The Drinkhacker Shopping List – 01.23.2015

Hello and welcome to another edition of the Shopping List, our regular survey of the best, the tastiest, and everything else we’ve reviewed over the last few weeks. We’ve got a little bit for every palate this time around, including those with expensive tastes (The Macallan Masters of Photography) receiving our highest marks. Sláinte!

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Review: Baileys Chocolate Cherry

Baileys Cherry

A chocolate-cherry cordial in liquid form sure sounds nice, but Baileys’ latest flavor doesn’t quite hit the mark. The idea is self-explanatory, but the execution isn’t totally there.

The nose is alive with sweet cherry notes, but it’s the chocolate that — surprisingly — is lacking throughout in this liqueur. Instead Baileys Chocolate Cherry is muddled with that inimitable Irish Cream pungency, just a whiff of whiskey and a bit of vanilla to remind you not to try drinking the entire bottle. The body is chewy and sweet like a maraschino plucked straight from the jar, but it also offers a modest slug of woody notes and some hospital character. Some mint notes emerge over time, as well.

As the finish builds, Baileys Chocolate Cherry begins to suffer from a malady so common in cherry-flavored spirits — the Cough Syrup Flavor conundrum, a problem that sends the reveler’s mind reaching not back to thoughts of cherry-filled confections but to days in bed sucking on Sucrets. But hey, maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.

34 proof.

B / $19 / baileys.com

Review: Glencadam 10 Years Old, 15 Years Old, and 21 Years Old

glencadam

Glencadam can be found in the Eastern Highlands of Scotland. It is the only working distillery in County Angus here, but thanks to CIL US Wine & Spirits (the company behind Camus Cognac), it’s now available in the U.S.

The distillery last changed hands in 2003, when it was acquired by a Scottish indie producer. If you’re looking to try some old guard Scotch that isn’t produced by a multinational conglomerate, well, this is a good place to start.

All of these are single malts bottled at 92 proof. Thoughts follow.

Glencadam 10 Years Old – Simple, rustic nose, with some notes of vegetation and a bit of hospital character. The light-as-gossamer body is more charming and more expressive than this simple beginning might indicate. While it leads off with some more base alcohol notes, it evolves to reveal notes of fresh-cut barley, heather, orange peel, nougat, a bit of baking spice, and sugary breakfast cereal. That’s meant as a compliment. Cinnamon toast, maybe? B+ / $55

Glencadam 15 Years Old – Evolving nicely at 15 years old, this expression of Glencadam offers a richer and more focused look at malt that takes things in the direction of chewy, dried apples and apricots, more intense baking spice, and stronger citrus notes on the finish. It’s very much a big brother to the lighter, more spry 10 year old — a bit more wise to the ways of the world but a bit cocky as well. B+ / $85

Glencadam 21 Years Old – All grown up, this expression features ample citrus to the point where it takes on a slightly bitter edge. Pure, well-roasted grain notes start the show before heading into notes of cocoa powder and some raisin character. Classic, racy, spicy malt finishes out the show, lending austerity to an otherwise sweet and sultry whisky. B+ / $199

glencadamwhisky.com

Drinkhacker Reads – 01.21.2015 – New Adventures In Drinking

The paper of record takes on yet another trend taking hold with drinkers: health-conscious drinking. Profiling such drinks as gluten-free beer, lemon juice-beer hybrids, and kombucha tea, it appears this is a trend with legs. [New York Times]

Drinks International surveyed 38 of the top 50 bars in the world and then added another 50 bars voted upon by its academy to find out the best-selling and top-trending brands behind the counter. Lots of usual suspects (Bacardi, Tanqueray, Plantation) at the top, but the inclusion of Del Maguey mezcal as the #1 pick made our ears perk up a bit. A very interesting and unexpected selection. [Drinks International]

