Category Archives: Brandy

Review: Merlet Cognac Brothers Blend

merlet cognac Brothers Blend bottle 133x300 Review: Merlet Cognac Brothers BlendFormerly a private label distiller of Cognac for the major houses, Merlet (pronounced mer-lay) has launched its own label, under its own name. (The company also makes a variety of fruit liqueurs, which we’ll be reviewing soon.) The first product, launching now in the U.S., is called Merlet Brothers Blend, a marriage of eaux-de-vies ranging in age from four to 12 years old.

My first encounter with Brothers Blend was a little off-putting. I found it hot and young, typical of a pre-teen Cognac. On further tasting, after letting the bottle simmer down for a few weeks with a little air in the headspace, things have interestingly improved.

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Review: Belle de Brillet Poire Williams

belle de brillet poire 300x300 Review: Belle de Brillet Poire WilliamsI’ve had a mini of Belle de Brillet around for years. So it came as quite a surprise to find out that Kobrand would be “bringing” this brand (which launched in the 1980s) to the U.S. (The bottle I have was imported by Pasternak.)

I figured I’d crack it open and give it a spin. Assuming the recipe hasn’t changed — it takes Williams pears (Poires Williams) from the Alsace region of France and blends them with Brillet Cognac to create this liqueur — it’s an exotic and fruit-filled spirit. Extremely sweet, the authentic pear character on the nose can’t hold a candle to the massive amount of sugar that lies beneath it. Those nutty, somewhat earthy pears are just doused in syrup — a bit like a canned fruit cocktail. The finish lasts for days. Fine in small quantities.

60 proof.

B / $43 / kobrandwineandspirits.com

Pisco Disco Cocktails

Okay they’re really not disco-inspired cocktails, but it was tough to resist the whole rhyme scheme. Absolutely abysmal wordplay aside, Pisco is indeed a wonderful South American brandy that is sorely under-represented in the cocktail world. Here are a couple of recipes courtesy of our friends over at Portón that are worth checking out and warming up with during these frigid winter months.

Pink Passionimage001 Pisco Disco Cocktails

2 parts Portón pisco
1 part pomegranate juice
1 part tangerine juice
Sugar to taste
Pomegranate seeds for garnish

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice.
Shake well and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.

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Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

You’re full of meat and pie and perhaps meat pie. Now it’s time to think of your loved ones. Were they naughty? Nice? Do they deserve a fancy tipple when the giving season arrives?

For your most favored loved ones, Drinkhacker offers this collection of our favorite spirits from 2012, just a small sampling of the most worthy products on the market. Dig through the category of your choice for other ideas, and please chime in with your own gift ideas!

Also check out our 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008 holiday guides.

Want our gift guide in glorious, full-color, printable-magazine style, complete with the original reviews for all of these products? YOU GOT IT!

four roses 2012 small batch limited edeition 192x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasBourbon – Four Roses Small Batch 2012 ($90) – This bad boy’s been topping “best of” lists all season, and for good reason. Perhaps the best Small Batch from 4R since the distillery re-entered the U.S. market, it’s a huge crowd pleaser. Can’t find it (don’t be surprised…), try Elijah Craig Single Barrel 20 Years Old ($130), Woodford Reserve’s unique Four Wood ($100), or Smooth Ambler Yearling ($62), straight outta West Virginia.

Scotch – The Balvenie DoubleWood 17 Year Old ($130) – I’d love to pick Glenfiddich 1974 or Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 3 here, but both are long gone from the market and were absurdly expensive, to boot. You’ll have better luck with the new, older DoubleWood — which, by the way, is replacing the highly-beloved Balvenie Peated Cask on the market — which is in wide distribution now. More ideas? I love Arran Malt’s The Devil’s Punch Bowl ($130) and Ardbeg Galileo ($95). But my real connoisseur’s pick is a stealthy one: Gordon & MacPhail Linkwood Cote Rotie Finish 1991 ($80). Yes, it’s available, and yes, this is pretty much the only thing I want for Christmas.

greenhook gin 200x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasGinGreenhook Gin ($33) – No knockouts this year, unlike 2011. Greenhook’s elderflower kick makes it a lot of fun. Cardinal ($29) is also a creamy, delicious gin. Update: And due to a tragic oversight, I failed to note the quality of The Botanist ($33).

