The Grand Podcast

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Hello, Crusaders!

We had ourselves one helluva time this past week on the Rogue Buss and at the Bourbon Classic in Louisville, KY. We had the opportunity to record a cast with some of our favorite people, and we’re happy to share it with you! In it, we talk about some of our experiences during the week as well as our thoughts on some timely bourbon issues. I’ll link below to everyone involved, and we highly recommend you check them out. Special thanks to Mike Woods of Sips, Smokes, and Suds for providing his recording services! And don’t worry, we’ll be coming out with some posts about our personal experiences and pictures from the week, in particular Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co., Copper & Kings, Four Roses, and Castle & Key, soon!

Cheers!

LISTEN HERE: The Grand Podcast

Bill and Matt – Modern Thirst

Ginny and Charlie Tonic – The Charlie Tonic Hour

Jonathan and Tamara – Eight Piece Box

Mike and Zane – Sips, Suds, and Smokes

Melissa – Bourbon and Banter

Special thanks to the Rogue Buss sponsor Four Roses and the Bourbon Classic!

P.S. We’ll tell you what a Rogue Buss is soon.

The Science of Hangover Cures

DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE.

What is a hangover?

The truth is we don’t really know. We all know the symptoms: headache, lack of appetite, fatigue, nausea, jitters, just feeling like crap, etc.. Some estimates put the cost in terms of poor work performance in the billions of dollars range. Yet, despite years of research, we don’t know the specific biologic mechanism which leaves us with a hangover. The most commonly referenced contenders are acetaldehyde build-up (a byproduct of alcohol metabolism), congeners, poor sleep, alterations in cytokine production (cell signaling molecules), and inhibition of antidiuretic hormone/dehydration (1). So unfortunately there’s no single smoking gun, but there are ways to combat some of these symptoms. Somewhat surprisingly, though with little definite results, there has been much research into the cause of hangovers, while work on cures is extremely limited.

We’ve tried to put together a list of all the remedies we could find that have had good quality scientific studies performed to assess their efficacy. The studies mentioned below were all double blinded cross-over studies unless otherwise mentioned. That means a group of people blindly took both the test remedy and a placebo on separate occasions of controlled environment drinking. We won’t get too much into the specifics to save you the boring technicalities, but trust us, these are the best we’ve got thus far.

Remedies that work and have high quality studies to prove it

NSAID’s (pain relievers): Everyone knows to take ibuprofen, naproxen, or a similar kidney-metabolized pain killer when you have a hangover to help get rid of your headache (Note: don’t take Tylenol (Acetaminophen) as it can compound liver damage). But what you should be doing is taking one BEFORE you go out drinking. Studies have shown that taking an NSAID both before and after an evening’s drinking significantly reduces not just headache, but also nausea, vomiting, irritation, tremor, thirst, and dry mouth (2). The mechanism of this is likely related to reducing certain prostaglandins (PGE2 and TXB2) that are associated with headache and inflammation.

Vitamin B6: A lot of people have heard of taking a B-complex vitamin for hangover, but B6 is the one likely to actually give you benefit. Again, this is best taken before and after drinking. How much you should take is somewhat unclear as the original study was performed in 1973 with a weird form of the vitamin, but one of your B-complexes of choice should suffice. Hangover symptoms were reduced by half in this study with taking a form of B6 called pyritinol (3). Also, enjoy the fluorescent urine!

Prickly Pear (Opuntia ficus indica): Surprisingly enough, taking 1600 IU of prickly pear extract, a species of cactus, 5 hours before drinking significantly reduced nausea, dry mouth, anorexia, and the risk of a severe hangover (4). What isn’t apparent is what type of extract they used and if it was from the fruit or the leaves of the cactus. This study was particularly interesting as it related levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, as well as cortisol to severity of the hangover. The authors theorize that the ability of prickly pear to increase production of some protective proteins, called heat shock proteins, as well as the antioxidant properties of the extract may be responsible for the positive effects.

