Review: BG Reynolds Tiki Cocktail Mixers

bg reynolds

Tiki drinks are some of the most iconic cocktails anywhere, but they’re so complicated to make that few people bother at home. The typical Mai Tai has five or six ingredients. The Zombie: More than 10. I never make these drinks myself, and it’s my job.

So, how about a shortcut, courtesy of syrup-maker BG Reynolds? BG is expanding its repertoire from simpler syrups into more complex but (almost) alcohol-free tiki mixers — just add rum ad you’re ready to go.

Each is made in small batches from natural ingredients (which you’ll note during the considerable amount of settling each undergoes after a few days of sitting idle). Shelf stable at purchase, the 750ml bottles can be refrigerated for up to 90 days after opening.

Thoughts on the three inaugural mixers follow.

BG Reynolds Mai Tai Cocktail Mixer – A mix of sugar, orange juice, lime juice, almonds, and various flavorings. Straight up, it showcases lime-heavy citrus and lots of gooey almond/marzipan notes, which together give it an interesting banana kick. Fortunately, the orange juice (not a Mai Tai ingredient, though orange liqueur is) doesn’t overwhelm the beverage. The addition of rum (I used Cruzan Single Barrel) tends to dominate the mix, so dial it back and shake well, which lets the vanilla in the rum shine alongside the almond sweetness. While the color is a bit too mustardy (due to the OJ) vs. the typically brown shade of the usual Mai Tai, the drink is full of flavor and tastes surprisingly authentic, making this a huge winner that works well. A- / $16

BG Reynolds Zombie Punch Cocktail Mixer – A mix of sugar, grapefruit juice, lime juice, pomegranate juice, Angostura bitters, overproof rum, and spices/flavorings. (The mixer is still under 0.5% alcohol, despite the inclusion of rum in the mix.) On the palate, cloves completely dominate — which is odd, because the traditional Zombie does not have cloves in the recipe. They’re so prominent it’s hard to taste much of anything else, but some vague citrus later on at least recalls grapefruit. Mixing with overproof rum as specified (I used Cruzan Clipper 120) turns this into a Christmas monstrosity, overflowing with cloves and gingerbread and the pungent petrol that overproof rum usually brings. I’m not sure what this is, but it’s not a Zombie that I recognize, nor anything that I could imagine drinking a full glass of. C- / $16

BG Reynolds Jet Pilot Cocktail Mixer – A mix of grapefruit juice, sugar, lime juice, Angostura bitters, overproof rum, and spices/flavorings. The functional flavor here is allspice — a cinnamon/clove mix that is pungent but is immediately more approachable than the Zombie mix. Standard, not overproof, rum is specified as the mixer here (I used the Cruzan Single Barrel again), and its addition brings the cocktail to a more satisfying balance. The cinnamon still dominates, but the tart citrus gives it some backbone. That said, the herbal aftertaste is enduring and a bit much, after a while. B / $16

bgreynolds.com

Review: Bully Boy Distillers The Old Fashioned

bully boy old fashioned

This is the second bottled cocktail we’ve seen from Boston-based Bully Boy, after its Hub Punch release from last year. (See also Bully Boy’s straight spirits, reviewed in 2012.)

The company promises this is a mix of Bully Boy American Straight Whiskey (akin to a young bourbon), Angostura Bitters, and sugar. For the fruit component of an Old Fashioned, I guess you’re on your own.

The reddish-brown color of Bully Boy’s Old Fashioned certainly looks the part, and the sweetness on the nose at least nails the easiest part of this cocktail. On the nose, it even offers some of the fruity notes you expect to see in an Old Fashioned — particularly the Maraschino cherry character.

The body kicks things off with some simple syrup, light Maraschino notes, and both chocolate and vanilla notes driven by the whiskey. Creamy and aromatic, the whiskey’s impact here is fresh and vibrant, well-complemented by the spike of sugar.

It takes a moment, but the bitterness eventually makes its way to the front of the palate. It’s hard to identify as specifically Angostura — I would even have guessed Peychaud’s, but that may mostly be the color of the cocktail talking — and there’s not quite enough of it for my taste. That said, most drinkers will probably find the balance on this just about perfect, and I’d certainly have no trouble pouring this for guests atop a few freshly muddled garnishes.

Bully for you, Bully Boy!

71.4 proof.

A- / $25 / bullyboydistillers.com

Review: Hochstadter’s Vatted Straight Rye Whiskey

hochstadtersCooper’s Spirits’ Hochstadter’s brand has been gaining notoriety for its Slow & Low “rock and rye” product, but the company makes more whiskey than just this. Witness Hochstadter’s Vatted Straight Rye (also known as Hochstadter’s Vatted Rye and Hochstadter’s Straight Rye), a beautiful blend of five straight ryes sourced from various stills in the U.S. and Canada (aged 4 to 15 years old), and vatted together then bottled unfiltered in Philadelphia.

Light and fragrant, this is one of the prettier ryes you’ll find on the market. The nose offers notes of pink flowers, caramel, and rye-heavy cloves, some chocolate, and just a touch of barrel char.

On the palate, the whiskey adds apple fruit to that caramel, sweet and tart, with just a bit of heat on the back end. Baking spices endure on a lengthy but soothing finish — the whiskey never comes across as overpowering or overblown. Rather, gentle florals continue to waft into your nostrils as the denouement reaches its conclusion, an appropriately gossamer conclusion to one of the best little ryes I’ve seen in a long time.

