Review: SomruS Indian Cream Liqueur

somrusSomPriya is a curious company. The organization has an app for finding Indian restaurants and it makes an alcoholic beverage with one capital letter too many. SomruS is “the original Indian cream liqueur,” made in Chicago from Wisconsin dairy cream, Caribbean rum, and natural flavors that include cardamom, pistachios, saffron, almonds, and rose petals.

The balsa-wood colored liqueur is a different animal than any other cream liqueur on the market, including others in this wheelhouse, like Voyant Chai Cream Liqueur. One whiff of the nose and the rose element becomes extremely clear. The cardamom and pistachios contribute some vague Asian-ness to the nose, but the floral character is what’s wholly unavoidable. On the palate, this evolves into an intense perfume character, muddling the rose petals with notes of strawberry, jellybeans, marzipan, and Turkish delight.

It’s a funky product, but the finish is so heavy with that flowery perfume it’s like stepping back in time to another era. That finish sticks with you for a long time, too — and it gets a bit too familiar, if you ask me.

27 proof.

C+ / $28 / somrus.com

Review: Jim Beam Signature Craft Harvest Bourbon Collection – High Rye

JB_SC_Harvest_High_RyeHey, remember last September when Jim Beam rolled out two oddball whiskeys in its 6-whiskey series called the Signature Craft Harvest Bourbon Collection — Soft Red Wheat and Brown Rice? Well now two more are coming out — Rolled Oat and High Rye. We actually reviewed Rolled Oat in the above link (and tragically have yet to get our lips on the Brown Rice expression), but today we’re going to look at High Rye.

As a reminder, these are all bourbons, each made with one unusual grain in the mashbill. As with the others, High Rye is at least 51% corn and includes some amount of malted barley — but in this case there’s ample rye in the mash (the total amount isn’t disclosed). As with the other six expressions, High Rye is aged 11 years before bottling at 90 proof.

This whiskey was of course dreamed up well before the current RyeMania hit, so back in 2004, Fred Noe probably had no idea that “high rye” bourbons were going to be insanely popular (and even less of an idea that straight rye whiskey would be a big deal). That makes the Harvest Bourbon Collection High Rye a little less special than, say, the one made with oats, but it’s still a compelling spirit and a welcome friend to the Harvest Collection.

This is textbook “high rye” whiskey, a chewy and racy bourbon that is dripping with baking spices. Cinnamon, mint, tree sap, and baked apples all make an appearance on the nose. Big and pushy, it’s downright heady with the aromas of the bakery. On the palate, more of that classic rye character quickly comes to the fore. Amidst the apple pie and gingerbread notes emerge some traditional wood barrel notes, vanilla and lumberyard intertwined. The finish is long and punchy, a spicy fade-out that’s hard not to keep sipping on. Drink it neat, no water.

90 proof.

A / $50 (375ml) / jimbeam.com  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Tasting Report: Bordeaux and Sauternes, 2012 Vintage

Vintage 2012 Bordeaux is in the cusp of release, and recently I had the opportunity to taste a huge swath of it when some 80 chateaux decended on the U.S. All in all, these wines showed quite well. 2012 white Bordeaux wines are drinking particularly well already, and the reds of Saint-Julien had a strong showing as a whole. Special commendations go to Château Gazin from Pomerol, Château La Tour Carnet of the Haut-Medoc, and Château Grand – Puy – Lacoste of Pauillac, all showing off impressive balance. But the star of the show was easily Château Léoville Barton, a Saint-Julien wine with elegence, grace, and impressive depth.

Complete (yet brief) notes on all wines tasted follow.

