Review: Stirk’s Gin Oak Barrel Finished

Stirk's Gin Bottle Shot

“Stirk” of Stirk’s Gin is David Stirk, the creator of the Exclusive Malts line of Scotch whiskies, and this is his gin, or rather, some sourced London Dry that was placed into recently-dumped single malt Scotch barrels for finishing (the amount of time in barrel is unstated). The results? Let’s take a look.

It’s got an unusually heavy amount of juniper on the nose for a barrel-aged gin, but the intense evergreen and spice aromas driven by the distillation are just prologue for what’s to come. The nose leads to a palate that melds fresh botanicals with ample, but not overwhelming, barrel influence — with flavors of vanilla custard, banana cream, and some toasty wood notes. That may sound awfully whisky-like, and indeed Stirk’s Gin is just that, a rich and surprisingly creamy spirit that finishes like a flan that’s somehow gotten mixed up with a classic G&T.

That all may sound odd, but Stirk’s works out better than most mashups. Both Scotch and gin fans should give it a try, should the opportunity present itself.

92 proof.

B+ / $40 / impexbev.com

Review: Pierre Croizet Cognac VS

pierre croizet  vs-bottle image

This is the entry level Cognac bottling from small producer Pierre Croizet, a Fins Bois based producer. This VS (production and aging information is not available) is a soft but surprisingly well-made and focused brandy, with a nose that offers aromas of gentle fruit in the form of baked apples and golden raisins, studded with notes of simple caramel and some spice.

The body plays up the spicier aspects of the Cognac, some cinnamon, gingerbread, and ample vanilla, all of which play beautifully with those apple notes. The finish is modest but fresh and fruity, without only a hint of more harsh alcoholic overtones, so common in young brandy (or any spirit, really).

I haven’t encountered Croizet’s older expressions, but on the strength of this ultra-affordable VS, I can’t wait to give them a try.

80 proof.

A- / $30 / pierre.croizet.com

Recipes: National Tequila Day Cocktails, 2016

As is usual, National Tequila Day arrives on July 24th. Unlike similarly marketed holidays, this one has managed to endure and continues to gain popularity every year. Here are a few recipes for your consideration, and if anyone need us we will be recovering on National Hangover Day, Monday July 25th.

Watermelon Crush
Watermelon Crush(Created by Pamela Wiznitzer)
2 parts Tres Agaves Blanco
3-4 pieces watermelon
½ part hibiscus syrup (Boil hibiscus tea; once hot, add in equal parts white sugar to the tea and let dissolve)
¾ part lime juice
½ part coconut water

Muddle watermelon and combine all ingredients. Shake and strain into a highball. Garnish with a thin watermelon slice.

La Abejita
(Created by Omar Villavicencio)
1 1/2 oz Don Julio Blanco
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
3/4 oz fresh honey syrup
1 dash lavender bitters
fresh honeycomb (for garnish)

Combine Tequila Don Julio Blanco, fresh lime juice, honey syrup and lavender bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well. Strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with fresh piece of honey comb.

CrushClementine Crush
1 part Sauza Blue Silver tequila
1 part clementine juice
1/2 part lime juice
1/2 part agave nectar
1 orange wheel

Add ingredients to an ice-filled shaker. Shake and strain over ice into glass and serve. Garnish with an orange wheel. Sugar coated rim is optional.

Review: Miami Cocktail Co. Tropical Sangria and Blood Orange Mimosa

miami cocktail mimosa

Miami Cocktail Co. produces ready-to-drink bottled cocktails, with organic and natural ingredients as the focus. The beverages are made from a base of premium wine and use progressive recipes that add some unexpected fruit components to the mix. (Coming soon is the company’s “Copper Pot Margarita,” which is made with “agave wine.”)

I was originally a skeptic but was pleasantly surprised once I actually cracked the bottles open. Let’s give the two currently shipping products, a sangria and a mimosa, a spin.

Both are 9% abv.

