Drinkhacker Reads – 06.02.2014 – Bursting Bubbles In Beer And Bourbon

No sooner than hours after the announcement broke of Diageo’s commitment to build a brand new $115 million distillery in Kentucky came the expected thinkpieces on the future of American whiskey making and whether or not we are currently watching the proverbial bubble on the market about to burst. Whether or not this happens remains to be seen, but there seems to be a kernel of truth to it. One need look no further than the wildly out of control secondhand market as evidence for consideration.

Just days after The Atlantic published its think piece on the over-saturation of craft distilling, Entrepreneur files a similar piece lamenting the demise of craft brewing due to the increase in production and ingredient costs. Looks like the bourbon world isn’t the only place with a very large bubble manifesting itself.

In less gloomy news, Feis Ile, that lustful festival that Islay single malt fans crave, took place this past week. Lots of special editions were on hand to drool over. UK-based Vinspire offers one of the more comprehensive recaps of the festivities. [Vinspire]

And finally today, science takes a moment to reflect upon the ingredients necessary to create perfect beer foam in the pint glass, and examines whether or not a wine’s terroir really has a major effect on the end result.

Review: 2012 Natura Cabernet Sauvignon and 2012 Novas Sauvignon Blanc

Natura CS 2012 72x300 Review: 2012 Natura Cabernet Sauvignon and 2012 Novas Sauvignon BlancWe may have missed the “Earth Day” timing of these affordable, biodynamic, sustainably produced wines from Chile’s Emiliana Winery, but it’s safe to say you’ll find them for sale pretty much year-round. Anyway, we love to hear stories about Earth-friendly wines being made… but if you’re serious about sustainability, perhaps you should be drinking local plonk instead of foreign stuff? Just sayin’.

2012 Emiliana Natura Cabernet Sauvignon Rapel Valley Curious nose: dark cocoa powder, toasty wood, and dense currant notes. The body doesn’t really deliver, alas, bringing some astringency to bear alongside an acidic, moderately tannic, and restrained fruit. The finish is drying and a bit bittersweet. C / $10

2012 Emiliana Novas Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva San Antonio Valley - Intensely vegetal nose. Asparagus, lettuce, some lemon peel, pepe du chat. The body brings on some merciful acidity and citrus juice notes, here predominantly grapefruit. Very tart finish, which washes away those somewhat uninspiring notes on the nose. B- / $15

emiliana.cl

Review: Wines of Belle Ambiance, 2014 Releases

belle ambiance 200x300 Review: Wines of Belle Ambiance, 2014 ReleasesA new brand from DFV/Delicato, Belle Ambiance has a rock bottom price combined with appealing, upscale packaging that’s certain to drive some sales. Launching out of the gate with a collection of six wines, we tried three for review. Not entirely sure I’m buying the “family vineyards” claim on the label, given that all of these wines carry generic “California” designations, but, hey, it’s what’s inside that counts, no?

2013 Belle Ambiance Pinot Grigio California – On the sweet side, with lots of mango notes, plus some lemon and a touch of melon. The lasting finish offers some light herbal notes, before recalling that tropical punch up front. Fine, but best with food. B / $8

2012 Belle Ambiance Chardonnay California – Straightforward, big butter/vanilla notes, with a lemon chaser. Long finish, with quite sweet marshmallow notes picking up on the back end. Not bad, but needs some refinements. B- / $8

2012 Belle Ambiance Pinot Noir California – Gentle, simple stuff. Light cherry and strawberry notes lead to a quietly sweet body, with light tea leaf notes on the finish. Oh so pleasant, almost harmless. B+ / $8

belleambiancevineyards.com

Review: The Exclusive Malts Batch #4

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Five more tiny-production, very rare, Scotch whiskys are about to arrive on our shores, courtesy of the independent malt whisky bottlers at Exclusive Malts. As always, total bottles produced tend to number in the low hundreds, so if you see something you like, get it now.

