Review: 2016 Chateau Souverain Sauvignon Blanc California

This is a credible, drinkable sauvignon blanc, despite its lack of provenance, a light and steely wine with ample notes of tropical fruit, peaches, and lemon on the nose. The palate sees a grassier character, with plenty of fruit and flinty minerals to temper any rougher elements present in the mix.

B+ / $13 /

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

Review: Motörhead Whisky

R.I.P. Lemmy.

The man behind Motörhead may be gone, but this whisky produced in honor of the 40th anniversary of the band he created (1975-2015, when Lemmy Kilmister passed away) — or rather “40 years of eardrum crushing” — is still with us. Produced by Sweden’s Mackmyra, it is a Swedish single malt aged in bourbon barrels for five years. A portion of the whisky is finished in oloroso sherry barrels for six months before blending back into the finished product and bottling. Lemmy reportedly helped choose the casks himself.

Such a strange nose on this one: breakfast cereal, potpourri, bacon, and almond paste, all wrapped up into a pastry of sorts, baked up and served piping hot. The palate is exotic and evocative of Eastern spices, with coriander and anise notes, dried plums, and a smoky character that is tough to place — closer to mesquite than anything I can otherwise identify. At the core is a milder mashup of grain and caramel — standard stuff, but filtered through this lightly smoky haze.

The finish lingers, offering a raisiny character that’s driven by that oloroso cask, a bit gummy at times but again evoking an experience atypical of single malt from Sweden or anywhere else. I don’t listen to much Motörhead these days, but I figure if I did, the experience would be just as jarring as sipping on this whisky.

80 proof. Purchased in Vastervik, Sweden.


Is Boxed Wine Any Good? Tasting Boxes from The Naked Grape, Vin Vault, and Liberty Creek

Don’t look now, but boxed wines have come leaps and bounds since you last snuck a sip from that box of Franzia in your parents’ refrigerator. Designed for big groups, low budgets, beach venues, or for folks who just want a glass every now and then without a whole bottle going bad (most large-size boxes will last for a month due to the airtight construction of the bag inside), boxed wine is a credible solution for any number of occasions.

That is, if the wine inside is any good. We put three recent bottlings — er, boxings — to the test. Let’s start sipping!

NV The Naked Grape Pinot Grigio California – A perfectly credible “house white,” this spritely wine is brisk and acidic, with notes of pineapple, melon, and lingering lemon and lime on the back end. Cleansing and fresh; uncomplicated but plenty pleasant. B+ / $20 (3 liters)

NV Vin Vault Cabernet Sauvignon California – This one’s barely drinkable, a fruit bomb that tastes more like strawberry-flavored syrup and jelly than it does any wine I would rank as palatable. Chocolate, marshmallow, and vanilla notes give it a distinct dessert-like bent, particularly on the gummy finish. D / $20 (3 liters)

NV Liberty Creek Chardonnay California – This is a workable chardonnay, minimally oaked (or treated) and featuring just a hint of vanilla that works fairly well as a companion to a lemon-heavy palate, which is otherwise lightly sweet but approachable enough for afternoon porch-sipping. Nothing complex, but I wouldn’t be ashamed to serve it. B / $4 (500ml)

Review: Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Blended Bourbon, Cigar Blend Bourbon, and J. A. Magnus Reserve

DC-based Joseph Magnus Distillery seems to have a lot at its disposal when it comes to crafting its whiskey. Besides the list of industry icons that have formed its distilling team, it is sparing no expense in sourcing the very best aged whiskeys as well as the finest used European oak casks in which to finish them. The distillery’s initial offering, Joseph Magnus Straight Bourbon Whiskey, showcased the fine fruits of this investment. The folks at Magnus, however, have looked recently to improve an already quality brand by introducing older and even more rare sourced whiskies into their line-up. You’ll pay even more to enjoy some of these new releases (in one particular case, a LOT more), but you can’t deny the skill and quality that’s going into these bottles.

Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Blended Bourbon – This bourbon takes its name from the pre-prohibition Magnus flagship brand. It’s a blend of 18 and 11-year-old sourced bourbon, as well as a 9-year-old sourced light whiskey (high-proof whiskey aged in used or uncharred new oak containers). Murray Hill Club has a soft nose with subtle butterscotch and citrus notes and just a little black pepper. The palate is honeyed with ground cinnamon, clove, and buttery caramel. The heat arrives in a perfect wave on the very back end and extends through a medium finish with warming notes of black pepper and vanilla. I’ve only encountered a few blends using light whiskey, most of which ran too hot for my liking. This one hits the mark on heat but leaves me wanting just a little more flavor, particularly at this price. 103 proof. B+ / $92

Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend Bourbon – This whiskey is the result of Master Blender Nancy Fraley’s desire to create a sipper that would pair well with a cigar. It is also comprised of 11 and 18-year-old sourced bourbon along with about 25% of the Joseph Magnus Straight Bourbon, a 9-year-old bourbon finished in PX, Oloroso, and cognac casks. The final blend is then finished in Armagnac casks, which is unique in the bourbon world. The nose on Cigar Blend is sultry, with sweet tobacco smoke, dark fruit, and vanilla frosting. I’m tempted to just inhale this one instead of drink it. On the palate, it’s all kinds of southern dessert: toasted pecan, vanilla bean, and butter brickle perfectly layered with sweet fig jam and dark berry cobbler. It’s got a thick, oily mouthfeel that leaves all of those flavors hanging well into a generous finish that, like Magnus’s other offerings, has the perfect amount of heat. 100.7 proof. A / $150

Joseph Magnus J. A. Magnus Reserve – What I said earlier about paying a LOT more was in reference to this bottle, in particular. The J. A. Magnus Reserve is a marriage of 16 and 18-year-old MGP “honey” barrels, yielding only 192 bottles. On the nose, there’s orange zest, cinnamon, buttered toffee, and a little candy apple all mingled with a great warehouse note that gets stronger as it opens up in the glass. On the palate, it’s candy sweet but not cloying with a buttery mouthfeel and flavors of chocolate covered orange peel, marmalade, and stewed cherry with a very gentle, peppery heat. The finish is a mile long with slightly drying notes of sweet oak and lingering citrus candy. The balance of flavor is simply remarkable. Master Blender Nancy Fraley said that her goal with this bourbon was to create “liquid poetry.” I’m not sure what that would taste like, but I think this is close. And at this price, it should be. 92 proof. A / $1,000

Review: Q Drinks Mixers – Complete Lineup

Q is a leading name in the artisan mixer space, and recently the company fairly radically revamped its lineup, jettisoning a few products, adding at least one, and most importantly, dropping its bottle size from 9 ounces to 6.7 ounces — more in line with “single serving” size and, more importantly, allowing them to reduce the price from $8 per four-pack to $6.

Today we look at the full Q Drinks lineup as it stands at the moment — seven products spanning the gamut of the most common mixers. Let’s dive in!

Q Drinks Club Soda – Heavily carbonated (“as much carbonation as the bottle will hold”) and quite neutral in flavor, with just a hint of salt and a splash of bitterness on the back end. Extremely versatile and — yes — fizzy! A

Q Drinks Ginger Ale – Much spicier than your typical ginger ale — and remember, Q makes a ginger beer, too, so hang on to your hat. I could use a touch more sweetness in my ginger ale, but in the favor of this throat-clearing rendition is a clean and crisp character that gives it ample versatility… plus that trademark Q Drinks heavy carbonation. B+

Q Drinks Ginger Beer – A bit hazier, with ginger bits floating in it. It’s definitely a spicier concoction than the ginger ale, but not so overpowering as to make one cry. This is spicy, lightly sweet, and clean in construction from start to finish. A solid palate cleanser and a great little companion for rum. A

Q Drinks Kola – A refreshing blend of kola nut, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, cloves, lemon, lime, and agave for sweetness. It’s a touch sweet for my taste, with less carbonation than other Q products, and the agave gives the finish an herbal touch that is a bit at odds with the baking spices up front, and which comes through even when mixing. B

Q Drinks Grapefruit – Designed specifically for paloma cocktails, per Q, this grapefruit soda is plenty refreshing on its own, too — with the perfect balance of sweet, sour, and bitterness giving it a complexity well beyond a can of Squirt. Brisk and refreshing, and a beautiful shade of pink, be careful with anything you mix with it, as these cocktails go down far too easily. A

Q Drinks Tonic Water – Bracingly bitter, with plenty of quinine, with a hint of lemon peel on the back end. Lots of carbonation gives this tonic a ton of length, and the finish sees the bitterness, with some hints of amaro, lingering for what seems like minutes. A definite top tonic for bitterness nuts. A-

Q Drinks Indian Tonic Water – If you like your tonic with a touch of sweetness, this is the expression for you. It’s still powerfully bitter and highly fizzy, but the spritz of lemony sugar gives it added complexity. Designed to stand up to more powerful gins, I’d say it’s mission accomplished. A

each $6 per four-pack of 6.7 oz. bottles /

Review: Barefoot Sangria

Here’s a cold hard truth: Bottled sangria is almost always better than you think, and Barefoot, which is hardly renowned for its luxe bottles of standard wine, produces a perfectly drinkable one here, a fruit-forward wine made even fruitier through the addition of extra citrus flavors (featuring lots of lime), plus hints of tropical fruits — pineapple and, especially, some mango. What’s the base wine for this sangria (which says merely “grape wine” on the label)? And just how natural are those “natural flavors”? At 9 bucks a bottle, you should know better than to ask. Your guests won’t care if you chop up an orange and toss it in a pitcher with this stuff.

B+ / $9 /