Night 1: Blood Oath “Pact 4”
“A masterful union of three well-bred bourbons, each bringing it’s own voice to the rich harmony.”
I hadn’t tasted, or even heard of, this bottle before walking on stage tonight, but the description couldn’t have been more spot on and appropriate for the evening.
Standing in the shadow of this mountainous pipe organ, here’s a toast to your holiday season. Hoping it’s full of rich harmony this year.
Only a sip for now… we’ve made a pact to stay committed to our own harmonies this evening.. Well… but then again… It’s not like we made a blood oath or anything.
Night 2: Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey - Chicago, Illinois
“To preserve the subtle sophistication that makes it so sharable, Basil Hayden’s is aged to the perfect expression of its novel, spicy-sweet flavor profile.”
Night 3: Bulleit Rye
“With its russet color and oaky aroma, our rye whiskey makes a good first impression before it’s even opened.”
A red flag always goes off in my mind whenever I hear musicians talk about concerts saying, “It’s all about the music. Nothing else should mater.” While, I couldn’t agree more with this purist sentiment out of love of music and the craft, however, when it comes to the decision of an artist who feels it’s time for their music to be performed live in front of an audience, experiencing “Music” is no longer referring only to peoples sense of hearing.*
A similar truth can be found in the world of whiskey. A newcomer may initially assume the only question to be asked is, “How does it taste?” but ask any seasoned malt aficionado, and they’ll tell you that there are a minimum of five core questions to be asked during your tasting experience.
Color - is your whisky light gold, bright copper or rich amber in color?
Body - Does your whisky have a light medium or full body?
Nose - Which Aromas do you recognize when you nose your whisky - is it malty, Smokey, fruity or chocolates?
Palate - What characteristics do you notice on the palate - is it softly sweet, rich and fruity or peppery and spicy?
Finish - Does the flavor remain for a long time or does it disappear quickly?
The words of my friend and drummer Gabe Hagen come to mind, “People don’t go to concerts with their eyes closed.” and I can’t help but wonder as people begin to fill the room in Rochester, MN what kind of impression is being made before we even uncork this evening.
*in no way do I mean to say that any other focus is worthy of focus or pursuit at the COST of the music. Only that I hope we can acknowledge that there is more at play in the physical space of a live concert than just audio waves.
Night 4: @knobcreek - Twice Barreled Rye
“Patiently aged to taste and bottled at 100 proof, it presents the rich and savory notes signature of the brand’s classic rye whiskey, amplified by robust oak and warm spice notes with a touch of sweetness from the secondary barreling process.”
With Sunday’s addition of a matinée in Minneapolis due to the regular evening show selling out so fast, the reach for comparison between malt and music is low-hanging fruit when pairing this twice barreled selection with our double header.
The challenge with double headers is to, in the moment, ignore the fact that it’s a double header and the temptation to “Save something for the next set.”
If a band performing is the whiskey, the audience is the barrel in which we age and mutually give and receive synergistically. (Insert Joey from friends here. “It’s a love based on ||: giving and receiving as well as having and sharing :|| ”) The whiskey doesn’t keep to itself part of itself from the barrel it’s currently placed in with a plan of “saving some” for the next barrel soon to be occupied. It gives without reserve and receives in turn.
So next time you find yourself about to be twice barreled, go big and keep a weather eye out for unexpected energy and magic.
There may be a touch of sweetness from the secondary rocking process.
Night 5: @jamesonwhiskey - Milwaukee, WI
“Triple distilled with a mixture of malted and unmalted or “green” Irish barely, all sourced from within a fifty-mile radius around the distillery in Cork Ireland.”
Being on tour is all about knowing what’s growing within your radius.
You’ve loaded into the venue, the bus or van is triple parked, and you’ve got an hour to kill before doors open. Needless to say, any experience you’re wanting to have is going to be locally sourced from within the radius you’re willing to walk.
There’s beauty in limitations though. In a world of options, your mind begins to distill questions from “What am I craving?” to “What’s available?”
