Hard Water Newsletter, August 2016 Edition
WELCOME! This is the second edition of our monthly newsletter. We'll be using it to keep you abreast of changes to our extensive American whiskey selection and as a general source of information about whiskey and whiskey culture.

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New Arrivals on the Wall

Collier & McKeel 'Tennessee Whiskey' 43%
It took us a while but we finally tracked down the distributor for this whiskey. This is something of a rarity today: a small production whiskey (not sourced) from Tennessee that employs hardwood charcoal filtering, AKA 'The Lincoln County Process.' A nice sipping alternative to Jack and Dickel.
Knob Creek 14yr Limited Edition 2001 Batch 1 50%
Knob Creek 14yr Limited Edition 2001 Batch 2 50%
Knob Creek 14yr Limited Edition 2001 Batch 3 50%
Released just a month ago, these are quickly becoming a rarity on retail shelves. These would have been among the last whiskies overseen by Booker Noe. If you're interested in sampling the different batches before buying a bottle of your own, stop on by. We'd be happy to pour a mini flight of all three for you.

Et Al...
Our usual reminder that we don't announce ALL our new arrivals. We like to leave a few things as surprises for patrons scanning the wall on their own. Catch 'em all! (Lord, did I really just write that?)

Our complete August whiskey list can be found here.

The Art of Picking a Barrel (Part 2)
Four Roses Signed Barrel Head

The second of a two part article on how we go about finding and picking a private barrel of whiskey for the bar. You can read the first part here.
Last month I described the process of obtaining barrel samples and the various approaches used by different programs for getting samples to us (or us to the samples). This month we’ll talk about how we go about making our selection.
Whether we’ve been sent samples or are making the pick at the distillery, tasting is a group activity. We always do this in the blind. This means knowing as little as possible about the nature of the samples: how old they are, where they might have come from in the warehouse, or what mash bill might have been used. This is easy since samples are usually labeled in ways that only have meaning to the distillery, though details like warehouse number and floor are kind of obvious. If necessary, we’ll cover up the labels to obfuscate potentially meaningful details. And when it comes to samples at the warehouse directly from a barrel, then we're on the honor system not to peek at the stenciling on the barrel head.
Once we start the tasting, we keep table talk to a minimum and never discuss the whiskey before everyone is done. The process usually takes about 30-45 minutes, possibly longer. Everyone works at their own pace, focusing on the details that matter most to them: aroma, suitability for mixing, depth of flavor, proof, etc. Once everyone is ready, we go around and share our impressions of the whiskey. Selection is done through application of “group mind.” We discuss and make pro/con cases to each other until we come to consensus. Occasionally there will be a tasting where one barrel stands out to such a degree that everyone agrees on it right away. Conversely, there are tastings where nothing really stands out to anyone and then making a decision can be much harder. In the days before demand for private barrels was high, we could go as far as to request another set of samples before making a decision. That’s rarely done now.
Tasting Notes at Four RosesIt’s worth mentioning that over the years we have been very fortunate to be able taste and pick barrels in the company of several Master Distillers, including both Jim Rutledge from Four Roses (now retired) and Harlan Wheatley from Buffalo Trace. They abide by our “no table talk” agreement and join into the discussion only after we’ve made our pick. Frequently they are able to provide additional details about our barrel that wouldn’t be otherwise known, like how location in the warehouse may have influenced aging. Or they may simply share some anecdotes about the whiskey making process that we’re then able to bring back and share with our patrons to enhance their drinking experience.
Once the barrel is selected, we'll let the distillery know which one we'd like to buy. If the samples were sent to us we'll just take a picture of the label on the bottle and send it back to the distillery. If we're at the distillery, we just point to the barrel we want and make sure it's marked as "ours." And then the long wait for it to be dumped and bottled begins. (And to answer a common question, no, the whiskey isn’t delivered in the barrel.) This takes anywhere from four to six months. Only at the time the whiskey is delivered do we learn how many bottles came out of the barrel, which can vary quite a bit, especially with older whiskies. That said, from a full sized barrel (approx. 55 gallons) we can expect as few as 96 and as many as 160 bottles of barrel proof whiskey. If the bottling proof is lower than full strength, the number can well exceed 200.

And what about the empty barrel you might ask? The larger distilleries also pay for shipping these to us along with the bottled whiskey. It's our option to take these or not. Smaller distilleries, on the other hand, may require you to pay for shipping the barrel or may elect to keep it themselves. With demand for barrels (new or used) so high right now, keeping the empties makes sense for the smaller guys.

Of the empties we've recently taken, we've been able to place some at local breweries to be filled with beer. You can expect some unique 'beer & shot' combos later this or early next year!

More questions? Feel free to ask any of the bar staff or just send us an email:
Proud new owners of three barrels of Four Roses whiskey.
Ask Hard Water
Hard Water is now in its fourth year of business! Seems like only yesterday we were putting the first bottles up on our shelves. Now we’re struggling for to find space with each new arrival. Our long-term goal is to make Hard Water into the premier destination for American whiskey in the United States. To achieve that we believe it’s going to take more than just offering the largest possible selection of whiskey. We know we also need to provide the best possible guest experience, one that starts before a patron arrives and continues on after they’ve left. Our recently improved whiskey list and this monthly newsletter are both part of that effort. Looking ahead to the coming months, we’re starting to make plans for special library tastings and educational events.
In the meantime, we’d like to introduce a new feature this month called ‘Ask Hard Water.’ It’s a place for you to ask your questions about American whiskey and have one of our in-house experts answer it for you. We’ll publish the most interesting questions and answers here starting next month.
We look forward to hearing from you. Send your American whiskey questions to:
Three 'red ink' Willett Family Estate bottlings. Can you guess what they are?
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