Review: Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Vermouth, Dry Gin, and Quince

Newly available in the U.S. is this collection of products from Germany’s Avadis Dsitllery. Bottled under the Ferdinand’s label, these products all involve a unique ingredient: Riesling wine from the Mosel region, where the distillery is based.

Some additional details from the company:

Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Gin is crafted from grain to bottle at Avadis Distillery located in Germany’s Mosel Region. Only the highest-grade late and select harvest grape wines from the neighboring steep shale slopes of the Saarburger Rausch vineyards are used for the gin’s wine infusion. These semi-sweet Rieslings from the Saar are not just known for their elegance and fruity complexity, but also exhibit the maximum degree of extract density, providing a refinement characteristic to Saar Dry Gin. The raw distillate produced from the grain is distilled several times to form the basis for a selection of 30 hand-picked herbs, spices and fruits, which are carefully macerated to produce an eau-de-vie. The additional use of a steam infusion of freshly harvested herbs adds unique fresh floral notes to this gin, and it is rounded off with a precise measure of Schiefer Riesling to guarantees a high-quality product.

We tasted three products in the Ferdinand’s line. Thoughts follow.

Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Vermouth – Dry vermouth made from the riesling grape. Quite dry, and surprisingly bitter given the riesling base. Notes of oxidation, rosemary, and quinine all mix together a bit unevenly, finishing on a Meyer lemon note. Scattered and off-balance, with too much wormwood in the mix, it has a certain charm but doesn’t add a whole lot in a mixed drink. 18% abv. B- / $23

Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Gin – This is the riesling-infused gin, with 30 (undisclosed) botanicals. The nose is intense with juniper, lemon peel, and thyme — largely traditional, with the riesling not making a major showing. On the palate, the wine character is far more evident, a bittersweet character that offers a lemon syrup note, followed by layers and layers of savory herbs, leading to a surprising, very bitter finish. Daunting on its own, it’s an intensely herbal experience that needs a lot more citrus in the bill to find balance. 88 proof. C+ / $45

Ferdinand’s Saar Quince – This oddity, an homage to traditional sloe gin, is an infusion of Saar Dry Gin (though the label says “vodka”) with estate-grown quinces and 2011 Kabinett class riesling. The exotic nose combines sweet white wine, honey, lemon and grapefruit (or quince-ness), and a smack of herbs to create a truly unusual but not unappealing aroma. The palate is quite sweet, again laced with a rather intense amount of herbs but cut with lots of that lemony citrus character. The finish is bittersweet, a bit sour, and quite herbal, but it all fades out on a sweet lemon sherbet note. Not really a substitute for sloe gin, but you might see what you can do with it in lieu of triple sec — or half-and-half with a regular gin. 60 proof. B / $50 (500ml)

saar-gin.com

Review: 2012 Chateau Haut-Logat Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois

 

What’s Cru Bourgeois? “A Cru Bourgeois du Médoc wine (a step below Cru Classe) is produced in one of eight prestigious appellations of Bordeaux (Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc, Moulis en Médoc, Margaux, Saint Julien, Pauillac, or Saint Estèphe) and has satisfied the strict quality selection procedure by which all applicant wines are reviewed annually.” This wine is a blend of merlot (45%), cabernet sauvignon (45%), and cabernet franc (10%).

A rustic wine, this one from Chateau Haut-Logat has a balsamic edge with notes of cherry, currant, and rhubarb. Lightly astringent as the palate develops, the finish is a bit harsh, though it’s filtered through notes of rosemary, thyme, and mint, which mask the bitter edge to some degree.

C+ / $25 / crus-bourgeois.com

Review: Boardroom C Carrot Spirit

Ready for something completely different?

Boardroom Spirits, which makes a straight vodka and gin that we’ve reviewed previously, is out with a new white spirit made from 100%, well, carrots. The carrots (12.5 pounds per half-bottle) are cleaned, fermented, and distilled. Nothing is added to the finished distillate, effectively making this a kind of eau de vie (unaged brandy) — but made from a vegetable instead of a fruit.

This is actually the second release in the company’s “Periodic Table of Spirits” collection. B — distilled from beets — was a release we missed.

Let’s give carrot brandy a try!

Well, the good news is that it doesn’t smell or taste like carrots, not in any identifiable way, anyway. The nose is actually quite grain-heavy, similar to a corn-based white whiskey, funky with mushroomy earth, burlap, and some camphor. Water helps (a lot) to bring out sweetness on the palate, showing off some agave-like notes alongside a vaguely vegetal character that is the closest that C gets to tasting like carrots. Really, think parsnips, raw alcohol, and hints of petrol, leading to a finish that’s cleaner and, in its own way, more refreshing than you might expect.

That said, it mainly plays for novelty value.

92 proof.

C+ / $30 (375ml) / boardroomspirits.com

Review: George Remus Bourbon

Indiana’s MGP has slowly been stepping out of the cozy world of contract distilling and into the realm of building its own brands. This started with the well-received Metze’s in 2015, and now MGP is back again with another brand: George Remus, named after the so-called “king of the bootleggers.” The brand was acquired from Queen City Whiskey Co. in Cincinnati late last year, but the whiskey inside is all MGP stuff: a high-rye blend of straight bourbon whiskies aged over four years.

We sampled the new release. Here’s what you can expect.

