New Mexico's burgeoning craft beer industry appears capable of infinite growth. Here in Albuquerque, new breweries and tap rooms continue to materialize like bubbles in a beer glass and year after year those breweries with a consistent, quality product find a place in a market that never seems close to its saturation point. According to Brewer's Association statistics, New Mexico is currently 11th among states ranked by number of breweries per 100,000 21+ adults, with 3.1 craft breweries for every 100,000 of-age New Mexicans (Vermont tops this 2016 Brewer's Association list with 9.4 breweries per 100,000). Clearly, craft beer has captured the hearts and wallets of New Mexicans to a degree only dreamt of by the state's wineries and distilleries, even spawning a beer-tourism industry … wait, distilleries? Wine, sure. New Mexico has a rich history of wine-making stretching from the days of the Spanish conquest to the present—world-famous Gruet sparkling wines are produced in Albuquerque—but whiskey and vodka aren't products that one readily associates with the Land of Enchantment. In point of fact, New Mexico is home to one of the very best American single-malt whiskeys on the market.
Produced by Santa Fe Spirits, a small distillery that also makes gin, vodka and brandy, Colkegan Single-Malt Whiskey made just about every top five list of American single-malt whiskeys last year. Santa Fe Spirits' Colkegan is something special to emerge out of New Mexico's small craft-distilling industry and like Marble and La Cumbre once did for local craft-breweries, Santa Fe Spirits has set a high bar for the half-dozen fellow and future craft distilleries in the state.
Scotch is from Scotland, Bourbon is from Kentucky, Tennessee Whiskey is … well, you get the point. American single-malt whiskey is an increasingly popular new category of whiskey that, like single-malt scotch, is produced from one batch of grain, fermented and distilled, aged and bottled. Most American whiskey is blended whiskey, produced (in great volume) by combining multiple casks of whiskey from multiple distillation processes. American single-malts tend to be less complex in flavor than their Scottish brethren and far smoother and more delicate than traditional American whiskeys. I should point out one thing all single-malts have in common: a price point starting at 40.00 (Colkegan retails for around 53.00).
I was afforded two different bottles of Colkegan to taste. One was from Kokoman Fine Wine and Liquors in Pojaque, NM, the other came from Jubilation Wine and Spirits in Albuquerque. Both establishments had elected to sample and taste from the various barrels single batches of Colkegan whiskey is aged in, then select a particular barrel and decide—by tasting—when its contents were sufficiently mature for bottling under their own imprimatur, Kokomon #87 and Jubilation #226. Bottles of Colkegan on the shelves of most stores are going to consist of a single batch of whiskey blended back together after being aged in about 15 barrels, most of which are always used charred American-oak casks and a smaller number of which are always new charred American-oak casks. Because new barrels impart a heavier, smokier flavor—Bourbon is aged in new barrels—than used barrels, it's fair to say the smooth-as-silk whiskey in each bottle came from used barrels and is representative of the Colkegan any consumer might purchase. Adam Vincent of Santa Fe Spirits more or less backed up this assumption, though we didn't dive into the distillery's barrel notes and bottle histories which I imagine in bound form and occupying great heights of handmade bookcases. Just to summarize, every bottle of Colkegan contains whiskey made from a single batch of malted and smoked barley which is then aged in used and new barrels, the contents of which are reunited for bottling after three to four years.
Scotch is generally aged at least ten years; according to Santa Fe Spirits, Colkegan will never be aged more than five years. Besides mesquite smoke, the main native New Mexican ingredient in Colkegan is altitude. At 7,000 feet above sea level, whiskey mellows more quickly and develops its distinct flavors in a different manner than it would otherwise. Low humidity means the barrels don't swell as much, which exposes the whiskey to more air over a shorter period. The barrels are subject to the same variety of seasons New Mexicans know so well and the region's extreme cold and warmth contribute to the whiskey's maturation. Interestingly, the “angel's share”, the whiskey that evaporates over time during the aging process, is so great as to limit the maximum age of the Colkegan. After 4 years, the “angel's share” of Colkegan can be as high as half the contents of a single barrel! The coolest thing I may ever say about a whiskey is that Northern New Mexico's weather and altitude make for a uniquely aged single-malt that can't be replicated in Kentucky or Scotland. Or Ireland, for that matter.
