Review: Mister Katz’s Rock & Rye

mister katzNew York Distilling produces a number of craft spirits, including this Rock & Rye, which takes the company’s own young rye whiskey and blends it with rock candy sugar, sour cherries, cinnamon, and citrus.

It’s both a balanced and flavorful spirit, with those cherries and cinnamon notes both strong on the nose and the palate. The body is slightly sweetened but far from overpowering, and it offers gentle whiskey notes up front — simple grains, vanilla, and some barrel char. It’s a fun combination of flavors, as the baking spice notes in the rye are pumped up by the added sugar and the cinnamon in the blend. As the initial rush of whiskey-fueled notes fade, the cherries hit hard, then retreat into the background as the cinnamon makes a surprisingly strong return appearance. The spice lingers for quite awhile, pleasant and soothing as the finish fades away.

Rock & Rye is a classic flavored whiskey that’s on the rise — and Mister Katz’s is probably the best you’re going to find on the market today.

65 proof.

B+ / $28 /

Review: Ardbeg Supernova Committee Release SN2015

ardbeg supernova 2015By now you have probably had your fill of news about how Ardbeg sent some whisky into space and how it became a magical superspirit after three years in microgravity. 2015’s Supernova bottling — Ardbeg’s mega-peated expression — is being released in honor of these findings. (Remember: There is no actual space whisky in the bottle.) What you might have missed amongst the hubbub is that SN2015 is the final release of Supernova. I don’t know if that really means there will never be another Supernova release (distilleries are awful about that whole “never say never” thing), but for now, it’s your last chance to get your mitts on this heavily peated and highly coveted spirit.

There’s no real production information provided for this year’s whisky, so let’s just dive in.

On the nose, peat smoke starts things off as expected, but with an undercurrent of maple syrup and orange marmalade. As with most Supernova releases, the body is composed of a mix of pungent smoke, iodine and sea spray, and preserved fruits. The finish evokes bacon and some chocolate notes.

For 2015 the overall level of sweetness is in regimented, pacing the smokiness of the whisky step for step. Despite the 100ppm of phenols, it’s not a peaty blowout, nor is it sherried into oblivion. All told, it comes across not unlike any number of highly peated whiskies on the market  — well crafted and full of flavor, but ultimately short on uniqueness to the point of vague anonymity.

Can it be that after all these years, Supernova will not go out with an interstellar bang as promised — but will rather simply fade away?

108.6 proof.

B / $200 /

Review: 2010 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour

1141109xBV’s top-end wine is still in its 2010 release, a key indicator of the amount of care that goes into the production of one of Napa’s most classic bottlings.

The 2010 BV Georges de Latour cuts an opulent and austere profile, in keeping with the general approach of this series. Strong cassis on the nose plus plum and raspberry give this wine an immediately engaging profile. On the palate, milky chocolate notes emerge, but they’re held in check by ample fruit and a well-balanced tannin structure. The finish is lengthy and sustained, offering a lightly bittersweet character that eventually showcases emerging vanilla and baking spice notes.

Most important in all of this is how well-integrated all of the various components are, making this a phenomenally easy-drinking wine that works as well on its own as it does with food. It’s not terribly complicated — which can often be a challenge with Napa Cabernet — but I’m happy to let this wine find its own footing.

A / $90 /

Review: Rational Spirits Santeria Rum

santeriaRemember Lost Spirits, the guys making 20 year old rum in 8 days? Well, after my Wired article hit, the company got venture capital funding, commercialized its reactor, and made deals with pretty much every distillery you’ve ever heard of — either to make commercial products or to provide experimental services.

Now the first third-party rum to come from a Lost Spirits accelerated aging reactor is hitting the market: Santeria Rum. Bryan Davis, Lost Spirits’ head honcho, made Santeria batch #1 on behalf of Rational before turning the reactor over to them for the second go. The Charleston-based Rational provided new-make, unaged rum to Davis, who ran it through the system and turned out this inky, molasses-hued monster, which was bottled at “cask strength” — quotes, because there is no cask, really.

I tried both the new-make and the finished product. Santeria starts with a quite fruity (very ripe banana-heavy) spirit with overtones of almonds, hospital antiseptic, and the sticky-sweet dunder character of young, Jamaica-style rum. After processing, it’s dark as night and the profile comes across as you might expect: Intense coffee grounds, dark chocolate, walnuts, cloves, and ample molasses on the nose. On the tongue, there’s more of the same, plus that sweet banana from the new-make and plenty of rummy funk on the back end. The finish is long and bitter-savory, with some lightly smoky elements to it.

