Review: Tequila Exotico – Blanco and Reposado

Tequila Exotico (part of the budding Luxco empire) is a new, 100% agave tequila made from Highlands agave. With Day of the Dead styling on its otherwise understated bottles, the tequila is available in only blanco and reposado expressions. (No anejo has been produced so far.)

We tasted both. Thoughts follow. Both are 80 proof — and available for perhaps less than any other 100% agave tequila I’ve ever encountered.

Tequila Exotico Blanco – Feels immediately rustic and rather rough. The nose is hot with more of a raw agave character, with lots of black pepper mixed in with aromas of well-cooked vegetables. On the palate, some sweetness is but little relief against an onslaught of fire, smoldering mesquite, and vegetal notes of carrot, green pepper, and dried grasses. The finish is as pungent as the body that precedes it, making this suited best for mixing rather than sipping straight. C / $14

Tequila Exotico Reposado – Rested for six months in ex-bourbon barrels. As expected, the barrel aging rounds things out quite a bit, smoothing those harsh, rustic edges with a lacy vanilla-caramel character, though the intense black pepper, cayenne, and roasted agave notes are still present and accounted for, just dialed back all around. The finish sees some hints of chocolate and nutmeg, almost coming across like a Mexican chocolate, which is the most interesting part of the spirit. All told, this is much more easygoing and enjoyable tequila than the blanco, though it still lands well into “frontier” in style. B / $14

exoticotequila.com

Tasting Greek Wines: 2015 Roya and 2013 Markovitis Xinomavro

Turns out there’s more to Greek wine than assyrtiko. But is any of it worth drinking?

Let’s find out…

2015 Roya – 100% muscat. This is a much drier expression of muscat, which lets some of the more perfumed and floral notes come forward — jasmine, lemongrass, and some grassy notes — leading to a finish that is surprisingly dry for the ordinarily ultra-sweet muscat. That said, it’s not all that interesting as a table wine, and it pairs in rather lackluster fashion with food. C+ / $10

2013 Markovitis Xinomavro – A red from the Naoussa region in northern Greece, this unique wine offers a nose of raspberry and rhubarb, sweet and fragrant. The palate unfortunately doesn’t quite measure up to the nose, leading to a bone dry palate that is missing almost any semblance of fruit. The dusty, slightly sour finish reminds more of a dry sherry than anything else, which is decidedly bizarre for a red wine. C / $27

Review: Samuel Adams Summer 2017 Releases

The summer seasonals from Samuel Adams are here. A whopping seven brews for 2017 are reviewed below.

Samuel Adams Summer Ale Lemon Wheat Ale (2017) – A repackage of this beer from 2013, this brew remains on the tough side, with crisp lemon counterbalanced by notes of cracked pepper and coriander. Virtually no bitterness is in the mix here; instead the malt does all the heavy lifting — which is perfect for hot weather but doesn’t have the backbone for much more. 5.3% abv. B

Samuel Adams Porch Rocker – This lemony spin on a radler, and the citrus does the heavy lifting here. The beer itself offers a whole lot of sweetness, with a lemon-lime edge to it, which gives it an almost soda-like complexion. That’s not the best impression, alas: The overall impact is one of a Mexican lager with one too many squeezes of lime in it. 4.5% abv. C

Samuel Adams Tropic of Yuzu – An ale brewed with spices and yuzu juice added. The spice makes more of an impression than the yuzu, with a kind of dusky coriander kick lingering alongside some notes of lime peel. Yuzu’s an awesome flavor, and it’s a bummer it doesn’t show through very clearly. 6.0% abv. B

Samuel Adams Hefeweizen – A surprisingly strong wheat beer, overloaded to bursting with orange peel and woody coriander. The palate is somewhat oily, which gives more weight to the pungent spiciness on the finish. A bit overwhelming for what ought to be a more refreshing and nuanced style. 5.4% abv. B-

Samuel Adams Golden Hour – A Helles lager, showing ample lemon peel, herbs, and — again — coriander, particularly on the finish. While it’s plenty malty, there’s enough acidity and just a hint of bitterness to lift it up a bit, giving the beer a nice balance, but one which ends up on the dusky side. 5.0% abv. B

Samuel Adams Berliner Weisse – Lots of lemon infuses this wheat beer, giving it a slightly sour character, particularly on the brisk finish, which hints more at lime. Up until then, it’s got a modest malt level, some hints of orange peel and cinnamon, and a clean and refreshing composition. 4.8% abv. B+

Samuel Adams Session IPA – Sam’s spin on a session IPA is a somewhat muddy affair, punched up with mushroom and earth, dulling what could be some more engaging notes at the core — lime peel, pine resin, and licorice. The finish sees some odd bubble gum notes emerging. 4.5% abv. B-

each about $8 per six-pack / samueladams.com

Tasting the Wines of Vin de France, 2017 Releases

Back in 2009, France created a new categorization to cover wines sourced from all over the country. The so-called Vin de France wines are a mixed bag of grapes and styles (as the restrictions are few), but the overall goal with the category is to create single-varietal wines or blends, sourced from anywhere in the country — either all one region or multiple ones, mixed together — at a very affordable price.