Pick a direction, start walking.
You might just stumble on the realization that grilled paninis and a pint at a hidden neighborhood dive bar ACTUALLY WERE the missing ingredients to the perfect blend of an evening.
Night 6: Detroit City Homegrown Rye (aged 1year) - Detroit, MI
“Made just like they used to - in a small copper pot still in the back of an old slaughterhouse in Detroit’s Eastern Market, producing a spicy, buttery whiskey that could only come from a place where butchers were bootleggers and farmers are family.”
In the world of whiskey, the general consensus is that the water of life (as the Scotts call it) gets better with age. While I whole heartedly agree with this, I’ve found it important to remember to not be so quick to let the quality of a bottle’s contents be strictly defined by the number stamped on the front. (A master distiller in Scotland explained to me recently that age statements are oftentimes looked at by his peers as a marketing tool and there is a culture shift right now towards whisky ‘vintages’ something I’m crazy excited about)
The inverse assumption is often mistakenly made about sushi. Fresher doesn’t necessarily mean better. While in Japan, I learned that the fish for Nigiri and Sashimi is often aged up to seven days before it’s considered perfect for serving.
I’ve learned with food and drink, when it comes to age, numbers (or the lack thereof) are often the shallow and easy way out of using our other senses to define quality and value.
I’m typing this after playing a smaller show in Detroit and now that I think of it... we might do the same thing as musicians when counting the crowd to see how many people are in the audience.
Quality is rarely dependent on numbers (or the lack thereof).
Night 7: @bulleit Bourbon - Indianapolis, IN
“Savor the complex flavor and warm finish inspired by the whiskey pioneered by Augustus Bulleit 150 years ago... High rye content gives it a bold, spicy character with a distinctively smooth, clean finish.”
When you’re only in town for five hours, you don’t have time to get fancy.
Load in as quick as you can. You know where your stuff goes. No need to nitpick.
Line check ASAP. Can you hear yourself? That’s gonna have to be good enough for now.
Need a bourbon? Don’t have time to mess around? No need to get all fussy about it, tonight’s a @bulleitwhiskey night.
The trusted p-bass of whiskeys.
You know what you’re gonna get and can always trust it’s going to sit well in a mix without having to mess around.
No need for a Copita nosing glass...
Right now, we’ve got a job to do.
Night 8: @woodfordreserve Double Oaked - Middleburg, VA
“Uniquely matured in separate, charred oak barrels – the second barrel deeply toasted before a light charring – extracts additional amounts of soft, sweet oak character.”
Don't be a neigh-sayer and let this whisky go to waste. It’d be a real shame if it were just put out to pasture without getting a good sip first as this is possibly my favorite whiskey we’ve had on this entire tour.
And I can’t think of a better place to pony up and enjoy it than in the middle of the gorgeous historic Virginia countryside just feet away from where George Washington was said to have gotten off his high horse and imbibed in a glass or two.
Who better to enjoy some unbridled malt enthusiasm than with than my new friend here.
Cheers friends. Don’t drink and ride.
Night 9: Mt. Defiance Old Volstead's Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Batch #1) - Herndon, VA
“Aged for three years in used whiskey barrels, each batch is bottled from a single barrel. Old Volstead’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey features beautiful caramel and vanilla notes on the palette.”
While its the just the beginning for this first batch of whiskey, it’s the end of the road for us as we wrap up our last show of the tour.
I use “end of the road” purely figuratively as we’ll be spending the majority of the next two days traversing the highways on our way back home to our families in Minneapolis; though, I have a hunch, when the four of us pour out of this single barrel of a van we’ve been aging in, we won’t be smelling of caramel and vanilla notes like this bottle of Old Volstead’s.
Thank you to those of you who welcomed us into your homes, shared with us your holiday traditions,and joined us in conversation over a glass of the good stuff over these past couple weeks.
To old friends and new, may you never be without a drop this Christmas.