Sake!

January 7, 2013 - Comments Off

sakepourIt’s time to kick off 2013 with another great Straight Up KW session. It’s a challenging spirit, but due to attendee interest we’re excited to bring you sake!

We’ll be looking to get started with a sparkling sake on arrive. Outrageous! Then segue into the more familiar warm sake while discussing traditions, process and how lousy 80′s sake was to sake what Blue Nun was to Riesling. If your only experience with sake is having it served warm you haven’t had the good stuff.

Join us and our host Jake Richards – certified Sommelier and member of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers. Jake’s an old hand at wine tastings but couldn’t be more excited to finally get to share his love of sake with you. Surrounded by a wealth of tradition, ritual and celebration for over 1,000 years, there’s a lot to explore.

Kampai!

Tequila Tasting: Parting Shots

July 26, 2012 - Comments Off

Kudos to those brave participants who have never tried a premium tequila before. It’s no small feat to overcome the trepidation of remembered evenings and bad tequila. Hopefully the selection offered up some pleasant surprises and showcased the breadth of the spirit. From the mild, mint finish of the Tres Generaciones to the bubblegum and cake-like finish of the Riazul. Thanks as always to the fantastic food pairings provided by Little Mushroom Catering.

Thanks as well to Debbie Currie at the Centre in the Square for being our most gracious host and kicking in tickets to Classic Albums Live: Queen’s Night at the Opera. (We are really going to have to revisit our prize selection process – I swear it’s the same people that keep winning all the things!) Jennifer Gough and David Strucke for being our event sponsors and Household China and Gifts for showcasing the Riedel tequila glasses. Tequila is a celebratory drink and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to share my love of this fine spirit with you! Sadly there was a distinct lack of people dancing on tables.

Milagro Reposado

AROMA: Toasted agave, vanilla, earthy, floral notes.
TASTE: Semi oily mouthfeel starting with agave, dark fruit and vanilla, moving to hints of wood, pepper, brine
FINISH: Heated finish with light burn. Earthy with a pepper kick. Hints of mineral, oak and citrus

Tres Generaciones Plata

AROMA: Light floral notes, hint of pear, bell pepper, agave, citrus, ocean
TASTE: Floral with agave and fruity flavor, vanilla, citrus.
FINISH: Smooth, light mint, dry finish of fruit, pepper.

Partida Anejo

AROMA: Multi-layered agave nose and earthy, smokey notes, aroma of ripe fruit and moderate caramel.
TASTE: Hints of smoke, brine, butter, caramel, pineapple, honey, hazelnut, chocolate
FINISH: Long, slightly peppery finish. Linger of grassy pepper, vanilla, sweet agave and a hint of smoke.

Riazul Anejo

AROMA: Intense nose of agave, pineapple, honey and hints of milk chocolate, caramel, banana cake, butterscotch, tiramisu,
TASTE: Bubblegum, subtle tropical fruits, dark chocolate mingled with a bit of agave. Lots of depth – sweet and peppery spices (anise, cinnamon) mixed with tootsie roll, espresso, amaretto, clementine orange
FINISH: Nice long finish with zero burn. Lingering fruit gum and coconut cream, caramel, almond, buttery vanilla fade.

We’ve had a few requests for the sangrita recipe as well. It’s a derivation from the original found here at the always informative Taste Tequila site. I swapped in Clamato as all the tomato juice I could find was relatively flat. The orange juice, despite being freshly squeezed, not from concentrate was far too sweet and overpowering in the mix so I swapped in fresh squeezed grapefruit instead.

2 cups of tomato juice (swap with Clamato)
1/4 cup of orange juice (swap with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice)
1 tbsp grenadine
5 tsp soy sauce
3 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
Ground pepper
Salt

 

Tequila Takes Centre Stage

July 3, 2012 - Comments Off

What better drink than tequila to celebrate the start of summer? Let’s be clear though, we’re not talking about the tequila of your misspent youth, that cheap barroom swill oft accompanied with a salt lick, a wedge of lemon and a morning filled with regret. It’s time you were introduced to the world of premium tequila – as sippable as any scotch or bourbon.