Ultimately this is an interesting comparison and companion to Lost Spirits Colonial Rum, which underwent the same process but has a different base spirit as an input. Colonial is more brooding, pungent, and smokier, broader in heft and more muscular on the finish. Santeria is a bit more accessible today but, as with Colonial, drinks like some really, really, old and funky stuff. Rum nuts need to try it.

115 proof.

A- / $NA /

Review: Starr Hill Boxcarr Pumpkin Porter

Starr Hill Boxcarr Pumpkin PorterAs pumpkin beers go, Starr Hill’s Boxcarr Pumpkin Porter is a pretty good rendition. Or, at least, it’s a non-awful rendition that manages to shy away from an over-sweetened, gloppy mess while also not attempting to do something insane like actually brew pumpkin pulp and turn that into beer.

Rather, Boxcarr is a lightly spiced porter, and the holiday spices pair nicely with the malty, bready brown brew. Some clove/allspice notes hit first — then are rapidly replaced by the main event, which is quite a bit more bitter than the 20 IBUs would indicate. On the finish, some (very) dark chocolate notes emerge, evoking an amaro at times.

Smells like Halloween to me!

4.7% abv.

B / $10 per six-pack

Oh… and also out now again as a seasonal is Starr Hill’s Whiter Shade of Pale, which is just as awesome as it was last year.

Review: Mystic Bourbon Liqueur

mystic liqueurBottled by a company called Barrister & Brewer in Durham, North Carolina, Mystic Liqueur is a sweet concoction combining bourbon and “exotic spices.” Based on a “centuries-old Scottish recipe” (presumably not one involving Bourbon), it’s a New World spin on Drambuie that deserves a look.

The nose hints at both the honey and cinnamon of today’s popular, flavored whiskeys — such as Fireball and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey. Both elements are very mild — just a touch of extra sweetness and a slightly greater dusting of Red Hots. The body largely follows suit, with the cinnamon and honey backed up with some notes of ginger, lemon peel, and brewed tea elements (the latter is particularly . The finish is warming and soothing — a hot toddy served at room temperature.

All told it’s a mild experience that plays well as an after-dinner sipper. Those looking for more intensity of flavor — the whiskey character is the least present of the various components — may find Mystic a little underbaked, but as a gentler example of the flavored whiskey/liqueur trend, a few glasses of this don’t make for a bad way to spend an evening.

60 proof.

B+ / $26 /

Review: StainRx Wine Stain Remover

stainrxI won’t rehash the details of the wine stain remover story I wrote for Wired earlier this year. Suffice it to say that StainRx is a late comer to the party, and they submitted a product to me well after that piece already ran.

Long story short, I put StainRx up against Chateau Spill, my hands-down winner in extensive testing, to see which was best. The results: With a shorter-term wine stain (setting for a few hours before treatment), StainRx was slightly ahead. On the tougher longer-term stain (which I let set for 24 hours), Chateau Spill was the marginal winner. All told, it was about a draw.

Now my hunch is that StainRx — which is marketed primarily as a “blood strain [sic] remover” — is basically the same chemical as Chateau Spill, which is a lab-grade solvent designed to get dye off of scientists’ skin. StainRx looks, smells, and behaves almost the same way, so I figure you’re really getting the same stuff here as in Chateau Spill.

The company says about its product: “We do sell our product in bulk for others to repackage under their label and we repackage for others as well. For over 50 years our product, Erado-Sol  has been sold to hospitals, labs and doctors’ offices to remove chemical and biological stains.  Approximately 10 years ago we made our laboratory tested product available to the consumer under the name Stain Rx.  The product is sold in Spring Fresh Scent and Fragrance & Dye Free solutions.”

Is Chateau Spill the same thing? It’s just a hunch, and there’s no real way to know for sure. I suspect the differences in performance were due to slight variations in the amount of wine that made it onto my test fabric, and the fact that you basically have to douse the product with a nozzle from the StainRx bottle rather than gently spray it on as you do with Chateau Spill. It’s a lot easier to control the amount of product you’re using with Chateau Spill, and you’ll much more quickly go through a bottle of StainRx because of the amount that comes out with each application. (StainRx also makes single-use wipes, which I didn’t test due to their generally limited size.)

