A fine pickle

Today’s milestone was our first Facebook Live cooking class, and I made pickles! The late summer bounty has farmers markets bursting at the seams. For a foodie like me, August is a little like Christmas. I look forward to fresh local produce all year, and then BOOM – it’s here and gone in a swallow.

Pickling can extend that feeling at least a month or a year, if you want to go all out and preserve your pickles. But today, we went the quick, easy and delicious in the blink of an eye route. Pickling is easy and flexible. When I was testing my recipes, I didn’t have enough of one vinegar – so I used four different ones to make the first batch of dill pickle chips, and they were delicious. You can also use either one of these brines to pickle onions, squash, beans – really any kind of veggie, and even fruits!

Ingredients

Cucumbers, thickly sliced, enough to fill two pint jars

1 C. water

¾ C. vomFASS White Balsamic

¼ C. vomFASS Sherry Reserva Vinegar

1 T. kosher salt

1 T. vomFASS Game Mix/Pickling seasoning

1 sliced jalapeno pepper

2 medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

2-4 heads of fresh dill

Directions

Add dill, garlic and cucumber slices in a bowl that just fits them or two pint jars. Heat water, vinegar, salt, and seasoning in a saucepan and bring just to a boil. Immediately pour brine over cucumbers. Cover bowl or jars. Wait at least 30 minutes before serving. Pickles can be stored in their brine in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Cauliflower Pickles

Ingredients

1 T. vomFASS Game Mix/Pickling Spice

1/2 tsp. Viola’s cumin seeds

1 C vomFASS Apple Balsamic Vinegar

1 C. vomFASS Ginger Grape Lemon Balsamic Vinegar

1 C. water

5 medium cloves garlic, lightly crushed and peeled

One-half small yellow onion, julienned

1 T. Sugar or Stevia crystals

2 T. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. Viola’s ground turmeric

One-half head cauliflower, cut into 1-1/2- to 2-inch florets (about 4 cups)

5 medium carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick on the diagonal (about 2 cups)

One-half red bell pepper, cut into strips (about 1 cup)

2 fresh jalapeno peppers, cut into strips

Directions

Pack the cauliflower, carrots, bell pepper, jalapeno peppers and onions in a 2-qt. heat-resistant glass bowl with lid or in clean canning jar(s).

Put the pickling spice and cumin in a saucepan and toast the spices over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until fragrant and slightly darkened, about 2 minutes. Add the vinegar, water, garlic, sugar, salt, and turmeric to the toasted spices. Bring to a boil.

Pour the hot brine over the vegetables. Let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 and up to a month.

For canned pickles:

Pack the vegetables into clean pint jars. Pour the hot brine over the vegetables, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. If you have extra brine, strain it and distribute the solids among the jars. Wipe the jars’ lids with a damp cloth before putting on the lids. Secure the lids with screw bands tightened by hand.  Process for 10 minutes, following the instructions in this “Canning Basics” guide. Store the pickles for at least 2 but preferably 7 days or longer before opening. Refrigerate after opening.

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Going to Grape Lengths: Pt. 2

Last week we covered grape’s different roles in wines made from underripe and…let’s just say very overripe sates. Today we’re going to chat a bit about putting grapes on the hot seat so to speak. Intentionally heated wines that is.

Madeira and The Dutch: Out of the Fire and Into the Cask

“C’mon, Hancock. Leave some room for the rest of us!” – Franklin probably

There was a romanticized version of American history taught to me well throughout my public schooling. I think that’s probably true for a lot of people to be honest. It wasn’t until college American History that I learned the genuinely fun fact that our Founding Fathers were pleasantly buzzed during the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. And rightfully so. It was a scary thing they were doing committing all that treason and what not. A little liquid courage goes a long way when one needs to sign a document that could have you drawn and quartered. But what was it that they were drinking? Well the preferred drink at the time was Madeira, a lovely beverage from the region of the same name in Portugal.