Join us on Wednesday July 25 at 6:30 as the Centre in the Square plays host to our latest Straight Up KW event. With food pairings provided by Little Mushroom Catering, it’s promising to be another stellar evening of spirit appreciation.

Our host, David Yoon, is one half of Straight Up KW and he’s finally stepping up to the plate to share his love of tequila. What started as a modest introduction through family has blossomed into a whole hearted passion. Driven to introduce as many people to the joys of blancos, reposados and anejos made from 100% blue agave, David’s hoping you’ll forever forsake the mixtos that give tequila a bad name! (and switching to Patron does not count.)

David, (who thoroughly enjoys talking about himself in the third person) thinks you should check out his primer on tequila taken from his talk at Ignite Waterloo.

And That’s a Wrap!

February 24, 2012 - One Response

Straight Up KW returned to the KW Art Gallery for our fourth installment dubbed “The Isles Have It” The current exhibit “Another Victory Over the Sun” from the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver was a wonderfully dark and immersive experience, perfect after a few scotches. Scott Johnson’s interrogation glass cube mirrored an expanse of dry, cracked earth which was contrasted by Spencer Finch’s reflecting pond installation. It set the tone for an evening of contradiction and compliment. What can I say, I love drinking with friends, and there’s always something for everyone. Sherry walked us through a wonderfully diverse selection paired with some Scottish tales. Cheers to our visiting Irish lass Aine who managed to not leap over the table and throttle our host upon hearing how the Scots believed Ireland was formed. Though to be fair her recounting of the legend is far less appetizing. I digress, here are the tasting notes in brief.

Bowmore 15 Year Old

NOSE: Fragrant smoke, perfume, sherry
PALATE: Big, chewy peat with smoked fruit. May taste currants and citrus as well
FINISH: Smooth toast, salt and liquorice
“Dessert for Grown-Ups”

Highland Park 15 Year Old

NOSE: Sweetness, honeysuckle, orange
PALATE: Peat smoke balanced with heather honey
FINISH: Dry smoke that lingers on with fruit or liquorice
“Comfort”

Ardbeg 10 Year Old

NOSE: Smoke brine, iodine, coffee. You may get smoked fish or black pepper.
PALATE: Warm leather and brine that lingers. Peat and lime. Lingering smoke and expresso
FINISH: A little moody in the middle of the encounter, with a long iodine and coffee finish.
“The Pirate”

Tobermory 10 Year Old

NOSE: Grass, mint, nuts, sea air, seaweed stewed fruit
PALATE: Nutty, malty gingerbread
FINISH: Ginger, oak and almond with a hint of tang, bitter chocolate
“Aperitif”

Special thanks to Ryan and Carly of MamaPapa Catering Co. for their inspired pairings. A light start with  some maple roasted walnuts with black pepper and orange salt led to the in-your-face, slam dunk of the panko crusted sea scallop with bacon shallot relish. Paired with the Ardbeg it was one of the best one-two punches I’ve had in a long while. Trout rillettes, slow roasted pork belly with honey gastrique and the cranberry fry bread with triple cream brie and apricot ginger chutney were all fantastic. We closed it out with the dark chocolate with finishing salt which really helped open up the Bowmore.

Thanks to all that made it out. We hope to see some of you out soon for some early summer sun and tequila!

The Isles Have It

February 4, 2012 - Comments Off

Get your tickets now!

Entering into our second year with Straight Up KW we can look back at some of the great evenings we’ve played host to. Thanks to Matt Howell for kicking us off with some fantastic scotch, Gord Tanner’s eye opening session on Canadian whiskey and Aaron Male’s bourbon fest complete with a bacon infusion and moonshine.

We’ve come full circle and the new year finds us back at the KW Art Gallery for a return to scotch. We’re happy to announce our latest event: The Isles Have It

For small places surrounded by water, the Scottish Isles punch well above their weight. Some of the most well-known distilleries are located in Islay, Skye, the Hebrides and Orkney. On this tour, you’ll meet some new friends for life (meaning the whiskys, of course).