VodkaSquare One Vodka ($33) – Rock solid, though hardly new to the market. Other excellent choices: Belvedere Intense Unfiltered ($40) or Bully Boy Vodka ($28).

Rum – Rhum J.M. Rhum Vieux Agricole 1997 ($130) – My pick for the most exciting rum of 2012 isn’t sold in the country, but this vintage agricole from Rhum J.M. makes an exquisite gift, too. Lots of great options out there for lower budgets, too, including Blackwell ($30), Ron Fortuna ($22), and Plantation 3 Stars ($24).

Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac XO 214x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasBrandy – Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac XO Imperial ($130) – There’s never much new brandy coming out in any given year, and the good stuff costs a pretty penny. At the top of the list for 2012 is this Armagnac, with Camus’ Extra Elegance ($395) close behind. For more affordable selections, check out Camus’ Ile de Re series.

Tequila – t1 Tequila Blanco Ultra-Fino ($40) – In a year of top tequila and absurdly expensive bottlings, these two affordable blancos stood out. t1 looks a little snazzier, if you’re giving a gift. The amazingly balanced Z Tequila Blanco ($30) will save you 10 bucks. Many excellent choices out there this year, as usual.

Liqueur – Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao Ancienne Method ($25) - Turn the Grand Marnier fan in your household on to this, the best orange liqueur on the market and a pittance at just $25 a bottle. For a different fruit effect, check out Germain-Robin Pear de Pear ($24, 375ml), a spirit that will quickly make you forget about lackluster Poire Williams.

Need another custom gift idea? Drop me a line or leave a comment here and I’ll offer my best advice!

Looking to buy any of the above? Give Master of Malt a try!

Review: Germain-Robin Pear de Pear Liqueur

germain robin pear de pear 80x300 Review: Germain Robin Pear de Pear LiqueurThe pear gets minimal respect in the booze biz. Heck, even apples have high-end brandies dedicated to them — in multiple countries, no less. In comparison, pear brandies are normally unaged quickie spirits. Finding a pear spirit that’s spent time in oak is almost unheard of. Craft Distillers’ Joe Corley cares not for any of this: He’s put together this limited edition aged pear liqueur (not a straight brandy), and it’s a mighty success.

Inspired by the pear liqueur of the same name from the now defunct RMS Distillery in Napa (sold only at its tasting room, it was never released to the open market), Corley uses Lake County and Mendocino County Bartlett pears as the basis for this rich and exotic liqueur.

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Notes from Domaine Select Wine Estates Pop-Up Tour, October 2012

whistepig 111 300x224 Notes from Domaine Select Wine Estates Pop Up Tour, October 2012Our friends at Domaine Select Wine Estates (which handles a lot more than wine) are on the road, “popping up” in a half-dozen cities to let their producers show off their wares. I recently dropped in on the San Francisco installment to experience a few wines that were new to me (1982 Borgogno Barolo, yes please) and some spirits, including a line of Armagnacs from Castarede that are slowly making their way to the States, and WhistlePig’s new limited edition “111″ Rye Whiskey. Notes follow!

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The Pisco of Chile: Control C and Espiritu de Elqui Reviewed

Chile celebrates its Independence Day on September 18, and this year the country took the opportunity to revive the battle its been locked in with Peru over who originated — or makes better — the South American spirit of Pisco.

Distilled from grapes, Pisco is essentially unaged (usually) brandy, though in Chile they are more apt to drop their Pisco in an oak barrel for a few months or years than they are in Pisco.

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Tasting Report: WhiskyFest San Francisco 2012

Another sold-out show this year for WhiskyFest San Francisco, and yet it didn’t feel overly crowded. I missed out on some of the whispered highlights by arriving late, when the rarities were all gone. (John Hansell has some coverage, which I hope to catch up with in coming months.) Otherwise, good times all around. While the absence of a few standbys – Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection, Compass Box – was grumbled about, I don’t think you can raise a complaint about the quality of spirits on tap.

Brief notes follow (made more difficult by the fact that my pen simply would not write on the glossy brochure provided this year). I made sure to sample some more widely available whiskeys I hadn’t tried in years (Elijah Craig 12, Balvenie 12), for comparative purposes.

