Review: Scales Sweet & Sour Mix and Margarita Mix

scales

We reviewed the Bloody Mary mix from Scales a few months ago. Today we are taking a belated look at its no carb/no sugar sweet cocktail mixers, including a Sweet & Sour and a Margarita mix.

Both are minimalist products flavored with sucralose. At 5 calories, it’s hard to come up with a less fattening way to sip a tall cocktail.

Some thoughts follow.

Scales Sweet & Sour Mix – Appropriately yellow-green, lemon-lime on the nose. The body’s quite tart, not overly sweetened, with a clear bite of raw citric acid (which is the second ingredient on the list). This actually helps to tame that sucralose aftertaste a bit, making this a surprisingly palatable mixer in the ultra-low-cal space. B

Scales Margarita Mix – Paler in color, slightly sweeter smelling. There’s more of a chalky texture here and the whole thing is quite a bit sweeter on the palate. It doesn’t offer clear lime notes like you’d want in a margarita mix, but it doesn’t overly offend. B-

both $5 per 32 oz. bottle / scalescocktails.com

Review: Reilly’s Mother’s Milk and Reilly’s Ginger Whiskey

reillysWhat with the label featuring young ruffian sporting an eyepatch emblazoned with a shamrock — plus the squared off, Bushmills-like bottle — you can be forgiven for assuming Reilly’s is a new Irish whiskey brand. Not so. It’s a blended American whiskey, albeit one with “Irish roots.”

The avowed goal of Butte, Montana-based Reilly’s was to create an easy-sipping, no-burn spirit, and that has clearly been achieved here. There’s not a lot of production information to go around, though the back label claims the spirit has “Bourbon credentials.” The whiskey starts from a base made of 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malted barley, then unaged whiskey is blended into the mix. There’s no information on the type of grain spirit used here, or how much grain spirit has been added. Either way, you’ll soon find it doesn’t taste a lot like either bourbon or most Irish whiskeys.

Two expressions are available, starting with…

Reilly’s Mother’s Milk Blended American Whiskey – This is the straight whiskey, unflavored (not even with milk). The name is an homage to the milk bottle design, a common Prohibition gimmick to sneak whiskey around. They definitely got the “easy drinking” part right. Super sweet and supple, it goes down with no bite at all, which is precisely the idea. The nose offers maple syrup, sweet butter cookies, gooey ginger cake, and massive vanilla candy notes. On the palate, there’s a touch of popcorn but it’s mixed up in a melange of Cracker Jack, more vanilla candy and cookie character, and lots more of that maple syrup. The finish isn’t overwhelmingly sugary, but it still has plenty of residual sweetness. Blended whiskey is hardly my go-to beverage, but this is at least a step up from Seagram’s 7. 80 proof. B- / $25

Reilly’s Ginger Rock & Rye – This is Mother’s Milk flavored with added sugar and ginger, and dropped down in alcohol. Significant ginger on the nose here, along with mint and brown sugar. On the palate, there’s surprising heat, though it comes across with more of the burn of cayenne than the zip of fresh ginger. As the heat fades, the caramel and maple emerge again, but not as stridently as in Mother’s Milk. Chalk that up to that burn, which can linger quite considerably. Consider as a racier, gingery alternative to Fireball. 66 proof. B- / $25

reillyswhiskey.com

Review: Teeling Whiskey Company Single Cask, Rum Barrel Aged, 16 Years Old

teeling single cask

Our friends at Dublin’s Teeling Whiskey Company already make a single malt release, but now they’re taking things a step further with a series of Single Cask releases of their single malt stock.

Some seven casks of Irish single malt — each release under 200 or so bottles — are being released, including whiskey aged and/or finished for a varying amount of time in white burgundy barrels, white port pipes, and other exotic woods. You’ll need to check the hand-written find print to see which one you’re getting, so pay close attention. All are bottled at cask strength. This one’s a 16 year old barrel, matured fully in rum casks. Distilled March 1999 and bottled June 2015, making it a 16 year old.

It’s hot stuff, a bit scorching on the throat at first owing to the hefty alcohol level — particularly hot for Irish. Very malty up front (on the nose and the palate), the earthy grain notes are a big surprise considering how long this has spent maturing. Lots of lumberyard on the nose, too — and it’s a bit on the sweaty side.

