Review: KO Distilling Battle Standard 142 Navy Strength Gin

Before you get too excited, note that the 142 doesn’t refer to the strength of this gin, from Manassas, Virginia-based KO Distilling. It refers rather to a story about 142 cadet-midshipmen merchant marines who died in WWII. Says the company: “Our founders’ alma mater, the USMMA, is the only federal academy authorized to fly a Battle Standard in memory of those brave men who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

A standard proof version and a barrel finished gin — neither tasted here — are also available. All are made using the same eight botanicals: juniper, orange peel, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, grains of paradise, angelica root, and orris root, making this sound like a very traditional London Dry style of gin. That said, the company calls it a New Western style. Let’s taste it and find out.

The nose is indeed a step back from London Dry, showcasing more than its share of spices: cinnamon is particularly strong, with some black pepper backing up a healthy slug of juniper. On the palate, a mix of earth tones, coriander/cardamom, and a stronger citrus profile show themselves. If anything makes the claim for a New Western gin it’s this, that bright orange note that endures until a drying, almost chalky juniper character takes hold on the finish. All told, it’s a totally solid entry into the giniverse, one that would serve well as a cocktailing workhorse, but it doesn’t offer a truly unique enough experience to rave about.

I will say that, for a gin that’s 57% alcohol, it drinks with an impressive cleanness that feels much cooler. For a heavily overproof spirit, that alone is something to recommend it.

114 proof.

B+ / $35 /

Review: Charleston Distilling Co. King Charles Vodka, Jasper’s Gin, Vesey’s Bourbon, and Calhoun’s Rye

Charleston Distilling is a South Carolina-based craft distillery that takes a farm-to-bottle approach to all of its spirits, starting with South Carolina-grown corn, rye, wheat, and millet that are milled at its own millhouse in Summerton, South Carolina, and then distilled at its operation in downtown Charleston. Its whiskeys are aged in new, charred oak barrels.

Today we look at a spectrum of Charleston Distilling’s products, including a vodka, a gin, and two whiskeys.

Charleston Distilling Co. King Charles Vodka – Distilled from a mash of corn and rye. This vodka is distinctly weedy, with mushroom overtones and a corny, white whiskey character to it. A modest sweetness offers a brief respite from the funkiness at the core here, but it’s a tough road to overcome the heavy notes of forest floor and pungent grains. 80 proof. C / $25

Charleston Distilling Co. Jasper’s Gin – Somewhat mysterious, Charleston doesn’t disclose the mash nor the botanicals in the bottle. While there is ample evidence of underlying grains on the nose, there’s a hefty spice element here, showing hot pepper, ginger root, and lemongrass notes. The palate is juniper-moderate, with strong citrus peel, baking spice, and licorice elements, brisk and a little pungent, but surprisingly balanced among its constituent flavors. The finish is a bit ragged, but not unpleasant, making for a gin that would work in a more herbal-focused cocktail. 94 proof. B / $30

Charleston Distilling Co. Vesey’s Straight Bourbon – A wheated bourbon, though no age statement is offered. Youthful on the nose, but soft, it’s a quiet bourbon with notes of fresh popcorn, some cherry notes, and ample barrel char. The palate is heavier on the grain, as is to be expected from a young spirit, but there’s notes of fruit, vanilla, and nutmeg here, enough to temper that cracking barrel char, at least until the rather rustic, heavier finish arrives. Part of that is driven by abv; a little water isn’t a bad idea here, which tempers granary character quite well. 94 proof. Reviewed: Barrel #1-6. B / $57

Charleston Distilling Co. Calhoun’s Single Barrel Straight Rye – 100% rye, bottled from a single barrel, sans age statement. Nice depth of color here, but the nose is a real oddball, with notes of candy corn, spun sugar, and overripe banana and stone fruit. The palate is somewhat more traditional, though it’s also quite sweet, bold with butterscotch, but touched with a bit of mushroom, burlap sack, and that rustic granary note. The finish is sharp, with a hint of gunpowder, which sprinkles some spice and heat atop the otherwise sugary proceedings. The more I sip on it, the more I enjoy it. 100 proof. Reviewed: Barrel #6. B+ / $56

Review: The Street Pumas Vodka, Gin, and Rum

Now here’s something unique in the world of spirits: The Street Pumas line of liquors combines imported spirits with… wait for it… comic strips.

