Category Archives: Rated A

Review: Qui Platinum Extra Anejo Tequila

qui tequila 225x300 Review: Qui Platinum Extra Anejo TequilaFollowing in the footsteps of Maestro Dobel and Don Julio 70 comes Qui, a clear-as-a-bell tequila that has nonetheless been well-aged in oak barrels.

Qui markets itself as the world’s first extra anejo tequila, distinguished from Don Julio (anejo) and Dobel (a blend of various age tequilas). It also distinguishes itself by being pretty darn good.

Qui is 100% Highlands double-distilled agave which is aged for 3 1/2 years in ex-Bourbon and Bordeaux barrels before being filtered to white. Lots of agave on the nose, plus hefty caramel notes. The body is complex and rich, speaking both to the plant and the aging regimen. Here, the caramel takes on more of a butterscotch note, with a pleasant and complex vegetal note beneath it. This isn’t unpleasant but rather adds a savory character to the otherwise fairly sweet spirit, bringing it into balance.

Not at all racy or peppery, the tequila is a smooth sipper with almost no bite and a finish that recalls bittersweet chocolate.

I really love this tequila. While I can’t claim to understand what the need is to take all the color out of very old tequila — which should be gloriously amber — I commend Qui for doing such a good job at it.

80 proof.

A / $60 / quitequila.com

Review: Breggo Aromatic Whites, 2012 Vintage

Three new aromatic white wines from Breggo, located in California’s Anderson Valley. Get ‘em while there’s something left of summer.

2012 Breggo Gewurztraminer Anderson Valley Ferrington Vineyard – Light, with floral aromatics that fade into tropical fruit notes — pineapple, some peaches — in short order. A fresh but uncomplicated palate cleanser, with a surprisingly long and fruity finish. B+

2012 Breggo Pinot Gris Anderson Valley – An easy wine, tropical, lots of pineapple, with a lemon back-end. Ample aromatics on the nose — perfumy, but not overly heavy. A really short finish invites repeated sipping and investigation, but this is a fantastic wine that vanishes far too quickly. 

2012 Breggo Riesling Anderson Valley – Quite perfumy and sweet, but surprisingly creamy for a Riesling. Lots of tropical notes on this one, a pineapple core with lemon custard on top. Bright acidity, but the lemon finish feels a touch overpowering. A-

each $25 / breggo.com

Review: Rough Rider Straight Bourbon Whisky

rough rider bourbon 219x300 Review: Rough Rider Straight Bourbon WhiskyWhen I first tasted Rough Rider, a straight Bourbon made by Long Island Spirits (which we’ve covered well in the past), I thought I was tasting one of Kentucky’s finest. It’s a common, well-accepted trick: Take a barrel of old Kentucky (or Indiana) whiskey, ship it to your home state, and bottle it there (maybe after a little finishing time in a Port or other wine barrel). Presto: You’ve got your own, very high-end Bourbon.

Nothing wrong with that. Happens all the time.

But Rough Rider isn’t that. It’s homegrown whiskey and it’s good. Mashed, distilled, and aged in Long Island, this is proof that good Bourbon can be made just about anywhere, provided the maker has the patience. (Well, not yet… See comments for correction.)

Inspired by Teddy Roosevelt (a native Long Islander), Rough Rider is made from a mash of 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley. It’s aged for four years in new oak barrels before a further, complex finishing. From LIS:

“After aging, the bourbon is double-barreled, or finished, in wine casks,” says Rich Stabile, Long Island Spirits founder. “The wine casks include merlot casks and chardonnay casks, and are chosen from among the finest wineries on Long Island.” Before the aged bourbon is poured into the wine casks, though, each wine barrel is washed with a local, Long Island brandy. “The cask finishing wash tempers each wine barrel, resulting in a more mellow, complex bourbon,” adds Stabile. After the bourbon is finished for a few months in the wine casks (the exact time depends on the flavor profile of the batch), each bottle is brought to proof and filled by hand.

