Category Archives: Liqueurs

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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Review: “Art in the Age” Rhubarb Tea Liqueur

art in the age rhubarb tea 174x300 Review: Art in the Age Rhubarb Tea LiqueurArt in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’s latest niche liqueur turns to the humblest of roots: The rhubarb.

Formerly known as “Rhuby,” AitA went with a more descriptive name for this product for reasons that must sound obvious but are in fact due to legal problems with the original name. (Current bottles actually have the new label pasted over the original one.)

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Review: Kahlua Midnight Liqueur

After midnight, we’re gonna let it all hang out… and we’re gonna drink this new liqueur from the increasingly huge portfolio of products from Kahlua: Kahlua Midnight.

Midnight is a major departure for Kahlua, which has to date been happy to create new versions of its signature coffee liqueur by adding additional flavorings like you’d find in a coffee shop (various incarnations now include cinnamon, vanilla, hazelnut, mocha, and peppermint versions). Midnight is something different: A 70 proof monster mix of the classic coffee liqueur with rum.

In truth, even the standard 40-proof version of Kahlua has rum in it (it’s touted on the label), but it’s watered down and sugared up so those Desperate Housewives can sip it all day. At 70-proof, Kahlua Midnight is nearly full-strength booze, more rum than Kahlua — though it’s still just as black as before (caramel color is added). In case you’re unclear, the bottle is completely different than the standard tiki-friendly Kahlua one.

In all honesty, Kahlua Midnight — in taste — is not a great departure from its mother, standard-grade Kahlua. The coffee is clear on the nose and the palate. Rum, as with regular Kahlua, is really just hinted at, indistinctly and more on the undercarriage of the nose than in the body, where the strong coffee character is simply overpowering to anything underneath it. It’s got more of a boozy kick in the middle, but the finish is mild, dominated by a clear, fresh-ground coffee character.

What’s the point of Midnight? It’s primarily meant for consumption straight, on the rocks. God help the hacker that uses this stuff in lieu of standard Kahlua and doesn’t realize what he’s getting into.

A- / $24 / kahlua.com

kahlua midnight Review: Kahlua Midnight Liqueur

Review: Nahmias et Fils Mahia Liqueur

mahia liqueur 199x300 Review: Nahmias et Fils Mahia LiqueurFigs are one of my favorite unsung cocktail ingredients, so I was delighted to see that someone was finally producing a fig liqueur.

Correction: Fig and aniseed liqueur. Hrmmmm.

Mahia actually is a general term for anise liqueur in (Algerian) French, and this spirit (produced in New York) is inspired by that traditional liqueur — distilled from fermented figs — which is made in Morocco.

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Review: Vecchio Amaro Del Capo Liqueur

Amaro del Capo 150x300 Review: Vecchio Amaro Del Capo LiqueurBorn in Calabria — the “toe of the foot” of Italy — Vecchio Amaro Del Capo (or just Del Capo) is a classic amaro made from 29 local herbs and roots. Lightly brown like a brewed tea, it looks a bit like whiskey in the glass but smells far different as it is poured.

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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: Prevu Sparkling Liqueur

Blackberries, currants, and raspberries, all steeped in vodka and Cognac and given a light sparkling fizz — every component organic — what could go wrong?

The intriguing Prevu, made in the Cognac region, is a super-sweet concoction ready-made for the Alize set, where a touch of Cognac and a whole lot of fruit flavor rules the roost.

The berry components are heavy on the jam character, massively sugar-infused and ready for spreading on toast if only it were a bit thicker. Sip long enough and you do get all the fruit elements, the oily texture backed up with a fizzy topper. The carbonation isn’t heavy and it fades after 20 minutes or so, so drink fast if you want to get the bubbles.

Prevu is mainly promoted as a straight drink (on the rocks), but with its gooey aftertaste, I’d have trouble finishing a full glass. Consider instead as an alternative to Chambord in cocktails if you’re in a pinch.

C- / $30 / drinkprevu.com

 Review: Prevu Sparkling Liqueur

 

Review: Kahlua Iced Coffee Grab & Go Cocktails

You can pour your Kahlua into coffee, or you can get it in one-stop format, thanks to Kahlua’s new “grab & go” canned cocktails. (I’m not sure where you’re supposed to be “going” with one of these in hand, but that’s another story.)

