Review: Galliano L’Aperitivo

Campari knockoffs — or, if you prefer, homages — continue to flood the market, and the latest one comes from an unlikely brand: Galliano.

Bottled in the classically conical decanter, Galliano L’Aperitivo is “is a unique blend of 50 ingredients including herbs and Mediterranean citrus such as orange, bergamot, bitter orange, chinotto, tangerine and grapefruit.”

On the amaro spectrum, Galliano is a bit sweeter than Campari, with floral overtones on the nose that segue into more citrus aromas — particularly bitter orange peel and grapefruit. There’s more of that bitter citrus on the palate, classic bitter root and quinine notes, cinnamon, and a reprise of dried florals on the finish. All told, it’s a surprisingly drinkable amaro on its own, and its punchy citrus character makes it a delightful mixer, too.

A- / $17 (375ml) / galliano.com

Review: Don Papa Rum

The Philippines isn’t exactly known for rum, but why not? It’s hot, they’ve got sugar, and now they’ve got their own rum finally making it to the U.S. — Don Papa.

Filipino rum is a bit of a different animal, however, than you might be used to. I didn’t read up on this before tasting, but here’s the back story:

Don Papa Rum carries the long-standing traditions of Filipino rum making as a first-rate, expressive liquid that has amassed a cult-like following with spirits enthusiasts and industry insiders – a testament to its ability to transcend the rum category. The complex and delicious tasting rum offers a new taste that rum drinkers, brown spirit aficionados and newcomers to the spirit category can all enjoy.

The field to bottle process required to perfect “The Don” is no simple task. Don Papa Rum is handcrafted on the ethereal Philippine island of Negros, also known as “Sugarlandia,” where the lush, fertile land allows the sugarcane to flourish. The ancient sugar mills of Negros grind the Noble Cane, the original variety of sugar cane in Southeast Asia dating back thousands of years ago. This variant is much sweeter than others and transforms into the special “black gold” molasses used in Don Papa. These ingredients are then distilled and aged up to seven years in an ultra-humid climate, intensifying the interaction between the rum and the American oak barrels, drawing out the vanilla notes from the wood.

The key in all of that is that this Filipino sugar cane is sweeter than other strains. Tuck into Don Papa and you’ll soon see that’s no exaggeration. (The rum has no formal age statement but, as noted above, it’s “up to seven years” old.)

It starts right from the nose. Unlike most Caribbean rums, which are driven by vanilla notes, Don Papa is overwhelmingly fruity, featuring tons of orange, some coconut notes, banana, and a tropical hint. You can smell how powerful the sugar is — it exudes sweetness with a distinct candylike character.

The palate arrives much as expected. That candy-coated fruit character endures, here folding in some mint, more toasted coconut, and a bit of strawberry into that orange-dominated body. The finish eventually sees a bit of astringency (that classic petrol note so common with rum) that the sugar can’t quite cover up, though frankly, given the overwhelming rush of sweetness that comes before, this rustic character is almost a relief.

Tread with caution lest you go into diabetic shock.

80 proof.

B- / $36 / donpaparum.com

Review: Barefoot Refresh Spritzers – Moscato and Rose

Proudly trumpeting on the containers that they are “wine-based” — code for “not made out of malt liquor” — budget wine brand Barefoot aims for the ready-to-drink crowd with its new line of Refresh premixed spritzers. The ingredients (which are actually included on the canisters) mainly include wine, sparkling water, and sugar, which is really all you want in a drink like this.

Five varieties are available, four of which are also available in cans. We tried two: Moscato and Rose.

Each is a mere 6.5% abv.

Barefoot Refresh Moscato Spritzer – Quite a bit less sweet than you’d expect, this tangy and fruity concoction tastes more like grapefruit soda than anything wine-related. In fact, the hints of peach and brisk orange would likely pair nicely with tequila as part of a Paloma-esque cocktail. That said, it drinks plenty well — again, soda-like — on its own. B

Barefoot Refresh Rose Spritzer – There’s less to grab onto with this experience. The spritzer has a floral character to it, with mild strawberry overtones. The finish is more medicinal than than Moscato — with a “cheap wine” overtone that lingers a bit too long. Might work OK in a punch, though. C+

each $7 per four-pack of 8.4-oz. cans / barefootwine.com

Review: Jim Beam Vanilla

Let’s start with the caveat. The bottle may look like whiskey, but that’s not what Jim Beam Vanilla is: This is a vanilla liqueur with bourbon added, not the other way around.

You wanna know who’s into it? Mila Kunis.

Jim Beam’s global brand partner Mila Kunis is excited about the new innovation. Kunis will be featured in social and digital content around the official campaign launch this fall.

“I’m thrilled to collaborate with my friends in Kentucky to debut Jim Beam Vanilla,” said Kunis. “If you’re like me, you love the taste of bourbon but are sometimes looking for something a little different. Jim Beam Vanilla is perfect when I want a touch of flavor.”

I, however, do not exactly see it the same way.

