Never mind the goofy name and goofier bottles. This is good, 100% agave, Highlands tequila that has partnered with the famous Baja hotel for its name and branding.
These are unusual bottles, to say the least. Mind the intriguing-looking yet wholly dysfunctional stoppers. The only thing harder than getting them out of the bottle (that tapered top makes gripping them impossible) is getting them back in.
All three expressions are reviewed below. All expressions are 80 proof.
Continue reading “Review: Hotel California Tequila” »
I am Don Quixote, a booze of La Mancha!
Chip Tate at Texas’s Balcones Distilling isn’t the only guy on the cob that’s using exotic blue corn to make Bourbon. Said to be especially difficult to work with due to its high oil content, blue corn makes for unique and memorable whiskey.
Made in New Mexico, Don Quixote is made from 75% local organic blue corn, 23% wheat, and 2% barley. The grains are naturally malted and uncooked before mashing. Made in a unique, moonshine-era “thumper” still, Don Quixote goes into new American oak barrels for four years before bottling.
Continue reading “Review: Don Quixote Blue Corn Bourbon Whiskey” »
Another Friday, another round of ye olde Drinkhacker Shopping List! A printable, full color compendium of the latest and greatest reviews of beverages we’ve reviewed on the site this week. Before you read on any further, just a quick reminder that the deadlines are closing fast to enter for some of these fantastic competitions we’ve featured on the site over the last few weeks:
Etch Your Own Flask
Art of Patron Tequila Bottle Contest
There’s not much pomp and circumstance attached to a product called “Old Rum,” so at $70 a bottle, you better hope Gosling’s has saved its investment for what’s inside the bottle.
There’s no hint at how old Old Rum actually is. Bermuda-based Gosling’s produces this by taking the standard Black Seal and aging it in barrels for, well, for even longer, until it’s ready, I suppose.
Continue reading “Review: Gosling’s Family Reserve “Old Rum”” »
To obtain this unique Macallan expression you’ll have to buy the flask that it comes with. Designed by Oakley, it is made from food-grade steel, then wrapped in a carbon fiber composite “treated to an intensive passivation and electro-polishing procedure to ensure perfection.” At last it is clad in “black anodized 5-axis machined aerospace grade aluminum” before, finally, a $1,500 price tag is put on it.
I can’t tell you much more about the flask, but I can tell you about the companion whisky that comes with it. Aged entirely for 22 years in ex-sherry casks, this single malt is a departure from Macallan as you likely know it. The nose offers a heavily smoky (but not peaty) character, with deep wood and nutty notes behind it. The body tends more toward dried fruit and raisins, developing quite slowly in the glass. The orange/sherry components you’d expect are there but, miraculously, kept at bay by some honey sweetness and a surprisingly lasting but dry finish. This is a really interesting expression but steps away from what you might expect from Macallan. Hope you need a fancy flask in which to enjoy it.
400 flask/bottle combos available in the U.S. (150 flasks — no booze — available in the UK.)
A- / $1,500 / themacallan.com
Bacon salt rim? Boring. How about a basil rim on your cocktail? Or fennel?
Fresh Origins, a micro-greens and edible flowers creator, is launching Herb and Flower Crystals, a sort of freeze-dried herb-meets-sugar idea that results in colorful, exotic, and wholly unique crystals that can be used as cocktail garnishes. Two sizes of the crunchy crystals are available, a coarse grind that is mainly intended as a flavoring ingredient for culinary recipes, and a finer grain that can stick to the rim of a moistened cocktail glass.
Continue reading “Review: Fresh Origins Herb Crystals and Flower Crystals” »
Late last year, so-called “cult tequila” Tapatio finally arrived in the U.S. after 75 years of Mexico-only availability. But only the blanco was being sold.
Now, the rest of the lineup arrives on our shores, rounding out the Tapatio family with a reposado and an anejo.
We sampled the two new expressions, imported courtesy of Charbay. Both are great bargains, packaged in liter bottles. Both are 80 proof.
Continue reading “Review: Tequila Tapatio Reposado and Anejo” »
This is one review we’ve been itching to get up for you for a long time, and finally we’ve got our mitts on this latest from Wild Turkey master distiller (and all around good guy) Jimmy Russell: Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel Bourbon.
The name has had many in this biz scratching their heads: Wouldn’t a single barrel release, by definition, also be a small batch? More intriguingly, this release is the first in the Russell’s Reserve series bottled without an age statement. The original Russell’s Reserve carries a 10 Year Old age statement and a $34 price tag. At $50 a bottle, is the Single Barrel older, or is it just a selection of the best barrels of the 10 Year? Who knows? Next time I see Jimmy, though, I’m going to pry it out of him. (Also of note: Bottles are not individually numbered, so there’s no way of tracking what barrel you’re getting… if that’s important to you.)
