Review: Scrappy’s Bitters – Seville Orange and Chocolate

Like any good bitters brand, Scrappy’s focuses on natural infusions and uses organic ingredients whenever possible. Produced in Seattle, the Scrappy’s line now runs to at least 11 varieties of bitters. We received two of the most popular — orange and chocolate — for review.

Thoughts follow.

Scrappy’s Bitters Seville Orange – Check out the little chunks of orange peel on the bottom of the bottle. This is a bitters with the focus squarely on the bitter element: Orange notes are filtered through a heavily bitter edge, with secondary notes of clove and licorice filling in the cracks. If you like an orange bitters that isn’t really a syrup in disguise, Scrappy’s is an excellent pick. 47.5% abv. B+  [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

Scrappy’s Bitters Chocolate – These bitters aren’t as overwhelmingly bitter as the orange, finding more of a balance between clear dark chocolate notes and some sweeter character that’s driven by brown sugar. The finish offers a touch of coffee character that could add some nuance to a cocktail. 47.6% abv. A- [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

each $18 / scrappysbitters.com

Review: Wolfburn Single Malt Whisky and Aurora Sherry Oak

Located on the extreme northern tip of the Scottish mainland, Wolfburn is one of the youngest distilleries in Scotland, getting its start in 2013 on the site of an old distillery from the 1800s located outside the town of Thurso. The distillery ages in a combination of bourbon casks (of various sizes) as well as Spanish sherry casks — but so far, none of its products carry formal age statements. You can do the math: Since none of this is sourced whisky, it’s a maximum of four years old, probably less.

Today we look at two of the earliest releases from Wolfburn, the eponymous single malt and another bottling called Aurora, which sees a considerable influence (judging from color alone) of sherry casking.

Both are 92 proof.

Wolfburn Single Malt Scotch Whisky – All the hallmarks of young whisky are here. This one’s green on the nose, with notes of new leather, fresh cut wood, evergreen needles, lemon peel, and menthol. On the palate, the pungent character that comes across is wholly expected, the grain taking on a surprisingly heavy bitter citrus note along with notes of dusky cloves, green pepper, and roasted onion. Those can be off flavors for sure, but here they work reasonably well as they build to a burly, if uneven, crescendo. The overly bitter finish is a bit further off the mark, though. B- / $55 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Wolfburn Aurora Sherry Oak Single Malt Scotch Whisky – The heavier sherry is evident here from the first whiff, though again it is filtered through notes of fresh herbs, ample wood, and a tobacco note. The palate is sharply sherried, though still somewhat vegetal (though less so than the single malt), with notes of mint (fresher than the menthol notes in the single malt), cinnamon, and nougat. The finish is incredibly sharp and biting, with an even more bitter, herbal edge than the above — quite a surprise, and a bit of a letdown over what is otherwise a pretty interesting dram. B / $60

wolfburn.com

Review: Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel Bourbon

Rock Hill Farms is one of the sub-labels of Buffalo Trace/Sazerac, an upscale bottling in a fancy decanter that people really seem to love because it has a horse on the label.

Rock Hill Farms (bottled with no age statement or anything else by way of production data) is a rather typical expression of Buffalo Trace’s house style, a rye-heavy bourbon that’s well spiced from start to finish.

The nose features orange peel, oily furniture polish notes, and loads of nutty sherry (or sherried nuts?). A winey, Port-like character emerges with more time, studded with aromas of cloves, raisins, and dried cherries. On the palate, many of the same notes persevere, though those fruitier notes come with a slightly bitter edge, along with some more exotic notes of dried papaya, allspice, and candied walnuts.

All told it’s a fine example of bonded-style bourbon, though it may be an overly familiar one for hardcore bourbon enthusiasts.

100 proof.

A- / $49 / sazerac.com

Review: Knappogue Castle Single Malt Irish Whiskeys – 14 Years Old and 16 Years Old (2017)

Once known for releasing only vintage-dated Irish whiskeys, Knappogue Castle switched to standard age statements some years ago. Today it continues to tweak its branding, labels, and other packaging details, and now we’re also seeing a few production changes. That said, in addition to some rare offerings, the core of the line remains a trinity of single malts, all triple distilled and aged 12, 14, and 16 years.

Today we look at fresh bottlings of the 14 and 16 year old whiskeys — last reviewed in 2014. Details on how production may have changed follow, along with fresh tasting notes for both.

Knappogue Castle Twin Wood Single Malt Irish Whiskey 14 Years Old – This whiskey has changed considerably in production in the last few years. It was once traditionally finished in sherry, but it is now a marriage of whiskeys, each aged 14 years in either bourbon or oloroso sherry barrels, then blended together. The bourbon is clearly the lion’s share of the blend: The whiskey is very malty on the nose, with notes of orange peel, melon, and some coconut behind that. On the palate, the sharp body offers a nutty, nougat-heavy core, with notes of chocolate, lemon, and plenty of lingering earthiness. The finish finds hints of tobacco and barrel char, giving this a more brooding, savory conclusion than most Irish whiskeys. Despite its relatively advanced age, this is a whiskey that still feels young — perhaps undeservedly so, to be honest. 92 proof. B / $60  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Knappogue Castle Twin Wood Single Malt Irish Whiskey 16 Years Old – This whiskey marks a more traditional approach (and has not changed since the last release); the spirit spends 14 years in bourbon barrels before being finished for two years in oloroso sherry barrels. Though only two years older, this is considerably darker than the 14, with a nose that is much more rounded and aromatic, showing heavily nutty notes, some oily wood, nougat, and orange peel — a greatest hits rundown of some of the most classic characteristics of older single malt Irish. The palate is rich and seductive, with both brooding wood and walnut notes as well as kicks of old wine, fresh herbs, grassy heather, and a squeeze of orange. There’s a sharpness on the back end, a reprise of well-roasted nuts, dense wood, and spicy notes of cloves, nutmeg, plus more of that old, oxidized wine character. Deep, intriguing, and soulful, today this is showing as a well-crafted whiskey worth seeking out. 80 proof. A / $100  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

knappoguewhiskey.com

Review: The Bitter Truth Pink Gin

Pink gin is a classic blend of gin and bitters, and Bitter Truth’s German expression of the spirit (originated in part as a tonic for seasickness) offers a traditional, maritime-inflected rendition of the pink stuff. Botanicals aren’t fully revealed, but include juniper, lemon, licorice, caraway, and fennel for starts. Presumably TBT’s own bitters are used in the mix — and to give it the telltale pink color.

