Category Archives: Rated C

Review: Jarritos Mexican Sodas

If you spend as much time in taquerias as I do, you know Jarritos, the colorful sodas that come only in bottles, courtesy of our friends south of the border. Jarritos, like most Mexican sodas, are sweetened with natural sugar. They’re generally lightly carbonated, and they contain no caffeine. Flavors are predominantly a mix of natural and artificial.

The collection is a bit of a hodgepodge, design wise: Some bottles are clear and feature old-school labels. Some have a more modern, cartoony design. Even the bottle size varies: Most Jarritos come in 12.5 oz. bottles, but not all. In general, expect to get about 160 to 200 calories per bottle of the stuff.

We tried all 11 flavors in the current Jarritos lineup (that’s about 500 grams of sugar, folks) and weigh in with our opinion on each one.

Jarritos. Mexico. Culture. Get to know us.

Pineapple (Pina) – Sounds a bit nasty, but it’s surprisingly good. The pineapple flavor — and especially the color — are hardly authentic, but they both work. It’s neon yellow in color, but on the muted side in the flavor department. Citrusy, with a vaguely tropical bent. More like dried pineapple, or pineapple-flavored candy. Not bad. B+

Mandarin (Mandarina) – Orange soda, through and through, but not as sweet as your traditional Orange Crush, etc. A bit more carbonated than most of the Jarritos line. I’m not a huge orange soda fan, but this isn’t bad at all for the category. B

Lima-Limon – As you can guess by the name, this is a lemon-lime flavor. Heavier on the lime than the lemon, but a little too sweet compared to, say, 7-Up. Gets cloying over time. B

Guava (Guayaba) - Rather startling at first (the pink color may not help here), but it grows on you. Ultimately it presents itself a bit like cotton candy, quite sweet but with a certain something (guava, I suppose) that makes it a bit out of the ordinary. The uniqueness is refreshing. A-

Strawberry (Freya) - Cloying, but the strawberry does come across in the finish at least. More for kids than grown-ups. C+

Fruit Punch (Tutifruti) - Much like the strawberry, extremely sweet, but with a more clearly cherry character. Imagine fizzy maraschino cherry juice. C

Lime (Limon) – Sweeter than than the lemon-lime, and actually less limey. More candy-like, with flavors that are pleasant, but not really authentic in any way. B

Mango – Yeah, it’s mango, but again the flavors are heightened with more of a dried mango character than fresh. Overwhelmingly sweet to the point where the fruit is almost drowned away. Fortunately, the flavor that is there is good, with no artificial aftertaste. B+

Jamaica – OK, now we’re getting into some weird flavors. Jamaica is similar to the somewhat uncommon agua fresca of the same name, flavored with hibiscus flowers. Deep red, the tone is more akin to heavily sweetened tea than flowers, although some floral notes seep in, although it’s not overdone. Still, I expect this is a bit of an acquired taste. B-

Tamarind (Tamarindo) – The plus: This one’s flavored 100% naturally. The minus: With tamarinds. Sure this is another based-on-an-agua fresca concoction, and it’s always a delicious chutney, but I was nonetheless wary at first of tamarind-flavored soda. Turns out I had no need to be. This is actually one of the better installments in the Jarritos universe. The sweetness is kept in check, the tamarind flavor is mild and piquant — and authentic. It totally grows on you, faster than you’d think. I suddenly want another. A-

Toronja (Grapefruit) – For some reason, this bottle is 13.5 oz. instead of the usual 12.5 oz. Naturally flavored, too.Very mild, but on the sweet side. It’s a nice little twist on lemon-lime drinks, offering fresh citrus character with just a touch of grapefruit sourness. I wish it was a bit fizzier, though. A-

about $2 a bottle / jarritos.com

jarritos lineup Review: Jarritos Mexican Sodas

Review: Four Wines from Hogue Cellars

Hogue may be Washington’s best-known winery. We checked out four bottles from the producer, including two from Hogue’s second-label Genesis. Prices are about the same between the two brands.