That’s a remarkably complex way to finish a whiskey… but it works. Rough Rider is a fantastic Bourbon, and a surprisingly affordable one, too. The nose is punchy and tannic — full of both wood notes and winey ones. The body backs this up. Initially full of sawdust and pencil shavings, it soon settles down to reveal tons of fun. It starts with Bananas Foster, black cherries, and licorice. Chocolate and root beer notes evolve from there, alongside more traditional and expected vanilla and caramel character. A long, Port-like finish comes along after that, offering some of that brandy’s sweet fruitiness by way of a digestif.

Great stuff. Great price, too, especially in comparison to so many wildly overpriced and under-aged craft Bourbons on the market.

Reviewed: Batch #1. 90 proof.

A / $33 / lispirits.com

Review: Stagg Jr. Bourbon

STAGG JR Front 209x300 Review: Stagg Jr. BourbonPutting aside the Van Winkle phenomenon, the next-most-coveted name in the whiskey world is arguably George T. Stagg. Released in limited quantities as part of Buffalo Trace’s annual Antique Collection series, this Bourbon is old, ultra-high-proof, intense, and invariably beloved by both critics and consumers.

It’s also pretty much impossible to find.

In response to the high demand for the stuff, Buffalo Trace is doing a really smart thing: Releasing a version of Stagg that, while not nearly as old or as powerful as the real deal, is a credible little brother… just like the name suggests.

Stagg Jr. is made from eight- and nine-year-old whiskeys, bottled at cask strength, uncut and unfiltered. This first release is 134.4 proof. Future versions will vary, depending on what the barrel outturn looks like. The company says the whiskey will be limited, but probably considerably more available than the regular Staff releases.

Beautiful nose here: Cinnamon and raisins, very dark chocolate, burnt caramel notes. Overwhelmed by alcohol, to be sure, but the soul shines through. On the tongue, plenty more where that came from. Sweeter than I expected, but balanced by ample fruit notes — here some citrus comes along, with caramel apple, plums, and ample cinnamon on the finish. Quite a collection of flavors here, but it’s all in balance and not over-wooded. I find it drinkable straight, but a splash of water is a much better idea, cutting through the burn handily and making it easier to enjoy. (Plus, it lasts longer.)

People are already fussing that “it’s not like the real thing,” that Buffalo Trace is just trying to capitalize on another brand’s name, and those are fair complaints. But if it didn’t say “Stagg” on the label, there’d be lines around the block. Buy it.

A / $50 / buffalotracedistillery.com

 

Review: 2010 Pina Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons

pina napa valley 142x300 Review: 2010 Pina Napa Valley Cabernet SauvignonsWe’ve long been fans of Pina, one of Napa’s undersung wineries. This year, the winery has again provided a solid slate of four single-vineyard Cabernets for our tasting pleasure. While the 2010 crop initially appears uneven (at least at this point), you will find some tasty gems in store for you.

2010 Pina Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley D’Adamo Vineyard – A very mild wine for Pina. Some tobacco on the nose, slightly green on the body. Light body. Clear Cabernet character in the form of strong blackcurrant, but not enough power to back it up. B / $75

2010 Pina Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville Wolff Vineyard – Big wood on this, pencil shavings and coal dust on the nose. Restrained fruit and some greenery follow. Again, a lighter body, though more tart and less jammy than the D’Adamo bottling. B+ / $85

2010 Pina Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain Buckeye Vineyard – A bit sweaty on the nose. As you drink it reveals very tough, almost unripe plums, green pepper, and heavy tobacco on the finish. Never really comes together. B- / $85

2010 Pina Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Firehouse Vineyard – Easily the big hit in this collection, a huge and plum-filled Cabernet that brings it all home. Wood is modest, the currants of ripe, and the silky tannins mingle with light chocolate notes on the finish to really build to a powerful finale. Total redemption for some wines that otherwise don’t quite get there this vintage. This was a barrel tasting highlight a few years ago… Pina knew it already! A / $85

pinanapavalley.com

Review: Louis Royer Cognac XO

louis royer xo cognac 228x300 Review: Louis Royer Cognac XOLouis Royer has been producing Cognac since 1853, but it’s relatively obscure on U.S. shores. This XO, like most, doesn’t offer much information by way of production or aging notes (Royer uses grapes from the six big growing regions of Cognac), but I wouldn’t fret over it. This is quality Cognac that is worth visiting, and a bargain for a spirit of this quality.