Each of these pre-mixed cocktails are fairly self-explanatory, and each includes 100% Arabica coffee from Veracruz, Mexico. Each can contains 200ml (6.8 oz.) of cocktail and a mere 5% alcohol. (150 calories each, if you’re curious.) Here’s how the three varieties come across. All three have the appearance of dark coffee, complete with a small layer of crema on top when poured into a glass.

Kahlua Iced Espresso – Mild coffee with mild Kahlua notes, but a reasonable expression of both the constituent components. Somewhat nutty, with burnt caramel notes on the finish. Drinkable, even the whole can. B+

Kahlua Iced Mocha – Sweet, with more chocolate than coffee character, but neither is exceptionally strong. Not bad, but the thick aftertaste starts to coat the tongue after a while. B

Kahlua Iced Coffee with Cinnamon Spice – Like a Starbucks concoction, which is a bit much for my tastes. Very strong cinnamon and sugar on the nose, and plenty more where that came from as you sip. Like the mocha in the cloying department, times three. C+

$2.50 per 200ml can / kahlua.com

kahlua cans Review: Kahlua Iced Coffee Grab & Go Cocktails

 

Review: White Lion VSOA

Billed as the “world’s oldest naturally fermented, single ingredient spirit,” VSOA is a beverage that defies description or easy categorization.

VSOA is part of a group of spirits called arrack, which can can be made from just about anything (the better-known Batavia Arrack is made from sugarcane, like rum). This version (VSOA stands for Very Special Old Arrack) is made in Sri Lanka, and the amber liquid looks like whiskey or aged rum. But rather than being made from grains or sugar, it’s produced from the nectar of coconut flowers.

This nectar self-ferments without added yeast, after which it is distilled then aged in local Halmilla wood barrels for two years before bottling. Caramel color is added.

The flavor is light, delicate, and unusual. The closest analogue I can suggest is a watered-down, spiced rum, with a combination of sugary notes and slightly rough, phenolic notes — that pot-still funk — on the nose. Similar on the tongue: Very lightly rummy, with some baking spice, vanilla, and vague tropical notes in the finish. Coconut is there, but it’s faint. The finish is short, but there’s an aftertaste that lingers after the spirit itself fades — something akin to sandalwood.

The biggest challenge with VSOA is the body: very light and thin, it’s difficult to really get enveloped by. While the story behind it is intriguing, there’s just not enough ooomph to keep you excited.

73.6 proof.

B / $25 / whitelionvsoa.com

white lion vsoa Review: White Lion VSOA

 

Review: Mariposa Agave Nectar Liqueur

Let’s start with the natural first question: Mariposa’s not tequila.

Tequila is made from roasted agave hearts which are juiced and fermented. Mariposa is made from agave nectar — a natural sweetener that’s frequently used in margaritas and other applications — plus enough vodka and tequila to bring it up to 60 proof. Rose and gardenia essences are also added.

Mariposa, made by Kentucky’s Heaven Hill, is a true liqueur, and in fact it’s nothing much like tequila at all. Extremely sweet — you can smell the sugar — the nose really just hints at agave. Imagine sniffing a margarita where the bartender forgot the limes and you’re in the ball park.

Take a sip and you’re in for another spin. The sugar rush up front is powerful and almost bruising to the palate. Then comes all the other stuff. Tequila, sure, but that vegetal agave funk is less evident than you’d think. What is surprisingly strong are the floral notes from that rose and gardenia oil. Perfumy notes emerge on the nose as they hit the tongue, doubling down on the very flowery finish. The body is thick, a natural counterpart to the honey-like sweetness that dominates the spirit.

Mariposa is a tough sell, with a lot going on and no clear direction where it’s going. As a substitute for triple sec and sweetener in a margarita? Maybe, but the last thing your typical margarita needs is more tequila flavor. And flowers. It’s something I wouldn’t mind experimenting with and more exotic drinks (and in extreme moderation) but not something I’d likely tough on its own.

As a side note, this is our 2000th post on Drinkhacker. Thanks for being a loyal visitor!

B- / $25 / facebook.com/MariposaLiqueur

mariposa liqueur Review: Mariposa Agave Nectar Liqueur

Review: Dancing Pines Chai Liqueur

Believe it or not, Dancing Pines is not the first chai tea liqueur we’ve reviewed. That honor goes to Voyant, a cream-based liqueur so nice we named it our favorite liqueur of 2010.

