Review: Darnley’s View Gin and Spiced Gin

Darnley’s View is a London Dry style gin made in Scotland by the Wemyss family (of Wemyss Malts fame). Two versions are produced, a relatively standard expression and a “spiced” gin. We’ll discuss the botanicals of each in turn.

Darnley’s View Gin – Aka Darnley’s View Original, this spirit is flavored with just six botanicals: juniper, lemon peel, elderflower, coriander seed, angelica root, and orris root. Only the elderflower is a slight departure from the standard botanical bill of London Dry, though there are a few omissions, namely orange peel. It’s a simple gin, the elderflower making a pretty and lightly fruity impact on the nose, along with a muted juniper kick. The palate is also light and fresh — this is a great gin to use in a tall drink like a gin and tonic — the juniper even more restrained as the lemon peel makes a stronger showing. At just 40% abv, it’s also feathery light on the palate — to the point where it comes off as a bit watery at times — so don’t go overboard with your mixers. 80 proof. B+ / $34

Darnley’s View Spiced Gin – Out with the elderflower, orris root, and lemon peel, in with nutmeg, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, cassia, grains of paradise, and cloves. The impact is immediate, the upshot being, oddly enough, that Darnley’s Spiced Gin, at least on the nose, comes across more like a traditional London Dry than its non-spiced counterpart. The juniper is stronger, and the cinnamon/cassia elements make it more pungent. A bevy of spices do come across clearly in the body, but fresh ginger, cloves, and more juniper are the most immediately visible. Unlike the relatively tepid Original Gin, the Spiced Gin is long on the finish and pungent with peppery notes. While the Original may be a great fit for a tall drink, this is the one to reach for to put in your martini. 85.4 proof. A- / $34

darnleysview.com

Review: Guinness Rye Pale Ale and Antwerpen Stout

Guinness is back at it, with two new limited line extensions that further distance it from its best-known product. Both part of its skunkworks “Brewers Project,” the beers launched at the end of 2016.

Guinness Rye Pale Ale – A pale ale made with Mosaic and Cascade hops, plus rye. Originally brewed for Guinness’s Open Gate Brewery in Dublin, it was reportedly such a hit that it merited a broader release into the market. The rye and more traditional bittering agents make for a fun mashup, giving some gravity and weight to a moderately hoppy intro. While citrus peel is more evident, it’s light on the piney resin notes, showcasing notes of mushroom, cedar planks, and leather on the finish. A nice diversion. 5% abv. B+

Guinness Antwerpen Stout – Previously only available in Belgium, where it is known as Guinness Special Export, Antwerpen Stout was first brewed here in 1944 and has never before been made in the U.S. While one should not confuse this with the somewhat different Guinness Foreign Extra, they drink with some similarities. Antwerpan Stout is carbonated (not nitrogenated) drinks as a fruit-forward beer, moderately hoppy but featuring layered notes of roasted coffee, licorice, raisin, and cloves. It’s all surprisingly well balanced, with a lasting, lightly spicy finish that echoes the coffee and clove notes the strongest. Worth looking into. 8% abv. B+

each $9 per four-pack of 11.2 oz bottles / guinness.com

Review: Four Provence Roses, 2015 Vintage

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good rose with dinner tonight. Here are four rose wines from France’s Provence, all 2015 vintages, worth a look.

2015 Domaine de la Sangliere Cuvee Speciale Cotes de Provence – Lightly grassy and herbal on the nose, this wine exhibits a bold berry profile on the palate featuring fresh notes of strawberry, plus hints of jasmine and a bit of thyme. Exotic and complex for a rose, and quite worthwhile. A- / $11

2015 Xavier Flouret Nationale 7 Cotes de Provence – A very light-bodied wine, with floral notes prominent up front and a somewhat duller, lightly vegetal body. Lively enough at mealtime, but it lacks zing on its own. B / $20

2015 Mas de Cadenet Cotes de Provence Sainte Victoire – Strawberry heavy on the nose and the palate, with an undercurrent of toasty grains. Arguably the most straightforward rose in this collection, it goes down with little fuss en route to a short but wholly inoffensive finish. B+ / $16

2015 Chateau d’Esclans Rock Angel Cotes de Provence Rose – This is a much bolder wine than the 2014 release, showcasing big fruit flavors in the realm of peach, apricot, and pear, all folded into a slightly palate that ultimately turns somewhat sour on the back end. The finish is rustic and a bit tart. Best with food. B- / $20

Review: Booker’s Bourbon “Off Your Rocker” 2016-05 and “Noe Hard Times” 2016-06

In December of 2016, Beam Suntory informed the public that enjoying a bottle of Booker’s batches in 2017 will come affixed with a price increase of an additional $40 over suggested retail, resulting in a $99 price tag. The explanation included the customary press release rhetoric of supply/demand and a reduction in release schedule from six to four times per year. The news was not met well with everyone, from consumers and critics all the way up to distributors and store buyers. Beam Suntory’s not so subtle attempt to elevate Booker’s unto the ranks of Pappy van Winkle backfired and flopped, and the company backed off weeks later. Given the recent fanfare surrounding the brand, it seemed an appropriate time as any to test drive the final two batches of 2016.

