New Orleans’ Atelier Vie is the company behind this gin (there’s also a barrel-aged version), a classic juniper-heavy style that won’t offend any gin lover.
The gin is crafted from grain neutral spirits, and aside from juniper, bay leaf is the only other listed botanical here — the rest are not disclosed.
What Euphrosine — surely the greatest name ever to come to the world of gin — offers is a fairly traditional spirit considering its unusual place of distillation. On the nose, juniper is backed by some sweeter notes, plus lemon peel, vanilla, and fresh herbs — surely that bay leaf in action.
On the palate, it’s got sweetness up front, then distinct lavender notes. More of that oily lemon character present on the nose builds as the floral notes fade, with an herbal, mainly rosemary-like, character coming along on the finish. The overall impression is somewhat muted, a bit dusty, and quick to depart the palate as it drops off rapidly. I like the gin just fine on the whole, but ultimately it doesn’t offer much in the way of major tricks to separate it from an increasingly vast pack of well-crafted but not dissimilar artisan gins.
B / $30 / ateliervie.com
Fred Minnick is the bon vivantiest of the bourbon-focused bon vivants, an ascot-wearing gentleman who knows his whiskey and dutifully reports all the news that’s fit to print from Kentucky and beyond.
Bourbon Curious: A Simple Tasting Guide for the Savvy Drinker is exactly that, a guide to everything a novice drinker would want to know about bourbon (and only bourbon). What’s the difference between bourbon and other whiskeys? What’s with the new barrels? Why whiskey vs. whisky? Minnick runs you through all the basics that readers of this site probably already know — but which their friends probably ask them about all the damn time.
After zipping through all of that, Minnick spends a solid slug of time discussing the nose and flavor of bourbon in general, with an eye toward the many strange notes that can bubble up in the course of tasting bourbon. The main event is saved for last — over 50 bourbon brands digested with detailed tasting notes, even more detailed production information, and questions for the reader to ponder. Whether you’re putting together a tasting of Stagg or Pappy, Minnick is there to guide you along the way.
Fantastically approachable, it’s a whisky book that’s as easy to digest as a glass of Baker’s after dinner.
A- / $16 / [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]
Glasgow Distillery Co. is the producer of Makar Gin, but it also put together this one-off single malt, essentially an independent bottling of a 26 year old whisky sourced from a mystery distillery in Speyside. Oddly, it’s a peated Speyside (and one source on GDC’s website says it’s 27 years old, not 26), so it’s already a bit eyebrow-raising.
I had the tiniest of samples of this rarity, which offers a classic honey/citrus Speyside nose, tempered with a lacing of peat smoke. The peat is extremely light-handed, and peat freaks need not apply. It’s more akin to a fire burning in the chimney next door — just enough to whet your appetite for a winter warmer.
The palate is well balanced and firing just right, with fresh apples, flamed orange peel, spicy chutney, and a touch of white pepper. Just the lightest touch of smoke comes along on the back end — think cedar branches or other evergreen needles aflame — before whisking away with a torched brown sugar note.
A- / $930 / glasgowdistillery.com
Laura Diaz Munoz creates these two California cabernets — wildly different, yet next door neighbors — at Galerie, where the wines are constructed to evoke France’s Loire Valley. (Three white wines, not reviewed here, are also produced.) Today we take a dive into the 2012 reds. Thoughts follow.
2012 Galerie “pleinair” Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – Bright fruit starts things off on this flavor-packed wine, which offers lush berries — rasp- and blue- varieties — mixed up with a brambly, woodsy essence. A seductive introduction leads to a rather intense, bittersweet finish that is almost punchy with amaro notes, vanilla, and a touch of balsamic. Nicely balanced, but with tons of complexity to explore. A / $50
2012 Galerie “latro” Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley Sonoma County – A vastly different wine, with restrained sweetness and fruit, showcasing more bitter, even sour, notes of herbs, roots, and leather. Lots of tannin here, with a duskiness that dried figs, tobacco, and tar. Considerably less developed than the above, but a food friendly wine. B+ / $50
High-end vodka has been making a move to the even higher end of late, and one of the forerunners is this intriguing option from perennial top shelfer Grey Groose.
The idea with Grey Goose VX is to take Grey Goose and spike it with “a hint of precious Cognac.” (Remember, after all, this is a French product.) What’s a hint? 5%, according to the bottle, leaving 95% remaining for good old vodka.
Grey Goose VX is clear, which indicates that it’s filtered the way white rum and some tequila is to strip out any color.
What’s inside, though, is clearly not just vodka, as that touch of Cognac makes a significant difference to the body — much like adding a dash of bitters to a cocktail takes the flavor in a whole new direction.
On the nose, it doesn’t let on much (particularly if you let it rest in the glass). There’s just a slight nougat and plum character atop what is already a somewhat sweet vodka to begin with. Novices may not notice the difference at first.
