Archive for the ‘Alcohol’ Category

Bully (Boy) for the Blizzard

January 7th, 2017

Those whose parents trundled them off to factories to watch candy bars, Q-TIPS® or Fords being made, know there is a more adult alternative. We skidded six and one-half miles in a blizzard this afternoon to keep our tour appointment at Bully Boy Distillers.

Better than shoveling snow or fighting crowds for the last gallon of milk, the tour was worth the $10. (I note here that a long time ago, we toured the chateau of the original Cognac, Otard. They poured liberally, even by French standards. At the end of the tour, the very jolly group bought phenomenal amounts of the brown juice. Good marketing ploy.)

I took notes and intended to write up a walk-through. Then I saw that Boston Bar Hopper had already done that, with pix and product descriptions. You should go there and enjoy that.

Note that:

  • Bully Boy has moved its main operations across the street from 35 to 44 Cedric Street
  • The primary still was 150 gallons that is still at 35 and devoted to their Estate Gin
  • The new primary is 750 gallon and gorgeous
  • The Bar Hopper tour included tastes of six types of their booze. Today’s had eight — American Straight Whiskey, White Whiskey, Boston Rum, White Rum, Vodka, Estate Gin, Hub Punch, and The Old Fashioned

 

Our tour guide Alex knows more about cooperage and barrel aging (first American Whiskey for 3 years the dark rum for 3) than you or I. Cost, origin, legal requirements, reasons for using them for this or that drink. Listen and learn.
The new site centers on a 750-gallon still. The old 150-gallon is across the street and for gin. The rums and whiskeys start here.
Paired with the still is a bubble column for drawing off the booze at various proofs. They might be at 160 proof (80% alcohol) before dilution and barrel aging. By the bye, Bully Boy used the great Boston water via the Quabbin Reservoir (we concur).
Subtly on the shelves below the antique bottles from great-granddad’s speakeasy hooch are some Bully Boy bottles adorned with some of their many medals.
The barrel room for aging has maybe 120 of them. Whiskey and dark rum sit for 3 years in one of these. They hold 53.5 gallons each (roughly 300 bottles). After the whiskey has aged, the same barrel ages dark rum. After another 3 years, they sell the barrels to craft-beer makers.
The specific oak for the barrels is now rare and the barrel prices have roughly tripled. Alex said they locked in a very good rate years ago for the handmade barrels.

Pix Notes: You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons, so just cite Mike Ball once. Click images to enlarge.

In the Bar Hopper post and on the Bully Boy site, several great tidbits thread through. Apparently the Willis guys, Will and Dave, had a fascinating great-granddad. The latter was a college classmate of Theodore Roosevelt (must have been Harvard the Fly Club). He apparently was a bootlegger who ran a speakeasy. They guys found a walled-in room in his basement chock-a-block with old booze, with known names like Bacardi and gone ones like Very Old Cow Whiskey. The distillery displays some of these.

They named their business for their ancestor’s favorite draft horse, a gigantic beast named in turn to Teddy’s, “Bully!,” catchphrase.

Snowy Afternoon

To our particular blizzard experience, we loved getting samples of the eight current Bully Boy products at one time in one place. Alex started each of us by putting a light cocktail in our hands before we began. It was the prepared Hub Punch from a found 19th Century Boston recipe mixed with something like ginger ale…a harmless diversion while we gawked at the distilling hardware and watched Alex’s little beagle in the next room.

  • American Straight Whiskey – really the lead booze of BBD, it is kind of like bourbon but not as sweek because it hkas 45% rye. The dryness offsets any innate sweetness. My wife and I both like this, although I’ll take a good bourbon (think Woodford reserve) in the price range.
  • White Whiskey – fundamentally milder, safe moonshine (only 40%/80 proof). Not barrel aged. My wife liked it. I found it oily, like tequila.
  • Boston Rum – their dark rum is beautifully aged and complex. We both liked it.
  • White Rum – pleasant, harmless, good for mixing, but a taste and smell weak cousin of the dark version.
  • Vodka – made with corn. This extremely smooth vodka could easily sneak up on you.
  • Estate Gin – my wife has gotten to like gin, particularly American-style botanical varieties such as Berkshire’s Ethereal limited edition ones. Hearing the description of this one, she really expected to love it. Alas, she figures they used too many herbs or the wrong ones. I found undertones of sharp flavors, like a cinnamon bite.
  • Hub Punch – one of two gimmicks to my way of thinking. This is what we got at the sart. By itself, it is too thick and sweet. As a cocktail, you could do a lot better with their American Whiskey or Boston Rum.
  • The Old Fashioned – not a bad gimmick. This is a premixed cocktail and a pretty good one.

Fortunately for the tour, each taste was a splash. No one got tipsy and we got to consider each of the eight samples without them stepping on each other. When a single whiskey at a bar can cost $10 or $20, $10 for the eight samples was a good deal. Plus, we got snappy patter.

 

 

Boo for Holiday Booze

December 24th, 2015

mymable“Oh no, Bill, not the boys!”