Tasting Report: WhiskyFest San Francisco 2012

Scotch

Gordon & MacPhail Glenburgie 21 Years Old / B+ / huge nose, lots of grain, chew finish
Gordon & MacPhail Glenlivet 21 Years Old / A / apple pie, with both the crust and cinnamon/spice notes
Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice Clynelish 1993 / A- / unique, lots of malt, big body
Gordon & MacPhail Benromach Organic / B+ / heavy on the grassiness
Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice Tormore 1996 15 Years Old / B+ / big banana notes, apple character
Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Years Old / A- / tasted as a comparative to the new 17 year old DoubleWood; a perfect everyday Scotch
Oban 18 Years Old / A- / wonderful peat/sweet balance
Old Pulteney 17 Years Old / A- / drinking well, very rich
Old Pulteney 30 Years Old / B+ / showing more grain character, oddly
Chieftain’s Glenturret 21 Year Old Cask Strength / A / brisk
GlenDronach 18 Years Old Allardice / B+ / raisin notes
GlenDronach 21 Years Old Parliament / B+ / similar, with a toffee character; bitter edge
BenRiach 1995 Pedro Ximinez Cask #2045 / A- / lots of peat at work
Bruichladdich Black Art 3 / A / cherry, nougat, lots of depth; very different than other Black Art bottling
Samaroli Glenlivet 1977 / A / absolutely gorgeous, wood and nougat in balance
Samaroli Caol Ila 1980 / B+
Samaroli Linkwood 1983 / A / peat, sweet, great combo
Samaroli Glenburgie 1989 / A-
Samaroli Bunnahabhain 1990 / A / dusky earthiness
Glen Grant The Major’s Reserve / C / an ultra-young Scotch, lots of brash, cooked cereal notes
Glen Grant 16 Years Old / B / basic, simple

United States

St. George Spirits Barrel Strength Bourbon / A / 62.5 percent abv, distilled in 2005; burly and big, delicious
Lost Spirits Leviathan 1 Cast 7 / B+ / fire and brimstone
Lost Spirits Paradiso / A- / a brutally peated version of Leviathan, with a hint of absinthe in the finish; entire stock has been sold to Germany
Redemption Rye / A / lovely mix of spice and wood (3 years old)
Redemption Rye 14 Years Old (private barrel) / B+ / from private stock; the wood punches out the rye
Koval Organic 47th Ward / B / cereal finish
Koval Organic Raksi Dark Millet / B+ / smoldering and chewy
Hudson Baby Bourbon / A- / lots of wood, drinking well despite a corniness
Elijah Craig 12 Years Old Small Batch Bourbon / A- / lots of wood, but drinking nicely
Four Roses Yellow Label / B- / very hot and tight
Four Roses Single Barrel / A
Four Roses Small Batch / A-

Other World Whiskies

Sullivan’s Cove Small Batch Single Cask / B- / aged in ex-Beam barrels; lots of heat, tight
Sullivan’s Cove Small Batch Double Cask / B / lots of grain, big field notes
Canadian Club Sherry Cask / A- / very sweet, pretty
Nikka Taketsuru 12 Years Old / A / two offerings from Japan, coming soon to the U.S.; a vatted malt; quite sweet
Nikka Yoichi 15 Years Old / A / more smoke here, very rich, outstanding

Cognac

HINE Homage / B+ / a blend of 1984, 86, and 87 spirit; good balance
HINE H / B+ / traditional, lots of sugary notes
HINE Antique / A / lush, powerful, a great old Cognac
Frapin Cognac VS / B+
Frapin Cognac Chateau de Fontpinot XO / A-
Frapin Cognac VIP XO / A
Frapin Cognac Extra / A-

Review: Courvoisier Gold Cognac Liqueur

Courvoisier is at the forefront of the taking Cognac into new markets, with brandy-and-wine blends like Courvoisier Rose. Now the company is back at it with Courvoisier Gold, a blend of Cognac and Moscato wine.

This actually sounds like a great idea — the brisk orange of the Moscato enhancing the citrus notes in the Cognac. In theory, anyway.

Alas, the theory didn’t really pan out this time. The nose of Gold is mild and innocuous, and the body brings out the constituent components of the concoction. Unfortunately, those components just don’t work together. The Moscato wine is understated and doesn’t offer much flavor, just a vague sense of something fruity that approaches apple juice, straight out of the juice box. This is spiked with a touch of Cognac — at just 18% alcohol, there’s really not much brandy in the mix — but it’s not enough to do much to the wine. A hint of vanilla is really all you get — and it turns out to be not very complementary to the Moscato in the end.

