Review: Hush Spiced Apple Moonshine

Hush Spiced Apple Moonshine1Hush is a new brand that now encompasses a half dozen flavors of moonshine, hailing from the realm of North Charleston, South Carolina. These are corn-based products (grain neutral spirits) that undergo a secret, “patented refining process called TerraPURE” before bottling. (Technically it can’t be both secret and patented, but this is flavored moonshine, so who’s counting?)

Anyhoo, Hush sent us one of its many flavors — spiced apple — for us to put to the test. Which we did.

Pure apple cider attacks the nose. That unmistakable cinnamon/clove/baked apple mix permeates the room and, soon enough, your palate as it takes hold once you begin sipping. Well-sugared but not quite over the top, Hush rumbles along, content to hold forth its autumnal agenda until, eventually, some of the more bitter elements start to hit more squarely on the finish. Things start to gum up at the back of the palate at this point, but that isn’t much of a surprise. This is a simple spirit with modest goals, and by and large it achieves them.

80 proof.

B / $19 / hushmoonshine.com

Review: Snow Leopard Vodka

snow leopardThis vodka hails from Poland, where it is six-times distilled from spelt. The beast on the label isn’t just for show: 15 percent of all profits are given directly to snow leopard conservation projects through the Snow Leopard Trust.

I immediately enjoyed this vodka right from the start. The nose is crisp and fresh, bracing with medicinal notes and hinting at dense lemon oil and vanilla extract. The body is racy, alive with punchy astringency but rounded, balanced, and far from gasp-inducing. Some light sweetness — citrus focused — emerges in time, along with a distinct walnut character later on in the game. The finish is almost buttery and brings on more sweetness, but with the appropriate edge — a shining, sparkling spirit that any vodka fan will find just about perfect as a straight sipper. Works well in cocktails also.

80 proof.

A- / $30 / snowleopardvodka.co.uk

Review: 2013 Terlato Family Vineyards Pinot Grigio Russian River Valley

Terlato Pinot GrigioFragrant on the nose with peach and apricot notes lead to a buttery body more reminiscent of Chardonnay than Pinot Grigio. The palate is long, lush, and loaded with vanilla and caramel flan, before exiting on a crisper, baked-apple finish. This isn’t a complicated wine, but guests at your next dinner party aren’t likely to mind it one bit as an aperitif.

B / $19 / terlatowines.com

Drinkhacker Reads – 01.12.2015 – Contaminated, Aged and Deceptive Beer Monday

Time magazine publishes an article about 5 beers that are largely considered or were once imported that are now brewed in the United States. Amusingly, Fox News publishes an article on the same topic on the same day. Total coincidence, we’re sure. [Time]

The Napa Valley Register gives its predictions on what will be trending in the world of wine this year. It looks as if mixers, sparkling, and sweetness are making a comeback, which no doubt will please Messrs. Bartles and Jaymes. [Napa Valley Register]

Whisky Advocate reports that Crown Royal is entering the single barrel market, a first for the Canadian brand. Crown Royal Single Barrel Whisky comes in at a sturdy 51.5% ABV and a price tag of about $55. The first 500+ barrels have been already issued, each of which are exclusive to a particular retailer — and only in Texas. Our review will be up in short order. [Whisky Advocate]

Like most people, the staff here at Drinkhacker tend to other jobs throughout the day unrelated to our love of all things spirited and yeasty. However, there are a select few souls whose job is to sit around all day and drink bourbon. CNBC takes a closer look at one of them, Brown-Forman’s Master Distiller-in-training, Marianne Barnes. [CNBC]

In other beer news, over 70 people have been confirmed dead and over 100 hospitalized after drinking contaminated beer in Mozambique this weekend, with rumors of foul play and poisoning coming out. Police believe that crocodile bile was the contaminate.  [The Guardian]

And finally today, NPR takes a look into the trend and recent demand for aged beers. Not sure how big of a trend this will become, but if the demand for aged bourbon/scotch is any indication, don’t be surprised if it keeps rising. [NPR]

Review: Lonach Tomatin 43 Years Old

tomatin lonach 43

Lonach is a rarely seen independent bottler that, of late, has specialized in bottling some very old spirits at very affordable prices. This bottling of Speyside’s Tomatin was distilled in 1965 and bottled in 2009 at 43 years of age.

