Review: Virginia Distillery Cider Barrel Matured Virginia Highland Malt Whisky

If Virginia Distillery Co.’s flagship product — a Scottish single malt imported to the U.S. and finished in Virginia Port wine casks — wasn’t wacky enough for you, now comes its first line extension, which sees that first product finished not in Port barrels but instead in locally-sourced cider barrels (specifically barrels from Potter’s Craft Cider). It’s the first release in Virginia’s new Commonwealth Collection, which will see additional oddball finishes being applied to its releases in the months to come.

As with the original release, this is an enchanting whisky that merits some serious study. The nose has a classic single malt structure with gentle granary notes, honey, and some florals, but it’s tempered with a slight citrus character — or at least, more of a citrus character than you’d expect from a traditional single malt. There’s an undercurrent of funk — hard to describe but perhaps driven by the cider barrels — that is at once unusual and appealing.

Rich and malty, the nose leads into a moderate but compelling body that grows in power as you let it aerate. Here the apple influence is a bit clearer, melding with the malt to showcase notes of lemon, grasses, a bit of honey, and more cereal. Again, that slight funk on the finish offers a little something extra — a touch of chocolate, a rush of acidity, and some bitterness, all notes that serve to enhance the experience by taking things in an unexpected direction.

92 proof.

A- / $55 / vadistillery.com

Review: Four Provence Roses, 2015 Vintage

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good rose with dinner tonight. Here are four rose wines from France’s Provence, all 2015 vintages, worth a look.

2015 Domaine de la Sangliere Cuvee Speciale Cotes de Provence – Lightly grassy and herbal on the nose, this wine exhibits a bold berry profile on the palate featuring fresh notes of strawberry, plus hints of jasmine and a bit of thyme. Exotic and complex for a rose, and quite worthwhile. A- / $11

2015 Xavier Flouret Nationale 7 Cotes de Provence – A very light-bodied wine, with floral notes prominent up front and a somewhat duller, lightly vegetal body. Lively enough at mealtime, but it lacks zing on its own. B / $20

2015 Mas de Cadenet Cotes de Provence Sainte Victoire – Strawberry heavy on the nose and the palate, with an undercurrent of toasty grains. Arguably the most straightforward rose in this collection, it goes down with little fuss en route to a short but wholly inoffensive finish. B+ / $16

2015 Chateau d’Esclans Rock Angel Cotes de Provence Rose – This is a much bolder wine than the 2014 release, showcasing big fruit flavors in the realm of peach, apricot, and pear, all folded into a slightly palate that ultimately turns somewhat sour on the back end. The finish is rustic and a bit tart. Best with food. B- / $20

Recipe: Two Cocktails from the Facundo Rum Collection’s ‘Art of Rum’

Facundo Rum comes from a long Bacardi tradition for distilling rum. However these rums in the Facundo Rum Collection are high quality sipping rums, rather than the kind thrown into a Piña Colada at the local tiki bar. The story goes that Don Facundo Bacardí Massó brought out premium rums from the family collection to inspire their creation.

Here are two of their signature cocktails featuring rums from the collection.

The rum in the Eximo Old Fashioned has a lovely and warm scent which translates nicely into the cocktail itself. It is sweet but not in a sugary way. Instead, the honey hovers over it like a layer of fog. The bitters adds an herbal scent and give the cocktail a slight tang.

Eximo Old Fashioned
2 parts Facundo Eximo Rum (a medium- to heavy-bodied rum aged 10 to 12 years)
1/4 part honey syrup
4 drops of Bittermens Burlesque Bitters
orange peel garnish

Pour ingredients into an old fashioned glass. Add ice and stir.

Note: To make honey syrup, pour equal parts of honey and water in a small pan. Bring to a boil, lower temperature to medium-high and simmer for five minutes. Allow the mixture to completely cool; a minimum of two hours is recommended.

The Neo White Negroni cocktail has a nice warming upon the first sip. In the center, the fruity spice of the Cocchi White Americano appears with the cherry flavor dancing across the top. The lemon twist is adds a bit of eye candy and does help bring out the aperitif.

Neo White Negroni
2 parts Facundo Neo Rum (a blonde blend of rums aged 8 years)
1 part Cocchi White Americano
dash of Maraschino liqueur
lemon twist

Mix all ingredients into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon and serve.

Facundo recommends pairing both of these cocktails with seafood, such as seared scallops or tuna steaks. They’re also a fine duo to sip on a cold night while relaxing after a long day.

Review: Booker’s Bourbon “Off Your Rocker” 2016-05 and “Noe Hard Times” 2016-06

In December of 2016, Beam Suntory informed the public that enjoying a bottle of Booker’s batches in 2017 will come affixed with a price increase of an additional $40 over suggested retail, resulting in a $99 price tag. The explanation included the customary press release rhetoric of supply/demand and a reduction in release schedule from six to four times per year. The news was not met well with everyone, from consumers and critics all the way up to distributors and store buyers. Beam Suntory’s not so subtle attempt to elevate Booker’s unto the ranks of Pappy van Winkle backfired and flopped, and the company backed off weeks later. Given the recent fanfare surrounding the brand, it seemed an appropriate time as any to test drive the final two batches of 2016.