While we’re primarily known for hyper-specific, luxury items like a 22-year-old micro barrique cognac or corn-infused mezcal, Brooklyn-based importer, PM Spirits has just launched The Street Pumas, a line of premium well spirits.

The line includes vodka, London dry gin, and rum, with a blended Scotch whisky that is currently crossing the ocean as we speak. For his first line of custom spirits, founder Nicolas Palazzi collaborated with celebrated comic book artists and writers to create a complementary graphic novel that would double as labels for the bottles. Set in the near future, Nicolas and his team are portrayed as booze-slinging badasses determined to deliver killer juice no matter the obstacle. The one-liter bottles depict a different scene from the comic adventure, highlighting the gang’s battle against the forces of THEY.


Here we look at the first three products from the Pumas — everything but that blended Scotch, still on its way.

The comics have not been reviewed.

The Street Pumas Vodka – Distilled from potatoes in Poland, then shipped to Jerez, Spain, for proofing. The vodka is exceedingly mild, almost to a fault. The nose is barely there — a touch of sugar, some lemongrass, and just a bit of medicinality to spice it up. The palate is similarly mild, not as sweet as you might think — more chocolaty, than sugary — with a brisk, slightly biting finish. While there’s not much to hang on to, it’s nonetheless a solid mixing base thanks to its neutrality. 80 proof. A- / $30 (1 liter)

The Street Pumas London Dry Gin – Italian-born neutral grain spirits are sent to Belgium, where they are infused with juniper berries, coriander, angelica, lemon peel, and sweet & bitter orange peels. Very fruity and somewhat floral on the nose, the sweeter orange notes overwhelm the juniper and other botanicals. The palate is very heavy on the lemon, with orange a strong secondary note. Again, the juniper is largely absent, giving this gin more of a citrus vodka character — though one that’s not at all astringent or pushy. Probably a tough sell for any cocktail where juniper is expected (I wouldn’t describe this as a London Dry by any stretch), but it’s versatile in more modern mixology. 80 proof. B+ / $30 (1 liter)

The Street Pumas Rum – Distilled from molasses in Panama “at a site that shares lineage with the iconic distilleries of Nicaragua” and proofed in Jerez. Definitely the most aromatically strong spirit in this bunch, this is a bold and funky white rum, unaged and rather raw, though with some time emerge notes of ripe banana, coconut, and some walnut oil. The palate has a surprising complexity, offering lots of coconut and banana, some chocolate and a soothing vanilla finish. That raw hogo character, so evident on the nose, is really an afterthought here, showing a slightly vegetal character that lingers just a bit, giving it a little more of a chew than you might expect. 84 proof. B+ / $30 (1 liter)

Review: Conncullin Irish Gin

Connacht is best known as a whiskey distillery in County Mayo, Ireland, but it also produces one of the country’s handful of gins, known as Conncullin. This pot distilled gin doesn’t disclose all of its botanicals, but juniper, citrus, and elderberry are known to be in the mix.

Given the focus on fruit, I was surprised to find the nose to be earthy, almost skunky at times, with hints of hemp and seaweed, alongside some notes of grapefruit peel. The palate is similar, with some sweeter elements among the savory notes: rhubarb, orange peel, and plenty of floral elements coming up later in the experience. The finish is funky, with maritime-driven notes lingering alongside hints of burning coal. For those on the hunt for a more savory experience, Conncullin is one gin to check out; for me, I was hoping for a stronger focus on the fruit.

94 proof.

B / $34 /

Review: Greenbar City Bright Gin

Los Angeles’ Greenbar Distillery recently added gin to its stable of spirits, with this release, City Bright Gin (there’s also a City Amber Gin) the flagship expression.

Says Greenbar, “Taste the flavors of Los Angeles — from the aromatic herbs of East and South Asia to the floral & earthy flavors of Mexico and the Middle East. This is how Angelenos eat.” To that end, the gin is infused with a somewhat odd melange of organic juniper berries, ancho chiles, angelica, basil, California bay, cardamom, cassia, coriander, cubeb, black cumin, fennel, grapefruit, lemon balm, lemon, lemongrass, kaffir lime, lime, pink peppercorn, Sichuan peppercorn, peppermint, spearmint, and star anise.