100 proof.

A- / $35 / hochstadtersvattedrye.com  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: Jackson Morgan Southern Cream Salted Caramel

jackson morgan Salted Caramel BottleCream liqueurs are on the rise — and here’s a new one that’s made from Tennessee whiskey… in Kentucky! No, irony isn’t one of the six flavors available — which include Whipped Orange Cream and Bread Pudding(!) — but we did get a taste of the Salted Caramel expression of Jackson Morgan (named after the two brothers who founded the company).

Let’s pour a glass from this mini jug decanter and see how it fares.

The nose doesn’t immediately come across as all that different from an Irish cream, flecked perhaps with a touch of butterscotch. The body brings out the caramel, though it’s not particularly salted in any discernible way. I get more of a bittersweet chocolate note as the liqueur builds, but the pure, quite-sweet caramel endures for the long haul. The sugar is, thankfully and surprisingly, kept in check, and while the finish is a touch rough — lingering on the roof of the mouth for quite a while — it’s surprisingly drinkable and a fun change of pace in this category.

30 proof.

A- / $20 / sipjacksonmorgan.com

Review: Redbreast All Sherry Single Cask Irish Whiskey

The name speaks for itself: This lot of 576 bottles of 16 year old, completely sherry-cask-aged whiskey is the first ever single barrel bottling of the Irish single pot still classic, Redbreast. Here’s the gist, straight from the source:

Redbreast Single Cask offers a unique take on Redbreast’s full bodied flavour profile, renowned for its signature Christmas cake character – the result of a strong contribution from Oloroso sherry casks. With just 576 bottles available exclusively through The Whisky Exchange at the recommend selling price of £180, the rare expression is expected to become highly sought after by Irish Whiskey connoisseurs and collectors.

Barrel #30087, the butt that matured Redbreast Single Cask, was crafted in late 1996 at the Antonio Paez Lobato Cooperage in Southern Spain near Jerez, the world’s sherry capital. The cask was then toasted and seasoned with Oloroso sherry for two years at the Páez Morilla Bodega until early 1999, when the cask was shipped to the Midleton Distillery in County Cork, filled with Single Pot Still Irish distillate and laid in warehouse M15A until August 2015 – 16 years and 147 days later.

Only a handful of single casks are selected and bottled at Midleton each year, a process that is overseen by Head Blender Billy Leighton who takes pride in individually nosing each cask to make sure it is at the peak of maturation. Each single cask possesses its own unique flavour character that is inimitable; Redbreast Single Cask #30087 is bottled without chill filtration at 59.9% ABV and offers classic pot still spices with fruit and almond notes, a hint of vanilla and a balanced finish. Cask #30087 was selected by Leighton and The Whisky Exchange team from a choice of two Redbreast single barrel samples in March 2015.

We had the rare opportunity to sample this highly limited release.

The nose offers notes of coffee bean, strong tea, gingerbread, and a heavily nutty, aged sherry character. The body is rich and intense — a far more powerful expression of Redbreast than I’ve encountered to date — offering more of that deep, almost pungent oloroso sherry character, giving the whiskey a character not unlike a Spanish brandy.

That coffee character is what endures the most forcefully, layering on notes of furniture polish, caramelized banana, cloves, and dark chocolate. The finish is as big as everything that has come before, enduring to the point of being epic. Is it conceivable that it’s all a bit too much? You be the judge.

119.8 proof.

A- / $256 / singlepotstill.com

Review: True Myth 2014 Chardonnay and 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

 

true myth

True Myth is a new label from Edna Valley-based Niven Family Estates, inspired by the idea that “the one True Myth is Mother Nature.” Let’s tuck into the label’s first two offerings.

2014 True Myth Chardonnay Edna Valley Paragon Vineyard – Vibrant citrus on the nose, the oak element doesn’t emerge until you sip it, where modest oak and vanilla notes come to the fore. The citrus takes on more of a pineapple note as the finish arrives, and that tends to work well enough with the vanilla component. I get a touch of coconut, and hints of apricot and a dash of fresh herbs. Stylistically restrained in comparison to what you’ll find in Sonoma or Napa, it’s approachable poolside sipping as springtime starts to heat things up. B / $18

2013 True Myth Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles – A solid wine, bittersweet up top with a moderate to big body that showcases currants, hazelnut, mild vanilla, and even a little lime-like citrus on the rather tart but moderately long finish. Quite a nice little sipper, particularly at this price level. A- / $24

truemythwinery.com

Review: 1792 Single Barrel Bourbon

1792 Single Barrel Bottle

Barton’s 1792 bourbon is on a line expansion tear lately, and it’s newest release is here: 1792 Single Barrel. Like Sweet Wheat and Port Finish, it’s a limited edition so grab it while you can.

Nothing tough to understand about this one: These are standard-production, single barrel offerings, with no other specific information provided. Naturally, only top barrels from Barton are selected for inclusion in this collection.

1792 Single Barrel is surprisingly racy on the nose, with notes of caramel apples, cinnamon, and some barrel char hitting the nose first. On the tongue, the whiskey explodes with sweetness, tempering the fruit with ample baking spice, brown sugar, and some tobacco character. The finish continues the theme of sweetness, tempered with just a touch of bitter cloves to add balance, along with a warming conclusion.

Nothing doing here: This is just good bourbon, plain and simple.

98.6 proof. (No lot/barrel information provided.)

A- / $40 / 1792bourbon.com