2008 Genesis Chardonnay Columbia Valley – A fresh, young, and alive Chardonnay. Why is it so fresh? Because it’s completely unoaked, letting the wine highlight a fresh apple, orange-infused core. Nice and simple, a good little pre-dinner wine. A- / $13

2008 Hogue Riesling Columbia Valley – The wine that Hogue is known for. Its Riesling is intense and perfumed, an apricot-laden white with honey overtones. Riesling can be a powerful wine, and here it’s at its boldest. B+ / $11

2008 Hogue Red Table Wine Columbia Valley – A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (41%), Merlot (38%), and Syrah (21%), this wine doesn’t have a whole lot of character, coming across as a bit rough and tumble. Overwhelming and unbalanced. C / $10

2007 Genesis Meritage Columbia Valley – The only wine in this roundup with a cork in it; the rest are screw-capped. Features Merlot (49%), Cabernet Sauvignon (44%), Malbec (6%), and Cabernet Franc (1%). Heavy on the wood, but it opens up with some time in the glass. Sadly, not a ton of character here, with herbal notes up front and some rather vegetal flavors on the back end. B- / $15

hoguecellars.com

hogue riesling Review: Four Wines from Hogue Cellars

Review: Silvertap Wines (From a Keg)

The world of wine has a lot of mystery and ceremony in it: Dusty old bottles. Corkscrews and sniffed enclosures. Fancy labels with cursive on them.

Never mind all that, says Silvertap. This company is putting wine into kegs, much like those that beer is served from, and selling said kegs to restaurants and bars who want to serve affordable wine and don’t want to spend a lot of time opening bottles and figuring out where to store a cellar’s worth of juice. Customers in more casual establishments may be less intimidated by this approach, too. Each keg stores 130 glasses worth of wine.

Silvertap also has an environmental edge: It says that an establishment that serves 3 cases of wine a year will eliminate 2 1/2 tons of trash in that year by switching to its keg system.

But how are the wines? We tried five of the company’s offerings to see how they stack up to traditional offerings. There’s one thing you can’t knock: The price. Each of these sells for about $6 a glass, a serious bargain in a world of $12-per-glass-and-up wines that are often barely drinkable at best.

2009 Silvertap Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County – Very crisp and clean, with delicious apple and lemon notes and a gorgeously mild, lightly tart finish. A real winner and easy to drink. A

2008 Silvertap Chardonnay Sonoma County – Extremely oaky in style, and very heavy. Buttery body, but with an astringent finish that is only partially masked by some fruity, apricot-toned notes. C

2009 Silvertap Chardonnay California - Silvertap forgoes the Sonoma designation for the more general California one. The results are good: This rendition is better, with less wood and more fruit. A more easy-drinking wine on the whole, but nothing complicated. A little acidic on the finish. B

2008 Silvertap Zinfandel Sonoma County – Not as jammy as you might expect, a rather light bodied and simple Zin, with some curious cocoa notes and a big blueberry finish. Not bad. B+

2008 Silvertap Merlot Sonoma County – Nothing much to report here. Thin at first, with a lightly bitter edge to finish. Not terribly compelling. C+

silvertapwines.com


Review: Conway Family Deep Sea Wines

Under its Deep Sea label, Conway Family Wines produces a passel of products. In our sampling, quality was all over the map, with a couple certainly worth a try.

2009 Deep Sea Sea Flower Dry Rose – Strawberries and perfume in this rose of Grenache (68%) and Syrah (38%), though the finish is a bit thin. As modern roses go, this one is refreshing but on the simple side.  B / $25

2008 Deep Sea Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley – 15 months in oak give this Chardonnay an incredible amount of wood character. It’s like drinking the residue from a wood chipper, it’s so overdone. If you can get past it, you’ll find intense honey and heather notes in there, but the balance is all wrong. It’s too sweet, too smoky, and far too heavy. Not at all for me. D+ / $34

