Review: Kimo Sabe Mezcal – Joven and Reposado

Kimo Sabe got started as a brand in 2014, and this affordable mezcal line is finally hitting the U.S. in stride. The company produces three mezcals, two of which are barrel aged in line with standard tequila styles, at present.

We sampled the younger two in the lineup, a joven (aka albedo) and reposado (aka rubedo).

Kimo Sabe Mezcal Joven : Albedo – A classically unaged expression. Quite sweet and lightly smoky on the nose, this is a lighter style of mezcal punctuated with notes of salted caramel, fresh hay, and oily lemon and orange. The palate keeps things largely in line with the nose, though it’s a bit fruitier than expected, with more lemon/lemongrass notes, a slightly malty note to the chipotle-laden smoke as the palate develops, leading to a gently caramel-laced finish. Very easygoing, suitable for any mezcal novice. 86 proof. B+ / $28

Kimo Sabe Mezcal Reposado : Rubedo – Lightly yellow-hued, though no aging information is provided. Quite a different experience, with a comparably closed nose, the focus here is on wood-driven vanilla, butterscotch, and a very light touch of smoke underneath it. The palate is reminiscent of reposado tequila, with virtually no smokiness at all, loaded instead with notes of toasted marshmallow, roasted agaves, and a vanilla-caramel-chocolate note that lingers as the finish quickly develops. Said finish lingers with a dessert-like sweetness, washing away any semblance of smoke, and fading out with a character reminiscent of Christmas, with a vague ginger spice character. 83 proof. A- / $33

Review: NV Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Porto Special River Quintas Edition

Port fanatics may recall that three years ago, Graham’s released a special edition of its Six Grapes flagship bottling, Six Grapes Special Old Vines Edition. Now owner Symington is out with a follow-up, Six Grapes Reserve Porto Special River Quintas Edition, which is sourced from two river estates close to the Douro: Tua and Malvedos. As the company says, “Tradition dictates that the finest properties of the Douro are those that hear the murmur of the river flowing by.”

Only 1000 cases of this release were produced. Let’s see how it stands up to the claim that it is “Vintage Port quality but ready for immediate consumption.”

Unfortunately, I found this expression to be surprisingly, slightly green on the palate, with notes of dark chocolate and prune filtered through vegetal notes of fresh rosemary and sage. The finish lands with a bit of a thud, plenty sweet but gummy around the edges, hinting at orange and grapefruit peel. It’s fair enough for a glass, but it won’t hold a candle to a solid Vintage Port.

B- / $42 /

Review: Knob Creek 25th Anniversary Single Barrel Bourbon

25 years ago Booker Noe created the Knob Creek brand. Today we’ve seen KC undergo a few changes (most notably dropping its longtime age statement), but it’s still sticking with its “pre-Prohibition style” under the auspices of current master distiller Fred Noe. For this limited edition 25th anniversary release, Knob Creek is bottling its spirit at cask strength for the first time ever — and, as a single barrel release, it’s unblended, too.

Compared side by side with the original (with 9 year old age statement) Knob Creek, a few things immediately spring to the fore. There’s more orange peel and a stronger allspice element on the nose in the 25th Anniversary bottling. The wood influence is aromatically stronger, too, though it’s never overpowering on the nose.

The palate’s heat is immediately evident: At over 61% abv, it’s got way more alcohol than rack Knob Creek at 50%. The bitter orange peel is even more noticeable here, along with notes of well-aged wine, red pepper, and intense, ginger-heavy baking spice. Water is a great add: It tempers the hefty alcoholic core and allows more of the wood-driven vanilla, caramel, and chocolate to spring forward. The finish is lasting, complex, and keeps the focus on pepper and wood, with just a touch of toasted marshmallow.

Ready to sip like you’re on the frontier, but considerably upscale? This is probably what those fatcats get to drink in Westworld.

122.1 proof. Barrel date 2/28/2004.

