Review: Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2016

kilchoman loch gorm

It’s round five for Kilchoman’s Loch Gorm (somehow a fourth release seems to have snuck in between the 2015 and 2016 releases), which continues to show itself as a hit and miss whiskey. This year’s edition has spend six years in Oloroso sherry butts.

2016’s release is not my favorite of the bunch, by a long shot. This year’s Loch Gorm is pure peat on the nose, with a rather sickly sweet underbelly. The body exudes a somewhat cacophonous character, with notes of seaweed, camphor, and pickle juice atop the heavily smoked palate. The sherry element is all but lost in the shuffle, though some orange peel notes finally manage to break through with some air exposure and, especially, as the finish starts to develop. Said finish keeps things closer to the shore on the whole though, with an umami-laden seaweed note to finish things off.

92 proof.

B- / $100 / kilchomandistillery.com

A Visit to Anchor Distilling’s New Tasting Room

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Anchor Brewing is icon of San Francisco, dating back to 1896. Of more recent advent is Anchor’s distilling arm, which got going only in 1993. A funny thing, though: Anchor Distilling is on pace next year to match Anchor Brewing on a revenue basis, the new kid done good in the end.

The brainchild of Fritz Maytag, Anchor Distilling got going in highly unusual fashion (its original goal was to produce 100% straight rye, which the company still makes today), and eventually it added on a number of gins and a hop-flavored vodka (its most recent addition).

Now, in a rooftop bungalow that was formerly Maytag’s one-bedroom apartment, Anchor has opened a tasting room where six of its distilled products, all produced on site, can be sampled. The tasting is seated and led by a professional (a local bartender in my group) who walks novices and pros through the ins and outs of tasting spirits and identifying the nuances among them.

The $35 experience runs on Thursdays and Fridays, and reservations are required. Check it out! (Photos from the brewery, the jam-packed distillery (not open to visitors), and the rooftop tasting room and gardens can all be found below.)

anchordistilling.com/tastingroom

Review: Ron Zacapa 23 (2016)

zacapa 23

It’s been eight years since we formally reviewed Ron Zacapa’s “23” expression, a Guatemala-born rum made from the first pressing of sugar cane juice (not the more typical molasses) and aged in solera style. (Zacapa 23 is not 23 years old but is rather blended from various rums aged 6 years old and up.)

Recently the company put Zacapa 23 through some minor bottle changes, and, given the amount of time that has passed, we felt a fresh look was called for. Let’s look at Zacapa 23 as it stands as of 2016.

A beautiful shade of toffee in color, the rum presents itself as amply aged, and the nose bears that out. Notes of old wine, coffee, roasted nuts, and milk chocolate all make an appearance, giving this rum a beautiful complexion before you ever take that first sip. The body shines just as brightly, though, offering a mix of fruity sherry notes driven by some of the barrel aging, deeply roasted and spiced nuts, all backed up with the essence of a solid cafe mocha. The body is unctuous but not gooey, the finish lengthy and complex but not overwhelming. Everything there is to like about rum can be found in Zacapa 23. Or should I see, everything there is to like about rum can still be found here.

All told, it remains an essential bottling.

80 proof.

A / $48 / zacaparum.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: Bet Vodka

bet vodka

Bet, long E. Rhymes with “beet.” In fact, it sounds exactly like “beet.” And that is all because this new vodka is made with beets as its base.

Made in partnership with the distiller 45th Parallel, Bet Vodka is a Minnesota-born spirit that uses only locally grown sugar beets in its mash.

The results are perfectly fine, if not entirely earth-shaking. The nose starts off a bit musty, just hinting at the sweetness that a sugary base can provide. I catch a few gentle, winey notes here as well, unusual for a vodka.

On the palate things diverge considerably, with a rush of sugar hitting the tongue first, bringing along rapid-fire hits of marshmallow, cotton candy, and marzipan. The back end takes these flavors and offers them up in a gently scorched rendition, with more of a toasted marshmallow tone. Things are clean, though still lightly sweet, on the finish, after which a touch of charcoal emerges (and grows) as the primary elements of the vodka fade.

All told, Bet doesn’t strike a whole lot of new ground — except, of course, in the realm of creative pronunciation.

80 proof.

B / $35 / betvodka.com

Review: Lybations Signature Cocktails

lybations

Lybations is a new brand of ready to serve cocktails designed with premium drinking in mind. They’re produced using authentic ingredients and come bottled in frosted glass decanters with swing top closures. And yet, Lybations are quite low in calories thanks to a quite low alcohol level (about on par with wine, but of course consumed in much smaller quantities).

Three varieties are available, all reviewed below. Each is 32 proof and 55 to 60 calories per serving.