Let’s give it a whirl.

The nose is familiar, not particularly “pink” but initially coming across like a more typical dry gin — with aromas of juniper, orange peel, some coriander, and a hint of licorice. The palate sees some departure from the norm, however, as it opens up with new flavors, some surprising, of strawberry, black pepper, rhubarb, and a heavier layer of bitter spices. This is all folded into a juniper-rich core that finishes with some more unexpected notes of vanilla and salted caramel — just the lightest lick of sweetness to round out a lightly bitter but flavor-filled experience.

Recommended — both on its own and to give traditional gin cocktails a salmon-hued spin.

80 proof.

B+ / $40 / the-bitter-truth.com  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: Nachtmann Highland Tumbler

Seeing green? Check out this new tumbler from Nachtmann. The Nachtmann Highland Tumbler, cast in “Reseda” green, which is “named for the eponymous spring-green plant.”

It’s a nice little old fashioned glass, its carved base making for easy handling while looking sophisticated. The lip is gently rounded, which is comfortable for drinking, and the glass has amble weight without feeling over-heavy.

The green color is perhaps divisive, but if you’re looking for a statement glass to serve your home cocktails in, this is a solid choice.

A- / $18 each / [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

Review: The Spirits of Sugarlands Shine

Don’t look now, but one of the busiest distilleries in the country — based on tourism visits — is Sugarlands Distilling, in the Great Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee. A connection with the popular show Moonshiners doesn’t hurt, nor does the vast product lineup, which includes 21 varieties of moonshine, rum, and liqueurs, which range from a straight white rye to a peanut butter and jelly moonshine, all bottled in (incredibly messy) mason jars. Candy- and dessert-flavored ‘shines are a particularly specialty of the operation.

It’s impossible to keep on top of all of these flavors — there will be more by the time you read this — so consider this a representative sampling of what Sugarlands is up to. Thoughts follow.

Sugarlands Shine Silver Cloud Moonshine – This corn and cane sugar moonshine is the starting point for much of what Sugarlands makes, and it’s a fair enough ‘shine to get you going. Plenty popcorny at the start, particularly on the nose, the spirit offers hints of vanilla and cinnamon but otherwise drinks relatively flatly but cleanly, with a jet fuel-soaked finish — that classic moonshine pungency. 100 proof. B / $25  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Sugarlands Shine Unaged Rye – Billed as a rye, though no mashbill information is available. This is a more classic white whiskey, loaded with popcorn and roasted grains, with a subtle undercoat of baking spice. Lacking the sugar of the moonshine, the finish is rougher and more rustic, with a mushroom and tobacco note, plus some hints of baked bread. 100 proof. B- / $25  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Sugarlands Shine Appalachian Apple Pie Moonshine – Less sweet than many an apple pie moonshine, the raw cereal character of the spirit comes through more clearly. The fruit takes on an apple cider character, somewhat oxidized with a kind of butterscotch note that isn’t completely on the pie spectrum. The finish is reminscent not of apples but of cherries, particularly the cough syrup variety. 50 proof. C / $25  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Sugarlands Shine Hazelnut Rum – Nicely nutty on the nose, those hazelnuts roll over anything that’s particularly rummy in the mix. Some brown sugar notes and cloves at least offer a nod toward a spiced rum, with a touch of that funky petrol layering itself in underneath. The finish is a sustained nuttiness, with notes of toasted marshmallow. Hazelnuts are a smart choice to give this spirit a strong and unique flavor, but it drinks almost like a liqueur rather than a rum. 80 proof. B+ / $25  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Sugarlands Shine Root Beer Moonshine – Spot-on root beer aromas kick the nose off on this heavily flavored (and nearly opaque) ‘shine, which is heavy on the sassafras and baking spices. Alongside a healthy slug of sweet vanilla, the body sees more peppermint coming to the fore than I would like or expect, with surprisingly heavy clove character. These cloves endure for quite some time, eventually mellowing as the finish fades into a sort of charred wood character, which erases some of the excitement and nostalgia of what’s come before. 70 proof. B / $25  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Sugarlands Appalachian Sippin’ Cream Butter Pecan Cream Liqueur – Not dark brown as the bottle would indicate, but rather a gentle, creamy tan. Extremely sweet on the nose, with light brown sugar the clearest component. The buttery, nutty pecan notes are a bit slightly clearer on the palate, but there’s so much sugar that it overwhelms just about all of it, leading to a milky finish akin to melted vanilla ice cream. 40 proof. B- / $25  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Sugarlands Appalachian Sippin’ Cream Dark Chocolate Coffee Cream Liqueur – The color of milk chocolate, with a nose that is a heavier blend of coffee with some chocolate syrup swirled in. Ample vanilla kicks off the palate, along with some butterscotch sweetness, before the relatively gentle coffee character arrives. There’s nothing really “dark” about the chocolate in this liqueur. As far as the cocoa goes, it’s about as milky as it gets. Nevertheless, it works fairly well. 40 proof. B+ / $25  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

sugarlandsdistilling.com

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