Review: Flor de Cana Rum – 7, 12, 18, and 25

Flor De Cana C18 700ml Front

Nicaragua’s best-known rum is Flor de Cana, which has grown in popularity and is available in nearly a dozen expressions now. Today we look at a full four of the distillery’s offerings, spanning the range from youngish to very old.

Update: Originally I referred to these rums as “7 Years Old” and so on instead of just “7,” and several readers commented and emailed to let me know that Flor de Cana does not actually say “years old” on the label. The bottles just show a number. I asked Flor de Cana to explain and this was the response:

Each bottle of Flor de Caña contains a unique blend of aged rums. Younger, more robust rums and older, more delicate rums, are blended to achieve a complex taste profile representative of the average age of the blend. Flor de Caña labels all of their rums with the average age of the blend.

Hopefully that clarifies the age situation (though perhaps imperfectly).

All are 80 proof.

Flor de Cana Gran Reserva 7 – This is the oldest of Flor de Cana’s “slow-aged” line, its standard lineup of seven various rums. Dense with caramel and vanilla, it’s a classic and well-aged rum, offering secondary notes of burnt butter and coffee grounds, though it’s still showing some petrol overtones held over from its youth. Woody and brambly at times, it offers some Madeira notes on the finish that offer a curious counter to the rum’s more traditional elements. B / $19

Flor de Cana Centenario 12 – This is the beginning of the “Centenarios” family, Flor de Cana’s highest-end bottlings. Centenario 12 takes things in a somewhat different direction than the Gran Reserva 7, with a punchy attack that leads to a heavy fruit character that the 7 doesn’t provide. Over-ripe banana, coconut, and a mix of cherry and apricot notes give this a kind of fruit cocktail character that sometimes finds itself at odds with the vague coffee notes that emerge over time. The finish is pulled in both directions, with some success, but also with some confusion to the palate. B+ / $30

Flor de Cana Centenario 18 – Lots of barrel influence here (I called it “smoke” in a relatively naive, early review, when this rum had a slightly different name), with more of that over-ripened fruit quickly coming up behind. Lots of tropical influence here — especially ripe, almost fermented pineapple — plus some coconut syrup notes (think Malibu). As with the 12, it doesn’t quite come together for me as it should, again showing some coffee (and perhaps black tea) character that feels at odds with all that fruit. Remarkable family resemblance to the 12 here. B+ / $40

Flor de Cana Centenario 25 – The top of the Flor de Cana line, here we see those fruit and barrel char notes giving the rum a bit of an oxidized Madeira note, a touch winey, but loaded up with caramel and some emerging chocolate notes and more of a raisiny note in lieu of some of the fresh tropical fruit notes described above. The finish loses the plot a bit, though, with a somewhat saccharine note (combined with more coffee bean character) that dulls the vibrancy that is initially so thrilling to the palate. That said, it’s definitively the expression of Flor de Cana to beat — although it may just beat your wallet into submission along the way. A- / $150

flordecana.com

Review: Bonnie Rose Tennessee White Whiskey – Orange Peel and Spiced Apple

bonnie roseIt hasn’t taken long, but flavored white whiskeys — most visibly in the form of brightly-colored flavored moonshines — are starting to gain in the marketplace as producers look for a way to make these very young spirits palatable to a wider audience.

Bonnie Rose is white Tennessee whiskey (which alone is unusual), and it isn’t even available at all in an unflavored version. We got both flavors — orange peel and spiced apple — to put through the paces. Thoughts follow.

Both are 70 proof.

Bonnie Rose Tennessee White Whiskey Orange Peel Flavor – Very strong on the nose with notes of orange candies (not so much “peel”). On the tongue, a similar citrus-forward sweetness emerges — and endures for the long haul. There’s only a modest graininess underpinning the sweet sugar notes up top, effectively wiped away by the flavoring elements. Nothing shocking here. B-

Bonnie Rose Tennessee White Whiskey Spiced Apple Flavor – Heavy cinnamon-applesauce notes fill the air as soon as this is uncorked, and it offers dense and largely pleasant apple cider notes on the nose when the glass is poured. Though less immediately sweet than the Orange Peel expression, this whiskey is equally effective at masking the granary notes with flavoring agents, although the finish has moments of astringency and some bursts of popcorn. B

each $17 / bonnierosewhiskey.com

Review: 2014 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay

KENDALLJACKSONParadoxically, the “Vintner’s Reserve” designation is pretty much Kendall-Jackson’s lowest-end bottling, but let’s not get too caught up in the names. The 2014 vintages of its iconic California white wines are finally here, so let’s give them a spin.