The results are interesting, unusual, and worthwhile. The nose is instantly complex. That kaffir lime catches the nose immediately, along with sharp grapefruit. There’s an earthiness underneath it, though, driven by more traditional gin ingredients like cardamom and angelica. Juniper? Almost an afterthought to stronger citrus notes bleeding through.

The palate again sees that kaffir lime — as strong a flavor as you’ll find in any spirit — dominating, though the peppers and chiles quickly show their hand. It’s not a spicy spirit, but it does have a bite to it, a pungency that complements notes of anise/fennel, mint, and, at last, some juniper.

The finish is a bit earthy and rustic — while up front the gin is indeed as bright as its name would indicate — but on the whole it’s a unique, yet nicely balanced gin with plenty to recommend it for any cocktail recipe.

84 proof.

A- / $30 /

Review: Tom’s Town McElroy’s Corruption Gin

You’ll find Tom’s Town Distilling Co. in Kansas City, Missouri, where the founders say it “draws its name and inspiration from the country’s most polarizing and corrupt political boss, Tom Pendergast.” That’s right, folks, now you can happily name your business after a corrupt politician. We really are living in the future!

Tom’s Town produces three spirits at present. Today we look at the company’s gin, called McElroy’s Corruption, named after an old (corrupt, of course) KC city manager named Henry McElroy, who worked for Pendergast. Who knows what McElroy liked to drink, but let’s imagine for now it was gin. Botanicals are not disclosed.

Stylistically, this gin approximates a New Western gin, aromatic on the nose with spicy notes well beyond juniper — lots of florals, burlap, nutmeg, and coriander. The palate is a bit more straightforward, with juniper and a squeeze of citrus leading into heavy coriander and angelica notes — more traditional London Dry in its approach. The finish is herbal and piney — no big mystery, really.

90 proof.

B+ / $33 /

Review: Tanqueray No. Ten Gin (2018)

You might not be old enough to remember the moment when gin went upscale. In the era of Gordon’s and Seagram’s, gin was a perfectly acceptable tipple, but hardly something one spent a whole lot of money on. Gin was basically just cheap vodka, the point of the strong flavoring was, in part, to drown out any off flavors. I’m talking the 1900s here, not the 1500s, when gin was sold as a medicinal, its herbs intended to treat your lumbago or gout. By the 1700s, gin was a beverage consumed mainly by the poor, and while gin made plenty of inroads (no thanks to James Bond and his vodka habit), it remained a relatively cheap spirit as recently as the 1990s.

Tanqueray No. Ten was the industry’s first big push upmarket. Introduced in 2000, the idea was to make a premium version of its iconic bottle, with (even) better ingredients and a higher price tag. The Ten doesn’t refer to the botanicals, but rather the name of the still used to produce it. Said botanicals include considerably more than the quartet of ingredients in rank-and-file Tanqueray. Tanqueray Ten includes juniper, coriander, chamomile flowers, white grapefruit (whole fruit, not just peel), orange, and lime.

Anyway, we last reviewed Tanqueray No. Ten back in 2010, and figured it was high time for a fresh look. The good news is that nothing much seems to have changed in nearly a decade.

I love the grapefruit and lime on the nose here. The gin’s powerful fruit-forward aromas play down the juniper, and the chamomile gives it a certain eastern sensibility. The palate finds the juniper making a stronger showing, but it’s well balanced with all the citrus in the mix. The coriander makes a stand on the finish, with a gentle fruit fade-out leaving a slightly sweet impression on the tongue.

All told, it remains a top choice for gin — bold, balanced, and, at $30 a bottle, hardly a splurge. We’ll have to check back in 2026 to see if our thoughts remain the same!

94.6 proof.

A- / $30 /

Why Every Drinker Should Try Something New

Over the last year I’ve gotten a little bit into wine. As a whisky guy, my goal was to be able to read a wine list in a restaurant but I quickly became absorbed in a new world, not too dissimilar to the way I fell down the whisky rabbit hole. This process of learning about a completely new type of drink, I think, is fascinating and can open up a whole new world of flavour and give you a greater understanding of other beverages as well as your own palate.