Immediate dark chocolate and coffee notes on the nose and on the first sips. This is a much darker, burlier Cognac than most other brands, particularly XOs, which tend to run fruitier, with more of a baking spice note. Alongside the above, the Louis Royer XO offers more incense, burnt orange, and root beer notes — backed by a heavy vanilla extract finish — making for an altogether intriguing, complex spirit. There’s so much going on here that it invites continued discovery. I keep going back to it, finding something a little different every time out.

80 proof.

A / $140 / louis-royer.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: Pike Creek Canadian Whisky

pike creek whiskey 118x300 Review: Pike Creek Canadian WhiskyNewly acquired from Corby Distilleries — a growing Canadian whisky producer whose products continue to be difficult to find in the U.S. — by Pernod Ricard, Pike Creek is the brainchild of one Don Livermore, who has a Ph.D. in — wait for it — wood science.

That science has clearly taught Livermore a thing or two about making good whisky, and with Pike Creek he has made the exceptional decision of aging his spirit in Vintage Port barrels. This is a trick we’ve seen repeatedly (and wonderfully) with Bourbon and Scotch, but it’s a new one for Canadian.

Matured for an unspecified time in Ontario, Canada, the whisky is bottled at 80 proof. And now it is finally going to be available in the U.S.

Results: Exceptional. The nose is immediately sweet, with caramel notes but also cooked apples and some spice. On the tongue, it’s racier than you think, the rye backbone (common to most Canadian whiskys) giving the sweet body a little heft. Graham crackers, milk chocolate, and golden raisins fill out the finish, along with just enough heat to make things interesting. Let it open up in the glass for long enough and you get lots of citrus oil notes, too. This is a complex spirit that I could sip on all day. Well done.

A / $32 / goodeatsfor.me  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: 123 Diablito Organic Extra Anejo Tequila

123 diabolito 178x300 Review: 123 Diablito Organic Extra Anejo TequilaWe enjoyed the standard trio of bottlings from 123 Tequila when we reviewed them two years ago. Now the company is coming out with an extremely limited edition Extra Anejo to complement the group. It’s not called 4, but rather Diablito, an organic EA from this artisanal company.

A small parcel of organic agave grown at 6,000 feet of altitude is used to produce this tequila. It’s cooked for 38 hours in stone ovens and aged in 114 liter new American oak barrels (not ex-Bourbon barrels) for 40 months.

The nose is initially quite salty and briny, ripe with vegetal notes from the agave. In time this mellows out, revealing deep vanilla notes, along with plenty of fresh black pepper. The body is textbook extra anejo, a seductive melange of deep vanilla, racy spices, and chewy agave — all in harmony. The body is rich and creamy, and the finish surprisingly long lasting, offering citrus-focused tartness and plenty of bite. Inviting and dangerously easy to drink.

80 proof. 1000 bottles made.

A / $130 / 123tequila.com

Review: Monday Night Brewing Eye Patch Ale, Fu Manbrew, Drafty Kilt

monday night brewing eye patch ale 220x300 Review: Monday Night Brewing Eye Patch Ale, Fu Manbrew, Drafty KiltI may have found a new favorite craft brewery. Monday Night Brewing, based in Atlanta, has four beers in its arsenal, and more on the way. We got to sample three of them, with outstanding results. Thoughts follow.

Monday Night Brewing Eye Patch Ale – This India Pale Ale is just about perfect for the style. While a little light on the bitterness (46 IBUs), it makes up for it with class. Lots of nuttiness, solid caramel (not too sweet), very light coffee bean notes on the back end. Modest, with plenty of hops but balanced and kept in check. Most importantly it’s quite refreshing and brisk, a lively summer afternoon brew and friendly to food, also. 6.2% abv. A

Monday Night Brewing Fu Manbrew – Not a style I normally gravitate to, this Belgian-style wit beer actually brings it home. A rush of pastries — pancakes? — is met by a spicy backup, cinnamon and baking spices, gingerbread and more. Very well balanced, with a modest yet silky body — though perhaps too sweet and not bitter enough for some drinkers. Not me, in this case. Surprisingly lush and gone all too soon. Plus, any beer that quotes G.K. Chesterton on the back label is OK in my book. 5.2% abv. A

