Sunday, October 23, 2022

Bourbon. Is it whiskey???

     I first tried bourbon when I was in my mid-twenties. I really enjoy the sweet caramel flavour that comes from this beverage as well as the smokey aromas of cinnamon, cloves and the significant heat from the alcohol. It's a drink that should not be hurried but rather sipped and shared with friends in front of a fire or on a cool evening sitting on a deck. 

    I started proudly drinking Jack Daniels which I always touted as bourbon before I realized that the bottle did not say bourbon anywhere on the label but rather "Tennessee Whiskey". Whiskey? So, I convinced myself that bourbon is not whiskey but some other distilled liquor like whiskey. It was until years later that I began sampling different whiskey styles like Canadian whiskey, rye whiskey, Irish whiskey and scotch (spelled whisky) and realized that I needed to understand what the fundamental differences are between the styles of whiskey. Is bourbon a whiskey or is whiskey a bourbon and where does Tennessee Whiskey fall into the mix.

    What goes into making a bourbon? Like any other distilled beverage there are rules for making bourbon which are mostly defined by state legislation. Here are some of the A,B,Cs for making bourbon.

A - Bourbon must be made in the USA. Although the residents of Kentucky proudly display that the majority (95%) of bourbon is created in their state.  

B - At least 51% of the mash must contain corn. The rest of the mash can be a mixture of rye and barley. Corn is the key to providing the flavour and aroma profile of bourbon.

C - The proof after distillation cannot exceed 180 proof. Bourbons are typically double distilled so that the proof does not exceed 180. Corn is key to the signature bourbon flavours and aromas.

D - Bourbon must be stored in white oak barrels that have been charred on the inside. The bourbon must be aged for at least 2 years before bottling. Aging in barrels gives the bourbon a chance to be absorbed into the barrel during the warm summer months when it expands and then pulled back into the mixture during the cold winter months when the bourbon contracts. This continual expansion and contraction pull the oaks flavours and colours into the bourbon, but it comes at a cost. At least 3% of the mixture is lost each year to evaporation. 

    A Tennessee Whiskey is very similar to the bourbon distilling process with a few differences. The most important difference is that the whiskey is filtered through maple charcoal before being put into charred oak barrels. This is known as the Lincoln County process.

    I recently purchased a bourbon from the LCBO (online order) that has a bit of history to it. Blanton's Bourbon was the first distillery to bottle a "single barrel" bourbon in 1984. Most distilleries blend bourbons to achieve a similar taste profile form bottle to bottle. Elmer T Lee, who worked for Blanton's recalled that Colonel Blanton would bottle special bourbons for friends from "honey barrels" stored in specific areas of warehouse H where conditions were perfect for producing an exceptional bourbon. Elmer T Lee decided to share those premium honey barrels in a "single barrel" select bourbon for everyone to enjoy.

Blanton's Original Single Barrel Bourbon

93 Proof - 46.5% ABV

Bottled on May 27 2022 from barrel 636 on Rick 13 from warehouse H.

No tasting notes on this bottle as I'm waiting for a special occasion to open it.

Sunday, February 21, 2021


Pinot Noir and Pinotage


            Two interesting wines with similar roots but very different histories. Pinot Noir is instantly recognizable as a Burgundy in France, as a blended wine with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier to make Champagne, as Pinot Nero in Italy and under many other names in a variety of countries. It’s also that famous California wine that the film Sideways elevated to stardom status while simultaneously sinking Merlot sales. Pinot Noir is known as the “heart break” grape because it’s difficult to grow, difficult to harvest because of its thin skin and difficult to ferment into a great wine but when you do it right, the result is a beautiful wine. French Burgundies tend to be lighter but can be aged for decades while California Pinot Noir’s are more complex and layered but have a shorter life span. Either one is a great wine and it pairs well with an assortment food from pork to salmon.


