Review: Cooper River Petty’s Island Rums and Cooper & Vine Brandy

Cooper River Distillers is the first legal distillery in Camden, NJ — ever! This outfit produced its first product, a rum, in 2014, and since then it’s been adding more rum expressions, brandy, and whiskey. We received a variety pack from the company — three rums and its brandy — and put them all to the test in the writeups that follow.

Cooper River Petty’s Island Rum – Pot-distilled white rum (unaged) made from a “custom blend of molasses.” Funky and pungent, but with a distinct sweetness underneath the initial notes of leather and burlap. It’s not the usual tropical fruit character but rather a floral-driven note that evokes notes of hibiscus, grapefruit peel, and cinnamon-scented tapioca. Lots going on, with a somewhat muddy direction. 90 proof. B- / $25

Cooper River Petty’s Island Driftwood Dream Spiced Rum – Take the Petty’s Island white rum base, “then we age it on toasted applewood for a month, add all-natural cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, ginger, coffee, and allspice before finally sweetening Driftwood Dream just a tad with the same molasses we use as the base for all of our rums.” Incredibly dark color, and the molasses added comes through immediately. This, and some ginger notes, overwhelm all the other flavors, though a hint of coffee on the finish is both fun and quite unique spiced rum. Gingersnap in a bottle — that’s the gist — with a boozy edge. The more I sip on this, the more I fall in love with it. 80 proof. A / $32

Cooper River Petty’s Island Rum Rye Oak Reserve – Here’s the white rum aged for 13 to 16 months in charred, white oak barrels previously used for Cooper’s rye whiskey. Though amber in color, it’s still quite brash. Butterscotch notes hit the nose, along with hints of coconut and plenty of ethanol heat. On the palate, the raw alcohol notes tend to dominate, incompletely covering up the funky underpinnings of the white rum, thick with raw forest floor notes, pungent tobacco, and just a hint of spice — the only real indication of the rye whiskey barrel. 90 proof. B- / $39

Cooper River Cooper & Vine Garden State Brandy – Lastly, this is a brandy (made from New Jersey-sourced pinot grigio wine) that is aged for about 18 months in 15 gallon barrels — some new oak, some previously used for Cooper’s rum and rye — all blended together in the end. This is a rustic, very young brandy that is loaded with simplistic granary notes, raw alcohol, and blunt fruit notes, the finish offering heat and plenty of vegetal overtones. Nothing much to see at this young age. 85 proof. Reviewed: Batch #1. C- / $37

cooperriverdistillers.com

Review: 2014 Raymond Reserve Selection Cabernet Sauvignon

Under the relatively recent ownership of Jean-Charles Boisset, Raymond has emerged as a jewel in the California crown of this enfant terrible of the winemaking world.

In honor of the winery’s 40th anniversary, Boisset has pulled out all the stops, bottling this Reserve Collection cabernet with a red, crushed velvet label. (Visit Raymond or at least click the link above and this will make more sense.) The blend is 92% cabernet sauvignon, 4% petit verdot, 2% petite sirah and 2% malbec.

Congrats to the Raymond family… Here’s a look at where 40 years of winemaking have taken them.

This wine is, as expected, a massive undertaking from the start — a bit of a bruiser, even. Give it some time — or consider decanting, if you’re drinking it young — as it opens with closed off notes of cloves, licorice, and oak, all layered over dense notes of cassis underneath. A healthy amount of air and time let this wine’s many charms finally emerge, revealing themselves in the form of blackberry jam, blueberry, baking spices, and vanilla syrup. There’s some tannin on the back end, even with air, but given some time this reveals itself as a real crowd-pleaser, approachable but complex enough to merit deeper discussion.

A / $40 / raymondvineyards.com

Review: Spytail Black Ginger Rum

Rum from France? Who knew? Biggar & Leith is an independent spirits merchant that brings us this unique product, a Caribbean rum that is aged with fresh ginger root and spices in the barrel. Based on a 19th century French recipe, the aging, spicing, and blending all takes place at a small family distillery in the Cognac region. Caramel color is added (and it’s a dark spirit), per the label.

What’s a Spytail? Says the company, “Spytail is named after a legendary submarine — plans for which were discovered by our distillers. The first mechanical submarines in the world were invented in France — and tested on the Charente River which flows nearby our distillery. These were the submarines which Jules Vernes used as the inspiration for his famous novel — 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

As for the rum, they ain’t lying about the ginger. This is powerful, loaded with fresh ginger notes, starting with a powerful punch of the stuff on the nose. Secondary notes of vanilla and cloves can’t hold a candle to the bold ginger character, which creates a headily aromatic attack from the get-go. You almost have to recover to really dig into the palate, which — you guessed it — is filled with ginger character as well. Here the pungency from the ginger melts into notes of chocolate, caramel, coconut, and some raisin character… all very lush and exotic, but tempered by the ginger spice, which lingers for ages as the finish develops.