Again, the body is blazing hot and can stand up to a healthy amount of water to bring it down to a more workable alcohol level. I had it watered down to a very pale gold before I could really analyze the nuances of this whiskey. Grain remains the focus; toasty barley notes with a back-end of golden syrup, cloves, and some raisin notes. Time is a friend of the Single Cask, which helps some of the more rugged elements mellow. What I don’t really get is much of a rum influence. This is the essence of pure, unadulterated single malt through and through.

119.4 proof.

B+ / $130 / teelingwhiskey.com

Review: 3 White Wines from Kim Crawford, 2014 Vintage

kim crawfordThree new whites from New Zealand’s Kim Crawford — each made from one of three different varietals. On with the show…

2014 Kim Crawford Pinot Gris Marlborough – Fruit-forward, with both bright tropical and crisp apple notes. There’s a bit of nougaty sweetness that creeps in and grows in power as the body develops. That sugar, unfortunately, lingers on the tongue for a bit too long, cutting the much-needed acidity down to almost nothing. B / $16

2014 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough – Crisp with lots of tropical character, classic New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Again that sweet nougat character emerges, though here it is less overbearing and better integrated into the wine. Pineapple notes and modest acidity finish things up. B / $11

2014 Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay East Coast New Zealand – The best wine in the bunch here, with everything restrained appropriately, from tropical fruit to sugar. Rather, touches of lemon, apple, and pear give this wine approachability both on its own and with food. Simple, but not without a level of refinement. A- / $14

kimcrawfordwines.com

Review: Gordon Biersch SommerBrau and Zwickel Pils

gb-zwickel-pils-limitedTwo new summery brews from our friends at Gordon Biersch — one ready to go in six-pack form, the other an oversized bottle designed for sipping and sharing.

Gordon Biersch SommerBrau – A delightfully refreshing Kolsch (made with 80% malted barley and 20% malted wheat), this German-style beers balances its malty beginnings with a touch of citrus — almost reminiscent of a witbier. Soothing, bread-heavy notes dominate the finish, but the overall impact is light and, indeed, summery. 4.6% abv. A- / $8 per six-pack

Gordon Biersch Zwickel Pils – This one’s a limited edition, bottom-fermented unfiltered pilsner “made by tapping directly into an aging tank of pilsner via the Zwickel — German for ‘sample valve.'” Previously only available at the GB brewery, it’s a fresh and fizzy brew that’s part of the Uberbier Series at Gordon Biersch. Pilsner fans will love this bottling, which seems extra-carbonated and celebratory in the way Champagne does. The character otherwise runs to simple grains, with gentle barley notes, easygoing bitterness, and just a touch of herbal character to give it a hint of spice. Note: It will continue to age and mellow out in the bottle. 5% abv. A- / $7 (750ml bottle)

gordonbiersch.com

Review: Hornitos Spiced Honey Tequila

Hornitos Spiced Honey Bottle ImageThe flavored tequila world isn’t necessarily the most successful one out there. Most offerings in this space are tolerable at best.

Hornitos Spiced Honey is a more ambitious product than the Hornitos Lime Shot that came before it — lime-flavored tequila isn’t much of a stretch — adding honey and a blend of spices to standard blanco Hornitos.

The nose offers a slightly sweet take on dense agave, vegetal notes balanced by what at first seems more like apple cider than honey. On the palate, it’s quite sweet, with notes of pineapple, ripe pear, and indistinct spices — gingerbread character, with a backing of toasted marshmallow.

The palate is as sweet as expected, with notes not just of honey but of milk chocolate and a bit of cinnamon. Some coffee notes emerge with time, and the herbal agave character shows its face as things open up. Not so much pungent as it is mildly sultry, the agave meshes fairly well with the honey and the spice notes — though these don’t really add much aside from a layer of sweetness atop an otherwise straightforward blanco.

70 proof.

B- / $18 / hornitostequila.com

Review: Squeal Go Pig Spiced Black Rum

squeal go pig rum

If nothing else: Points for a creative name.