JF6A3031_lrKudos to the bourbon wizards at Angel’s Envy, whose latest campaign “Toast The Trees” will donate $10,000 to the Arbor Day Foundation. The donated funds will be used to plant 2,500 white oak trees in the Appalachian Mountains this upcoming spring in areas littered with abandoned mines. Always good to see another company becoming a good steward of the environment. [Angel’s Envy]

With Scotch sales slumping a bit globally, efforts to promote the spirit are starting to shift into a higher gear, especially with Beam Suntory. The Providence Journal talks with Beam reps about getting younger people to try, and like, the peated stuff. [Providence Journal]

In science news: researchers believe that alcohol may actually disrupt sleep instead of improving it, but moderate alcohol consumption can actually reduce the risk of heart failure and potentially aid in reducing alcohol-induced stress.

JinzuAnd finally today, after a few delays, Diageo is ready to introduce a quirky new spirit to market. The gin-sake hybrid Jinzu infused with cherry blossom was the result of a mixologist competition held in 2013, and will retail for about $45 per bottle. [Evening Standard]

Review: Tequila Espolon Anejo

Espolon Anejo Hi-Res

Tequila Espolon was relaunched in 2010 as one of the first of a wave of high-quality, 100% agave tequilas that were far less expensive than most any other 100% agave tequilas on the market. But there was a hole in the lineup: No anejo.

Now Espolon is back with an anejo expression, at long last. Intriguingly the anejo tequila is aged for at least a year in unused white oak barrels, then finished for two to three months in ex-bourbon barrels, specifically Wild Turkey barrels. (Typically, tequila and most other spirits are fully matured in bourbon casks.)

The nose is rich without being aggressive, with big caramel and vanilla notes that hit the nose right at the start. The body engages right away, pushing that silky sweetness into some woody notes with a slight, agave-driven, vegetal edge. The finish is long and complex, hitting some racy red pepper notes as it begins, then punching up butterscotch and more vanilla syrup before a slow fade that brings the agave back to the forefront. None of this is particularly surprising, but it’s all on point and just about perfect for an anejo, proving again that, pound for pound, Espolon is one of the best bargains in the tequila business.

80 proof.

A / $35 / tequilaespolon.com

Book Review: Tasting Whiskey For Dummies

coverAt $6 and a scant 25 pages in length — and not even an official “Dummies” title —  it’s difficult to give this one a full-throated endorsement, especially after just reading Heather Greene’s excellent guide on the same subject matter. Jake Olson does indeed cover the basics of whiskey tasting, with a very direct, almost dry, writing style. Brief entries on the history of whiskey, the process by which it is made, and the different types available make up the majority of the book. A few basic recipes for essential cocktails are offered. That’s really about it, folks. I believe the Wikipedia entry on whiskey is more expansive and informative. And free of charge.

The challenge was not to power through Olson’s primitive report, but to take this pamphlet as a legitimate body of work. Much more content could have been offered, and it certainly would have helped to have a decent copy editor; if only because it’s spelled “Johnnie” and not “Jonny” Walker. Sometimes it’s better not to self-publish. Sometimes it’s better to just leave things on a hard drive to send as a Word document to friends. This would be one of those times.

$6 / F / [BUY IT HERE?]

Drinkhacker Reads – 01.20.2015 – 100 Cases of Bud Light On The Wall

Rabobank issues their quarterly report with predictions for the global spirits market in 2015. In short: demand for spirits in Europe is moderate, and Scotch is on an export decline, leading Diageo to defer plans to expand production; China’s thirst for luxury items is being quenched, while U.S. and India are showing healthy growth. You can read the whole thing here. [Rabobank]

In other whiskey news, Richard Thomas at Whiskey Reviewer tackles bourbon’s five biggest myths, the Drinks Report covers new packaging innovations for 2015, robbers walked away with over $100,000 in rare whiskeys in Montreal, Travel and Leisure magazine lists its favorite whiskey bars in America, and JR Revelry (review forthcoming) becomes the first bourbon on the market owned by a Latino businessman.