2008 Deep Sea Red Central Coast – A bizarre blend: Syrah 74.3%, Petite Sirah 13.5%, Lagrein 5.8%, Merlot 3.7%, and Mourvèdre 2.6%. Whoa. Ultra-jammy, this is distinctly Syrah-focused with an overwhelming fruitiness and sweetness that it’s a little difficult to really get a handle on. Tastes young and quite simple, but the vegetal notes on the nose — from the Lagrein, perhaps? — don’t serve it well. C / $28

2008 Deep Sea Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills – The best wine in the bunch reviewed here, a classic and almost elegant Pinot Noir, though not as big as most Santa Barbara Pinots tend to be. Light cherry notes on a moderate to light body, with mild earth notes playing backup. Easy to like, though uncomplicated. B+ / $36

conwayfamilywines.com

deep sea red wine 2008 Review: Conway Family Deep Sea Wines

Book Review: The Quick-Fix Hangover Detox

quick fix hangover detox Book Review: The Quick Fix Hangover DetoxSubtitled “99 Ways to Feel 100 Times Better,” this slim tome (just 99 pages long including the index) is a straightforward list of recipes and advice for correcting the worst part of drinking: the hangover.

The advice is split into three sections – before, during, and after you drink – and the advice varies from simple to obtuse. Lots of this stuff you already know: Drink lots of water. Take B vitamins. Don’t drink too much.

Some of the advice will likely be new to you: Drink a mixture of blended lettuce, broccoli, and spinach. Eat celery to help with nausea. Gin and tonic is a depressant.

Still more of the advice is contrary to what you probably think you know: Don’t take pain relievers in the morning. Caffeine is bad for hangovers.

Even more of the advice you can safely dismiss: Use crystals to help recovery the next day.

Some of the advice isn’t hangover advice at all: Drinking is fattening.

There’s no telling how much of this information is legit, but it mostly sounds OK and the bulk of it comes down to not drinking too much and making sure you eat lots of fruit and vegetables during your recovery. Good advice, I suppose, provided you’ve read this tome and stocked up well before that big night out gets underway.

C / $10 / [BUY IT HERE]

Review: Canadian Mist Black Diamond Whisky

Canadian Mist is known as a smooth, very simple, and, above all else, extremely cheap Canadian whisky. Now the company is trying to expand, broadening its product range and upgrading its image with more premium bottlings.

Canadian Mist Black Diamond is billed — alongside a gold-etched autograph from the distiller — as “a richer, more robust blended Canadian whisky.” Compared to standard Mist, it certainly is that, but frankly I think this is a step back.

In practice, Black Diamond gets its “robust” character from two things: The addition of what seems to be a lot more rye and corn in the mix, and an upgrade in proof level from 80 to 86 proof. Canadian Mist also says the sherry content is upgraded, but I found that altogether absent here.

Black Diamond’s 36-month age statement is the same as its predecessor, and three years just isn’t enough time in barrel for a mash like this. The taste is not especially rye-like but is rather overflowing with brutish corn notes, giving it a young, white dog character that is not altogether pleasant on its own. It’s a fine mixer and still a bargain at $15 a bottle, but I think the original Mist is, ironically, a more polished spirit.

C / $15 / canadianmist.com

Canadian Mist Black Diamond Review: Canadian Mist Black Diamond Whisky

AlcoHAWK Personal Breathalyzer Roundup

How drunk are you? No, really? How do you know?

If you’re a regular imbiber, it’s a good idea to test yourself once in awhile to make sure you’re OK to drive. 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC) is the maximum legal level in most states, but knowing if you’re over that threshold can be difficult (particularly as you get closer and closer to it).

Portable blood alcohol testers can be helpful, but many require patience and luck to get them to work properly. Here’s a look at two very different models from AlcoHAWK, one of the leaders in personal breath analyzers.