On the nose, things kick off with tons of wood, with hints of jasmine and thyme. Given time, some mint emerges, but it’s faint. The palate is extremely wood forward as expected, and the bourbon is ultimately a bit of a bruiser with lots of lumberyard character masking some more delicate notes of ginger, flamed orange peel, and burnt caramel which linger underneath. To be honest, it’s a rather one-note experience on the tongue, dominated by a level of barrel influence that simply overwhelms everything else and which hangs around on the finish for much too long.

Curiously, there’s no mention of MGP on the label. The whiskey says it is distilled by th e”G. Remus Distilling Co.” in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Funny, that. I guess even MGP doesn’t like to say its whiskey is made by MGP.

94 proof.

C+ / $45 / georgeremus.com

Review: Dad’s Hat Straight Rye Whiskey (2017)

This latest release from Pennsylvania’s Dad’s Hat may look familiar, since there’s already a Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey on the market, which we reviewed way back in 2013. Pay careful attention, though: This is not Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey, this is Dad’s Hat Straight Rye Whiskey. Not only is it able to use the “straight” moniker since it is older (3 years instead of about 6 months), it is also a bit higher in proof.

It’s also a considerably different whiskey.

Even more than prior Dad’s Hat releases, the nose of this whiskey is intense with both fresh and charred wood — though it takes on some notes of evergreen and mint, with overtones of fresh cut hay. The palate, and you can feel it coming, is a wood bomb that goes off in your mouth and from which you are unlikely to recover. What does manage to make it out of that overload of tannic wood are some notes of motor oil, smoldering matches, cloves, and bitter tree bark. Well, yes, a lot of that is a play on wood, so come prepared for plenty of it. Looking for sweetness? Ah, bless your heart. You’ve come to the wrong place altogether.

95 proof.

C+ / $38 / dadshatrye.com

Review: Crown Royal Noble Collection Wine Barrel Finished

Crown Royal continues its limited edition, called the Noble Collection, which started with the Cornerstone Blend last year, with this second release, Crown Royal Noble Collection Wine Barrel Finished.

What we have here is classic Crown Royal that is finished in cabernet sauvignon wine barrels sourced from Paso Robles (winery unstated). No other production data (including the length of time in the finishing barrel) is provided.

There’s something immediately off on the nose — notes of gunpowder, black pepper, and overripe fruit weighing heavily on the caramel and vanilla core. There’s a ton of stuff going on on the nose — lemon peel, thyme, tobacco leaf, and menthol… more elements than you’d expect, and we’re just talking about the aromas.

The palate is just as confusing, a somewhat muddy body offering notes of dark chocolate and oily walnut, with a heavy grain underpinning. A bold furniture polish note — astringent and pungent — dominates the second act, while the finish evokes something more akin to well-aged sherry more than cabernet. The conclusion is simplistic, a bit fruity, a bit grain-heavy, and directionally confused.

Crown Royal’s special releases have long been hit and miss, but this one is a tougher sell than most.

81 proof.

C+ / $50 / crownroyal.com

Tasting the Wines of Onward, 2017 Releases

Onward is a wine brand run by winemaker Faith Armstrong, who creates these wines sustainably, organically, and biodynamically. During a recent live tasting, Armstrong talked through a collection of five new releases, with a special focus on her most beloved baby, Pét-Nat.

Thoughts follow.

2016 Onward Pét-Nat of Malvasia Bianca Suisun Valley – If wine writers truly have their finger on the pulse of the consumer, pétillant-naturel wine, or Pét-Nat, is all the rage in New York. (Think orange wine, but this year.) This is the first bottle I’ve ever actually encountered in California. Pét-Nat is a sparkling wine, made via a primitive process that predates Champagne. Namely, it undergoes only one fermentation, which is completed in the bottle without added sugar (making Pét-Nat a completely dry, but fizzy, wine). Pét-Nat is hazy and relatively low in alcohol — this one’s 12.6% abv — and crown-capped, not corked. This wine from Onward offers crisp notes of melon and pear, with no sweetness whatsoever. It’s quite an alarming experience, not to have that sugar, because the initial fruit rush messes with your mind. The fizzy melon notes give way to a very dry, herbal, somewhat mushroomy finish. Let the fizziness subside a bit (and the wine warm up a little) for the best — and wholly unique — experience. B+ / $24

2015 Onward Suisun Valley Malvasia Bianca – Basically the same wine as above (different vintage), without the sparkling treatment. Here more of the herbal notes are evident, along with strong lemon/lemongrass character. The melon-heavy core remains, but the fresh herbs make a big return on the finish. Quite acidic. B / $20

2016 Onward Rosé of Pinot Noir – Immediately a little funky, again showcasing some mushroom notes atop a core that is less strawberry and more cantaloupe, with grassy, herbal, and some oddly savory character to boot. While refreshing in its own way, this rose grabs at the back of the throat in a strange manner, finishing on a heavily vegetal note. B- / $22

2013 Onward Hawkeye Ranch Redwood Valley Pinot Noir – So thin in color you can see right through it. Earthy on the nose, with dusty flavors of tart cherry, licorice, and some cinnamon leading the way to a finish that is awfully bitter and rustic (for better or worse). C+ / $38

2014 Onward Casa Roja Carignane Contra Costa County – A rustic expression of an already rustic wine, this carignane bottling showcases the wines meaty core, folding in roasted nuts, mushroom, licorice, and miscellaneous vegetation. Drinkable, but not showing much fruit. B / $30

onwardwines.com

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