Drinking water: I don’t have a study to prove this, but it is one of the best ways to combat dehydration. Some people swear by coffee as well, and the caffeine would certainly help wake you up if you’re sleep deprived, but may end up dehydrating you more by its diuretic effect if you drink a lot quickly. As far as electrolyte replenishment, such as Gatorade or Pedialyte, I have no scientific proof that these help but they are never a bad idea and would certainly aid in re-hydration. Gatorade or another sugar and electrolyte containing beverage actually gets the water into your bloodstream faster than by drinking plain water.

Not drinking: Duh, but where’s the fun in that?

Remedies that might work

NAC (n-acetylcysteine): Honestly, this one is confusing. The most common claim is that NAC either enhances or improves the ability of your body to eliminate acetaldehyde. Often it is implied, or directly stated, that it is directly involved in the clearance of this nasty ethanol metabolite. The trouble is, this isn’t really correct. First of all, ethanol is metabolized in a 2-step fashion. Ethanol is converted to acetaldehyde by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, and then that acetaldehyde (which is toxic so your body wants to get rid of it) is then converted to acetate by acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. Acetate is a mostly friendly substance (it’s what’s in vinegar) that is soluble in blood and can be metabolized into carbon dioxide and water by the Krebs cycle. Do you see NAC there? Me either. However, the molecules required to let these enzymes work do end up generating something called reactive oxygen species (ROS) aka “free radicals.” They are essentially lonely oxygen molecules, which are normally in pairs, which are desperate for something to satisfy their now negative charge. These are best known for damaging DNA and otherwise wreaking havoc by oxidizing things. These are a normal part of your body, and are even products of the production of ATP (the energy source for most things cells do), so we have lots of ways to get rid of them. The one that is applicable in this case is glutathione. Glutathione is an antioxidant, and essentially serves to help get rid of oxidants, like ROS. NAC is a precursor to glutathione, so taking NAC would serve to raise your levels of glutathione. Great, now what does that do for you? Well, we don’t really know. As far as I could find there has never been any evidence or studies showing that NAC can reduce or prevent a hangover. There are a few more convincing articles out there showing that NAC may have a protective effect on the liver by reducing the aforementioned ROS, but only in animal models (5). For now, put this one in the “couldn’t hurt” pile as far as a liver “protectant” and in the “no evidence” category for hangovers.

Milk Thistle: The active compound silymarin (no, Tolkien didn’t make that up) being sought from this plant is a flavonoid, which is a fancy word for a molecule having a double bonded oxygen hanging off of it. The idea behind these is similar to NAC, in that they provide a mechanism to get rid of ROS. For the most part these are short lived in the bloodstream and haven’t been able to show any significant effects in terms of acute alcohol induced liver damage. Long term use, especially in high doses, may have some advantages for chronic liver injury, but as far as hangovers and a night out, this goes in the bunk pile for now. There are really no documented side effects though, so it isn’t something to fret over.

Korean pear juice: This study had a lot of problems, not the least of which being where to find Korean pear juice. It was a small group studied, all were Korean (more on that in a second), and their results were just barely significant (6). They show that drinking 220 mL 2 hours before drinking reduced hangover severity mildly (16%) and reduced blood levels of alcohol while drinking. They don’t even show this data though which is suspect. Also, people of Asian ancestry often have variations or deficiencies in the enzymes that process alcohol (especially acetaldehyde dehydrogenase) compared to those of other ancestry. The paper goes into this and ends up finding that this juice only works on people with certain the genotypes (variations) for that enzyme. So if you’re of Asian decent and have a source for Korean pear juice, it’s worth a shot.

Red Ginseng: We are without access to the full text of this article, but the summary says drinking 100 mL of red ginseng anti-hangover drink reduces alcohol concentration after drinking as well as has “positive effects on hangover symptoms.” (7) They only drank 100 mL of whiskey for the study, which is two airplane bottles, so it’s unsure how anyone could even get a hangover from that. This, again, was a study done in Asia, so it may have to do with the reduced ability to process alcohol. So this may work in some cases, but don’t take it to the bank.

