Review: 2014 Herzog Variations Four Cabernet Sauvignon California

The “variations” in this California cab are regional: The wine is sourced from Paso Robles, Napa Valley, Alexander Valley and Santa Ynez. The wine itself isn’t entirely remarkable, a rather closed-off tannin bomb with dusty notes of earth and mushroom, its plump currants really just an afterthought amidst the intensity of wet slate and lingering green vegetation.


B / $24 /

Review: Bedtime Bourbon 8 Years Old

What if I told you a company was making an eight year old Bourbon that was sourced from Tennessee, and that it was on sale exclusively in Kentucky? I’m not crazy, I’m just sampling Bedtime Bourbon, which is being produced by the Louisville Bourbon Transit Company, a tiny outlet that recently opened up shop here.

Here’s a look at batch #1 of Bedtime Bourbon, which is composed of just four barrels of whiskey, with 840 bottles produced.

This is a perfectly workable and enjoyable bourbon, though experienced whiskey drinkers will find that it keeps things on the safe side. The nose is lightly grainy, with notes of chocolate, ample vanilla, and plenty of caramel corn notes to get things started. The palate is sharp and a bit citrusy, with those caramel corn notes — not too young, not too old — dominating as the palate develops. On the finish, a bit of mint melds nicely with the chocolate notes, giving it a cohesive and appropriately dessert-like conclusion.

All told, like I said earlier, it’s a “safe” bourbon, but one that certainly gets a lot of things right by not toying too much with the script.

90 proof.

A- / $50 /

Cocktail Recipes for New Year’s Eve 2017

Midnight Magic

Whether you’re celebrating that 2017 is finally over or just looking forward to a brighter 2018 (or both), it’s tradition to celebrate with booze. We want to share a few cocktail recipes with you; some are perfect for a quiet evening with your significant other, some are built as party punches. A few are simple; some require a bit more pre-planning. All of them are enjoyable to be sure, as are the easy-to-make truffles in the recipe at the end.

Happy 2018!

Midnight Magic
Stella Rosa Black Lux
strawberries, sliced
lime juice

Fill glass with strawberries and blueberries. Pour in Stella Rosa Black Lux to the top. Next, add a squeeze of lime juice and a drizzle of honey. Garnish with a sprig of mint before serving.

Bourbon Blackberry Rickey
1 1/2 oz. Coopers’ Craft Bourbon
3/4 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup
8 oz. sparkling water, separated
4 fresh blackberries
1 lime wheel skewered with blackberry

Crush the blackberries in a cocktail shaker. Then add bourbon, lime juice, simple syrup, and fill with ice. Shake for 15 seconds to combine and chill. Strain into Collins glass, then add ice and top with sparkling water. Garnish with a lime and blackberry skewer and serve with a straw.

Cranberry Sauce Gin and Tonic
by Jimmy at the James
2 parts Botanist Gin
½ part simple syrup
½ of fresh lemon juice 1 heaping barspoon cranberry sauce
Q Tonic
lemon wheel

In a cocktail shaker combine the gin, simple syrup, lemon juice, and cranberry sauce. Shake with ice for about ten seconds and then strain into a tall glass with ice. Stir in tonic water and garnish with a lemon wheel.

buttterfly tea flower tea

Butterfly Pea Flower Tea
1 1/2 oz. Reyka Vodka
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz. Butterfly Pea Flower tea syrup
dry champagne

Make the tea syrup by boiling a cup of water, a cup of sugar, and Butterfly Pea tea leaves. (These are available online.) Once thickened into a syrup consistency, remove from heat and let cool.

Combine all ingredients ingredients in a shaker. Shake and strain into a glass; top with champagne.

Crimson Royale
created by Josh Campbell, Bartender at Leyenda, NYC
1 oz. Campari
1 1/4 oz. Chai-Infused Cinzano 1757
1 tsp. ginger syrup
1/2 tsp. pomegranate molasses
Cinzano Prosecco

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and stir, then strain into a champagne flute and top with Prosecco. Express and discard an orange peel. Garnish with a flamed cinnamon stick.

To make the Chai-Infused Cinzano 1757:
Mix one tablespoon each of black tea, cinnamon, clove and cardamom. Pour into a 750 ml bottle of Cinzano—you may want to use a small funnel to keep the spices from spilling over the bottle lip. Let sit overnight.

