If you’re a regular reader of the Guardian, you’ll recall that they recently took issue with writers’ propensity to repeat themselves. To anyone who counts bibliophilia amongst their hobbies, this was a laughably obvious notion that did little to support the author’s dismissal of John Irving. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said when he most eloquently let this cat out of the bag back in the Jazz Age,
"Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves—that’s the truth. We have two or three great and moving experiences in our lives—experiences so great and moving that it doesn’t seem at the time that anyone else has been so caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before."
So no, it’s not really surprising that John Irving loves bears and dog farts; it should be equally unsurprising to regular PipesMagazine.com readers that I detest the cold weather and enjoy smoking my evenings away, often with a glass of booze in one hand and a daydream of tropical beaches in the other. Now that we’ve reached an understanding, please enjoy another tale of the same.
Sutliff’s Top Shelf provides the bourbon for this story. Expecting a faint waft of whiskey-ish aroma when I opened the tin was my first mistake. Someone at the factory Christmas party must have tipped their glass over in the bin that this batch came from; it’s as boozy as any Bowery bum in a Mike Hammer novel. Even after a week decanted it retained a pungent bouquet of whiskey in the mottled leaf, while the air time allowed oaky undertones to come out as well. It smokes nearly as strongly as it smells, at least in the room note, instantly providing a darkened-bar-of-yore atmosphere to the smoker’s environs—certainly not a bad thing for one’s man cave. The flavor profile carries the bourbon more lightly on the palate, settling into the "interesting Cavendish" genre comfortably.
Top Shelf, bottom drawer.
It took a few tries to find the right pipe to properly accentuate the flavor of this blend. Cycling through a few aromatic-dedicated bowls proved unsatisfactory, either through geometry or ghosts of tobaccos past. The sweetness was there but the backbone notes became muddled and unflattering. Looking over my arsenal of tools, I realized I had been overlooking the obvious choice—a corncob, of course. Once settled into my preferred shape, the venerable Legend, I was ready to become acquainted with this blend.
Ashlee, my favorite mixologist.
One Scotch to rule them all, and in the darkness (of a bar) bind them: Cutty Sark. Perhaps inspired by Ethan Brandt’s series The Speakeasy, I’ve been enjoying a new and interesting cocktail whenever the opportunity presents itself. Cocktails for the winter months with brown spirits prove a particular challenge; fortunately, I was able to enlist the expertise of local mixologist Ashlee at trendy watering hole No.7
North in Brooklyn. Completely unfazed by my request for a rather obscure cocktail (and at a rather obscure hour for cocktails, at that), she wielded a bottle of Cutty and jigger of blood orange juice with a cool hand, eager for my reaction to the drink. Suffice it to say, I’ve found a new favorite. It pairs spectacularly with a pipe, with its blend of smoky and sweet complimenting the Sutliff concoction admirably.
For Medicinal Purposes Only
Blood and Sand Recipe, Brooklyn style:
- ¾ oz Cutty Sark
- ¾ oz blood orange juice
- ¾ oz sweet vermouth
- ¾ oz Cherry Heering
Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice; shake the hell out of it. Strain into cocktail coupe, garnish with a flamed orange zest..
And one beer: Coney Island Brewing Company’s "The Plunge". Fond of limited-run seasonal brews, this looked promising: a Belgian-style ale with plentiful citrus notes and body feel, brewed with ginger, orange peel, and fennel seed. At turns tart, tannic, and bready, it managed a superb balancing act with the tobacco, filling out the bottom notes and palate feel and highlighting the whiskey notes on top. Honoring the Coney Island Polar Bear Club (where you will never, ever find me), this is by far the most accessible Belgian-style to cross my palate in years.
Special thanks to No.7 Sub for libational assistance.
Sutliff does some nice work with blends and keeps them within reach of most. I’m glad to see them featured here. I recommend The Great Outdoors for aro and their surprisingly subtle English, Westminster (not to be confused with the GLP Westminister, also excellent, and some others by the same name).
Since it’s February in Florida I have blood oranges on my counter right now…hmmm…
I love liquor infused blends, leaning towards the rum ones, but will have to give this one a try. Top Shelf sounds like it would be my cup of tea. As for the Blood and Sand, going to have to make a trip to the Liquor Barn over the weekend. Sounds amazing!
Now the question is – did you go to Coney Island to find the beer?
@reniaeats — I envy you more than you could know.
@pylorns — truth be told, I was in no condition to travel after the first blood & sand; the beer found me.
E. Roberts are you a Greenpointer ? Check out the Yeti Imperial Stout while sitting next to the fireplace at Spritzenhaus. It’s great with McClelland’s Holiday Spirit or an English blend.
I cannot imagine myself ever pouring blended whisky, orange juice, sweet vermouth, and Cherry Heering into the same class. As Barry Fitzgerald once said, “when I drink whisky I drink whisky and when I drink (derogatory beverage of your choice) I drink that.”