Madeira has a history that begins during the age of exploration and like many stories from the book of booze it began as one thing and ended up as something entirely different. Much like the founding fathers bolstering their spirits with spirits, early explorers stocked their ships with alcohol for the voyages ahead. Intensely long stays on the ocean blue and the hot Sun’s continuous presence led to eventual spoilage of the wines they had picked up from ports of call in Portugal. After some time this style of heavily oxidized, nutty and straight up boiled wine became a flavor preference not only for the sailors but the people they brought it to at the ports they visited.

USS Are We There Yet

Making a trip around the world in just to cook and age your wine is not what we would call efficient, though I imagine it would be a mean marketing gimmick in 2019. Thus, the Estufagem (bless you!) process was created. Estufagem, or ‘stoving’, emulates a long sea voyage on the more tropical parts of the ocean. There are a few ways this environment is re created, from circulated hot water to barrels exposed to hot steam. The most time intensive and interesting involves barrels being stored high above the ground in hot rooms for up to a century. Should you find yourself looking to kickback and drink like a revolutionary, there are many available types and brands of Madeira out in the world waiting for you to discover.

Here at vomFASS MOA we have a very special Whisky produced outside the city of Mumbai in India. This Whisky is aged for 6 years in 98 degree heat giving it an uncommon maturity for other Whiskies of the same age. ‘Amrita’ has an alcohol of 45.6% and a decidedly maderized quality about it. It’s a deliciously different Whisky and we will be happy to give you a taste next time you find yourself in Bloomington, Minnesota!

A different approach to stocking ones vessel with valuable wine was employed (albeit anecdotally) by the Dutch. The Netherlands Natives had reservations concerning cooking/spoiling the wine on long journeys. To prevent the maderization of their precious cargo they would first distill the wine into what could be equated to concentrated wine. This wine spirit, called Brandewijn or ‘burnt wine’ was, for all intents and purposes, eau-du-vie or unaged brandy. They popped that hooch into barrels with machinations of reconstituting later on with water. Of course as you have no doubt guessed by now, people preferred this different alcohol and interests shifted in favor of brandy.

Cognac is said to be the wonderful outcome of forgetfulness and neglect much in the same way Tokaji MUST have been (nobody sets out with hopes and dreams of drinking mold wine, right?). Hundreds of years ago grapes from Cognac were cheap and they made cheap uninteresting still wine. That wine however sold well. Eventually after having been concentrated down through distillation, someone popped that hooch into a barrel and promptly forgot about it at the port. Upon returning some considerable amount of time later it was discovered that, hot dang, Cognac is delicious. The motif here is necessity breeding ingenuity and ingenuity leading to now long established traditions and products. Cognac is the most famous brandy in the world next to Armagnac and Calvados (made from apples) and we only stumbled upon it because we were trying to preserve our precious wine.

Whether cooked beyond recognition or distilled into something entirely different, grape based alcohols seem to be endlessly versatile. Grapes truly seem to be Homo Sapiens favorite fruit.

Satiate your thirst for brandy anytime at our vomFASS location in The Mall of America. We stock a plethora of world class Cognac from the Seguinot family, Armagnac from the DeLord family and other worldly brandies. We offer 10 year old, 25 year old and vintage 1973 Armagnac to a 12, 20 and 50 year old Cognac. Other options include a phenomenal 20 year old Italian brandy and 15 year old Spanish brandy from the Sherry Triangle in Jerez. You will also find a wonderful apple brandy from Madison, Wisconsin and a 20 and 25 year old Calvados from Normandy, France. If I still have your attention, you should also know about our Pear eau-du-vie and Kirsch eau-du-vie, both beautiful unaged brandies.

Stay tuned next week as we wrap up our journey with tales of Italian Grappa and a foray into the world of natural wines.

Will O’Reilly spends his days surrounded by brandy. Find him, and the brandy, at vomFASS in Bloomington, MN.

Francis Night at vomFASS Cooking Class

Have you ever entered a room to meet eight people for the first time and leave 90 minutes later with eight new friends? That’s an awesome feeling, and it’s how tonight’s cooking class went. In fact, the photos ended up being more about the people than the food, but the happy smiles are because of the food and the experience, so that’s OK, right? ††

Francis is not THE most common name, yet we had two people in the class by that name and almost every else knew or were related to a Francis, including me – so we got off on a congenial foot by declaring it Francis Night at vomFASS! The night was also special because Francis from Memphis was celebrating her birthday and because we were graced by the presence of newlyweds who joined the class during their 12 hour layover on their way to honeymoon in Iceland! (Coolest newlyweds of the year!)

