Friday, October 14, 2011

Behind the Scenes with Boyd & Blair

We're pleased to announce that DrinkUpNY now carries Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka, an incredibly smooth, high quality spirit that has been ranked the top vodka in the world by F. Paul Pacult! We have also added Boyd & Blair "Professional Proof" 151 Vodka to our selection, which is the perfect base for creating bitters, liqueurs, aperitifs, classic punches and more. We recently spoke with Barry Young, one of the producers of this premium brand, to give you a behind the scenes look at what it takes to create a truly exceptional spirit.

How did Boyd & Blair begin? What inspired the creation of this brand?

Boyd & Blair began over seven years ago when my business partner, Prentiss Orr, posed the question as to why there were a lot of micro-breweries but not micro-distilleries. This idea led us to our desire to create a classic vodka using locally grown produce that was not flashy, but rather entirely taste focused. We both preferred potato vodka over grain and started to talk to local potato farmers.

What sets Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka apart from the competition?

As a member of a small group of American Distillers who make their own mash, we all look at the international brands as our competition. Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka in comparison to these brands has character and flavor rather than a "sterile" taste found in many vodkas. I always wanted my vodka to have character and for the consumer to know without a doubt that what they were served was Boyd & Blair.  Potato vodka is rare (most vodkas are made of grain), and it has a natural sweetness and viscosity. Since it is distilled in batches in a pot still I have total control of making the cuts of alcohol very precise so that only the hearts of the run are ever bottled.

When distilling there are three segments of the run. The first is called the heads which smells like model airplane glue and contains methanol. No one uses this, or at least should not. The next segment is called the hearts which is the sweet part of the run. Lastly come the tails which smell like an old dish rag that has been sitting too long by the sink. Once I taste the tails starting to come out of the still I immediately turn it off and discontinue collecting the alcohol.  Most distilleries keep some of tails in their final product which causes the aftertaste associated with drinking some brands of straight vodka. This is what distinguishes Boyd & Blair.  Boyd & Blair does not have the aftertaste or "bite" but rather an extreme smoothness because we never use any of the tails. Large distilleries who mass produce and do not use a pot still and instead use automated continuous stills, introduce tails into the final product.

The cutting on the fly while the still is running is one example of how craft distilleries truly distinguish themselves.

You have also released Boyd & Blair at "Professional Proof". Tell us more about this.

Boyd & Blair has been embraced by the mixologist community in many cities around the country and I have been asked to create a bitters line by many. The issue I had with creating bitters is that I am a distiller not a mixologist. Mixologists and bartenders create such inventive cocktails and by creating a bitters line I would be dictating flavors. One day I was sitting in a cocktail lounge in South Beach and marveled at all of the bitters that were house-made and I asked the bartender what he used for a base.  He said mainly 151 rum, but that it was not the best base to use since it was not clean enough.  Previously I had infused plenty of Boyd & Blair and the results were fantastic, so I knew that if I created a 151 version of our same recipe it would infuse incredibly with whatever ingredients one could dream up. At this moment I decided that I could provide these mixologists with what they sought after, a perfectly clean base for bitters and liqueurs.

Our Professional Proof 151 is very versatile and can be used for crafting bitters, liqueurs, and infusions to be used as a base of other cocktails. To date I have made limoncello, crème de menthe, clemencello, orange bitters, cigar bitters, a roasted pumpkin infusion, an allspice infusion and a vanilla bean infusion that was further infused with American Oak. I have also aged the 151 in a 2 liter barrel for 5 weeks giving it a whiskey type of taste.

What's next for Boyd & Blair? Are you currently working on any new projects or planning any for the future?

I am always working on something but our next official release will be called Gelvaldig! which is a Kosher for Passover version of Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka.

What is your favorite way to enjoy Boyd & Blair?

When I am traveling I love tasting the Boyd & Blair creations of mixologists around the country, but when I am at home I drink it on the rocks.

Try the "Roasted Pumpkin Infusion" recipe with either of the Boyd & Blair vodkas to get a taste of Autumn!