Monday Night Brewing Drafty Kilt – A chewy Scotch ale, loaded with coffee notes, dark chocolate, and hazelnuts. This is less of an immediate success than the brews above, but plenty charming and rich. It’s more of a fireside brew, with smoky underpinnings and a long, brooding finish, than a summer sipper. Easy to drink, though. 7.2% abv. A-

each $9 per six-pack / mondaynightbrewing.com

Review: Pinot Noirs of Laetitia

laetitia pinot noir 91x300 Review: Pinot Noirs of LaetitiaLaetitia is a producer of a wide variety of wines in the Arroyo Grande Valley in California’s Arroyo Grande Valley, near San Luis Obispo. We tasted through three of the winery’s newly released Pinots, its flagship bottlings. Thoughts follow.

2010 Laetitia Pinot Noir Arroyo Grande Valley La Colline – Heavily cherry-infused, feathered with fresh tea leaf, allspice, and cola. Brisk and fruity body, with a slightly sweet finish. Lots going on here, but it all comes together in a lively and quite unique package. A / $60

2011 Laetitia Pinot Noir Arroyo Grande Valley Reserve du Domaine - Immediately minty on the nose, with a strong, tart, cherry body. Slightly bitter on the finish, but maybe that will settle down with a bit more time, and the wine will open up. For now, it’s somewhat closed off. Try it in 2015. B+ / $40

2010 Laetitia Pinot Noir Arroyo Grande Valley Les Galets – A dense and not entirely Pinot-like wine, with big plums, blueberries, and touches of smoke and leather. This wine has more in common with a big Syrah than it does the typical, fruit-driven Pinot. That doesn’t make it bad, but it is unexpected. B+ / $60

laetitiawine.com

Review: Tequila ArteNOM Seleccion de 1079, 1414, and 1146

artenom 1079 75x300 Review: Tequila ArteNOM Seleccion de 1079, 1414, and 1146If you haven’t heard of what ArteNOM is doing, you’re not a tequila lover. NOMs are four-digit numbers assigned by the Mexican government to each tequila distillery. Want to know where any given bottle of tequila is made? It’s easy: Just look up the NOM, which is printed on every bottle of tequila sold. (Numerous brands are invariably made at the same distillery.)

What ArteNOM does is it eschews its own branding and simply seeks out really great products — selling them at generally reasonable prices. These are issued in limited release as “ArteNOM Seleccion de XXXX,” where the X’s roll from one NOM to the next — wherever the very best tequila is being made.

That’s the theory anyway. A three of the expressions below come from highland distilleries. Oddly, the reposado and anejo expressions don’t indicate the amount of aging they undergo — and I haven’t found this information online. All are of course 100% agave and all are 80 proof. Here’s how they shake out.

Tequila ArteNOM Seleccion de 1079 Blanco – Made at the highest-altitude distillery that makes tequila. I’ve had good blanco tequilas before, but this is something else. Immediately peppery on the nose, it features true agave character plus some sea salt/marine notes. The body brings on layer after layer of complexity. It starts with a rush of agave, then turns to a rich dessert — caramel, Mexican chocolate, burnt marshmallow. The finish is hazelnuts, long and soothing. All of this: In perfect balance. Really exquisite. Love tequila? Think you don’t like tequila? Try this blanco and see what you think. (This bottling seems to have been retired but there’s plenty of it left on the market.) A+ / $40

Tequila ArteNOM Seleccion de 1414 Reposado – Another racy tequila, rich with space and ample agave notes. Wood has mellowed things out a bit, though it’s clearly still hanging on to its agave roots. More of a butterscotch character in the mid-palate here, along with modest wood notes. The finish is a bit vegetal, not in a bad way. Good stuff, but not nearly the masterwork that the blanco is. A- / $45

Tequila ArteNOM Seleccion de 1146 Anejo – Ample agave on the nose leads to a lush and well-rounded body. Deeply complex, this anejo offers immediate caramel sweetness but also cinnamon, coffee beans, toasty oak, and a long, long finish where the agave makes a lightly spicy return. Not overdone, with agave the clear and continued focus of the spirit. Amazing balance here, it’s difficult to follow the blanco no matter what, but this anejo just about does the job. A / $50

deltequila.com

Review: Wines of Holman Ranch

holman ranch hunters cuvee 288x300 Review: Wines of Holman RanchThis Carmel Valley-based winery makes a collection of delicious whites plus some exceptional Pinot Noirs — about 3,000 to 5,000 cases annually. We tasted pretty much the entire current release lineup. Thoughts follow.