On the palate is where Grey Goose VX begins to shine and break away from its lineage. Here you see significantly stronger notes of white flowers, sultanas, cotton candy, and that distinct, raisiny, sugar-cookie sweetness that comes from good Cognac. It’s a surprising effect given the tiny amount of Cognac in the blend, and it just goes to show again how impactful tiny changes in a spirit’s recipe can be. The finish is satisfying and slightly astringent — the vodka coming back to the fore — but significantly shortened by the addition of the sweeter brandy.
With all of that said, while VX makes for a fine little spirit, one has to marvel at the price. This is 5% Cognac, and 95% vodka! $80 can get you some very good stuff that is 100% Cognac and 0% vodka — not the top shelf but damn close to it. It would not be out of line to suggest that you could recreate this mix at home with a regular bottle of Grey Goose and a nice bottle of XO that you add to your Martini by the drop. See where that takes you.
A- / $80 / greygoose.com
Homebrew beer cookbooks are legion, but this title from Michael Agnew is special — it’s stuffed with recipes for (real) craft beers, many of which from brand names you’ve probably actually tried. Lagunitas, Allagash, Rogue, Shmaltz — all of them are well represented among the roughly three dozen recipes in the paperback.
Each recipe spends two pages describing the beer then walking you through its construction, step by step, with precise measurements in both English and metric units. The book is sorted into chapters by style, though some beer types — pale ales and Belgians, namely — are over-represented next to less included lagers, rye, and wheat beers.
No matter. Take a flip through the book and see if there’s something you like in the table of contents. If nothing else, it’s worth the price of admission alone for the specifics on how to make Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ at home!
A- / $18 / [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]
Elijah Craig 18 Years Old was originally released in 1994 — but you probably haven’t noticed it on the shelves for the last three years, as the expression has been on “hiatus” due to a lack of available 18 year old bourbon barrels.
Now EC18 is finally back, and for my money, this is Elijah Craig drinking at just about the height of its charms. Get much older (see our 20, 21, and 23 year old EC reviews), and the wood begins to get in the way of what can be a delicate and effusive spirit.
Here we find Elijah sporting a lightly floral nose, honeysuckle mixed in with butterscotch and ample vanilla notes plus hints of barrel char. On the palate, things are firing on all cylinders. First a rush of sweetness, but there’s no sugar bomb here. Rather, that sugar takes a darker turn into molasses, dark cocoa powder, and a touch of bitter roots where that dark barrel char makes itself known. The finish is slight sweet relief, a torched, creamy creme brulee that offers a touch more of that floral note alongside an echo of chimney smoke — a balanced whiskey that melds fire and flowers into a cohesive whole.
90 proof. Reviewed: Barrel #4090, barreled on 6/16/97.
A- / $120 / heavenhill.com
Carne Humana, literally “human flesh,” is the name of a Napa Valley ranch turned vineyard, which now specializes in field blend bottlings.
This white wine is a hodgepodge of stuff, but it’s predominantly sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and semillon. The nose is marshmallow-like, with citrus and baked apple overtones. On the palate, gentle sweetness is complemented by tropical fruit, cinnamon apple notes, and some unfortunate canned vegetal character that comes along on the finish.
Best with food.
B / $24 / carnehumanawines.com
This year’s limited edition Cairdeas bottling from Laphroaig commemorates the distillery’s 200th anniversary. This year, the distillery eschews avant garde wood finishes and goes with a decidedly traditional approach: “The 2015 is produced from our finest malting floor’s malt, distilled using only the smaller stills, and fully matured in our famous No. 1 warehouse, right by the sea. Cairdeas 2015 is John Campbell’s interpretation of how Laphroaig would have been produced at the distillery 200 years ago.”
That’s kind of a neat idea, but it turns out Laphroaig 200 years ago tastes a lot like Laphroaig today. (This makes sense, as consistency is often the avowed goal of any master distiller.)
Cairdeas 2015 offers a heady nose of gentle fruit and sweet peat, mixed together beautifully, with notes of lively wood fires and barbecued meats. The body drinks easy — though it’s bottled at over 100 proof — and is initially heavy with fruits — apples, clementines, and some banana. As the finish arrives, some notes of spiced nuts come along — almost offering a Christmas-like character. The denouement features drying notes of ash and tar — nothing surprising for Laphroaig, but perhaps a bit heavy on an otherwise fruit-heavy whisky.
Nice stuff on the whole, and totally in line with the house style. Laphroaig fans should grab it while they can.
A- / $75 / laphroaig.com
Trapiche’s Broquel bottling is a widely available malbec and a solid introduction to the style if you’re unfamiliar. Here a nose of dark fruits and modest balsamic notes leads into a rather dense body (though not overly so for Argentine malbec) loaded with notes of grilled plums, red pepper, coffee, and dark chocolate. Lightly bitter on the finish, it tempers some of the heavier fruit notes up front and adds balance.
B+ / $18 / trapichewines-usa.com