2012 Bordeaux Tasting Report

2012 Château de Chantegrive Graves Blanc / B- / a bit weedy
2012 Château Bouscaut Pessac-Leognan Blanc / A- / pretty, with floral notes
2012 Domaine de Chevalier Pessac-Leognan Blanc / A- / slightly meaty
2012 Château de Fieuzal Pessac-Leognan Blanc / A- / lots of bright peaches, some herbs
2012 Château Haut – Bailly Pessac-Leognan Rouge / A- / lush and rounded, raisins and mixed berries
2012 Château Larrivet Haut – Brion Pessac-Leognan Blanc / B+ / more mineral notes, meaty finish
2012 Château Latour – Martillac Pessac-Leognan Rouge / B / jammy, overcooked
2012 Château Picque Caillou Pessac-Leognan Blanc / A- / grapefruit, melon, and flowers
2012 Château Smith Haut Lafitte Pessac-Leognan Blanc / A / dense with fruit and nougat notes, and almost vegetal edge adds balance
2012 Château Smith Haut Lafitte Pessac-Leognan Rouge / A- / licorice, dark chocolate, big body
2012 Château Canon – La – Gaffelière Saint-Emilion Grand Cru / A- / thin but lively with fruit and florals
2012 Clos Fourtet Saint-Emilion Grand Cru / B / dusty, some pruniness
2012 Château La Tour Figeac Saint-Emilion Grand Cru / A / loaded with chocolate and blueberries
2012 Château Troplong Mondot Saint-Emilion Grand Cru / B+ / earthy and dense, long, tobacco finish
2012 Château Beauregard Pomerol / B- / bizarrely structured, heavy fruit dives into big tannin
2012 Château Le Bon Pasteur Pomerol / A- / lots of chocolate and raspberries
2012 Château La Cabanne Pomerol / B+ / cherry and some bubblegum notes
2012 Château Clinet Pomerol / A- / dense and lush, a powerhouse
2012 Château Gazin Pomerol / A / unusual, mint and berry compote mashed up
2012 Château La Pointe Pomerol / B+ / densely fruity, some mint and milk chocolate
2012 Château Clarke Listrac-Medoc / B+ / slightly thin, herbs and strawberry notes
2012 Château Chasse – Spleen Moulis-en-Medoc / A / just right; acidity supports violets, raspberry, blackberry notes
2012 Château Maucaillou Moulis-en-Medoc / B / dense and dusty, cigar box elements
2012 Château Poujeaux Moulis-en-Medoc / A- / deep chocolate and raspberry notes
2012 Château de Camensac Haut-Medoc / B+ / huge earthiness, tobacco notes
2012 Château Cantemerle Haut-Medoc / B+ / lush fruit, some balsamic, raspberry notes
2012 Château Citran Haut-Medoc / B+ / restrained but with some balance, an easygoing style
2012 Château Coufran Haut-Medoc / B / a bit astringent, more balsamic
2012 Château La Lagune Haut-Medoc / A- / easy fruit, some herbs, a little smoke
2012 Château La Tour Carnet Haut-Medoc / A / wonderful balance, fruit meets cedar box
2012 Château La Tour de By Medoc / B+ / a bit thin, lively fruit and herb notes
2012 Château Angludet Margaux / B / a bit flabby, pungent edge
2012 Château Cantenac Brown Margaux / A- / chocolate and berry core; long, dry and tannic; one for cellaring
2012 Château Dauzac Margaux / B+ / lots of bacon, rough around the edges; powerful
2012 Château Durfort – Vivens Margaux / B+ / dense and dry; violets and blackberry notes
2012 Château Ferrière Margaux / B+ / good balance with leather and cedar notes
2012 Château Giscours Margaux / B- / pencil shavings, dry tobacco; very dry finish
2012 Château Kirwan Margaux / B- / thin, very vegetal
2012 Château du Tertre Margaux / B / classic; dusty and pungent earth
2012 Château Beychevelle Saint-Julien / A- / strawberries and violets; tannic finish
2012 Château Gruaud Larose Saint-Julien / A- / very fruity; strawberry notes, milk chocolate
2012 Château Lagrange Saint-Julien / A- / fruity, with chocolate notes; woody back end
2012 Château Langoa Barton Saint-Julien / A- / similar to the Leoville Barton; some sweetness, fruity finish
2012 Château Léoville Barton Saint-Julien / A+ / beautiful, balanced with herbs, red fruit, and an intensely chocolate finish
2012 Château Saint-Pierre Saint-Julien / B / slightly thin and acidic
2012 Château d’Armailhac Pauillac / B+ / green, herbal with some big red fruit coming up behind
2012 Château Clerc Milon Pauillac / B+ / very fruity, a bit overdone
2012 Château Grand – Puy Ducasse Pauillac / A- / fresh, balanced, lots of herbs and fruit together
2012 Château Grand – Puy – Lacoste Pauillac / A / gorgeous; balanced with fruit and lots of spice
2012 Château Haut – Bages Liberal Pauillac / A- / fruity, almost jammy with an herbal finish
2012 Château Lynch – Bages Pauillac / B+ / bright and fruity, balsamic edge
2012 Château Pichon Baron Pauillac / A- / fresh, blackberry, mild chocolate, nicely balanced
2012 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Pauillac / A / opulent and beautiful, fruit and chocolate in harmony
2012 Château Ormes de Pez Saint-Estephe / B+ / big cedar box, cherry notes
2012 Château de Pez Saint-Estephe / B / odd balance here; intensely vegetal, cooked fruit notes
2012 Château Phélan Ségur Saint-Estephe / A- / tannic but lively, herbs and cedar box
2012 Château Climens Barsac / B+ / dense, honey — almost toffee notes
2012 Château Coutet Barsac-Sauternes / A / rich, caramel sauce and layered with honey
2012 Château Doisy Daëne Barsac / B+ / very intense; baked apples, baking spices
2012 Château Guiraud Sauternes / A / good balance of fruit and honey character
2012 Clos Haut – Peyraguey Sauternes / B+ / butterscotch candies, a bit too sweet
2012 Château Lafaurie – Peyraguey Sauternes / A- / slight herbal edge
2012 Château de Rayne Vigneau Sauternes / B+ / a bit thinner
2012 Château La Tour Blanche Sauternes / A / sweet clover honey notes, some lemon in the mix

