Review: The Quiet Man Traditional and Single Malt 8 Years Old Irish Whiskey

 

Ciaran Mulgrew’s new whiskey brand hails from Northern Ireland (think Bushmills), and is named “The Quiet Man” in honor of Mulgrew’s father, a former bartender. He writes:

Now that I am making my own whiskey, I am naming it after my father. As a bartender he saw a lot of things and heard a lot of stories, but like all good bartenders, he was true to his code and told no tales. My father, John Mulgrew, “The Quiet Man”, or as they say in Ireland “An Fear Ciuin.”

Imported by Luxco, two expressions are available at present, a relatively standard blend and a single malt with an 8 year old age statement. Thoughts on each follow.

Both are 80 proof.

The Quiet Man Traditional Irish Whiskey – Triple-distilled pot still whiskey of an undisclosed mashbill, matured in bourbon barrels. This is a light but fresh and fragrant whiskey, with a brisk nose that’s heavy on lemon and honey. Light heather notes add a hint of earthy aromas. The palate follows largely in lockstep, a lightly sweet and gentle whiskey that keeps its focus on lightly sugared grains, a quick zesting of lemon peel, and a subtle but developing vanilla-chocolate note on the finish. Again, the overall experience is very light and brisk, but totally in line with what we’ve come to expect from Irish whiskey — an easygoing but not entirely complicated drinking experience. B+ / $33

The Quiet Man Single Malt 8 Years Old Irish Whiskey – Again, triple distilled pot still whiskey, but here it’s all malted barley. Also aged in first-fill bourbon barrels. This single malt still drinks with the exuberance of youth while avoiding coming across as specifically young. On the nose, heavier notes of honey, some orange peel, and a smattering of flowers give the whiskey immediate appeal. The body showcases considerable depth and power, offering an unctuous, mouth-filling grip that leads to a rich palate of toasty grains, caramel sauce, milk chocolate, and baking spice. The finish plays up the wood and toasted grain notes, which can get a little blunt at times (at 12 years, this whiskey would probably be a knockout), but even though it’s hanging on to its youth, it does manage to take its traditional Irish character and elevate it with a surprising density that many Irish whiskeys seem to lack. A- / $40  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

thequietmanirishwhiskey.com

Review: Stolen Overproof Rum

Stolen has made a name for itself by producing the world’s only (so they say) smoked rum. Now it’s hitting the market with its latest product, a burly overproof (and unsmoked/unflavored) expression of six year old Jamaican rum.

Some details:

Stolen discovered this juice at a historic, family-run distillery in Jamaica that’s over 250 years old, renowned for making some of the best heavy pot still rums in the world. It is the last of a 6-year aged, pot still rum made using hand harvested sugar cane grown by local farmers. The sugar cane mash is fermented using a proprietary yeast strand that is cultured in outdoor wood vats. The mash ferments for seven days in a selection of the distillery’s 50 different traditional cedar tanks. Utilizing mountain rain water collected by the estate’s own rain water retention system, the rum is distilled using very old, traditional pot stills… the same as those found in Scotland to make high flavor single malt whiskies. The distilled rum is then carefully matured in ex-whiskey barrels.

Bold pot still notes hit the nose immediately, offering wet earth-infused notes of coffee bean, dark chocolate, coconut husk, some charcoal, and ripe banana. It doesn’t immediately smell “hot” or alcohol-heavy, but comes across simply as well-aged pot rum. On the palate, the heat emerges quickly, which masks a surprising amount of flavor. More banana finds a companion in mixed tropical notes, plus notes of green grass, tea leaf, coconut meat, and a finish that ends on a slightly ashy (and fiery) note.

I wasn’t surprised that the rum had such a long finish — at this alcohol level, it pretty much has to — but I was amazed that despite clocking in at over 61% alcohol, a full glass can actually be sipped on comfortably without too much trouble. That said, when used for its intended purpose — floats and flavor-boosting — it’s quite a valuable addition to your cocktail arsenal.

123 proof.

A- / $20 (375ml) / thisisstolen.com

Review: Adler Fels 2015 Chardonnay and 2014 Pinot Noir

Adler Fels is an old California wine brand that, 35 years after its original launch, has rebranded and relaunched with a “renewed commitment to innovative and world-class winemaking and premium sourcing.” From its home in the Mayacamas Mountains, the winery has dropped two releases for the new year, a chardonnay and a pinot noir, both sourced from dual locations. Details — and thoughts — follow.

