Review: Captain Morgan LocoNut

Captain Morgan Loconut
A new seasonal take on Captain Morgan’s Cannon Blast is this summer 2017 release, called LocoNut. When it arrived, the scent of coconut wafted up from the box. Yes, the familiar round bottle is dressed up like a cracked open coconut, and even the bottle is scented — but not in the way you typically smell coconut in sunscreen and hair products. This is a fragrant, mouthwatering tantalization of your senses. It actually makes you want to open it right up.

Caribbean rum, spices, and coconut liqueur make up this white spirit. The spicy flavors of cloves, cinnamon, and cassia bark are present, but they all take a back seat to the very sweet coconut. It may be too sweet for some people and could possibly negate the need for simple syrup when used in a cocktail.

Captain Morgan recommends serving LocoNut as a chilled shot, and we also found it works wonderfully on the rocks and in cocktails. Still, you can ramp it up with other spirits in your glass, and Captain Morgan’s recommended cocktails pair it with other alcohols like whiskey or, of course, regular Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum. All work well.

Bottom line: It may not be classy, but if you like coconut, you’ll find this liqueur a winner.

40 proof.

A / $15 / captainmorgan.com

Book Review: Whisky Rising

Obsessive Japanese whisky fans are no doubt familiar with the writing of Stefan Van Eycken via his website, Nonjatta. It was one of the first and most comprehensive resources on Japanese whisky available on the internet, and Van Eycken and his intrepid staff diligently scour the island for the rarest of bottles. They have even curated a few highly coveted limited editions of their own.

The product of over a decade’s worth of intensive research and scholarship, Whisky Rising is an immersive, nearly intimidating 400 pages of reviews, recipes, history and infographics beautifully presented with considered layout and design choices. Van Eycken’s writing style makes it easy to get lost in the rich amount of information provided. Each chapter is informative without relying heavily on the stylings of academic prose.

The biggest obstacle of Whisky Rising is the relatability of its content. Not any fault of Van Eycken’s, but the collective availability of these rare and precious bottles stateside presents a massive degree of unintended difficulty to anyone actually hoping to taste these spirits. Many of these gems only pop up via auctions or private sales. Even basic entry-level expressions are scarce in public supply, especially when compared to the availability of single malt, bourbon, and other whiskies. Demand for Japanese whisky is currently at fever pitch, and there appears to be no remedy to meet market cravings anytime in the foreseeable future. Unless reading while overseas or the beneficiary of an amazing retail resource, Whisky Rising reads less as a reference guide and more like a holiday wish catalog, future vacation planner, or adventurous bucket list.

Probably the most in-depth almanac on Japanese whisky ever committed to the English language, it is everything you would ever possibly care to know about Japanese whisky, but didn’t know to ask. Between this and Dominic Roskrow’s excellent Whisky Japan, there are few stones left to overturn. Both would serve well on the bookshelf of any hobbyist, casual or serious.

A / $25 / BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON

Review: Cadee Distillery Complete Lineup – Vodka, Gin, Bourbon, Rye, Deceptivus, and Cascadia

Based on the Isle of Whidbey, north of Seattle, Cadee (Gaelic for “pure”) is operated by a family of Scottish ex-pats with a passion for distilling. The distillery offers a wide range of spirits, from vodka to gin to a selection of whiskeys — clearly the focus here, considering the pride it takes in its oak barrel program.

We tasted, well, everything that Cadee makes. Thoughts on the complete lineup follow.

All bottles are individually numbered.