Pinotage started as Pinot Noir but it was crossed with a Cinsault grape variety by Stellenbosch University to produce a unique wine that is synonymous with South Africa. Pinotage and Chenin Blanc are considered the flagship wines of South Africa grown in areas like Stellenbosch and the Western Cape. Although some South African plantings have been replaced with Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Chardonnay due international demand, Pinotage is popping up in other wine regions like New Zealand and California. It’s a fascinating wine because it has a unique aroma and flavour but still reminiscent of Pinot Noir in so many ways.


Cigar Box Pinot Noir – Casablanca Valley, Chile


 Like most Pinot Noir’s the aroma of fresh berry fruit is subtle with a slight hint of tobacco and earthiness. It has lively acidity with strawberry and cherry flavours and a medium finish.

 LCBO - $ 13.00 750ml  (545707)  

 Available in the Almonte and Carleton Place LCBO




Ken Forrester Petit Pinotage – Stellenbosch South Africa

 Strong earthy aromas mixed with dark chocolate make this a distinctive wine. Flavours of dark cherry and some cocoa give this wine a medium to long finish. The wine pairs well with barbecue pulled pork or pizza

LCBO -$13.95  750 ml  (631594) 

Available at the Carleton Place LCBO.







Mark Cochrane

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Thursday, March 12, 2020

St Paddy's Day

St Paddy’s Day !

            Some of my favorite memories of St Patrick’s day goes back to when my parents hosted the annual Irish party in their living room. The old Electrohome console stereo would be blaring Tommy Makem and the Clancy brothers or the Irish Rovers while we sipped beer and Irish whiskey singing along to the music. My father would regale to us stories about my grandparents who were both from Ireland. The day would not be complete without my mothers’ Irish stew and my brother-in-law Doug would make his delicious Irish soda bread. Those were good times.
            Years later, the St Paddy’s day party still happens. The location has changed to my house, the console stereo with LPs has been replaced by a wireless speaker and a music streaming app but Tommy Makem and the Clancy brothers still belt out the classics. We try to remember the limericks my father would recite about life in an Irish village and the rebellion. There’s still plenty of laughs, singing, some dancing by me (Riverdance impression), some more laughing and a lot of good memories.

Guinness Draught Stout

St Patrick’s day would not be complete without a glass of this iconic beer. It’s dark, rich and creamy with a slight nutty flavour and a coffee finish.  

Here’s a tip. Angle the glass, pour half the can and let it settle then pour the rest

LCBO - $3.25 per can (270447)  

Available in the Almonte and Carleton Place LCBO

Smithwick’s Red Ale

Another well known Irish ale made in the town of Kilkenny. It’s a smooth ale with a nice amber colour producing flavours of caramel and malt.

LCBO - $2.70 per can (270439)

Available at the Almonte and Carleton Place LCBO.

If you’re not into ales or stouts then you can always try a wee bit of Irish whiskey. I could certainly recommend some great and very expensive Irish whiskeys but there’s also some moderately priced whiskeys that are quite good. Here’s two distilled beauties that I find are well priced with a high degree of quality.

The Irishman Founders Reserve Irish Whiskey

I first found this whiskey while we were on vacation in Galway Ireland. I was chatting with a bartender about Irish whiskey and he exclaimed that The Irishman Founders Reserve was the best whiskey for the price. I took up that challenge and tried it a few times. I was pleasantly surprised by the flavour and finish of this whiskey. It’s smooth with some butterscotch at the end. The whiskey is 70% single malt and 30% single pot still with maturation done in Bourbon casks.

LCBO - $54.80 (700m) (402552)

Check your LCBO for availability

Writer’s Tears Copper Pot Irish Whiskey

Another classic Irish whiskey from Walsh distilleries. This whiskey is all malt (no grain), triple distilled in a pot still and then matured in American oak barrels.
A smooth whiskey with some vanilla and caramel flavours

LCBO - $46.95 (700m) (13057)

Available at the Carleton Place LCBO

Enjoy St Patrick’s Day and as the Irish say….. Slainte !!!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Bourbon, Bourbon, Bourbon !!