2011 Holman Ranch Pinot Gris Carmel Valley – Fresh, fruity, very much alive. Friendly on a summer afternoon or with dinner, offering strong floral notes atop a lemony base plus big apricots and peaches. It’s got a bigger body than most Pinot Gris offers, but that’s not unwelcome. This is a chewy, complicated wine that nonetheless offers balance, bright fruit, and enough acid to make things sing. A / $20

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Review: Iichiko Shochu

frasco main 1 249x300 Review: Iichiko ShochuShochu is something we see so seldomly here at Drinkhacker that we don’t even have a category for it. (I’m putting it in the sake category for lack of a proper one.)

Shochu has many of the same flavor characteristics as sake, but it can be made from other starches than rice — namely barley, potatoes, or even chestnuts. The shochus reviewed here are all barley-based.

As with sake, the barley is polished until just a core remains, purifying the grain. It is fermented and mixed with a specific type of barley mold, then (unlike sake) distilled, typically just once, and can be . This raises the alcohol level to 25 to 30 proof, considerably higher than sake, while keeping that unmistakable melon character intact.

The two shochu bottlings below are from Iichiko, the best-selling shochu bottler in Japan. Thoughts follow.

Iichiko “Silhouette” Shochu - Polished to 60% of the original grain. A typical shochu, with modest, crisp melon on the nose. Underneath there’s fresh grain character — think white whiskey — but more of that melon on the finish along with a touch of dried herbal character. Nice and fresh, a solid example of what a simple shochu should be like. 50 proof. B+ / $23

Iichiko “Frasco” Shochu (pictured) – Polished to 50% of the original grain and produced with a more delicate and expensive method that I won’t try to explain here. This is a fruitier and slightly sweeter style of shochu, with a lasting finish that offers lots of melon but also pepper, and — late in the finish — neat butterscotch notes. Very silky and well-balanced, a lovely and elegant sipper. A / $70

iichiko.co.jp

Review: Campo de Encanto Pisco Grand & Noble Acholado

campo de encanto pisco bottle low 120x300 Review: Campo de Encanto Pisco Grand & Noble AcholadoOne of the top brands of the pisco revival, Encanto has been making waves for years — and we’re only just now getting around to reviewing it formally. An acholado style pisco, Encanto is a blend of distillate from four types of grapes — Quebranta (74%), Torontel (6%), Moscatel (4%) and Italia (16%). (Most other pisco styles are single-varietal. See our primer here.)

Encanto is a very fresh and lively Peruvian pisco, lacking in the hoary funk that defines so many of its competitors. The nose features fresh citrus along with some pine needle — tangy and inviting, almost gin-like. The body follows suit. Ample lemon notes meld nicely with secondary notes of evergreen, pencil shavings, and modest floral notes on the back end. As pisco goes, this is easygoing, pleasant, and — again — fresh. While pisco still doesn’t show up in a whole lot of cocktails today (and few are drinking this stuff straight), if you’re going to invest in one bottle of pisco, Encanto is probably the one to buy.

Note: Encanto has a single-varietal pisco in the works which I’ve tasted (once). Not sure how close it is to release… stay tuned.

A / $35 / encantopisco.com

Review: 2012 Sonoma-Cutrer Late Harvest Chardonnay Winemaker’s Release

 Review: 2012 Sonoma Cutrer Late Harvest Chardonnay Winemakers ReleaseSonoma-Cutrer produces some of the best-selling white wines from California, and now this winery on the rise is expanding into an interesting new area: Dessert wines.

Its first release in a new range of limited-edition wines called the Winemaker’s Release Series is this, a sweet, late harvest Chardonnay. (Few dessert wines are made from Chardonnay — Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc are more common, particularly in California.)

Some thoughts follow.