2015 Adler Fels The Eagle Rock Chardonnay – A 50-50 blend of Sonoma and Monterey County fruit. Light vanilla notes meld well with notes of apples and pears. While the palate continues to develop more brown butter notes, the wine manages to stay light on its feet thanks to a slight acidity that tempers the back end, ensuring it finishes on the crisp and clean side. A- / $20

2014 Adler Fels The Eagle Rock Pinot Noir – 76% Santa Barbara County fruit, 26% Sonoma fruit. A soft and lightly aromatic pinot, gentle with cherries and laced just so with tobacco, vanilla, and dried blueberries. Fresh and lively, it offers plenty of flavor without getting bogged down in a gummy mess. The lightly bittersweet finish gives it depth without blowing out what is otherwise an elegant, lightly herbal denouement. A / $28

adlerfels.com

Tempranillo Roundup (2016 Releases): Vara, Bodegas Paso Robles, Castoro, Berryessa Gap, Matchbook, Becker Vineyards

Tempranillo is the star of Spain’s Rioja region, but it is also grown internationally, including right here in the U.S. Today we look at six tempranillo wines from five different regions to see how terroir can affect the wine — though you’ll note that many are blended with other grapes, with graciano particularly popular. (Graciano is another Rioja native that is commonly blended into tempranillo wines around the world.)

While you consider the importance of graciano from a viticultural perspective, sip on one of these…

2013 (Lot #013) Vara Tinto Especial Tempranillo – From the Santa Maria Valley. 75% tempranillo, 13% grenache, 9% syrah, 3% graciano. From the color alone, it’s a thin wine, extremely so. There are interesting notes on the palate, though, including red berries which meld with brisk orange zest, notes of sandalwood, and just a touch of currants on the back end. As summery a red wine as you’ll find. Sorry that it’s December. B+ / $12

2009 Bodegas Paso Robles Solea Central Coast – Despite the name of the winery, this is a Central Coast bottling. 86% tempranillo, 14% graciano. A lush wine, loaded up with a big and juicy currant character, with lighter notes of licorice and cloves backing up the heavy fruit up front. The finish seems plum and some orange peel notes, the latter particularly giving the wine a bit of a lift. Well done. A- / $35

2014 Castoro Cellars Tempranillo Whale Rock Vineyard – From Paso Robles. A mainstream wine, with big notes of plums and ripe cherries, the lush body leads to a berry-scented finish that hangs on the palate for quite awhile. Some tannin is evident, with a touch of balsamic detectable, but the finish remains heavy on the fruit. B+ / $30

2014 Berryessa Gap Tempranillo – From Yolo County. This is a drier style of tempranillo, a bit dusty, its mild berry core coated with notes of licorice and clove oil. Some olive notes and dried plum notes add intrigue, but a slightly sour edge calls out for a robust food pairing. B- / $18

2012 Matchbook Tempranillo Dunnigan Hills – 84% tempranillo, 8% graciano, 8% petit verdot. Another Yolo County wine, this one showcasing a bigger body and a bit more fruit — heavy with raspberry and strawberry particularly. Balsamic notes are the connecting thread between the two wines, though here they make a stronger showing, particularly late in the game. There’s also a candy licorice (not at all salty or bitter) on the finish. Again, the wine shows how food-friendly tempranillo can be. B / $15

2013 Becker Vineyards Tempranillo Reserve Texas – While no one was looking, Texas has become a hotbed of tempranillo production. This Hill Country producer’s is unorthodox and stands apart from the rest of the wines in this roundup thanks to significant brown sugar, cinnamon, and brown butter notes, which give the wine a lightness and liveliness that the other wines in the field don’t have. That’s a good and a bad thing, as it makes for a somewhat less “serious” wine that lacks body and offers a gummy yet thin finish, but it does show a whole other side of the grape. C / $25

Review: Expresiones del Corazon Barrel-Aged Tequila (Blanco, Buffalo Trace Reposado, Thomas Handy Anejo & Old Rip Van Winkle Anejo) 2016

For a few years now, Corazón Tequila has been releasing special, limited editions of its tequila under the name Expresiones del Corazón. The idea? Age tequila in barrels that used to hold some of the most prized whiskeys from Buffalo Trace Distillery. This year’s release includes the usual blanco, plus tequilas aged in Buffalo Trace, Thomas H. Handy Sazerac (new to the lineup), and Old Rip Van Winkle barrels. (To compare, check out the 2015 and 2013 releases of these tequilas.)

All are 80 proof.