It’s a cask strength release, but just 41.1% abv given all the alcohol evaporation it’s seen. I had the pleasure of tasting this well-aged monster.

Light cereal on the nose, with notes of incense and some walnuts. On the palate, the whisky reveals some citrus notes, well-roasted grains, a bit of lumberyard, and just a handful of chewy, dried fruits. While it’s fairly obvious that this whisky has spent a few too many years in barrel, robbing it of its sweetness and its fruity essence, it hasn’t totally beaten up the Tomatin. What remains, as is often the case with very old spirits, is an austere and restrained dram, lightly oxidized but still welcoming you with open arms, as frail as they might be becoming.

82.2 proof.

A- / $165 / lonachwhisky.com

Review: Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection – Wheated Bourbon Warehouse Floor Experiments

buffalo trace Wheated Bourbon Warehouse Floor Experiment

Last summer, Buffalo Trace released a series of three experimental whiskeys, each aged on a separate floor of its wooden-floored Warehouse K. These rye-heavy bourbons were as different as night and day — and now BT is back to do the same experiment again, this time with wheated bourbons.

The experiment is otherwise the same as with the rye bourbons: 15 barrels placed in Warehouse K, five each on floors 1, 5, and 9, for 12 years. The point, as I mentioned last time, is that heat rises: Lower level warehouse floors are cooler than the ones at the top, and heat (more specifically variations between hot and cold throughout the day) is a significant factor in the way Bourbon ages.

All are bottled at 90 proof. Here’s how they stack up.

Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection 12 Year Old Wheated Bourbon – Floor #1 - Lots of wood on this, but some butterscotch and brown butter notes help to temper the essence of the lumberyard which otherwise dominates. The body is both a bit astringent and a little watery, all of which combines to give this whiskey a slug of sweetness that settles uneasily atop a somewhat racy but lightly bitter backbone. The finish is tough, with an enduring vegetal character. C+

Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection 12 Year Old Wheated Bourbon – Floor #5 - What an incredibly different experience this is, those butterscotch notes dominating some light cereal character underneath. Over time, more wood character comes to the forefront, with the finish offering a blend of both sweet and savory notes. Look for some dried mango, some cloves, and a little red berry fruit on the back end. B

Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection 12 Year Old Wheated Bourbon – Floor #9 – As with the rye, this wheated collection shows that up top is where it’s at. The core character remains the same — butterscotch plus melted, lightly burnt butter notes — but they’re elevated here by notes of baking spice, red pepper, and the essence of campfire smoke. Silky caramel and marshmallow (roasted?) are big on the finish, along with notes of brewed tea and some baking spice. Lots to enjoy, but it’s also got a punchiness that turns it into an interesting conversation piece. A-

each $46 (375ml) / buffalotracedistillery.com

Recipe: National Hot Toddy Day, 2015

With the majority of the nation under a bit of a cold spell (as I type this the wind chill in my town just hit a cool and breezy -21 degrees Fahrenheit), we thought it best to revisit one of the best winter drinks around: the hot toddy. A classic drink for these bone-chilling days, the Hot Toddy is best consumed next to the warmest fireplace and under the softest blanket you can find. National Hot Toddy day is technically January 11, but for those of us living on conditions befitting an ice planet, it could very well be any day until April.

The Classic Hot Toddy
1 1/2 oz brandy, whiskey, or rum (note: depending on my mood, I’ll opt for either Bulleit, Eagle Rare. or Old Forester as the main event here)
1 tablespoon honey
Juice from 1/2 lemon
8 oz hot water
1 tea bag
1 pinch of fresh ground nutmeg (optional)

Add honey to the bottom of your mug or glass and spread it around. Add the spirit of your choice and lemon juice. Pour hot water and tea bag into glass and stir. Repeat as often as necessary. 

