Review: 2010 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour

1141109xBV’s top-end wine is still in its 2010 release, a key indicator of the amount of care that goes into the production of one of Napa’s most classic bottlings.

The 2010 BV Georges de Latour cuts an opulent and austere profile, in keeping with the general approach of this series. Strong cassis on the nose plus plum and raspberry give this wine an immediately engaging profile. On the palate, milky chocolate notes emerge, but they’re held in check by ample fruit and a well-balanced tannin structure. The finish is lengthy and sustained, offering a lightly bittersweet character that eventually showcases emerging vanilla and baking spice notes.

Most important in all of this is how well-integrated all of the various components are, making this a phenomenally easy-drinking wine that works as well on its own as it does with food. It’s not terribly complicated — which can often be a challenge with Napa Cabernet — but I’m happy to let this wine find its own footing.

A / $90 /

Drinkhacker 2015 Wine Cheat Sheet / Vintage Chart

Our popular Drinkhacker cheat sheet — the ninth version in our annual series of printable features designed to help you tell a good vintage of wine from a crummy one — is here!

Just print, cut along the dotted lines, fold it up (into thirds), and keep a copy in your wallet next time you need to quickly discern whether a wine vintage is a keeper or a throwaway.

As always, here’s how to use the cheat sheet: Only the last two digits of a year are included to save space, and the list only rarely reaches back into the pre-WWII era, so assume anything you see starting with a zero or one to be from this century.

All years listed here are considered good to great vintages, but those in green with underlining are the cream of the crop, “classic” years that you should consider the very best on the market. (Why green and underlined? So you can tell the difference whether you use a color or black & white printer.)

Check back next October for the next revision of the cheat sheet!

Cheers! wine cheat sheet download options:

drinkhacker cheat sheet 2015 [doc]

drinkhacker cheat sheet 2015 [pdf]

Review: Rational Spirits Santeria Rum

santeriaRemember Lost Spirits, the guys making 20 year old rum in 8 days? Well, after my Wired article hit, the company got venture capital funding, commercialized its reactor, and made deals with pretty much every distillery you’ve ever heard of — either to make commercial products or to provide experimental services.

Now the first third-party rum to come from a Lost Spirits accelerated aging reactor is hitting the market: Santeria Rum. Bryan Davis, Lost Spirits’ head honcho, made Santeria batch #1 on behalf of Rational before turning the reactor over to them for the second go. The Charleston-based Rational provided new-make, unaged rum to Davis, who ran it through the system and turned out this inky, molasses-hued monster, which was bottled at “cask strength” — quotes, because there is no cask, really.

I tried both the new-make and the finished product. Santeria starts with a quite fruity (very ripe banana-heavy) spirit with overtones of almonds, hospital antiseptic, and the sticky-sweet dunder character of young, Jamaica-style rum. After processing, it’s dark as night and the profile comes across as you might expect: Intense coffee grounds, dark chocolate, walnuts, cloves, and ample molasses on the nose. On the tongue, there’s more of the same, plus that sweet banana from the new-make and plenty of rummy funk on the back end. The finish is long and bitter-savory, with some lightly smoky elements to it.

Ultimately this is an interesting comparison and companion to Lost Spirits Colonial Rum, which underwent the same process but has a different base spirit as an input. Colonial is more brooding, pungent, and smokier, broader in heft and more muscular on the finish. Santeria is a bit more accessible today but, as with Colonial, drinks like some really, really, old and funky stuff. Rum nuts need to try it.

115 proof.

A- / $NA /

Review: Starr Hill Boxcarr Pumpkin Porter

Boxcarr_BottleAs pumpkin beers go, Starr Hill’s Boxcarr Pumpkin Porter is a pretty good rendition. Or, at least, it’s a non-awful rendition that manages to shy away from an over-sweetened, gloppy mess while also not attempting to do something insane like actually brew pumpkin pulp and turn that into beer.

Rather, Boxcarr is a lightly spiced porter, and the holiday spices pair nicely with the malty, bready brown brew. Some clove/allspice notes hit first — then are rapidly replaced by the main event, which is quite a bit more bitter than the 20 IBUs would indicate. On the finish, some (very) dark chocolate notes emerge, evoking an amaro at times.

Smells like Halloween to me!

4.7% abv.

