Review: Tito’s Handmade Vodka (2017)

We last reviewed Tito’s Vodka a full ten years ago — when Tito’s didn’t have anywhere near the mindshare that it does today. This was before Tito’s showed up on every cocktail menu. Before the company got sued over the use of “handmade” on its label, the plaintiff arguing that TIto’s is just as industrial as everything else on the liquor aisle.

Well, as it’s been a whopping ten years, we figured a fresh look was in order. Sadly, I’ve no vintage Tito’s (to which I famously gave an A+ rating back in the day) to use for comparison, so consider these notes on this essential vodka — still pot-distilled from a corn mash — all fresh and unfiltered.

Today, the nose is a bit sweeter than I recall, showing some marshmallow notes and a slightly floral character, with overtones of chamomile. The palate is a bit more traditionally medicinal and Old World in style, with a touch of rubbery hospital character followed by hints of lemon peel, grapefruit peel, and powdered ginger. The finish is clean, but sharp on the tongue.

Given the current state of premium vodka and its evolution over the last 10 years, it’s hard to say that Tito’s is still an exemplary vodka worthy of that A+, but it’s still hard to ignore the killer price tag. All told, it’s definitely one to keep on the shelf at home.

80 proof.

A- / $20 / titos-vodka.com  [BUY IT NOW FROM DRINKUPNY]

Review: 2016 Chateau Souverain Sauvignon Blanc California

This is a credible, drinkable sauvignon blanc, despite its lack of provenance, a light and steely wine with ample notes of tropical fruit, peaches, and lemon on the nose. The palate sees a grassier character, with plenty of fruit and flinty minerals to temper any rougher elements present in the mix.

B+ / $13 / souverain.com

Tasting Greek Wines: 2015 Roya and 2013 Markovitis Xinomavro

Turns out there’s more to Greek wine than assyrtiko. But is any of it worth drinking?

Let’s find out…

2015 Roya – 100% muscat. This is a much drier expression of muscat, which lets some of the more perfumed and floral notes come forward — jasmine, lemongrass, and some grassy notes — leading to a finish that is surprisingly dry for the ordinarily ultra-sweet muscat. That said, it’s not all that interesting as a table wine, and it pairs in rather lackluster fashion with food. C+ / $10

2013 Markovitis Xinomavro – A red from the Naoussa region in northern Greece, this unique wine offers a nose of raspberry and rhubarb, sweet and fragrant. The palate unfortunately doesn’t quite measure up to the nose, leading to a bone dry palate that is missing almost any semblance of fruit. The dusty, slightly sour finish reminds more of a dry sherry than anything else, which is decidedly bizarre for a red wine. C / $27

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

kimosabemezcal.com

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 / grahams-port.com

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 / knobcreek.com

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

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