Roasted Pumpkin Infusion

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 baking pumpkin
1 750-milliliter bottle of Boyd & Blair
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

-Mix the cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon with olive oil and set aside.

-Carefully cut the top off the pumpkin and quarter the pumpkin and place it on a cookie sheet.

-Spread the seasoning oil over the pieces and roast in the oven until the pumpkin is fork tender. Allow the pumpkin to cool.

-Place the pumpkin in an infusion jar and cover with Boyd & Blair and let sit for 3 to 4 days.

-Strain the vodka through a coffee filter and mesh strainer.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Charles Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky

Our story begins in 1907, when famous explorer Ernest Shackleton contacted the Glen Mhor Distillery to request twenty-five cases of their Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt - a ten year old whisky which was recognized as one of the classic Highland malts of its day. The distillery was happy to oblige and even created a commemorative label to honor the event, which read "Specially prepared for the British Antarctic Expedition 1907 - Ship Endurance". You see, at that time Shackleton was planning to change the name of his ship from "Nimrod" to "Endurance", but he eventually lost interest in the idea. However, time was a factor so in August 1907, Shackleton departed from London on the Nimrod, with the mislabeled "Endurance" whisky safely stored beneath the decks.

The Nimrod arrived in Antarctica's McMurdo Sound on January 29th, 1908. Landing at Cape Royds, the team battled difficult conditions for days as they struggled to build shelter and bring their equipment and supplies to shore. When they were finally established at their base camp, the team began their scientific work and started planning their long journey to both the South Pole and the Magnetic South Pole. Shackleton and three team members departed in November 1908 and began the difficult march south - a journey which brought the men to the edge of starvation. They ultimately fall short of their goal by less than 100 miles. However, the legendary leadership skills of Shackleton ensured that all four men returned safely and were back on board the Nimrod by early March 1909. As the winter sea ice began to form and the blizzards returned, the expedition hurriedly sailed for home, leaving behind many of their belongings - including several crates of the Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt.

Members of the original expedition.
Now fast forward to February 2007, when two crates of whisky were discovered in Antarctica by a team from the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust - a group dedicated to preserving the history of the region. Although the discovery sparked the interest of numerous world organizations, the crates could not be removed from Antarctica due to international protocols. So the crates remained encased in ice until early 2010, when the Antarctic Heritage Trust was granted permission to remove one of the cases. It was quickly rushed to the Canterbury Museum where it took two weeks to fully defrost and stabilize the whisky. After completing a detailed analysis of the package, it was deemed that the whisky was the very same Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt that was distilled in 1897 and bottled in 1907 exclusively for Ernest Shackletons' Nimrod expedition to Antarctica.
One of the original crates of Mackinlay's Rare Old Whisky
In January 2011, three bottles of this rare whisky were returned to Whyte & Mackay, the owners of the Mackinlay brand. It was transferred by private jet to the Whyte & Mackay's Invergordon Spirit Laboratory, where Master Blender Richard Paterson, and his expert team spent several weeks in the laboratory nosing, tasting and deconstructing the whisky to reveal its true heritage. Aside from identifying the various aromas and flavors, this rigorous analysis proved that the whisky was 47.3% alcohol, was aged in American white oak sherry casks, and the peat used for the malting originated in the Orkney Islands.

Inspired by their analysis, the team embarked on the challenge of recreating this rare whisky, and the result is exceptional. This painstaking reproduction of the original is an intricate blend of Speyside (Longmorn, Benriach, Glenfarclas, Mannochmore, Tamnavulin and Glenrothes), Highland (Balblair and Pulteney) and Jura malts which have been carefully selected for their specific flavor profiles. This masterful combination is composed of malts varying in age from eight to thirty years old, which have been married in the finest sherry butts. The resulting spirit is complex, aromatic and refined, offering delicate notes of crushed apple, pear and fresh pineapple complemented by smoke, vanilla, caramel, nutmeg and oak. The bottle and packaging have also been recreated down to the last detail - bubbles in the glass make each bottle unique, while the labels incorporate hand-lettering and labeling techniques from the early 20th century. Only 50,000 bottles were produced, so add this remarkable spirit to your collection today.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!