This is fun stuff, miles away from your Captain Morgan, and something anyone who professes to be a spiced rum fan needs to pick up, pronto.

84 proof.

A / $20 / biggarandleith.com

Review: Blood Oath Bourbon Whiskey Pact No. 3 2017

The third installment of Luxco’s annual Blood Oath series, Pact No. 3, was released in March of this year, and as with previous releases it’s a product of significant creativity. Like Pact No. 1 and Pact No. 2 before it, this release is a blend of three different rye-heavy bourbons ranging in age from seven to twelve years old.

Pact No. 3 is nothing if not rye-forward, with all of the component bourbons in the latest release having a high rye mashbill, although the exact rye content is not specified. Building on the success of last year’s blend, which included a Port-finished whiskey, one of the bourbons in Pact No. 3 is finished in cabernet sauvignon barrels. Wine cask finishing is still not common in the bourbon world, and the use of cabernet sauvignon casks is even rarer (only Jefferson’s Reserve Groth Reserve comes to mind). Luxco partnered with Swanson Vineyards in Napa Valley to procure the wine barrels for this release, and according to the creator of Blood Oath, John Rempe, the use of this particular type of wine cask allowed for the creation of “more character and depth” in the resulting bourbon.

I have to agree with Rempe. This whiskey packs character and depth aplenty. On the nose, Pact No. 3 shows notes of brown sugar, caramel, and stewed red fruit with just a slight mint quality underneath it all. The palate is rich and oily with oak, vanilla, tons of chewy caramel, and subtle dark chocolate. The rye spice only really arrives on the back end, but it adds a wonderful richness to the finish, which is long and warming with lingering black cherry and cinnamon notes.

Although Blood Oath remains a sourced product, Luxco’s new distillery in Bardstown, Lux Row Distillers, will soon begin producing and aging future releases for the line. If they make whiskey as well as they source and blend it, we all have a lot to look forward to.

98.6 proof. 30,000 bottles produced.

A / $100 / bloodoathbourbon.com

Review: 2013 Beaulieu Vineyard Rarity and 2013 Georges de Latour Cabernet Sauvignon (and More) with Winemaker Jeffrey Stambor

We’ve been fans of Beaulieu Vineyard for years, but after nearly three decades at the winery, winemaker Jeffrey Stambor is passing the reins to someone else. Trevor Durling takes over now, and he’s faced with the mighty task of producing high-quality wine at an operation with 117 years of history behind it.

Recently I met both Stambor and Durling in San Francisco to taste a very special release: BV Rarity, the fifth ever release of this wine, and the first ever bottled as a Cabernet Sauvignon (the rest were field blends). 2013 Rarity began its life as a sub-selection of the highly regarded Georges de Latour Cabernet Sauvignon bottling (which is also reviewed below), and is bottled only in magnums (and carries a four-figure price tag).

Thoughts on everything tasted at our hour-long meetup follow.

1975 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Cabernet Sauvignon – Well here’s a fun way to start the day, with a 42 year old bottle of cab. Brick red and well oxidized, this is a delicate and quite faded wine with notes of Madeira, lilacs, jasmine, and walnut oil. Austere with amontillado sherry notes and ample, old wood character, it fades from leather to motor oil to, ultimately, just a hint of fruit — blueberries, mainly. Moments of genius remain in this wine, but they’re incredibly fleeting and available only to those with ample patience. B+ / $120

2012 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Clone 4 – This is a semi-experimental wine designed to test the vinification viability of a single clone of a cabernet grape, in this case Clone 4. The nose is full of chocolate and boysenberry, with a palate bold with vanilla, cocoa powder, walnuts, and currants. Lots of grip, but a worthwhile endeavor. B+ / $165

2012 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve  Clone 6 – Now consider another clone, Clone 6: This wine is so much softer and well rounded, with rich blueberry and cassis giving the wine a lively but fruit-forward structure. Chocolate and caramel sauce notes grow in time. You can see the family resemblance with the Clone 4 bottling, but here the wine is elevated to another level. A / $165

2013 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Cabernet Sauvignon – The 77th vintage of this wine, it’s a bold cabernet but lively and surprisingly ready to drink today. Immediately familiar (see our reviews of 2006 and 2010 GdL), with a clear menthol nose to it, it offers chocolate sauce and caramel (hints of Clone 6?), silky tannins, spice, and more — and has plenty of life left in the bottle for those who want to wait a few years. A- / $100

2013 Beaulieu Vineyard Rarity – Immediate notes of earthy terroir and an incredible amount of tannin hit the senses immediately, yet some acidity is detectable beneath the surface. There’s so much potential here, bound up in the dense currants and delectable notes of roasted meats, supple oak, and stony backbone that it’s hard to fairly judge today. Stambor’s best guess is to drink this seven to 15 years from now; it’s a bit unfair to guess at a rating today, but such is the work of a critic… A / $1000 (magnum)

bvwines.com

4 Vinho Verde Wines Reviewed: Afectus, Quinta do Ferro, Varanda do Conde, and Vilacetinho

Vinho verde is the delightful white wine from Portugal’s far northern region of Minho plus areas south of there — crisp, lively (it’s called verde because it tastes “green”), and — most importantly — incredibly inexpensive. A wide variety of grapes are used in the production, so keep a close eye on the label to see what you’re getting.