Squeal Go Pig is a Colorado-produced spiced rum (it is produced by a private label distiller on behalf of the SGP folks), but apparently the “Go Pig” is optional. Just call it Squeal and you’ll be fine. It’s spiced, very dark rum — they call it black rum — though it’s unlikely this rum has significant age on it. No doubt, there is significant caramel color here.

The nose is surprisingly fresh — more brown sugar than deep molasses — with a slightly raisiny note that lends it a bit of a Port aroma (not a bad thing). On the palate it’s sweet but not overwhelming. Fruit jam hits the palate first — plums and cooked peaches — plus more raisin and prune character. The spice component is relatively underplayed, with the predominant notes of cloves and anise giving the rum a bit of the essence of sweet licorice candy.

It adds up to a dangerous combination — and one which doesn’t drink like an overproof spirit but rather a more easygoing one. Whoa, 90 proof? Better watch yourself or you really will “go pig or go home.” Oink!

90 proof.

A- / $29 / squealrum.com

Review: Brugal Rum Papa Andres 2015 Alegria Edition

brugal papa andres

Want some really high-end rum? Expect to pay $30 a bottle for it. $35, tops.

Brugal’s latest, Papa Andres 2015 Alegria Edition runs a cool $1500 for each of the 1000 bottles produced. Say what? Hey, it’s not a money grab: All profits go to the Brugal Foundation, which supports education and scholarships for Dominican students.

“Papa Andres” is a homage to Don Andres Brugal, the founding father of This rum was blended by Jassil Villanueva Quintana, Brugal’s Maestra Ronera and a fifth generation member of the Brugal family.  It is the first ever blend by Jassil and the third edition of Papa Andres. As notes, this edition comprises 1000 bottles, composed from 36 casks of rum — reportedly drawn from the absolutely best of the Brugal annual production.

Papa Andres 2015 is — sure enough — a dense, old rum. On the nose there’s coffee and toasted coconut, almonds, plus ample, sweet vanilla. The body folds in notes of raisin, a touch of anise, sugar cookies, and a small amount of dusty lumberyard. The finish is drying, with more coffee notes echoing on the fade-out.

It’s a delightful rum. Whether you can justify shelling out four figures for rum is a something you’ll have to sleep on.

80 proof.

A- / $1500 / brugal-rum.com

Review: Woodchuck Lazy Hazy Lemon Crazy, Summer Time, and Pink Cider

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Three new seasonal, rare, and “reserve” ciders from Woodchuck, all built with the summer in mind. Thoughts follow.

Woodchuck Lazy Hazy Lemon Crazy Summer Shandy Hard Cider – Not like any shandy I’ve ever had. The apple is quite sour and overbearing, not really letting any lemon character shine through at all. The initial palate is off-putting and it never really elevates beyond to anything more refined from there. 4.2% abv. C-

Woodchuck Summer Time Hint of Blueberry Hard Cider – The addition of blueberry gives this cider some obvious and welcome sweetness, and the overall impact is fresh, fruity, and — indeed — summery. A lovely little pairing in one of the better ciders you’ll find out there. 5% abv. B+

Woodchuck Pink Hard Cider – A breast cancer-themed bottling. Straight apple cider, but with a pink hue to it. Quite dry, with clear and tart apple notes, but otherwise a fairly straightforward cider. 5.5% abv. B

each $9 per six-pack / woodchuck.com

Review: Uncle Bob’s Root Beer Flavored Whiskey

uncle bobsThe name should tell you all you need to know about Uncle Bob’s Root Beer Flavored Whiskey, a sourced whiskey (from parts unknown) that is flavored with natural root beer flavors.

The nose is straight-up Barq’s, sarsaparilla and licorice and lots of vanilla overtones. On the palate, a heavy syrup character takes hold, imbuing the spirit with deep notes of molasses, cinnamon, and classic anise. The sugar is strong here — and it may get to be a bit much after a glass. Uncle Bob might be a little more engaging with a little less sweetness and a little more bite, but as it stands it’s a fun little diversion from the flood of the usual flavored vodkas and whiskeys. Definitely worth sampling, particularly at this price.

70 proof.

B / $18 / unclebobswhiskey.com