Review: Seven Stills of San Francisco Blueberry Dogpatch Whiskey and Saison Dolores Whiskey

Recently we got our hands on two new releases from microdistillery Seven Stills of San Francisco. Both of these are collaborations with Almanac Brewing, a San Francisco contract brewery.

Seven Stills of San Francisco Blueberry Dogpatch Sour Whiskey – The blueberry part is in the fine print: This is the second release of Dogpatch Sour and the first done with Almanac Brewing. For this batch the distillery distilled 500 gallons of Almanac’s sour beer, aged the whiskey for six months in New American Oak and then removed the finished whiskey and aged it in an Almanac Blueberry Dogpatch Sour barrel for an additional four months. It is bottled at cask strength. Utterly scorching on the nose, it’s hard to get too far into this one without a splash of water. That helps to reveal a lot more charm, though the blueberry is understated on the nose, taking a back seat to notes of cereal, mushroom, and barrel char. On the palate, you needn’t look far for the missing fruit: It’s here, in droves, with a strong berry thread running through it, a moderately sour grip on the back of the throat, and a smattering of green herbs. Ample sweetness helps to dull some of the brash wood influence (a common thread in Seven Stills releases), and adds some complexity. But the blueberry alone gives this whiskey staying power. It’s fun stuff. 119 proof. A- / $49 (375ml)

Seven Stills of San Francisco Saison Dolores Whiskey – The first of Seven Stills’ whiskeys in its Experimental Series. Distilled from Almanac’s base Saison Dolores, it is aged in new American oak for eight months. It is not part of the regular rotation, so snap it if it sounds up your alley. There’s tons of fruit and some hops on the nose here, a complex aroma of spicy citrus, bitter cedar wood, and apple pie spice. There’s a touch of smoke on the palate, which quickly dives into a strong, racy apple cider note. The base beer character comes through more clearly as the palate develops, with ginger, baking spice, and more of that boozy apple character hitting even harder here. The finish offers significant heat and a maltiness that again belies its brewery origins before settling into a chocolate caramel note, and while a drop of water wouldn’t be out of place, it drinks fine without it. 94 proof. B+ / $36 (375ml)

sevenstillsofsf.com

Review: The Botanist Islay Dry Gin (2017)

In 2012 we looked at The Botanist, a gin produced at Bruichladdich distillery on the Scottish island of Islay, where peaty Scotch is the order of the day. It remains the only gin produced on this island, though the brand has seen some changes, namely with a striking new bottle design, meant to turn away imitators and prevent consumer confusion. The recipe remains the same, however, with 22 ingredients, many of which are grown on the island, making up the bill.

For history’s sake, here’s the complete botanical list again: Angelica root *, Apple Mint, Birch leaves, Bog Myrtle leaves, Cassia bark *, Chamomile (sweet), Cinnamon bark *, Coriander seed *, Creeping Thistle flowers, Elder flowers, Gorse flowers, Heather flowers, Hawthorn flowers, Juniper (prostrate) berries, Juniper berries *, Lady’s Bedstraw flowers, Lemon Balm, Lemon peel *, Liquorice root *, Meadow Sweet, Orange peel *, Orris root *, Peppermint leaves, Mugwort leaves, Red Clover flowers, Sweet Cicely leaves, Tansy, Thyme leaves, Water Mint leaves, White Clover, Wood Sage leaves. (* = Non Islay Botanical)

Tasting the gin again from a fresh bottle in 2017, it’s clear that The Botanist is one of the top gins on the market, a versatile gin that is highly worth seeking out no matter what your favorite gin tipple is. The nose remains lively and enticing, a melange of juniper, sage, forest floor, and scorched orange peel. On the palate, the gin really shines, a modest juniper slug tempered by slightly sweet notes of citrus, savory herbs, cinnamon sticks, and a bit of licorice. Mint is particularly evident on the finish. Best of all, the gin’s balance is utterly perfect, the various components melding into a cohesive whole that is better than the some of its parts, and which, again, drinks beautifully despite the relatively high alcohol level.

Still exceptional!

92 proof.

A / $46 / bruichladdich.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Check out these Botanist original recipes, all of which are worthwhile additions to your cocktail repertoire.

Pine for Islay
1.5 oz The Botanist Gin
.75 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
.75 oz Small Hands Pineapple Syrup

In a cocktail shaker, add The Botanist Gin, fresh squeezed lime juice and pineapple syrup. Add ice and shake. Strain into rocks glass filled with large ice cube. Garnish with cilantro leaves in the center of the glass.

Fino Fix
1.5 oz Pink Peppercorn-Infused Botanist Gin
.75 oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
.75 oz Tio Pepe Fino Sherry
.5 oz Simple Syrup
1 Strawberry

In cocktail shaker, muddle 1 strawberry. Add The Botanist Gin, fresh squeezed lemon juice and Sherry. Shake and strain into Coupe Glass. Garnish with halved strawberry on side of glass.

Wisemen’s Negroni
1.5 oz The Botanist Gin
.75 oz Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth
.25 oz Suze
2 Sage Leaves

In a mixing glass, add all ingredients. Fill with ice and stir for 15-20 seconds. Strain into rocks glass filled with large ice cubes. Garnish with 2 sage leaves resting on top of ice.

Bitter Fizz
1.5 oz The Botanist Gin
.5 oz Cappelliti Vino Aperitivo
.5 oz Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth
.5 oz Small Hands Orgeat
2 drops Housemade Fig Bitters
3 oz Soda Water

In highball, build all ingredients and add ice. Top with soda water. Garnish with a quartered fresh fig.