AlcoHAWK Slim Ultra fits in a pocket and is about the size of a cell phone. The unit works well… when it works. Making that happen requires blowing into the unit for five seconds, turning it on, then waiting for it to count down from 100 to zero, a process that can take several minutes. Then, more often than not, the unit signals that it has an error. You have to repeat the entire process from scratch, then hope for the best. Sometimes you need one reboot, sometimes four. We never got it to work right on the first try, but when we did finally get it going, it offered results exactly in line with the more professional tester (accurate to three decimal places) that we had to compare with. B / $50 [BUY IT HERE] (pictured)

AlcoHAWK One Test is a single-use breath alcohol tester that has pretty limited value no matter what you’ve been up to that evening. It’s a slim tube the size of a cigarette that works only once. To use it, you puncture both ends, then blow into it like a straw. You then wait basically wait until the yellow crystals inside turn green. If the level of greenness crosses the line and red dot on the tube, you’re over 0.05% BAC — and presumably you shouldn’t drive. The accuracy is questionable, and I imagine if you are drunk enough to see a lot of green crystals in here, you know you shouldn’t be driving anywhere. But at least it’s portable. C / $20 for five [BUY IT HERE]

alcohawk slim ultra AlcoHAWK Personal Breathalyzer Roundup

Review: New Germain-Robin Brandies

These Germain-Robin brandies — crafted in California — showed up unannounced, in minimally-marked sample vials, with no additional information about their manufacture or sale. [UPDATE: Notes have been found, and info below has been updated. These are new products.]

They are reviewed here without further knowledge — I’m unclear whether the first brandy is the same as Germain-Robin’s long-running XO, and have no additional information on when these brandies may be available, or at what prices (though neither tastes particularly expensive).

Alcohol levels are both 80 proof.

Germain-Robin Craft-Method Brandy – Rocky, with an Armagnac character to it. Earth and olive characters are strong, with muted fruit below. Seems to lack life, with little more than a big, boozy alcohol character. Opens up with time in the glass, at least a bit. This is a revised blend of the company’s Fine brandy, composed of Colombard, Riesling, and Zinfandel brandies, most five years old, with some 10-year brandy in it. C / $48

Germain-Robin Coast Road Reserve Brandy – Has more character to it at least, with better sweetness and more bracing fruit — candied oranges and a touch of chocolate character. Still roughly made, but considerably more enticing with some rather intriguing raw sugar character in the finish. Composed of old Pinot Noir, Colombard, Grenache, and Ehrenfelser (a Riesling-Sylvaner cross), with eaux up to 15 years old. B / $72

germain-robin.com

Review: El Jimador “New Mix” Tequila Cocktails

“New Mix” is not a slogan stuck on the can of El Jimador’s ready-to-drink tequila cocktails. It’s the actual name of the product: New Mix.

Hugely popular in Mexico, New Mix now comes in five flavors. We’ve had the first three flavors sitting in the fridge literally for months, and finally we are getting around to cracking them open to see what all the fuss is about. (We’re still not sure.)

Each is 5 percent alcohol and is made with actual tequila. The drinks are lightly carbonated.

Thoughts in each follow.

El Jimador New Mix Margarita looks like a lemon-lime soda, and frankly tastes like it too. The fizzy concoction is solid soft drink up front, then you get that tequila bite in the finish. There’s not much of it, but it’s noticeable. That said, this tastes almost nothing like a margarita (with none of the flavor of triple sec that it claims to have), but a lot more like a Seven-and-Tequila, but I guess that wouldn’t look as good on the label. C

El Jimador New Mix Paloma – A paloma is traditionally a grapefruit juice and tequila cocktail, and this rendition does at least smell like grapefruit when you crack open the can. The flavor is a little funkier than that, though — less grapefruit and more of a canned fruit salad. Less tequila bite than the margarita New Mix, which in this case is not a great thing. C-

El Jimador New Mix Spicy Mango Margarita – It’s not an orange crush in that can, it’s a spicy mango margarita! El Jimador radically overreaches here, pulling off something that is more reminiscent of Red Bull than anything that bears resemblance to spice, mango, or margarita. No idea where this one came from or why it exists. D

eljimador.com


Review: Balcones Distilling Baby Blue and Rumble

The uninitiated may think of Texas as the frontier, a place where whiskey is probably as common as water. Not so: In fact, for years, Tito’s has been the state’s only legal distillery.