One of my favourite white wine grape types now is Riesling, which can often give stony minerality and a lot of delicious, mouth watering acidity at the same time. This is something I can now translate over into whisky when I find minerality in Bruichladdich or that limey acidity in an Ardbeg.

Another advantage is that many whiskies now are being finished in wine casks, which provide a slightly different flavour from the norm. Recently I’ve tried a Longrow from a Chardonnay cask and a Ledaig from a Hermitage cask. Both are fantastic whiskies and both are really providing something of that wine within the whisky. But by understanding the wines behind these whiskies you get a lot better idea of the flavours and what to expect. On the other hand, perhaps a wine fanatic might find the flavours from a red wine finished Kilchoman to be useful for their understanding and palate, too.

More recently, I was in The Netherlands for a whisky show. I had a day with an importer there and we went to the Jenever museum in Schiedam. If you haven’t heard of Jenever (or Genever), like me you might have thought it was a traditional type of gin. This might be true of some of the bigger players like Ketel 1’s version, but small producers like what the museum makes are more similar to a whisky. Traditionally distilled in direct fired stills from a mash of rye and malted barley, it is then matured in barrels for up to 10 years. Sounds pretty similar to a whisky to me! For a typical Jenever they add some juniper berry flavours, but often not for the more premium expressions. At the museum we got to taste some single casks, straight from three different types of sherry barrels. I was shocked by the similarities to a lot of whiskies I’ve tried.

This type of experience, trying something new, can be hugely valuable and not only help you discover something new and interesting but opens up a new world of flavours and drinks you, perhaps, had no idea existed. So, if you like whisky, try some wine. If you like rum, try whisky. As a beer person, try whisky. Or tequila, mezcal, baijiu, sake, arak, and so many others. Try new things and open your horizons!

Review: Eau Claire Distillery Parlour Gin and Prickly Pear Equineox

Eau Claire Distillery calls Alberta, Canada its home, and this little outfit is turning out an increasingly diversified variety of spirits, including single malt whiskey and rum. Today we look at two of its straight white spirits, a gin and a unique spirit flavored with prickly pear.

Both are 80 proof. Thoughts follow.

Eau Claire Distillery Parlour Gin – A London dry style gin infused with juniper plus “rosehip, Saskatoon berry, coriander, lemon, orange, mint, and spice.” Not sure what “spice” is, but let’s dig in anyway. At just 40% abv, it’s a softer gin, a lightly earthy nose with a deep fruit character that evokes blueberry as well as fresh cedar and mint notes. The palate is stuffed with that berry fruit, something between blueberry and raspberry, dominating the experience. A touch of mint is about on par with the amount of juniper in this spirit — I’d barely call it gin — while the finish, at first a bit earthy, is heavy with juicy lemon and orange notes. All told it’s a very different gin than pretty much anything else on the market, but its uniqueness isn’t the only reason it’s worth investigating. A- / $35

Eau Claire Distillery Prickly Pear Equineox – What’s Equineox (not a typo, by the way)? It’s not exactly a liqueur, but rather is “a sweet, barley based alternative to gin or vodka.” The nose is quite liqueur-like, very sweet-smelling, with notes of rose petals, orange blossoms, watermelon, and candied berries. The palate is also on the sweet side, but sugar is less dominant than expected, with more fruity and floral notes percolating to the fore. There’s more complexity here than I’d imagined, including notes of toasted coconut, brown butter, and mixed florals. Interesting stuff, no question, but that said, I’m not entirely sure what I’d do with it. B+ / $30

Review: Copper & Kings American Dry Gin and Old Tom Gin

From brandy to orange liqueur to absinthe, what doesn’t Louisville-based Copper & Kings make? You can take off of that increasingly short list gin, thanks to two new expressions now being distilled here — a dry gin and an old tom. Both are double distilled in alembic stills.

We sampled both expressions. Thoughts follow.