2014 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc California – Almost New Zealand in style, this super-sweet sauvignon blanc boosts the tropical notes while keeping the minerals and herbs to a minimum. The finish offers notes of sugar-coated lemon and orange candies, which might be fine on the deck of your yacht, but which clashes at mealtime. C+ / $13

2014 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay California – A considerable improvement over the sauvignon blanc, this chardonnay keeps the butter and oak in check while pushing notes of baked apples, vanilla cookies, and a sweetness that I’ll call cereal milk. B / $17

kj.com

Review: Domaine Dupont Calvados – Fine Reserve, Vieille Reserve, Hors d’Age

Calvados Dupont Hors d'ageThese Calvados bottlings hail from the Pays d’Auge, the primary production area for the classic apple brandy in France’s Normandy region.

The company produces over a dozen different expressions of Calvados (plus cider and other beverages). Today we look at three of the more common bottlings, all on the younger side of the company’s offerings. Let’s look at each in turn. (Note: Prices tend to vary widely, so shop around.)

Domaine Dupont Calvados Fine Reserve – Aged two years in barrel, half in new oak. A bright gold brandy, it features the classic mustiness you get with young apple brandies, followed by heavy notes of baked red apples. Light baking spices emerge on the end, then a lightly woody astringency takes hold. A very simplistic expression of Calvados, it is best regarded as a mixing alternative for vodka or even gin. 80 proof. C / $30

Domaine Dupont Calvados Vieille Reserve – Aged four years in barrel, 25% in new oak. Here the Calvados is settling down nicely, throwing off some of its medicinal and astringent notes and showcasing more of its apple core. A purer apple note — fruity and slightly sweet — is evident from the nose and follows as you work into the body. On the palate, it’s both surprisingly light and floral, with just a touch of nutmeg giving it a slightly wintry edge. The tougher, more industrial notes endure on the finish, but they aren’t as overpowering as in the Fine Reserve. 84 proof. B / $50

Domaine Dupont Calvados Hors d’Age – Aged six years in barrel, 25% in new oak. Further maturation gives this Calvados more austerity, though the upgrade isn’t as immediately evident as it is with the jump from Fine to Vieille. Again fresh apples dominate, with some baking spice and particularly nutmeg offering strong secondary notes. The finish feels hotter than both of the above, not due to industrial notes but more from the clearer presence of alcohol. This leads to more of a warming and cleaner finish that lets the more pure and fresh apple character shine through. B+ / $75

calvados-dupont.com

Review: t1 Tequila Extra Anejo Sensacional

Four years ago, the t1 Tequila (aka Tequila Uno) line hit the scene, a Highlands bottling with the standard three expressions on tap. Now t1 is back with a rarer expression: an extra anejo with 3 1/2 years of age on it. As with the other aged t1 tequilas, there’s a twist: Those years are spent not in the usual bourbon barrels but rather in Scotch casks.

Let’s give it a spin, shall we?

The nose kicks off with big agave and bright citrus notes — lemon and grapefruit — with a kind of smoky underpinning, giving it a hint of a mezcal character. On the palate, the tequila bursts with flavor — again, there’s far more agave than most extra anejos offer, with the intense vegetal character you usually only see in a blanco. As this fades, the tequila offers notes of black pepper, grapefruit peel, and barrel char. This lattermost note endures on the finish, giving Sensacional a distinctly whiskeylike character to it, with wood transporting it to another world.

Sensacional is certainly unique, but with that said, I’m not entirely sure that it works as well as it should. The use of Scotch casks really takes this into a different direction than any other XA I’ve encountered to date, with a heavy, almost overpowering barrel influence making itself known. What remains on the tongue when it’s said and done is something like a watery version of an Islay-heavy blend. Nothing exactly wrong with that, but not really what I wanted in my tequila.

84 proof.

B / $140 / t1tequila.com

Review: Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch Bourbon

Wyoming Whiskey Bottle Hi-resNo, it’s not from Indiana!

Wyoming Whiskey is a craft spirit made in Kirby, Wyoming, from a mash of locally-produced corn, wheat, and barley. There’s no aging information available, but it’s on the youthful side. To wit:

Fresh on the nose, it’s hanging on to its youth through some lighter cereal notes that become more evident as you tuck into your first sips. The grain — more shredded wheat, less popcorn — is tempered with ample vanilla and caramel notes, but then jumps into a back end that evokes cracked black pepper, barrel char, some licorice, and cocoa nibs. The finish is surprisingly bitter and drying.

All told, it’s young and a bit brash at times, but not without some significant level of charm. Definitely worth a shot if only to see how craft distillers are working hard at keeping up with the Joneses.

88 proof. Reviewed: Batch #22.

B / $40 / wyomingwhiskey.com  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: BridgePort Brewing Stumptown CandyPeel IPA

bridgeport stumptown candypeelBridgePort’s latest is this IPA, which uses Centennial, Crystal, and the exotic Styrian Golding hops to give “CandyPeel” a “candy-orange” character. A dash of actual orange peel is added to the beer as well.

The results aren’t bad, though up front it’s less orange and more woodsy-mushroomy. The finish brings up more of those promised citrus notes, though, and though they are fun to experience they are a bit at odds with what has come before — which is all in all less bracing pine and more muddy waters. Fair enough, but not my favorite.