Booker’s Batch 2016-05 “Off Your Rocker” – A most appropriate nickname for this expression. This is very much a “Noe holds barred” bottle, deceptively powerful for only being 6 1/2 years old. The near-65% abv is quite evident right from the nose with a nice blend of charred oak and the signature combination of vanilla and tobacco that was customarily present in the pre-nickname Booker’s era. The alcohol refuses to sit back unless you add a bit of water to the mix, which brings out dark chocolate, pepper, and a little bit of cherry. The finish is long and strong, with more black cherry and vanilla that eventually eases up over time to provide a mild relief. A big and boisterous affair, much like the bourbon’s namesake himself, if legend is to be believed. 129.7 proof. $60 / A-

Booker’s Batch 2016-06 “Noe Hard Times” – Taking the volume down from Off Your Rocker’s 11 to about 8 1/2, “Noe Hard Times” (a tribute to Noe’s highschool football nickname) has plenty of vanilla dancing about on the nose, but it’s a tad lighter on the oak and alcohol notes when contrasted against other releases in the class of 2016. A bit of toffee, burnt brown sugar and a lovely medium length finish of dark cherry and vanilla. 127.8 proof. $60 / B+

This is not the last we will see of Beam Suntory’s strategic moves regarding Booker’s. Price increases are still slated to happen gradually and will reach the higher tier price points by late 2017/early 2018. If Booker’s is your brand, it may be best to stock up now. These two would be suitable places to start.

Bookersbourbon.com

Review: Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Alabama-based Clyde May’s recently added two new straight bourbons to its lineup. Unlike its prior whiskey releases, these are unfinished and unflavored with apple (or other seasonings) and thus represent a more traditional bourbon style. Which is, I suppose, what they really are.

Both of the new whiskeys are sourced from an unknown supplier in Kentucky (not Indiana). The Straight Bourbon is 5 years old. A cask strength offering, not reviewed here, is 8 years old. There’s not a ton of information on its production, except that “this non-chill filtered straight bourbon is a classic 5-year-old, easy drinking spirit. Using simple and traditional ingredients, the bourbon mash is patiently aged in heavily “alligator” charred new American oak barrels.”

And it is indeed a perfectly serviceable rendition of a five year old American bourbon. The nose is lightly spicy (a moderate rye mash, I’d guess) and heavy with barrel char notes, vanilla, and cocoa powder. On the palate, the sweet vanilla notes roll into light touches of orange peel, some nutmeg, and a hint of bitter licorice on the back end. A lingering finish evokes popcorn and more rustic barrel char — perhaps indicative of this being bottled a year too soon? — with a drying, savory fade-out.

92 proof. Reviewed: Batch #CM-079. (Though it’s hard to tell if this is a legit batch number or just flavor text on every label.)

B+ / $40 / clydemays.com

Review: Vulson White Rhino Rye

Vulson is a white whiskey. It is also a rye. It is also French. That’s three categories I’ve never ticked off at the same time in our database before, and Vulson, produced by the western Alps-based farm of Domaine des Hautes Glaces, has more in store for us. Vulson uses organic rye that is grown on site and malted there, too. It is then triple distilled in copper pot stills and rested for a year in stainless steel before being bottled.

This is straightforward on the nose, fragrant with toasty grain notes, some rubbery hospital character, and an undercurrent of earthy mushrooms. The palate offers some surprises, though, with ample fruit — apple, mainly — that pairs nicely with florals that grow in intensity over time. The finish offers a melange of spices, with varied notes of nutmeg, rosemary, and touches of butterscotch. Lots of complexity for a white whiskey here; it’s worth giving it a try.

82 proof.

B+ / $47 / vulson.fr

Review: Martin Miller’s Gin and Westbourne Strength Gin

Very little about Martin Miller’s Gin is done in an orthodox fashion. First is the where. The company slogan — “Distilled in England, blended in Iceland” — should cue you in to the beginnings of that. Distilled (in a single, ancient pot still) in London, it is shipped via boat to Iceland, where it is proofed down with local water.

Martin Miller’s actually runs two distillations, using real ingredients which are steeped overnight in spirit (akin to steeping tea leaves) rather than using a botanical tray suspended in the vapors of the still.

The first distillation session includes a steeping of juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, liquorice root, cassia bark, Florentine iris, and a small portion of lime peel. The second distillation is where the citrus elements are brought more heavily into the picture, including bitter orange peel, lemon peel, and lime peel. Martin Miller’s is also flavored with a small amount of cucumber, the gin’s so-called secret ingredient.

Two versions are made, an 80 proof standard gin, and a Westbourne Strength expression, which is the same gin but bottled at a higher alcohol content. As you’ll see below, that makes quite a difference in the finished product.

Martin Miller’s Gin – Juniper-forward on the nose, but moderately heavy with citrus notes, too — plus a hint of licorice. On the palate, a gentle sweetness hits the tongue first, followed by notes of citrus and ripe banana. Earthy notes bubble up after that, though none are particularly distinct or identifiable — even the juniper is restrained here. The finish is lasting and grassy, with overtones of fresh rubber. Simple, but versatile. 80 proof. B+ / $32

Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength Gin – Clearly stronger on its aromatic nose, it still keeps the juniper front and center as with the original gin, with a somewhat quieter citrus character. On the palate, juniper is considerably stronger than in the above expression, and the citrus takes on a sharper note that stresses the bitter peel more clearly. The finish keeps the focus on orange and lime with juniper on the side, leaving the somewhat flatter earthy notes well behind. A superior bottling. 90.4 proof.  A / $38

martinmillersgin.com

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