Join us on Wednesday, February 22nd at the KW Art Gallery for a tasting featuring whisky from the Scottish Isles paired with amazing food from MamaPapa Catering who have specially selected the h’ors d’oevres to help the whiskies shine. Nutty, salty, sweet, earthy… You’ll sound like a connoisseur in no time.

Sherry McMenemy, our tasting host, will share what the experts say along with her own take on the whiskies. You may even get some Scottish tales of woe and wooing.

About our Host:
Sherry is a communications manager who has been appreciating whisk(e)y for 20 years or so. Those who know her also know her “scotch cupboard” always has something interesting. While she prefers the surliness of big peat, she embraces the wide range of tastes that scotch has to offer.

One of her most prized possession is an “Official Taster” certificate from Ireland. But Scotland has first place in her heart when it comes to uisge beatha (water of life). Except for that horrifying moment in Scotland when a young man tried to serve her Kahlua instead.

Death Valley’s Little Brother

December 23, 2011 - Comments Off

Looking to get your scotch fix in while waiting for the next Straight Up event? Check out Death Valley’s Little Brother. Located at 84 King Street N in Waterloo in what used to be Pappa Lou’s – just across the road from the Failte Pub.

It’s got the perfect rustic interior to nail down your whiskey preference. They’ve got Scotland covered so you can find out whether you’re a fan of the Speyside vs the Lowland scotch. But don’t stop there, DVLB also offers wee drams of some pure malt from Japan (the Nikka whisky is awesome!) and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

Even better for us noobs is their handy flavour map that plots each whiskey along a continuum from Light & Floral to Rich & Rounded as well as Fruity & Spicy to Full-Bodied & Smokey. Knowing I wanted a peatbomb it was easy enough to check the map and order up a Ardbeg 10 Yr Old. (which is absolutely fantastic BTW)

During the early hours it’s your go-to for an espresso fix. But as far as scotch goes it’s a great way to narrow down your likes before you lay down some serious cash for a bottle of the good stuff.

Bourbon Recap

October 7, 2011 - Comments Off


Thanks to everyone who made it out our third installment of Straight Up KW hosted at the Gallery on the Grand. It was another eclectic mix peppered with some familiar faces – all excited to drink in the bourbon knowledge. Aaron Male was on hand to introduce us to this distinctly American whiskey. The Elijah Craig had a real kick and I know many of you loved that smoky, earthy hit reminiscent of a good, bold scotch. The Woodford Reserve was my favourite and it’s no coincidence that Aaron’s Twitter handle is @Woodfordman. Aaron’s tasting notes are below.

Jefferson’s Reserve

COLOUR:  Amber, Caramel
NOSE:   Peaches, vanilla, raisins, butterscotch
TASTE:  An elegant combination of flavors, a very thick body, almost syrupy sweetness, suggesting vanilla and caramel, yet very fruity with hints of dates, blackberry and orange.
FINISH:  The finish is long, warm and smooth like a fine cognac.
Comment: Slight coating sensation on the palate, similar to, but richer than Maker’s Mark

Elijah Craig 12 yr.

COLOUR:  Melted sugar, Butterscotch, hay.
NOSE:   Thick and warming, vanilla, caramel, oak, very ripe fruit. Honeyed ginger, clove.
TASTE:  Earthy, malty, hint of smoke and oak, caramel, vanilla
FINISH:  Lingering, slightly sweet honey, vanilla
Comment: Rich, rounded on the mellow palate. Possible hint of mint or anise-seed can be found.

Corner Creek

COLOUR:  Golden, brown sugar, syrup
NOSE:   Caramel, vanilla, honey, and a little spice
TASTE:  Caramel, much more rye spice than in the nose, moderate oak, vanilla.
FINISH:  Spice elements exit fairly early, leaving mostly wood and caramel
Comment: Any wheat flavours are rather indistinct and muddled in the ensemble. This is rather sweet and rather light in body.

