Review: Jameson The Cooper’s Croze Irish Whiskey

Coopers Croze Bottle Image 750ml

Wood is important in whiskey, and that’s why with this new expression, Jameson is highlighting the power of wood by turning its Head Cooper, Ger Buckley, loose in the warehouse. The goal, “to showcase the diversity of barrels at our Midleton distillery and the profound influence that wood yields. With knowledge passed down through 5 generations of his family, Ger selects, repairs, and maintains our treasured casks.” The croze (rhymes with rose), by the way, is the tool used to make the groove where the head of the barrel is positioned in order to seal it.

For this release, Buckley has collected a variety of whiskies aged in virgin American oak, seasoned bourbon, and Iberian (Spanish) sherry barrels. There’s no age statement or any other production information, but that wood treatment is wild enough on its own.

This is a drier expression of Irish, one of the least fruit- and sweetness-forward that I’ve encountered in recent memory. The nose gives up just a little — hazelnuts, dried thyme, and barrel char. A touch of sherry after some air gets to it. On the palate, there’s more of that roasted nut character, scorching notes of toasted wood staves, and some emerging vanilla at last as the woodier notes begin to fade. The sweetness remains elusive, and even the finish is drying, with notes of red pepper and cloves, and more dried savory herbal notes that tend to linger for far too long.

Even though the wood program is, to say the least, unique with this whiskey, I was expecting at least lip-service to traditional Irish in The Cooper’s Croze. What I got was something entirely different. The character is more like a young American whiskey, malt-heavy, with a heavy, heavy kick of new oak, rather unlike anything from the Emerald Isle. That wild departure may be a good thing, depending on your point of view, but for me, the heavy influence of barrel char was a real turnoff, and my suspicion is that the rest of you out there will have a similar experience.

86 proof.

B- / $60 / jamesonwhiskey.com

Review: Dogfish Head Flesh & Blood IPA

dogfish flesh and blood ipa

I guess the flesh is the hops. The blood is in the juice: This is an IPA flavored with orange peel, lemon flesh, and blood orange juice.

A shandy it’s not, mind you, though what it actually is is difficult to describe. Tart citrus juice tones down the piney bitterness of the IPA, without adding any real sweetness. The effect is initially a bit jarring, making the beer at firm seem like it might be some kind of hybrid sour, though ultimately the impact of the added fruit isn’t enough to completely deviate from the IPA at the core.

Bitter-sour through and through, it’s a bit grapefruit-like at times, but showcases lemon-peel at others. While it shows clearer blood orange notes toward the end, the finish is otherwise muddy and, frankly, somewhat confusing.

7.5% abv.

B / $11 per four-pack / dogfish.com

Review: Brodsky Herbal Flavored Whiskey

BrodskyHerbalFlavoredWhiskeyImage

Here’s a crazy concept. A Stamford, Connecticut medical doctor with Eastern European heritage decided to distill, age, and bottle his own herbal-flavored whiskey as a spin on the digestif/amaro formula. Brodsky, aka “The Original Brodsky,” is a wild idea that is frankly unlike any other whiskey you’ve had — or even any amaro, really — but I’ll let the creators of the spirit describe it:

Brodsky Flavored Herbal Whiskey is infused with 8 botanicals traditionally used to promote digestion. Brodsky Whiskey takes the Eastern European health remedy approach of using bitter flavoring in spirits, predominantly dandelion, as a digestif. It has no sugar added nor any ingredients other than whiskey made in the Bourbon style, specifically, mash greater than 51% corn, distilled to 160 proof in Connecticut. The distillate is cold soaked with a bag of 8 organic botanicals which were traditionally used for their “medicinal” properties to help digestion. All botanicals are removed after 1 week, and the distillate is aged 18 months in used bourbon barrels. Future batches will be produced in new bourbon barrels and aged 2 years. The whiskey is bottled from a single barrel, uncut and unfiltered at barrel proof at 100 proof.

If you like bitter spirits — and I mean bitter spirits — you’re going to love Brodsky. Everyone else, read on.

The nose is almost innocuous, with notes of cinnamon, vanilla, and orange peel. The alcohol is evident on the nose, but not overpowering. On the palate, it’s a whole different story. The body starts off with a quick hit of citrus, but the fruit is washed away almost immediately by heavy, overpowering, tongue-disintegrating bitterness. Triple down on Fernet and you’re in the ballpark, though here the flavors lean toward licorice, tree bark, and raw cloves. This lingers — scorching the palate with alcohol and attacking the mouth with raw, bitter notes and some intense, peppery heat — before finally a touch of relief arrives in the form of pure cinnamon notes.

The decision to create this spirit with no sweetness whatsoever is a bold one, but even as an avowed amaro fan, I find it difficult to drink much Brodsky on its own. Then again, those lunatic bartenders who have become accustomed to doing shots of straight Angostura bitters may find this a breath of fresh air. Tread lightly.

100 proof.