   Whether it is wines aged in bourbon barrels, beer stored in bourbon barrels, Irish whiskey aged in bourbon barrels or the Jim Beam warehouse fire that saw 45000 barrels of bourbon go up in a gigantic Kentucky bonfire, mash whiskey is in the news. Everything seems to be aged in bourbon barrels these days. Producers of beers, whiskey and red wine are starting to see the benefits of ageing their product in bourbon barrels to extract new flavours and of course some alcohol.
   Why bourbon and not wine barrels you ask? First you need to understand the difference between a wine barrel and a bourbon barrel. Both are made from oak but bourbon barrels are charred on the inside to act as a charcoal filter to remove some of the harshness from the whiskey. Wine barrels on the other hand are toasted to enhance the flavour of the wine. Once the bourbon liquor is removed from the barrel after the bottling process, there are some residual aromas and flavours remaining in the barrel. Storing wine or beer in a bourbon barrel for a year allows caramel and vanilla flavours to interact and blend with the beer or wine.
   Jameson whiskey which is traditionally stored in sherry barrels (that’s a topic for another day) is now offering whiskey stored in bourbon barrels. The whiskey is called Jameson Black Barrel and offers enhanced flavours of vanilla and nut. These are exciting times for vintners as they explore the interaction between grapes, tannins, yeast and acidity with bourbon barrel aging while brewers play with grains, hops and yeast. Consumers on the other hand are reaping the benefits of this endeavor. The notion of producing the same product over and over again is being displaced by vintners, brewers and distillers willing to experiment and inspire us with new ideas.

Stave & Steel Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon, California 

It’s a dark rich Cabernet Sauvignon that’s almost opaque with lots of dark fruit like cherry and plum with some caramel flavour at the end. There’s no increase in alcohol from the bourbon barrels but it definitely adds character to this wine. A great compliment for BBQ steak or ribs.

LCBO - $19.95 (541946)  

Available in the Carleton Place and Stittsville LCBO

2019 Nickel Brook Kentucky Bastard Imperial Stout

Not exactly a light beer but it is delicious. This imperial stout is rich and thick with flavours of coffee and chocolate. The Bolshevik style stout was stored in bourbon barrels for a year so it has picked up some vanilla flavour and alcohol as well. A stout like this is pretty strong so watch out as this one has an ABV of 11.9% which makes it roughly twice as strong as most craft beers. I chose to pour samplers for all my friends so that they could try a classic imperial stout.

LCBO - $11.95 (543389)
Available in limited supplies at the LCBO. It also comes in a four pack.

Cheers !

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Cottage Life and the Perth Brewery

If you’re one of the fortunate ones that owns a cottage, is able to rent a cottage or are really lucky and have a nice relative that lends you their cottage for a week then you can appreciate the quiet time relaxing by the lake’s edge listening to the waves lap against the dock whilst sipping on a cold beer. No grass to cut or house repairs to be done just the occasional swatting of flies as they nip at your ankles. I can’t imagine anything that is more soothing to the mind than listening to a loon’s cry across the lake as a gentle breeze cools your face while relaxing in a lawn chair. When the sun is shining and the weather is hot I prefer beers that have more of a citrus flavour with some good acidity which makes them taste more refreshing.
 We were running short on essentials at the cottage like hot dogs, beer and chips plus we were getting a bit of cabin fever. We decided to organize a side trip to Perth to pick up more supplies and stop at Perth Brewery to see what they had to offer in the way of refreshing beverages.

As we came through the Perth Brewery front door and viewed the list of beers we knew that making a choice wouldn’t be easy so some “sampling” would be necessary. The Whalebone Stout with oyster shells added to the brewing process was interesting and the Oh Canada Maple Lager made with Temples maple syrup was a real treat but we needed something more refreshing for the beach.

After some more sampling we settled on four beers. A grapefruit Radler, a west coast IPA called Calypso, a wheat beer called Summer Squeeze and we couldn’t leave without grabbing a couple of Oh Canada maple ales. It was time to head back to the cottage, throw the beer on ice and get setup for a relaxing afternoon by the lake. A little fun in the sun with some kayaking maybe a swim and then sit back, sip a beer and watch the odd pontoon boat go by. Life is tough.

