Review: Savile Rumtini

“Rumtini” would say, to me at least, that one is facing a martini made with rum. But the Savile Premium Rumtini is a ready-to-drink tiki cocktail, a blend of rum and citrus, not martini-like in the slightest.

Intended to be served over ice, straight from the bottle, Savile is a cloudy yellow in color, something akin to a wheat beer in appearance. Its nose is lightly rummy, with sharp citrus notes — orange, grapefruit, and passion fruit — muscling out any booziness. The palate is quite approachable, with tons of pineapple and fresh tangerine up front, but that citrus quickly fades to reveal a less balanced middle — some rum-driven vanilla, a pinch of spice, and a more straightforward ethanol note that lingers on the finish.

All told, the combination of flavors works fairly well, and this feels a lot like the basis for a solid punch, though it never comes across quite as balanced as I would like. That’s admittedly a tough feat to pull off with a premixed, unfrigerated cocktail that revolves around citrus, but the Savile Rumtini manages to get things close enough, at least for BBQ work.

14% abv.

B / $23 (1 liter) /

Review: The New Zealand Whisky Collection – Dunedin, High Wheeler, Oamaruvian, and South Island

While Australia has its own whiskey category here at Drinkhacker, New Zealand does not. Why? Because we’ve never reviewed any New Zealand whisky. Until now.

Our friends at Anchor have recently embarked on a project to expose America to kiwi whisky — and this is some old, rare stock. Here’s the lowdown, from the horse’s mouth:

New Zealand might not be the first place that comes to mind when sourcing great single malt whisky, but thanks to Scottish settlers in the 1830s a whisky tradition was born in a place you’d least expect. Beginning this month, thanks to importer Anchor Distilling Company, the award-winning New Zealand Whisky Collection, comprised of the oldest and rarest whiskies produced in the Southern Hemisphere, will be available in the U.S.

Critically acclaimed by the likes of Jim Murray and Charles Maclean, the New Zealand Whisky Collection features expressions produced between 1987 and 1994 at the Willowbank Distillery in Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand. In 2010, New Zealand Whisky Collection founder Greg Ramsay discovered and purchased the last 443 barrels of cask strength whiskies at the distillery, which had been mothballed at the end of the 20th century; Ramsay saw the potential for the complex range of flavors among the quietly maturing barrels. Today, this extensive stock of old and rare whiskies is continuing to mature in a seaside bondstore in Oamaru, on the eastern coast of New Zealand.

Distilled using the finest local barleys and snowmelt from the Southern Alps, the single malt whiskies in the New Zealand Whisky Collection, which reflect the last remaining stock of what was once the world’s southern-most distillery, are produced using traditional Scottish methods of copper pot stills.

Snowmelt, folks!

Production details follow in the details for each of the four spirits reviewed. Without further ado, let’s dive in. Please note that all bottles are 375ml half-bottles, so do a little math on the pricing.

Dunedin DoubleWood 16 Years Old – “A blend of 70% single malt and 30% grain whisky (made from unmalted barley in the Willowbank Distillery). After aging in American Oak for 6 years, transferred to French Oak ex-New Zealand red wine casks for 12 years.” On the nose, a Scotch-like aroma percolates, offering notes of rich grain, leather, burlap sack, and coffee bean. The grain whisky component is hard to tamp down here, and on the palate it takes on a distinct character of mushroom, dried spices, and cedar chest. Stony, with tons of cooked cereal notes, the grain whisky component of this one ultimately dominates, despite its age. 80 proof. B- / $85 (375ml)

High Wheeler SingleWood 21 Years Old – This is “a blend of 70% single malt and 30% grain whisky (made from unmalted barley in the Willowbank Distillery), this expression is aged in American Oak, ex-bourbon for 21 years.” This is a full-formed whisky, punchy on the nose with notes of fresh baked bread, some baking spice, and banana nut loaf. The palate is malty, with some apple and vanilla notes, leading toward a gently chocolaty finish. What endures however is a note of salt spray that give this otherwise straightforward spirit a surprising maritime quality. Engaging from start to finish. 86 proof. A- / $95 (375ml)