But enough about how much fun we had (DO join us next time!), let’s get to the recipes!

Shrimp Salad / Dip / Tacos

Ingredients

2 C. cooked cocktail-sized shrimp (mini)
vomFASS Chili Sea Salt, to taste
3 T. vomFASS San Domenico or Jalapeno Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 1/2 vomFASS Calamansi or Mango Balsam Vinegar
1/4 C. minced cilantro
1/4 C. sliced green onions
1/4 C. diced red bell pepper
1/4 C. Poblano pepper
Tortilla chip scoops, romaine leaves, taco shells or salad greens
Directions

Whisk together oil, vinegar and spices. Add remaining ingredients. Serve as desired: on greens for a salad, on lettuce leaves or taco shells, or with tortilla chips for an appetizer.  

Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Pasta  
6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg vomFASS Basil Pasta OR 8 C. zoodles to replace pasta
  • 1 t. Violas’ Caprese Salt or to taste
  • 1 t. Violas’ Pepper with Herbs, or to taste
  • ¼ C. vomFASS San Domenico Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 – 2 T. vomFASS Herb Garlic Sunflower Oil OR Chili Sunflower Oil
  • 1 jar vomFASS Sun-dried Tomatoes            
  • ½ C. chopped sweet onion         
  • ½ C. chopped orange bell pepper            
  • 2 t. minced garlic (fresh or jarred)
  • 1 C. chopped fresh baby spinach             
  • Parmesan Cheese, to taste
  • vomFASS Aceto Balsamico di Famiglia


Directions

Chop sun-dried tomatoes and set aside. Sauté onion and pepper with sunflower oil over medium high heat, just until tender crisp. Add garlic and sauté about one more minute. Stir in sun-dried tomatoes and seasonings. Set aside in pan. Cook pasta in boiling salted water 1 minute less than minimum recommended on package. Lift out of water and into the pan with sautéed veggie mixture, along with about ½ cup of pasta water. Add olive oil, spinach and adjust spices. Toss, cover and let rest in a warm place until ready to serve. Serve with parmesan and drizzle with Aceto Balsamico.

Going to Grape Lengths: Pt. 1

The sushi of wine.

That’s right we’re talking about grapes! Over the next few weeks we will discuss the many fermented faces of grapes and the integral parts they play in many a famous and sometimes not so famous beverage.

There are over 10,000 different wine grape varietals in the world. As hinted to above, grapes’ role in getting us buzzed transcends their use in wine making and in fact for some spirits/adult beverages, wine is only the beginning.

The Early and the Late: Champagne and Tokaji Azsu

Grape meet human, human meet grape. Fast forward a few thousand years and you’ve got one of man’s best friends. Wherever we went we made sure we were never too far from one another, mostly because wherever we went we were sure to bring vines with us. Rudimentary fermentation practices led us out of the dark ages and into a period when the first carbonated wines were stumbled upon by monks who just so happened to have a hard time making still wine. Falling in love with the idea of sparkling wine they continued to perfect it. Thus solidifying the style as desirable. Very, very desirable. Champagne itself is a region in the north of France famous for it’s bubbles. Sparkling wines made in this region, using only the traditional method (Method du Champenoise), as well as any of the three grapes allowed for Champagne, are the only wines that can be called true Champagne. The region has very chalky soil and is significantly cooler. Grapes destined for Champagne are picked intentionally early meaning a high acidity and a low sugar content, given that they haven’t had enough time to fully ripen. Without an early harvest the wine’s acidity would dwindle over time and be over come by the inherent bubbles leading to an unbalanced wine. The Low sugar content however is either left as is or in most cases adjusted by adding a Dosage (a combination of wine and sugar) which allows for different sweetness levels of the, more often than not, rather dry Champagne. The traditional flavor profile of Champagne can vary dramatically but you can expect citrus, green apple, cream, biscuit and almond. Here at vomFASS at our location in Mall of America, we carry several gorgeous Champagne options. On the zestier end we carry, “Marie-Hanze Eaux Belle Brut.” Bright, fresh and tart, this is on the less yeasty side and definitely mouth watering. “Noel Bazin Blanc de Blanc” retains the citrus and lively fruit but we pick up that warmer autolytic, brioche quality that I personally live for. Rounding out our lineup is “Jacquesson Brut Cuvee 736.” Utilizing all three traditional grapes, (Pinot Noir, Pinot Munier and Chardonnay) this Champagne is beautifully rich with a heavenly mousse and flavors like buttered toast, elder flower and ripe red apples. Lastly if you’re the type of person who enjoys the saltier treats in life, be sure to pair your popcorn or french fries (seasoned of course with Viola’s Seasoning Salt for French Fries, available at vomFASS Twin Cities) with a bottle of Champagne. I know it sounds weird but trust me, they are BEST friends.

