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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Where Does Whiskey Get Its Color?

March 28, 2016


Whether it’s a sweet, smoky bourbon or a perfectly peaty single malt, one of the charms of whiskey (spelled “whisky,” without the “e,” in Scotland) is its warm amber color. But many whiskey drinkers might not know that when their favorite spirit comes off the still, it’s as clear as water. Its familiar, golden brown hue comes from the barreling stage, where the wood used (usually charred white oak) imparts color and complex flavors to the whiskey. In fact, whiskey’s round, wooden home provides it with 60% of its flavor and 100% percent of its color. For certain bourbons, retired sherry or amontillado barrels are re-purposed to impart exquisitely subtle notes to the whiskey. So, next time you raise a glass of the “water of life,” give thanks to the mighty oaks that impart their organic imprint on the spirits.

Whiskey Taxonomy Glass Set | $45

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What the Heck is Hogmanay?

December 26, 2015

Single Malts of Scotland Tasting Map

When you think New Year’s Eve celebrations, you might think of mobs in Times Square. But December 31st is a big night in Scotland too. There, it’s traditionally known as Hogmanay, a possible corruption of the French au guis menez (“to the mistletoe,” suggesting a Druidic origin). But whatever its name or origins, the celebration is essentially the same to this day—drinking toasts to the old year, counting down to the new, and tying on a few more after midnight. But a wonderful part of Scottish Hogmanay called “First Footing” is less common. In this ritual, the first person to put their foot across a threshold has the honor of bringing good fortune to the whole household. Sometimes, this metaphor for stepping through the door of a new year was accompanied by a handsel, a gift of a lump of coal or a bottle of whisky to symbolize the many gifts of the coming year. Warmth…whisky…who needs a Christmas sweater?

Discover more holiday lore in our Twelve Uncommon Facts About the Holidays post.

Single Malts of Scotland Tasting Map | $30

The Uncommon Life

Create Uncommon Cocktails with Mixology Dice

June 12, 2015

Sunday, June 14 is National Bourbon Day! The makers of our Mixology Dice, Liz and Sarah Downey, sent us some fun videos featuring creative cocktail recipes just in time to raise a glass to America’s whiskey.

While the bartender who stirred up the rickey in the featured video opted to pour 2 ounces of rye when he rolled “whiskey,” we encourage our readers of legal drinking age to give the cocktail a try with some tasty bourbon if you choose to imbibe this weekend. Many of these recipes can also be made with bourbon or your whiskey of choice.


Gift Guides

Gift Lab: In-Flight Mixology with the Carry-On Cocktail Kit

January 16, 2015

Emily test's the Carry-On Cocktail Kit

Product: Carry-On Cocktail Kit

As I knew I would be flying for work and the holidays, I thought it would be a great moment to test  the Carry-On Cocktail Kit. According to the description of the product, it had everything you needed to make an Old Fashioned on the plane. The product claimed to be carry-on size, and contained the bitters, sugar, spoon, and even a cocktail napkin.

Carry-On Cocktail Kit | UncommonGoods

My biggest concern about this product is whether or not you could get the true Old Fashioned experience on a plane. I usually would make it with a cherry or orange, which would not be available on the plane. I was curious to see if the drink would be as good without these elements. I was also concerned if it would truly pass airport security, as it does contain a liquid.

Carry-On Cocktail Kit Contents
Old Fashioned Instructions

The Carry-On Cocktail Kit is sized perfectly. It fit easily into the side pocket of the backpack I was traveling with, which made it easy for me to access on the plane. Once I got settled, I ordered Jack Daniels and a cup of ice. The kit has very clear and easy to follow instructions, which I used in my test. I poured in the provided sugar packet and then put a few drops of bitters into the cup. I then poured in the whiskey and stirred with the provided metal spoon.
In-Flight Bourbon Old Fashioned

Overall, it was really easy to use. The cocktail itself was pretty good, though not as good as it would have been with a cherry in it. It was also a fun activity to do while on a plane. It makes two cocktails, so it would be great if you are traveling with another person.
Carry-On Cocktail Kit | UncommonGoods

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: The Perfect Wingman

October 29, 2012

Let’s just say I’m a bar guy. Want to see my friends? I go to a bar. Want to watch a baseball game? Bar. Play Jenga? Well, you get the idea. But, how do you stay lubricated in between a barhop? With a flask!

Being a design-focused guy, however, made me very judgmental of most flasks. Your local liquor store usually has flasks that an ex-con named “Spyder” would appreciate. Not exactly my style. So, I’ve been on the lookout for a good flask for a very long time.