Cadee Distillery No. 4 Vodka – Distilled four times (hence the name) from unspecified grain. This is a prototypical modern vodka, a little mushroomy on the nose but balanced out with marshmallow-like sweetness that is particularly present on the creamy, versatile body. Hints of lemon and milk chocolate give the vodka some nuance, but otherwise it’s a straightforward and simply sweet vodka with mixing on its mind. 80 proof. Reviewed: Batch #2. B+ / $29

Cadee Distillery Gin – Juniper-focused, but botanicals are not disclosed. Reportedly made from an 18th century recipe. This London dry style gin is indeed heavily perfumed with evergreen notes and a touch of forest floor funkiness, but the body offers more interest, with those juniper notes slowly fading to reveal a complex array of flavors that include marzipan, lemongrass, and mandarin oranges. It’s those distinct mandarins that linger on the finish for the long haul, giving this gin a particular uniqueness that merits exploration. 88 proof. Reviewed: Batch #6. A- / $36

Cadee Distillery Intrigue Gin – This is a distinct and separate gin expression, “full of character and botanicals, with a subtle citrus focus.” The mandarin notes from the standard gin are stronger here, particularly on the nose, which ride along with grapefruit and banana notes, plus some lime. That lime paints the way to the palate, which continues the heavily citrus (not at all “subtle”) theme, with more grapefruit and lemon notes, along with a healthy grind of black pepper and a touch of mint. For fans of fruit-forward vodka, this is a pretty and aromatic gin worth picking up. 88 proof. Reviewed: Batch #6. A / $36

Cadee Distillery Bourbon Whiskey – Aged in new, charred American oak barrels for a minimum of just eight months, but you could’ve fooled me. This is young whiskey, but it has a depth and maturity that I never see in craft bourbons. While the up-front speaks of buttered popcorn and salted caramel, what follows is a character that would indicate much more seriousness: ample vanilla, chocolate malt, some match-head barrel char, and hints of roasted meats, cloves, and a soothing, rye-like baking spice character on the finish. The up-front, grain-heavy character makes a subtle showing on said finish, alongside some notes of hemp rope and, at the very end, hints of sweet Sauternes wine. Kooky fun. 84 proof. Reviewed: Batch #4. B+ / $43

Cadee Distillery Rye Whiskey – Same aging regimen as the bourbon, but with a rye mash. This one’s not as successful as the bourbon, with much less maturity — which is understandable given that, well, it’s not terribly mature. Sugary cereal plays with some weedy and mushroomy notes on the nose, with a slight undercurrent of lemon peel. On the palate, it’s quite sweet but otherwise similar, with a continued focus on grain and earthier elements. The finish is on the tough side, though a lot of brown sugar sweetness hangs on well after the granary notes fade. 84 proof. Reviewed: Batch #3. C+ / $39

Cadee Distillery Deceptivus – This is essentially Cadee’s bourbon, finished (for an unstated amount of time) in first-fill Port barrels. (Real Port from Portugal, not some weird Washington “Port.”) The nose has that telltale winey fruitiness, all plums, prunes, and raisins, with a smattering of Christmas spices behind it, plus a hint of caramel corn. The palate is sweetish without being overblown, fruity without tasting like jam. It’s hard to go wrong with Port finishing, and here the wine and whiskey notes come together to create a dessert-like spirit that balance one another with notes of brown sugar, rum raisin ice cream, cinnamon sticks, roasted almonds, cocoa nibs, and lingering dark chocolate notes. One to pick up, for sure. 85 proof. Reviewed: Batch #6. A- / $49

Cadee Distillery Cascadia – The Port-finished version of the standard rye. The whiskey has a lovely, pinkish hue to it. Even the Port can’t tamp down the grain here, which is just as cereal-focused as the unfinished version, a bit leaden with notes of hemp and wet earth, plus overtones of menthol. The palate is more of a success, layering in fruit atop the cereal, here showcasing lighter notes of strawberry and grape jelly, some orange oil, and a slightly sour rhubarb edge. Again, the finish is boldly sweet, though not so overpowering as to make one grimace. 87 proof. Reviewed: Batch #3. B / $50

cadeedistillery.com

Book Review: Amaro: The Spirited World of Bittersweet, Herbal Liqueurs

Brad Thomas Parsons is no stranger to bitter herbal liqueurs. He took the craft cocktail scene by storm with his 2011 book Bitters: A Spirited History Of A Classic Cure All, and taught the common drinker how to properly use those little brown bottles behind the bar. Not happy with showing only one side of the spectrum, he now delves into drinkable bitters in his new book Amaro: A Spirited History Of Bittersweet, Herbal Liqueurs. It is a guide to the complex area of aperitifs, fernets, and herbal based spirits that explains how these once medicinal tonics have become some of the most consumed alcoholic beverages around the world.