Woodford Reserve

COLOUR:  Deep rich golden colour, old Sauturnes.
NOSE:   Loaded with vanilla and toffee as well as some sweet oak. Burnt sugar and some lovely light fruitiness.
TASTE:  Subtle spices warm the palate only for the honey to calm things down again. Sweet corn, and brilliant, toasty brown-sugared depth. Vanilla, maple.
FINISH:  Some deft rye; the oak adds dryness.
Comment: A bourbon of stunning complexity that really has improved in the last year or so as the depth has intensified. It is easily among the best on the market in the UK.

Let’s not forget the bacon infused Bulleit Bourbon and a few lucky souls may have even managed to get a shot of moonshine. As always Steph Tanner from Little Mushroom Catering served up a selection of fantastic food pairings including her one bite Thanksgiving dinners and her always reliable selection of cheeses. Thanks again to David and Alison Burkett for opening up their home and Gallery to us and of course thanks to all of you that made it out for a wee tipple. We hope to see you at our next event tentatively scheduled for February. In the meantime Aaron offers up his rundown of the evening at his whiskey blog where he’s happy to answer any of your questions.

Bourbon on the Grand

August 23, 2011 - One Response

We never know where inspiration for our next tasting will come from – but once again providence has smiled upon us. Aaron Male, who was at our last tasting, was quick to offer a counterpoint to our Canadian whiskey session with some distinctly American whiskey. Up next is Bourbon at the Gallery on the Grand.

Who is Aaron Male exactly? Software Analyst. Former Sous Chef. Oenophile, and whiskey connoisseur. Having participated in wine and spirits tastings with Maximilian Riedel, and Kevin “The Thirsty Traveler” Brauch, he has picked up a large amount of knowledge regarding bourbon. Such a fan he is, that he packed bags and went down to Kentucky and toured several distilleries, to learn (and sample) more. In his journey of appreciation, he has been able to cajole a local establishment to stock better than usual bourbons. Also in working with professionals in the restaurant industry, has tried different cocktails involving this fine sippin’ whiskey.

You’ve heard the names. You’ve seen the labels in movies and TV shows. Jim Beam. Maker’s Mark. Wild Turkey. Throw some Jack Daniels into the mix. And you may even be hearing Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road” song in your mind right now. But… is that all there is to bourbon? Some say it burns, it’s harsh and lacks the refined finish of a good single malt Scotch. Well… come find out otherwise.

Set for October 6th, the Thursday before the Thanksgiving weekend, I’m especially looking forward to what Stephanie at Little Mushroom Catering will bring to pair with our selections. Bourbon just seems the perfect accompaniment to some autumnal fare.

We’re excited to have Gallery on the Grand host this event. Tucked away on Lancaster Street it’s a beautiful and spacious location complete with a private patio for you cigar aficionados.

You know the drill by now! Tickets go fast so you better get a move on!

Our Canadian Whiskey Recap

July 16, 2011 - One Response

So here’s how it went down.

Wiser’s Legacy:  Based on an original J.P. Wiser recipe, his last before he died in 1911, Wiser’s Legacy harkens back to the flavors of an earlier time. This is the second “Legacy” bottling of Wisers and is preceded by the 2007 Red Letter 150th Anniversary whiskey. Recently named Connoisseur Whisky of the Year – Domestic Market, in the 2010 Canadian Whisky Awards, Legacy was also named Best Canadian Whisky in the 2011 World Whiskies Awards. A nice start to the evening.

Alberta Premium 30 Year Old Limited Edition:  A last minute change in the lineup brings us to the Alberta Premium 30 year old Limited edition. This isn’t the run of the mill Alberta Premium favored by Jim Lahey of the Trailer Park boys even though the bottle is identical. 28 years ago Rick Murphy spies a batch of oak barrels filled with 100% rye-grain whiskey on his first day on the job. In 2007 he decides to re-barrel them as the “angels” have taken more than their fair share. Placed into fewer barrels they are further matured for an additional 4 years. After 30 years and enough to bottle 700 12 bottle cases, Alberta Premium releases the world’s oldest 100% rye-grain whisky. It’s presently only available in Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C at the unbelievable price of $50.00

