Review: Twisted Path Vodka, Gins, and Rums

Twisted Path Distillery can be found in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where it’s been making organic spirits “entirely from scratch” since 2014. The company is churning out a growing line of products from what appears to be a hybrid pot still — again, all certified organic.

We tasted five. Thoughts follow.

Twisted Path Vodka – Grainy on the nose, more akin to a white whiskey than a vodka (though Twisted Path is rather proud of its residual character). Aromatic overtones of burlap and hazelnut shells lead to a palate that is largely in line with what’s come before, though a sweetness emerges in time to give the whole affair a finish that isn’t unlike that of peanut butter. Strange, to be sure. 80 proof. Batch #23. B / $35

Twisted Path Gin – Twisted Path’s vodka, at 100 proof, is infused with “11 organic botanicals including honeybush, cinnamon, and vapor-infused hops.” And yet, all of that doesn’t do much to push the character of the underlying vodka base out of the picture — rustic grains and more of those nut husk notes, which percolate through some lighter secondary notes of pink peppercorns, hints of rosemary, a bit of baking spice, and a final punch that hints at coffee bean. Not a traditional gin by any stretch — with, again, more in common with white whiskey than anything else. 92 proof. Batch #19. B / $35

Twisted Path White Rum – This “slow distilled” rum is a curiosity that steps away from Caribbean styles, folding together that classic white rum funk with some subtler and more refined notes of butterscotch, vanilla, and caramel — none of which you typically see in a rum that hasn’t seen any barrel time. At the same time, its rustic underpinnings are tough to ignore. The finish sees ample petrol notes pushing through and lingering on the tongue. 90 proof. Batch #9. B / $35

Twisted Path Barrel Rested Gin – Batch #1 of Twisted Path Barrel Rested Gin was rested in a once-used, 53-gallon charred American Oak Barrel that previously housed TP’s Dark Rum (see below). Says the company: “This barrel was originally intended for a batch of whiskey but every once in a while we will utilize a raw cask for rum aging. That batch of rum sat for a little over a year and once removed, we filled it with our 11 botanical gin at around 112 proof.  We entered the barrel at slightly lower proof to prevent the rum cask from becoming too dominant.  The gin sat for almost 8 months before bottling.” It’s got a light amber color to it that proves it spent a decent amount of time in oak. That said, there’s no getting away from that grainy, white whiskey-like nose, though the palate finds the botanical bill filtered through caramel into a curious blend of licorice, molasses, and cloves. This is a more interesting spirit than the unaged gin, with a lot going on in it, featuring a sultry finish that is surprising and unique in this space. 92 proof. Batch #1. B+ / $NA

Twisted Path Dark Rum – Here the white rum is aged in whiskey barrels, for an indeterminate time. Designed as a sipping rum, this is the most successful spirit in the lineup. The whiskey barrel aging gives the rum a rounded character not present in the white rum, infusing notes of coffee bean, sweet licorice, nutmeg, and a hint of gunpowder. It’s that licorice that endures the longest — a sweet but unique candy character that hangs on to the finish seemingly forever. I find it enchanting. 90 proof. Batch #19. A- / $38

Review: Wild Turkey Rare Breed (2017)

Rare Breed has always been a unique bird in the Wild Turkey lineup, a small batch cask strength spirit that changes from year to year, and which — curiously enough — has been on the rise when it comes to proof.

Recently Rare Breed underwent a rebranding. Some details:

Wild Turkey has always been exceptionally proud of their award-winning Wild Turkey Rare Breed Bourbon. One of the pioneers of small batch bourbon, Rare Breed is pure barrel proof whiskey, meaning no water is added to reduce the level of alcohol during the bottling process.

In recent years, Rare Breed has been around 112.8 proof but we’re excited to announce that this year’s breed is a little different.

Hitting shelves this spring, the latest Rare Breed expression coming out of the Wild Turkey distillery pours out of the barrel at 116.8 proof. It’s an unapologetic, bold spirit with tones of warm butter scotch and vanilla, and hints of fruit and spices.

And with a bold new proof, comes a bold new bottle (pictured above).

I was fortunate enough to try the 2017 Rare Breed — and compare it to the bottling we reviewed back in 2010 (a half-bottle, now about half full). Thoughts on the new release — and more detailed thoughts on the original as it now stands — follow.