B / $10 per six-pack

Oh… and also out now again as a seasonal is Starr Hill’s Whiter Shade of Pale, which is just as awesome as it was last year.

Review: Mystic Bourbon Liqueur

mystic liqueurBottled by a company called Barrister & Brewer in Durham, North Carolina, Mystic Liqueur is a sweet concoction combining bourbon and “exotic spices.” Based on a “centuries-old Scottish recipe” (presumably not one involving Bourbon), it’s a New World spin on Drambuie that deserves a look.

The nose hints at both the honey and cinnamon of today’s popular, flavored whiskeys — such as Fireball and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey. Both elements are very mild — just a touch of extra sweetness and a slightly greater dusting of Red Hots. The body largely follows suit, with the cinnamon and honey backed up with some notes of ginger, lemon peel, and brewed tea elements (the latter is particularly . The finish is warming and soothing — a hot toddy served at room temperature.

All told it’s a mild experience that plays well as an after-dinner sipper. Those looking for more intensity of flavor — the whiskey character is the least present of the various components — may find Mystic a little underbaked, but as a gentler example of the flavored whiskey/liqueur trend, a few glasses of this don’t make for a bad way to spend an evening.

60 proof.

B+ / $26 /

Review: StainRx Wine Stain Remover

stainrxI won’t rehash the details of the wine stain remover story I wrote for Wired earlier this year. Suffice it to say that StainRx is a late comer to the party, and they submitted a product to me well after that piece already ran.

Long story short, I put StainRx up against Chateau Spill, my hands-down winner in extensive testing, to see which was best. The results: With a shorter-term wine stain (setting for a few hours before treatment), StainRx was slightly ahead. On the tougher longer-term stain (which I let set for 24 hours), Chateau Spill was the marginal winner. All told, it was about a draw.

Now my hunch is that StainRx — which is marketed primarily as a “blood strain [sic] remover” — is basically the same chemical as Chateau Spill, which is a lab-grade solvent designed to get dye off of scientists’ skin. StainRx looks, smells, and behaves almost the same way, so I figure you’re really getting the same stuff here as in Chateau Spill.

The company says about its product: “We do sell our product in bulk for others to repackage under their label and we repackage for others as well. For over 50 years our product, Erado-Sol  has been sold to hospitals, labs and doctors’ offices to remove chemical and biological stains.  Approximately 10 years ago we made our laboratory tested product available to the consumer under the name Stain Rx.  The product is sold in Spring Fresh Scent and Fragrance & Dye Free solutions.”

Is Chateau Spill the same thing? It’s just a hunch, and there’s no real way to know for sure. I suspect the differences in performance were due to slight variations in the amount of wine that made it onto my test fabric, and the fact that you basically have to douse the product with a nozzle from the StainRx bottle rather than gently spray it on as you do with Chateau Spill. It’s a lot easier to control the amount of product you’re using with Chateau Spill, and you’ll much more quickly go through a bottle of StainRx because of the amount that comes out with each application. (StainRx also makes single-use wipes, which I didn’t test due to their generally limited size.)

At $18 for a 16 oz. bottle, StainRx is cheaper per oz. (by about half) than Chateau Spill, but you’ll use it faster. Which is ultimately a better value? Hell, ask Mathhacker.

A / $18 (16 oz.) /  [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

Review: Wines of Tom Gore, 2015 Releases

Tom Gore Vineyards 2012 Field Blend_Bottle ShotTom Gore is a Sonoma County grape grower, nut farmer,chicken raiser, and olive oil maker — and now a winemaker with his first batch of wines hitting the market. Let’s tuck into this inaugural trio.

2013 Tom Gore Chardonnay California – Looks cheap, tastes great. Fresh and fruity, there’s buttery vanilla on the nose, but the body is all golden apples, fresh peaches, and nectarine notes. The finish is clean, with a rounded approach that lets the fruit shine through. Very easy to enjoy. A- / $15

2012 Tom Gore Cabernet Sauvignon California – A workmanlike cabernet, with simple jam structure, vanilla syrup, and a lacing of dried herbs. Relatively harmless, but nothing to write home about in the end. Plenty of fruit plus a modest tannic backbone — it helps that this wine is now three years old and has clearly matured a bit — give this an easy and uncomplicated drinkability. B- / $15