Dancing Pines is not cream-inclusive — it’s a straight, syrupy, brownish liqueur — and that alone is a curiosity. Chai — as it is commonly served in the west — is sweetened, spiced tea with milk, and taking the dairy out of the equation is a bit odd for us unaccustomed to “straight” chai. Sure, you can add milk or half & half to Dancing Pines to replicate the Indian bevereage, but Voyant’s approach I find is on the whole a bit more appealing.

The flavors in the Colorado-based Dancing Pines are rich and authentic. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves — the whole baking spice cupboard, really — with modest tea leaf undertones. Very spicy, and extremely sweet. The body is very thick and syrupy, to the point where tippling on Dancing Pines is like sipping Grand Marnier: Some may find this sticky sweetness appealing; others will be put off after a few overpowering sips.

60 proof.

B / $52 / dancingpinesdistillery.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Dancing Pines Chai Liqueur Review: Dancing Pines Chai Liqueur

Review: Caffo Limoncino dell’Isola

The test of any lemoncello, I suppose, is how much it tastes like lemons. Judging from how much homemade lemoncello is poured in Italian bars, it can’t be tough to make, and most of it is pretty good.

Caffe’s Limoncino dell’Isola is made from Calabria lemons and has nothing artificial inside. The color and haziness of a strong lemonade, it’s actually fairly mild compared to most lemoncellos I’ve encountered. The body has a good mix of tart and sweet — probably a touch more on the tart, actually — with a clean finish that offers a touch of earthy, honey character.

Good body, just about right — at 60 proof.

B+ / $16 / dolceitalia.com

limoncino dellisola Review: Caffo Limoncino dellIsola

Review: Lysholm Linie Aquavit

In 6 years of Drinkhacking, this is actually our first review of an aquavit. I say that to illustrate a couple of things: 1) that I’m hardly an expert in aquavit and you should consider this an amateur review of the stuff at best, and 2) no one drinks aquavit.

If you’re a novice, here’s a lesson in the stuff. Aquavit is a Scandinavian liqueur flavored with a variety of herbs but predominantly with dill or caraway. Many of the same ingredients used in gin are also used in aquavit. There are as many variants in aquavit as there are in gin, with many of those tweaks coming from the way the spirit is aged. Some aquavits aren’t aged at all. Some can be aged for more than a decade. Different types of casks are used, too, making things even more complex.

Linie’s story is this: It hails from Norway. It is distilled from potatoes. It is mainly flavored with caraway, plus dill, anise, fennel, and coriander (among others). And it is aged in oloroso sherry casks (fairly unique for aquavit) for one year. And during the aging, it is shipped overseas — from Norway to Australia and back — a lengthy trip that takes the spirit across the equator (“the linie”) twice over the course of 4 1/2 months. Why? Because the motion of the ship and the exposure to the salty sea air is supposed to do great things to the aquavit. Caramel color is added.

So there you have it.

Linie has a nose somewhere between gin and Jagermeister, heavy on licorice notes and, yes, caraway. The body is milder than you might expect, a lighter take on licorice with a strong caraway flavor. The sherry casks provide some sweetness (as does the caramel, I believe), but not a whole lot. This is still a moderately bitter spirit best experienced as a digestif. The finish is long and lasting, with a spice rack full of bitter herbal character that lingers for quite some time. Fair to good, but not something I’d turn to on a regular basis over an amaro or Fernet.

83 proof.

B- / $30 / linie.com

Linie Aquavit Review: Lysholm Linie Aquavit

Review: Southern Comfort Bold Black Cherry Liqueur

This is one of those reviews that I simply haven’t had the strength to write. I opened the bottle when it arrived, quickly put it back on the counter, and there it’s sat for more than two months.

As the name implies, SoCo Cherry adds black cherry flavor to the classic peach Southern Comfort recipe, to utterly cryptic effect. Original SoCo may be an acquired taste, but this stuff has a flavor that I can’t imagine anyone readily acquiring. The nose and the palate are both incredibly and unfortunately along the lines of cough syrup, with overpowering, saccharine sweetness. It overpowers the original character of the SoCo and leaves behind a mouth-coating and not entirely pleasant medicinal flavor — whether sipping straight or mixing with Coke (as the company suggests).