Now a few upstarts are coming out of the skunkworks, and the state has its first whiskey since Prohibition. Operating out of Waco, Texas, Balcones Distilling doesn’t just make the first whiskey in the state, it also makes, as far as anyone can tell, the only whiskey made from blue corn — in this case, Atole, a Hopi blue corn meal. The distillery’s first two products — Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whisky, and an odd offshoot, Balcones Rumble — are reviewed below.

Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whisky – Wow, intense. Clearly a young corn-based whisky without a lot of time in the barrel. The starchy character (“white dog,” in the parlance) is overpowering on the nose alone, with a huge, grainy body and a finish redolent of petrol. Some sweetness makes this drinkable, but like so many younger whiskies, it isn’t easy going. Why this wasn’t left in the barrel for another three or four years is a mystery to me. Batch BB10-10. 92 proof. C / $45
[BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Balcones Rumble - Perhaps aware that Baby Blue was not made for easy consumption, Balcones created Rumble, not exactly a liqueur (it’s a serious 94 proof) but close enough. Made from Texas wildflower honey, Turbinado sugar, and Mission figs, Rumble looks like whiskey but tastes like something else. That Balcones corniness is apparent on the nose, but it’s a much sweeter spirit on the whole. Only the fig character really comes through, the rest is mainly a sweeter version of Baby Blue. Batch R10-10. C+ / $36

Update 2/2013: Tasted new releases of both of these products, with considerably different notes, especially for Rumble, which (at least now) is far more worthwhile than this review would indicate. Hopefully, new reviews coming soon.

balconesdistilling.com

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Review: Old Crow Reserve Bourbon

I get that the words “Old Crow” and “Reserve” don’t immediately make sense together.

Though it was first ever sour mash whiskey, dates back to the 1830s, and counts U.S. Grant among its famous drinkers, it’s still a budget brand, sold by the handle for $10 or less, a simply bourbon that gets the job done and leaves you money leftover for chips.

Aged three years, standard Old Crow can be charitably described as simple. Old Crow Reserve takes the decades-old formula and tweaks it: Add 6 to the proof (now 86 instead of 80), $2 to the price (now about $12), and one year to the aging (4 instead of 3). Result: A slightly different whiskey that nonetheless remains as easy as they come.

Old Crow Reserve, while a big step up from regular ‘Crow, is hardly anything you’ll be sipping straight after a big meal. Clearly a bourbon for the “and Coke” crowd, it’s distinctly caramel on the nose (to the point of tasting artificial), with a cinnamon kick on the body. Very sweet, it has a rough finish that reminds you of how little time this has spent in the barrel, and warns you how you’re likely to feel come the morning if you keep it up, smart guy.

C / $12 / oldcrowreserve.com

Old Crow reserve bourbon Review: Old Crow Reserve Bourbon

Review Roundup: 5 White Wines for Summer

Summer is here — officially, now — and that means the white wines will be flowing. Why not take the opportunity to look at five different varietals all primed for warm weather? All of the wines reviewed below are extremely affordable, too. Take a look!

2009 foppiano sauvignon blanc 69x300 Review Roundup: 5 White Wines for Summer2009 Weingut Meinhard Forstreiter “Grooner” Gruner Veltliner Niederosterreich – That’s a lot of words for a wine sold as “Grooner,” one of the cheesiest-looking wines I’ve ever tried yet, bizarrely, a really good one. Atypical for Gruner Veltliner, it’s a fruity, lemon-infused wine with a zippy, buzzy body. So easy to drink, and equally good with food. A- / $12 / grooner.com (pictured below)

2009 Foppiano Vineyards Estate Bottled Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley – A crisp and light — extremely pale — wine with a really easygoing body. Apricot interplays with minerals but it’s not a very deep experience. B+ / $18 / foppiano.com (pictured at right)

2008 Luna Vineyards Pinot Grigio Napa Valley – Oddly brown in color, with a pleasant melon-inflected nose, but a skunky, rough finish. Not  C+ / $18 / lunavineyards.com

2009 El Coto de Rioja Blanco – Somewhat simplistic, this wine made from 100% Viura grapes is crisp and easy. A lightly woody finish adds complexity, but only a little. B / $9 / elcoto.com

2009 Trapiche Torrontes Mendoza – An Argentinian oddity, with a Muscat-like character, rich with orange peel. Sadly, it’s so rough that it isn’t all that pleasant, and it clashes with food. Strange finish, too. C / $9 / trapiche.com.ar

2009 grooner Review Roundup: 5 White Wines for Summer


Review: Crunk!!! Energy Drink and Energy Stix

We have Drank, why not have Crunk!!! too?