A- / $129 /

Review: 2014 Cavalier & Sons Chardonnay Vin de France

Another Vin de France release for your approval: This one, a straightforward chardonnay, surprisingly aromatic on the nose with notes of fresh rosemary, peaches, lemon peel, and banana. On the palate, the lightly creamy body offers some toasty marshmallow notes and a little zing of citrus behind it, with a hint of white pepper.

A solid wine that drinks well above its price band.

A- / $7 / no website

Review: Motörhead Whisky

R.I.P. Lemmy.

The man behind Motörhead may be gone, but this whisky produced in honor of the 40th anniversary of the band he created (1975-2015, when Lemmy Kilmister passed away) — or rather “40 years of eardrum crushing” — is still with us. Produced by Sweden’s Mackmyra, it is a Swedish single malt aged in bourbon barrels for five years. A portion of the whisky is finished in oloroso sherry barrels for six months before blending back into the finished product and bottling. Lemmy reportedly helped choose the casks himself.

Such a strange nose on this one: breakfast cereal, potpourri, bacon, and almond paste, all wrapped up into a pastry of sorts, baked up and served piping hot. The palate is exotic and evocative of Eastern spices, with coriander and anise notes, dried plums, and a smoky character that is tough to place — closer to mesquite than anything I can otherwise identify. At the core is a milder mashup of grain and caramel — standard stuff, but filtered through this lightly smoky haze.

The finish lingers, offering a raisiny character that’s driven by that oloroso cask, a bit gummy at times but again evoking an experience atypical of single malt from Sweden or anywhere else. I don’t listen to much Motörhead these days, but I figure if I did, the experience would be just as jarring as sipping on this whisky.

80 proof. Purchased in Vastervik, Sweden.


Book Review: Cooking with Cocktails

We’ve got no shortage of cocktail recipe books around these parts. Cookbooks built around booze — that’s a rarity, and I guess it’s because book publishers just get queasy about the idea of using something other than wine in a recipe for fear of turning grandma off.

Kristy Gardner’s 100 recipes in Cooking with Cocktails are high-end items, separated by course starting with (foodless) cocktails, then moving on to appetizers, entrees, sides, and sweets. Many of the recipes run to 15-plus ingredients, but if you’re feeling more restrained you’ll find some that number under 10.

Lots of the stuff in this book looks really good — and the lush photography, featuring every recipe, is a huge plus. Am I going to make Bourbon-Soaked Cherries Tiramisu? You bet. Do I want Cuervo and Tecate Pork Carnitas? Yes indeed (though I will use a better tequila. Come on, Kristy). Lots of the recipes are spins on classics like Beef Bourginon, burgers, or steamed mussels, but Gardner brings enough to the table to make you want to follow her instructions verbatim.

Gardner is as sassy a writer as she is a chef — her first two instructions to the reader are “Read the Damn Recipe” and “Google That Shit” — so even just browsing Cooking with Cocktails is lots of fun. I of course suggest pouring yourself a stiff one before you even think about which recipe you’re going to cook, of course — and I think Gardner would agree. Give it a whirl.


Review: Don Q Rum Signature Release Single Barrel 2007

2016 saw the release of Don Q’s 2005 vintage rum, its first in a new line of single-barrel releases, and as promised, a 2007 vintage rum is now hitting the shelves.

Like the 2005 vintage release, this is Puerto Rico-born rum, though this release has spent 9 years in barrel (the 2005 spent 10 years aging). And though it’s younger, the rum is clearly darker in color than the 2005 when they’re placed side by side.

It’s quite a different experience, too.

Unlike the gentle 2005, the 2007 is a scorcher on the nose, redolent with notes of petrol, overripe banana, pure vanilla extract, match-heads, and burnt-black wood. The palate is more engaging, a bit burly at first with notes of greenery and banana, then pushing into traditional brown sugar, burnt caramel, and vanilla notes. The finish is rustic, heavy with oak, with a dusting of clove that lingers as said finish fades.

This is a better sipper than the 2005 release, but well worth sampling side by side to experience how different aged rums with otherwise similar provenance can be.

80 proof.

A- / $36 /