2012 Tom Gore Field Blend Alexander Valley – 35% petit verdot, 33% malbec, 21% merlot, 6% cabernet sauvignon, and 5% tempranillo. That’s a really odd blend — really odd — but as a wine this field blend works better than expected. The nose is moderately smoky with dense jam notes and some leather character. On the palate, plenty of tannin keeps things tight at first, but a strong current of fruit runs through it — plum and currants — to add balance. (Currant currents? OK.) Vegetal notes emerge on the finish, but this doesn’t really detract much, adding a curious nuance to the experience. Worth a try. B+ / $40

Review: Oppidan American Botanical Gin and Malted Rye Whiskey


Oppidan is a Chicago area-based microdistillery that is starting off with two products — a gin and an aged, malted rye. We tried them both. Thoughts follow.

Oppidan American Botanical Gin – A spin on London Dry, with grapefruit peel, hibiscus, cinnamon, elderflower, ginger, cardamom, and chamomile among the named botanicals. The nose is gentle and studded with mixed florals, moderate earth tones, and clear elderflower notes. On the palate, a wealth of flavors come forward — more floral notes, some chocolate, shaved licorice, some fennel, all with a seductive and lightly sweet finish. This is a feminine gin with a restrained and quiet body, a beautiful and delicate number that could pair well with just about anything. In a world where gin is an increasingly interesting category, it’s one of the best new bottlings you’ll find and I recommend it wholesale. 86 proof. A / $30

Oppidan Malted Rye Whiskey – A whiskey made from 100% malted rye, no age indicated. Clearly a young spirit, the whiskey is loaded with notes of grainy malt, smoke, and raw wood. The body offers some sweetness — vanilla, some baking spice, chewy wood, and beef jerky notes — but that youthful granary character is tough to shake. It’s hardly offensive, but you can find this same earthy and woody character in any number of young craft whiskeys on the market today. 92 proof. B / $45

Review: Sons of Liberty Hop Flavored Whiskey

sons of liberty hop flavored

Remember last year’s Pumpkin Spice Flavored Whiskey from Rhode Island’s Sons of Liberty? Well, here’s another seasonal, the more straightforward Hop Flavored Whiskey.

Here’s how it’s produced:

This whiskey started its life as an IPA. After retaining the IPA flavors through distillation we aged the whiskey in American oak barrels. Once the aging process was complete, we finished the whiskey by dry hopping with Citra and Sorachi Ace hops for bright and complementary floral notes.

That all comes through quite clearly in the finished product, and this Sons of Liberty release cuts a profile similar to many other hop-flavored craft whiskeys I’ve had, pushy with hops up front and roasted cereal and a touch of popcorn notes emerging after. There’s a bit of hospital character and furniture polish up front on the nose, but the body sticks with the hops and cereal combo pretty closely. As the finish emerges, some orange peel and some tobacco notes emerge. Curious stuff, but its youth speaks even louder than the hop flavoring. Beer nuts should particularly seek it out.

80 proof. Reviewed: Batch #3 (2015 release).

B / $48 /

Review: Blanton’s Single Barrel Select Private Selection from Quality Liquor Store

blantonsFour Roses and Jack Daniel’s aren’t the only single barrel private selection bottlings out there. Check out this bad boy from Quality Liquor Store, which is based in San Diego but which has a nice online selection of spirits.

Today we’re looking at QLS’s private bottling of Buffalo Trace’s highly regarded Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon. This bottling was dumped on April 7, 2015 from Barrel #36, warehouse H, rick #10.

What an amazingly soft and incredibly drinkable bourbon this is. The nose is a bit restrained, showing pencil shavings, barrel char, brown sugar, and a touch of eucalyptus. That may sound like the intro to a huge whiskey, but the body turns out to be remarkably soft and seductive. The palate is filled with luscious vanilla ice cream, butterscotch, banana pudding, creme brulee… if you’re not picking up that this is a dessert-like confection in a glass by now, there’s something wrong with you. The finish is moderate, beautifully sweet with just a hint of lumber influence but also some lingering milk chocolate notes.

Entirely engaging but light as a feather, it’s one of the best bourbons I’ve encountered all year.

93 proof. Reviewed: Bottle #200/264.

Want a discount at QLS? Use code DRINKHACKER10% for 10 percent off!

A / $70 /