If you do try this product, be sure to have it chilled (as the company recommends). Served at room temperature, it’s tepid and raw. Chilled or with ice, at least you can have your apple juice the way God intended.

36 proof.

D+ / $25 / courvoisier.com

courvoisier gold Review: Courvoisier Gold Cognac Liqueur

Review: Camus Ile de Re Cognacs

Most (myself included) think of Cognac hailing from a small region in France just north of Bordeaux. But did you know that you can make Cognac (legally) on an island off the coast of France? To be fair, Ile de Re isn’t far offshore — it’s connected to the mainland via a bridge — but it’s unique enough to merit more than a little curiosity.

Camus is the first company to bring a Cognac produced from grapes grown on this little island to market, with three Ile de Re Cognac expressions launching now. All are classic Cognac expressions, but you’ll find them infused with a little unique island spirit, giving them a slightly salty spin, much in the way that Islay malt whiskys can only be from one place. Thoughts follow.

None of these expressions include age statements. All are bottled at 80 proof.

Camus Ile de Re Fine Island Cognac – A young and fresh brandy, this spirit is easygoing with a modest fruit core, but with surprisingly little of the funky burn that you get with most “affordable” Cognacs. Very light citrus and persimmon notes on the nose, and these follow through to the palate. A briny finish offers some savory balance. There’s a bit of heat in the otherwise muted body, but not enough to make you race for the water pitcher. While it isn’t going to wow you, on the whole it’s a surprisingly drinkable Cognac, particularly at this price level. B+ / $49

Camus Ile de Re Double Matured Cognac – Aged in two stages, first in a high-humidity cellar, then in “toasted barrels.” Similar in tone to the Fine Island version, but with a distinct orange character that laces the finish. Less heat here than the Fine Island, too, perhaps more an indication of age than the double barreling conceit, but probably worth the price upgrade. A- / $69

Camus Ile de Re Cliffside Cellar Cognac – Aged in part in a special cellar said to be 10 meters away from the Atlantic Ocean, here the orange character is up front rather than hidden away in the finish. Well-rounded, with some saltiness in the finish, which comes together with more of a dessert-like, salted caramel character. A- / $99

camus.fr

Hennessy Releases Limited Edition Artists’ Bottling

Why is there primary color squiggling all over your Hennessy? Because the company hired street artist “Futura” to graffiti up their label for a limited edition run of the Henny. You can check out both the bottle and the artist below. Just 200,000 bottles are being produced. Ahem.

Inside it’s still the same Hennessy, VS-class Cognac, 80 proof, and pure crowd-pleaser all the way. Initially brash with alcohol due to its youth (reportedly five years or less in barrel), the vapor burns off after some time in the glass, revealing a lighter body, caramel notes, then plenty of fruit: oranges, apples, and vanilla on the finish. Designed as a mixer, it is still plenty drinkable on its own if you temper expectations. B / $32

neverstopneversettle.com

Review: D’usse Cognac VSOP

This new Cognac is being launched by Bacardi and endorsed by Jay-Z. The package is one of the snazziest I’ve seen in a long time, and the name, pronounced “dew-say,” is exotic enough to pique anyone’s interest.

Produced by a 220-year-old Cognac house, Otard, D’usse is a premium-priced VSOP but is intended mainly as a mixer.

That’s a good idea, actually. There’s so much boozy alcohol on this that it takes quite a while to blow off. Once it does, D’usse’s VSOP leaves behind a relatively modest profile: Wood, raisins, orange, with a finish that recalls a few baking spices, particularly nutmeg.

That all sounds pretty tasty, but there’s just so much rawness in this spirit that the sweeter, more delicate notes have trouble muscling through. This is a brandy that needs much more time simmering down in cask to show its true promise. Until then, yeah, it’s a mixer.

80 proof.

C+ / $50 / dusse.com

dusse cognac Review: Dusse Cognac VSOP

Review: Los Artesanos del Cochiguaz Pisco Especial

los artesanos del cochiguaz pisco 35abv Review: Los Artesanos del Cochiguaz Pisco EspecialHere’s an oddball review: A bottle of pisco brought back from Chile (which disputes with Peru who originated this Latin spin on unaged brandy) called Los Artesanos del Cochiguaz.