Oamaruvian Cask Strength DoubleWood 16 Years Old – Single grain whisky, aged for six years in ex-bourbon barrels and finished for ten years in ex-red wine French oak barrels. This is a cherry-picked single cask offering, bottled at cask strength. An incredibly dark whisky, this unusual offering finds a nose of darkly toasted nuts, roasted meats, and a touch of baking spice. It’s a distinctly savory entry when you take a sip: A heavy nuttiness and old wine character gives it an intense amontillado sherry note, studded with hints of clove, leather, tobacco leaf, and eucalyptus. The finish is a bit gummy — surprising at this abv  — and vegetal. Normally I love wine-finished whisky, but here I’m just not impressed. 116.8 proof. C- / $115 (375ml)

South Island Single Malt 25 Years Old – The only single malt in this collection, here we have a pot-distilled whisky from New Zealand-grown barley, aged in bourbon barrels for 25 years. Lots of depth on the nose, with notes of red pepper, fresh bread, charcoal, and roasted vegetables. The palate is restrained, round and dusky, with notes of walnuts, oily wood, and a touch of brown sugar on a cereal-heavy core. It certainly doesn’t drink like a 25 year old anything, retaining a freshness and a youth that feel more appropriate to a 10 year old than something of this age (and price). The woody, nutty finish is fun and aromatic. 80 proof. B / $230 (375ml)

Review: NV Chandon Sweet Star California

A definitive crowd-pleaser, Chandon’s Sweet Star is a lightly sweet sparkler, fresh and fruit-forward, with notes of pineapple, mango, and orange blossoms pervasive from start to finish. Mildly fizzy, the wine has a lovely creaminess that translates into a rich, velvety body — but also a zippy (though, again, somewhat sweet) finish. Easy to love, it’s a party wine through and through that you won’t be ashamed of giving to your host.

A- / $20 /

Review: Copper & Kings American Dry Gin and Old Tom Gin

From brandy to orange liqueur to absinthe, what doesn’t Louisville-based Copper & Kings make? You can take off of that increasingly short list gin, thanks to two new expressions now being distilled here — a dry gin and an old tom. Both are double distilled in alembic stills.

We sampled both expressions. Thoughts follow.

Copper & Kings American Dry Gin – Made “using 100% apple wine from fresh-pressed apple juice. No neutral spirits are used in the distillation.” Botanicals include the classics: juniper berries, coriander, angelica, orris, and “other accent botanicals are steeped in apple brandy low-wine, then redistilled together with vapor distilled citrus peels & lavender in the gin basket.” Rather musty on the nose, I get notes of wet wool and earthy mushroom over anything approaching juniper. Lavender makes a significant appearance too, but it’s particularly impactful on the palate, where it gives a soapy/perfumy impression to the proceedings. The finish is leathery and full of minerals and masonry, with a fruity component that must be being driven by the apple wine distillate. Weird stuff, and far from the course compared to even the most oddball of gins. 92 proof. C / $35

Copper & Kings American Old Tom Gin – A higher-proof expression, with a grape brandy base and a bourbon barrel finishing treatment. Specific botanicals are not disclosed. On the whole this presents like a more typical barrel-aged gin, a pale yellow spirit with notes of vanilla and barrel char on the nose, alongside a smattering of dried herbs, pine needles, and a slight hospital note. The palate is less sharp than you’d think, mellowed out by the barrel time, displaying some floral elements, a racier perfume note, and some camphor that lingers particularly on the back end. That conclusion is particularly pungent, which will likely polarize drinkers. 100 proof. B / $35

Review: Wines of Catalina Sounds, 2018 Releases

No, it’s not from an island off the coast of California, it’s from New Zealand: “The name Catalina Sounds evolved from the majestic Catalina flying boats that played a vital role across the South pacific during and after World War II.” The Catalina is New Zealand’s largest war plane, it seems.

