In the last few years, we’ve reviewed (and recommended) a number of New Amsterdam products due to their wide availability, low price point, and general quality (you can find those reviews here, here, here, here, and here). The addition of Raspberry and Lemon flavors to New Amsterdam’s range of flavored vodkas makes sense, and the new products follow recent precedent in both their strengths and weaknesses.
Tasting notes follow. Both are at 70 proof.
New Amsterdam Raspberry Vodka – Sampled straight, New Amsterdam Raspberry Vodka tastes like a hard Jolly Rancher candy. It is exceedingly sweet and sour, with virtually no alcoholic bite at all. With a few sips, the amount of sugar in the product becomes virtually overwhelming, and I wouldn’t recommend mixing it with tonic or anything that is also sweet. Perhaps seltzer is the best mixer since the bubbles and water would dilute the cloying candy flavor. Anyone looking for genuine raspberry flavor will be disappointed, but taken for what it is (candy-flavored vodka), New Amsterdam’s Raspberry Vodka is enjoyable enough and will probably fill a niche. B- / $13
New Amsterdam Lemon Vodka – It seems a bit odd for New Amsterdam to offer a Lemon vodka after previously releasing a Citron variety, but the two are different enough that it makes sense. The primary distinction is the level of sweetness, with the Lemon showing even more sugar. The Lemon Vodka does not hide its alcohol as well as the Raspberry and even at 70 proof, it is hot on the nose and the palate. Sampling this vodka blind, I would probably guess I was drinking a full-on Kamikaze. It is sweet and lemony, like a lemon drop, leaving behind a citric acid burn. Like the Raspberry, the Lemon would also go well with an unsweetened mixer, like seltzer, but New Amsterdam suggests mixing it with iced tea, and I think they are on to something with that idea. Unsweetened iced tea takes some of the alcoholic bite out of the vodka while the sweetness of the vodka seems appropriate to my expectations of sweetened lemon tea. B- / $13
October is here, and that means it’s time for the Drinkhacker Wine Cheat Sheet, our quick ‘n’ handy guide to various wine vintages, which you can cut out, fold up, and keep in your wallet or purse so it’s always at the ready. Why not turn this into an app? Well, apps are hard, and PDFs are easy.
As always, here’s how to use the cheat sheet: Only the last two digits of a year are included to save space, and the list only rarely reaches back into the pre-WWII era, so assume anything you see starting with a zero or one to be from this century.
All years listed here are considered good to great vintages, but those in green with underlining are the cream of the crop, “classic” years that you should consider the very best on the market. (Why green and underlined? So you can tell the difference whether you use a color or black & white printer.)
Check back next October for the next revision of the cheat sheet!
Drinkhacker.com wine cheat sheet download options:
drinkhacker vintage chart 2017 [doc]
drinkhacker vintage chart 2017 [pdf]
Patron has added its first new addition to the core tequila lineup in 25 years: at long last, an extra anejo bottling.
This isn’t Patron’s first dance with extra anejo. Patron Extra Anejo 7 Anos hit as a limited edition in 2015, and the infamous Guillermo del Toro Extra Anejo dropped earlier this year. The catch: Both of those were very limited editions. This is a permanent extension to the lineup.
Aged for more than three years, Patrón Extra Añejo is the first new addition to Patrón’s core range of tequilas in 25 years, expanding an iconic line that includes Patrón Silver, Patrón Reposado (aged at least two months), and Patrón Añejo (aged for more than 12 months). Extra añejo tequila, a classification that the Consejo Regulador de Tequila (Mexico’s governing body for tequila) created in 2006, represents the fastest-growing category in aged tequila today.
Patrón Extra Añejo tequila is crafted from the highest-quality 100 percent Weber Blue Agave and distilled using the ancient tahona process and the more modern roller mill method. It is then aged for more than three years in a combination of new and used American, French and Hungarian oak barrels…. Patrón Extra Añejo is packaged in the same iconic bottle as Patrón’s other core tequilas, hand-numbered and hand-labeled.
Say what you will about the recent, wacky Guillermo del Toro bottling, this is a classic extra anejo tequila, with a nose of deep vanilla and caramel, backed by a very gentle herbal character driven by the agave. The creamy palate gives the immediate impression of vanilla ice cream, drizzled perhaps with a bit of chocolate syrup and plenty of caramel sauce. The sweeter components find foils in the form of cinnamon and nutmeg notes and, over time, the emergence of some hints of black cherry, rhubarb, and lemon peel. Amazing from start to finish, it’s a balanced tequila that doesn’t reinvent the extra anejo formula, but which guides it oh so subtly with a careful hand to someplace excelente.