American Distilling Institute Craft Spirits Competition 2015: Complete List of Winners

I helped judge some of these (though it was all blind, so I’m not entirely sure which ones), so if you don’t like the winners, you can go ahead and blame me.

Congrats to the many winners at this year’s ADI craft spirits judging! The complete winners’ list can be found after the jump.

American Distilling Institute’s 9th Annual Judging of Craft American Spirits Awards List

Best of Class – Certified Craft Distilled Spirits

Whiskey: Westland Distillery – Westland Peated American Single Malt Whiskey
Vodka: Dry Diggings Distillery – Diamond Springs Vodka
Vodka Most Neutral: Hendricks Family Distillery – Pür Class Vodka
Gin: 1769 Distillery – La Liberté Gin
Rum: Kiepersol Distillery – Pierre’s Texas Rum
Moonshine: Virginia Sweetwater Distillery – Shiners Gold 101
Brandy: Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery – Jepson Signature Reserve Brandy
Liqueur: Louisiana Spirits – Bayou Satsuma Rum Liqueur
Other: Oregon Spirit Distillers – Wild Card Absinthe

Best of Class – Certified Craft Blended Spirits & Merchant Bottled

Whiskey: New Riff Distilling – O.K.I. Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Liqueur: C88 Holdings – Rivulet Artisan Pecan Liqueur
Cocktail Bitters: Dutch’s Spirits – ProhiBitters
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Review: Beehive Distilling Jack Rabbit Gin

beehive

Utah-based Beehive Distilling makes gin and only gin. Production involves some traditional technique melded with a few newfangled flavoring agents. Beehive explains:

Jack Rabbit is produced on a small (300-liter) hybrid column still in Salt Lake
City. Beehive’s lead distiller macerates crushed Albanian juniper, orris root, grain
of paradise and coriander in grain neutral spirits for 24 hours before redistilling
the spirit. During distillation, fresh sage, rose petals and lemon zest are added
to the gin basket for vapor infusing; the resulting distillate is proofed to 45%.
The finishing water comes from the Wasatch Mountains, and is further ROI filtered
for purity. Heads and tails cuts are made on each run, with only the mids—or hearts—being used for the final product. Three runs off of the still are combined for each batch, yielding roughly 65 cases. Prior to bottling, the combined runs are rested for one week in our holding tank, allowing the flavors to bind. After resting, the gin is filtered one last time before being hand-bottled, labeled and batch-numbered.

(There is also a barrel-aged expression, which we aren’t reviewing here.)

