorite, but it was definitely the most interesting I had all night, and I can see that it would work perfectly for its primary intended purpose, as a utilitarian but flavorful cocktail whiskey.  They also brought what they called "Kentucky Powerpoints," bottles filled with the ingredients of the individual liquors, in the proportions that each contains.  It was a neat and clever way to show what is actually in the different drinks.

Following a little paella, I moved on to Bowmore 10 year.  It sucked.  Avoid at all costs.  Enough said.

Dewars' Aberfeldy 12yr
Dewars followed that, with their Aberfeldy 12 year; it was not my thing, but they made up for it with a drop dead gorgeous young woman presenting it, and they gave out free flasks.  The Aberfeldy was a bit too harsh and biting for me, without providing any of the really wonderful oak-y, vanilla-y flavors that I look for to balance that out.

The final company represented was Anchor Distilling Company, and they were by far my favorite of the night.  Bringing some that I had already had and loved, including Eagle Rare and Buffalo Trace bourbons, each of which I brought to a couple weddings over the last few months and
(L-R) Hirsch Bourbon, Nikka 12 yr "Pure Malt," Nikka 15 yr single malt
(L-R) Templeton Rye, Macallan 12 yr, Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace
which led to some seriously impressive hangovers--worth it--and which are classics at a very reasonable price.  Macallan 12 was present, a classic Scotch, as were Templeton Rye Small Batch and 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Barrel Select, the latter of which was less impressive than I was expecting.  The real winners of the evening, however, were the two Japanese whiskys and the Hirsch Reserve Small Batch Straight Kentucky Bourbon.  The Hirsch was deliciously smooth, oak-y and sweet in the most pleasant way imaginable, a truly spectacular example of what bourbon should be.  The two Nikkas, however, were just really cool to try, as it was my first foray into the Japanese interpretation of Scotch whisky.  The 12 year, which is labeled as a "pure malt," a blend of malts from Nikka's two distilleries, was really good, but once I tried the 15 year old single malt that was the only thing I could think about.  It was as good as almost any Scotch I have ever had, with a character and smoothness that showed the true craftsmanship of the master distillers.
(L-R) Buffalo Trace, 1792 Ridgemont Reserve, Four Roses Bourbon, Four Roses Single Barrel


Saturday evening was spent with my cousin and her friends at Grovetoberfest, an annual beer festival in Coconut Grove, Miami's oldest neighborhood.  Far more of a festival than a beer tasting event, this was a lot of fun, but definitely targeted a different audience than the American Craft Beer Fest, where almost no one is trying to get drunk; at Grovetoberfest, that seems to be the predominant intent among attendees.  There were some very good beers there, including some local options that I had never had, but the best were from Founders Brewing Company, which was no surprise whatsoever.  All in all, it was a fun event, and I really enjoyed myself, but I prefer the ACBF.

Following the festival, which concluded at about 7:00pm, our group headed to Sandbar Grill, a ridiculously loud and over-crowded tourist bar that nonetheless was a pretty fun place to hang out, as it was loaded with televisions tuned to various sports; plus, they had Yuengling on tap, and that's...well...awesome.  (Yuengling is coming back to Massachusetts!!!)  An old friend of mine from college who lives in the area joined us there as well, along with his best friend from childhood, and after a while of shouting at each other to be heard, the three of us, plus a friend of my cousin's friend adjourned to Vinos in the Grove, where we had a glass of wine each.  Their wine list is pretty impressive, including some really good by the glass options, and they also serve a few cheese platters that sounded pretty damn good.  Next time I am in Miami, I will definitely head back there, and it seems like a great place to take a date if you do live in the area.


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