The nose of the 2017 release is distinct with chocolate mint notes, baking spice, plenty of vanilla, and a bit of pepper. On the palate, it’s an awfully hot whiskey, which helps bring out more of the toasty wood notes alongside those almost candylike notes of sweetness. Water won’t hurt ya: It’s a big help in coaxing out notes of flambed banana, toasted marshmallow, and some coconut notes. The finish is a big one: Bursts of caramel sauce, milk chocolate, and a vanilla reprise.

The 2010 Rare Breed — at just 108.8 proof — comes across today as a much different experience, heavy on the nose with funkier notes of tar, menthol (not fresh mint), and tobacco. Though the palate is somewhat softer than the nose would suggest, it still hits the tongue as rustic, heavy with notes of roasted corn, dusky cloves, and eastern spice market notes. All told I like it considerably less, though, again, water helps temper the beast a bit, helping the minty notes come forward more clearly.

116.8 proof.

A- / $39 /

Review: 2015 Bougrier Chenin Blanc “V” Vin de France

Another Vin de France offering — composed of grapes sourced from anywhere in the country — this chenin blanc offers pungent aromas of honeysuckle and grassy notes, leading into a palate of lightly tropical notes, apricots, and a slightly perfumed floral character. The finish is surprisingly acidic and mineral-heavy, slightly sour but otherwise clean and refreshing.

An amazing value.

A- / $10 /

Review: Tullibardine The Murray

To date, Tullibardine has been largely known for its relatively forgettable collection of single malts, many of which are perfectly palatable but a bit lackluster despite exotic cask finishes.

That changes with the release of The Murray, a cask strength malt that easily stands as the best whisky I’ve had from this distillery, despite a youthful age of just 12 years. Some details:

The Murray was distilled in 2004 and bottled in 2016 after maturing entirely in first-fill bourbon casks at the Perthshire distillery. Released as the first whisky in Tullibardine’s Marquess Collection, The Murray is named after Sir William Murray, the 2nd Marquess of Tullibardine, and offers a new flavour profile that draws upon the local lands and waters from around the Ochil Hills. Says Keith Geddes, Master Blender at the distillery, “This is the first release in our Marquess Collection, and also the first of our range to be entirely distilled and matured at cask strength this century.”

Let’s give ol’ Murray a spin.

The nose of The Murray is fantastically engaging, a melange of oily wood, cloves, burnt sugar, cayenne, fresh sugar cookies, and — atop it all — plenty of burly malt. A grassy character emerges with some time in glass, eventually evolving into a sort of lemongrass character. At cask strength of over 56% abv, the palate is on the hot side, though it’s still (mostly) approachable with notes of ripe banana, apricots, and sharp orange peel, the fruit fading a bit as notes of walnuts, toasted bread, and fresh wood take hold.

The whisky can stand up to a ton of water, so don’t be shy. Brought down in heat a bit, it reveals notes of licorice, some petrol, a bit of slate, and more of those cloves, which linger on the finish alongside echoes of the barley.

It’s quite a high-grade whisky at a great price, and The Murray drinks well above its mere 12 years of age.

112.2 proof.


Review: Tito’s Handmade Vodka (2017)

We last reviewed Tito’s Vodka a full ten years ago — when Tito’s didn’t have anywhere near the mindshare that it does today. This was before Tito’s showed up on every cocktail menu. Before the company got sued over the use of “handmade” on its label, the plaintiff arguing that TIto’s is just as industrial as everything else on the liquor aisle.

Well, as it’s been a whopping ten years, we figured a fresh look was in order. Sadly, I’ve no vintage Tito’s (to which I famously gave an A+ rating back in the day) to use for comparison, so consider these notes on this essential vodka — still pot-distilled from a corn mash — all fresh and unfiltered.

Today, the nose is a bit sweeter than I recall, showing some marshmallow notes and a slightly floral character, with overtones of chamomile. The palate is a bit more traditionally medicinal and Old World in style, with a touch of rubbery hospital character followed by hints of lemon peel, grapefruit peel, and powdered ginger. The finish is clean, but sharp on the tongue.

