Review: Stirk’s Gin Oak Barrel Finished

Stirk's Gin Bottle Shot

“Stirk” of Stirk’s Gin is David Stirk, the creator of the Exclusive Malts line of Scotch whiskies, and this is his gin, or rather, some sourced London Dry that was placed into recently-dumped single malt Scotch barrels for finishing (the amount of time in barrel is unstated). The results? Let’s take a look.

It’s got an unusually heavy amount of juniper on the nose for a barrel-aged gin, but the intense evergreen and spice aromas driven by the distillation are just prologue for what’s to come. The nose leads to a palate that melds fresh botanicals with ample, but not overwhelming, barrel influence — with flavors of vanilla custard, banana cream, and some toasty wood notes. That may sound awfully whisky-like, and indeed Stirk’s Gin is just that, a rich and surprisingly creamy spirit that finishes like a flan that’s somehow gotten mixed up with a classic G&T.

That all may sound odd, but Stirk’s works out better than most mashups. Both Scotch and gin fans should give it a try, should the opportunity present itself.

92 proof.

B+ / $40 / impexbev.com

Review: Pierre Croizet Cognac VS

pierre croizet  vs-bottle image

This is the entry level Cognac bottling from small producer Pierre Croizet, a Fins Bois based producer. This VS (production and aging information is not available) is a soft but surprisingly well-made and focused brandy, with a nose that offers aromas of gentle fruit in the form of baked apples and golden raisins, studded with notes of simple caramel and some spice.

The body plays up the spicier aspects of the Cognac, some cinnamon, gingerbread, and ample vanilla, all of which play beautifully with those apple notes. The finish is modest but fresh and fruity, without only a hint of more harsh alcoholic overtones, so common in young brandy (or any spirit, really).

I haven’t encountered Croizet’s older expressions, but on the strength of this ultra-affordable VS, I can’t wait to give them a try.

80 proof.

A- / $30 / pierre.croizet.com

Review: Miami Cocktail Co. Tropical Sangria and Blood Orange Mimosa

miami cocktail mimosa

Miami Cocktail Co. produces ready-to-drink bottled cocktails, with organic and natural ingredients as the focus. The beverages are made from a base of premium wine and use progressive recipes that add some unexpected fruit components to the mix. (Coming soon is the company’s “Copper Pot Margarita,” which is made with “agave wine.”)

I was originally a skeptic but was pleasantly surprised once I actually cracked the bottles open. Let’s give the two currently shipping products, a sangria and a mimosa, a spin.

Both are 9% abv.

Miami Cocktail Co. Tropical Sangria – Red wine with mango, pineapple, lime, and orange juice. Fresh and fruity, a lot like a quality sangria but sweeter than it usually comes to your table, thanks I’m sure to the use of ultra-sweet tropical fruits in the mix. Mango comes across first and most clearly, with tart lime adding a sour element. The light tannin in the wine is a nice foil for all of the above, leading to a well-balanced finish that complements both the fruit and the wine. A-

Miami Cocktail Co. Blood Orange Mimosa – I have an earlier version of this product made with carbonated white wine (the recipe has since been updated (see photo above) to use naturally sparkling wine like Champagne) plus blood orange, grapefruit, and tangerine juice. More refreshing than the sangria, and light on its feet with those tangerine notes hitting the hardest. Whatever wine is used here is quite mild; any character it had is washed away by plenty of fruit — though the sweetness and sugar are both kept in check. (That grapefruit element is a surprising aid here.) Mom would love it for a Mother’s Day brunch. A-

each $15 / miamicocktail.com

Review: 2015 Chateau Sainte Marguerite “Symphony” Rose

BS-Symphonie-Rose

More Provence rose as summer hits its peak months, this one a blend of 40% grenache, 40% cinsault, and 20% syrah. Restrained with light apricot, browned apple, and apricot notes, the wine unfolds to reveal some white floral elements, a bit of honeysuckle, and more herbs and baking spice on the finish. Showing lovely balance — and with not a hint of “strawberry” to be found — it’s an unusual rose that plays best for the white wine enthusiast.

Aka Symphonie.

A- / $34 / dreyfusashby.com

Review: 2014 Avignonesi Rosso di Montipulciano DOC

avignonesi Rosso di Montepulciano_2014

Avignonesi’s 2014 Rosso di Montipulciano is in line with its prior efforts, which kicks off with a healthy cherry character with a slightly sweet, vanilla-dusted finish. Some modest tannins, a touch of licorice, and a bit of chocolate. Light balsamic notes add complexity to the finish, but otherwise the wine is a simple but enveloping expression of Italy.

B+ / $19 / avignonesi.it

Review: Woodford Reserve Distillery Series – Five Malt

woodford reserve Five Malt Bottle Shot

Woodford’s latest Distillery Series bourbon — a limited edition experimental series that doesn’t quite merit Master’s Collection status — is here. “Five Malt” connotes what it is, though the company doesn’t exactly tell you everything:

Inspired by the popularity of micro-breweries to explore malted grains typically used for beers when crafting whiskey, Five Malt’s distinctive flavor profile is established within the grain recipe and aging process. To obtain the desired sensory elements, minimum wood exposure is required. Five Malt is a whiskey distilled from malt mash then aged in recycled Double Oaked barrels for a span of six months resulting in warming malt notes with a coffee flavored finish.