To make ginger syrup:
Bring 2 cups water and 2 cups sugar to a boil, then add in 8 oz. sliced ginger. Let steep for 30 minutes; then fine strain and discard ginger. Store refrigerated in an airtight container.

The Promise

The Promise
1 1/2 parts Facundo Neo Rum
1/2 part Yellow Chartreuse
1/2 part honey syrup (equal parts honey and water boiled)
1 part milk kefir
mint leaf (for garnish)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and give a gentle shake. Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled Nick and Nora Glass. Garnish with a mint leaf.

A Good Beginning
by Jon Foley, The Relief and Resource Co.
1 1/5 oz. Don Ciccio and Figli Amaro Donna Rosa
1/2 oz. Mount Gay XO
1/4 oz. Rare Wine Co. Boston Madeira
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. vanilla bean syrup

Do a reverse dry shake (with ice, and then without) and fine strain into an 8 oz. cocktail glass. Decorate with bitters atop the foam.

The Sun Also Rises
by Jacob Johnson, winner of the 2017 Wyoming Whiskey Shares Bartender Shootout
2 oz. Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch Bourbon
.5 oz. Sierra Maestro Oloroso Sherry (15 Year)
1 Barspoon Bols Crème de Cacao White
1 Barspoon Pernod Absinthe Supérieure pinch of salt
rosemary ice ball

Ahead of time, make the ice ball by putting a sprig of fresh rosemary in an ice ball mold; fill with water and freeze.

To make the cocktail, put the absinthe in a coupe glass and swirl to coat the inside of the glass. Dry shake the remaining ingredients. Put the ice ball in the glass and pour the liquid concoction over top. Then serve.

cardamom pear punch

Cardamom Pear Punch
3 cups Smirnoff No. 21 Vodka
6 cups pear juice
1-2 teaspoons orange bitters
2 red pears, sliced thinly horizontally
cardamom ginger syrup (see below)

Make the syrup first; here’s how. Place 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup water, 10 crushed cardamom pods, 1/8 cup sliced ginger, and 1 Tbsp. vanilla in a small pot and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and let this steep one hour, or overnight for the best flavor.

In a medium punch bowl or beverage dispenser, pour in the Smirnoff Vodka, pear juice, bitters and sliced pears. Stir in the cardamom ginger syrup. Refrigerate until ready to serve, and serve over ice.

This can be made a day ahead or the night before the party and refrigerated, allowing the flavors to meld.

This one’s for the more adventurous:

Pine apple punch

Pine-apple Punch
by mixologist Nick Strangeway
51 oz. apple juice
34 oz. chilled lemon verbena tea
17 oz. Banks 5 Island Blend Rum
12 oz. Banks 7 Golden Blend Rum
10 oz. Douglas Fir Syrup (see below)
7 oz. Douglas Fir Infused Banks 5 Island Blend
7 oz. apple molasses
3 ½ oz of citric acid solution (available in all major supermarkets, online, or a brewery shop)
3-4 large springs of fresh lemon verbena
1 cup caster sugar
dehydrated crab apple wheels

First, create the Douglas Fir Syrup by infusing 10 grams of gently dried Douglas Fir needles in 1 1/4 cups of boiling water for about 10-15 minutes. Add 1 cup of caster sugar. Stir well to dissolve the sugar and then strain to remove the Douglas Fir Needles. Keep refrigerated before use.

Next make the verbena tea by infusing 3-4 large sprigs of fresh lemon verbena in 2 ¼ cups of boiling water for 15 minutes. (Or brew several verbena teabags for a few minutes.) Add 2 ¼ cups of cold water and leave for a further 10 minutes before straining. Keep refrigerated.

Now, infuse 5 grams of gently dried Douglas Fir Needles in ¾ cup of Banks 5 at room temperature for no longer than 24 hours. Strain before use.

To create your punch, combine all the ingredients in a large punch bowl with a large block of ice. Garnish with dehydrated crab apple wheels and serve.