My grandmother, Mable Michael, had particular, peculiar, nearly miracle hearing. Let’s go with selective. She didn’t respond to all that much and seemed to lose the lower tones as so many older women do. And yet…

I recall a specific Christmas holiday in my college days in her home in the Eastern panhandle of West Virginia. Several of my friends from the area has joined me in her living room, filling the couch and chairs.

She had a clear relationship with alcohol, as in it was sinful, shameful and to be avoided. She was like a Jew who speaks of alcoholism as the shegetz disease, without the quirk of ignoring Jewish vintners or the dominance of Jews in the whiskey distilling trade.

Her hypocrisy was baser and plainer. Her husband (my beloved grandfather) might have two 3.2% beers (all that was legal in West Virginia) and he was on the road to hell. Yet, we all knew we had to bear our version of frankincense each Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas in form of Mogan Davis blackberry wine.

We never saw it. We never saw her or anyone drinking it. By the end of the vacation, somehow the bottles disappeared (and were concealed in bags or more in the trash). She arose about 5 every morning to spend time with The Upper Room devotional, her Bible, and likely a glass of the star of David.

I never saw my grandfather tipsy. Well, maybe once. He took my sister and me to the Burlington drive-in movie and tossed back a 3.2 or two. As we were leaving, he drove off with the speaker still attached to the front passenger window and the cord snapped. High or impatient? We’ll never know.

Anyway, he was no sot and no one ever likely got drunk on 3.2 beer. You’d pee yourself into fatigue first.

That particuar Christmas eve, we were in the living room. She as usual was laboring in the kitchen for her planned massive Christmas Day family feast. After all, her beloved only son would arrive with his brood of four, plus wife.

The ambient noise level was high. The TV was on, as they always were in the 1960s. Hell, they still are (why is that, writes the non-TV watcher?). Granddad came to me in the distant corner armchair. He bent down to my right ear (farthest from the kitchen and his vigilant wife) and whispered so I could barely make it out, “Would you and the boys like a little nog?”

In West Viginia terms of the time, that of course meant some store-bought sugary eggnog from a carton with a small splash of bourbon. I attended the University of Sourh Carolina, where bourbon was a sacrament and such splashes were better suited as aftershave than refreshment. Still it was a host-worthy query.

Immediately from the kitchen — how the hell could she even have the faintest sense of the query — Mable immediately bellowed, “Oh no, Bill, not the boys!”

To this day, I wonder whether she sussed the concept or exhibited some canine-level superpower. Though everyone in the living room was of legal drinking age, she’d have none of it.

Even then we laughed.

 

 

Glum Hour Persists in Boston

August 9th, 2015

One of New Jersey’s legal oddities is a ban on self-service gas pumps. They occasionally debate reversing that, but it’s been the law for 70 years. Only Oregon has the same restriction.

happymanyhoursLikewise, only highly starched Utah shares MA’s 31-year-long prohibition on happy hour…in any guise. The law here is carefully restrictive, as in no two-for-one drinks, no discounted drinks at all, no contests where the prizes are alcoholic drink, no women-drink-free events, no jumbo drink with more alcohol without raising the price proportionately, no this, that or the other.

A couple of other states put minor restrictions on happy hours, like cutting them off at 9 PM. Here the dolorous day grinds on. In fact, in Boston a HAPPY HOUR sign is invariably some food deal, like $1 oysters. Shellfish have not been shown to contain booze.

Our happy-hour ban came in the midst of national concern about drunken driving. The Greater Boston chapter of Mothers Against Drunken Driving lobbied stalwartly for such a ban. Ostensibly, the legislation came via George R. McCarthy, chairman of the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. In reality though, it was from Gov. Michael Dukakis (right, and amusingly enough in a recent pic shot at Doyle’s bar in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood). He continues to pronounce that happy hours mean more death. He’s an academic as well and it’s hard to find any data to support that, but his wife, Kitty, is a recovering alcoholic and shares his aversion to free or discounted booze.

duke1I know and like them both. The Duke, as many call Michael, is razor sharp and has sponsored sheafs of solid legislation. I am still sure he would have been a far better President than the candidate he lost to in 1988, George Bush the Greater.

However, happy-hour bans were not among the Duke’s best crusades or ideas. Alas, doing so falls in that great pit of fallacy known as it’s only common sense. That means, “I have nothing. Don’t challenge me.”

Millions are inconvenienced and even lose out on small pleasures to satisfy the whims and emotions of others. The unproven and unprovable are no reasonable bases for legislation. I can hear Science Officer Spock, “That is illogical, Captain.”

Regardless, the rest of the nation and most of the world end their business day with a mini-celebration in the form of discounted drinks. We don’t.

There are current efforts here citing the pending casinos. Everywhere, they ply their marks customers with free booze. We’ve decided to go with casinos here. The likelihood is that this will loosen up the discounted-drinks rules. You can then be damned sure that restaurants and bars won’t be limited if gambling parlors can play at that.

Pix note: Published under Creative Commons . You are welcome to use them. Just credit Michael Ball once.