The Exclusive Malts Linkwood 1999 14 Years Old – This Speyside distillery is known for providing its casks to blended Scotch producers, and here it turns in a spicy, racy, young-tasting single malt that, on first blush, feels like it would be right at home as a component in Dewar’s or Johnnie Walker. Cereal and heather give way to chewy nougat, finally revealing some restrained apple and banana character. Tough to crack, with a lightly smoky finish. Try some water to coax more out of it. 111.6 proof. B- / $97

The Exclusive Malts North Highland 1996 17 Years Old – A Highlands spirit, matured completely in a refill ex-sherry hogshead. Lots of sherry up front on the nose, of course, but also tar, cigars, and unripe banana. Quite fruity on the palate, it blends orange oil with notes of incense and baking spice, the finish coming across as racy, smoldering, and luscious. Quite fetching. 112.2 proof. A- / $138

The Exclusive Malts Bladnoch 1992 21 Years Old - Lowland whisky from the southwest end of Scotland, aged in an ex-Bourbon hogshead. Malty and grassy on the nose, tinged with lemon oil and a touch of iodine. The body is much fruitier than the nose lets on, a concoction that offers sweet lemonade and sweet(er) tea, with a candy-like nougat character that comes on strong on the finish. More grainy/grassy notes on the back end, also. Well-aged but far from hoary, this malt still has plenty of life left in it, and it drinks hotter than its (relatively) lower proof level would indicate. 96.2 proof. B+ / $170

The Exclusive Malts Glencadam 1991 22 Years Old - Coastal Highlands single malt from an ex-Bourbon hogshead, surprisingly light in color. Pure honey, tempered with touches of smoke. The beautiful nose is complex, adding touches of heather and a hint of granary character. The rounded body is seductive and sweet, pushing the honey notes to the limit. The finish nods at cereal while going out on a smoldering but sweet finale, inviting continued sipping and savoring. There’s not a terribly high level of complexity here, but this Glencadam is so enjoyable it’s hard not to love. 100.8 proof. A / $179

The Exclusive Malts Bowmore 2001 12 Years Old - The only Islay in this release, bottled after 12 years in a refill Sherry butt. Intense smoke and melting wax notes on the nose. Tons of iodine all around. On the palate, it’s an intense dram, blending sweet sherry notes and a Madeirized character with the essence of tire fire. These two characteristics do battle for some time on the tongue. Neither one ends up winning, a shame. 116.8 proof. B- / $138

impexbev.com

Review: Tawny Ports of Croft, Fonseca, and Taylor Fladgate, 2014 Releases

1964 Single Harvest Tawny 2 525x802 Review: Tawny Ports of Croft, Fonseca, and Taylor Fladgate, 2014 Releases

Even seasoned wine enthusiasts often get confused over the world of Port, and who can blame them? Bottled both in vintage-dated and non-vintage but “xx years old” varieties (and in ruby, tawny, white, and other versions), the topic quickly gets complicated — when all you want to do is enjoy something sweet with dessert.

What’s the difference between ruby and tawny, the two major types of nonvintage Port? As Taylor Fladgate wine director David Guimaraens says, “Most people are familiar with the dark purple, ‘ruby’ Ports which range from very basic up to the storied Vintage Ports.  Rubies are aged in bottles, so they keep their fresh red fruit flavors.  On the other hand, Tawny Ports are aged in wooden casks, so they have more interchange with the air around them.  This process evolves their color to a ‘tawny’ amber color, and changes their flavors from predominantly fruity to predominantly nutty.”

Guimaraens’ comments aside, I’d still characterize most tawny Ports as extremely fruity, but more chocolatey and coffee-like than rubies. These notes come across more distinctly in older bottlings, though. Young tawny can often be just as fruity as a typical ruby.