Copper & Kings American Dry Gin – Made “using 100% apple wine from fresh-pressed apple juice. No neutral spirits are used in the distillation.” Botanicals include the classics: juniper berries, coriander, angelica, orris, and “other accent botanicals are steeped in apple brandy low-wine, then redistilled together with vapor distilled citrus peels & lavender in the gin basket.” Rather musty on the nose, I get notes of wet wool and earthy mushroom over anything approaching juniper. Lavender makes a significant appearance too, but it’s particularly impactful on the palate, where it gives a soapy/perfumy impression to the proceedings. The finish is leathery and full of minerals and masonry, with a fruity component that must be being driven by the apple wine distillate. Weird stuff, and far from the course compared to even the most oddball of gins. 92 proof. C / $35

Copper & Kings American Old Tom Gin – A higher-proof expression, with a grape brandy base and a bourbon barrel finishing treatment. Specific botanicals are not disclosed. On the whole this presents like a more typical barrel-aged gin, a pale yellow spirit with notes of vanilla and barrel char on the nose, alongside a smattering of dried herbs, pine needles, and a slight hospital note. The palate is less sharp than you’d think, mellowed out by the barrel time, displaying some floral elements, a racier perfume note, and some camphor that lingers particularly on the back end. That conclusion is particularly pungent, which will likely polarize drinkers. 100 proof. B / $35

Review: Watershed Distillery Four Peel Gin and Bourbon Barrel Gin

Watershed Distillery got its start in Columbus, Ohio back in 2010, and today the operation is pumping out vodka, gin, bourbon, nocino(!), and a bottled Old Fashioned. Today we look at the company’s two gins, an unaged version with modern styling, and a bourbon barrel aged expression.

Watershed Distillery Four Peel Gin – Distilled from “corn and fruit,” with a total of eight botanicals including juniper, citrus peel (four of them, though they aren’t specified), cassia, Jamaica pepper, and coriander. There’s lots of perfume on the nose, with aromas veering toward white flowers and lime, overpowering the juniper notes rather handily. The palate is light and equally floral, though here the juniper comes across as a bit harsh, clashing with some of the citrus peel notes, which arrive as somewhat bitter as the palate develops. The finish is effusive, but it’s a rather rough and tumble affair, battering the throat a bit, though I don’t think the slightly elevated alcohol level is to blame. Again, lime rind makes a reprise on the fade-out, ending the experience with less fruit, more drying peel. Just like it says on the label, I guess. 88 proof. Reviewed: Batch #127. B / $33

Watershed Distillery Bourbon Barrel Gin – This is the same Four Peel Gin as above, finished in ex-bourbon barrels for one year. You wouldn’t know it from the nose, which carries a near-identical aroma profile as the standard Four Peel, perhaps a bit sweeter, with just a hint of lumberyard to indicate the time in barrel. On the palate, the gin is a different animal, significantly sweeter, with pronounced vanilla notes and hints of cream soda, sassafras, and some chocolate. The citrus peel notes are tamped down here, as is the juniper, all of which is fine for a guy like me who’d usually rather be drinking whiskey than gin. Definitely one to try whichever side of the fence you’re on. 88 proof. Reviewed: Batch #35. B+ / $39

Drinkhacker’s 2017 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

It’s our tenth anniversary, and our tenth holiday gift guide!

After more than 5500 posts — the bulk of them product reviews — we’ve written millions of words on all things quaffable, and as always, we select the cream of the crop to highlight in our annual holiday buying guide. Consider it a “best of the year,” if you’d like — though we do try to aim the list toward products that are actually attainable (sorry, Van Winkle family!) by the average Joe.

As always, the selections below are not comprehensive but represent some of our absolute favorite products. Got a different opinion or think we’re full of it? Feel free to let us know in the comments with your own suggestions for alternatives or questions about other categories or types of beverages that might be perfect for gifting. None of these sound any good to you? Not enough scratch? Teetotaling it in 2018? May we suggest a Drinkhacker t-shirt instead?

Again, happy holidays to all of you who have helped to make Drinkhacker one of the most popular wine and spirits websites on the Internet! Here’s to the next 10 years of kick-ass drinks reviews!

And don’t forget, for more top gift ideas check out the archives and read our 20162015201420132012201120102009, and 2008 holiday guides.