A greasy meal: There’s no proof that this one works, but, man, does it always feel good. The only study I could find consists of a questionnaire posed to students about whether or not eating a heavy breakfast or fatty food gave them relief from their hangovers (8). The results were a modest improvement, and obviously this was not a controlled study; however, I’m going to continue to eat my bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits.

Remedies that don’t work

Basically anything else someone tries to sell you. Now, I’m not saying that you should abandon something you’ve been using for years and always works for you, but do consider the placebo effect. If you really want something to work, or feel like it’s doing you good, you are way more likely to feel better irrespective of the actual effects. There have been specific studies showing that propranolol, artichoke extract, and fructose/glucose specifically don’t work (not going to put in these references, but can send them to you if you want. “Hair of the dog” (starting to drink again) is always a bad idea as you are just delaying the inevitable, but it works short term. Anything else out there is uncharted territory, and if it works for you, wonderful, but there isn’t any non-proprietary science to back it up.

What should I do?

Let’s be clear again, we are not providing any of this as medical advice. We just wanted to see what was out there in terms of hard science that might help you through your next bad morning. We at BOTB have always utilized something we call “The Protocol.” It consists of a multivitamin, a B-vitamin, and NSAID’s with dinner followed by a liter of Pedialyte or Gatorade, a heartburn pill, and another B-vitamin after drinking. There’s one secret ingredient in there that we can’t share (no, it’s not illegal!), but come find us at an event sometime, and we’ll tell you about it. Something that wasn’t mentioned anywhere we could find was protection of your stomach lining. Both alcohol and NSAID’s are hard on your stomach, and we’d be interested in a preventative remedy that addressed this. Perhaps something like licorice root? Maybe we need to get to work on a marketable version of The Protocol. Anyhow, the most important lesson from all of this is to remember to take your remedy BEFORE you drink if possible. Some combination of an NSAID, vitamin B6, and prickly pear seems to have the most evidence, and a little NAC couldn’t hurt. Remember though that despite some positive results, no study has shown complete prevention of a hangover, just reduction in the symptoms.

There are a couple products we’re taking with us to the Bourbon Classic to try out, which put a lot of these together. DrinkWel has B6, NAC, and a hodgepodge of other potential aids in convenient pill form, and ResQwater puts together B6, prickly pear, NAC, and sundry electrolytes. One of these combined with an NSAID of your choice would likely help. We’ll give you a full report on both after the Bourbon Classic. Until then, let us know in the comments what works for you, and we hope this helps ease your suffering on a morning in the near future! Cheers!

1. Wiese, JG et al. The Alcohol Hangover. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2000; 132(11): 897-902.

2. Kaivola, S et al. Hangover headache and prostaglandins: prophylactic treatment with tolfenamic acid. Cephalagia. 1983; (3): 31-36.

3. Khan, MA et al. Alcohol-Induced Hangover: A Double-Blind Comparison of Pyritinol and Placebo in Preventing Hangover Symptoms. Quart. J. Stud. Alc. 1973; (34): 1195-1201.

4. Wiese, J et al. Effect of Opuntia ficus indica on symptoms of the alcohol hangover. Arch Intern Med. 2004; (164): 1334-1340.

5. Wang, AL et al. A dual effect of N-acetylcysteine on acute ethanol-induced liver damage in mice. Hepatol Res. 2006 Mar;34(3):199-206.

6. Lee, H et al. Effect of Korean pear (Pyruspyrifolia Shingo) juice on hangover severity following alcohol consumption. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2013; (58): 101-10

7. Lee, MH et al. Red ginseng relieves the effects of alcohol consumption and hangover symptoms in healthy men: a randomized crossover study. Food Funct. 2014; (3): 528-534.

8. Kosem, Z et al. The impact of consuming food or drinking water on alcohol hangover. Addiction. Abstract P.6.b.008.

Old Hickory Great American Whiskey and Bourbon

So it has been essentially two years since we started Bottom of the Barrel Bourbon Podcast and Blog, and let us tell you, it has been quite the experience. We had no idea how much fun it would be, how much we would learn, how many amazing folks we would meet, and how many great special opportunities we would have in the bourbon and–more broadly–the whiskey world.