What does “10 years old” or “20 years old” mean in these Ports? Well, contrary to what you might expect, it doesn’t mean that in 2004 or 1994, Port was dumped into a barrel and a decade or two later was prepped for bottling. Ports with age statements like this are blends of a variety of years, and the number on the label is somewhat meaningless. Most tawnys are a blend of solera-style old stock and young stock, and the years noted on the label are a sort of moving target that the blender is supposed to aim for. There’s nothing requiring any sort of accuracy here, and in many cases no way of even knowing how old the wine is in any given bottle. But a 20 year old should at least taste older than a 10 year old, even if both of those numbers are fudged a bit.

The exception of course is when a vintage does actually appear on the label. That’s the case with the last tawny on the list below, a 1964 single-vintage Tawny Port from Taylor Fladgate. What that means is exactly what it sounds like: This Port was made exclusively from grapes picked in ’64. Yes, 50 years ago. They’ve been mellowing out in barrel ever since, and aren’t blended with other vintages. And unlike non-vintage Tawny, this stuff won’t be around forever, so snap it up while you can.

Croft, Fonseca, and Taylor Fladgate are all sub-brands of Taylor’s, a mega-Port operation whose CEO, Adrian Bridge, we’ve met on several occasions. He’s a swell guy, and we’re excited to offer notes on several Tawny Ports in current release, as well as the exceptional 1964. Thoughts follow.

NV Croft Aged Tawny Porto 10 Years Old (bottled in 2010) – Bright raspberry and sour cherry notes, just the right amount of vinegar to balance out some very focused fruit flavors. I’ve always thought of Croft as the fruitiest of vintage Ports, and here it produces a tawny that is closer to the ruby style of Port than most others you’ll encounter. Very easy drinking and versatile. A- / $28

NV Fonseca Aged Tawny Port 10 Years Old – Jammier, with more chocolate notes, and a lightly minty finish. Long, bold, and lightly creamy on the palate, this is a tawny with a little more oomph and more sourness on the back end. B+ / $23

NV Taylor Fladgate Tawny Port 10 Years Old – Somewhere between the fruitiness of Croft and the power of Fonseca lies Taylor Fladgate’s 10 year Tawny, an inviting wine with ample fruit at the core, but with bittersweet edges of licorice, chicory, and coffee bean. These characteristics, plus some chocolate notes, tend to overtake the fruit on the finish, but the body, on the whole, is surprisingly delicate. Complex, yet a bit immature. B+ / $23

NV Fonseca Aged Tawny Port 20 Years Old - Plenty of fruit and body here, but the chocolate notes are pumped up, and the fruit takes on more of a classic, Port-like raisin character. At 20, some of the more rustic elements of the Fonseca 10 Year Tawny are rounded out, giving this Port a slightly more refined construction, albeit one with plenty of lasting sweetness. A- / $40

NV Taylor Fladgate Tawny Port 20 Years Old - Lots of intensity here, with an almost bruising sour cherry and tart raisin character that overpowers some of this Port’s more delicate coffee and chocolate notes. The finish is lasting and almost punishing in its mouth-puckering character. This is a step back from the 10 year. B / $40

1964 Taylor Fladgate Single Harvest Tawny Port (pictured) – Wow, this is how tawny should be experienced. Drawn from a single vintage that’s 50 years old, this tawny is showing well rounded notes of cinnamon, raisin, and allspice… layered with cedar wood, chocolate, and coffee bean notes. The finish is long and sweetly sour — ending on a note of Cherries Jubilee that has the perfect balance of fruity and winey flavors. Lovely. A / $300

taylor.pt

The Drinkhacker Shopping List – 05.30.2014

Welcome to another edition of the Drinkhacker Shopping List, our semi-regular compendium of the best and worst beverages we’ve covered over the recent weeks. This time around we’ve had plenty to go around in every category, including some exceptional A-rated offerings, especially in the bourbon category.

TheList053014 525x1113 The Drinkhacker Shopping List   05.30.2014

We’ve also had a few expansive tasting reports for your consideration:

Rhone Rangers 2014
Whiskies of the World Expo San Francisco 2014
Blue Chip Wineries of Paso Robles, 2014

Review: American Born Moonshine

ABM 3 Bottles on white 525x511 Review: American Born Moonshine

Moonshine continues to grow as a category, and this Nashville-based producer, founded in 2012, is getting its first products on the market in its home state, plus four others. Featuring mason jar bottles with a custom pouring system built into the lid, the company aims to class up an (often intentionally) unsexy industry.