While “crunk” is technically a combination of “crazy” and “drunk,” Crunk!!! (yes, three exclamation points) contains no alcohol. It is rather another energy drink loaded with caffeine, inositol, green tea leaf, damiana, licorice, guarana, l-tyrosine, horny goat weed, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, grape seed extract, skull cap, white willow, and (whew) ashwaganda (which is specifically touted on the can).

While the folks behind Crunk!!! don’t make any medical claims, the ingredients in each can promise to aid memory, well-being, virility, calmness, aches, pain, and more. Not exactly anything we’d consider “crunk-like,” but no matter… it’s just a name, right?

crunk energy stix 176x300 Review: Crunk!!! Energy Drink and Energy StixAvailable in five flavors, each 16 oz. can is lightly carbonated and has 240 calories and 96mg of caffeine. (There’s also Energy Stix… more on that later.)

Crunk!!! Original is flavored with pomegranate but has a distinct overly sweetened and cloying cough syrup character to it. Perhaps it’s just what the average Crunk!!! fan desires? Not terribly enticing. D+

Crunk!!! Grape-Acai is better but quite sour, and fans of grape-flavored drink will likely find it not sweet enough for regular consumption. Tolerable, though. C+

Crunk!!! Mango-Peach is a fairly winning combination of flavors. The taste is light and reasonably fruity. I could see finishing this whole can if I had to. B

Crunk!!! Citrus is the lemon-lime version, but it’s closer to Mountain Dew than 7-Up. Powerful bitterness on the finish; the fruit juice in this one just can’t overpower the herbs and additives. C

Crunk!!! Low Carb Sugar Free is the diet version of Crunk!!! Original, with just 10 calories instead of 240. Sadly, it smells altogether awful (think a football field after a long rainstorm) and tastes only marginally better. D-

Crunk!!! Energy Stix is another beast altogether. These Pixie Stix-like packs are designed to be ripped open and dropped right on your tongue. I tried one (10 calories) and found it to be only mildly unpleasant, though the powder is easy to inhale and can give you a bit of a headache. C+ / $3 for pack of two sticks

As for the “rush,” I’d say all forms of Crunk!!! have a pretty standard caffeine hit, and contrary to the company’s claims there is a crash some hours later.

$44 for case of 24 16-oz. cans / crunkenergydrink.com

crunk energy drink Review: Crunk!!! Energy Drink and Energy Stix

Review: Rum Jumbie Rums and Liqueur

Rum Jumbie (the name refers to spirits allegedly trapped inside the caves of the Caribbean who would possess the souls of rum drinkers) makes several light, flavored rums plus a rum liqueur.

The flavored rums are all uncolored, are sourced from Panama, and are bottled at a scant 48 proof. Flavors are natural but otherwise unspecified.

Here’s how they stack up.

Rum Jumbie Mango Splash has a delicate mango nose and moderate tropical flavor. A little bite on the finish, but a fine ingredient in a tropical cocktail if you like a rum with a very mild and light body. B+ / $16

Rum Jumbie Pineapple Splash captures the aroma of fresh pineapple, but the flavor is off. Pineapple notes are pushed aside by out-of-place cocoa and vanilla character, with a sort of woody finish. B- / $16

Rum Jumbie Coconut Splash is extremely sweet, with sugariness that drowns out a lot of the coconut character. As with the other Jumbies, it’s heavy on the nose with the prescribed fruit (coconut is a fruit, right?), but the body doesn’t totally pan out. (Try Brinley.) B / $16