That doesn’t quite tell you the whole story, as it is mute on the identity of the five malts, which it turns out are these:

  1. Two row barley
  2. Wheat
  3. Pale Chocolate barley
  4. Kiln Coffee barley
  5. Carafa barley

All five are malted renditions of the grain, of course.

Again, this concoction is cooked up and distilled and aged for all of six months before bottling. In other words, while it’s got a touch of wheat in there, this is effectively a very young single malt, American style.

It fits the part. Master distiller Chris Morris wants us to experience the grain in all its glory here, and damn but you’re gonna get it. Anyone with familiarity with young American malt whiskey will know exactly what they’re getting into before the bottle is ever opened. Intense cereal notes meet a heavy wood influence on the nose — think hard pretzels, heavily charred toast, and coal. The palate offers notes of rye bread, fresh malt, and more of that intensely charred wood influence, with hints of licorice and cloves on the back end.

In other words — there’s not a whole lot to see here, as the finished product is largely indistinguishable from any number of other immature malts aged in new oak. I know Woodford likes to experiment with young whiskeys from time to time, but I also know that this would have been a lot more interesting in roughly 2022.

90.4 proof.

B- / $50 (375ml) / woodfordreserve.com

Tasting and Testing: MashBox Club Spirits Samplers

mashbox

Like Flaviar and the Whisky Explorers Club, MashBox aims to expose you to spirits you wouldn’t normally get to try. The main difference with this booze-of-the-month club is that with MashBox you get a lot more than just whiskey (as we’ll see below). It’s a veritable tour of the entire spirits universe.

The deal is simple: $99 a year gets your four boxes of three 50ml samples. which works out to about $8 per dram. That’s about what a shot of Jack will cost you around these parts, so it’s not a bad deal.

MashBox’s focus is squarely on craft and unusual spirits (with a heavy focus on New York-based operations) — and some of the products included in the sample kits I’ve received I’m never encountered in the wild, or even heard of before this. There’s no need to scour the web for data, though. Each shipment comes with a set of cards offering some basic production information and tasting notes on each product you receive. And if you like something, you can buy a full bottle at a discounted price.

Here’s a look at nine of the samples from three recent MashBox shipments. These mini-reviews are in no particular order as the products of the various sample boxes we received got mixed up, but they should give you an idea of what to expect each quarter. While not every product is a home run, I’m a big fan of trying something off the beaten path once in a while. Give MashBox a try and see what you think!

Kings County Distillery Bourbon – Young bourbon from Brooklyn, NY. Heavily grainy, with chocolate malt overtones and tons of wood. It’s initially undercooked, as craft whiskey can often be, with a surplus of ginger and baking spice on the back end to help temper the heavy barrel influence. 90 proof. C

Barrell Whiskey Batch 2 – We’ve covered Barrell a few times, but batch 2 of its sherry-cask treated whiskey is a new one for us. Interesting butterscotch notes and red berries meld well with caramel and vanilla notes. A bit astringent, but that happens at 123.8 proof. B

Mister Katz’s Rock & Rye – Spicy, with rather intense mulled wine notes. Tastes like Christmas. See full review here. 65 proof. B+

Van Brunt Stillhouse Rye Whiskey – Van Brunt’s 9 month old rye is youthful and brash (see other Van Brunt reviews here), but its pungent nose finds a curious companion in a body that offers up notes of cloves, petrol, burnt bread, and a bit of burnt rubber, too. Intriguing, but extremely young. 84 proof. C+

Oak & Rye Wormwood – Grain-distilled spirit (corn- and rye-based whiskey) flavored with wormwood. In other words, it’s a unique spin on absinthe by way of a flavored whiskey. The nose is so hard to place — forest fires, rubber, and scorched herbs — but the palate is gentler, with a smoky sweetness that finds a strange complement in the form of lingering anise notes. One of the more bizarre spirits I’ve seen lately. 90 proof. B-

Maid of the Meadow – Vodka with herbs and honey from Denning’s Point Distillery in Beacon, New York. Quite good, and it delivers on exactly what the description promises. The honey is restrained and gentle, the herbs a dusting of cinnamon, sesame, and lemon. Tastes like it’s made for a toddy. 80 proof. A-

Glorious Gin – Breukelen Distilling offers this heavily floral gin, which includes rosemary, ginger, and grapefruit in the mix. It tops a somewhat earth-toned core with a good amount of fruit character and only a modest juniper slug. Interesting stuff and unexpected from the normally bombastic craft gin market. Try with a craft tonic. 90 proof. B+

Kas Krupnikas – A traditional Lithuanian honey spiced liqueur made in Mahopac, New York. Richer and much more honey-focused than Maid of the Meadow, but just as compelling in its own, special way. While Maid of the Meadow feels like an ingredient, Kas Krupnikas is a soothing sipper that works beautifully on its own. Very heavy honey — equal parts fruit and earth — dominates, with some hints of orange peel, cloves, and fresh gingerbread. A beautiful little surprise. 92 proof. A

Doc Herson’s Natural Spirits Green Absinthe – A South African madman makes absinthe in Brooklyn, people. What he’s come up with is a classic rendition of the spirit, with a sweet licorice and fennel focus that comes alive with sugar and water. It doesn’t need much doctoring, mind you, just a little kick to bring out its inner beauty. Lovely mint and cocoa powder notes emerge on the finish. 134 proof. B+

mashandgrape.com