As is often the case with early alcohol production, we have only the mistakes of others to thank for some of the world’s finest drinks. How in the world the though we first stumbled upon Tokaji Aszu is beyond me…

Pictured: You right now.

While an early harvest of grapes offers the potential for beautiful sparkling wine, patience and borderline neglect go a long way when one strives to create a legendary beverage. In the northeast of Hungary it would appear to the uninitiated that the grapes have been totally forgotten. Wet conditions followed by warm drying heat and sun mean the grapes that hang on vines here…well…they get moldy. And over the course of the long ripening season they shrivel. This shriveling removes virtually all moisture and leaves all the delicious, now concentrated, sugar. Side note: this mold is responsible for some of the most famous wines in the world. Botrytis Cinerea, AKA Noble Rot, is what makes Sauternes the grand pappy of desert wines. On the wrong vineyard Botrytis is a vintage killer, on the right vineyard Botrytis can be responsible for liquid gold. Back in Hungary these shriveled moldy little grapes are hand selected and separated from the rest of the flock to be mashed up into a paste. Later this paste will incorporate its sweetness into a base wine that will be set aside in oak to be aged for literal years. Tokaji Aszu, like Champagne, has several different levels of sweetness. Now make no mistake, Tokaji Aszu is leagues above Champagne in terms of sugar content but like the Dosage, ‘puttonyos’ handles the level of sweetness in Tokaji. Referring to the original method of measuring out sweet and moldy grapes with baskets, ‘puttonyos’ is now used as a general measurement for sweetness in Tokaji Aszu, bare minimum of which is 120 grams of sugar per liter. This is a wine that has historically been celebrated and consumed by both nobility and plebs like me. Heck, even Dracula appears to have stocked the stuff in his cellar (coffin?). Supposedly due to it’s sugar content as well as a little bit of alcohol, the finest of Tokaji Aszu’s (or more probably it’s even sweeter sibling, Eszencia) have the potential to age for hundreds of years.

If you have a sweet tooth but the idea of moldy wine sends you running for the hills, drop on in and try some of our Portos. Sweet, rich, complex and produced by the oldest Port house in Portugal, Kopke. Also on our shelves here in Bloomington, MN, is a set of late harvest Mueller Thurgau wines from Anne Amie Vineyards in the Willamette Valley. One similar to an ice wine and another closer to a Sherry. Also stocked on our shelves is a luscious Australian desert wine made from the famous Pedro Ximenez grape. Averaging 30 years old, this sweet treat contains wine vinified in the 1940’s.

Whatever product you tend to fancy from the world of fermented grapes, vomFASS will likely have something for you. Tune in next week as we continue our deep dive into the world of grape based alcohols.

Will O’Reilly had a grape time writing this. Find him at vomFASS in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Drinking Local: All Things Minnesota

Pictured: Minnesota in June

Ah, the North. Home to hot dish, Spam sandwiches and sub zero temperatures for 13 months out of the year. It’s like Winterfell but the locals have a different accent, dontcha know. Yes the food is weird and the weather feels like it should be spelled in all capitals but there’s a lot more happening here beyond those two talking points! For one, (and the focus of this week’s post) Minnesota is home to a healthy amount of distilleries, breweries and scenic wineries. After all, we need something to warm us up in the winter and to keep us cool in the summer!

