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

Tasting: Late 2016/Early 2017 MashBox Club Spirits Samplers

Today we’re ganging up two recent quarterly shipments of MashBox spirits samplers, one a rather random collection of recent releases, the other a trio of the same whiskey but finished in different barrels types. Read on for details from this outturn of the internet’s most interesting booze-of-the-month club.

As a reminder, $99 a year gets your four boxes of three 50ml samples.

Manhattan Moonshine – Full review here. A pungent and somewhat mushroomy white dog, tempered by notes of gingerbread and breakfast cereal. 95 proof. B

Owney’s New York City Rum – A white rum, unaged. Quite weedy on the nose, with hard cereal notes. The palate doesn’t offer much intrigue and the finish is harsh and astringent. Generally, a funky rum like this needs some barrel time to mellow out, even if it’s being filtered back to clear. 80 proof. D+

Black Button Distilling Bespoke Bourbon Cream – A whiskey cream liqueur, made with bourbon (whose is unclear, but Black Button doesn’t make any). This is super stuff, easy to drink and loaded up with notes of vanilla and butterscotch, atop a creamy, cake-frosting-like base. Bourbon creams always manage to pack in more flavor than Irish creams, and Black Button’s is no exception. 30 proof. A-

And now for a trio of releases from Filibuster Bourbon. These are each aged for four years in new oak, then finished for two years in different types of French oak wine barrels (details follow). (Check the stickers on top to see which is which; the individual bottle labels are otherwise all the same.) Each is 90 proof.

Filibuster Bourbon Finished in 100% Cabernet Sauvignon Barrels – Lively, with sweet butterscotch, milk chocolate, and vanilla custard notes. The finish sees some baking spice and red pepper, making for a supple and sultry sugar bomb of an experience. A-

Filibuster Bourbon Finished in 100% Chardonnay Barrels – A big surprise — this one is far racier up front, with lots more of that peppery character and a more powerful baking spice element. The finish sees the spice fading and the sweeter elements enduring more clearly, making for a distinctly different, but equally compelling, experience. A-

Filibuster Bourbon Finished in 60% Cabernet Sauvignon/40% Chardonnay Barrels – Is this the sweet spot? While still rather heavy on the pepper notes up front, the whiskey fades a bit after that rushing attack, becoming a bit dull in tone across a somewhat gummy body. The finish is soft and a bit flabby — a big surprise considering the pedigree of its lineage. Proof that the whole can indeed be less than the sum of a whiskey’s parts. B+

mashandgrape.com

Recipe: Lavazza Coffeetail No. 51

Lavazza Coffetail No 51

Lavazza is an Italian coffee, and its producer came up with this concoction — which makes an unlikely pairing of cold brew coffee concentrate and ginger ale. Let’s give it a spin!

Lavazza Coffeetail No. 51
3 parts ginger ale
2 parts cold brew coffee concentrate
2/3 part vodka
Lavazza Coffeetail No 51 ingredientssplash of Grand Marnier
splash of simple syrup
sliced lemon or orange and cucumber
Maraschino cherries
fresh mint if desired

Fill a 12 oz. glass with ice. In a shaker, combine cold brew, Grand Marnier, vodka and syrup; pour over the ice. Top with ginger ale. Decorate with wheel or slices of orange and/or a lemon. Skewer cherries and cucumber wedge. Garnish with mint.

This cocktail is light and refreshing with an immediate coolness from the ginger ale fizziness and cucumber. It tastes similar to a sweetened iced tea, though the coffee notes from the espresso we used came through in the middle. While perfect for an evening of glitz and glamour (it was designed for the recent Golden Globes), it would make an equally lovely cocktail for a summertime outdoor barbecue.

Recipes: Dessert Drinks with Kerrygold Irish Cream

Macchiato Martini

Kerrygold Irish Cream is the latest Irish cream liqueur on the market, and these two cocktails presented by the company are both delightful and worth checking out.

The Macchiato Martini will please those chocolate lovers among us. We like the idea of chocolate syrup because you can customize the chocolate to the imbiber — milk chocolate versus dark chocolate and how heavy they prefer either. A nice touch would be to add a dessert-like stick as a stirrer, such as a Pepperidge Farm Creme Filled Pirouette Rolled Wafer instead of the cookie crumbles. If you want to kick it up a notch, add an ounce of vodka.

Macchiato Martini
1 oz. Kerrygold Irish Cream Liqueur
1 shot espresso
1/2 oz. chocolate syrup

Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain the ingredients into a martini glass with no ice. Garnish with chocolate cookie crumbles.