Parsons first explores the origins of these pungent beverages, which can be traced back to the medieval age where monks and friars were experimenting with the restorative powers of herbs and other botanicals. In preparation for the large list of examples in the book,  a short course on how to appreciate the various styles goes over the many ways one can drink them. The list itself is broken into sub-categories for ease of reference, and includes plenty of tasting notes, exploratory histories, and information about ingredients and recipes.

A large section of the book focuses on the vast amount of cocktails being made with these restorative tonics around the world. The negroni and other classic amaro-based drinks are covered, as well as a whole series of modern-day concoctions that include spirits such as mezcal and single malt whisky. Parsons also injects his own musings and stories into the descriptions of the 91 individual recipes that explain the inspiration behind many of them.

The book ends with a do it yourself section that explains the finer points of making your own amaro at home, and a how to guide for using herbal liqueurs in the kitchen. The DIY portion offers four seasonally inspired recipes that are easy to follow, and mimic different styles of amari. Parsons walks the reader through some of the uncommon ingredients and the best way to acquire them, and discusses the materials you will need and some different techniques to use. The kitchen section offers several amaro-based recipes that focus on dessert items, which plays towards the digestif aspect of these liqueurs and shows the versatility their flavors have to offer. Many of the ingredients are easy to find, and the instructions are simple to follow, which allows the reader to play around with different styles of amari.

Overall, this book is a wonderful introduction to the world of herbal liqueurs. Parsons guides the reader through a dizzying amount of information that demystifies the complex world of amaro, and describes the best ways to enjoy them. He also provides a human element throughout the book that pulls the reader into the lives of those that make and enjoy these eclectic beverages, and sets it apart from a typical cocktail recipe guide.

A / $26 / BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON

Review: Chieftain’s Batch #10 – Linkwood 1991, Glenrothes 1997, Glenturret 1990, Bowmore 2002

A new batch of whiskies from indie bottlers Chieftain’s has turned out six new releases. Today we look at four of them. Thoughts follow.

Chieftain’s Linkwood 1991 24 Years Old – When I think of great, beautiful Speyside whisky, this is what it tastes like. Aged 24 years in (ex-bourbon) hogsheads, this whisky is soft and sweet, with notes of brown sugar, light toffee, subdued oak, and almonds on the nose. The malty but soothing body kicks up some spice notes, with strong secondary notes of Christmassy roasted nuts, and a sharp citrus character on the back end. The finish is surprisingly briny, echoing the malty, nutty notes that roll over the tongue on first blush. It’s a relatively simple whisky, but its just-perfect maturity proves to be quite enchanting. 92 proof. Cask #10369. A / $160

Chieftain’s The Glenrothes 1997 19 Years Old Pedro Ximenez Cask Finish – This PX whisky is a monumental bruiser, and right from the get-go it offers aromas of wood oil, raisins, Port reduction, well-roasted chestnuts, and old, old wood. This is all just a comparatively restrained prelude to the body, which is overwhelming with that PX sherry, which is drying and pungent with notes of dried flowers, jasmine, dried figs, bitter roots, and more of that heady furniture polish character. The finish is lasting but tight, raisiny, and full of funk. Not your father’s Glenrothes, for sure. 106.4 proof. Cask #91822. B / $150

Chieftain’s Glenturret 1990 25 Years Old Pedro Ximenez Cask Finish – Compare the Speyside Glenrothes to the Highland Glenturret, located considerably further to the south. This is a better balanced expression of a PX finished malt, though it is still loaded to the hilt with that PX character. On the nose, it’s thick with spice and oily nuts, raisins and Port wine — but balanced, lacking the astringency of the Glenrothes bottling. The palate is bold and expressive but, again, finding a better balance among notes of chocolate, toasty oak, toffee, and some brown sugar. That racy finish is heady and lengthy, but settles down into a groovy fireside character that keeps you coming back. Cask #91812. A- / $170