Outside of the high quality, small batch and craft distilled products under the vomFASS label, we also stock quite a few MN products!

Vino:

Carlos Creek winery in Alexandria, Minnesota, (easy to find, hard to leave) has been producing wine since 1999. Here at vomFASS in Mall of America, you can track down a number of their products available for purchase. Minnescato is an inspired homage to the much loved Moscato. It sparkles, she’s sweet and any hot dish would be lucky to pair with this wine made from local Minnesota grown grapes. For red wine lovers who don’t have that sweet tooth, Carlos Creek produces a Marquette from the grape of the same name which was developed by the University of Minnesota…It really doesn’t get more Minnesotan than that.

Also on our shelves you can find Round Lake Vineyards Frontenac Gris and Brianna. Two semi sweet options made for those long summer nights up at the cabin. Brianna has a decidedly tropical personality while the Frontenac Gris is packed with explosive notes of cranberry. Round Lake Vineyards is located just North of the Iowa border but that doesn’t stop them from frequently visiting us to drop off a sample bottle or two, come on in and give their wine a try!

Beer & Cider:

Beer is my first love. I’ve never met a brew I didn’t like. Okay maybe not that habanero IPA I had in Manhattan but that’s neither here nor there. A local Minneapolis Brewery, Boom Island, stole our hearts here at vomFASS Twin Cities. We carry their Dubbel, Tripel, Quad and Saison Belgian style ales as well as their Russian imperial stout, ‘Kollusion’ which is made with Dunn Bros. coffee and aged in Tennessee Whiskey barrels. Seriously consider picking some of this up, I don’t know where else this is still in stock other than our shelves.

Our Ciders are from Milk & Honey out of Cold Springs. “Alchemy,” an ice cider made from MN’s own Chestnut crab, is mellowed in bourbon barrels and sports a hearty, sweet and smooth personality. We also carry four other drier sparkling ciders also from Milk & Honey. If you’re on the lookout for ciders with a bit more depth and less of that alcoholic apple juice quality, be sure to check out the Milk & Honey products in our store!

The Hard Stuff:

Far North Spirits, Panther Distillery, Vikre Distillery and Rockfilter Distillery. All hand picked by us to stand tall on our shelves here at MOA in Bloomington.

Far North Spirits you will find…well, far north up in Hallock, MN. Basically put your toes in Canada and fall backwards and you’ll land in Hallock. We carry their Nordic style spiced rum, “Alander” and it would seem like the distillers unlocked the secret of distilling holidays because this tastes just like Christmas. Also on our shelves is ‘Roknar’ a rye whiskey from Far North (which we will be discussing more in next week’s post all about rye) that was bottled specifically for vomFASS after we tasted through their single barrels and picked our favorite! Panther Distillery from Osakis, MN, near the dead center of the state is well represented on our shelves. We carry “Saint Paul,” a three year old straight Bourbon, “Pike Street, which is another three year old bourbon, as well as “Spiked Apple” and “Minnesota 14 Maple” which are both sweeter and flavored two year old corn whiskeys. Vikre up in Duluth utilizes water from the mighty Lake Superior to produce their alcohol. If you are a fan of gin or absinthe or just happen to be a curious drinker, come in for a sample of ‘Ovrevann’. Meaning Lake Superior or Upper Lake in Norwegian, ‘Ovrevann’ is Vikre’s Aquavit. Definitely worth a taste. Finally from as far south and as far east as you can go here in the North Star state you’ll find Rockfilter Distillery in Spring Grove, MN. We carry their two year old bourbon, ‘Giants of the Earth’ which has a mash bill made up of corn, winter rye and sorghum. This one is for the fans of the bolder bourbons.

Minnesota is home to a hard working bunch. Here at vomFASS in MOA we stock the fruits of all that labor. I find that Rockfilter’s mission statement says it best:

“Our Norwegian ancestors fled a cold, hard place for a colder, harder place. It didn’t make them bitter, just busy. Like them, we continue to make the best of it. We farm. We make bourbon. Happily ever after.”