Rum Jumbie Vanilla Splash has almost no vanilla aroma and what little vanilla flavor there tastes synthetic. Fortunately it’s so light it doesn’t really taste like much of anything. Not a fan. C / $16

rum jumbie liqueur 135x300 Review: Rum Jumbie Rums and LiqueurRum Jumbie Liqueur is a 60 proof concoction of “aged rum and tropical fruit flavors,” and it’s already awesome from the start because of the bottle shaped like a guy playing a bongo drum and wearing a straw hat that serves as the cap. The amber nectar inside however is not quite as cool. It’s got cola and orange notes, apples, and loads of cinnamon and other exotic spices… but it doesn’t really come together. Perhaps it’s the loads of sugar in the blend that makes this hard to put down more than a few sips of. Perhaps it could make an interesting cocktail ingredient… but how? It’s simply too muddy and sweet and leaves a varnish-like coating on your palate that I wanted to scrub off. C / $30

rumjumbie.com

rum jumbie lineup rum Review: Rum Jumbie Rums and Liqueur

Review (of a sort): Mount Everest Whisky

Chances are you’ll never encounter Mount Everest Whisky*, lest you decide to hike to Base Camp 1 by yourself. I certainly didn’t, but somehow this bottle made it back despite my laziness, and it’s sat unopened in a Marin cottage for years undisturbed.

Naturally when I encountered it over Easter weekend I had to crack it open, just to see what on earth Mount Everest Whisky was all about.

At it’s heart, it’s blended Scotch. The bottle claims it is a concoction of “Scottish whisky and Nepalese alcohol of the highest quality,” neither of which probably mean a lot. The Scottish component here is clearly very young, and the Nepalese alcohol, of who knows what origin, lends a hard medicinal character to the spirit and no body to speak of at all. At 85.6 proof, it’s got enough legs to get you up to Base Camp 1… but it certainly won’t get you to the summit.

It’s not altogether awful. There’s some maltiness and charm in here, to be sure, but on the whole it’s a novelty whisky that’s probably not really meant to be consumed but rather to be admired and sealed forever.

* No, I’m not talking the Glenmorangie Mount Everest Special Edition, an unrelated spirit.

C / $??? / no web site

mount everest whisky Review (of a sort): Mount Everest Whisky

Review: 2007 Concannon Conservancy Petite Sirah Livermore Valley

Conservancy is a second label wine from Concannon, known for budget label bottlings. Conservancy wines come exclusively from the Livermore Valley, “protected forever from urban encroachment.”

This first vintage under the label, however, is lacking much depth. A petite sirah, it’s a dark purple in color and is jammy with currants and plums to the point of cloying. Some lavender herbaciousness adds a touch of complexity, but a thin, saccharine finish hardly inspires another sip.

C / $15 / concannonvineyard.com

concannon conservancy petite sirah 2007 Review: 2007 Concannon Conservancy Petite Sirah Livermore Valley

Review: Travis Hasse’s Apple Pie and Cherry Pie Liqueurs

Sweet tooths, rejoice. Someone has indeed taken a pie, liquefied it, added a little alcohol, and bottled it for sale. Behold Travis Hasse’s Apple Pie Liqueur and Cherry Pie Liqueur, both of which are absolutely crazy.

Travis Hasse’s Apple Pie Liqueur is a hazy gold color. Flavored with apple and cinnamon and a few other spices, what you mainly get from a sip of this spirit is a rush of sugary sweetness. It’s possibly sweeter than any other spirit I’ve ever tasted, although the aroma and flavor are, once you push past the sugar, relatively authentic apple pie representations. But the sweetness is such a killer that it’s hard to palate on its own — in a small dose with a cocktail or, as the label suggests, atop ice cream, you might be better off. 40 proof. C+

Travis Hasse’s Cherry Pie Liqueur is a somewhat different animal. Less alcoholic (30 proof) and less sweet, it’s a cherry liqueur with a touch of vanilla added. A little less “pie” like on the nose, it still smells pretty good. On the tongue, though, it comes across as medicinal. It’s not syrupy in texture, thank God, but one gets the feeling that if you melted down some Sucrets you would get a similar liqueur… complete with the same amount of alcohol. C

$17 each / drinkpie.com

Review: Vacu Vin Rapid Ice Beer Chiller

I’m an avowed fan of the Vacu Vin Rapid Ice Wine Chiller, which can take a bottle of white wine from cellar temp to ready-to-drink in under ten minutes, and as a result I had high hopes for Vacu Vin’s Rapid Ice Beer Chiller.

