Review: Slane Irish Whiskey

Remember Slane Castle Irish Whiskey? Of course not. Brown-Forman bought the brand a few years ago, and even then it was hard to find in the U.S. Now it’s been relaunched, rebranded — the “Castle” is now gone, leaving just “Slane” — and a distillery of its own is being build in Ireland.

The current version of Slane is a whole other animal than the old Slane Castle. This one is a blend of malt and grain whiskey — not single pot still, it seems — that is then split up and aged in three different types of casks: Virgin new oak, heavily toasted and lightly charred; oak formerly used for American whiskey; and used Oloroso sherry casks. There’s no age statement on the bottle.

Ultimately all that adds up to a drinkable, if somewhat muddy spirit. New oak is very rare in Irish whiskey, and here you can see why: It really dominates the experience. On the nose, it’s big and grainy, with bold lumberyard notes and a dusky edge of charcoal. Some lighter fruit notes hide out in the background, but they have trouble pushing through the burlier aromas that dominate.

On the palate, wood remains dominant, though here it is filtered through notes of heavily roasted grains, walnuts, cloves, and some orange peel. The overall impression is not one typical of Irish but something closer to blended Scotch, though the finish does offer a hint of honeycomb and lavender that would be unusual in something from Ireland’s neighbor to the east.

80 proof.

B / $30 / slaneirishwhiskey.com

Review: Wines of Edna Valley, 2017 Releases

You’ll find Edna Valley Vineyard in San Luis Obispo in southern California, but this winery sources grapes from all over California, particularly for its low-cost whites and rose. Here’s a look at three such wines to take you out of summer and into fall.

2016 Edna Valley Pinot Grigio California – This pinot grigio offers some fun florals and ample notes of fresh pears, banana, and a touch of nutmeg — which would all be swell if not for a rather gummy body that feels overly doctored, particularly on the strangely chewy finish. B- / $15

2015 Edna Valley Chardonnay Central Coast – This is a big and bold chardonnay, typically California in style, unctuous with notes of vanilla, oak, and brown butter. A hint of lemongrass on the nose does little to cut through the liquid dessert that follows on the tongue, nor can it cut the weighty, overly creamy finish. C+ / $15

2016 Edna Valley Rose California – A mix of Tempranillo, Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre. A simpler wine than the above, appropriately fragrant on the nose with mixed florals and berries, with a very light, almost watery, body that offers a simple strawberry character. The palate is fortunately clean and fresh, the light fragrance giving it a bit of a lift on the back end. B / $18

ednavalleyvineyard.com

Review: Lexington Brewing Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

The gateway to whiskey obsession for fans like myself tends to be beer, usually craft beer. So it’s no wonder that breweries the world over are aging beers in whiskey barrels. While whiskey tends to best complement very dark beers, like stouts, there are a number of lighter barrel-aged beers on the market today. One of the easier to find brews in this category is Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, produced by Alltech’s Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company in Lexington, Kentucky.

While the increase in barrel-aged beers has not coincidentally seen the demand for used bourbon barrels skyrocket, the folks at Lexington likely have their neighbors in the Bluegrass State keeping them in good supply. Their Kentucky Ale ale is aged for up to six weeks in freshly decanted bourbon barrels from unnamed Kentucky distilleries, and that bourbon influence is not at all subtle in this ale.

It pours with a light head and a golden amber color. The nose is all rich vanilla and oak, a predominance of aroma somewhat unusual even for barrel-aged beers. The approach is crisp and filled with caramel and toffee under a light, malty body. It’s immediately refreshing, which is unexpected given those big bourbon notes. Alltech has been making this beer since 2006, and my first sip of it years ago blew me away. The latest releases haven’t quite lived up to those first impressions, though. Despite the robust whiskey influence, it’s a little thin overall, and the flavor up front is sometimes fleeting.

8.2% abv.

B / $12 per 4-pack / kentuckyale.com

Review: Barefoot Refresh Spritzers – Moscato and Rose

Proudly trumpeting on the containers that they are “wine-based” — code for “not made out of malt liquor” — budget wine brand Barefoot aims for the ready-to-drink crowd with its new line of Refresh premixed spritzers. The ingredients (which are actually included on the canisters) mainly include wine, sparkling water, and sugar, which is really all you want in a drink like this.

Five varieties are available, four of which are also available in cans. We tried two: Moscato and Rose.

Each is a mere 6.5% abv.

Barefoot Refresh Moscato Spritzer – Quite a bit less sweet than you’d expect, this tangy and fruity concoction tastes more like grapefruit soda than anything wine-related. In fact, the hints of peach and brisk orange would likely pair nicely with tequila as part of a Paloma-esque cocktail. That said, it drinks plenty well — again, soda-like — on its own. B

Barefoot Refresh Rose Spritzer – There’s less to grab onto with this experience. The spritzer has a floral character to it, with mild strawberry overtones. The finish is more medicinal than than Moscato — with a “cheap wine” overtone that lingers a bit too long. Might work OK in a punch, though. C+

each $7 per four-pack of 8.4-oz. cans / barefootwine.com

Drinking the Bottom Shelf Vol. 3: Gin – Seagram’s, Dover Strait, New Amsterdam

Good liquor can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. This review continues our project of considering bargain bottles by looking at three inexpensive gins. For those on a budget who want to drink well, the results are promising — at least, better than when we looked at whiskey (here and here)! Since gin is minimally aged, it typically is not as labor intensive as many whiskeys, which means producers can spend a little more on higher-quality raw materials.