Whichever Minnesota beverage you choose to enjoy this summer, take a moment to appreciate who made it and where it came from. Happy drinking everyone. Skol!

Will O’Reilly is a Minnesota native who enjoys Minnesota spirits, wines and beers. Find him at vomFASS Twin Cities.

Oh What a World…of Whisk(e)y! Pt. 3

Our final foray into the wold of whisk(e)y takes us home. So don your reds whites and blues and tell Johnny to strike up the band because baby it’s time to talk about America!

Corn, barley, rye and wheat. The usual suspects of whisk(e)y production across the globe. The United States is to be thanked for taking those ingredients and birthing a few of her own original spirits. Namely, Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey. Like Scotland and Ireland we have our own set of regulations to follow when producing America’s finest. Though you will notice they are…shall we say, more relaxed? This is a recurring theme with alcohol production here in the states. Comparing America’s craft beer market, responsible for IPAs incorporating habanero peppers as well as Rocky Mountain Oyster Stouts (if you are unaware of what this means, do yourself a favor and keep it that way), to brewers in Germany, you will notice QUITE the difference. The Purity Law of 1516 firmly regulates beer production in Germany. It declares that that the only ingredients to be used are water, barley and hops (yeast as well but no one knew what the heck that was in 1516).

This is all to say, we do things our way and tend to let innovation and ingenuity run a little wild!

Bourbon! Originally crafted in Kentucky and now made as far and wide as Minnesota, is a spirit whose mash bill (or recipe) must be comprised of at least 51% corn and can be distilled to a proof no higher than 160. The remaining 49% is up to the distiller and can vary dramatically from producer to producer. Upon entering the ageing stage, this spirit must be no stronger than 125 proof Bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. New barrels. Every. Single. Time. The luckiest of those bourbon barrels make their way to Scotland to be used in Scotch Whisky production. It is important to note that there is no minimum age requirement for Bourbon. Many enter the market at no older than just a few months. More often than not you will find Bourbon to be a fuller feeling, sweeter spirit on the palate with kisses of char, smoke and vanilla. We currently carry several different Bourbons at vomFASS in MOA. Panther Distillery in Osakis Minnesota produces “Pike Street” and “Saint Paul,” both 3 year old Bourbons. A personal favorite of mine is made as far South and as far East as one can travel in Minnesota. “Giants of the Earth” is a 2 year old Bourbon distilled by Rockfilter all the way down Spring Grove, MN. Produced for vomFASS are “Two Georges High Corn” and “Northern Plains” Bourbons. The former being produced from 81% corn and the latter being a blend of Kentucky and Wisconsin Bourbon.

Tennessee Whiskey! Decidedly NOT Bourbon in the way Cremant is not Champagne. Varying by a small margin technically but worlds apart in history, these two spirits have one key difference: Charcoal. Here we go with the weird America stuff again. Tennessee Whisky is produced the same way Bourbon is but just before barreling the clear corn spirit is filtered through sugar maple charcoal. Some people make their own charcoal by burning whiskey soaked sugar maple while others simply soak the charcoal with the soon to be whiskey. Tennessee Whiskey will have a smoother personality, a taste similar to Bourbon and of course a rather distinct charcoal presence. Tennessee Whiskey is also a killer song by Chris Stapleton.

To be covered in a future entry you can also find Rye and Wheat based whiskey here in the USA. More specifically you can find them on our shelves at vomFASS at Mall of America! Next time you find yourself in our neck of the woods be sure to ask about our, Two Georges line of whiskey. We can get you a taste of the Bourbon, Rye and an exceptionally unique Wheat Whiskey.

Indeed, whisk(e)y has many faces. Some of which are specific to the land in which they were first born. Others are finding new homes across the world as people strive to satisfy the thirst for high quality spirits we all seem to share. Whichever expression you are to enjoy next we hope you’ll do so with a bit deeper of an understanding and appreciation for the history and labor behind each Whisk(e)y.

Will O’Reilly continues to talk about the world of alcohol long after you stop even listening. Find him at vomFASS on level 3, north, in Mall of America!