And Ireland, my friends, is what the taste of Colkegan brings to mind. With a more straightforward and less smokey flavor and mouth feel than scotch and lacking the harsher, tannic “pow”, of American whiskeys, Colkegan immediately reminded this drinker of Irish single-malt whiskey. Both Kokomon and Jubilation have a sweetness in the aftertaste , with Kokomon #87 being slightly more vanilla in flavor and reminiscent of the black labeled Bushmills, while Jubilation's #226 has slightly more complex flavors comparable to the least smokey of single-malt scotches, Bruichladdich. The mesquite smoke really does contribute to a heavier, pelt-like mouth-feel that sustains the gilded sweetness of this wonderful New Mexican whiskey without any of the saltiness that many associate with the words “single-malt” (i.e. scotch). Each sip of this airy new-world whiskey introduces some slight peppery flavors that finish nicely with its overall sweet character and on the whole put Colkegan on par with the finest whiskeys I have tried. Colkegan borrows from other single-malt traditions, but in style and character this New Mexico whiskey helps carve out a niche for for the fledgling category of American single-malts, something Santa Fe Spirits and New Mexico should be proud of.
The New Year is known for two things: predictions and resolutions.
Predictions, as in, “The hot trend this year will be purple-sequined zebra print. You’ll see it EVERYWHERE.” And resolutions as in, “THIS is the year I’m gonna work out regularly! I’m losing 20 pounds if it kills me!” Put these two together and you'll be working out in a purple-sequined zebra print ... What a mental picture.
Fortunately, purple sequined zebra print is not on the fashion radar for 2017, but fitness is virtually always a resolution. And just like jelly bracelets and neon colors in the '80s, grunge and “The Rachel” cut in the '90s and some of the styles predicted to rock our closets in 2017 (all shades of pink, a resurgence of platform shoes, and “vacation-style prints”) there are trends in fitness, too. Think Thighmaster, Jazzercise, Zumba.
The American College of Sports Medicine has released its annual list of the New Year’s top fitness trends. Here’s what’s hot for 2017.
1. Wearable Technology
This is number one for the second year in a row. Whether you’re working out on your own while wearing a Fitbit, Jawbone, Garmin, or Apple Watch, or hitting a gym like Orangetheory Fitness that issues a special heart rate monitor to members, chances are you’ll be wearing some sort of device to track every heartbeat, mile, and calorie burned.
“We use technology to help people train through their workout zones and reach their target heart rate,” says Orangetheory coach Colton Gibney. “It helps people stay motivated, because you have the stats to know you can push yourself a little more.”
But he cautions against getting too dependent on your device.
“Sometimes, instead of using it as a training tool to learn your body and how things should feel, people get fixated on numbers. It can get a little obsessive,” Gibney says.
2. Body Weight Training
This was the number one trend in 2015 and was number two last year as well. Push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, squats–you can do these anywhere. No time for the gym today? “Stand up and sit down 10 times from your work chair and you just did a set of squats,” says Gibney. It also helps you focus on that 2pm meeting with the boss.
3. HIIT -- High Intensity Interval Training
Number one on the list in 2014, HIIT is still super popular, rounding out the top three. This concept is what a lot of gyms like Orangetheory Fitness are based on, because it works.
“A lot of people are on the go. That’s what makes HIIT great—you don’t have to spend as long training because you’re hitting it harder for a shorter time,” says Gibney. “We’re taking you up into a push zone or all-out–that’s taking you into a HIIT zone, spiking your heart rate, then back to your recovery zone.”
Along with the top three fitness trends for the New Year, there are some other notable fitness processes that made the list.
On the list for the first time, Group Training makes a strong showing at number six. It's high-energy exercise, motivation, a social outlet, and support group all in one (and who doesn’t need that?)
“You’re with a group of people experiencing the same thing and when you see they’re not giving up it lets you know that you can keep going, that you can do it,” Gibney says.
It also ups the fun factor. “You make new friendships you may never have made otherwise,” he adds. “They’re your fitness buddies now. It helps with accountability.”
Fitness programs for older adults
Chances are, you’re noticing more, shall we say, “distinguished” folks at the gym. The older population is working out more often, and for good reason. They’re building strength, coordination, and balance for their golden years.
“Low-impact exercise with good resistance training helps keep those bones nice and strong, and increases cardiovascular and cognitive function as well,” says Gibney.
And don’t kid yourself. Some of those people can outpace fit Millenials.
“We’ve got a member who has had a double hip replacement and has taken almost 300 classes,” says Gibney. “There is an 82-year-old woman who works out with us who has eight children and 12 grandchildren. We ensure that everyone works out within their own means.”
Whether you hit the gym or exercise at home, you can try some of these trends to stay motivated. And the best part–you never have to wear purple sequined zebra print workout clothes. Unless of course, you’re into that.