Bourbon – Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon 2017 “Al Young 50th Anniversary” ($500) – I’m not the only one to have fallen in love with Four Roses’ one-off Small Batch bottling, which was made in honor of longtime employee Al Young and his 50 years on the job. While this exquisite small batch hit the market at $150, you’re more likely to find it at triple the cost… which means you can expect triple the thank yous should you buy one for a loved one. If that’s not in the cards, check out this year’s Parker’s Heritage Collection Single Barrel Bourbon 11 Years Old ($300+), A. Smith Bowman Abraham Bowman Sequential Series Bourbon ($40/375ml – hard to find), Wyoming Whiskey Double Cask Limited Edition ($55), or Hirsch High Rye Straight Bourbon Whiskey 8 Years Old ($40). All of these will make for unusual, but highly loved, gifts.

Scotch – Kilchoman Red Wine Cask Matured ($110) – So much good Scotch hit this year that it’s hard to pick a favorite, but for 2017 I simply have to go with the magical combination of Islay peat and red wine casks that Kilchoman just released. It’s an absolute steal at this price; buy one for your best bud and one for yourself, too. Of the many other top bottlings to consider, the ones you should be able to actually find include: Caol Ila Unpeated 18 Years Old Limited Edition 2017 ($100), The Balvenie Peat Week 14 Years Old 2002 Vintage ($93), Bunnahabhain 13 Years Old Marsala Finish ($80), and Glenmorangie Bacalta ($89).

Other Whiskey – Kavalan Amontillado Sherry Cask Single Malt Whisky ($400) – I’m not thrilled about dropping another multi-hundred dollar whiskey in this list, but Kavalan hit it out of the park with its finished single malts, the top of the line being this Amontillado-casked number, which is as dark as coffee in the glass. Also consider The Tyrconnell Single Malt Irish Whiskey 16 Years Old ($70), Amrut Spectrum 004 Single Malt Whisky ($500, apologies again), and the outlandish Lost Spirits Distillery Abomination “The Sayers of the Law” ($50, but good luck).

Gin – Cadee Distillery Intrigue Gin ($36) – It’s been a lighter year for gin, but Washington-based Cadee’s combination of flavors in Intrigue are amazing. A close second goes to Eden Mill’s Original Gin ($40), which hails from Scotland.

Vodka – Stateside Urbancraft Vodka ($30) Philadelphia-born Stateside Urbancraft Vodka was the only new vodka we gave exceptional marks to this year. Is the category finally on the decline?

Rum – Havana Club Tributo 2017 ($160) – As Cuban rum finds its way to the U.S., your options for finding top-quality sugar-based spirits are better than ever. Start your collection with Havana Club’s Tributo 2017, which you can now find for much less than the original $390 asking price. More mainstream options: Mezan Single Distillery Rum Panama 2006 ($43), Maggie’s Farm La Revuelta Dark Rum ($35), Cooper River Petty’s Island Driftwood Dream Spiced Rum ($32), or, for those with deep pockets, Arome True Rum 28 Years Old ($600).

Brandy – Domaines Hine Bonneuil 2006 Cognac ($140) – Hine’s 2006 vintage Cognac drinks well above its age and is just about perfect, a stellar brandy that any fan of the spirit will absolutely enjoy. Bache-Gabrielsen XO Decanter Cognac ($100) makes for a striking gift as well, given its lavish presentation and decanter.

Tequila – Patron Extra Anejo Tequila ($90) – No contest here. Patron’s first permanent extra anejo addition to the lineup hits all the right notes, and it’s surprisingly affordable in a world where other extras run $200 and up. Siembra Valles Ancestral Tequila Blanco ($120) is actually more expensive despite being a blanco, but its depth of flavor is something unlike any other tequila I’ve ever encountered.

Liqueur – Luxardo Bitter Bianco ($28) – Who says amaro has to be dark brown in color? Luxardo’s latest is as bitter as anything, but it’s nearly clear, making it far more versatile in cocktails (and not so rough on your teeth). I love it. For a much different angle, check out Songbird Craft Coffee Liqueur ($25), a sweet coffee liqueur that’s hard not to love.

Wine  A bottle of wine never goes unappreciated. Here is a selection of our top picks from 2017:

Need another custom gift idea (or have a different budget)? Drop us a line or leave a comment here and we’ll offer our best advice!

Looking to buy any of the above? Give Caskers and Master of Malt a try!