This is a racy gin, almost bruising at times. The nose is lightly floral but dusted with cereal notes, some dried herbs, and just a hint of sweetness. Hitting the palate it is fiery with red pepper, menthol, and juniper berries (which are more earthy than that more aromatic, piney, needle-like character that’s more traditional in gin). It doesn’t take long from there for the spirit to develop its true, pungent body. The sage influence is profound and lasting, a deep vegetal character studded with white pepper, licorice, and petrol exhaust. The finish is dense with underbrush notes, almost peaty at times.

A true curiosity more than an everyday sipper.

90 proof.

B- / $30 / beehivedistilling.com

Review: Muzzleshot Tactical Shot Glass

muzzleshotSo here’s a wacky idea: Take pure, anodized aluminum and machine it into the shape of the muzzle of an M-16 automatic rifle. And then drink out of it. You’re a man now, Toby.

The Muzzleshot shot glass is a bold experiment in both industrial design and cooling technology. The glass design is pretty genius, and it does really look exactly like the end of machine gun. If you’re the kind of guy that buys those novelty tequilas in glass decanters that look like pistols, this is really what you should be drinking out of.

Then there’s the choice of aluminum for the glass material. Aluminum is a famous heat sink, so a cold Muzzleshot glass will cool down a warm liquid that’s poured into it. I gave it a spin and it worked reasonably well. A room-temperature shot of vodka isn’t going to become crackling cold in the Muzzleshot, even if the glass is straight from the freezer, but it’s more effective than using chilled glassware on its own. That said, an ice cold Muzzleshot isn’t exactly comfortable to hold on to for an extended period of time — nor is particularly fun to drink out of. The cold, chalky metal is a bit rough on the lips, and the very large lip of the glass makes it feel a bit like you’re drinking out of a sippy cup.

Bottom line: It’s the perfect gift for the hunter or military enthusiast in your family, but don’t be surprised if it turns out to be more of a conversation piece than something they use every day.

$30 / muzzleshot.com [BUY IT HERE]

Giveaway: Win a Wine Region Print

italy mapCity Prints produces a number of prints showcasing maps of wine regions around the world, and now you can have the print of your choosing for free! (That’s a $49 value!) Just leave a comment on the post for this story on our Facebook page and we’ll pick a winner at random on April 14, 2015. (We’ll let the winner know via Facebook, so make sure your account info is up to date.) One winner will get a print of their choosing sent directly from City Prints.

If you don’t win, we’ve still got you covered: $5 off any print in the City Prints inventory if you use code BC1 at checkout.

Cheers and good luck!

Review: I.W. Harper Bourbon and 15 Year Old Bourbon

I.W._HARPER_15_YEAR

Diageo recently announced another spiritual resurrection: I.W. Harper. I.W. Harper was a Kentucky bourbon brand started by Isaac Wolfe Bernheim (another familiar whiskey name) in 1879. It changed hands a few times over the years, ultimately winding up with Diageo, which turned it into a super-premium product … in Japan. Discontinued in the U.S. in the 1990s, now Diageo is bringing Harper back to the States.

Two expressions are launching, a lower-cost NAS expression and a 15-year-old version. Chuck Cowdery has a lot of info on the likely origins of the distillate in these bottles, but these are different spirits with different origins; the full mashbills were recently revealed (see below for details). The 15 year is the bigger mystery here, and it’s likely a blend of lots of “orphan” barrels that didn’t become Orphan Barrels.

Harper hits U.S. shelves this month. Here’s what to expect.

I.W._HARPER_I.W. Harper Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – There’s no age statement on the “base” expression, but it’s made from a mash of 73% corn, 18% rye, and 9% barley. It “was most recently aged at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville, Ky., and contains whiskeys distilled at the current Bernheim Distillery. It is hand bottled in Tullahoma, Tenn.” The nose is quiet, and a little sweaty at times with notes of walnut and some lumberyard. Vanilla emerges over time, with more salty shortbread character building on the palate. The finish offers almonds, with a touch of astringency. Capable, but it doesn’t add a lot to the world of bourbon at this price range. 82 proof. B / $35