SoCo continues to muck with line extensions, but none have been very successful to date. The best I can recommend: SoCo 100, the overproof version of the original spirit.

70 proof. Naturally flavored with caramel color added.

C- / $17 / southerncomfort.com

southern comfort cherry Review: Southern Comfort Bold Black Cherry Liqueur

Review: Patron Citronge Orange Liqueur

Tequila, lime, triple sec – That’s a margarita.

So why not use a triple sec that’s made in Mexico, since presumably those distillers know best how the drink should be put together, right?

That’s the basic idea behind Patron Citronge, essentially a triple sec (and not, it should be pointed out, a tequila-based product). This surprisingly thick and clear spirit is made in Jalisco, made with oranges from Haiti and Jamaica and sweetened with cane sugar. Fresh orange character attacks the nose, along with just a hint of woody notes and a touch of green, herbal character that hints at agave. (Or is it just the mind playing tricks?)

I swear it’s there as you sip the spirit, a mouth-filling, vibrantly sweet liqueur that balances sweet and sour with ease. At 80 proof, it’s a hot one, though: Drinking it straight proves more than a bit fiery, and that “burn” may again refer you to some of the lesser tequilas you’ve experienced. That may be a pro or con depending on your approach to orange liqueurs, but it’s hard not to appreciate the pure flavor and bright citrus notes found in this spirit. Try it, of course, in a margarita.

B+ / $20 / patrontequila.com

Patron Citronge Review: Patron Citronge Orange Liqueur

Review: Killepitsch Krauterlikor Herbal Liqueur

Dating from 1858, this unique herbal liqueur was developed by the Busch family in Dusseldorf, Germany. Formally launched as a commercial brand in the 1950s, the name was derived during World War II, by “Willi Busch, who, while in an air-raid shelter during the Second World War, promised to toast new beginnings with his friend Hans Müller-Schlösser if they survived. The message to his friend was, ‘If they don’t “KILL” us now, we will have a chance to “PITSCH”‘ (local vernacular for drink), creating the name ‘Killepitsch.’”

Made from a recipe that includes 90 different herbs, spices, fruits and berries that have matured together for over a year, this deep brownish-red liqueur was recently reissued in a “Design” bottle (pictured below), though the formula inside is the same as the bottle with classic white label, red lettering, and gold trim.

Unctuous and bittersweet in the Jagermeister milieu, this complex spirit offers an overwhelming host of flavors. Lots of cinnamon, cloves, and root-beer flavor up front, then ultrasweet dark prune and raisin come along shortly after. In the finish, the bitterness becomes increasingly apparent, and a certain nuttiness joins the fray. A slightly harsh conclusion recalls dark cherries, rhubarb, and a touch of Christmas spice.

84 proof.

B / $23 / killepitsch.de

Killepitsch Design bottle Review: Killepitsch Krauterlikor Herbal Liqueur

Review: Stroh Jagertee Liqueur

The “Jager” might tip you off that this is an herbal liqueur, but don’t let the name fool you: Stroh Jagertee (“hunter’s tea”), hailing from Austria, is a curious blend of “spiced rum” — the “rum” itself is actually not sugar-based but rather an ethanol-based spirit, also made in Austria — and black tea, bottled at a full 80 proof.

A decidedly unique spirit, it does indeed taste like its constituent components. The tea is strong and fresh, the “rum” spiced within an inch of its life, with cinnamon, raisins, and lots of fruit character — orange peel, dried mango, dried pineapple. The effect is super-sweet, like a heavily-spiced pineapple upside-down cake that is drenched with tea. I’m not sure this is something I could drink on a daily basis, but it’s intriguing as a sweet after-dinner sipper in lieu of a bitter amaro.

B / $25 / stroh.at

stroh Jagertee Review: Stroh Jagertee Liqueur

 

Ice Cream Sandwich Recipes with Flor de Cana Rum and Frangelico

Now you can have your rum and eat it too! Recipes courtesy chef Eddy Van Damme, in honor of July being National Ice Cream Month.

Flor de cana ice cream sandwich 300x199 Ice Cream Sandwich Recipes with Flor de Cana Rum and FrangelicoFlor de Caña Rum Soaked Raisin Ice Cream Sandwich

½ cup Flor de Caña 7 Year Grand Reserve rum
¾ cup raisins
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
¾ cup + 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoon Flor de Caña 7 Year Grand Reserve rum

1. In a saucepan heat first-listed Flor de Caña until hot but not boiling. Pour onto raisins and ensure raisins are well covered. Seal with plastic food wrap and allow raisins to absorb Flor de Caña overnight at room temperature. Toss the mixture occasionally to ensure that raisins absorb all Rum.

