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  • Video: Bootleg Brew's Ultimate Whisky Tasting Guide

    We have consolidated the essence of our whisky wisdom page and created a video as the ultimate how-to guide to whisky tasting

    Some key takeaways:

    1. The Whisky Glass is AwesomeSauce for the Nose

    The wine glass is ubiquitous with drinking wine but we are still relegating our favorite dram to the tumbler. It's such a tragedy for a beverage that has such a fanatic following.

    The whisky glass has a distinctive tulip shape that concentrates the nose, which is a large part of the whisky tasting experience. Nose is said to be up to 50% of the whole taste so large wide rimmed glasses would lose the whole flavor. Because of the high alcohol content of the whiskies, we can't even stuff our nose in to compensate for the wide rim, as we do with wine. Try that once, and I'm quite sure you'll never do that again (as I learnt the hard way).

    2. Color provides important hints to what you are going to ingest

    The whisky glass has a wide base that allows you to see the color with greater clarity. For convenience, we have included the color bar from Whisky Magazine so you have a clearer idea as to how to match the colors that we have described. However, this is a flat design so it will be a little hard to match directly to your drink in hand as it will have a spectrum/gradient of colors.

    3. For the full experience, don't dilute the whisky too much

    In our younger days, we would immediately associate whisky with coke to get a highball as that was what we drank when we were out. Then, our world changed when we realised that whisky went well with green tea as a mixer. So, when we first started our single malt journey, our tendency was to dilute it down (especially for the peaty ones) to kill the burn.

    However, with the whisky glass, there is limited real estate so we automatically dialed it down by quite a bit and found that the whole tasting changed. For us, the most distinctive change was in the finish. With a mixer, we never really could tell the difference in the finish - long, short, spicy, fruity etc - because the finish was whatever the mixer was!

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  • Japanese Whisky: The Ultimate Introduction

    Yamazaki reserve - whisky series

    This post outlines the history of whisky production in Japan and its unique characteristics, marking the start of our series on Japanese Whiskies! Kanpaii! 

    History of Whisky Production in Japan

    Whisky production in Japan began in the late 1800s as moonshine and the first commercial production was in 1924 upon the opening of the country's first distillery, Yamazaki.

    Shinjiro Torii

    Shinjiro Torii is widely recognised as the founder of Japanese whisky. He left school at 13 to become an apprentice to a storekeeper, studying techniques for blending Japanese sake. He later set up his own shop and launched a sweetened wine called Akadama Port Wine, which gained widespread success.

    Before the First World War, he stored alcohol for liqueurs in old wine barrels and forgot about it. Some years later, he rediscovered it and found that aging in barrels had profoundly enriched the flavours. This set him on the path of creating his own whisky.

    In 1923, he made a wild punt and put all his company assets into building the Yamazaki distillery, the very first whisky distillery in Japan. The site, located just outside Kyoto, was chosen for its source of pure spring water.

    Shinjiro then sought to recruit a Scottish whisky expert but could not find a suitable candidate. During this time, he met Masataka Taketsuru, a chemist who had studied in the University of Glasgow and spent time apprenticing at distilleries.

    Masataka Taketsuru

    Masataka had gone to Scotland with the single-minded pursuit of learning how to make Scotch whisky. His family owned a sake brewery, established since 1733 (that is still producing fantastic sake today) and he was expected to carry on the family trade with his expertise in chemistry. Yet, it was Scotch whisky that captured his imagination.

    Upon his return to Japan, he joined the Yamazaki distillery and was instrumental in its establishment. His background is also the reason why the style of Japanese whisky broadly follows those of the Scots, and is written as “whisky” instead of “whiskey”.

    The First Whisky in Japan

    Together, Shinjiro and Masataka launched Japan’s first whisky in 1929 under the name Suntory. It was nicknamed SHIROFUDA (white bill) after the white label on its round shaped bottle. After the Second World War, it was named “White”. Crafted in a similar style as the Scots, the Japanese people found it incompatible for their more subtle palate.

    Undeterred, the pair continued to refine their craft. Masataka later left the Yamazaki distillery in 1934 to establish Nikka whisky with its first distillery in Yoichi, Hokkaido which had similar characteristics to the Scottish town where he had studied.

    Japanese Whisky Style

    Although Japanese whisky has its roots with the Scots, it has now evolved to its own unique aesthetic.

    In his book, The World Atlas of Whisky, Broom described the nation’s distillation as: “Japanese whiskey isn’t necessarily lighter, but it possesses a clarity of aroma that singles it out. Its absence of a cereal background note also differentiates it from Scotch, as does the use of the intensely aromatic Japanese oak.”

    Flavien Desoblin, owner of the Brandy Library, gave: “Japanese whiskeys are very much the fine-wine-drinker's take on whiskey. There is more attention paid to the body and the texture in Japan than in many other countries. They are looking for that delicate, sua

  • The Awesome Health Benefits of CRAFT BEERS

    August 28, 2014 Beer Brains

    Health Benefits of Craft Beer

    Though this may be surprising, craft beers (in moderation, of course) can give you great health benefits.

    Good quality craft beer contains:

    1. B vitamins, which help prevent heart disease;
    2. niacin, which lowers cholesterol and aids sleep;
    3. soluble fibre, which is good for your heart and other organs; and
    4. polyphenols, which comes from hops,  is a type of natural antioxidant that help to lower cholesterol, fight certain types of cancers and kills viruses.

    Moreover, beers containing high levels of malted barley and hops are rich in the mineral silicon. This is needed for the growth and development of bones and connective tissue. A study by the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California published in February 2010 (Casey et al., Silicon in beer and brewing, Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture) found that beer is a rich source of dietary silicon, which may help prevent osteoporosis.

    oktoberfest-waitress You need strong bones to hold beer mugs this big, and beer can help build them (via BigEAles)

    But, isn't wine supposed to be the healthy one?