A lovely “sticky,” with pretty floral, orange, and honey notes, all in perfect balance — with plenty of acidity left behind to keep the sweetness from overpowering the wine. Made very much in the Sauternes style, I never would have pegged this as Chardonnay had I not seen the label firsthand. Infinitely drinkable, it was a huge hit with the crowd for which I popped the half-bottle open. Snap it up! 10% abv.

A / $30 (375ml) / sonomacutrer.com

Review: Tequila Herradura Coleccion de la Casa Port Cask Finished Reposado, Reserva 2012

Herradura Coleccion de la Casa Bottle and Packaging 2012 port finish 300x200 Review: Tequila Herradura Coleccion de la Casa Port Cask Finished Reposado, Reserva 2012Much in the vein of Corazon’s Expresion de Corazon tequilas, which are finished in special whiskey barrels, Herradura is experimenting with exotic finishes to its tequilas. Coleccion de la Casa is a new line of limited edition tequilas which will be released annually, each a unique experience.

First out the gate is Reserva 2012, a reposado which is aged in medium-char American oak for 11 months, then finished in vintage Port casks for another two months of aging.

Some thoughts. Lovely, moderate amber color. Quite a peppery nose, with plenty of agave on it. Some almond notes, too. The body is very lush. Rounded, with a flood of citrus notes, caramel, vanilla, and a long finish that brings forward raisins, plum pudding, and some bittersweet chocolate character — all clearly driven by the Port. Engaging and fun, this is altogether a great combination (of course, I’m a well known sucker for Port-finished whiskeys, so why wouldn’t I be one for Port-finished tequilas, too?).

Looking forward to seeing what Herradura does with the next edition.

80 proof.

A / $90 / herradura.com

Review: Expresiones de Corazon Barrel-Aged Tequila (Sazerac 18, George Stagg, & Van Winkle)

What if you were to take bourbon barrels that have held some of the most coveted and highly awarded whiskies in the world – George T. Stagg, Old Rip Van Winkle, Sazerac 18 Year Old and Buffalo Trace, and age tequila in them?  Even better, what if the Master Distiller who created these fine whiskies hand selected these barrels based on his knowledge and expertise of terroir and barrel aging?

corazon stagg expresiones de corazon 59x300 Review: Expresiones de Corazon Barrel Aged Tequila (Sazerac 18, George Stagg, & Van Winkle)That’s the come-on for this bold experiment in tequila-making, the first ever (to my knowledge) attempt to take high-end tequila (Corazon) and put it in barrels used to make high-end Bourbon (a variety of highly coveted bottlings). (Tequila is typically aged in ex-Bourbon barrels but no one ever says what Bourbon, likely because it’s the cheap stuff.)

Crazy idea, right? Well, here’s how it turned out. We sampled all five bottlings. All are 80 proof except the Sazerac expression.

Expresiones de Corazon Blanco – The baseline, unaged and just for fun, really. Racy, peppery agave on the nose. Smells like it’s going to be harsh. It’s not. The blanco goes down super smoothly, exhibiting notes of lemon, mint, and lightly bitter herbs — almost a bit like an absinthe. One of the least-sweet tequilas on the market, this dry spirit is crisp and clean yet more suited to mixing. B+ / $60

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Review: Powers Irish Whiskey John’s Lane Release 12 Years Old

powers johns lane whiskey irish 168x300 Review: Powers Irish Whiskey Johns Lane Release 12 Years OldPowers got its start as a single pot still whiskey, but in more recent years its become a simpler blend of pot still spirit and grain whiskey. It’s understandable: Powers is the most popular whiskey in its homeland of Ireland, so they have to make a lot of it.

Now Powers is bringing a pure, single pot still whiskey back. This one is denoted as John’s Lane Release, an homage to the original distillery where Powers was made in the late 1700s and 1800s.

This release is made from a mash of malted and unmalted barley which is then triple distilled in copper pot stills. Aged for 12 years, primarily in ex-Bourbon casks with a touch of whiskey that’s been matured in Oloroso sherry butts, it is bottled at 92 proof.

It’s an outstanding example of Irish, rich and mouth-filling, with a warming, luscious body. The nose is slightly hot, offering hints of honey and cinnamon. The body, however, is far more sophisticated and complex, and not really hot at all. Deep honey notes, vanilla, caramels, and touches of barley. Slightly nutty on the finish, with hints of charcoal and chocolate, too. This is a whiskey that offers tremendous depth, not something you typically associate with Irish, which is often made in a simpler style. Well done, Powers.