6.5% abv.

B / $8 per six-pack / bridgeportbrew.com

Review: Wines of Francis Ford Coppola, Late 2015 Releases

bottle_sante-pinotThree late arrivals from the tail end of 2015 from the monstrous variety that Coppola manages to put out. Some quick thoughts on these late-arriving wines.

2012 Francis Ford Coppola Director’s Cut Cinema – 49% cabernet sauvignon, 45% zinfandel, 4% petite sirah, 2% syrah – Quite a sugary experience, it oozes with raisins, sweet tea, and blackberry jelly. The lengthy, New World finish is certainly fresh, if not exactly nuanced. B- / $32

2013 Francis Ford Coppola Director’s Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County – Big and jammy, full of cassis and blackberry, with notes of coffee bean and tea leaf. Sweet but reasonably well-balanced, it’s a fair enough food wine but on its own the finish starts to get away from you as it pours on the sugar. B- / $16

2013 Francis Ford Coppola Votre Sante Pinot Noir California – Fruity up front, then a sizeable smoke influence takes hold. Some cedar wood and black tea notes come into focus, but otherwise this is a simple and perfectly drinkable expression of this classic grape — provided you don’t mind a little char on the back end. B / $12

francisfordcoppolawinery.com

Review: Woodchuck Hot Cha Cha Cha! Hard Cider

vermont cider HotChaChaChaNot a lot of mystery in this one: Take apple cider, add some spicy peppers, and serve. Sweet-meets-spicy can often go horribly awry, but Woodchuck manages to keep both sides in check and turns in a capable, if unsurprising cider sipper. The up-front is a bit on the sugary side — more apple Jolly Ranchers than a crisp, fresh apple — but the zippy, lightly spicy conclusion is a good counterpoint to what’s come before. Worth a look.

5.5% abv.

B / $9 per six-pack / woodchuck.com

Revew: Chateau du Tariquet Armagnacs – Blanche, VS Classique, VSOP, XO, and 1993 Vintage

Tariquet XONo longer using the “Domaine du Tariquet” name (see earlier coverage here under the old identifier), Tariquet now produces both wines and spirits under the “Chateau du Tariquet” moniker.

Recently we received a monster shipment of the Tariquet lineup, from the unaged blanche to a vintage offering distilled 22 years ago.

Away we go!

Chateau du Tariquet Blanche Armagnac – Made from 100% folle blanche grapes, and bottled unaged as an eau de vie. Floral and fruity on the nose, with medicinal overtones. On the palate, it offers notes of honeysuckle, lavender, and the essence of canned peaches and pears. A musty, green character emerges with time, tempering the up-front sweetness with a finish that veers into vegetal character. Think of a white whiskey that’s lighter on its feet and more balanced and you have an idea where this white brandy is headed. 92 proof. B- / $50

Chateau du Tariquet Bas-Armagnac VS Classique – 60% ugni blanc and 40% baco, aged 3 years at least. Reviewed last year here, this entry level brandy offers a nose of raisin and spice, citrus fruit, and sweet vanilla. The body is simple but plenty enjoyable, with nutty notes compounding the above fruitier notes, all mixed with a rustic brush that evokes some ethanol and hospital notes from time to time. I like it somewhat less today than my prior rave would indicate, but for a daily brandy at a solid price, it’s still worth a look. 80 proof. B / $35

Chateau du Tariquet Bas-Armagnac VSOP – Same grape breakdown as the above, but this bottling is at least 7 years old. Here we see the Tariquet house style pushing harder on its deeper, nuttier characteristics. Brown butter, sweet pastries, and stronger vanilla notes give this brandy a more rounded and fully-formed character, with touches of roasted marshmallows, marzipan, and banana bread coming to the fore. There’s lots to enjoy here, with the racy finish giving it an edge (and some fruit) that keeps the experience alive. 80 proof. A- / $46

Chateau du Tariquet Bas-Armagnac XO – Same grapes, at least 15 years in barrel. Again, the level of depth gets pushed further, and deeper, with intense notes of nuts, plus chocolate and coffee. The fruit is darker, restrained, and more brooding, heavy with plum and cassis, and dusted with cloves and ground ginger. Dark chocolate rules on the finish. I usually prefer my older Cognac showing a bit more fruit, but this expression offers its own enjoyable, though different, drinking experience. 80 proof. A- / $70

Chateau du Tariquet Bas-Armagnac 1993 Vintage – Again the same grapes, all harvested in 1993. Bottled in 2010, making this a 17 year old spirit. There’s more heat on the nose, which might make you fear for a heavy, alcoholic bomb. Push through to the body, where you’ll find a lush brandy awaits you. Dense caramel and huge raisin notes start things off, followed by chocolate, lighter coffee, vanilla, and a mix of baking spices. The finish is lengthy and sweet, with orange Dreamsicle notes and a touch of black pepper. In need of a touch more balance, but lovely nonetheless. 90.4 proof. A- / $100

tariquet.com