Oh What a World…Of Whisk(e)y Pt. 2

Sláinte!

Welcome back to week two of breaking down the many faces of Whisk(e)y. Today’s focus: Ireland!

With the discovery of perfume distillation 500 some odd years ago, you, me and everyone we know have the Irish monks to thank for turning their noses up at perfume and eyeballing instead those yummy looking ferment hungry grains. The Emerald Isles’ traditional spirit experienced some serious ups and downs in the years between 1890 and 1990. Between an increasing appetite for Scotch across the board and effectively being cut off from major markets due to a less than friendly relationship with England, Irish whiskey went from the hot ticket to the kid with cooties with relative swiftness. Fast forward through the popularity nose dive and it wasn’t until about the 1980s that attention turned back to Éire and her beautiful Uisce Beatha (again meaning ‘Water of Life’, only this time in Irish). Indeed, the increased interest in this Irish beauty is certainly palpable. Nowadays it’s a product you can see more and more of on retail shelves not only in the states but all over the world.

Irish Whiskies available exclusively at vomFASS
Photo Cred: My wonderful coworker Lynn!

Commonly triple distilled, generally unpeated (but not always!) and made from malted and unmalted barley and other grains. For Whiskey producers unmalted barley and grains like corn offer a nice price break considering both are less expensive than malted barley. Like Scotch, Irish Whiskey must be aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels. When enjoying a nice glass of Irish Whiskey, you’ll more often than not find it to be on the lighter side than others. With notes of cereal grain, honey and flowers Ireland offers a strikingly different spirit when compared to Scotch, especially Scotch from the Islay region. The key noticeable difference for my palate when comparing Irish Whiskey and Scotch comes from the triple distillation process which creates a lighter distillate with much more subtlety. Irish Whiskey on the whole is more liquid poetry than anything. Light, friendly, approachable, it does not demand that you acquire a taste for it but rather it asks for you to just simply listen and enjoy the song it has to sing.

Here at vomFASS MOA we carry four expressions of Irish Whiskey from one producer in Dublin as well as their Single Malt Moonshine. “Against the Grain” is a corn mash Irish Whiskey aged 5 years in Bourbon barrels and Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. This is a beautiful expression of a Single Grain Irish Whiskey, one of the most approachable spirits in the store and a personal favorite. “Stephen’s Choice” and “Jack’s Choice” are 5 and 11 year old Single Malt Irish Whiskies, respectively. The former being a more traditional approach and the latter actually being finished in Sauternes casks, Stephen’s Choice and Jack’s Choice are not to be missed. At 14 years, “Brother’s In Arms” is the oldest Irish Whiskey in our store. This expression shows off a wonderfully complex Sherry cask influence through notes of fruit, spice and more gourmand hits of toffee and caramel. While not technically a Whiskey but rather an unaged Irish spirit, our Single Malt Irish “Moonshine” shows an array of explosive herbs, pepper and a rich, crisp backbone. Surprisingly easy going for it’s 55.5% abv. Drop on in sometime and let us pour you a sample or two!

Before you go, let us discuss Whiskey v. Whisky. What is the deal with that seemingly complicated parenthetical ‘e’? The Irish call it whiskey and the Scots call it whisky and stateside we mostly call it Whiskey with the exception of some (I’m looking at you, Maker’s Mark). It seems to be a remnant of translation and here in the U S of A, it stems from the melding of cultures. That little ‘e’ seems to have been brought over by the Irish during their influx into the great American melting pot. It also found wide spread use in American spirits due to the shrewd attempt at associating American spirits with the, at that time, more expensive and exotic Irish spirits. Today, the ‘e’ finds it’s home in Irish and most American whiskies. Whisky sans ‘e’ can be found of course in Scotland (as it is the law) but also in Japan, Australia and literally every other Whisky producing region in the world.

Next time you’re in vomFASS at Mall of America, have a taste of this 6 year old Indian Whisky.
Photo Credit: Lynn again!

Will O’Reilly likes to talk at length about the world of Alcohol. Come chat with him at vomFASS in The Mall of America.