Purportedly made from a 200 year old recipe, American Born Moonshine uses a 100% corn mash that’s sweetened with sugar. Two flavored (and lower-proof) versions are also on the market. We tasted them all, straight out of mini Mason jars.

Thoughts follow.

American Born Moonshine Original White Lightning – Unaged and overproof, this moonshine is the legit stuff. Popcorn and cane sugar on the nose, it’s got a surprising level of refinement lacking from most moonshines, presenting some measure of balance from the start. On the tongue, the popcorn fades to reveal more sweetness, almost like that from grape juice, plus notes of toasted marshmallow, marzipan, and nougat. Sippable on its own, but more intriguing as a mixer, and one of the best white corn whiskeys you’ll find on the market right now. 103 proof. A-

American Born Moonshine Apple Pie - One of the most popular of flavors for moonshines these days, American Born’s apple pie flavored ‘shine is heavier on tart apple notes and lighter on those traditional apple spice characters like cinnamon and cloves. The nose hints at more, but the juicy body is more akin to cider than pie. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not exactly what’s on the label — and who wants a glass of juice when they could be eating pie? 83 proof. B

American Born Moonshine Dixie Sweet Tea - Tea flavoring has been fading from the vodka world for a while, but here it shows its face again. In fact, the company claims this is the first sweet tea-flavored moonshine on the market. ABM’s rendition is sweet first, tea second, though both components come through in spades. The slightly corny finish adds an interesting spin, but I can’t say I prefer it to a more straightforward tea-flavored vodka. As with its compatriots, it’s easily enjoyable on the whole. 83 proof. A-

each $25 / americanbornmoonshine.com

Review: 2011 Uproot Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Uproot Cabernet Sauvignon 1721 94x300 Review: 2011 Uproot Cabernet Sauvignon Napa ValleyLast week we reviewed the initial releases from boutique winery Uproot, a pair of Sauvignon Blancs. Now the company is expanding with the de rigueur Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa-sourced and priced for collecting.

Thoughts: It’s seductive, with red berry notes on the nose. Very light tannin, with some sweetness evident even before the first sip. On the palate, it’s a bit chalky up front (a surprise), before building its berry core up. As the wine opens up, the fruit turns more toward jam, while secondary notes of licorice, cedar, and milk chocolate emerge. Some sweet marshmallow notes also present themselves on the finish.

A- / $78 / drinkuproot.com

Tasting Report: Wines of Domaine Carneros, 2014

Visiting the grand chateau of Domaine Carneros in the region between Napa and Sonoma is always a treat, and a recent jaunt wine-ward brought us back to the spectacular views of Domaine’s north-facing patio. We sampled a variety of both sparkling and still wines. Brief thoughts on everything tasted — all of which is currently available — follow.

2006 Domaine Carneros La Reve Blanc de Blancs / $99 / A- / rich and yeasty, nutty and malty notes; slight floral finish

2010 Domaine Carneros Vintage Brut Rose / $37 / A- / big fruit character, with tart raspberry and herbal notes on the finish

2009 Domaine Carneros Vintage Brut Cuvee / $28 / B+ / quite dry, with apple and fig notes, some floral and citrus character

2008 Domaine Carneros The Famous Gate Pinot Noir / $80 / A / rich with menthol, tobacco, and cedar box notes, massive and dense, with a chocolate/blueberry character to it

2011 Domaine Carneros Estate Pinot Noir / $35 / A- / dark cherry, licorice, and dense blackberry notes; lingering sweetness and more cherries on the finish

domainecarneros.com

RIP Rogue Founder Jack Joyce

joyce 525x349 RIP Rogue Founder Jack Joyce Rogue brewery co-founder Jack Joyce passed away yesterday at the age of 71. Via Oregon Live:

Following a career as both a small town attorney and Nike executive, Jack and some friends founded Rogue in 1988 in Ashland, Oregon. From the outset, Jack set Rogue on a path of innovation, creativity, and rebellion. Rogue made hoppy, flavorful beers and was told that no one would drink them. Rogue made a wide range of beers and was told no one wanted variety. Rogue sold 22oz bottles of beer and was told no one would pay a premium for a single serve beer. Rogue opened multiple pubs and breweries and was told that it would be wise to follow a more efficient and logical business plan. Rogue took the road less, or perhaps never, travelled. Rogue was the first U.S. craft brewer to send beer to Japan. Rogue won 1,000 awards for product and packaging excellence. Rogue worried about getting better, not bigger. Rogue began distilling. Rogue began farming. Rogue remained dedicated to its small town roots and made sure to give back to its local communities. Rogue started a Nation. This was all vintage Jack. He was the true Rogue and will be missed by us all.

A tip of the glass to a pioneer, and from all of us here at Drinkhacker, our sincerest condolences.

Review: NV Domaine Carneros Cuvee de la Pompadour Brut Rose Napa Valley

domaine carneros brut rose 125x300 Review: NV Domaine Carneros Cuvee de la Pompadour Brut Rose Napa ValleyNamed for Madame de la Pompadour, Louis XV’s lover, this new brut rose from Domaine Carneros is 58% pinot noir and 42% chardonnay.

This is a more powerful sparkler than I’m accustomed to from Domaine Carneros, offering a complex collection of aromas that range from yeasty notes to strawberry to smoked bacon to balsa wood. The body boils this down mainly to the fruit component, with jammier berry and stone fruit notes, atop a fizzy, yeasty core. The finish is a touch sweet, and brings up some very slight, gentle vegetal notes, almost the aroma of char-grilled vegetables. Curious stuff.

B+ / $36 / domainecarneros.com

Drinkhacker Reads – 05.28.2014 – “Just Brew It” Edition

The Pew Charitable Trust offers up a long and informative read on the current state of craft beer sales in America, and how it poses a potential threat to bigger beer companies. We’ve been touching on this subject here and there in Reads over the past few months, but this article brings everything up to date quite nicely. [Stateline]

Because it’s a slow news day, the Wall Street Journal profiles James Nielsen, the 34-year old who did the unthinkable and ran the “beer mile” in under 5 minutes. Apparently, the first ever championships are scheduled to be held later this summer. We’ll keep you posted. [WSJ]

Infamous Indiana whiskey distiller MGP announced yesterday via press release that it will be expanding its core offering to include 14 new spirits from which clients may choose for their bespoke bottling. Eight of these new 14 will be flavored whiskey options including black licorice and butterscotch flavored whiskeys. The other six include two new rye whiskeys, a 95% wheat whiskey, a 100% barley malt whiskey, and two bourbons, one produced with 45% wheat, and the other produced with 49% barley malt. Watch for reviews in, oh, three to seven years when other folks start bottling these things. [Press Release]

Finally today, we were super excited to receive a link to something called BeverageGrades, a new and somehow “objective” metadata web resource to help us pick out new bottles of wine which using several different scientific criteria, thereby rendering the need for subjective critical opinion obsolete. We’re pleased to report after numerous attempts at selecting different types of wine, we got exactly what we were looking for.

Screen Shot 2014 05 28 at 1.21.54 PM Drinkhacker Reads   05.28.2014   Just Brew It Edition

Screen Shot 2014 05 28 at 1.26.42 PM Drinkhacker Reads   05.28.2014   Just Brew It Edition

Review: 79 Caramel Spirit

79 gold caramel spirit 514x1200 Review: 79 Caramel Spirit

79 is the atomic number for gold. It’s also the proof level for the spirit that bears the numerical name of 79. Perhaps, it’s also a veiled reference to its owner, rapper Rich Dollaz.