Another major difference we should get out of the way up front is the alcohol content: 110 proof vs. 90 proof for Russell’s 10 Year. It’s also incredibly dark in the glass, one of the darker Bourbons on the market today. Pouring a glass releases tons of wood character into the room. I thought I was in store for a barrel bomb when I tucked into it, but that’s not the case. The nose straight from the glass once things settle down offers some wood but also coal, cinnamon/baking spice, and just a hint of vanilla.
On the body, it’s a bit hot but easily manageable without water, then sweet. There’s more of a burnt sugar/dark caramel than the typical vanilla profile of younger Bourbons, with a distinct charcoal note (courtesy of the dense alligator char on Russell’s barrels) that leads to an unusual touch of licorice on the finish. Somewhat minty, but more of a dried mint than fresh. Inviting and restrained, this is sipping Bourbon that welcomes conversation, a dense and chewy whiskey with a clearly impressive pedigree. Way to go, Jimmy!
A / $50 / wildturkeybourbon.com
We recently wrote about one of Mettler’s wines in our roundup of Lodi’s biggest names. The company recently sent a pair of additional bottlings to consider. Thoughts follow.
2010 Mettler Petite Sirah Estate Grown – Tons of fruit, jammy like a big Zinfandel. Light smoky notes and a huge body. This is a very sweet wine that rushes the palate with freshly-smashed blueberry and blackberry character, yet it’s surprisingly easy to drink. Not a terribly nuanced wine, but it worked fairly well both on its own and with a hearty meal. B / $25
2010 Mettler Old Vine Zinfandel Epicenter Lodi – A strange Zin. On the nose, traditional notes of blackberry, pepper, and black tea. But on the body, a much different picture emerges: these characteristics take on a stranger, much more exotic consistency. The tea notes come on strong, playing with some hefty wood character. The spice brings on a kind of sour rhubarb note that sweetens up after some exposure to air… but never quite enough. B- / $20
I’m no stranger to Plymouth Gin — it’s the very product that started me off in spirits reviewing, over a decade ago. Plymouth is a unique gin because the term describes both a style and a brand. “Plymouth Gin,” like “Scotch whisky,” is gin that is made in Plymouth, England. There’s only one company making gin in Plymouth, though, and that is the Black Friars Distillery, where it produces Plymouth Gin (the brand).
Plymouth Gin also has a specific style associated with it. While it is similar in structure and distillation process to London Dry, it is less juniper-focused, more citrus-forward, and imbued with more of the earthier components typical of gin, including orris and angelica roots. The total bill of botanicals includes nothing unusual: juniper, orange peel, lemon peel, coriander seeds, angelica root, orris root, and cardamom. Just seven ingredients… nothing in a world where modern gins will commonly have 20 ingredients or more.
Continue reading “Review: Plymouth Gin and Navy Strength Gin” »
Jack From Brooklyn is a company based in, well, see if you can guess. And its sole product to date is Sorel, a unique, heavily-spiced liqueur based on hibiscus.
The recipe includes Moroccan hibiscus, Brazilian cloves, Indonesian cassia (cinnamon) and nutmeg, and Nigerian ginger. Sweetened with sugar and swirled together into a base of organic grain alcohol, the resulting spirit is Port wine-red and a wine-like 30 proof.
Continue reading “Review: Jack From Brooklyn Sorel Liqueur” »
If tequila is the cuestion is mezcal the antser?
Bad jokes aside, but when faced with a tequila that’s bottled in an upside-down question mark, the wordplay comes fast and furious.
This Highlands tequila is, of course, 100% blue agave and all expressions are bottled at 80 proof.
Tequila Cuestion Blanco – Old school silver, with lots of agave on the nose. Lemon and lime notes follow. Moving to the palate you’ll find touches of lemon on the body, with lots of fresh agave and a variety of citrus notes on the back end. This tequila starts out with a lot of burn but give it some time in the glass to open up and the citrus starts to develop nicely. A nice alternative to some of the ultra-sweet tequilas out there, even if it is on the simple side in the end. A- / $38
Continue reading “Review: Tequila Cuestion” »
Judging by the credentials listed in his author blurb on the back sleeve, Dominc Roskrow could certainly lay claim to being an “expert” in his field of study. A veteran writer and author with over two decades of published works, he’s received the Scotch industry’s highest order – Keeper of the Quaich – and was made an honorary Kentucky Colonel in 2010. He had the honor of updating Michael Jackson’s Complete Guide To Scotch and his list of contributing editorships reads like a Who’s Who of Whiskey publications (he currently serves as editor of Whiskeria magazine).
Continue reading “Book Review: The World’s Best Whiskies: 750 Essential Drams From Tennessee To Tokyo” »
Starr Hill in Charlottesville, Virginia makes a collection of beers in a wild array of styles, mostly available on the central-eastern seaboard. The company sent us (out of the blue) two of its newer, seasonal releases for sampling and review. Thoughts follow.
