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Can I Get You a Drink?

In Cocktails by Thomas FondanoLeave a Comment

When welcoming guests into your home, nothing says “I’m glad you’re here” quite like a cocktail. It shows you care and want them to have a good time. After taking coats and accepting any gifts (the best guests bring gifts), the first thing I do is offer a drink.  It doesn’t need to be fancy; a simple highball will suffice.  But if you’ve got the ingredients, the tools and the know-how, it could be transcendent. My house cocktail blends two of my favorite classic cocktails: the Manhattan and the Sazerac. I originally came up with a similar drink using Cocchi Americano …

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The Day I Hung Out With Sam Medley

In Banter by Thomas FondanoLeave a Comment

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Sam Medley at Sidecar here in Portland, Ore. It was a full house in a long, narrow space, but I was able to sample the full Medley portfolio and talk somewhat in-depth with Medley about his family’s products.

Charles Medley Distilling is an non-distiller producer (NDP) who contracts their whiskey from a Kentucky distillery. Sam’s father Charles Medley has been a distiller for decades, so this isn’t the same as a start-up microdistillery sourcing their juice without experience and pretending it’s something it’s not. Part of their contract agreement states that the barrels must age in different areas of the warehouse to ensure different characteristics in the bourbon. Medley told me they avoided the “nots” or barrels that were not on the top or near the outer walls.

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Marion Collins Cocktail (aka The Toughest Guy in the Room)

In Cocktails by Thomas FondanoLeave a Comment

If you look at flavored whiskey reviews on this site, you’ll find few compliments. So let it be with great fanfare that I announce that Eastside Distilling’s Marionberry Whiskey is the best flavored whiskey I’ve ever had. This is not say I love it, but it’s better than all the cherry or cinnamon flavored chemical/medicinal monstrosities out there. My biggest problem is that it’s only 60 proof. Marionberry (not to be confused with the late former D.C. mayor of crack smoking fame) is a blackberry cultivar and as such is tart. Tartness means you need to add sugar for balance. …

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Eastside Distilling: A Bourbon Across America Visit

In On The Road by Thomas FondanoLeave a Comment

I first visited Eastside Distilling in September 2011 when they were called Deco Distilling and all they had to offer was rum. It was fine rum and they made some tasty cocktails, but it was a day of dudes strolling Portland’s Distillery Row and it was the 4th place we visited. Things got murky that day.

A few months later, they re-christened themselves as Eastside Distilling and have been growing since. After their Belize-style Below Deck Rums (silver, coffee, ginger and spiced), they created Portland Potato Vodka, Burnside bourbon, Cherry Bomb whiskey, Marionberry whiskey and a set of holiday liqueurs. Production and sales have increased from 400 cases a year to 6400 cases annually.

I met with Eastside’s master distiller Melissa Heim. Having previously learned her craft as rum distiller at Rogue Spirits, she came to Eastside 3 years ago and recently signed a contract extension through 2020. With all of the talk of women in whiskey these days, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Heim is the only female master distiller west of the Mississippi.

Let’s get this out of the way: Eastside Distilling sources and blends their bourbon. They are open about this. Their hand-picked stocks come from multiple sources and range in age. The result is a customized flavor profile. Okay? Great, because it’s good juice. The Burnside Oregon Oaked Bourbon is quickly becoming my favorite “finished” bourbon.

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Fighting Cock Bourbon Review

In Bourbon Whiskey Reviews by Thomas Fondano2 Comments

Welcome to another installment of our tasting series on lower shelf bourbons. Bourbon & Banter contributor, Thomas Fondano, will be trying out and commenting on bourbons priced under $20. Knowing that not all sub-$20 bourbons will be great, Thomas will be adding a new category to our standard tasting notes – Straight, Old Fashioned or Manhattan  – to see whether a classic cocktail improves on a straight tasting. We hope you enjoy this new series of reviews and hope you’ll help us shape future reviews by letting us know in the comments what sub-$20 bourbon you’d like us to review next. Today …

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Dashfire Bitters Review & the Paper Lantern

In Gear Reviews by Thomas FondanoLeave a Comment

Disclaimer: A sample of the Dashfire’s Bitters were provided to us by the company for this review. We appreciate their willingness to allow Bourbon & Banter to review their products with no strings attached. Thank you. Bitters are essential for many cocktails. They are the seasoning. A Manhattan without bitters is like soup without salt: bland, insipid and lacking. An anecdotal history: In the pre-Prohibition era there were many varieties. Then darkness. For years afterward, all one could find was Angostura. In recent years leading up to the current cocktail renaissance Peychaud’s and Regan’s Orange No. 6 (both distributed by Sazerac) …

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Benchmark Old No. 8 Bourbon Review

In Bourbon Whiskey Reviews by Thomas Fondano23 Comments

Welcome to a new tasting series on lower shelf bourbons. Bourbon & Banter contributor, Thomas Fondano, will be trying out and commenting on bourbons priced under $20. Knowing that not all sub-$20 bourbons will be great, Thomas will be adding a new category to our standard tasting notes – Straight, Old Fashioned or Manhattan  – to see whether a classic cocktail improves on a straight tasting. We hope you enjoy this new series of reviews and hope you’ll help us shape future reviews by letting us know in the comments what sub-$20 bourbon you’d like us to review next. Buffalo Trace makes …

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J. T. S. Brown Bottled in Bond Bourbon Review

In Bourbon Whiskey Reviews by Thomas Fondano8 Comments

  Welcome to a new tasting series on lower shelf bourbons. Bourbon & Banter contributor, Thomas Fondano, will be trying out and commenting on bourbons priced under $20. Knowing that not all sub-$20 bourbons will be great, Thomas will be adding a new category to our standard tasting notes – Straight, Old Fashioned or Manhattan  – to see whether a classic cocktail improves on a straight tasting. We hope you enjoy this new series of reviews and hope you’ll help us shape future reviews by letting us know in the comments what sub-$20 bourbon you’d like us to review next.   “Preacher! …

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Mash Bill Truffle Collection Review

In Food Stuff Reviews by Thomas FondanoLeave a Comment

  Disclaimer: For this review I was sent samples of the chocolates, Templeton Rye and Four Roses Single Barrel for pairing purposes.    Father’s Day is coming and you could do a lot worse than getting Dad a box of the Mash Bill Truffle Collection from Vosges. The Collection contains a dozen truffles: 2 Whiskey: Templeton rye whiskey + tart cherry + tobacco + 62% cacao dark chocolate 2 Bourbon: toasted pecans + Four Roses single barrel bourbon + 45% deep milk chocolate 2 Scotch: coconut & cocoa nib caramel + Bruichladdich Port Charlotte scotch + 45% deep milk chocolate 3 Stout: Rogue chocolate …