Lybations Pepino Diablo Margarita – Made with 100% blue agave tequila reposado, lime, cane sugar, cucumber, and serrano. It’s cucumber all over the place on this one, with lots of tart lime coming on strong after that. There’s not an overwhelming sense of agave here or, it must be said, the diablo serrano pepper. That said, it works well enough as a margarita, provided you don’t mind that slug of cucumber juice. Tastes a little healthy. B+

Lybations Flower Power Sour – Made with vodka, lime and lemon, cane sugar, and elderflower. Less pungent than the margarita, its lemon-lime character coming across more like a lemon-lime soda, with just a touch of floral element (though not particularly identifiable as elderflower) to it. Relatively harmless and unchallenging, though the finish has some vaguely vegetal funk to it… think carrot juice. B-

Lybations Lime In The Coconut – Made with vodka, coconut, lime, and cane sugar and a terrible, terrible name. It’s coconut-forward on the nose, but much heavier with lime on the palate — perhpas making this less badly named than I’d originally thought. This relatively simple construction offers few surprises but is reasonably refreshing. Try it blended with ice, pina colada style. B

each $18 / lybationscocktails.com

Review: Rose Wines of Chateau Saint-Maur, 2015 Vintage

 

Ch St. Maur Clos de CapeluneAs summer begins to fade, we take yet another look at rose from France’s Provence region, this time including a trio of wines all from the same producer, Chateau Saint-Maur, which produces rose at the higher-end of the typical price band for this style.

Below we look at three wines from St.-Maur, all cru classe bottlings from the 2015 vintage.

2015 Chateau Saint-Maur Cotes de Provence Cru Classe – Grenache-heavy, with cinsault and carignan making up most of the rest of the blend (a half-dozen other grapes fill out the remaining few percentage points). This is the only “standard bottle” in this bunch compared to the oversized monsters below, this is a quite dry expression of rose, with light orange overtones and a simple, pleasant structure. Some grapefruit and quiet floral notes find a nice footing in the gentle finish. B+ / $25

2015 Chateau Saint-Maur L’Excellence Cotes de Provence Cru Classe – Grenache, cinsault, and syrah, in that order. Bottled (as is the Clos de Capelune) in a bottle with an ultra-fat base that will challenge any racking system you have. That aside, this is a pretty rose with more fruit to it than the other wines in this lineup, with peach and apricot notes leading the way to a modestly floral finish. Lively from start to finish with an enduring acidity. A- / $45

2015 Chateau Saint-Maur Clos de Capelune Cru Classe – Sourced from newly-acquired vineyards (hence the double name on the bottle), this blend spins things around, featuring cinsault first, then syrah, then a bit of grenache. Fragrant and floral on the nose, again with white flower petals and a touch of apricot notes. On the palate, it’s quite dry and even tannic at times, though the fruity finish, with its notes of peaches and a dollop of red raspberry, is often inspiring. A- / $65

chateausaintmaur.com

Review: Deschutes Brewery Hop Slice, Armory XPA, Big Rig, Down ‘N Dirty IPA, and Pinot Suave

deschutes armory

A whole bunch of stuff has come down the pike from Deschutes lately. Here’s a look at five new releases — two in 12 oz. bottles and three oversized offerings.

Deschutes Brewery Hop Slice Session IPA – Hey, it’s an IPA brewed not with grapefruit but with Meyer lemon! The unusual addition on this session brew ultimately adds quite a decent kick of citrus to the brew, but there’s a heavy earthiness that does a good job of masking it with burly, almost woody overtones. Nice body given the alcohol level, though. A solid effort. 4.5% abv. B+ / $8 per six-pack of 12 oz. bottles

Deschutes Brewery Armory Experimental Pale Ale (XPA) – The first beer brewed at Deschutes’ Portland-based pub, this “experimental” pale ale adds Northern Brewer and Nugget hops to give the beer a distinctly earthy character — just pure bitterness without either a lot of pine or citrus notes. Instead, a leathery, mushroomy character with coffee overtones rises up to greet the palate on the finish — which will likely divide drinkers looking for a more refreshing way out. 5.9% abv. B / $10 per six-pack of 12 oz. bottles

Deschutes Brewery Big Rig – Aka Big Rig Bitter, a “classic pub ale” per Deschutes, or an Extra Strong Bitter if you prefer more austere terminology. Big Rig offers refined, Ye Olde Pub Style drinking with an American twist. Think nutty earthiness at the start, moving quickly into a heavily piney character more in line with today’s IPAs. The finish strongly echoes the earthy-bitter beginning, with notes of mushroom and tanned leather clinging to the palate as the experience fades away. 6% abv. B+ / $5 per 22 oz. bottle

Deschutes Brewery Down ‘N Dirty IPA – A bold American IPA with Bravo, Cascade, and Centennial hops. It’s the Bravo that gives this brew its name and its character, which is intensely earthy — indeed a bit “dirty” — and washes away all but the slightest hint of grapefruit peel notes. Watch instead for chewy tree bark notes that inform its heavy, resinous finish. 6.3% abv. B / $5 per 22 oz. bottle

Deschutes Brewery Pinot Suave – The very latest from Deschutes in its Reserve Series (complete with wax-covered caps), this is a Belgian style ale that is aged in French oak and Pinot Noir barrels filled with pinot grape must. The results are nothing if not unique, intensely fruity with a mountain of malt to back it up. A little must goes an awfully long way, though, and this oddity takes its upfront malt into lightly sour territory, complete with funky, dusky overtones that cling heavily to the palate. Strikingly original, but probably more conversation piece than anything else. First topic for discussion: Is it pronounced “suave” or “sua-vay?” 11.8% abv. B / $17 per 22 oz. bottle

deschutesbrewery.com