Los Artesanos del Cochiguaz’s Pisco is available in a variety of proof levels (not to mention a variety of other spirits). This one is bottled at 70 proof. Lightly aged, it’s a very light, brassy yellow in color.

The nose is reminiscent of grappa, and not a bad one. Alcoholic and earthy, but not heavy, a benefit of the lighter proof level, I’m sure. On the tongue there is a surprising sweetness here, and I’d be surprised if this hasn’t been doctored in some way (however marginally). Wood aging helps, I’m sure, to temper some of pisco’s more notorious up-front brashness, giving this spirit a very mild character and lots of caramel notes.

Beyond that, there’s not a whole lot here. There’s some evergreen and some citrus character, but these are very mild next to the more sugary notes. Surprisingly sippable, just not a whole lot more to report beyond that.

B / $17 per 700ml bottle / artesanosdelcochiguaz.cl

Review: Camus Extra Elegance Cognac

We’ve been mega-fans of the Camus line of Cognac — currently rare in the U.S. but popular around the world (check out duty-free for some amazing deals on the stuff, btw) — for quite a while, and now the distillery is releasing a new expression to top its already high-end XO bottling: Camus Extra Elegance.

As with its other bottlings, Camus doesn’t indicate an age on this spirit, but it’s clearly on the aged side, I’m guessing at least 40 or more years in barrel.

Mild, and more balanced than Camus’ XO bottling (which I have on hand for head-to-head comparisons), this is a subtle Cognac (unlike many well-aged brandies) vs. its counterparts. Orange, peach, and lively floral notes are on the forefront here, along with hints of maple syrup. This is an extraordinarily fruity Cognac — no funky leather, mushroom, or earthy notes to serve as a distraction — and that’s both a plus and a minus. Seekers of ultra-smooth brandies will love the stuff. Those looking for a deep and complex experience may find this a bit simplistic given the price tag.

A- / $395 / camus.fr

camus extra elegance Review: Camus Extra Elegance Cognac

Review: Dimmi Liquore di Milano

The Italian answer to gin and absinthe, Dimmi is an old (1930s) product now making a resurgence. Distilled in the Lombardy region in Italy’s north, Dimmi is distilled from organic wheat (like a vodka) and infused with licorice, orange peel, rhubarb, ginseng, and vanilla. Following this infusion, peach and apricot blossoms are infused into the mix, and Nebbiolo-based grappa is added to top it all off along with a touch of organic beet sugar, for sweetness.

Very pale yellow in color, Dimmi is a pretty enticing liqueur that, based on the above description, tastes nothing like you are probably expecting. The nose hints at lemon, but on the tongue it comes across with grapefruit character backed up with vanilla custard. This sounds like an odd combination, but imagine candied fruit garnishing a creme brulee and you’re in the ball park. (Strega is also a distant, yellower cousin.) But still, there is plenty of bitterness and sourness to balance out the sweetness here, and more than enough complexity to keep you sipping if you’re drinking it neat.

Lots of cocktail possibilities. Consider it in lieu of vermouth in your favorite drink if you’re looking for a way to get started, experimentally speaking.

70 proof.

A- / $40 / domaineselect.com

dimmi liquore di milano Review: Dimmi Liquore di Milano

Review: Dutch’s Spirits Sugar Wash Moonshine and Peach Brandy

Built atop the underground distilling and bootlegging operation of the gangster Dutch Schultz (and on family land now owned by co-founder Alex Adams), Dutch’s Spirits is a new New York-based distillery that’s attacking the spirits industry with some unexpected products — no gin or whiskey here, be warned!

We tasted Dutch’s two inaugural spirits. Thoughts on each follow.