We were recently contacted by Old Hickory Whiskey, and they graciously provided us with two of their products for review: Old Hickory blended bourbon whiskey (black label) and Old Hickory straight bourbon whiskey (white label).

Old Hickory is owned by the R.S. Lipman Company which produces several adult beverages including a few vodkas, a couple different beers, a Bloody Mary mix, and even a tequila! Their recent venture into the whiskey world includes the two products above. Marketed under “Old Hickory” as an homage to Andrew Jackson, they are firmly placing the product in the long and storied whiskey history of Tennessee, where Jackson had a plantation home, the Hermitage. Now on to the good stuff…

All distilling and aging happens at MGP in Indiana. The barrels are selected by master distiller Pam Soule who works at and for MGP. All bottling takes place in Silverton, OH at the Meier’s facility which is also one of the nations’ oldest wineries.

Mashbills for both are very high rye and corn, with exact amounts proprietary.

Old Hickory Great American Bourbon (Straight Bourbon Whiskey)
Distillery: Midwest Grains, Lawrenceburg, IN. Bottled in Silverton, OH.
Parent Company: R.S. Lipman Company, Nashville, TN
MSRP: ~$30
Age: 4 to 8 year stocks.

straight-bourbon

Color: Golden honey
Nose: Light nose overall, pleasant, sweet grain, toasted wood
Palate: Broad, smooth, medium bodied flavor intensity. Leather, black tea, and tobacco notes with a slight astringency.

Overall: Nothing objectionable, but nothing memorable. An easy drinker that would benefit from a little more character.

Barrel Rating System: 2 barrels (Darren and Chris)
Rarity: Albino squirrel

Old Hickory Great American Whiskey (Blended Bourbon Whiskey)
Distillery: Midwest Grains, Lawrenceburg, IN. Bottled in Silverton, OH.
Parent Company: R.S. Lipman Company, Nashville, TN
MSRP: ~$30
Age: At least 4 years.

old-hickery-whiskey

Color: Almost identical to the White Label. In the bottle, the Black Label appears slightly more amber.
Nose: Corn and dandelion. After a sit, a sweet butter cream candy (not butterscotch) becomes quite noticeable.
Palate: Bright taste with a brief caramel taste. After a sit, chocolate becomes more apparent. Very little astringency compared to the White Label. Be sure to Kentucky Chew this one as it’s a delight on your gums! A little mellowing and the butter cream from the nose makes an appearance.

Overall: More character than the white label with a very pleasant palate and finish. Reminds us of a little brother to Michter’s American Whiskey.

Barrel Rating: 2 barrels (Darren), 2.5 barrels (Chris)
Rarity: Albino squirrel

Normally, we’d stop here in a review as we believe anything more than a few lines is just nonsense when tasting whiskey/bourbon, and we usually wouldn’t talk about mixing in a review at all–but there’s something special to mention here. Whatever you do, buy some Black Label at least, and make a bourbon and Coke with it. It’s the best bourbon and Coke we’ve ever tasted. Put them together, and something magical happens. Deep vanilla notes fly out of nowhere creating essentially an adult Vanilla Coke that frankly has become the standard by which I judge bourbon and Cokes now.

Overall, Old Hickory is doing things right. Most new bourbons and whiskeys hitting the market today start at $45 and go up with very little difference in product quality and taste. Old Hickory gets a hat tip for pricing these bottles reasonably. Definitely try the Black Label…and don’t forget the 2 liter of Coke on your way out of the store.

Currently (as of this update 1/21/16), Old Hickory is available in TN, NY, NJ, MA, CT, RI, AZ, AR, OK, and WV. TX and NV will be added sometime this year. It’d be nice, as always, if they were sold in KY and SC soon, too!

DISCLAIMER: We were graciously provided bottles by Old Hickory for review.

Around the Barrel #5: Great American Whiskey Fair and a Non-Bourbon Tasting

Darren is officially a Maker's Mark Ambassador!