Given the current state of premium vodka and its evolution over the last 10 years, it’s hard to say that Tito’s is still an exemplary vodka worthy of that A+, but it’s still hard to ignore the killer price tag. All told, it’s definitely one to keep on the shelf at home.

80 proof.

A- / $20 /

Review: One Eight Distilling Rock Creek Rye Whiskey and Untitled Whiskey No. 3

Several distilleries have opened in the nation’s capital in recent years, but only One Eight Distilling can claim to have in their Rock Creek Rye the first grain to glass whiskey distilled, aged, and bottled in the District since prohibition. Also in their sizable portfolio are several quality non-barrel-aged spirits, including Ivy City Gin, and a host of sourced whiskeys released through their Untitled series that showcase various experiments with different finishes and proofs.

As the first distillery to bring whiskey back to DC, you wouldn’t expect One Eight to be satisfied with just a rye. Later this fall, they’ll release their own bourbon with plans to introduce single malt into their line-up in the near future. Drinkhacker got its hands on a sample of Rock Creek Rye along with a sample of one of the more unique whiskeys in the Untitled series. Thoughts follow.

One Eight Distilling Rock Creek Rye Whiskey – The nose on this whiskey has a fair amount of toasted cereal owing probably to the high amount of malted rye in the mashbill. There’s a little spearmint in there, as well, and notes of lemony floor polish and honeydew melon. There’s minimal spice or heat on the nose and none of the grassiness typical of younger rye whiskey. It drinks almost like a bourbon, and a nicely balanced one at that. There’s a little raw honey on the front palate followed by some spice, more lemon, and savory baked grain notes — almost like banana bread with a bit of walnut in it. The spice shows up more on the tail end, and cinnamon and vanilla bean round out a gentle, warming finish. In the increasingly crowded world of craft rye whiskey, this one has a lot going for it. 94 proof. A- / $50

One Eight Distilling Untitled Whiskey No. 3 – This whiskey is one of the more interesting in the growing Untitled line-up, and it displays some real creativity. It’s a product of collaboration with DC-based coffee roasters Vigilante Coffee who provided the roasted coffee beans to fill the finishing barrel for an undisclosed amount of time before a sourced six year-old, wheated bourbon was aged in it. The resulting whiskey has a powerful nose of dark chocolate-covered caramel and freshly ground coffee with a little molasses and cardamom lingering in it, too. The palate has great heat on it with bold notes of dark roast coffee and baking cocoa, along with traces of caramel and butterscotch. The finish is surprisingly long — perhaps this is a bourbon best paired with dessert. Still, if One Eight can make a coffee-finished whiskey this good, I’d love to see what they can do with more traditional wine casks. Batch 3, 92 proof. A- / $78

Review: Kimo Sabe Mezcal – Joven and Reposado

Kimo Sabe got started as a brand in 2014, and this affordable mezcal line is finally hitting the U.S. in stride. The company produces three mezcals, two of which are barrel aged in line with standard tequila styles, at present.

We sampled the younger two in the lineup, a joven (aka albedo) and reposado (aka rubedo).

Kimo Sabe Mezcal Joven : Albedo – A classically unaged expression. Quite sweet and lightly smoky on the nose, this is a lighter style of mezcal punctuated with notes of salted caramel, fresh hay, and oily lemon and orange. The palate keeps things largely in line with the nose, though it’s a bit fruitier than expected, with more lemon/lemongrass notes, a slightly malty note to the chipotle-laden smoke as the palate develops, leading to a gently caramel-laced finish. Very easygoing, suitable for any mezcal novice. 86 proof. B+ / $28

Kimo Sabe Mezcal Reposado : Rubedo – Lightly yellow-hued, though no aging information is provided. Quite a different experience, with a comparably closed nose, the focus here is on wood-driven vanilla, butterscotch, and a very light touch of smoke underneath it. The palate is reminiscent of reposado tequila, with virtually no smokiness at all, loaded instead with notes of toasted marshmallow, roasted agaves, and a vanilla-caramel-chocolate note that lingers as the finish quickly develops. Said finish lingers with a dessert-like sweetness, washing away any semblance of smoke, and fading out with a character reminiscent of Christmas, with a vague ginger spice character. 83 proof. A- / $33