2. Bring milk, cream and sugar to a full boil and remove from heat. Add vanilla extract and second listed Flor de Caña and cover with plastic food wrap. Place in refrigerator overnight.

3. If using an ice cream machine that uses a bowl which needs to be frozen place in freezer and set freezer on lowest setting.

4. Following day: Drain raisins and add any non absorbed Rum to ice cream mixture. Place raisins in freezer.

5. Churn ice cream mixture, when ice cream becomes thick and is nearly done add frozen raisins. Place ice cream in freezer.

6. Sandwich ice cream between your favorite two cookies.

*For best results soak raisins and prepare ice cream a day ahead of churning.

Frangelico ice cream sandwiches 1 300x199 Ice Cream Sandwich Recipes with Flor de Cana Rum and FrangelicoFrangelico Ice Cream Sandwich

1 ¾ cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
¾ cup + 2 tablespoon light brown sugar
Pinch salt
½ cup + 2 tablespoon Frangelico Hazelnut Liqueur

1. In saucepan whisk milk, cream, sugar and salt to a full boil and remove from heat. Place saucepan into bowl filled with ice to chill ice cream mixture.

2. Once cold add Frangelico and add a cup or more additional salt to ice bowl (salt in ice will make the ice cream mixture super cold and make churning more effective).

3. Churn ice cream according to ice cream machine manufacturer’s directions. Once churned, place ice cream in a very cold bowl and freeze.

4. Sandwich ice cream between your favorite two cookies.

Review: Jailers Tennessee Whiskey, Breakout Rye, and Forbidden Secret Cream Liqueur

Today we look at three new whiskey products brought to us by  a new company, the Tennessee Spirits Company, a division of Capital Brands. Formed by a group of spirits industry veterans, the focus here is (obviously) on Tennessee whiskeys, with this trilogy the inaugural releases.

TSC doesn’t have its own distillery (yet) but plans to build one, including a visitor’s center. These three spirits are obviously private-label creations for now (one doesn’t just start a business and sell an 8-year-old rye the next day), and it will probably take a few stabs at this to hit the right groove while that distillery gets up and running.

Jailers Premium Tennessee Whiskey – A mashbill of 80% corn plus assorted rye and malted barley go into this whiskey, which is double distilled, steeped in maple chips, then aged for 4 to 5 years in charred white oak barrels. It is chill-filtered and bottled at 86 proof. Very fruity, it’s got distinct macerated Bing cherry character, then the wood — charred cherrywood — comes along after a bit. This is a hot whiskey with a moderate body, quite sharp, with a warming finish. It’s a Tennessee whiskey that’s hard to peg: It’s not the easy drinker of, say, Jack Daniel’s, but there’s so much fruit here it’s hard not to imagine it in a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned. B+ / $25

Breakout American Rye Whiskey – A mashbill of 51%-plus rye (plus corn and malted barley) goes into a double-distilled whiskey that is put into white oak barrels for eight years. Like Jailers, it’s bottled at 86 proof. This is a tricky and unexpected rye. Malty and dusty, this has the distinct character of a whiskey that’s spent too long in wood. Some buttery toffee character lives on the nose, but it’s quickly subsumed by all that wood, coming together with a bit of a sawdust character. In the end Breakout just doesn’t have a great rye body to it, and the whiskey doesn’t ever come together the way it should. C+ / $45

Forbidden Secret Dark Mocha American Cream – A Bailey’s clone, though the “artificial liqueur” label on the bottle doesn’t instill confidence. Essentially this is a blend of Jailers Whiskey, cream, chocolate, and espresso, and it tastes like you think it does: Sweet, creamy, and and much like a boozy version of something you’d order at Starbucks. All the elements listed above are here, in a pretty good balance. If you like whiskey/cream liqueurs, you’ll dig this one, “artificial” or no. 30 proof.  A- / $25

tennesseespiritscompany.com

tennessee spirits company Review: Jailers Tennessee Whiskey, Breakout Rye, and Forbidden Secret Cream Liqueur