    Traditionally, wine (in moderate quantities) is known to keep the heart pumping strong.  Yet, in a Harvard study of 70,000 women, "there was a suggestion that light-beer drinking was inversely associated with risk of hypertension", one of the major risk factors for heart diseases.



    So which beer is best?

    If you were calorie counting, light beers are typically less "calorific" (if that's even a word). However, dark beers have more antioxidants. Also, dark beers have a higher iron content than light beers, which is an essential mineral for our bodies.

    Before you head out and order a huge jug of Tiger, hold up for one sec.

    These benefits only apply to craft beers. As they are often brewed without a large gauntlet of preservatives and chemicals, they retain the inner goodness of its fundamental ingredients - barley, hops, yeast and water. Sadly, this is also why we often have short expiry dates for these beers.

    Also, moderation is key. Realistically, that translates to 1-2 beers a day for men and about 1 beer a day for women. For pint-sized people like myself, that probably means half a beer a day! So, drink responsibly!


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  • Why the Beer Can doesn't suck and 3 ways to reuse it!

    August 24, 2014 Beer Brains

    beer in a can

    Until recently, beer in a can has had a bad reputation, often because it contains high-strength, cheap lager or because canned beer is often part of a supermarket’s “pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap” initiative.

    However, craft brewers are beginning to see the benefits of popping their brews into cans. Why? Well, for starters they are cheaper, lighter and more recyclable – meaning their carbon footprint is much smaller. There’s a lining inside the can that removes all possibility of taint, and, finally, they keep beer really, really fresh. In fact, for beers that have lots of hop aroma or hop bitterness, cans are the most efficient containers for keeping them in good condition, so don’t turn your nose up at all canned beers, just be a bit choosy!

    The Yona Yona, Tokyo Black and Indo No Aooni (read: indo-nay-ooni) are some examples of a great canned beer.

    Also, there are additional uses for beer cans!

    1. Boost your Wifi

    Image courtesy of Minute Hacks

    We have not tried this for ourselves but it's been verified. Awesome for those times when the WiFi goes slightly mad.

    2. Wind Chimes


    Quoted from Paste Magazine

    “Some people say this is sculpture but I didn’t go to no expensive school to get these crazy notions,” said John Milkovisch, the man who decided in 1968 to cover the façade of his Houston home and its yard in beer cans and bottle tops. Milkovisch passed away in 1988, but the “Beer Can House” was acquired by a local nonprofit and restored. Did he drink all the beer in those cans? “No,” his wife, Mary, said. “I helped.”

    Found the wife hilarious. Yes, beer drinking is a team effort! :)

    3. Beer Can Flower Bouquet

    Sounds like hard work. But at least you don't waste money on flowers that wilt the next day. Boyfriends, bookmark this for valentine's day!

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  • Terminology: Beer or Ale?

    August 16, 2014 Beer Brains

    Terminology 101

    This is the first post in our terminology series! We hope to address some common misconceptions about the lingo that we all throw around and make it more accessible to everyone beyond the beer and whisky mad hatters.

    People seem to throw around the terms "ale" and "beer" liberally. Are they the same thing or is it different?

    Think of “ale” as a subset of “beer”. When people talk about beer, they might mean any alcoholic drink brewed from grains, whether it be lager, bitter or stout. Ale is used specifically to describe those beers made with a warm-fermenting yeast.

    There is confusion over these 2 words because the usage of these 2 words has changed over the centuries. “Ale” was once the Anglo-Saxon word for brewed drinks, dating back more than 1000 years, long before hops were introduced to Britain. When brews made with hops began to appear in the 15th century, they were described as “beer”, distinguishing them from ale, made without hops.

    “Beer” has come to be the umbrella term and, these days, in most parts of the world, if you as for “a beer” without being more specific about what you want to drink, you’ll most likely be served a golden lager.

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  • Are older whiskies necessarily better?

    August 11, 2014 Whisky Wisdom

    Is the age of the whisky the best determinant of quality?

    Short answer: No.

    Often, when we find an awesome 12 YO and have a great time appreciating the whisky, the 18 YO becomes a sort of an aspirational drink for the special occasion. The Bunnahabhain and the Yamazaki is a great example of this. Once you go for the older age expression, there is no turning back to the cheaper stuff.

    However, once in a while, this doesn't hold true and you feel absolutely cheated. Half of this is in the anticipation - if this particular drink is supposed to be so good that it changes your life, anything less will be disappointing. The second half is in the chemical process of ageing the whisky for a totally different taste profile.

    The longer a whisky matures in a cask, the more likely it is to develop a complexity of flavour, as well as to lose some of the perceived “harsh”, spirit characteristics associated with very young whisky.

    A cask of maturing whisky loses around 1.5% of its volume year on year, as well as developing a lower abv, as the water evaporates. Rather like a well-reduced sauce, the longer a whisky rests, the more concentrated the flavours become and the more the whisky will begin to take on characteristics of maturing in wood: slightly bitter, woody notes, thin, dry flavours and in the worst of cases, being completely overwhelmed by the oak, losing all its character and therefore its quality. There is a very fine balancing act between knowing when a cask is just right and whether it’s about to fall off the cliff into an oaky abyss.

    So, there you go! The age of the whisky isn't everything, it all depends on your personal taste.


    Interested in whisky? Check out our related posts below.

    Single Malt Deanston 12 YO wins TWO major awards - one of our all time favourite "any time of the day" whisky

    Give me (Bow)MORE! - a writeup on the launch of our Bowmore 12 and Bowmore 18, expanding our Islay range. 
    Continue reading

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