Harvest Spirits Farm Distillery, in Valatie, New York, focuses like so many other operations in this region on using local fruits to produce artisinal, farm-to-bottle spirits. The lineup below represents a full farmers’ market of goodies. Thoughts on the bulk of Harvest Spirits’ production follow.
Continue reading “Review: Harvest Spirits Core Vodkas, Liqueurs, and Brandies” »
This Belarusian vodka dates back to 1993, and hails from a 100-year-old distillery in Minsk. Distilled six times “for your pleasure” from a blend of 75% rye and 25% winter wheat, this budget brand offers lots of quality plus Eastern European street cred.
Belaya Rus (literally “White Russian”) is surprisingly easy, especially considering its birth in a former Soviet nation. The nose offers a bracing medicinal character balanced with sweetness — more like a sweet cream than typical sugar. On the tongue, more of the same, but leaning more toward the sweet side. The finish brings in some vanilla notes, and some slight nuttiness.
Those anticipating a bracing, Stoli-like character will find this a far different experience, milder, sweeter, and easier to both sip on and mix with. At all of 11 bucks a bottle, that’s a tough value to ignore.
A- / $11 / belayarusvodka.com
This bottle was given to me as a gift, brought back directly from St. Lucia. Bottled by St. Lucia Distillers, it is named after Admiral Georges Rodney, a British seaman who fought against the French in the 18th century.
This rum is continuous column distilled, then aged for an average of 12 years in American oak casks used at Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, and Buffalo Trace.
Continue reading “Review: Admiral Rodney Extra Old St. Lucia Rum” »
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” »
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” »
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” »
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” »
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” »
Michter’s is the It Company of the American whiskey world right now, its from-the-ashes story bringing many fans forward to hear about its charms. Michter’s is a brand that dates waaaay back to 1753 but which went bankrupt in 1989. In 1990 the company was rescued and relaunched, and only in the last five years or so has it really become a hit once again.
Back in the 1970s and ’80s, Michter’s Original Sour Mash was the top-selling product of this Bardstown, Kentucky-based distillery. But this whiskey inexplicably wasn’t revived after the ’90 reboot. Now it’s back after a 23 year hiatus off the market.
Continue reading “Review: Michter’s Original Sour Mash Whiskey” »
Three new seasonal brews from our ever-experimental pals at Magic Hat, including a huge winner with coriander underpinnings. Thoughts follow.
Magic Hat Ticket to Rye – It’s a nice IPA with a twist, rye grain in the mash that gives the beer a bit of an edge and a distinct, rye bread flavor. The chewy finish reminds me of a red ale more than an IPA, giving Ticket to Rye a double identity. The cost comes in the form of less up-front bitterness — which may or may not be to your liking — but I find this to be a fair trade-off considering the extra flavor you get. 7.1% abv. A-
Continue reading “Review: Magic Hat Exotic Spring Ales 2013” »
Lodi-based LangeTwins is a winery we have covered in the past, and recently we received this new, affordable 2010 Zinfandel for review.
It’s a really well-made Zin for this price. There’s solid fruit, but the jamminess is restrained. The fun is in what lies beneath. I love the subtle smokiness of the wine, which blends well with the intense blackberry character. Really clean finish, with a touch of mint that keeps things interesting.
Well done, especially at this price.
A- / $15 / langetwins.com
Peach Street Distillers, in Palisade, Colorado, is one our rising microdistillery stars, named Distiller of the Year in 2012 by the American Distilling Institute.
This Bourbon — you’ll have to look at the fine print to see the distillery’s name at all — is one of Peach Street’s flagships, a very small batch whiskey — and Colorado’s first “legal” Bourbon — made from Colorado corn and aged “over 2 years.”
Continue reading “Review: Peach Street Distillers Colorado Straight Bourbon Whiskey” »
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all!
If you’re drinking Irish today (and you probably are), consider upgrading your dram with something a little more sophisticated.
Bushmills 16 Year Old is a single malt (rare enough for Irish) that is matured in ex-Bourbon barrels or Oloroso sherry barrels — a portion of the production in each. The two barrel types are then married and finished in Port barrels for a triple-wooded attack.
Continue reading “Review: Bushmills Single Malt 16 Years Old Irish Whiskey” »