Chieftain’s Bowmore 2002 13 Years Old – Saving the peat for last, this a classic Bowmore aged in bourbon hogsheads. The nose is mild, just hinting at smokiness while keeping its focus more on notes of nuts, roasted grains, dark chocolate, and maple. The palate kicks off the peat character in earnest, with notes of fresh peat, lightly sweet smoke, and a slug of salty iodine, but the finish takes things back to fruit — mainly apples, plus perhaps some white peach notes. This is a rather laid back Bowmore expression that peat freaks may find undercooked — but perhaps is more approachable to the rest of the whisky world. 92 proof. Cask #2096-2097. B+ / $120

ianmacleod.com

Review: 2015 Bodega Chacra Barda Patagonia

This wine hails from the very south of Argentina. A low-alcohol (12.8%), 100% organic pinot noir, it is a classic but surprisingly light-bodied and versatile pinot, with a deft interplay of fresh and dried fruits, gentle florals, citrus peel, and a little milk chocolate. The finish is clean, with just a touch bacon that adds nuance to an otherwise straightforward but intensely enjoyable wine. I’m not embarrassed to say we drank a full bottle of Barda in 90 minutes. No regrets.

A / $30 / kobrandwineandspirits.com

Review: Wyoming Whiskey Single Barrel, Outryder, and Double Cask Limited Edition

Since the 2015 launch of their first whiskey, Small Batch Bourbon, Kirby-based Wyoming Whiskey has made a name for itself in the craft distilling world with a steady release of high-quality offerings that manage to showcase creativity and pack in a lot of complex flavor despite their youth (all are around five years old). A Single Barrel release followed quickly behind the Small Batch, and then in late 2016 the distillery shook things up with a bottled-in-bond, straight American whiskey called Outryder. Most recently, in February 2017, Wyoming Whiskey introduced its first wine cask-finished bourbon, Double Cask Limited Edition.

Thoughts follow on all three of these releases.

Wyoming Whiskey Single Barrel Bourbon – Wyoming Whiskey’s (wheated) Single Barrel Bourbon is naturally chosen from the best of the barrels which are excluded from the Small Batch blend and reportedly yield only about 220 bottles each. At only five years old, each Single Barrel will exhibit different qualities, so variation is to be expected among different bottlings. This bottle has a light copper color. The nose is sweet with hints of brown butter, ginger, and cocoa nibs. The palate is rock candy sweet and a little thin, but layers of chocolate, citrus, and cloves appear in due course with black pepper and candied ginger rounding out a generous finish. 88 proof. B+ / $60

Wyoming Whiskey Outryder Straight American Whiskey – A departure from the wheated mash of Small Batch and Single Barrel, this bottle is a blend of two different whiskeys, each with a large winter rye component in the mashbill (one is a whopping 48% rye). It also carries the bottled-in-bond label, something rarely seen in the craft whiskey world, which means, among other things, it is at least 4 years old and bottled at 100 proof. The color on Outryder is pale amber. On the nose, there’s sweet toasted coconut and vanilla bean. The palate showcases a gentle rye spice with layers of maple syrup, nutmeg, and raisins along with a surprising and enjoyable pineapple note. The long finish is where most of the spice emerges along with some subtle orange zest. For their first foray into rye-forward whiskey, this one is a true winner from the folks in Kirby. 100 proof. A- / $60

Wyoming Whiskey Double Cask Limited Edition – The latest addition to the Wyoming Whiskey line-up is probably its best yet. For Double Cask Limited Edition, the same five year wheated bourbon in the Small Batch and Single Barrel is given a healthy dose of finishing in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks and bottled at 100 proof. The result is a surprisingly rich and flavorful spirit that begins with its beautiful mahogany color (imparted largely from the wine cask). The nose explodes with dried fruit, fig, and candied apricot. The palate is like a rich, sweet breakfast of pancakes covered in dark berries and buttery, vanilla syrup with hints of black raisins and candied orange peel. The finish is long and warming with fading notes of fresh-ground cinnamon. 100 proof. A / $60

wyomingwhiskey.com

-->