Review: Starr Hill Summer 2017 Releases – Resinate, Festie, Sublime, The Hook, Warehouse Pils, Grateful, and The Love

Starr Hill’s (late) summer beers are now in full effect — today we look at a full seven varieties, including four appearing in a mixed case of cans for the first time. Let’s take a spin!

Starr Hill Resinate Imperial Red IPA – If “resin” is the operative term here, Starr Hill sure got this one right. Sticky, almost syrupy, this beer offers a maple, raisin-soaked attack before hitting you with a slug of bitterness — chewy, almost chocolaty, resin with a whiff of pine needles behind it. A hearty beer that will fit better come cooler weather. 7.7% abv. B

Starr Hill Festie Oktoberfest Lager – A classic German-style amber lager, fairly heavy on the carbonation with notes of dates, nuts, and a mash-up of baking spices. Warming and toasty, it’s by and large a hit for a beer of this style, though the malt feels a bit overdone on the finish. 4.8% abv. B+

Starr Hill Sublime Citrus Wit – If you like your wheat beers nice and orangey, Citrus Wit is for you. Lots of coriander back up a healthy dosing of citrus peel, giving it an intensely spicy, almost middle Eastern feel. Whether it lives up to its name is up to you. 4.7% abv. B

These four were all reviewed from cans (though they’re also available in bottles).

Starr Hill The Hook Grapefruit Session IPA – Not my favorite session IPA, this is a weak entry into an increasingly crowded field that comes off as watery and only hinting at any fruit, let alone grapefruit. Rather bready, with an herbal edge, the characteristic pine resin and citrus are decidedly lacking. Not there yet. 4.9% abv. C+

Starr Hill Warehouse Pils – A classic German pilsner, this burly lager goes beyond the typically barley-led basics and offers overtones of roasted meats, coriander, and green vegetables. A nicely dry finish helps even things out a bit. 5.5% abv. B-

Starr Hill Grateful Pale Ale – “Remastered” for 2017 with a new recipe to modernize the beer with a revamped hop bill and more malt. Good decisions all around: The new version of the beer bursts with hops without being overwhelming, with lemony citrus, gentle caramel, a dusting of spice, and some amaro notes all adding complexity. 4.7% abv. A-

Starr Hill The Love Wheat Beer – A moderately bodied hefeweizen, this isn’t the most distinguished of wheat beers, very heavy on the grain, with a subtext of apples and a significant amount of coriander. Fine, but “love” might be too strong a term. 5.1% abv. B-

each about $15 per 12-pack / starrhill.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: Jura 10 Years Old

Is it peated? Unpeated? Sherried? This new 10 year old single malt from Jura (located on the eponymous island next door to Islay) is all three. Here’s some info on this brand new expression:

Jura Whisky today announced the launch of Jura 10, an exceptional Island Single Malt Scotch Whisky and the first release in Jura’s new core line for the U.S.  Hailing from one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, this whisky marries peated and unpeated malt with a Sherry cask finish to create a spirit that is a long way from ordinary.

Jura 10 is handcrafted on the Isle of Jura, a rugged, elemental island nestled a few miles off the West Coast of Scotland.  Home to around 200 Islanders, one road, one pub and one distillery, Jura was once described by author George Orwell as the ‘most un-get-at-able’ place due to its remote location. Established in 1810, Jura whisky has been crafted on its island home for over two centuries.

“The launch of the new Jura 10 celebrates our heritage of whisky-making,” said Graham Logan, Jura Distillery Manager.  “The craft of producing great whisky has been at the heart of Jura’s close-knit community for hundreds of years and we look forward to sharing the long-standing traditions and unmistakable flavors of Jura 10’s island home with the world.”

While many distilleries create either peated or unpeated whiskies, Jura 10 marries together the best of both for a truly unique Island Single Malt that is subtly smoky with a sweet Sherry cask finish. It is matured for ten years in American White Oak ex-bourbon barrels with an aged Oloroso Sherry cask finish.

The results are surprisingly excellent.

On the nose, the whisky is light and fragrant, with notes of fresh flowers, gentle cinnamon and nutmeg notes, an undercurrent of fresh grains, and the slightest hint of smoke. Largely standard stuff, aromatically speaking, but it all comes together cleanly and invitingly.

The palate sees the florals bursting — geraniums, orange blossoms, and honeysuckle — before settling into a comfortably sweet groove of caramel and butterscotch, with a backbone of roasted barley. While light and almost playful in its construction — this is far from a brooding, or even a very “serious” single malt — the whisky finally sees its peated element coming to the foreground as the finish develops, though here it’s not a hoary puff of peat smoke but rather gentle hint of the campfire, adding a lightly roasty-toasty element to everything that’s come before.

Dangerously drinkable and more complicated than you’d expect, for 40 bucks (or less in some places) this is a huge win from Jura.

80 proof.

A- / $40 / jurawhisky.com

Review: 2013 Abadia Retuerta Sardon de Duero Seleccion Especial

Ribera del Duero is a well-known Spanish wine region, but Abadia Retuerta chooses not to use that regional name, instead selecting the more flexible “Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y Leon” geographical indication. Though it hails from the same part of the country, Abadia Retuerta’s Sardon de Duero designation lets the winery choose more liberally among grape varieties used in the blend — in this case the wine ends up as 75% tempranillo, 15% cabernet sauvignon, and 10% syrah (plus a minor percentage of other random grapes).

The finished product — a “Sardon de Duero” — is bold and opulent with aromas of cherries, wet fur, hazelnuts, and roasted meats. The palate is lightly herbal and bitter, the cherry core taking on more dried herbal notes and the finish edging toward a balsamic character. Complex and engaging, and an interesting spin on Spain.

A- / $25 / abadia-retuerta.com

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

twistedpathdistillery.com

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 / wildturkeybourbon.com

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 / famille-bougrier.fr

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