Today, Vin de France wines comprise 15 percent of total wine exports from the country.

We checked out two Vin de France wines (a third was corked) from recent vintages. Thoughts follow.

2014 Marc Barriot Le P’tit Barriot Vin de France – 100% syrah. Do you like terroir? This wine wears it on its sleeve — a big and funky wine that reeks of earth, balsamic notes, and green vegetables, and carries that through to an equally semi-sour palate. The finish seems some wild, citrus-like notes emerging. Rough and rustic, this is the wine to drink before you embark on a running with the bulls. Vaya con dios! Or whatever they say in France. C / $18

2013 Maison Ropiteau Pinot Noir Vin de France – A simple and jammy pinot noir, this wine loads up on fresh berries and vanilla, with gentle balsamic notes underpinning the experience. The finish is short, quite fruity, with just a touch of rose petal to it. There’s nothing incredibly deep here, but as far as summery picnic wines go, you could do a lot worse. B / $10

Review: Proyecto Garnachas de Espana – Salvaje and Olvidada, 2017 Releases

Proyecto Garnachas de Espana — or the Spanish Grenache Project, if you will — is a curious series of wine releases meant to celebrate the grenache wines of the Ebro Valley. A project of Spanish wine company Vintae, the idea is to showcase different vineyards in the Aragon region, to show how terroir and microclimates can expressions of 100% garnacha.

While a number of these wines are on the market, we received two to check out. (Note they are from different vintages.) Thoughts follow.

2015 Proyecto Garnachas de Espana La Garnacha Salvaje – A surprisingly thin wine for grenache, particularly given the aromas of tobacco and spice that lead to a rather watery and limpid body. Here flavors of fresh cherries and blonde wood notes lead to a somewhat off-putting finish that showcases beef jerky and boiled vegetables. A bit of a blown opportunity. C / $12

2013 Proyecto Garnachas de Espana La Garnacha Olvidada – A strikingly different (and much better) wine than the above, much bolder on the palate with notes of cassis, tea leaf, cola, and some lingering mint. The body is rich and the finish is lasting, offering a tribute to the earth in the form of lingering hints of cassis, mushroom, and dusky tree bark. Well balanced between sweet and savory, with a lightly drying conclusion. A / $12

garnachasdeespana.com

Review: Single Cask Nation Whiskies Outturn #1 – Girvan 10, Ardmore 8, Glentauchers 8, Glenrothes 8, Ben Nevis 8, and Ben Nevis 20

Let’s welcome a new independent Scotch whisky bottler to the scene: Single Cask Nation.

Decidedly unlike the old guard of G&M, Signatory, and the like, SCN is a brand being launched exclusively for the U.S. market by the Jewish Whisky Company. Who knew?

Some details:

Jewish Whisky Company has announced that it will release a series of Retail-Only Single Cask Nation bottlings for the California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York markets.

The retail line of Single Cask Nation whiskies focuses on young, vibrant whiskies between 7 and 14 years of age. Consumers can expect whiskies to be bottled at full cask strength without chill-filtering or added coloring and be from a host of different distilleries from around Scotland, America, and other whisky producing countries. Releases, however, may not be limited to this age range.

Retail-Only Single Cask Nation whiskies will complement the current online membership-only series of bottlings. Both consumers and Single Cask Nation members can expect the two separate lines to continue to grow in offerings. The two lines will remain separate. Casks bottled for retail will not be available for online purchase from Single Cask Nation. Similarly, Online-Only bottlings will not be available on retail shelves and all orders will continue to be fulfilled and shipped directly to Single Cask Nation members.

The company expects to bottle 12 to 18 single casks per year for the Single Cask Nation Retail-Only line of whiskies. Similarly, 12 to 18 different single casks will be bottled for the Single Cask Nation Online-Only line which is available through membership. Single Cask Nation members will continue to have exclusive access to Whisky Jewbilee festival bottlings. The 12 to 18 Online-Only bottlings available to Single Cask Nation members include the Whisky Jewbilee festival bottlings.

So, it’s not just Scotch, but for this first outturn of six whiskies, we’ve got five single malts and a single grain, all sourced from Scotland and all retail-only bottlings. We took a look at all of them. (Note that additional whiskies have since hit the market.)

Note that only a few hundred bottles were produced of each of these spirits. All were bottled between September 2016 and January 2017.