At $18 for a 16 oz. bottle, StainRx is cheaper per oz. (by about half) than Chateau Spill, but you’ll use it faster. Which is ultimately a better value? Hell, ask Mathhacker.

A / $18 (16 oz.) /  [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

Review: Wines of Tom Gore, 2015 Releases

Tom Gore Vineyards 2012 Field Blend_Bottle ShotTom Gore is a Sonoma County grape grower, nut farmer,chicken raiser, and olive oil maker — and now a winemaker with his first batch of wines hitting the market. Let’s tuck into this inaugural trio.

2013 Tom Gore Chardonnay California – Looks cheap, tastes great. Fresh and fruity, there’s buttery vanilla on the nose, but the body is all golden apples, fresh peaches, and nectarine notes. The finish is clean, with a rounded approach that lets the fruit shine through. Very easy to enjoy. A- / $15

2012 Tom Gore Cabernet Sauvignon California – A workmanlike cabernet, with simple jam structure, vanilla syrup, and a lacing of dried herbs. Relatively harmless, but nothing to write home about in the end. Plenty of fruit plus a modest tannic backbone — it helps that this wine is now three years old and has clearly matured a bit — give this an easy and uncomplicated drinkability. B- / $15

2012 Tom Gore Field Blend Alexander Valley – 35% petit verdot, 33% malbec, 21% merlot, 6% cabernet sauvignon, and 5% tempranillo. That’s a really odd blend — really odd — but as a wine this field blend works better than expected. The nose is moderately smoky with dense jam notes and some leather character. On the palate, plenty of tannin keeps things tight at first, but a strong current of fruit runs through it — plum and currants — to add balance. (Currant currents? OK.) Vegetal notes emerge on the finish, but this doesn’t really detract much, adding a curious nuance to the experience. Worth a try. B+ / $40

Review: Oppidan American Botanical Gin and Malted Rye Whiskey


Oppidan is a Chicago area-based microdistillery that is starting off with two products — a gin and an aged, malted rye. We tried them both. Thoughts follow.

Oppidan American Botanical Gin – A spin on London Dry, with grapefruit peel, hibiscus, cinnamon, elderflower, ginger, cardamom, and chamomile among the named botanicals. The nose is gentle and studded with mixed florals, moderate earth tones, and clear elderflower notes. On the palate, a wealth of flavors come forward — more floral notes, some chocolate, shaved licorice, some fennel, all with a seductive and lightly sweet finish. This is a feminine gin with a restrained and quiet body, a beautiful and delicate number that could pair well with just about anything. In a world where gin is an increasingly interesting category, it’s one of the best new bottlings you’ll find and I recommend it wholesale. 86 proof. A / $30

Oppidan Malted Rye Whiskey – A whiskey made from 100% malted rye, no age indicated. Clearly a young spirit, the whiskey is loaded with notes of grainy malt, smoke, and raw wood. The body offers some sweetness — vanilla, some baking spice, chewy wood, and beef jerky notes — but that youthful granary character is tough to shake. It’s hardly offensive, but you can find this same earthy and woody character in any number of young craft whiskeys on the market today. 92 proof. B / $45

Review: Sons of Liberty Hop Flavored Whiskey

sons of liberty hop flavored

Remember last year’s Pumpkin Spice Flavored Whiskey from Rhode Island’s Sons of Liberty? Well, here’s another seasonal, the more straightforward Hop Flavored Whiskey.

Here’s how it’s produced:

This whiskey started its life as an IPA. After retaining the IPA flavors through distillation we aged the whiskey in American oak barrels. Once the aging process was complete, we finished the whiskey by dry hopping with Citra and Sorachi Ace hops for bright and complementary floral notes.

That all comes through quite clearly in the finished product, and this Sons of Liberty release cuts a profile similar to many other hop-flavored craft whiskeys I’ve had, pushy with hops up front and roasted cereal and a touch of popcorn notes emerging after. There’s a bit of hospital character and furniture polish up front on the nose, but the body sticks with the hops and cereal combo pretty closely. As the finish emerges, some orange peel and some tobacco notes emerge. Curious stuff, but its youth speaks even louder than the hop flavoring. Beer nuts should particularly seek it out.

80 proof. Reviewed: Batch #3 (2015 release).

B / $48 /