The spirit begins by distilling a mash from Idaho wheat and then flavoring it with caramel and vanilla. Bearing a whole gaggle of alternative names, you might find this liqueur listed under 79, 79 Gold, 79Gold, Au 79, 79 Gold Au Wheat, or some combination of the above. Frankly I’m not sure what to call the stuff, or even whether it’s a flavored vodka or a liqueur. I’m going to hedge and call it both.

Light gold in color with visible cloudiness swirling in the bottle, 79 offers a nose of caramel candies and cake frosting. The body is sweet as expected, offering a moderately rich spirit, offering the expected notes of pancake syrup, sugar cookie batter, and melted caramels. There’s an undercurrent of smokiness here, though not really enough to give 79 any kind of special nuance. 79 offers interesting possibilities as a dessert drink mixer, but at 79 proof it’s probably a bit on the powerful side for most drinkers looking for something to splash into their coffee. Use with appropriate levels of caution.

Now available in Atlanta.

B / $NA / 79caramel.com

Drinkhacker Reads – 05.27.2014 – Hangover-Free Alcohol?

While other columnists and pundits bemoan the loss of innovation from the millennial generation, there’s a group of students looking to become the exception to the rule. Three enterprising young folks are developing Prime, a new beverage guaranteed to eliminate hangovers. While it will help with the next morning, the group claims that it will not help the user in avoiding bad choices the night before. The group has set up an indiegogo campaign to help develop the product further. On a most excellent TV side note, the team of college students also has a chemistry student named Walter as one of its founders. Looking forward to seeing where this goes!

In other science news, we took a break from enjoying gin and tonics, strawberry mint juleps, and other concoctions to read this outstanding piece by Jordan Devereaux, aka the Cocktail Chemist. It’s the first of what could very well be a multi-part piece on the actual chemical effects alcohol has on the body. It’s incredibly heavy on the science, but well worth the read — having a Wikipedia tab up for certain elements of the discussion helps as well. Excellent stuff. We’re looking forward to part 2. [Chemistry of the Cocktail]

A new study to be published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research is making the case that folks mixing alcohol and energy drinks do so for purely hedonistic reasons. This one may seem quite obvious to anyone who has spent a weekend surrounded by people at a dance music festival. However, looking for the surprising connection, researchers found that:

“People who drank A+EDs to sober up were actually at an increased risk of experiencing alcohol-related injuries and harms… This finding is interesting because it could mean that consumers are incorrect if they are assuming that drinking caffeine might reduce their intoxication.”

So: Alcohol gets you drunk, no matter what you mix it with. All clear? [Science Codex]

Finally today, the New York Times takes craft beers down to the microscopic level and examines the genetic map of the beers. Not as science-heavy as some articles on yeast and genetic origins, but it certainly highlights the promise and potential of future innovations in yeast strains we may be enjoying in the not too far off future.

Review: Diageo Orphan Barrel Project Rhetoric Bourbon 20 Years Old

rhetoric bottle 525x679 Review: Diageo Orphan Barrel Project Rhetoric Bourbon 20 Years Old

For the third whiskey from its controversial Orphan Barrel Project, Diageo has chosen another odd name (though perhaps not as odd as Old Blowhard): Rhetoric. Rhetoric has a number of meanings, but the most notable is “language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content.”

Probably not what I’d call my new whiskey, but anyway.

This release is a 20 year old spirit sourced from Bernheim Distillery in Louisville, where Barterhouse was also sourced. Differences in aging are said to give this release a different character. How different? Let’s find out.

Interesting nose here, with lots going on: oak resin, mint leaves, cherries, apple cider, and a sherried character. Well-aged but not past its prime, Rhetoric hangs on to its fruit without giving everything up to the tannins of the wood. The body is silky and full of fruit — caramel apples, milk chocolate-covered cherries — and features a finish that brings its cinnamon and nutmeg elements alive. Exuberant and fun, it’s not a dusty, hoary old beatdown like so many well-aged bourbons. It’s hanging on to its youth, and doing a damn fine job of it by melding well with the wood in its barrel. Easily my favorite of the three Orphans to date.