Cheers !!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

South Africa Wines

The lawn has been cut, raking done and you’ve plucked as many dandelions as provincial election signs on March Road. Your lower back is at the point of seizing up or just plain giving out but you push on because at the end of the day you’ll be able to sit back in a lawn chair and survey the splendor of your “homestead” in all its crabgrass wonder whilst sipping a cold beer. But first, you have to search the dark recesses of that poorly lit garden shed to find it. With a few groans, and a brief fight with a garden hose you see it. There it is, in all its grease stained and dust covered majesty….the BBQ! You can almost hear the faint sizzling of sausages and the smell of barbeque chicken emanating from the grill. It’s calling you like an ancient pandora’s box to open the lid and look inside. You struggle to free it and after more than a few swear words the BBQ is pulled on to the deck and opened. Wow! you should have really cleaned that before putting it away. This BBQ will need a major makeover to get it back to last year’s grilling glory or maybe a lengthy burn off will do for now. You’ll definitely need some good wines to pair with the marinated chicken and steak that you plan on grilling this weekend.
  Here’s a couple of wine suggestions from South Africa that aren’t typical of the Chenin Blanc and Pinotage varietals they are known for.

2017 Spier Signture Chardonnay – Stellenbosch South Africa

South Africa is not really known for it’s Chardonnay but the trend over the last decade has been to switch from more traditional varietals like Chenin Blanc to more popular wines like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. This Chardonnay is done in a California style with a soft texture and some oak. Pear, golden apple, vanilla and butterscotch are all there which combine for a smooth fruit forward Chardonnay. Pairs well with garlic marinated shrimp skewers on the BBQ.

LCBO 487181 - $12.30

2016 Big Bill Cabernet Sauvignon – Western Cape South Africa

The wine is actually called “The Legend of Big Bill” which was named after KWV’s original manager, Bill Millar. KWV winery is South Africa’s oldest winery (originally a coop winery). This Cabernet is very dark and rich with flavours of plum, menthol and a hint of dark chocolate. It pairs well with most red meats but I tried it with a pulled pork dish marinated in Bullseye BBQ sauce.

LCBO 457119 - $12.95

Cheers !!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

1990 Chateauneuf-du-Pape

  A few weeks ago I had the rare opportunity to open, decant and taste an iconic French wine from the Chateauneuf-du-Pape region in France. My brother received a gift of a 1990 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateaneuf-du-Pape wine. He wanted everyone in the family to experience a wine that had been stored for over 26 years. This is a wine that should be enjoyed and savoured for its complexity. It’s a complicated mix of grapes like Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah, Counoise, Cinsault, Vaccarese, Terret Noir, Muscardin, Picpoul, Picardan, Bourboulenc, and Roussanne. All of these grapes combined yield a wine that is both intense and a mosaic of flavours. It’s as complicated as the papal history of Chateauneuf-de-Pape.

 If we go back to 1990 when the wine was bottled, Margret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of the UK, Nelson Mandela was released from prison and the U.S. invaded Panama. So a lot has happened in the world since this wine was originally corked. It’s almost a piece of history or a marker in time. Since this bottle had been sitting for a quarter century (hopefully stored correctly) it needed to be decanted properly as there would be substantial sediment in the wine which you definitely don’t want to drink.

This is where the story goes slightly off the rails. Somewhere during the day my brother had sent a text message asking me to bring a decanting set so that we could properly decant the wine. Well, needless to say I failed to notice that I had a text message so when I showed up at the door he asked “Did you bring it?” to which I answered with a puzzle look on my face “Bring what?” “Did you get my text message?” to which I answered while reaching for my cell phone, “What text message?” Rather than drive for 45 minutes back to my house we decided to “MacGyver” a decanting set which consisted of an empty clean wine bottle, a funnel, a strainer, an unbleached coffee filter and a steady hand. The first hurdle was to get the cork out without breaking it into a million pieces. Slowly we inserted the corkscrew and then tried pulling it out like two surgeons removing an engorged gall bladder. Unfortunately, the cork broke half way out and I was forced to go back in several times with the corkscrew. After some grunting and many curse words, it finally came out with a bit of tartaric crystal deposit on the bottom of the cork (see cork picture). 