Red Hot Ruby Punch
(Courtesy of Jason Cousins, Da Claudio, NYC)
image001

750 ml Tincup Whiskey
16 oz boiling water
8 oz PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
8 oz ruby port wine
8 oz fresh orange juice
8 oz demerara sugar (raw)
4 large navel oranges
Seeds from 1 large pomegranate

In a spice bag:
1 tbsp allspice
1 tbsp whole cloves
1 whole cinnamon stick

Completely peel four oranges, avoiding the white pith. Add orange peels to a mixing bowl with raw sugar and muddle, grinding the sugar into the oils. (Reserve the orange fruit for juicing.) Let stand for 30 minutes while the sugar pulls the oils from the peels. Stir in 16 oz of boiling water until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove orange peels and add spice bag. Let sit while preparing the remaining ingredients. Add Tincup, PAMA liqueur, port wine, and orange juice to a 3.5 quart or larger slow cooker. Pour in the orange sugar mixture and keep warm on low heat. Ladle and serve, garnishing with a clove-studded orange disk and a cinnamon stick.

Review: Wildwood Spirits Stark Vatten Vodka and Kur Gin

Stark VattenWildwood Spirits is a new craft distillery located in Bothell, Washington. We tasted the company’s first two products, a solid vodka and a uniquely flavored gin. Thoughts follow.

Stark Vatten Vodka – Swedish for “strong water,” made from heirloom, local red winter wheat in a self-proclaimed European style. I think that’s a reasonably fair description. This is a rounded and creamy vodka with mild, vanilla- and cocoa-tinged sweetness. The core however offers modest hospital notes, gentle astringency that isn’t exactly biting but which finishes clean and easy. While a true European vodka would have less sweetness and more of a medicinal kick, this is at least a good entry point to the style. 80 proof. B+ / $29

Kur BottleKur Gin – Essentially made the same way as Stark Vatten, then infused with “classic juniper aromas and flavors with subtle citrus (Seville orange) as well as Douglas Fir and Braeburn apples from Mr. Liedholm’s [the distiller] back yard.” Also in the mix are orris root, fennel seed, and coriander seed. There’s no soft hand with the juniper on this one; it’s a punchy pine bomb from the get go. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the apple notes are intense and vivid — the lively and saucy character like what you get in a young apple brandy, lightly spiced with what come across like pie spices of cinnamon and cloves. The finish is chewy and hangs on the fruit, building caramel notes and tempering the juniper considerably. A very unusual, but worthwhile, gin. 80 proof. B+ / $29

wildwoodspiritsco.com

Review: Koma Unwind Relaxation Beverage

koma unwind

Koma Unwind is another one of these newfangled beverages designed not to turn you into a bon vivant but rather into a slumbering snoozer. This canned, sparkling beverage includes mostly familiar active ingredients: B12, milk thistle, valerian root, rose hips, and melatonin. These goodies are dropped into a rather familiar soda format — sweet and (mostly) grape juice flavored — technically labeled “Berrylicious.”

I tried Koma before bed and went to sleep with no trouble. I slept straight through the night until about 6am, when wild and lucid dreams roused me. I’m not sure if Koma aided my sleep quality, but it didn’t seem to have damaged it at all.

Koma tastes fine for what it is — spiked purple stuff — but I have to wonder about the wisdom of adding 45 grams of sugar to a beverage that’s called “koma” and is designed to get you to go to sleep. (The 12 oz. can’s ingredients label is misleading, as a “serving size” is only 8 oz.) There’s a sugar free version but it suffers from the same bitter edge that most diet sodas do… though it’s nonetheless probably a smarter choice before bedtime. A shot-based version (not reviewed here) is also available.

B / $2 per 12 oz. can / komaunwind.com