90 proof.

A- / $85 / diageo.com

Review: Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon

FOUR ROSES yellow label 367x1200 Review: Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon

Officially known only as “Four Roses Bourbon,” Yellow Label — called thusly for reasons you can surely fit together on your own — is the company’s entry level product. It’s also one of its most venerable. “Yellow Label” bottlings have been on the market since probably the 1930s and 1940s. (The distillery has seen massive ups and down since then… and Yellow Label perseveres.)

We’ve reviewed I-don’t-know-how-many single barrel and small batch expressions of Four Roses, but never the stalwart (and super-cheap) Yellow, bottled with no age statement and blended from up to all 10 of the company’s mashbill combinations (depending on supply and the season). Finally we’re getting around to it. Without further ado…

It’s initially a bit brash on the nose, with plenty of youthful exuberance. Strong vanilla (think extract, not wafers), knotty lumberyard, and hints of dark chocolate emerge, once the booziness blows off. On the palate, it’s quite sweet, which works hard to counterbalance the woodier notes that emerge. Think cinnamon sugar, chocolate-covered caramels, and just the lightest touch of honey-doused cornbread. As big blends go, it’s hard to find a lot of fault here aside from a bit of roughness up front.

Overall, it’s nowhere near as nuanced as many single barrel offerings, but for barely over $1 a shot (based on the bottle price), it’ll do the trick. Also makes a supreme base for cocktails.

80 proof.

B+ / $18 / fourrosesbourbon.com

Review: Piccini 2009 Brunello and 2008 Brunello Riserva

Piccini Brunello Riserva NV 2 94x300 Review: Piccini 2009 Brunello and 2008 Brunello RiservaTwo new Brunello releases from Piccini, a huge Tuscan producer that still manages to carve out time for these rarities, 100% sangiovese wines from the Montalcino region, aged at least 2 years in oak.

Some thoughts follow.

2009 Piccini Villa al Cortile Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – A beautiful wine, showing a complex collection of cherries, blackberries, violets, and menthol on the nose. The body adds to that with hints of earthy mushroom, spicy licorice root, and touches of tobacco and cedar box on the finish. Over time, hints of prunes and raspberry emerge, too — this is a wine that evolves beautifully in the glass and is well worth exploring over the course of an evening. All in all, it’s a moderately dense wine with lots to recommend it, a Brunello that’s close to a benchmark for the style. A / $60

2008 Piccini Villa al Cortile Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG - Similar to the standard bottling, but tougher to parse. There’s more herbal character on this one, with those violets really pumped up to create quite a perfumy experience. The body still packs in plenty of tannin, and it doesn’t quite give up its grip even after an hour in glass. Notes of coffee and leather send the fruit into dried plum and dense, dried cherry areas. Still tough on the finish. This’ll probably be hitting its stride in 2018. A- / $80

aveniubrands.com

Review: Young Ribera del Duero Wines from Garcia Figuero and Protos

Tinto Figuero 4 Month 109x300 Review: Young Ribera del Duero Wines from Garcia Figuero and ProtosSpanish wines are known for being released well-aged, with some Rioja reservas spending 8 to 10 years in barrel and bottle before hitting the market… and sometimes longer.

But not all Spanish wines are aged for such a long time. In fact, the Ribera del Duero has two lesser-known classifications, in addition to the older crianza and reserva bottlings, which are intended to be consumed young. Known as barrica and roble wines, these Riberas are released within a year of harvest, both spending between three to eight months in oak — though, by Spanish law, they are not required to spend any time in barrel at all. Basically: It’s prison rules wine, letting a winemaker do just about anything he wants to craft the best wine he can, without having to worry about Spain’s arcane aging and labeling requirements.