40 Creek Confederation Oak: Inspired by his vintner background, the Confederation Oak is produced in a traditional “Meritage” process where the corn, rye and barley spirits are aged separately. They are then “married” using barrels made from Canadian white oak trees planted more than 150 years ago at the time of Canadian Confederation. Unfortunately there were no coopers in Canada so John Hall found himself shipping the logs to a Missouri cooperage. While traditional barrels imported in from Kentucky may run $1000/barrel this method proved far more expensive and, as John Hall put it, didn’t make his accountants too happy.

Crown Royal Cask 16: We close the evening out with the all too familiar Crown Royal. Master Blender Andrew MacKay led the team that developed this whiskey. Every year in February a new batch of Cognac casks comes in from France. The wood from this particular batch comes from a forest in Limousin France and are identified by the number 16 stamped on each. This represents the first finished whiskey in the Crown Royal range.

Hopefully you did yourself a favor and enjoyed the Orange & Lemon Turnovers with a Whiskey & Orange Glaze with your final glass. An inspired pairing. Once again Steph from Little Mushroom Catering was on hand to provide some fantastic fare for our event. Spicy Chicken Skewers with Avocado Puree, Smoked Salmon Rolls w Wasabi Cream on Rice Crisps, Cheddar stuffed Meatballs with 40 Creek BBQ Sauce, Grilled Asparagus wrapped in Proscuitto & Mango, Gazpacho Soup Shooters and Strawberry & Spinach Puree with Feta on a Cucumber Coin. Drool. Steph doubled our cheese platter and we enjoyed some fine Old Beemster, Roasted Garlic Havarti, St. Andre, Double Smoked Cheddar, Monteforte Toscano, and Fruilano. But the truly inspired note? Hickory Sticks!

It looks like we’ve secured our next host who will be introducing us to the expansive world of bourbon! Look for our next event in November. Until then, thanks for coming out and sharing an inspired evening with us!

Canadian Whiskey

June 15, 2011 - One Response

SOLD OUT!

Thanks to the success of our first event we’ve got our next lined up and we couldn’t be more excited! Gord Tanner is on board to tell us all about Canadian Whiskey. You couldn’t ask for a more passionate advocate for the home grown good stuff. When we made the suggestion he was all but vibrating with excitement and it took him no time to line up an evenings worth of whiskey.

Bio:
Gord Tanner is a tech worker by day, Canadian whiskey advocate by night.  Ever since he ran into John Hall at 40 Creek on a wine tour and tasted one of the limited releases he was hooked. The complexities of that whiskey reintroduced him to the art and essence of Canadian whiskey. This began a quest to sample and try the best Whiskey our country has to offer and to help others discover the greatness at our doorsteps. May it be convincing a local bar to order in a bottle or two, sharing a finger or two with a new friend at home or organizing a trip to a distillery he has introduced many people to the amazing world of Canadian whiskey.

We’re all pretty familiar with the brands on deck. Most of us have had Crown Royal before, maybe even gone with a Wiser’s in the past. Usually you’ve doused them in Coke or Gingerale and downed them without much thought. Quite frankly you’re missing out.

These have all been selected for the story they tell. The Crown Royal is a blend of 50 different aged whiskies. You’re essentially drinking history traced back to this region, the Seagram’s distillery and Samuel Bronfman. The 40 Creek can hark back to the birth of Canada. In all cases you’re going to be enjoying a complex tasting experience that is a far cry from the swill you’ve been settling for. These are premium selections that can and should be enjoyed straight up.

  • Wiser’s Legacy
  • 40 Creek Confederation Oak
  • Alberta Premium 30 Year Old Limited Edition
  • Crown Royal Cask No.16

We look forward to seeing you at the beautiful Clay and Glass Museum in Waterloo Thursday July 14 at 7:00pm. Once again Little Mushroom Catering will be offering up some incredible food pairings (details to follow) and once again the cost is $50. Space is limited so get your tickets now!