Booker’s Batch 2016-05 “Off Your Rocker” – A most appropriate nickname for this expression. This is very much a “Noe holds barred” bottle, deceptively powerful for only being 6 1/2 years old. The near-65% abv is quite evident right from the nose with a nice blend of charred oak and the signature combination of vanilla and tobacco that was customarily present in the pre-nickname Booker’s era. The alcohol refuses to sit back unless you add a bit of water to the mix, which brings out dark chocolate, pepper, and a little bit of cherry. The finish is long and strong, with more black cherry and vanilla that eventually eases up over time to provide a mild relief. A big and boisterous affair, much like the bourbon’s namesake himself, if legend is to be believed. 129.7 proof. $60 / A-

Booker’s Batch 2016-06 “Noe Hard Times” – Taking the volume down from Off Your Rocker’s 11 to about 8 1/2, “Noe Hard Times” (a tribute to Noe’s highschool football nickname) has plenty of vanilla dancing about on the nose, but it’s a tad lighter on the oak and alcohol notes when contrasted against other releases in the class of 2016. A bit of toffee, burnt brown sugar and a lovely medium length finish of dark cherry and vanilla. 127.8 proof. $60 / B+

This is not the last we will see of Beam Suntory’s strategic moves regarding Booker’s. Price increases are still slated to happen gradually and will reach the higher tier price points by late 2017/early 2018. If Booker’s is your brand, it may be best to stock up now. These two would be suitable places to start.

Bookersbourbon.com

Book Review: Home Brew Recipe Bible

Now that I’ve got my first homebrew under my belt, what’s next? Perhaps a spin through the Home Brew Recipe Bible: An Incredible Array of 101 Craft Beer Recipes, From Classic Styles to Experimental Wilds, will spur some ideas?

Chris Colby’s tome isn’t so much a bible as it is an encyclopedia, a straightforward cookbook for producing over 100 different beer styles, one after the other. I can’t seem to think of any type of beer that isn’t fully covered in the book, with Colby delving into such obscurities as black IPA, eisbock, and gueuze. Sours and oddball brews like sweet potato bitter and peanut butter porter are also included.

It’s not a book for the novice. While some of the recipes are starter brews, Colby quickly takes you into more advanced territory — and those looking for hand-holding, babysitting, or pictorial instructions simply won’t find them here. For seasoned homebrewers who want a growler-full of recipes all in one place, however, this is a great addition to the library.

A- / $19 /  [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

Now Shipping: 2017 L.A. Burdick Robert Burns Chocolates

We all drink whisky on Robert Burns’ birthday (January 25), but if you really want to wow folks, get your hands on a box of L.A. Burdicks’ Robert Burns Chocolate collection, which is available only during this time of the year.

Each box of about 36 bonbons (1/2 a pound) includes multiples of seven different items, each made with a different whisky. Those include Lagavulin, Macallan, Talisker, Springbank, Highland Park, and Glenfarclas. A final chocolate is a whisky honey truffle made with an unspecified whisky.

These are some amazing chocolates and, even though mine got a little freezer burned during shipping thanks to some unseasonably cold weather, they are absolutely delightful and totally worth getting. Order now in time for Burns Night!

More specific reviews and ratings of the individual chocolates can be found here.

$42 / burdickchocolate.com

Recipes: Dessert Drinks with Kerrygold Irish Cream

Macchiato Martini

Kerrygold Irish Cream is the latest Irish cream liqueur on the market, and these two cocktails presented by the company are both delightful and worth checking out.

The Macchiato Martini will please those chocolate lovers among us. We like the idea of chocolate syrup because you can customize the chocolate to the imbiber — milk chocolate versus dark chocolate and how heavy they prefer either. A nice touch would be to add a dessert-like stick as a stirrer, such as a Pepperidge Farm Creme Filled Pirouette Rolled Wafer instead of the cookie crumbles. If you want to kick it up a notch, add an ounce of vodka.

Macchiato Martini
1 oz. Kerrygold Irish Cream Liqueur
1 shot espresso
1/2 oz. chocolate syrup

Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain the ingredients into a martini glass with no ice. Garnish with chocolate cookie crumbles.

The Butter Me Up cocktail will certainly butter up any fan of ice cream. Sweet and creamy, all it needs is a slice of cake on the side to turn it into a perfect birthday style celebration.

Butter Me UpButter Me Up
From The Blind Pig Speakeasy, Dublin
1 oz. Kerrygold Irish Cream Liqueur
1/2 oz. vanilla liqueur
1/2 oz. butterscotch liqueur
1 oz. fresh cream
1 scoop vanilla ice cream

Shake all of the ingredients with ice. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with 1/2 of a strawberry. (Why a half? Heck, go ahead and toss the whole strawberry in there, then enjoy!)

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