These low-alcohol wines, as low as 10% abv, are real crowd pleasers that pair well with anything but, most of all, are designed for easy drinking, on their own, in warmer weather.

Like, you know, right now.

Thoughts follow.

2013 Afectus Vinho Verde Branco – 75% lourciro, 15% trajadura, 10% arinto. Classic vinho verde structure, with tons of minerals, some dried herbs, lemon peel, and just a bit of sweetness to round things out. Vibrant and incredibly drinkable at a mere 11.5% alcohol, it’s the perfect wine to kick off summer. A / $11

2015 Quinta do Ferro Vinho Verde – 100% arinto. A more rustic wine, with significant herbal notes finding compatriots in notes of kumquat and lime, and a finish that offers notes of figs and lively acid. There’s a lot going on here — more than in the Afectus — but it doesn’t gel quite as beautifully, the herbal/citrus peel combo lingering a bit too long on the back of the throat. A- / $NA

2013 Varanda do Conde Vinho Verde – 70% alvarinho, 30% trajadura. A more buttery style of wine, made largely from the Spanish classic albarino (same thing as alvarinho), it drinks a bit like a chardonnay, with lemons and peaches melding into vanilla-dusted cream. More food friendly than aperitif-styled, with just a hint of a bitter edge on the finish. B+ / $10

2015 Vilacetinho Vinho Verde – Made from avesso, arinto, and azal e loureiro grapes (proportions unknown). Another brisk bottling, very lemony and acidic, with some pickling spice notes. The finish evokes lime peel and a bit of herbal bitterness. On the whole, though, it’s fresh and vibrant, and easy to sip on no matter what the environs. A paltry 10% abv. B+ / $8

Review: Blue Moon White IPA and Mango Wheat

Blue Moon is nearly ubiquitous in American bars — and it’s about to get even more of a presence via these two new expressions, arriving just in time for summer.

Blue Moon White IPA – Summer beers often prove a challenge to breweries. The humidity and high heat in much of the country preclude people from drinking heavy, high alcohol beers and instead they look for beers that are refreshing, light and ones that can be enjoyed in multiple at a picnic or the beach. This beer deserves a permanent place in your cooler.

Even though it is brewed year round, this White IPA from Blue Moon Brewing certainly fits the bill as a great summer beer. Pale gold in color, the initial nose is citrus and spice, with little of the bitter aroma sometimes associated with an IPA. The first taste is citrus, and as it continues there is a very nice taste of honeydew, present because of the use of Huell Melon hops. The beer finishes with a hint of very pleasant bitterness, and then lingers with a slight taste of honeydew with no bitterness remaining. This IPA is approachable, friendly, and very enjoyable.

This is an excellent beer that really stretches the definition of what the style can be. A style combination of American IPA and Belgian Wit, this beer is free of much of the bitterness often associated with IPAs, and will appeal to drinkers who usually don’t reach for an IPA. Its perfect balance and crisp, citrus flavor make this beer an excellent accompaniment to nearly any cuisine, but is particularly well suited for the food of China and Japan. 5.9% abv. A / $9

Blue Moon Mango Wheat – A seasonal release from Blue Moon, this summer-centric mango wheat beer can easily find a place in your cooler if you’re headed out for a day at the beach. At a very low 19 IBUs, this beer drinks like a soda despite its 5.4% abv. The pale amber color evokes the fruit the beer is made with, even though the beer is slightly cloudy, as it’s still a wheater. The scent of mango is is present even from a distance. At first nosing it deeply, mango is all you sense and this continues through the first taste. There is very little carbonation, and the beer is very sweet with very little bitterness. Because of the low carbonation, the beer feels a little heavy on the tongue and is slightly cloying. The beer finishes with mango and honey; the sweetness lingering without the balance of any bitterness. The lack of balance in this beer is a little surprising, as many other fruit beers seem to balance the sweetness a little more evenly. Despite its faults, this beer could go very well with anything spicy you might be enjoying.

It’s also very sweet and would function as an excellent mixer for shandies and other summer beer focused cocktails. Mango Wheat would also make a great marinade base for fish or poultry, as the sweetness combined with the wheat should develop into a beautiful flavor when grilled. Just be sure to add citrus for balance. 5.4% abv. B- / $NA

bluemoonbrewingcompany.com

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