Review: 2014 Quinta de Roriz Post Scriptum Douro DOC

Prats + Symington’s Post Scriptum, produced at its Quinta de Roriz winery, is this year a blend of three classic Portuguese grapes — 64% Touriga Nacional, 28% Touriga Franca, and 8% Tinta Roriz. I was not enchanted with the 2011 release (a different blend), but the 2014 vintage is quite a bit of fun. Lively with fruit-forward raspberry but tempered with licorice, tobacco, and some leathery notes, the wine is nicely balanced with some supple tannins and a lick of vanilla on the back end.

A- / $25 / chryseia.com

Review: Woodford Reserve Distillery Series – French Oak Cask Finished Rye

Woodford’s latest Distillery Series whiskey — the seventh in this burgeoning portfolio of experimental, one-off spirits — has arrived. French Oak Cask Finished Rye is an interesting one. Per Woodford:

The French Oak Cask Finished Rye completes a trilogy of rye offerings released this summer including Blended Rye and Toasted Oak Rye. Developed by Master Distiller Chris Morris, French Oak Cask Finished Rye is a unique batching of the rye mash distillate used in the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Aged Cask Rye [released in 2011] that matured in French Oak barrels for three years. The French Oak barrels originally held Pinot Noir before they were seasoned with Woodford Reserve Bourbon. This combination produced a soft, fruit-forward rye with hints of baking spices.

As with the Toasted Oak Rye, this is a worthy experiment that works well — in fact, it’s probably the best of this trilogy.

On the nose, tons of rye-heavy spice, a hint of brandied cherries, a modest wood profile, and a gingerbread finish all come together to offer a cohesive, almost brazen aromatic profile. The body is a bit more savory than the nose would indicate, offering a burly amaro character up front that blends with cinnamon sticks, licorice root, and cloves. It’s almost overpowering at first, but a gentle sweetness forms on the palate as the finish comes along, a bit of brown sugar, more of those brandied cherries, and a hint of gingerbread cake. It’s a bit brooding, but surprisingly compelling — and perfect for the cooler months ahead.

Fun, unusual, and fantastic stuff. Pick up a bottle if you happen across one.

86.4 proof.

A / $46 (375ml) / woodfordreserve.com

Review: High West A Midwinter Nights Dram 5.4

A Midwinter Nights Dram is High West’s excellent Rendezvous Rye, finished in French oak and ex-Port barrels, bottled non-chill filtered. We first reviewed this unique whiskey in 2014 and gave it high marks (review can be read here). We briefly reviewed last year’s release and gave it an A (review can be read here), but I think this year’s bottling might be even better.

In the glass, this whiskey is a bright copper color. The nose offers rich red cherry and strong spearmint notes. The palate presents lots of brandied cherry, coupled with cinnamon and candied ginger. The finish is quite long with its robust rye character fading to a final note of dark chocolate. This is a full bodied dram with lots going on, and the flavors blend beautifully.

98.6 proof.

A / $90 / highwest.com

Review: Koskenkorva Vodka

Koskenkorva vodka hails from Finland, where they’ve been turning a local barley mash into this white spirit since 1953. Only now is the vodka finally available in the U.S. thanks to an import deal with Infinium Spirits.

As vodkas go, Koskenkorva is something of an oddity. I was expecting a bold, Old World style vodka, with a bold medicinality, but was surprised by a big, marshmallow-like character on the nose with notes of banana and some coconut — fruity and sweet to the point where it comes across a bit like a white rum. The palate is a bit more traditional and representative of vodka, lightly astringent but still plenty sweet. The fruity notes are more elusive here — with banana still present but some vague tropical character replacing the coconut — but still in effect, particularly on the finish, which isn’t so much bracing as it is lightly sweet.

The entire package is a bit sugary for my tastes, but it should mix well enough to merit a peek.

80 proof.

B / $25 / koskenkorva.com

Review: Painted Stave Distilling SunSeeker Wheat Whiskey

Another belated solar eclipse-themed whiskey, SunSeeker is Smyrna, Delaware-based Painted Stave Distilling’s third limited release made from a base of craft beer.

In January 2016, Painted Stave Distilling partnered with Fordham Brewing Company in Dover, DE on what would be become the third release in Painted Stave’s “Beers To Whiskey!” series. Painted Stave picked up over 3,000 bottles of Fordham’s Sunseeker Wheat Beer from the brewery and with the help of a dozen volunteers managed to pour all the beer into a holding tank in about 45 minutes. The unfiltered wheat ale was then distilled into 10 gallons of 124 proof whiskey in Painted Stave’s copper pot-still. The whiskey aged for 18 months in a Bourbon barrel before being harvested and bottled at 84 proof.

Only 130 bottles were made.

We were big fans of Painted Stave’s first beer-distilled release, Double TroubleD, which is now produced on a regular, twice-a-year rotation., so let’s give SunSeeker, officially a wheat whiskey, a try.

The whiskey’s nose is quite mild, some rather subtle earthiness giving rise to a more intense mushroom quality, featuring notes of roast carrots, walnut husks, as well as some evergreen notes, the overall impression being very savory. The palate is quite a departure, an initial rush of sweetness creating a cookie-like counterpoint to that initial savory quality on the nose. Very grain-heavy, the palate develops to a candylike finish, with notes of lime peel, caramel, and a bit of chocolate character. Though it features a curious yin-yang of flavor that makes it surprisingly fun to visit more than once, its youth is overly evident and can come across as a bit blunt at times.

On the off chance you actually find a bottle, though, it’s more than worth picking up at this price.

84 proof.

B+ / $30 / paintedstave.com

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