A new report from the USDA finds that craft brewers can use up to four times as much barley per barrel of beer than their mega-conglomerate counterparts. Totally unrelated but still kind of cool: German firefighters have built a life-sized fire engine from over 4,700 beer crates.[Mother Jones]

And finally today, a new mobile app has the capability to deliver up to 100 cases of Bud Light to your doorstep within an hour. Forgoing the question of why someone would want 100 cases is the question of why on earth this app was developed in the first place. [Bustle]

Review: Jenni Rivera La Gran Senora Tequila Reposado

jenni rivera

I had never heard of Jenni Rivera before her face showed up on my doorstep. Literally. That’s Rivera mugging from the label of her eponymous tequila — perhaps the most glorious and arguably inappropriate vanity spirit bottling I’ve ever seen. (The only way this could be topped is to imagine a Kardashian vodka, with Kim’s face on the front and her butt on the back label…)

Rivera was a Mexican-American performing artist who died tragically in a plane crash in 2012. While she is said to have approved of this product and personally tasted it, I presume her estate is what is actually lending her visage to a 100% agave line of tequilas. The three standard expressions are available. We received only the reposado, which is aged for 6 months in oak barrels. Thoughts follow.

This is a capable, but a fairly gentle reposado. On the lighter side, color-wise, it offers an immediate nose of roasted agave, burnt marshmallow, and caramel. The body follows in lockstep. Sweet up front, with those marshmallow notes the strongest, it builds to some notes of charcoal, some pencil shavings, and a bit of raisin. The finish is clean, sweet, and with a final salute to agave on the very back end. It isn’t a groundbreaking tequila, but it’s a fully credible and capable one that works well either alone or in mixed drinks.

80 proof.

B+ / $46 / 3crownsimports.com

Review: 2007 Tenuta Castelbuono Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG

Castelbuono_sagratino_hi_resSagrantino is grown mainly in the Umbrian region of Italy, where the village of Montefalco is the hub. Sagrantino is a dense, tough grape. Its wines are believed to be some of the most tannic made anywhere in the world.

This 2007 sagrantino from Castelbuono is an intense but delightful wine. Licorice notes complement dried thyme and rosemary up front, laced into a core of heavily extracted and juicy black cherry, plum, and currant notes. The finish is powerful with dense notes of wood, tannin, and forest floor. Decant this wine, or open it at least an hour before drinking in a large glass.

A- / $32 / palmbay.com

Review: Peychaud’s Whiskey Barrel-Aged Cocktail Bitters

PeychaudsBarrelAged5ozXThe original Peychaud’s Bitters date back to about 1830. In New Orleans cocktailing, they’re an indispensable part of numerous drinks, including the classic Sazerac Cocktail. Now owner Sazerac (parent company of Buffalo Trace) is launching a version of Peychaud’s with a twist, aging the classic bitters in Sazerac Rye whiskey barrels for 140 days.

I tasted the new barrel-aged Peychaud’s against the classic version, side by side, to see how the duo stack up against one another.

They’re remarkably different products. Classic Peychaud’s offers complex notes of earth, charred nuts, cloves, watermelon rind, licorice root, and charred vegetables, with a distinct, semisweet rhubarb character — particularly on the nose. In contrast, the new Peychaud’s Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters are less complicated and initiatially, and somewhat counterintuitively, a bit sweeter. They don’t take on the charry woodiness of the wood but rather some of the vanilla and baking spices of the rye. As the bitters hit the palate, that rhubarb turns much more toward cherry fruit, with notes of gingerbread and Christmas spices on the back end.

Of course, despite all the secondary characteristics described above, both expressions are still bitters, and the finish of each is lasting and powerfully representative of the term. Both pair beautifully with whiskey but I have to say that the new whiskey-barrel aged expression lends more of an intense, fruity liveliness to a cocktail. The cherry components particularly stand out, even against the punch of bourbon or rye. No, it won’t ever replace the original, but its presence does make the cocktailer’s arsenal all the more interesting.

35% abv.

A / $17 (5 oz.) / thesazeracgiftshop.com