Starr Hill Starr Saison Belgian Style Ale – Mild nose. Fruity with orange and grapefruit notes. On the palate, moderately bitter and slightly sour, with a bit of mustiness on the end. Fruit and hops come together to create something approaching a sense of applesauce mixed together with old wood, rye crackers, and peanut shells. Surprisingly restrained body. Overall it offers an austere, Old World, and an overall pleasant experience, but not an entirely refreshing or complicated one. 6% abv. B- / $NA per 12 oz. bottle
Starr Hill Psycho Kilter Wee Heavy Ale – Wow, this is a dangerous beer. 22 oz. of 9.3% alcohol wee heavy… and oh so drinkable. Very malty but not syrupy, this mahogany brown ale is rich with nutty flavors, silky chocolate notes, some touches of coffee, and even light wine characteristics with just a touch of bitterness on the back end. This bruiser goes down far too easy, its light sweetness tantalizing the taste buds in just the right way, inviting sip after sip as you explore its depths. Really lovely. A / $NA per 22 oz. bottle
We’ve covered the brews of Redlands, California-based Hangar 24 before, and recently owner Ben Cook (and his crew) descended on SF for San Francisco Beer Week to pour some beers and talk about what his growing brewery’s been up to.
With 25 different beers made in 2012 (all available only in California; Las Vegas and Reno are coming soon), Cook isn’t afraid to experiment, relying heavily on local produce to come up with variations on the typical ale and lager. Beers like Orange Wheat are reflective of southern California’s heritage, and Hangar 24 has also used dates and pumpkins to create unique brews; its Polycot apricot beer is the best seller in its Local Fields series. Local labor is used to process the fruit — usually by hand, and often in exchange for free beer.
Continue reading “Review: Drinking Hangar 24 Vinaceous and Chocolate Porter with Owner Ben Cook” »
This past February a cadre of young, good-looking spirit scribes were assembled at Beam’s brand new Global Innovation Center, a $30 million compound with an aesthetic somewhere between a high-tech office and the Hall of Justice. Many new products were premiered for our consideration and tasting. However, the diamond in the rough which caught our eye was the new Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 Years Old. I was extremely fortunate enough to receive a preliminary sample; bottles will be shipped to market this coming August.
Continue reading “Preview: Jim Beam Signature Craft 12 Years Old” »
A funny thing happens when I try to type “Canadian.” I always mistype “Candian” instead. Never has that been a more apropos typo than with Black Velvet’s Toasted Caramel Whisky.
Flavored with a hefty dose of “natural toasted caramel flavor,” this sugar bomb is so dense with sugar it’s actually difficult to swallow it. The nose cues you in for what you’re about to get hit with, but the mouthfeel is something else. It’s so sugary I swear you can feel the grains of sugar grinding around in your mouth. The “toasted caramel” (which means what, exactly?) is something akin to burned Bananas Foster, and there’s a touch of a woody finish on the end that reminds you that this is indeed whisky and not caramel-flavored vodka.
Sweet tooths only need apply.
D+ / $11 / blackvelvetwhisky.com
35 Maple Street — the California-based folks behind Uncle Val’s gin and Masterson’s rye whiskey — has turned its sights on yet another spirit: rum. Maple isn’t messing around with Kirk and Sweeney (the name refers to a rum-running schooner that worked the Caribbean in the Prohibition era), an intense Dominican rum with 12 years of barrel age on it.
This is classic, extra-old Dominican rum. Huge caramel on the nose, with lots of vanilla, too. The body is silky smooth and supple, a sugary wash that, while it doesn’t exactly load on the complexities, is exactly what you want from an aged rum: Dessert in a glass, but not overly syrupy, and with a little bite at the end. The finish offers just a hint of pepper and cinnamon, a perfect complement to a virtually flawless bottle of rum.
Mind your spills when trying to pour from the grenade-like bottle.
A / $40 / togwines.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Take Deerhammer’s pot-distilled, 100% malted barley Whitewater whiskey and throw it in a new oak barrel (with heavy toast/light-medium char), and see what happens. This Colorado-based “hybrid” whiskey reportedly spends less than a year in half-size barrels, which creates a light-brown yet pleasant looking whiskey.
The nose is intensely woody, hinting at sweetness but dominated by tannic notes. There are enticing hints of dark cherry in the nosing, too.
Continue reading “Review: Deerhammer Down Time Single Malt Whiskey” »
It’s the last great frontier for alcohol: Frozen dessert treats.
Booze is tricky in frozen desserts because it lowers the freezing temperature of whatever you add it to. A bottle of vodka in the freezer doesn’t freeze, even at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Add it to ice cream the wrong way and you get more of a slush than a dense cream.
Continue reading “Alcohol + Ice Cream = Book Reviews” »