Here are three bargain bottles we put through the paces.

Seagram’s Extra Dry Gin

Seagram’s is just approachable enough to drink straight, although I don’t really recommend it. Orange rind and pungent alcohol notes figure prominently in the nose and the palate, with juniper (gin’s most common component) appearing only very faintly in the finish. I am surprised by how hot this gin is considering it is only 80 proof. Tonic tames the alcohol, but the flavors don’t really blend well. One might do better to follow Snoop Dogg’s recommendation and use Seagram’s for “gin and juice.” 80 proof. C+ / $11 / seagramsgin.com

Dover Strait American Gin Extra Dry

This is my first experience with Dover Strait, and I’m not encouraged by the nose. Rather than notes of juniper, I detect nail polish remover and a little ginger ale with a touch of lemon rind. On the palate, Dover is less off-putting. The acetone notes are completely absent, and the gin comes across as an inexpensive, but not offensive, vodka. The lemon rind notes appear on the palate, but they are very subtle. Adding tonic makes me think I’m drinking a vodka tonic, which is not such a bad thing, but the smell of nail polish remover lingers. 80 proof. C- / $10

New Amsterdam Gin

The nose and palate of New Amsterdam (see prior review here as well) make it the most palatable of the three gins, and I had no qualms about drinking it straight. We have reviewed this gin before, and on a new tasting, the notes remain the same. Juniper appears on the nose, but orange and orange rind are far and away the dominant notes on the palate. This might annoy gin purists who want juniper to appear front and center, but I happen to like a lemon twist in my martinis, and I found this gin to be smooth enough to appear in one. For bargain hunters who agree, New Amsterdam is an affordable and enjoyable gin. In a gin and tonic, New Amsterdam is a vibrant, citrusy cocktail, ideal for a hot day. 80 proof. B / $12 / newamsterdamspirits.com

Review: Stone Ghost Hammer IPA and Farking Wheaton w00tstout 2017

Two new releases from Stone — one a spin in an IPA with an unusual hop strain, one a revival of the mother of all collaborations, the last version we encountered way back in 2013.

Stone Ghost Hammer IPA – This unfiltered, seasonal IPA features Loral hops, a strain which lends a distinctly floral character to the brew. This is a bit hit and miss, in the end. Aromatically, the florals — potpourri and heavily perfumed — totally dominate, reminding me a bit too much of grandma’s bathroom. The palate finds a much better balance, with boldly bitter notes melding well with grapefruit peel, classic piney notes, and a more subtle undercurrent of (fresher) flowers. 6.7% abv. B / $11 per six-pack of 12 oz cans

Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout 2017 – This collaboration between Stone, Fark’s Drew Curtis, and actor Wil Wheaton launched to great fanfare in 2013, and it’s been updated regularly — with little tweaks here and there — ever since. This one seems to be much in line with the original, a mega-stout brewed with pecans, flaked rye, and wheat, and aged in bourbon barrels for good measure. A monster through and through, this year’s w00tstout won’t disappoint. As expected, it is quite sweet, with a focus on its very nutty, heavily Port-like character that winds its way toward dates, dried figs, and loads of Christmas spices. The finish meanders toward syrup — of the maple variety — but is more refreshing than you’d expect. All told, it’s one to share and savor with friends. Mind that abv, of course. 13% abv. B+ / $10 per 22 oz bottle

stonebrewing.com

Review: Wolfburn Single Malt Whisky and Aurora Sherry Oak

Located on the extreme northern tip of the Scottish mainland, Wolfburn is one of the youngest distilleries in Scotland, getting its start in 2013 on the site of an old distillery from the 1800s located outside the town of Thurso. The distillery ages in a combination of bourbon casks (of various sizes) as well as Spanish sherry casks — but so far, none of its products carry formal age statements. You can do the math: Since none of this is sourced whisky, it’s a maximum of four years old, probably less.

Today we look at two of the earliest releases from Wolfburn, the eponymous single malt and another bottling called Aurora, which sees a considerable influence (judging from color alone) of sherry casking.

Both are 92 proof.

Wolfburn Single Malt Scotch Whisky – All the hallmarks of young whisky are here. This one’s green on the nose, with notes of new leather, fresh cut wood, evergreen needles, lemon peel, and menthol. On the palate, the pungent character that comes across is wholly expected, the grain taking on a surprisingly heavy bitter citrus note along with notes of dusky cloves, green pepper, and roasted onion. Those can be off flavors for sure, but here they work reasonably well as they build to a burly, if uneven, crescendo. The overly bitter finish is a bit further off the mark, though. B- / $55 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Wolfburn Aurora Sherry Oak Single Malt Scotch Whisky – The heavier sherry is evident here from the first whiff, though again it is filtered through notes of fresh herbs, ample wood, and a tobacco note. The palate is sharply sherried, though still somewhat vegetal (though less so than the single malt), with notes of mint (fresher than the menthol notes in the single malt), cinnamon, and nougat. The finish is incredibly sharp and biting, with an even more bitter, herbal edge than the above — quite a surprise, and a bit of a letdown over what is otherwise a pretty interesting dram. B / $60

wolfburn.com

-->