Dutch’s Spirits Sugar Wash Moonshine – This white spirit is a tribute to Schultz’s “own hooch,” a white spirit distilled from 100% Demerara sugar in copper pot stills. I wasn’t entirely sure how to classify this oddity, since it’s technically a rum (and a rhum agricole or cachaca at that) but isn’t branded as such. It is closest in style to a Puerto Rico-style white rum, with smoothed-over flavors of vanilla and a touch of chocolate to it. There’s none, however, of those gasoline flavors or raw alcohol notes you get with most cachaca and none of the burning heat of the typical corn-based moonshine. Moderate body with a lightly floral and herbal finish. The name may be a bit baffling, but the results are impressive if you’re a rum fan and are looking for something unique. A / $28

Dutch’s Spirits Peach Brandy – Americans are simply not drinking enough peach brandy. It’s a fact. I’m not sure that Dutch’s version of it is going to change that. While the nose offers lots of fresh fruit flavors — more apricot and apple than peach — the body is not nearly sweet enough to carry the day. Deeply bitter, the fruit notes are washed under the base alcohol’s astringency, though you can tell there are some deep and lush fruit flavors and brown sugar-sweetness just dying to get out. Much better as a cocktail flavoring agent (in small quantities) than on its own. C / $42

dutchsspirits.com

Review: Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac VSOP and XO

Montesquiou… man, that is a lot of vowels.

It is also the producer of a lot of Armagnacs. Formerly part of the Pernod family, it’s now being imported by ImpEx, repackaged, and expanding into broader U.S. distribution. We tasted both the VSOP and XO bottlings. Both are 80 proof and made from eaux de vie from Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, Colombard, and Baco. Thoughts follow.

Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac VSOP – Very nutty, with aromas of nougat, honey, and fresh cut grass. On the palate, flavors of chocolate malt balls, sweet apple and citrus, vanilla, caramel, and a moderate but well-balanced finish. A classic brandy, richer than young Cognacs and arguably more enjoyable. A- / $50

Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac XO Imperial – Immediately more intense on the nose, and huge in the body, this tastes like a classic old Cognac. Really rich with smoothed fruit, marzipan, milk chocolate, more nuts, and a fantastic balance of sweet and smoldering. Exceptionally drinkable, though the price might be a bit hard for some to swallow. A / $130

impexbev.com

Review: Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao Ancienne Method

Triple sec or curacao are an essential ingredient in so many cocktails, and stylistically they cover a wide range of focuses. But they all tend to have one thing in common (well, besides tasting like oranges): They’re generally quite sweet.

And so it was that cocktial god David Wondrich teamed up with Cognac producer Pierre Ferrand to create a drier style of curacao. Fittingly called Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, this spirit is meant to take the often sickly sweet stuff into a more refined direction. It is made by infusing unaged brandy with Seville orange peels; this infusion is then redistilled, blended with Cognac and spices (including star anise, more orange, and sugar), then aged in barrels for an indeterminate time (not long, I’d guess). It’s bottled at 80 proof.

The resulting spirit is quite impressive. To say it’s not sweet would be a lie. This is, after all, still a triple sec, where sweet oranges are the primary character of the nose and the palate. Lots of vanilla and nut character in there too, with a particularly buttery body — though I didn’t pick up on the anise in the blend.

Overall it’s a wonderful curacao that would add a delightful spin to any cocktail and is also quite delicious consumed on its own.

A / $25 / cognacferrand.com

pierre ferrand Dry Curacao Review: Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao Ancienne Method

Tasting Report: Whiskies of the World Expo San Francisco 2012

Kudos to Douglas Smith for putting together this event, easily the best installment of the Whiskies of the World show that I’ve experienced since I started this blog six years ago.

Loaded with whiskies you rarely see in the U.S. or even at whisky shows, WotW 2012 also had plenty of long-time favorites on hand to re-experience, as well. Interested in world whiskies from Australia, India, and other far-off places, like Utah? WotW had plenty of them to encounter here, along with plenty of food, a good-sized (but not overwhelming) crowd, and, mercifully, fewer bagpipes than ever (at least while I was in attendance). Lots of independent bottlers here too, some of whom (like Blackadder) I’ve never seen at a whisky show to date.

As for the whisky, there was plenty to enjoy, but of course there were some whiskys offering more enjoyment than others. Thoughts follow.