I.W. Harper Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 15 Years Old – This “was distilled at the current Bernheim Distillery in Louisville, Ky. and aged most recently at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville. It is hand bottled in Tullahoma, Tenn.” The mash is 86% corn, 6% rye, and 8% barley. This is a much different spirit than the above; it really bears little resemblance to it at all. On the nose: lots of mint, cinnamon, dark chocolate, and some lumber. The body features ample citrus notes, more baking spice, and emerging chocolate and caramel on the backside. There’s heat at first, but this settles down into supple sweetness and a finish that’s surprisingly gentle for a 15 year old bourbon. Ultimately it’s quite balanced and delightful — and well worth sampling. Delightfully retro decanter, too. 86 proof. A- / $75

iwharper.com

Tasting: Chiantis of Ruffino, 2015 Releases

ruffinoRecently I had the chance to virtually sit down with Gabriele Tacconi, Ruffino’s chief winemaker, to hear about the launch of its “Gran Selezione,” a new, upper-echelon expression of Tuscany’s most famous wine, Chianti. Gran Selezione add’s a fourth tier to this wine region, from Chianti to Chianti Classico to Riserva to Gran Selezione.

Gran Selezione wines must spend at least 30 months aging (including 3 months in bottle), a 6 month increase over the legal standards that Riserva wines are subject to, and these wines must be sourced from 100% winery-owned vineyards.

How does Ruffino’s first “GS” stack up? We tried the full range of Ruffino’s Chianti lineup (well, all four categories of Chianti, anyway), to experience for ourselves. Thoughts follow.

2013 Ruffino Chianti DOCG – 70% sangiovese, plus a mix of other stuff. Bottled in a Burgundy-style bottle, evoking the old wicker basket bottlings. This is a simple wine but it’s far more pleasurable than you’d expect, offering a simple fruit structure (more strawberry than cherry), some touches of roasted meats, and hints of vanilla. Both lightly tannic and lightly jammy, but so simple and extremely light on its feet (and in color). B- / $6

2013 Ruffino Aziano Chianti Classico DOCG – 80% sangiovese, 20% cabernet and merlot. Some pepper on the nose, then bright cherry fruit. Lush on the body, its cherry fruit balanced by notes of bacon, roasted meats, and touches of oak-driven vanilla. There’s a simplicity to this wine, but also a depth of character that makes the non-Classico wine look a bit undercooked. B+ / $12

2011 Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG – 80% sangiovese, 20% cabernet and merlot. Somewhat jammy, with a clear cabernet influence on the tongue and some perfumed notes on the nose, driven by the merlot. Altogether it comes across quite a bit like a New World wine, fruit firmly forward, almost sweet thanks to significant oak influence, but nicely balanced and easy to enjoy. A- / $15

2010 Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG – 80% sangiovese, 10% merlot, and 10% cabernet sauvignon. Lots of similarity with the Riserva Ducale above, with lots of bold fruit up front and a finish that fades to chocolate and vanilla. There’s a nice and intricate tannin structure here, supporting blackberries, tobacco, and leathery notes. The finish tries to dial back some impressive fruitiness, but it can barely stand up to the assault. Old World, welcome to the New World. A- / $30

ruffino.com

Review: Deschutes Brewery Jubel 2015

Jubel_2015 bottleDeschutes Brewery originally intended Jubel as a once-a-decade release. (The second ever release came out in 2010 and the original was bottled in 2000.) But Deschutes said it couldn’t wait another five years, so it’s putting out Jubel 2015 now. This imperial take on the brewery’s annual Jubelale winter brew is 50 percent barrel aged in pinot noir and new Oregon oak barrels. Hops include Millennium, Nugget, Cascade, Willamette, US Tettnang, and East Kent Goldings, plus five kinds of malts, too.

As it was in 2010, Jubel 2015 is a knockout. There’s huge malt up front, then a wave of dried fruits comes to the forefront. Dates and figs are the main components, then a nutty character evolves as the sweetness starts to fade a bit. Over time (particularly as the beer warms up) notes of cocoa nibs and Port wine notes emerge. As with 2010, though, I liked it a bit better on the cold side, but it shows plenty of charm either way.

10.4% abv.

A / only available at Deschutes tasting rooms and pubs / deschutesbrewery.com