Blog by Nigel Walsh


Casks of a Different Color

This one came right out of the left.

I was hanging out at Jones Wood on Thursday (Saturday too, but that is a different story), parked at the bar, supping my Seneca Lake bitters, and chewing the fat with the boss, when a rumor floated into my ears.

An intriguing rumor, a good rumor.

It appears that we may be finally gaining a cask venue after so many losses in NYC over the past four years.

As I heard tell, Old Glenham have been in contact with the good folks who run the venerable Caledonia whisky bars (and The Shakespeare), with the aim of installing a beer engine into the Upper East Side (UES) location of Caledonia, which just happens to be conveniently located midway between the Whispering Villas and JWF, less than ten minutes stroll in either direction.

Well, I couldn’t just let that rumor go without investigation, nosey bugger curious soul that I am, so after my Saturday JWF session, I poked my head into Caledonia to sniff around.

Oy, the things that I do to bring you the latest scoop.

Now, as it happens, I like a good single-malt, not to the extent that I crave real ale, but enjoying a few sips of the golden stuff was another dubious habit that I picked up during my three years living in Edinburgh.

It is the second best thing that you can make out of water and malted barley.

Back in my college days, the single-malt options were much more limited, at least in the places that I frequented; Glenfiddich and Glenlivet from Speyside, and Glenmorangie from the Highlands.

All smooth and quite gentle, unless you finished off a beer session with one, or god-forbid, more than one; I only made that mistake once, and as a result, malt whisky has been the only spirit that I have managed to indulge in continuously, if very infrequently, since I was a wee fella.

Unlike (cough) rum and (jeez) gin – we are not going there today.

And then there was Laphroaig.

I got to taste Laphroaig once, mainly because I was too embarrassed to ask for it by name in a pub (there were some scary bartenders in Edinburgh who wouldn’t think twice before mocking a long-haired sassenach), but fortunately, a bottle turned up at a class party and I finally got to satisfy my curiosity.

I helped myself to a very small pour and was hooked; peat, salt, seaweed, antiseptic, rubbing alcohol, blue cheese, check and check.

There didn’t seem to be many other takers, but I exhibited supreme self-control and only had the one wee dram, before going back to pounding cans of Tennents.

Once I got to the U.S. and had some disposable income, Laphroaig was the very first bottle of whisky that I bought for the house; there is still a bottle somewhere at the back of my kitchen cabinet right now (not the same bottle, mind you), and it will be pulled out for special occasions, and it will be replenished when empty, as were its departed brethren.

I do have a taste for the Islay (I can actually pronounce that correctly, finally) whiskys, and after confirming that there was some truth in the Caledonia beer engine rumor (trying to figure out where best to install it), I searched the Islay section of the back gantry for something that I had not tried before.

It was not an easy search, they have hundreds of different single-malts (and Irish whiskys and bourbons), and a couple of dozen Islays alone, but I finally settled on a Kilchoman Loch Gorm.

Purely random (have you ever tried tossing a dart at a shelf full of whisky bottles?), but a good choice, even if I say so myself.

They had the good sense to age it in sherry barrels, and once you get past get to savor the initial typical Islay nose and bite, it settles down into a smooth, slightly sweet, yet still peaty nectar.

It had been a long time since I last indulged, and it soon brought a sh*t-eating grin smile to my face.

I had a brief discussion with my host, regarding neat vs ice vs water vs choice, and then made my usual choice; I sipped it neat but with some water on the side, just in case.

I had no plans on making it a session (who in their right mind would consider having a session on whisky?) but I did want to try another before heading home, just for contrast.

No, not another Islay, but I did want something peaty, and remembered a 12-year old Highland Park from Orkney that I had once sampled and enjoyed, so I wandered down the bar to check out the shelf labelled Island.

The 12-year was there and so was the 18-year old, which I selected.

As expected, no salt, seaweed or medicine, but there was peat, a surprisingly subtle peat on both the nose and tongue; either that or my palate was completely destroyed by the Kilchoman.

There was also an initial sharpness, an almost sweet tang which quite surprised me, but it did settle down to a long smooth finish.

And that was it for me for the day.

I really enjoyed the whole Caledonia experience; a long very narrow dimly-lit bar, with no food options (in the UES venue anyway) except bring your own, and not a single TV in sight.

Nothing spurious to detract from the whisky experience.

They have an intriguing reasonably-priced Whisky Club (no it’s not a mixed drink), for those who are really into whiskys, and want to broaden their knowledge and their tastes.

 I know of several candidates who would be very interested.

I may even consider it myself, at some point in the future …

… when that beer engine turns up in the bar.

Scorecard w/e 06/11/24

In the past week, The Cask Whisperer has enjoyed the following casks:

  • Seneca Lake Brewing Beerocracy Bitter @ Jones Wood Foundry
  • Seneca Lake Brewing Baker Street Best Bitter @ Jones Wood Foundry
  • Dutchess Ales GB/Ghost @ Jones Wood Foundry

Upcoming Cask Events (Festivals and Otherwise)

6/24/2024: Cask Ale Tasting/Meet the Brewer @ The Ambleside Pub, Mount Kisco NY

9/7/2024: Noah Webster House Real Ale Harvest Festival, West Hartford CT

11/8/2024: Two Roads Cask Fest at Area 2, Stratford CT

11/9/2024: 20th Annual Blue Point Cask Ale Festival, Patchogue NY

Upcoming Random NYC Casks

6/13/2024: Strong Rope Aurora at The Hoptimist NYC (Strong Rope Tap Takeover) at 5pm.

NYC Cask Venues

Known Operational/Active Beer Engines

  • Jones Wood Foundry (x2)
  • Fifth Hammer
  • Wild East
  • The Shakespeare (x3)
  • Cask Bar & Kitchen
  • Drop-off Service

Occasional Pins (worth a follow on Instagram)

  • Strong Rope
  • KCBC
  • Tørst
  • Blind Tiger Ale House
  • Threes Brewing
  • Brouwerij Lane

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. John

    The Shakespeare/Caledonia folks should also set up a beer engine at their west side beer bar, The Hoptimist – we just so happen to have a cask of our Pride Month “Aurora” Blonde Ale going on the bar there this Thursday at 5. Hope to see you there!

    1. Nigel Walsh

      Thanks for the heads-up John. I will try to make it there. I haven’t had the Aurora since the post-covid days at Gowanus in 2021.
      I will update the scorecard on this week’s post.

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