Tasting Report: Whiskies of the World San Francisco 2012

Scotland

Bruichladdich Black Art 2 21 Years Old / B+ / the most unique whisky of the night; dark, mushroomy, massive, with a Play-doh finish

Bruichladdich The Laddie Ten / A / great little caramel charmer; already winning awards left and right; full review to come next week

Blackadder Smoking Islay 11 Year Old Raw Cask / B+ / mild peat, oddly sweet finish

Chieftain’s Glenturret 21 Year Old Cask Strength / A / great body

Chieftain’s Mortlach 16 Year Old Sherry Cask Strength / A-

Balblair 1991 / B / rich and bittersweet, heavy peat, fudge finish

Balblair 1997 / B+ / better balance, sweeter

Douglas of Drumlanrig Breaval 11 Year Old / B / tastes young

Douglas of Drumlanrig Macallan 21 Year Old / B

Douglas of Drumlanrig Arran 13 Year Old / B-

GlenDronach 15 Year Old / A-

Glenglassaugh 26 Year Old / A- / better balance than the 37 Year Old

Glenglassaugh 37 Year Old / B+ / really malty, tannic edge; too long in wood

Glenglassaugh Revival / B- / heavy wood on this four year old whisky

Glenmorangie Artein / A- / this distillery’s latest, finished in Supertuscan wine casks; wine character is there, but lightly so

Isle of Arran Amarone Finish / A- / intense and powerful

Isle of Arran Sauternes Finish / B+ / edgy, light sweet on the finish

Kilchoman Sherry Cask Exclusive / A- / really rounded out thanks to that sherry finish

Kilchoman Vintage 2006 / B+ / punchy

Laphroaig Quarter Cask / B+ / always a standby

Muirhead’s Silver Seal Speyside 12 Years Old / B / malty

Muirhead’s Silver Seal Speyside 16 Years Old / B+

Muirhead’s Silver Seal Speyside 1987 25 Years Old / A- / nougat, mellow sweetness, good rounded whisky

Octomore 4.1 / A- / still winning, a smoke monster that doesn’t kill you

Old Pulteney 17 Year Old / A- / edgy and deep; miles away from OP 12 Year Old (which I think is out of balance)

Old Pulteney 21 Year Old / A- / very similar, but better balance

Old Pulteney 30 Year Old / A / lovely, a rich cookie dough character

Samaroli Caol Ila 1980 / A- / mellowed peat

Samaroli Evolution 2011 / A / one of my favorite whiskys ever; still solid and delicious (though not quite the A+ I’ve previously rated it)

Samaroli Glenburgie 1989 / A-

Samaroli Glenlivet 1977 / A

Samaroli Highland Park 1989 / B+ / doesn’t feel its age

Samaroli Linkwood 1983 / B+ / very fruity

Samaroli Tomintoul 1967 / A / another winner, with massive depth, a knockout

Speyburn Bradan Orach Edition / B / a younger (no age statement) version of Speyburn 10, tastes that way; limited character

Tomatin 30 Year Old / B+ / really clunky, malt and citrus not quite in balance

Tomintoul 31 Year Old Reserve Limited Edition / A / bit of spice, nutmeg and ginger, beautiful

Other Whiskies

High West Whiskey Son of Bourye / A- / lovely body

Pendleton 1910 Canadian Rye Whisky / A- / 10 year old rye (100%); big cherry notes

Amrut Sherry Intermediate Cask Strength Limited Edition / A- / great slug of sherry on the finish of this Indian dram

Amrut Kadhambam Single Malt / A- / aged in five different types of casks; lots of body, big finish

Sullivan’s Cove Single Malt 46% / B+ / an 11 year old Australian malt, super sweet

Other Spirits

Amrut Old Port Rum / B/ very sweet, lots of apple notes

Craft Distillers Maison Surrenne Cognac Distillerie Galtaud Unblended Borderies / A- / light fruit, long sweet finish

Craft Distillers Germain-Robin Small Blend no. 1 Brandy / A / great balance, a blend of brandies from a range of west coast wines dating back to 1983

Review: Pisco 100

Pop quiz: What’s the proof level of Pisco 100?

84 proof, of course!

The origin of Pisco 100′s name is unclear, but this Peruvian Pisco — an “acholado” style blended of distillate from several grape varietals — is a pungent example of the spirit. On the nose, traditional Pisco character — jet fuel, aromatic pine needles, woody coconut husk. The evergreen sticks with you into the body, which speaks again of the forest, with a mushroomy finish that makes you forget about that gasoline rush on the nose.

Earthy, fresh, and fragrant, it has a lot to like, especially those fun aromatics, though it’s a touch on the pricey side.

B+ / $40 / pisco100.com

pisco 100 Review: Pisco 100