Baileys Truffles

Baileys Irish Cream Truffles Recipe
by Sugar and Charm
2 bags of white chocolate chips
5 Tbsp. Baileys Irish Cream
6 Tbsp. heavy cream
a pinch of salt

Add Baileys Irish Cream, heavy cream, 2 cups white chocolate chips, and a pinch of salt to a sauce pan on low heat. Stir, whisking constantly so the mixture doesn’t burn. When the mixture is melted and smooth, pour into a small 6 x 6 baking dish; cover and refrigerate until the truffle mixture is set—overnight works great.

Melt 1 bag white chocolate chips to coat the truffles (Use a double boiler or a small pan sitting in a larger pan…chocolate in smaller pan and water in the larger pan. This is so it melts without burning.) Using a melon ball scooper, scoop small balls. Dip in the chocolate using a spoon and place on parchment paper.

Add garnishes like nutmeg and cinnamon, edible gold, and dried rose petals. We used gold and silver cupcake sprinkles. Enjoy!

Note: you can make varying flavors by substituting other thick or cream liqueurs in place of the Baileys—Rumchata, Kahlua, Amarula, or chocolate wine sauce for example. Additionally you can insert a candied cherry, hazelnut, or malted milk ball in the center for more variation.

Review: Bardstown Bourbon and Copper & Kings Collabor&tion Rare Release Bourbons

I like to think I have an open mind when it comes to the booze world, and in general I love the idea (and execution) of bourbon that is finished in other types of casks. So then, what’s not to like about this oddball collaboration between the Bardstown Bourbon Company and the brandy-makers at Copper & Kings?

Let’s start out with a (significant) backstory.

The Bardstown Bourbon Company (“BBCo”) and Copper & Kings American Brandy Company (“C&K”) announced today the release of “Collabor&tion,” two distinct products made with 10-year-old straight bourbon whiskey – one finished in Copper & Kings’ American Brandy barrels and the other in Muscat Mistelle barrels, for more than 18 months in the Copper & Kings basement maturation cellar. The project is intended to embody the spirit of friendship and partnership, and celebrates great craftsmen working together to produce exceptional products as kindred spirits.

Started in late 2015 by two Kentucky-based distilleries, Collabor&tion is a culmination of nearly two years of work. Steve Nally, Bourbon Hall of Fame Master Distiller for BBCo, and Brandon O’Daniel, Head Distiller for C&K, hand-selected the bourbon for the project, meticulously blended it until it achieved the right flavor profiles, and chose the barrels for the finishing process.

“Coll&boration [sic] is not made to be collected; it’s far more special than that. Its heart is friendship, enjoying company, and bringing out the best in each other,” said Joe Heron, President & CEO of Copper & Kings American Brandy Company. “It is an exceptional bourbon that was made by friends for friends and is designed to be enjoyed with friends.”

“A Mistelle barrel is a unique vessel. Mistelle is unfermented grape juice (in this case Muscat) fortified with un-aged brandy (Muscat eau-de-vie) and then aged in bourbon barrels for 18 months. The empty barrels are deeply and highly caramelized with the grape sugars and fruit essences. The whiskey exiting these barrels is pure joy. A completely novel sensory experience; deep, deep rich whiskey – very soft and supple, mellow, and the taste goes on forever. The whiskey notes are amplified by a softness and smoothness that is singular – to say the least. I could literally sip this for the rest of my life,” said Brandon O’Daniel, Head Distiller of Copper & Kings.

The bourbon used to produce Collabor&tion was distilled in Indiana in 2006 by Lawrenceburg Distillers, now MGP, and is made from 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley. The Collabor&tion expression aged in Copper & Kings American brandy barrels is bottled at cask strength of 113 proof. The Mistelle barrel finish is bottled at cask strength of 94 proof.

Collabor&tion is a very limited release that’s only available in select Kentucky retail stores, at the BBCo and C&K gift shops, and a small selection of fine retailers across the USA.

OK, got all that? We received both Collabor&tion bottles. Thoughts on each follow.