We then assembled the improvised decanting set and started carefully pouring the wine like it was nitroglycerin. There was some minor spillage which was followed by more blasphemy but we managed to decant most of the wine. The bottle had substantial sediment in the bottom (see picture) which didn’t end up in the decanted bottle. A job somewhat well done so we let the wine sit for an hour to breathe before tasting it.

 Needless to say it was well worth the wait. After a quarter century the wine had changed from a dark red to a garnet colour with a well defined water line around the edge of the glass. The aroma was distinct and earthy in nature but no sign of spoilage. After taking the first sip we stared at each other for a few seconds with mouths full of 26 year old blended wine expecting someone’s face to go sour but we were pleasantly surprised that the Chateauneuf-du-Pape had a mid to long finish of sour cherry and an almost raisin flavour. As I sat at the dinner table looking at the iconic wine swirl in my glass and savouring the last drops I reflected back on the events of 1990. The music group Milli Vanilli had an almost cult following on the pop charts. Hmmm.. I guess some things age better than others.     

If you would like to buy your own piece of history and age it for a quarter century, you can purchase a 2014 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape at the LCBO for $89.95 (711317)

1990 Chateau de Beaucastel – Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France

Monday, February 6, 2017

Love that Broadhead Beer !!

  I like craft beer and I've tried a lot of them (trust me). Every once and awhile you come across an exceptional beer. It may not be the particular style you prefer like an IPA, lager or an amber ale but this particular brew really strikes your flavour buds in a way that makes you want more. The only thing that's missing when you drink this beer is a summer patio and a warm gentle breeze. I recently had dinner at the Brew Table in Bells Corners and they were serving a craft beer from Broadhead called "Blueberry Blonde". The blueberry aroma and taste was subtle but very satisfying. I liked it so much that I had two pints with dinner.

  I searched the LCBO and Beer store but was unable to find it. Alas, here's the bad news. Broadhead is not brewing it anymore as it was a single production run. Hopefully they will come to their brewing senses and ferment a few more kegs for us to enjoy.

Cheers !!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Tales from the Big Red Dirt - Part 2

 You can't go on vacation to Prince Edward Island and tentatively try the local seafood so I decided to jump into the feast that PEI offers with both feet. There were samples of raw oysters, quahogs (clams) with chorizo sausage, lobster rolls, haddock and scallops. It was a seafood smorgasbord with a generous sampling of local craft beers brewed on PEI and they were exceptional.

Beach Chair Lager became a familiar friend when I had seafood. A nice light lager with a refreshing crispness that didn't overpower the seafood. I had this lager with steamed quahog clams and raw oysters.

The beer is produced by the PEI Brewing Company in Charlottetown PEI. Visit their website at

A dark reddish brown ale with good body, not too hoppy and dark flavours of caramel and some nuttiness at the end. Very drinkable while sitting on a deck watching the ocean waves roll onto the beach.

The beer is produced by Upstreet brewery in Charlottetown PEI. Visit their website at

Cheers !

Monday, September 12, 2016

Tales from the Big Red Dirt - Part 1

Edmundston .... I know that it's not in PEI and yes Margaret there are no vineyards in that part of New Brunswick but it is a two day drive and I'm not going to arrive in PEI all bleary eyed so that I could save on one night hotel. We decided to stay in this nice New Brunswick town and try a local restaurant recommended by the hotel staff. The waitress at the restaurant called Station 127 suggested I try her favorite local craft beer called Petit Sault Louis XVII Amber ale. Well it did not disappoint my tastebuds at all. In fact, it was really quite good. Refreshingly crisp, not to hoppy and had a nice long finish of toasty caramel.

It was a good way to start my PEI vacation. It was so good, I had two of them with my dinner. If you're every travelling to or through Edmundston NB give Les Brasseurs du Petit Sault a try. It's available in the New Brunswick Liquor stores.

Les Brasseurs du Petit Sault web site is

Next stop PEI