Both wines are made from 100% tempranillo (aka tinto fino) grapes — but otherwise couldn’t be more different. Thoughts follow…

2012 Garcia Figuero Roble Ribera del Duero - This “roble” wine spends only four months in new oak barrels (3/4 American, 1/4 French), then four more months in bottle before release. (The wine is also officially known as “Four Months in Barrel” in English — hence the big “4″ on the label.) The nose is intense with bramble, dense wood, and meaty sausage notes. On the body, there’s more fruit than expected, but these thick blackberry jam notes are punched down by licorice, bitter roots, tobacco leaf, and tar characteristics. Chewy and more than a little tough. C+ / $20

2011 Protos Tinto Fino - This wine spends a full year in 60% French, 40% American oak barrels. The difference between the Figuero is remarkable, with the Protos showing a much more refined character on the nose and body. Aromas of blackberry and violets pervade, and the body is moderate to lush, with fresh fruit, some peppery notes, and a touch of floral character. This is a young wine that is sometimes a bit brash, but on the whole it’s finding its balance, with ample structure and smoothed out tannins. B+ / $15

Review: The Fat Trout Blended Scotch Whisky

the fat trout 131x300 Review: The Fat Trout Blended Scotch WhiskyThe Fat Trout is a blend from the Speyside that’s produced by the world renowned Ian Macleod Distillers. A “standard 3 year old” blend, the whisky is comprised of approximately 30 different single malts, mostly from the Spey region, but also from Islay and the Highlands.

There is also a huge fish on the label of this, “the sportsmans choice.”

There’s lots of grain on the nose, as expected, but things are balanced with not insubstantial sherried orange notes. A fair amount of alcoholic heat makes things indistinct, however, at least until the Trout has had substantial air time.

The body is more interesting than expected, the cereal notes becoming more balanced here with some marshmallow, caramel, and gentle chocolate character. A sugared orange slice character takes hold — surprisingly strongly — on the finish, almost to the detriment of some of the other notes in the whisky. Initially brash and rustic, the palate of The Fat Trout also improves with some air time, but it never really elevates beyond a basic blended experience.

80 proof.

C+ / $23 / thefattrout.com

Recipe: Memorial Day Cocktails 2014

In some circles, it’s the official start of summer. In others, it is a time to pay reverence and salute those who have dutifully served in our United States Armed Forces. Whatever your occasion, we’ve taken the liberty to try out all of the cocktails suggested below and present them for your celebratory consideration. May you have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend!

Ungava Negroni 300x300 Recipe: Memorial Day Cocktails 2014Ungava Negroni
1 ½ oz. Ungava Gin
1 ½ oz. Campari
1 oz. sweet vermouth
Orange twist for garnish

Add all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish
with an orange twist and serve.

HighTechPunch 224x300 Recipe: Memorial Day Cocktails 2014Hi-Teq Punch
3 parts Milagro Silver tequila
2 parts lemon juice
2 parts simple syrup
2 parts sparking water
5 parts Hibiscus Tea (1 tea bag per 16oz hot water)
1 part ginger juice
1 part Lillet Rose

Build ingredients in a punch bowl over a large ice block. Garnish with lemon wheels. Stir well for one minute to dilute. Serve to your guests in a rocks or punch glass and enjoy.

Spring Lemon Aide
(Created by Bobby “G” Gleason, Suntory-Beam Master Mixologist)
1 part Jim Beam Honey
2 parts fresh lemon sour
4-6 fresh blueberries
club soda
1 small (reasonable) splash of simple syrup
Lemon wheel for garnish

In a mixing glass, muddle the blueberries with a splash of simple syrup. Add the Jim Beam Honey, lemon sour and shake with ice then fine strain over fresh ice in a tall glass then top with club soda. Garnish with fresh blueberries and a lemon wheel on the rim.

Mint 200x300 Recipe: Memorial Day Cocktails 2014Mint Sparkler
1 oz. Lucid Absinthe
1 ½ oz. pear vodka
1 oz. peach schnapps
4 oz. lemon-lime soda
1 mint sprig

In a cocktail shaker, add Lucid Absinthe, pear vodka, peach schnapps, lemon-lime soda and ice. Shake
and strain into a highball glass. Garnish with a mint sprig and serve.