The nose of Jim Beam Vanilla is intense with chemical aromas, a saccharine, vanilla-like sweetness with overtones of canned green beans. On the palate, nothing feels authentic. There’s a kick of bittersweet orange, caramel, and plenty more of that iffy vanilla flavor, which winds its way ever so slowly toward a chemical-candy finish. Sipping it solo, it’s surprisingly hard to choke down much at all. Sure, I could see putting a drop or two of this in a dessert cocktail or a splash into a glass of cola, but on its own there’s really, well, nothing to like about it.

Your mileage may vary. But while Kunis is totally on board, there’s no word yet from Kid Rock.

70 proof.

D- / $16 / jimbeam.com

Review: Half-Seas Sparkling Paloma and Daiquiri

Ready for a new style of ready-to-drink beverage? Half-Seas Sparkling Cocktails are a new offering from the makers of Scrappy’s Bitters, made with real spirits (no malt or other fermented alcohol).

Three “true” ready-to-drink canned cocktails are coming out of the gate, and all are sparkling, with 30psi carbonation (Half-Seas says this is “champagne level”). First up are recreations of the Bramble, Daiquiri, and Paloma.

We received early samples of two of these (the paloma and the daiquiri), and gave them the Drinkhacker taste test. Thoughts follow.

Each is canned at 12% abv.

Half-Seas Sparkling Paloma – Made with Half-Seas own grapefruit soda. This paloma is fragrant with herbs and grapefruit at first, but quite tequila-forward as it develops on the palate. It could benefit from a bit more sweetness, as the heavily earthy aftertaste tends to weigh down the experience. B-

Half-Seas Sparkling Daiquiri – A simple rendition of a daiquiri, lightly sweet with fresh lime and gentle rum notes. The fizz gives this a bit of a different spin, letting the lime percolate up a bit like a gin and tonic. The lime and bitterness on the finish also connotes a quinine component, even though it may not really be present. Perfectly pleasant, if short of elevated. B+

each $16 to $20 per four-pack of 200ml cans / half-seas.com

Review: Arome True Rum 28 Years Old

When you’re sipping on a 7 year old rum, you’re feeling pretty good. 14 years? 21? Fuggedaboudit.

Now comes Arome: A limited edition rum that’s 28 years old, just 500 unique bottles produced by yacht broker cum spirits maven Andrew Troyer.

How about some details about Arome:

The ARÔME 28 Founder’s Reserve is a limited production, 28 year aged sipping rum.  ARÔME 28 was created in the traditional Cuban orthodox style of rum making by a rum mastero with over 50 years of experience producing, studying, and perfecting rum. ARÔME 28 is a Panamanian produced rum which has been aged for no less than 28 years in white oak casks formerly used to age Kentucky bourbon.   ARÔME 28 is produced from estate grown sugar cane, where the rum is distilled at the source, barreled, aged, blended, and bottled.

This rum is as a well-aged and austere as you would expect from a spirit a whopping 28 years old. On the nose, notes of coffee hit first, then leather, cloves, tobacco leaf, and salted caramel. The vanilla comes across more as pure extract than, say, cake frosting — almost as savory in its intensity as it is sweet.

The palate is milder than expected, surprisingly light caramel, butterscotch, and milk chocolate notes leading the way to a flood of more intense vanilla, some orange peel, and, as the finish develops, more of those lighter chocolate notes. For a rum this old, it’s surprisingly light on its feet, with tons of butterscotch and gingerbread on the finish, along with a bit of coffee and some Madeira notes. Sure, 28 years of aging time may sound like overkill for any rum, but Arome is definitively far from “over-aged” — in fact, it’s hard to imagine a rum of any age drinking more spot-on than this.

80 proof. Reviewed: Batch #001, bottle #183 of 500 produced.

A / $600 / rumarome.com

Review: Copper & Kings Apple Brandies – Deep Hearts Cut and Floodwall

Copper & Kings, purveyors of some of the most interesting grape brandies made in America, has spread out to that other classic brandy-making fruit, the apple. The company recently launched two apple-based bottlings, an unaged expression (unusual ’round these parts) and a more traditional barrel-aged bottling called Floodwall.

Thoughts follow.

Copper & Kings Un-Aged Apple Brandy Deep Hearts Cut – Pure copper pot-distilled unaged apple brandy, with no additives, natural or otherwise. Rustic on the nose, as expected, with hospital notes, some astringency, ample florals, and just a hint of apple that pushes through all of that. On the palate you’ll find the apples make more of an impact, mingling with notes of peppermint and, surprisingly, caramel, a flavor normally associated with barrel aging. It’s a simple little white brandy, but it does showcase in a surprisingly pure way the essence of apple. 90 proof. B+ / $36

Copper & Kings Floodwall Apple Brandy – This is a blend of copper pot-distilled apple brandy aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels and 250-liter Oloroso sherry casks, at least four years old. The nose is typical of a younger apple brandy, somewhat pungent (but less rustic than the Deep Hearts Cut) with intense notes of cloves and nutmeg, and a smattering of Indian spices. The fruit is more evident on the tongue, here showing as well-caramelized apples, pie spices, dark chocolate, and molasses — though a somewhat vegetal note that builds on the finish is a bit of a distraction. Nice effort, though. 100 proof. B+ / $36

copperandkings.com

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