A / $65 / irishdistillers.ie

Preview: Butterfly Absinthe

butterfly absinthe 2 224x300 Preview: Butterfly AbsintheBased in Switzerland, Alan Moss is the kind of guy who lives and breathes absinthe. He writes about absinthe prodigiously on his blog, and he also makes the stuff (well, his partners do): La Clandestine is easily the best blanche absinthe on the market.

Moss has other tricks up his sleeve, it seems, and recently he dropped by Drinkhacker HQ to show off his latest: Butterfly. This is an absinthe that’s been on sale in Europe for a few years but is now coming to the U.S. As well it should: It’s actually an American-born absinthe, the recipe having originated in Boston, Mass., in 1902. As the story goes, an old bottle of an absinthe called Butterfly was unearthed on eBay — only the buyer ended up pouring it out when she was denied the ability to board a plane with it. The label survived, and the spirit was later recreated with a book was uncovered in Boston’s archives, and the original handwritten recipe (or at least one of the recipes) for Butterfly was found.

The label was recreated — with a few minor tweaks — when the absinthe was formally launched in 2011. Today it is produced in Switzerland alongside La Clandestine.

butterfly absinthe 1 224x300 Preview: Butterfly Absinthe

This is the new U.S. label; European label shown above.

I was fortunate enough to taste the new release, a quite sweet absinthe (which needs no sugar added) that includes some unusual botanicals, namely peppermint and citrus. The color is a beautiful chartreuse and the flavors run to lemon oil, fresh cut ginger, green onion, and of course some licorice candy. It’s a really top-notch product that will hit in the fall of this year for $85 to $90 a bottle. 130 proof. A

Moss also showed off a product which is not coming to the U.S. In fact, it’s only available if you visit the distillery where La Clandestine and Butterfly are made. Absinthe Aux Oeufs (pictured below) is, as the name implies, an eggnog liqueur that’s spiked with absinthe. A bizarre and unlikely spirit, you don’t really detect the absinthe. Instead, this big, eggy, vanilla-and-caramel cream liqueur drinks like a traditional ‘nog… until, after a while, a hint of licorice comes out. It’s super strange, yet surprisingly compelling. Too bad the six month shelf life means it will never be exported. 30 proof.

oeufs 525x702 Preview: Butterfly Absinthe

Review: Ron Barceló Imperial Premium Blend 30 Aniversario Rum

Ron Barcelo Imperial Premium Blend 276x300 Review: Ron Barceló Imperial Premium Blend 30 Aniversario RumBarcelo is a solid but largely unknown Dominican rum producer which we’ve written about in the past. While we’re familiar with the rack versions of its rums, we didn’t know about the special barrels that Miguel Barcelo was setting aside. Well, he’s been doing that for the last 30 years, and now he’s blending them up into a mega-rum called Premium Blend 30 Aniversario.

I’ll let the company explain the method to the madness.

Each year since Miguel Barceló first created Ron Barceló Imperial in 1980, private reserves of this prestigious ten-year-old blended rum were set aside for two years of additional aging.  Aged in barrels made from selected cuts of white oak, these reserves, some from the prestigious Bordeaux house of Château d’Yquem, each with different grades of toasting, were blended to create the limited edition Imperial Premium Blend 30 Aniversario in 2011.

And we got one.

What we have here is a quite an engaging and exciting rum. The nose is surprisingly lively and light, but with lots going on. The nose is nutty and at times almost herbal, with gingerbread and toffee notes often playing along. There’s just a hint of alcohol to give a little burn on the back end. On the palate, lots more where that came from. Think chocolate pudding, butterscotch, and vanilla, topped with a sort of dusting of black cherry and cola. None of this is heavy, daunting, or astringent (a complaint I’ve leveled at Barcelo in the past), but rather it’s a delicious and incredibly drinkable concoction that has drained itself much too quickly under my care. Rum lovers of the world in search of something very special and old, yet still light on the tongue, should seek this bottling out pronto.

9000 bottles produced, 600 allocated to U.S. 86 proof.

A / $120 / ron-barcelo.com