Review: Hangar 1 Rose Vodka

Who says there’s no innovation in the world of vodka besides simply dumping in random flavorings until something that tastes like a Jamba Juice comes out?

Hangar 1 Rose is a bit of a new animal: Hangar 1 straight vodka blended with 5% California rose wine. (That’s right, it’s “ros-ay,” not rose petals.) We got a sample, so let’s give this oddball creation a taste.

First off, the nose is initially closer to vodka than wine: tight and astringent at first, with a gentle floral character that emerges after a few seconds. Give it time in glass and notes of strawberry and raspberry emerge, eventually dominating the aromatics. On the tongue, the rose wine element is immediately evident, again heavy with both strawberries and flower petals. At just 30% abv, however, the body of the spirit is quite thin, giving it a somewhat gummy texture at times. Moderately sweet, with a touch of nutmeg evident, the finish is moderately clean but, again, quite floral.

Hmmm, maybe it is “rose” vodka after all.

60 proof.

B / $23 /

Review: Craft Distillers Low Gap 2 Year Old Rye (2018)

Last encountered in 2015, Craft Distillers’ Low Gap Rye was at the time a two-year old whiskey that didn’t seem to be getting any older. As a matter of fact, distiller Crispin Cain is out with a new version of Low Gap Rye and, again, it’s a mere babe at just two years of age.

This expression doesn’t change a whole lot, at least on paper. As with prior batches, this is a malted rye with the addition of some corn and barley, aged in new and used bourbon and Germain-Robin brandy barrels. The proof is just a tick lower, and it’s a bit more expensive, but otherwise this is basically made with the same process.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not a different product… so let’s dig into the 2018 rendition of Low Gap Rye.

For a two year old whiskey, Low Gap Rye really has a surprising level of nuance. It’s not without a rocky start, though the initial aromatics are heavy on the cereal grain, with some pet food notes, a bit of hemp rope, and a briny smoke element.

The good news is that the palate finds a lot more going on, a rich honey character that initially rushes the mouth before sliding into some notes of raisins, coconut, and a little milk chocolate. Some work seems to have been done to round out the finish, which is much more approachable than the 2015 and is actually quite clean. As that finish fades, I get some hints of mint and butterscotch, making this a more complex and interesting spirit than that older version. Definitely worth a dram or two.

87.4 proof. 3900 bottles produced (this batch).

B+ / $75 /

Review: Southern Grace Distilleries Conviction Small Batch Bourbon

Southern Grace Distilleries is a relatively new craft distillery housed in a former North Carolina prison. That’s right. A prison. In late 2016 the distillery released its first small batch bourbon, appropriately named Conviction. The whiskey is made from a mash of 88% corn and 12% malted barley. It’s bottled at cask strength after aging for less than a year in former jail cells at what has come to be known as “Whiskey Prison.” According to the website, Conviction is the first bourbon to ever be (legally) aged behind bars, and while that doesn’t exactly conjure images of quality or fine flavor, we were actually surprised with the final product.

On the nose, Conviction shows the expected dose of cereal notes, but they’re baked and caramelized, not raw or grassy as can often be the case in a young spirit. There’s a pleasant caramel corn sweetness, as well, along with lighter aromas of apple and molasses. The body is sizable given its youth, and it offers a surprising richness of flavor. Again, there are initial grain notes that suggest this whiskey may have escaped from prison too soon, but they evolve quickly into toffee, caramel, baking chocolate, and cola with vanilla frosting and a sprinkling of spice cabinet on a medium-length finish. One of the secrets here, I suspect, is Conviction’s low proof at barrel entry (100 proof) which gives this whiskey a good concentration of flavors for its youth and a very approachable heat, even at cask strength.

In the increasingly crowded world of craft whiskey, it’s getting harder and harder to stand out even with a quality product like Conviction Small Batch Bourbon. I wish I could say that whiskey distilled in a former prison is the pinnacle of gimmick in the world of craft distilling. But I’m sure it’s just the beginning.

97.72 proof.

B+ / $36 /

Review: 2015 Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Rose

I promise there are no typos in the headline to this review. “Kaapse Vonkel” is the name given to all of Simonsig’s sparkling wines, though I remain unclear as to what specifically the phrase refers. Made from 63% Pinot Noir, 35% Pinotage, and 2% Pinot Meunier, this is a lightly pink rose that’s exceedingly dry on the tongue. Notes of rhubarb and orange peel provide a lightly fruity element, but the finish is drying and slightly green, with hints of a bacony note. Though ultimately crisp and refreshing, it may lack enough body to excite some drinkers.

B+ / $17 /

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: NV Gustave Lorentz Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose

Cremant d’Alsace is a perennially underrated sparkling wine, and Gustave Lorentz’s rose bottling is a clear indicator of why you should be drinking more of it. Creamier than Prosecco and drier than Cava, it’s a very fruit-forward wine that’s almost overwhelming with notes of strawberry and raspberry. Some cinnamon-driven notes give it a certain spiciness, while the finish, lightly sweet with a lychee character on the very end. The fruit is fab, but it’s that creaminess that makes Cremant always more fun than perhaps it ought to be.

A- / $24 /

Review: J. Mossman Blended Scotch 12 Years Old, 15 Years Old, and 18 Years Old


That packaging… it’s almost too much. As if it’s designed to distract you from thinking about the whisky inside, right?

Well, rest assured that although these three new releases from new brand J. Mossman look exquisite on the outside, they’re just as good beneath the stopper. All three are blended Scotch whiskies, and they take their name from one Sir J. Mossman, a goldsmith in Edinburgh who was a jeweler to Mary, Queen of Scots. Mossman was the last artisan to work on the Crown of Scotland, back in 1540. Now he’s got a whisky named after him.

Three expressions are on offer; other than the age statements (refreshing these days, no?), there’s no additional production information on how the blends differ. Let’s dive in.

All are bottled at 80 proof.

J. Mossman Gold Crown Blended Scotch Whisky 12 Years Old – There’s an immediate and surprising nuttiness on the nose here; it can come across as slightly musty, but while the underlying grain is evident in the blend, it’s nonetheless fresher and better integrated than you’ll find in most spirits in this age range. The palate has soul. It’s quite savory and drying, to be sure, but the nutty aromas here develop into a rich mahogany note, with hints of old sherry, baking spice, and burnt toast all at play. Just a hint of pie crust sweetness shines through enough to cut the austerity. The finish is on the short side, but compelling in its savory depth. B+ / $45

J. Mossman Platinum Crown Blended Scotch Whisky 15 Years Old – At 15 years old, the whisky has settled down, at least a littly. The heavily nutty nose in the 12 is a bit muted by 15, the aromas taking on more of a mushroom and pasture character. The palate is still extremely dry and is dominated by similar flavor characteristics, though a slightly peppery element comes more to the fore amidst the impact of wood, brown bread, and savory-leaning baking spice. It’s a bit more cohesive as a whisky, but ultimately carries a similar charm. B+ / $54

J. Mossman Pink Gold Crown Blended Scotch Whisky 18 Years Old – Mossman takes things in a new direction with this 18 year old, which finally turns up the sweetness, giving the whisky more of a sense of balance. The nose is surprisingly restrained — more so than either the 12 or the 15 — though notes of camphor and cloves cut through that mild nuttiness that again lingers through the family tree. The palate takes a detour however, offering a healthy and surprising slug of chocolate, more pepper and spice, and a silky vanilla character that lengthens the finish considerably. All of this gives the whisky a bit more heat, but also a creamier quality that makes it far more enjoyable to linger over. A / $60