The Butter Me Up cocktail will certainly butter up any fan of ice cream. Sweet and creamy, all it needs is a slice of cake on the side to turn it into a perfect birthday style celebration.

Butter Me UpButter Me Up
From The Blind Pig Speakeasy, Dublin
1 oz. Kerrygold Irish Cream Liqueur
1/2 oz. vanilla liqueur
1/2 oz. butterscotch liqueur
1 oz. fresh cream
1 scoop vanilla ice cream

Shake all of the ingredients with ice. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with 1/2 of a strawberry. (Why a half? Heck, go ahead and toss the whole strawberry in there, then enjoy!)

Recipe: Two Cocktails with Patron XO Café Liqueur

Patron Tequila is a favorite of many drinkers, so we whipped up a pair of their recommended cocktails featuring two tequilas from the Patron XO Café collection:  Patron XO Café Coffee and Patron XO Café Dark Cocoa. Both are luscious and would fit in as an after dinner drink or served with dessert.

The first is called Baby Stout. It is a very simple drink but packs in the flavor. The coffee flavors are sweet and strong like dark coffee, tasting like a creamy Irish cream espresso. Take a sip, roll it across your tongue to warm up the mouth and you’ll be ready for more.

Baby Stout
1 oz. Patron XO Café Coffee Tequila
.5 oz. Irish cream liqueur

Pour the Patron XO Café Coffee into a shot glass and chill. (You can also chill the Patron on its own first.) Top off with Irish cream so that it resembles a miniature glass of stout beer and serve.

The second recipe is Jalisco Coffee Swizzle. It calls for the Patron XO Café Coffee. Instead, we used Patron XO Café Dark Cocoa. Wonderfully sweet, the coffee tones blend through to the finish as the underlying chocolate joins in the pleasure. This one is recommended for the mocha lovers of the world.

Jalisco Coffee Swizzle
1.75 oz. Patron XO Café Dark Cocoa Tequila
1 oz. spiced sugar syrup  (We made our own with equal parts of sugar and water, then added cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg before boiling to dissolve the sugar. Be sure to let it cool before using.)

Add both ingredients to an old fashioned glass, add crushed ice, and stir with a cinnamon stick. You can also garnish it with orange peel before serving.

Drinkhacker’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

Our ninth year is under our belt, and that means our ninth annual installment of the Drinkhacker holiday gift guide — our “best stuff of the year awards” — is here. As always, the list gives you the lowdown on some of the best-rated products we reviewed over the last 12 months, with at least some eye toward availability and affordability. (Though, as you’ll see, some selections can cost a pretty penny…)

As always, the offerings below comprise a small selection of our favorite wines and spirits from the last year, and there are many other worthwhile products on the market worth considering. Feel free to sound off in the comments with suggestions for alternatives or questions about other categories or types of beverages that might be perfect for gifting.

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! We look forward to providing our guidance on the world of wine, beer, and spirits as we begin our 10th year on the web and approach our 5,000th post! Stay tuned for the appropriate festivities come the big anniversary in September 2017.

And don’t forget, for more top gift ideas check out the archives and read our 2015201420132012201120102009, and 2008 holiday guides.

of-1920-rendering-jpegBourbon – Old Forester Whiskey Row Series – 1920 Prohibition Style Bourbon ($60)  As inventory pressures continue to pound bourbon country, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find solid “giftable” bourbon bottlings on the market. Rarities like the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection sell out before they ever hit shelves. This year I’m naming to my top pick something that you ought to have more luck finding, but which is just as good as anything else out there: Old Forester’s most recent Whiskey Row expression, meant to mimic bourbon made during its “medicinal” Prohibition days. Other top tipples: Col. E.H. Taylor Seasoned Wood ($70 on release, $500+ now), Blood Oath Pact No. 2 ($100), Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Brandy Cask Finish ($100, often available for less), and, for the budget-minded, 1792 High Rye Bourbon ($36).

Scotch – Compass Box The Circus ($300) – You want to wow your loved one this year? Give them The Circus, a blend that comes complete with its own infographic outlining all the whiskies inside. It’s a complex but truly outstanding whisky worth every penny. Other top picks for 2016 aren’t going to come cheap, including Chivas Regal Ultis ($200), The Glenlivet Single Cask Edition Pullman Water Level Route ($350), Chieftain’s Linkwood 1997 17 Years Old Oloroso Sherry Finish ($90), and your best bet for an easier-to-find bottling, Glenmorangie Milsean ($130 on release but easy to find for $100 or less).