Darren is officially a Maker’s Mark Ambassador!

Greetings, Crusaders!

Like Old Rip Van Winkle himself, we have awoken from our slumber and are back with a new Around the Barrel podcast! This time around we go through some of the things that have happened while we were away: Darren talks about the Great American Whiskey Fair and becoming a Maker’s Mark Ambassador, we taste some non-bourbon whiskies, and we have a discussion about Wild Turkey. Note, we did have a few technical issues with the audio since we’re both in new places, so we apologize in advance. Double note: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is 12 years…stated incorrect age in cast. Whoops!

***Listen here: Around The Barrel #5***

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An excellent recipe book!

Of particular note, Albert Schmid’s new book about the Manhattan cocktail has come out. You can check it out by clicking the picture! Listen to our interview with Albert covering this book and his career here.


bourbon

Who doesn’t like a VIP bourbon tasting before a sporting event?

We’re also going to be the bourbon experts at a fun bourbon tasting, music, and food event with the Cincinnati Cyclones hockey team on February 5th, 2016! The bourbon list is still in the works, but is sounding like it’s going to be a great deal for $35. Definitely check it out, and let us know if you’re coming!


Here are our brief thoughts about what we tasted in this Around the Barrel cast. Listen to the cast for our complete tasting thoughts:

Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
While definitely a fuller profile than the average Irish whiskey, we both agree that we want a bolder profile in our whiskey. The unmalted barley in the mash bill adds a nice “standing in a pasture” character to the nose and palate. Their multi-barrel aging combination does give some welcome non-traditional barrel notes. If you like Irish whiskies or lighter Scotches, this should be right up your alley.

Rarity: Bear

BOTB Barrel Rating:
Chris: 2 Barrels
Darren: 1.5-2 Barrels
Bernheim Straight Wheat Whiskey, 7 Year, Liquor Barn Single Barrel Pick
This is a great example of a wheat whiskey that highlights the character of the grain. Unfortunately, that character is very sweet and somewhat one-dimensional.

Rarity: Albino Squirrel (single barrels are harder to find)

BOTB Barrel Rating:
Chris: 2.5 Barrels
Darren: 2 Barrels
Michter’s American Whiskey (2015)
This is probably worth buying a bottle just for the ridiculous (read ridiculously good) nose. Despite the total lack of information about what this whiskey is, how it’s made, or where it came from, it is a delicious and surprising pour. Butterscotch abounds!

Rarity: Albino Squirrel

BOTB Barrel Rating:
Chris: 3.5
Darren: 3-3.5

Cheers!

Around the Barrel #4: Better Aging Through Science and a Beam Small Batch Tasting

Crusaders, sincere apologies for the delay on getting this one out, but we had a great deal of technical difficulty in post production. If you notice anything abnormal in the cast itself, that’s probably why. And by abnormal, I don’t just mean our usual abnormal selves! In this Around the Barrel, we talk through our article about the “science” behind several of the accelerated aging techniques as well as do a tasting of the Small Batch Collection from Jim Beam. For those of you playing at home, that’s Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s, Booker’s, and Baker’s. Also, be sure to check out our entries, as well as all the others, in the If I Had a Benjamin series over at Modern Thirst!

Cheers, and enjoy!

Around the Barrel #4: Listen Here

Ratings (listen to the cast for our full tasting notes!):

Basil Hayden’s: 7-8 years old, 80 proof. Rarity: Albino Squirrel.

Chris: 2.5 Barrels

Darren: Scratch

Knob Creek: 9 years old, 100 proof. Rarity: Squirrel

Chris: 2 Barrels

Darren: 2.5 Barrels

Baker’s: 7 years old, 107 proof. Rarity: Albino Squirrel

Chris: 2.5 Barrels

Darren: 2+ Barrels

Booker’s: 6-8 years old, 124-131 proof. Rarity: Albino Squirrel

Chris: 3 Barrels

Darren: 3 Barrels

If I Had a Benjamin ($100), Darren Edition

A friend and fellow bourbon media colleague, Bill of Modern Thirst, started a group project of sorts with us and several other bourbon media folk. The premise is easy to envision: What would you buy if you had a Benjamin, a $100 bill, to spend on bourbon at the store? Rules: Disregard sales tax, only bourbon, rye whiskey, or American spirits (no beer or other spirits), no rare bottles (reasonably available), and that’s about it. Read Chris’ response here.