A / $90 / patrontequila.com
Ah, that classic of the Chinese restaurant wine list gets an upgrade with its 2016 vintage, courtesy of Christian Siriano, who designed the flowery label for this vintage. That’s probably the most interesting thing about this wine, which is decidedly muddy for pinot grigio, with only modest notes of marshmallows, lilac, and out-of-place savory sage and thyme showing through.
C / $8 / eccodomani.com
Tequila Corralejo‘s latest release, an extra anejo, has arrived.
In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Tequila Corralejo has released 1,000 cases of 1821 Extra Añejo (1821) in the U.S. The limited-edition expression, imported by Infinium Spirits, is the latest offering from the award-winning line of premium tequila expressions.
1821 represents Mexico’s rich history and hard-fought sovereignty led by Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a noble priest born at Hacienda Corralejo. He’s renowned for launching the Mexican War of Independence in 1810 in revolt against the injustices of a tyrannical Spanish government against Mexico’s poor. Although Spanish rule was officially abolished on August 24, 1821, Hidalgo is memorialized as the Father of his Country and Mexican independence.
As with all of the brand’s expressions (silver, reposado, añejo),1821 was produced with only the finest 100% Blue Weber Agave tequila at Hacienda Corralejo in Guanajuato, Mexico. Corralejo employs the 400-year-old Charentais method of distillation, the same method perfected by the French in distilling cognac, which is what sets Corralejo apart from other tequilas. The agave is slow cooked in stone clay ovens for 27 hours, then rested for 12 hours before going to the mill to be double distilled in copper pot stills. A fine selection of small American oak barrels provides roasted hints that add to the tequila’s excellent flavor. 1821 was aged for 36 months to yield a tequila with impeccably smooth flavor.
The TL;DR of that is that this is aged for three years, and the results are impressive, if somewhat unexpected. For starters, the nose is much more agave-forward than the typical extra anejo, delicately herbal with secondary notes of white flowers, creme brulee, and lemon peel. On the palate, the tequila is similarly herbal and citrusy — not at all dominated by barrel-driven vanilla and caramel notes the way most extra anejos are. Instead, the experience is quiet and restrained, a study in the interplay between agave and fruit, primarily lemon, culminating in a finish that is at once engaging, summery, and unique.
A- / $130 / tequilacorralejo.mx
Two new releases from Sonoma’s J Vineyards (now part of Gallo) have arrived — a sparkler and its always crowd-pleasing pinot gris. Let’s dive in.
NV J Vineyards Cuvee 20 Brut Russian River Valley – This dry sparkler is nonetheless quite fruit forward, with tons of apple and pear notes leading the way to a palate that dazzles with creme brulee, sharp lime notes, and a chewy, brioche-infused body. Bold and acidic on the finish, with just the right amount of fizzy pop. A / $38
2016 J Vineyards Pinot Gris California – A creamy ‘gris, this wine blends lemon notes with custardy flan, some cinnamon, and hints of white flowers. The semi-sweet attack leads to a relatively dry finish, with some steely acidity lingering on the palate. B+ / $20
Two new releases from Merlet, which makes both cognac and a selection of liqueurs. Today we look at the new XO cognac release, and a brandy-based liqueur infused with cherries. Let’s dive in!
Merlet Cognac XO – This XO is a multi-cru blend with components at least six years old (and likely much more). A bit thin on the nose, without the massive depth of flavor one expects from an XO cognac. What is there is studded with chocolate, some cola, and a modest hit of dried fruit. The palate is equally delicate, almost floral with backing notes of cocoa powder, vanilla cookies, and spice, layered atop that gentle, lightly raisiny core. It’s altogether one of the quietest XO cognacs I’ve encountered, and while that’s not a put-down, it is missing the bold body that I’d normally like to see from this style. 80 proof. B / $125
Merlet Soeurs Cerises Cherry Brandy Liqueur – This spirit is a liqueur made from multiple types of cherries (primarily Morello) macerated in neutral alcohol, then blended with “a touch” of Merlet’s cognac. Beautiful black cherry — almost blueberry at times — fills the aroma of this heavily fragrant and fruity concoction, which is ultra-sweet to the point of pushiness on the palate. There’s no real sense of the cognac here — perhaps a little vanilla and a touch of raisin if you go searching for it — but that’s no big loss. The cherries are the star of the show, showcased here with a touch of violets on the back end, so keep a bottle on hand for when a Singapore Sling or a Blood and Sand is in order. 48 proof. B+ / $25