Review: Candolini Grappa Bianca

This pure, clear grappa — a distillate of the leftovers from wine production — is made from a blend of the pomace of several grapes: sangiovese, trebbiano, cabernet, aglianico, and falanghina.

As grappas go, Candolini Bianca — made by Fratelli Branca and a top seller in its homeland of Italy — is as light on its feet as they get. That pungency that unaged grappa unilaterally shows is front and center on the nose, but those typically musty notes here instead come across with aromas of roasted mushrooms, rosemary and sage, and burning underbrush. Time in glass helps things to meld, revealing a complex — yet intensely earthy — character.

On the palate the grappa shows off an interesting floral character — honeysuckle blended with toasted almonds, brown butter, and more of that lingering mushroom character, though this time it’s more akin to mushrooms sauteed in butter with a spray of fresh herbs on top. The lengthy finish offers hints of lemongrass, marzipan, and more sage notes.

Grappa is definitely an acquired taste, but Candolini’s expression is an interesting and expressive entry to the category.

80 proof.

B / $40 (1 liter) / branca.it

Review: Kahlua Liqueur

In the last 10 years we’ve reviewed nine special edition releases of Kahlua, but never the original “rum and coffee liqueur” from Mexico. That changes today, with this very belated look at one of the staples of classic mixology.

The inky black liqueur offers a nose of well-sweetened coffee, but also offers notes of raw alcohol, driven by what must be a very young rum. Let it fade and tuck into the palate, which shows off fruity coffee notes, some dried figs and prunes, and a finish of roasted walnuts.

Kahlua is quite sweet, particularly as the finish arrives, which has a bit of a Port-like, fortified-wine character to it. The oiliness that’s left on the palate as it fades away is a reminder more of the rum and the sugar in the mix, rather than anything to do with the coffee component.

That said: The dude abides.

40 proof.

B / $17 / kahlua.com

Review: Louis Jadot 2015 Chablis and 2014 Pinot Noir Bourgogne

And now: Two budget bottlings from Burgundy giant Maison Louis Jadot.

2015 Louis Jadot Chablis – This is an incredibly fresh Chablis, brisk with green apples and pears, with just a hint of brown butter and a slight touch of toasty oak. Bright acidity gives the wine legs, though some meaty sausage notes on the back end are a distraction. B+ / $20

2014 Louis Jadot Pinot Noir Bourgogne – Jadot breaks from tradition and puts the varietal front and center on this budget Burgundy, which offers quite tart notes of Bing cherries and some rhubarb. The finish is on the sweeter side — strawberry, mainly — with touches of cherry Kool-Aid. C+ / $18

louisjadot.com

Review: Tcho x Reserva de la Familia Dark Chocolate Box Set

Chocolate and spirits frequently make for natural companions, but rarely does anyone put much thought into elevating this combination into something special. Tcho turned the tables on that idea with this wild pairing: Tcho dark chocolates plus Cuervo’s luxe Reserva de la Familia bottling. Specifically, Tcho soaks cacao nibs in Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia extra añejo tequila for three months, then folds the tequila-soaked nibs into dark chocolate, then packages them up as a 12-pack of single-serving squares.

It takes eating a few squares before you get a real sense of the tequila here, and even then it’s fleeting. There’s a hint of acidity, vanilla, and spice right as you bite into the chocolate, and on the finish a lingering echo of agave. It’s faint, but if you really work at it, you’ll catch the essence — and get what Tcho and Cuervo were going for. In between, it’s a beautiful dark chocolate with those crunchy cacao nibs to gnash on, which have a toasty, roasted almond character.

Delightful, and not really at all what I was expecting.

A- / $20 (twelve 8-gram squares) / tcho.com

Review: High West Bourye (2017)

The latest batch of High West’s Bourye blend of bourbon and rye whiskeys comes with a new label to boot. Now the jackalope is much larger and in full focus, better to connote the “limited sighting” that Bourye always represents.

High West normally tells you more about the individual whiskeys in each bottling, but this year it plays things a little closer to the vest (namely the ages of each individual whiskey in the blend). Here’s what we know about the 2017 release:

• A blend of straight Bourbon and Rye whiskeys aged from 10 to 14 years
• Straight Rye Whiskey: 95% rye, 5% barley malt from MGP & 53% rye, 37% corn, 10% barley malt from Barton Distillery
• Straight Bourbon Whiskey: 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley malt from MGP

And here’s what it tastes like.

This is a sweeter expression of Bourye (particular vs. last year’s release), which makes it dangerously easy to sip on. The nose is heavily aromatic with gingerbread, baking spices, marzipan, and candied nuts, giving it a real Christmas cake character that makes one wish it had come out two months ago. No matter, we can drink it today just as well.

On the palate, notes of apricot and orange give way to brown sugar, chocolate, molasses, and more of that spicy gingerbread character. Out of all of that, it’s lingering cloves on the finish and some smoldering burnt sugar notes, giving it just a hint of savoriness. All in all, say what you want about sourced whiskey — this just goes to show that High West knows how to find true honey barrels and blend them together with sustained and impressive skill.

92 proof. Reviewed: Batch 17A17.

A / $80 / highwest.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: Ezra Brooks Bourbon Cream

Kudos to Luxco’s Ezra Brooks for making its newly-launched Bourbon Cream with real Kentucky Straight Bourbon, but damn if the guy in charge of the sugar dosing ought to lose his job.

There’s a heavy, familiar vanilla aroma on the nose, but the palate is immediately sweeter than expected — and, for me, far sweeter than desired. On the palate: Bold butterscotch candy, heavily sweetened vanilla cream, and a touch of milk chocolate — nothing surprising, but again, it’s all so sweet that ultimately the sugar distracts from anything else going on.

The lingering finish is almost syrupy, offering vague maple notes and more essence of melted butterscotch candies. It’s very expressive, but at times, just too much, to the point where it can even be a little rough on the stomach.

25 proof.

C / $12 / ezrabrooks.com

Review: William Wolf Frisky and Coffee Whiskeys

Remember William Wolf? The pecan-flavored American bourbon made in… the Netherlands? Well Mr. Wolf has been busy expanding into other flavored whiskeys, with a total of four (plus an unflavored rye) now on the market.

Today we look at two of the newer products, “Frisky,” which is a vanilla/caramel-heavy whiskey, and “Coffee,” which is flavored with, er, coffee. Note that unlike the Pecan whiskey, these are not billed as having bourbon as their base but rather are made with just American whiskey. (I also can’t determine if there is any Holland connection any more; the labels merely say these were produced and bottled in William Wolf’s home state of South Carolina.)

Let’s take a quick peek at each of them.

Both are 70 proof.

William Wolf Frisky Whiskey – This vanilla- and caramel-flavored whiskey is as sticky as they come, a super-sweet concoction that combines a soda shop full of syrups to create a whiskey that is filled with vanilla, butterscotch, some coconut, and ripe banana. This actually is more appealing than it sounds, particularly as a dessert-class tipple, as the coconut notes (intended or otherwise) work well with the maple syrup sweetness of the underlying spirit. B- / $25

William Wolf Coffee Whiskey – It’s a good thing it says “whiskey” on the label, because otherwise you’d have no idea there was any whiskey in this heavily-flavored concoction, a mahogany-brown spirit that smells of well-sweetened coffee, and little else. Perhaps the lightest hint of vanilla gives this spirit any semblance of whiskey; feel free to use it as a considerably higher proof version of your favorite coffee liqueur in your next White Russian. B+ / $25

thinklikeawolf.com

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