The theory is simple: A cylinder of re-freezable ice packs envelops your bottle, chilling it quickly. The beer bottle version not only shrinks the pack down to 12-oz. size, it also puts a delightful bit of frothy beer art on the exterior to get you in the mood.

Too bad it doesn’t really work all that well. With the reduced surface area and (likely) higher starting temperature of your beer, it takes at least half an hour to get your beer down to a drinkable temperature, and even then it’s dicey. By the time the Vacu Vin got warm to the touch, my beer still wasn’t as cold as I’d have liked it.

Overall this is a fine gadget if you want to keep an already cold beer chilly, but it’s not ideal for quickly cooling down something that’s starting warm.

C / $14 for two / [BUY IT HERE]

vacu vin beer chiller Review: Vacu Vin Rapid Ice Beer Chiller

Review: Fever Stimulation Beverages

Tonight you’ll be consuming vast quantities of alcohol (remember one for your homies at Drinkhacker, y’all), so what better way to prep for the festivities than by downing something to up the level of your game.

That’s the theory, anyway, of Fever, which aims to “Make Healthy Sexy,” with its collection of herbal, non-carbonated beverages designed to “stimulate the body.” (Some say that’s code for aphrodisiac… you be the judge.)

They aren’t energy drinks, mind you, but herbal-infused concoctions that include such ingredients as Epidmedium brevicornum Maxim DeL, Clavo Huasca, and Pfaffia paniculata MK. Mostly exotic herbs, they’re designed to promote “pleasure, euphoria, and anti-oxidation.”

Three versions are currently on the market, each with natural caffeine from green tea and containing 260 calories in each (very, very cold) 16-oz. can.

Mango Banana tastes like neither of its namesakes, but it has a chalky texture and a muted banana finish that makes it at least hint at the yellow fruit. All versions of Fever have a bit of bitterness to them — almost certainly the result of all the herbal infusions — hence the need for big fruit flavors to make them more palatable. Mango and banana may not be enough. C

Kiwi Strawberry packs a more teen-friendly punch, berry in the body but with a raisin-like finish that makes it a bit less pleasant. C-

Pineapple Coconut is arguably my favorite of this bunch, a pina colada wannabe that is hefty on the coconut, which helps to mask some of those bitter herbal notes. B

As for the functional claims of the drink, ultimately I’m feeling about as “stimulated” as usual… but mostly I just want to find something to get this taste out of my mouth.

each $2.50 per 16-oz. can / feverusa.com

fever stimulation beverage Review: Fever Stimulation Beverages

Review: Two Pumpkin-Flavored Beers from Shipyard

Yes, I missed Halloween. Then I missed Thanksgiving. Now I am determined not to miss Christmas and get some reviews of these two pumpkin-flavored beers out of the way before I have to start thinking about Easter brews.

Shipyard Brewing Company Pumpkinhead Ale hails from Maine. It’s a relatively light lager, with an aroma, color, and body a lot like a Mexican lager — no real hints of pumpkin here. That hits you on the finish, with a sort of pumpkin pie character that comes on after the super-light brew. Not sure how I feel about it. I love Mexican beer and I love pumpkin pie, but this doesn’t do much for me on either front. Certainly drinkable, though. 4.7% alcohol. C / $9 per six-pack / shipyard.com

Shipyard Brewing Company Pugsley’s Signature Series Smashed Pumpkin is a bigger beer in every way. At 9% alcohol, it’s got more kick and a bigger, bolder body. And there’s more of that pumpkin character to it, too. Altogether it’s more pleasing, with a dessert-like quality that combines a glass of port with a pumpkin cheesecake. A considerable improvement. B / $8 per 22-oz. bottle / shipyard.com