Expresiones del Corazon Artisanal Edition Small-Batch Distilled Blanco – Unaged tequila (rested for 60 days in stainless steel), this is the base for what’s in the barrel-aged expressions that follow. The nose offers gentle herbs along with a detectable sweetness, plus notes of white pepper and lemon peel, a fairly complex introduction. On the palate, lemon-dusted sugar kicks things off, backed by notes of light agave and some forest floor character. It’s a blanco that’s on the soft side, but it’s also lively, sweet, and quite harmonious. On the whole, it’s a fresh and versatile blanco that comes together well without overly complicating the formula. B+ / $60

Expresiones del Corazon Buffalo Trace Reposado – Aged 10 and-a-half months in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels. Light and fragrant on the nose, with some butterscotch and ample vanilla notes. The body is also quite light considering the time spent in barrel, but pleasantly laced with milk chocolate and vanilla caramel before notes of black pepper and gentle agave make their way to the fore. The finish has a bit more oomph than in previous years, making this the best expression of the Buffalo Trace Reposado I’ve encountered to date. A- / $70

Expresiones del Corazon Thomas H. Handy Anejo – Aged 19 months in Thomas H. Handy Sazerac whiskey barrels. On par with the color of the Reposado above. Lots of red pepper on the nose, with very heavy herbal notes of thyme and rosemary. The body is a surprising bit of a blazer, again with red pepper and spice — think cinnamon red hots — paving the way for notes of burnt caramel, dark chocolate, and smoldering embers of a wood fire. Fun stuff, and wholly unexpected given the general gentleness of the series. The official tasting notes say only that this tequila has “a light, sweet taste,” which could not be more wrong. Very limited quantities. A- / $80

Expresiones del Corazon Old Rip Van Winkle Anejo – Aged in Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon barrels for 23 months. As with prior renditions, this is extremely light in color. A nutty tequila, with notes of marzipan alongside the butterscotch and vanilla. It’s light on the agave, but it’s there. On the palate, there’s a peppery start that quickly segues into vanilla and caramel notes — the two sides play off one another quite beautifully — before finishing with a bit of an herbal lick. This is a nicely rounded tequila that offers both great balance and more complexity than you’d think. A- / $80

expresionesdelcorazon.com

Book Review: Bourbon: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of an American Whiskey

Fred Minnick may be best known for wearing an ascot, but he also happens to know whiskey, particularly bourbon. With Bourbon: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of an American Whiskey, Minnick takes us on a lively and wholly unpedantic history of bourbondom, particularly as it relates to its homeland of Kentucky.

You will learn a lot about bourbon by reading Minnick’s book. You will come to understand the ins and outs of pre-Prohibition whiskey terminology as well as post-Prohibition retrenchment. Minnick spends a huge amount of time on Prohibition itself, explaining the arcane world of “medicinal spirits” and various Temperance Leagues.

While heavily laden with sidebars, the book is relatively fluff-free, so don’t expect pages of cocktail recipes or other page-fillers that detract from the mission of Minnick: To tell you where bourbon came from, and where it’s going next. That answer is left for an ominous few pages in the end, where Minnick notes, in so many words, that what goes up must so very often come down again.

Well written and never boring (which can be a problem with more pedantic whiskey-related material), this is a fun treatise on the history of America’s original spirit.

A- / $14 / [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

Book Review: The Canon Cocktail Book

Canon is a fun and well-stocked bar in Seattle — in fact, it lays claim to having the largest collection of spirits in the western hemisphere, and checking out the shelves that line the walls of the place, it’s hard to dispute that. Now, proprietor Jamie Boudreau, with James Fraioli, attempt to codify all the fine work they’re doing therein.

The cocktails in the thick Canon Cocktail Book are avant garde and often complicated. You will need to buy bloomed gelatin to make honey foam, infuse Scotch with chamomile tea, and even obtain an ounce of black truffles to dump into Cognac for one incredibly luxe cocktail. Many cocktails call for six or more ingredients. The Zombie recipe asks for a total of 30 when it is all said and done. One of those ingredients is calf’s brains — no, really!

It’s safe to say you won’t find another cocktail book quite like Canon on the market, but you won’t find a bar quite like Canon anywhere else, either. Yeah, Boudreau has some favorites that he uses a bit too often — Averna, absinthe, and Scotch among them — but even if your tastes don’t run in that direction, there’s plenty to engage with in this book, even if it’s just aspirational. Carbonated and barrel-aged cocktails both get their own sections, if you want to get really out there with your home mixology.

One of the more fun parts of the book isn’t about cocktails at all — it’s about 50 pages at the front of the book that outline what it’s like to own and run a bar. Anyone who’s even considering starting up their own watering hole — and who among us hasn’t? — needs to read this section backwards and forwards. The catch: Canon is a runaway success that’s littered with awards and praise. Your high-concept dive bar may not be so lucky.

A- / $17 / [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

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