It’s also New Zealand’s newest wine, where this Marlborough-based winery produces, at present, five different bottlings. Today we look at two of the basics, a straight Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinot Noir.

2016 Catalina Sounds Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough – An iconic NZ sauvignon blanc, loaded with pineapple and mango notes, but with a grassy element that tempers what might otherwise be a surfeit of fruit. The finish still feels like it leans a bit heavily on its syrupy-sweet side, but when paired with a spicy dish, it turns out to be just what the doctor ordered. B+ / $15

2015 Catalina Sounds Pinot Noir Marlborough – Licorice-tinged, this is a moderately earthy pinot with notes of black cherry, dark chocolate, and gunpowder. Quite savory on the back end, there’s a brambly blackberry quality that’s quite enduring. B+ / $17

Review: New Holland Beer Barrel Rye

New Holland Brewing Company’s Beer Barrel Bourbon was a pioneer, back in 2013, of finishing whiskey in beer casks. Now the Michigan-based company is back with a new whiskey: Beer Barrel Rye.

The idea is much the same as before. This is a double-distilled rye (no mashbill available) that is aged in new oak barrels before finishing in Dragon’s Milk stout barrels (which were previously used for whiskey). The circle of life, no? Unlike Beer Barrel Bourbon, however, it is bottled at 44% abv, not 40%.

So, let’s taste this stuff.

The nose is quite youthful. Lots of granary character and notes of dusty steamer trunk, mushroom, and wet leather dominate the nose. There’s a fruitiness to it, but it’s hard to peg — a bit of a melange of dried berries and oddball sherry notes. On the palate the experience is somewhat more interesting, though equally hard to parse. There’s still a significant, ample youth here, lumberyard notes leading the way to a chewy palate with more of a meaty mushroom meets beef jerky character. Dusky clove and tobacco dominate a dry, forest-like finish that barely nods in the direction of sweetness, perhaps evoking a hint of chocolate. On the other hand, it’s not particularly “spicy” in the style of classic rye whiskeys — though perhaps that’s merely a sign of too many days being spent in those stout barrels, or simply a question of pairing the wrong whiskey or the wrong beer, ultimately creating a mismatch that doesn’t gel the way it did in the bourbon release.

88 proof.

B- / $35 /

Review: Chairman’s Reserve Original Rum and The Forgotten Casks Rum

Saint Lucia Distillers is home to the Chairman’s Reserve brand, which currently comprises four spirits from white to spiced. Saint Lucia’s rums are typically blended from both column and pot still rums that are aged separately in bourbon barrels.

Today we look at Chairman’s Original Rum, a mainstream amber release, and The Forgotten Casks, its oldest and rarest expression, “crafted to mimic rum found in the original forgotten casks of Chairman’s Reserve, which were preserved from St. Lucia Distillers horrific fire on May 2, 2007.” Details follow.

Both are 80 proof.

Chairman’s Reserve Original Rum – As noted, this is a blend of column and pot still rum with an average age of 5 years old, there’s ample hogo on the nose, along with notes of burnt matches, cooked fruit, and coconut husk. The palate is bold and aggressive, though the initial funk is quickly whisked away by a surfeit of fruit: green banana, coconut, apricot, and some fleeting floral notes on the finish. It’s sweet and complex enough to sip on its own, but also intrepid enough to stand up to a complicated tiki drink. B+ / $32

Chairman’s Reserve The Forgotten Casks Rum – As discussed above, this rum is meant to mimic the casks “lost” during the distillery’s rehabilitation after a fire, those misplaced barrels ultimately taking on too much age to be used in the Original Rum release. The rums in this bottle are between 6 and 11 years old. As you might expect, there’s more depth here, starting with a nose rich in molasses, salted caramel, cloves, and a much more dialed-back version of that funky hogo character. The palate is rich and seductive, with a clear coffee character running through it, along with some dark chocolate notes. Moderately sweet throughout, but light enough on the finish, it’s a dazzling rum designed for extended sipping and savoring. Beautiful! A / $43