Other Whiskey – Booker’s Rye “Big Time Batch” ($300 on release) – You know who nailed it this year? Jim Murray! The crazed whiskey critic is known for his outlandishly goofy “best of the year’ picks, but he hit it perfectly with his pick of the first ever release of Booker’s Rye. The bad news: It was already a cult hit, and whatever’s left on the market is going to cost you at least $600 a bottle. More sensible options include Redemption Aged Barrel Proof Straight Rye 8 Years Old ($90), High West’s latest release of Bourye ($80), and Clyde May’s Alabama Style Whiskey Special Reserve 110 Proof ($70), which is lightly flavored with apples in the “Alabama style.”

oregonbarrelagedginbottleworkGin – Big Bottom Oregon Gin Finished in Oak Whiskey Barrels ($38) – We’ve been drowning in gin this year, which means there’s plenty of solid and unique bottlings to choose from on the market. My top pick is this one from our pals at Big Bottom, which is aged solera-style and is perfect for wintertime sipping thanks to a fun holiday spice character. For unaged expressions, check out Graton Distilling D. George Benham’s Sonoma Dry Gin ($40) or Spain’s Gin Mare ($38).

Vodka  Stolichnaya Elit Vodka ($47)  It’s more than just a fancy bottle; Stoli Elit is very good vodka, too. Beyond that, check out Vikre Lake Superior Vodka ($35) or Hangar 1 Mandarin Blossom Vodka ($35), one of the best citrus vodkas around.

Rum – Angostura Caribbean Rum 1824 12 Years Old ($60)  Great rum needn’t break the bank. Angostura 1824 is a top-notch 12 year old with all kinds of versatility. Plantation Rum Extra Old 20th Anniversary ($43) and Ron Zacapa 23 ($48) both make for awesome alternatives.

martell-blue-swift-largeBrandy – Martell Blue Swift ($50) – Martell wasn’t the first to put brandy into whiskey barrels to develop a more sophisticated, deeper flavor, but it is doing the best at it at the moment. This expression is gorgeous and cheap when it comes to Cognac. Another great, budget option is Gilles Brisson’s VSOP, a steal at $35. For the other direction, consider Hardy Noces d’Albatre “Rosebud” ($2250), one of the most exquisite sips I had this year.

Tequila – Tequila Herradura Seleccion Suprema Extra Anejo ($340) – Tons of great tequila hit this year, but I have to give the nod to Herradura and its extra anejo bottling of Seleccion Suprema, a luscious experience that every tequila lover needs to try. A smattering of top agave alternatives across the price board includes Pasote Reposado ($59), Mezcalero Release #16 Don Valente Angel Mezcal ($96), Milagro Tequila Select Barrel Reserve Anejo ($100), and Asombroso Ultrafino The Collaboration Barrel 1 ($2500).

cynar 70Liqueur – Cynar 70 ($37/1 liter) – Cynar gets a proof upgrade and a flavor boost in this new edition, which I think is an even better rendition of this classic amaro. I also can’t stop raving about Grand Poppy ($30), another amaro. Iichiko Bar Fruits Yuzu Liqueur ($11/375ml) is also highly worth picking up, as is Few Spirits Anguish & Regret Liqueur ($30), a unique spiced liqueur.

Wine  A smattering of giftable picks for the wine-lover in your life, with California showing incredibly strongly in 2016.

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

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

Review: Granny’s Gingerbread Cream

Step aside Irish creams and pumpkin-flavored liqueurs. Now you’ve got a new holiday liqueur to contend with: Granny’s Gingerbread Cream.

This is a new product from the Lousiana-based Sazerac company, “made with natural vanilla flavor and heavy creams sourced from Vermont dairies.”

The nose initially comes across as more of a crusty holiday bread — a nutty banana bread or fruitcake — or perhaps a gingersnap cookie, with a distinctly toasty note to it. On the palate, the gingerbread character evolves more fully, offering a ginger and baking spice note that has a strong resemblance to gingerbread, with perhaps the addition of some apples and orange peel — the fruit making a clearer showing on the finish. As expected, the vanilla-scented liqueur is both creamy and sweet, but it’s restrained on both fronts, ensuring your mouth doesn’t end up coated with gunk after you polish off a glass.

The label alone would make this completely suitable for your holiday dessert cart, but the authentic and fun flavor profile seals the deal.

25 proof.

B+ / $13 / sazerac.com

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