IfIhadaBenjamn

First off, when people learn I have a bourbon podcast and blog, they’ll usually ask the polite, “Oh, really, that’s interesting, what’s your favorite bourbon?” A loaded question if there ever was one. I came up with my own standard answer, “It depends on what I’m doing and my mood.” A little dry and not very fun of an answer, but it’s the correct and 100% true answer for myself.

So this question at hand is open ended. It wasn’t “What would you get 1) to bring to a nice dinner party to share, or 2) to a rowdy party, or 3) to give to an old friend…,” so I’ve had to come up with a general answer. I’m going to do my best to choose a number of bottles good for a variety of situations. My portfolio will be diversified so to speak. Essentially, this would be my list to give to intrepid bourbon/whiskey neophytes who want to drop $100 on a good spread, or for myself to have a decent spread on hand at home for any given occasion or mood. I have also limited myself to things readily and easily available year-round at most large liquor stores. So let me get down to it and tell you my choices and why I chose what I did.

I’ll start with the most expensive choice.

Knob Creek Single Barrel, 120 proof, $40, 750 mL

This is a solid sipping bourbon with a great flavor profile and a little kick with the higher proof. It goes great neat or with a large ice cube mellowing slowly. Knob Creek single barrel 120 proof will help you relax after a hard day, or celebrate with a solid readily available higher shelf bourbon. Simple as that. It’s still a great value at around $40, something that is becoming more and more rare nowadays.

My next two choices are mainly for mixing. Everyone loves a good cocktail, and, especially with the craft cocktail boom, many people are just starting to experience how great a well-made cocktail can be, and these two choices are great for just that purpose.

Bulleit Rye Whiskey, 90 proof, $25, 750 mL

Bulleit Rye is an American rye whiskey, also readily available, that is excellent for mixing. Rye whiskeys in general tend to make better cocktails than bourbons, though not always. The spiciness of the rye whiskey compliments the various other ingredients common to cocktails: lemons, oranges, sweet vermouth, etc. If you haven’t made a Manhattan with a rye whiskey, you’re missing out, and a bottle of Bulleit Rye will get you started. Are there better ryes on the market? Sure, but they are also more expensive. So for this exercise, I’m going with Bulleit Rye.

Old Granddad 114, 114 proof, usually less than $25 or so, 750 mL

Old Granddad 114 (OGD114) is a high proof bourbon that is a great cocktail base. It’s high rye mashbill makes that no big surprise. The higher proof also helps it pack a bit more bite that I’ve found makes a delightful Bourbon Negroni (non-rye whiskey Boulevardier, if you like). I’m scared this one is going to go out of production, but hopefully not.

My final choice is a good bottom shelf bourbon for when the night is no longer young, and you’ve already had a few better and more expensive pours (read, you’re a sheet or two to the wind).

Kentucky Tavern, 80 proof, less than $10, 750 mL (also available in 1.75 L for around $17)

This is a bottom shelf bourbon we’ve touted before many times on our blog and podcasts. I can drink this on the rocks easy, and don’t mind mixing it with anything, especially Coke, as it’s so inexpensive. I would have chosen a 750 mL of Kentucky Tavern Bottled in Bond, 100 proof (usually around $11-13), but it went out of production in 2011, the distillery stocks were gone in 2013, and anything on the shelves today is the very last of the distributors’ stock. If you find any, definitely buy it, because it is gone for good now.

So there are my picks for If I Had a Benjamin. It’s very easy to blow through $100 on bourbon or whiskey in general. These four picks are a good swath that would keep me going a while for my basic bourbon needs limited to $100 or less. Let us know what your picks would be, and, as always, Cheers!

-Darren