The flask was actually recommended to me by a friend of mine, Leah Bourne, editor at Stylecaster’s The Vivant, a luxury and lifestyle blog. I immediately took a liking to it. It’s not so obvious to say “hey, look at me! I’m a writer/photographer/owner of a free-range, grass-fed, localvore farm that offers free massages and tucks in each of its cattle individually each night.” But, it has some subtle humor with the wingman vibe.

As pouring liquor into a flask is not exactly rocket science, my hypothesis was more about social acceptability than function. So, the question to test is: will people think I’m a crazy loon when they see a bespectacled, nerdy-looking guy whipping out a flask in a bar, and on a successions of stoops in the stroller mecca called Park Slope? Will they think he is even loonier when he strikes up a conversation about data and statistics as he swigs from his flask full of bourbon?


Step 1: Fill the flask with Bulleit Bourbon.

Step 2: Meet Leah at Barbe’s, a local watering hole in Park Slope.

Step 3: Engage in a little stoop drinking.

Step 4: Have the flask take me to Talde, a restaurant and bar nearby. (Remember, as Seinfeld’s Kramer says, “I’m not going to Sardi’s, the Tony is taking me to Sardi’s.”)

Step 5: Break out the flask! It helped me supercharge a Moscow Mule.


The bartenders were remarkably tolerant of the flask! That was unexpected. And the stroller-chasers of Park Slope? Too busy replaying their Dora the Explorer videos in a desperate attempt to put the kids to bed to notice. However, the in-depth discussion of polynomial regressions did confuse a few passers-by.

A big hit! The flask will be very useful for barhops/concerts/weddings/bar mitzvahs/Tuesday afternoons. It will especially help dull the pain of watching daytime TV when I wait for the doctor or dentist.

The Uncommon Life

Sláinte! Here’s to the ‘Water of Life’ on St. Paddy’s

March 15, 2012

You might not feel particularly lively the morning after a festive St. Patrick’s celebration, but that doesn’t stop many from partaking in the “water of life” in celebration of Ireland. In other words, the rivers of Whiskey will flow on March, 17.

This golden-brown beverage has a rich history, so we thought we’d share a little more about Irish Whiskey.

Whiskey Stones

Whiskey Stones Gift Set

Uisce on the rocks, please.
Actually, whiskey as we know it came to be in Ireland. In the 6th century Monks used distilled grains as the base for medicines. They called it “Uisce Beatha,” in Goidelic, or “water of life,” thanks to its healing properties. (While some may argue that whiskey doesn’t have any healing properties, keep in mind that it is antiseptic and a pain killer.) Over time, the spirit became known as “whiskey,” a mispronunciation of “Uisce.”

Irish Spirit
Whiskey love spread across Europe over time. For example, to Scotland, where it developed in to Scotch. It’s said that Queen Elizabeth I enjoyed imbibing in the distilled drink, and Peter the Great once proclaimed, “of all the wines, the Irish spirit is the best.”

clover and little white flowers image by roens

Spell it how you want–just don’t spill it!
Irish Whiskey remains a favorite, and will certainly be enjoyed the world over on St. Paddy’s, but it’s competition has grown over time. English Whisky, and North American rivals like Canadian Whisky, Bourbon, and Tennessee Whiskey now compete with the original.

Each variety is unique, since the recipes are different. While we can’t help you distinguish the subtle taste differences between a Straight Bourbon and a single-malt Scotch, we can provide a little tip to help you determine wither it’s whiskey or whisky. Countries with an “e” in their name produce whiskey–like Ireland’s Whiskey. No “e” in the country means no “e” in the drink–like Scotch Whisky.

Whiskey Business
Since you won’t want to be caught drinking the wrong whiskey on St. Patrick’s Day, here are a few notes on what makes the original malt masterpiece truly Irish. First, as Tennessee Whiskey must come from Tennessee and Scotch must come from Scotland, Irish Whiskey must be distilled in Ireland or Northern Ireland from native ingredients. Also, true Irish Whiskey comes from a yeast-fermented grain mash that is aged in an oak barrel for a minimum of 3 years. Different brands of Irish Whiskey do have their own subtle flavors, so you’ll have options when it comes time to toast to good health. Sláinte!

Shot Spilz Glasses

Sources: Little Shamrocks, Tullamore Dew, Whiskey Guild, Real Men Drink Whiskey, The Kitchn

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