Miami Cocktail Co. Tropical Sangria – Red wine with mango, pineapple, lime, and orange juice. Fresh and fruity, a lot like a quality sangria but sweeter than it usually comes to your table, thanks I’m sure to the use of ultra-sweet tropical fruits in the mix. Mango comes across first and most clearly, with tart lime adding a sour element. The light tannin in the wine is a nice foil for all of the above, leading to a well-balanced finish that complements both the fruit and the wine. A-

Miami Cocktail Co. Blood Orange Mimosa – I have an earlier version of this product made with carbonated white wine (the recipe has since been updated (see photo above) to use naturally sparkling wine like Champagne) plus blood orange, grapefruit, and tangerine juice. More refreshing than the sangria, and light on its feet with those tangerine notes hitting the hardest. Whatever wine is used here is quite mild; any character it had is washed away by plenty of fruit — though the sweetness and sugar are both kept in check. (That grapefruit element is a surprising aid here.) Mom would love it for a Mother’s Day brunch. A-

each $15 / miamicocktail.com

Review: 2015 Chateau Sainte Marguerite “Symphony” Rose

BS-Symphonie-Rose

More Provence rose as summer hits its peak months, this one a blend of 40% grenache, 40% cinsault, and 20% syrah. Restrained with light apricot, browned apple, and apricot notes, the wine unfolds to reveal some white floral elements, a bit of honeysuckle, and more herbs and baking spice on the finish. Showing lovely balance — and with not a hint of “strawberry” to be found — it’s an unusual rose that plays best for the white wine enthusiast.

Aka Symphonie.

A- / $34 / dreyfusashby.com

Review: 2014 Avignonesi Rosso di Montipulciano DOC

avignonesi Rosso di Montepulciano_2014

Avignonesi’s 2014 Rosso di Montipulciano is in line with its prior efforts, which kicks off with a healthy cherry character with a slightly sweet, vanilla-dusted finish. Some modest tannins, a touch of licorice, and a bit of chocolate. Light balsamic notes add complexity to the finish, but otherwise the wine is a simple but enveloping expression of Italy.

B+ / $19 / avignonesi.it

Review: Woodford Reserve Distillery Series – Five Malt

woodford reserve Five Malt Bottle Shot

Woodford’s latest Distillery Series bourbon — a limited edition experimental series that doesn’t quite merit Master’s Collection status — is here. “Five Malt” connotes what it is, though the company doesn’t exactly tell you everything:

Inspired by the popularity of micro-breweries to explore malted grains typically used for beers when crafting whiskey, Five Malt’s distinctive flavor profile is established within the grain recipe and aging process. To obtain the desired sensory elements, minimum wood exposure is required. Five Malt is a whiskey distilled from malt mash then aged in recycled Double Oaked barrels for a span of six months resulting in warming malt notes with a coffee flavored finish.

That doesn’t quite tell you the whole story, as it is mute on the identity of the five malts, which it turns out are these:

  1. Two row barley
  2. Wheat
  3. Pale Chocolate barley
  4. Kiln Coffee barley
  5. Carafa barley

All five are malted renditions of the grain, of course.

Again, this concoction is cooked up and distilled and aged for all of six months before bottling. In other words, while it’s got a touch of wheat in there, this is effectively a very young single malt, American style.

It fits the part. Master distiller Chris Morris wants us to experience the grain in all its glory here, and damn but you’re gonna get it. Anyone with familiarity with young American malt whiskey will know exactly what they’re getting into before the bottle is ever opened. Intense cereal notes meet a heavy wood influence on the nose — think hard pretzels, heavily charred toast, and coal. The palate offers notes of rye bread, fresh malt, and more of that intensely charred wood influence, with hints of licorice and cloves on the back end.

In other words — there’s not a whole lot to see here, as the finished product is largely indistinguishable from any number of other immature malts aged in new oak. I know Woodford likes to experiment with young whiskeys from time to time, but I also know that this would have been a lot more interesting in roughly 2022.

90.4 proof.

B- / $50 (375ml) / woodfordreserve.com