Single Cask Nation Girvan 10 Years Old – Single grain whisky from a refill bourbon hogshead. Single grain whisky this young is often brash and off-putting, and this expression is equally rough and tumble. Somewhat weedy on the nose, the palate offers notes of mushroom, licorice, and dusky hint of coal and coffee grounds. Despite some apple cinnamon notes that arrive late in the game, unfortunately it’s just too young at this stage to offer much engagement. 115.4 proof. 228 bottles produced. C / $71

Single Cask Nation Ardmore 8 Years Old – Single Highland malt from a refill bourbon hogshead. Moderately peated (considerably more so than a typical Ardmore bottling), the nose is sharp with wood smoke and a hint of bacon. The palate falls largely in line with this, featuring a sweet counterbalance that offers notes of pears, maple, and some golden raisins. Isley fans will find plenty to love here, though its youth prevents a flood of secondary flavors from developing. 113.8 proof. 228 bottles produced. B / $83

Single Cask Nation Glentauchers 8 Years Old – Single Speyside malt from a refill sherry hogshead. Potent sherry on the nose, with malty vanilla and some banana adding intrigue. The palate is quite creamy, building on all of the above flavors with stronger citrus, some coconut, and a lick of chocolate on the back end. Particularly worthwhile thanks to the bracing abv, which gives it a lengthy and seductive finish that belies its youthful age. 116.2 proof. 222 bottles produced. A- / $95

Single Cask Nation Ben Nevis 8 Years Old – Single Highland malt from a refill sherry butt. Again, quite sherry-forward on the nose, with some salted caramel notes. The palate takes things in a considerably different direction, though, quite nutty with oily furniture polish overtones. The sherry notes here run to amontillado, with notes of dates, cherry pits, and prunes. Almost syrupy on the finish, here’s where you find the more cereal-focused notes of roasted grains amidst all the winey character. 129.6 proof. 663 bottles produced. B- / $78

Single Cask Nation Glenrothes 8 Years Old – Single Speyside malt from a refill sherry hogshead. Probably the biggest name in this outturn, this is a youthful but expressive whisky with aromas of sharp citrus, walnuts, and spice. The palate shows the youth more clearly, with some heavier cereal notes, tempered by bold tangerine and mango notes, grassy heather, and a finish that layers some coal dust into the experience. Lots going on here — it’s a whisky that drinks above its mere eight years of age. 112.6 proof. 318 bottles produced. B+ / $95

Single Cask Nation Ben Nevis 20 Years Old – The sole double-digit whisky in this outturn (and an exception to the “young whiskies” rule outlined above), this is single Highland malt from a refill sherry puncheon. Interesting apple notes on the nose here, with plenty of citrus-fueled sherry right behind them. In the background, aromas of roasted meats waft up from the glass. The palate is sharp and heavy with citrus — orange and some oily lemon, with hints of grapefruit. The slippery, oily body leads to a lengthy finish, just as sharp as the palate proper, with nutty overtones. An enjoyable and enchanting whisky on the whole. 111.2 proof. 321 bottles produced. A- / $190

singlecasknation.com

Review: American Born Bourbon, Peach Whiskey, and Apple Whiskey

American Born is a new line of bourbon and flavored whiskey from Milestone Brands, an Austin-based company founded by the minds behind Deep Eddy Vodka. These new whiskeys are sourced spirits bottled at 83 proof, which “pays homage to the recognition of the country’s independence in 1783.” Hmmm.

Note that the spirits are all bottled in Nashville, but they are not considered (or labeled) Tennessee Whiskey.

Thoughts on the full lineup follow.

American Born Bourbon Whiskey – Made from a “corn and rye” mash, but otherwise details are scant, including where it is distilled, and how long it is aged. Clearly it’s not young. The whiskey has the hallmarks of youth on the nose, namely plenty of lumberyard character that gives it a considerable pungency. The palate finds that wood melding with buttery popcorn and taking on some smoky notes, alongside almond, clove, and a burnt rubber character that lingers on the finish. A simple bourbon that is all about youth, worn straight on its sleeve. 83 proof. B- / $20

American Born Peach Whiskey – Made with natural peach juice and natural flavors. This is a capable way to doctor the rough-and-tumble Bourbon, giving a good amount of sweetness to a whiskey that’s desperately in need of it. And at first blush, the peach is juicy, authentic, and sweet — but this degrades surprisingly quickly, devolving into a chemical note that comes across as acrid, shades of (the old) Southern Comfort. 70 proof. C / $19

American Born Apple Whiskey – Again, made with real apple juice and natural flavors. Sharp apple candy on the nose leads to an incredibly sweet and syrupy body, stuffed with apple and watermelon candy notes. The finish is unbearably saccharine, off-putting with harshly astringent overtones. D- / $19

americanbornwhiskey.com

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