C+ / $40 / facebook.com/originalbrodsky

Review: Smirnoff Ice Electric Mandarin and Berry

smirnoff ice electric berry

Leave it to Smirnoff to invent a whole new category of booze. As it did with Smirnoff Ice, now the company as it it again with Smirnoff Ice Electric. Available at first in two flavors, Ice Electric is a non-carbonated beverage that comes in a resealable, 16-ounce plastic bottle. It looks like a Gatorade because it’s supposed to look like one, the idea being that you get hydration and a little buzz in a package that you can still take to the beach and sip on from time to time. The alcohol inside is non-carbonated malt liquor, which shouldn’t come as a surprise.

As with a real Gatorade, these are beverages better identified by color rather than ingredient, designed not to dazzle an audience but to liven up outdoor festivities. Do people care whether or not their fruity malt beverages are fizzy? I’m not sure… but I’m willing to at least give Ice Electric a try.

Both are 5% abv.

Smirnoff Ice Electric Mandarin – Tastes largely as expected, like orange Kool-Aid with a slightly bitter edge from the alcohol. Only semi-sweet, it is fortunately restrained on the sugar front, letting a lemon-lime character take hold on the finish. B-

Smirnoff Ice Electric Berry – The “blue” flavor. A general raspberry/strawberry mix, slightly sweeter but more artificial tasting than the Mandarin, and a bit funkier on the finish. It’s not really offensive, but like the Mandarin, not entirely memorable, either. C-

each $8 per 15.9 oz. bottle / smirnoff.com

Review: Gosling’s Gold Seal Bermuda Gold Rum

goslings gold seal

Gosling’s is well-known for its flagship Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, but it actually has quite a family of products on offer, including our highly-rated Gosling’s Old Rum and this, Gosling’s Gold Seal.

Launched in January in its native Bermuda, Gosling’s Gold Seal is an amber rum that replaces its old Gosling’s Gold Rum and builds on Black Seal’s pinniped theme. It is now expanding nationally. We received this bottle from none other than Malclom Gosling, Jr., himself, so of course we’re taking it for a spin!

The nose is heavy with sugary notes — marshmallow and light brown sugar with a touch of molasses-driven gingersnap. On the palate, there’s fruit at first, tropical pineapple and coconut, before the overwhelming sweetness of this rum comes round to bear down on your taste buds. Simple syrup, more of that marshmallow note, and some maple syrup character, particularly strong on the back end. The finish is lasting, yet saccharine.

You don’t have to dig too deeply into the archives to see I like a bit of sweetness in my rum, but Gold Seal just takes it too far, coming across as a bit doctored, and just unnecessarily sugary.

80 proof.

C / $18 / goslingsrum.com

Review: Antelope Island White Rum

antelope-island-rum

Dented Brick Distillery in Salt Lake City, Utah is the home of Antelope Island Rum. Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake, but Dented Brick has a more exotic connotation, referring to a shootout in the area that occurred only in 2008. At present, it’s the only spirit they make, a white rum that is made from both sugar cane and molasses and is bottled without aging.

The nose is pungent, loaded with gooey brown sugar notes, caramel, and a hint of petrol. Nothing overly memorable or offensive, the body shows off notes of marshmallow and a little milk chocolate, before sliding into a fairly heavy vegetal note on the finish. This is a rum that is rough around the edges and which could definitely benefit by seeing a few years in wood to sweeten up the more herbal edges and add complexity while dulling its gumminess. As it stands now I’d expect to see it used primarily as a mixer.

80 proof.

C+ / $NA / dentedbrick.com

Review: No. 3 London Dry Gin (2016)

no3 gin Martini w_bottle LR

Five years ago we sampled Berry Bros. & Rudd’s classic gin, No. 3. Little seems to have changed; this is still a pot-distilled gin with a mere six ingredients: juniper, orange peel, grapefruit peel, angelica root, coriander, and cardamom. Recently I had the good fortune to attend a lunch hosted by No. 3 at San Francisco’s Wingtip club, where the meal was paired with three different (very small) martinis, designed to showcase different presentations of No. 3 in a classic cocktail. My favorite, surprisingly, was the Dukes Martini, which is ice-cold No. 3, an atomized spritz of dry vermouth, and a lemon twist — the lemon peel just really popped with the citrus notes in the gin, really elevating the spirit

I was less of a fan of the “Classic” Martini with more dry vermouth and orange bitters, but the Martinez — with sweet vermouth, maraschino, and angostura, also shined, particularly as a pairing with creme brulee. (See photos below.)

As for the gin itself, my notes have changed little since the initial release. It’s a juniper-forward spirit with a bitter river running through it — likely driven heavily by the grapefruit peel — with a finish that offers both oily citrus notes and light floral elements. Some earthiness creeps in toward the back, along with a slightly sweet, fruity kick. This is gin without a lot of fluff, stripped down to its basics, which makes for a clean and refreshing spirit.

92 proof.

A- / $35 / no3gin.com