Review: McMenamins Edgefield Hogshead and Monkey Puzzle Whiskey

McMenamins Whiskey_MonkeyPuzzle - McMenamins and Kathleen NybergTwo new whiskeys from McMenamins’ Edgefield Distillery in Troutdale, Oregon. Let’s take a spin through this pair of limited edition spirits available directly from the distillery and its various gift shops.

McMenamins Edgefield Hogshead Whiskey – “Pure pot distilled from 100% malted barley,” per the label. Since “pure pot still” — in the Irish sense — is made from a blend of malted and unmalted barley, this is probably more accurately termed a single malt. Aged for an indeterminate time in used barrels of unstated origin. The whiskey is young but fruity, with a backing of gentle granary notes. Notes of cloves and almond emerge on the nose as it takes on air, along with a touch of chocolate — even a bit of horchata. The palate’s a bit racier than it should be, but a splash of water really helps even things out, coaxing out gentle caramel notes, some citrus, and more nuts. The body is basic and the finish is on the short side, the grain notes lingering more than anything else. Not a bad single malt, but I’d love to see what would happen if this went back into barrel for another 3 or 4 years. 92 proof. B / $40 (750ml)

McMenamins Edgefield Monkey Puzzle – Take Hogshead Whiskey and infuse it with Teamaker hops (which are not bitter) and honey and you’ve got Monkey Puzzle. (Great name, by the way.) The nose immediately showcases heavy hops notes along with black tea, tobacco, and dusky Asian spices. As promised, it’s not bitter but rather offers a significant herbal character along with a bit of a rolled cigar note. The hops linger on the finish, leaving behind a slightly smoky, slightly menthol character that hangs around for quite awhile. Curious stuff. 92 proof. B / $20 (375ml)

mcmenamins.com

Review: Bloomery SweetShine Liqueurs

bloomery sweetshineWest Virginia-based Bloomery takes a unique, yet wholly appropriate, approach to creating its 10 liqueurs: Rather than using a grain neutral spirit for its base, Bloomery uses moonshine — at least that’s how the story goes.

Starting with 190 proof ‘shine, cane sugar, and local water, Bloomery’s SweetShine concoctions are flavored with local fruits, roots, and nuts.

We tried three of the company’s creations. Thoughts follow.

Note: All come in 375ml bottles. Be sure to shake well, as the translucent bottles make it hard to see the solids resting on the bottom.

Bloomery SweetShine Ginger – A bit sweaty on the nose, with overtones of overripe apple and some corny/vegetal notes that don’t exactly scream ginger. The body is sweet at first, then heavy with racy ginger oil notes, peppery and spicy but dragged down by its oily heaviness and a finish of buttered popcorn. 49 proof. B-

Bloomery SweetShine Pumpkin Spice – Again those buttered popcorn notes wash over the nose and palate, this time influenced by cinnamon and cloves. More brown sugar notes come to the fore, which are a better companion for popcorn than the ginger liqueur, offering a touch of brewed coffee character and caramel on the finish.38.4 proof. B

Bloomery SweetShine Black Walnut – This spin on a nocino starts off with big coffee and Madeira notes, with a smattering of nuts — finally something that can drown out the moonshine base. On the palate, it’s got authentic black walnut liqueur flavors — coffee-like but rounded out with earthy nuttiness. The finish is incredibly sweet and seemingly endless, enduring on the tongue for the better part of an hour. Reasonably approachable (though lacking any real bitterness), but best in moderation. 70.1 proof. B

each $25 (375ml) / bloomerysweetshine.com

Review: Booth’s Recipe No. 1 Finest Dry Gin Cask Mellowed

Booth's Finest Dry Gin Cask MellowedBooth’s is a British gin brand that dates back to the 1740s — so venerable it is considered the oldest brand in continuous production. The company calls it “The King of Gins.”

While Booth’s standard edition bottling is laregely seen as a budget brand, the company has revived this barrel-mellowed version as a push upmarket, an old expression that was said to be born when some of its new-make spirit was accidentally stashed in some sherry casks. There’s no information on how long this expression spends in sherry casks (not long, in my opinion) or any data on the recipe (traditional London Dry, it would seem), but let’s give it a try anyway.

Pale yellow in color, the nose offers modest juniper first, followed by notes of rosemary, grapefruit peel, and a little camphor. Kind of a curious start, but cask-aged gins can go in unpredictable directions, so let’s reserve judgment. On the tongue, the gin is extremely mild — “mellowed” here isn’t wrong. It takes a few seconds before anything registers at all, really, at which point the gin evokes more evergreen notes, lemon, chamomile flowers, and a little brown sugar character. The finish is clean but sticks with fairly sharp juniper and a slug of sweetness that tempers the herbal character, the only real remnant of its barrel aging regimen.

There’s nothing offensive here, and if you are looking for a very mild gin, Booth’s Cask Mellowed may do the trick. That said, my thought is that gin that goes into a barrel ought to elevate itself above “harmless.”

90 proof.

B / $47 / no website

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: White Wines of Murphy-Goode, 2014 Vintage

murphy-goode-the-fume-nv-266Murphy-Goode hits with a collection of three white wines, spanning the gamut of major California styles. All 2014 vintages, let’s dig in to these affordable bottlings.

2014 Murphy-Goode Pinot Grigio California – Lightly tropical and lightly aromatic — emphasis on “light.” This is a simple wine for simple time — summer sipping, barbecues, bar mitzvahs, you know. Touches of pineapple, particularly on the finish, give the wine more legs than its near transparency would indicate. Nothing fancy, but good enough for the price.  B / $13

2014 Murphy-Goode Chardonnay California – Modest on the nose with overtones of grilled meats, some lemon, and a little perfume on the back end. A bit nutty at times, the body is somewhat undercooked, with light melon notes and some nougat. Largely forgettable. C+ / $14

2014 Murphy-Good “The Fume” Sauvignon Blanc North Coast – Crisp and lemony, this is a mild and lightly perfumed expression of California sauvignon blanc, its focus squarely on its clean structure and mineral components. Steely but not harshly acidic, with just the slightest touch of honey, it’s a simple wine but feels solid enough this time of year. B+ / $14

murphygoodewinery.com

Review: Cambria Benchbreak 2014 Chardonnay and 2013 Pinot Noir

cambriaTwo new wines from Cambria and its Benchbreak series, a line of sustainably grown wines from the Santa Maria Valley. Thoughts follow.

2014 Cambria Benchbreak Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley – Intensely oaky and meaty on the nose, this chardonnay — which is otherwise lightly bodied and quite fruity — takes the butter and pushes it in a different direction — namely, toward sausage and smoked ham notes, which really put a damper on the party. The finish blends a vegetal and bacon character, neither of which I’m particularly looking for in a white wine and which definitely doesn’t work here, at least sans a meal. C+ / $22

2013 Cambria Benchbreak Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley – Surprisingly light bodied, this gentle pinot initially offers forth light notes of tea leaf, cardamom, and simple red berries. Over time, it evolves a bit of a black pepper note — mild, but folding in a bit of crispness to what is otherwise a wispy wine. Grows on you, though. B / $25

cambriawines.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