Bardstown Bourbon and Copper & Kings Collabor&tion Rare Release Bourbon – Finished in American Brandy Barrels – Very heavy notes of vegetation, forest floor, and skunk spray on the nose — nothing like any 10 year old bourbon I’ve encountered. On the palate, a harsh, almost chemical note kicks things off, fading ever so slightly into overwhelming notes of impossibly floral perfume, raw wood, and old vegetables. I tried this twice, over consecutive nights, with and without water, and struggled every time to find something nice to say. 113 proof. D

Bardstown Bourbon and Copper & Kings Collabor&tion Rare Release Bourbons – Finished in Muscat Mistelle Barrels – Again that heavily floral, perfumed note appears, though here it is more on the nose. The palate is more approachable — in part because it is significantly lower in alcohol, in part because of the enhanced sweetness, driven by the fruity muscat notes. There’s more to like here all around, including a honeyed body, notes of apricot and vanilla custard, and hints of lemon peel and mango on the back end. And yet, that overwhelming wood character endures, muddying what ought to be a seductively sweet experience from start to finish (but especially the nose). Perhaps the base spirit (here and in the above whiskey) was just too old to start with? The solution for that, I would hazard, is not for it to spend more time in wood, no matter what kind of barrel it is. 94 proof. B-

each $125 /

Review: 2015 Flechas de los Andes Gran Malbec

Argentina malbec can be so hit or miss. Here’s one that knocks it out of the park for less than a 20-spot.

A spicy nose of black pepper gives way to a lush, gorgeous core of blackberries and baking spice, dark chocolate and vanilla. The lengthy palate is strong on cinnamon, with hints of elderflower as a slight sweetness emerges late in the game. All told, it’s one of the more powerful — yet also elegant — Argentine malbecs I’ve seen in years.

A / $17 /

Review: Woodinville Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Straight Rye Whiskey

The number of craft whiskey distilleries in America continues to rise, but only a fraction of them can bottle their own distillate as a “straight whiskey,” meaning it’s at least two years old. Even fewer can claim to be bottling at 5-plus years, which is comparable in age to the core products from industry big boys like Jim Beam and Heaven Hill.

Woodinville Whiskey Company is one of these very few craft distilleries. They opened their doors in Woodinville, Washington in 2010 and began distilling with the assistance of industry legend and former Maker’s Mark master distiller Dave Pickerell. While they distill just outside of Seattle, Washington, that climate doesn’t exactly lend itself to efficient barrel aging, so they ship their filled barrels to Quincy on the other side of the Cascades, where they are warehoused at the same farm from which they source most of their grain.

We recently had the opportunity to sample Woodinville’s two flagship products: one a straight bourbon and the other a straight rye. Thoughts follow.

Woodinville Whiskey Company Straight Bourbon Whiskey – Even though a Maker’s Mark Master Distiller assisted in its creation, Woodinville’s bourbon uses rye, not wheat, for the flavoring grain. That rye spice is immediately present on the nose with pepper and cherry notes, along with heavy, bordering on astringent, oak aromas. Oak tannins similarly dominate the palate initially but give way to notes of vanilla, caramel, and baking chocolate. It’s a bold whiskey that drinks a little bigger than its 90 proof but with a syrupy mouthfeel and generous, cinnamon-filled finish that isn’t nearly as drying as I would expect. Water is an all-around friend to this one, subduing the wood and enhancing the underlying flavors and aromas. I’d be curious to see what a year or two more in the barrel does for this bourbon. 90 proof. A- / $55

Woodinville Whiskey Company Straight Rye Whiskey – For a 100% rye whiskey, the nose is softer than I would expect, with raw honey, spearmint, and subtle fruit aromas. The mouthfeel is a touch thin, and as with Woodinville’s bourbon, oak immediately takes hold on the palate. Unlike the bourbon, however, it never really lets up. Cream soda, mint, and cracked black pepper notes struggle against the barrel and dry up rather quickly. A splash of water seems to tame the wood influence and add some complexity to the finish, but the mid-palate flavors get diluted. 90 proof. B / $55

Review: 2015 Le Volte Dell’Ornellaia Toscana IGT

This second label from Bolgheri’s Ornellaia invariably fights well above its weight class. A blend of Merlot, Sangiovese, and Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s a classic Super Tuscan… without the price tag.

Sultry notes of blackberry sprinkled with black pepper lead the way on a seductive nose. On the palate the surprisingly lithe wine delves in with a scoop of fresh, sweet cherries, topped with some vanilla, fresh-cut thyme, and hints of chocolate. The finish is lightly acidic and woody, a vague earthiness lingering on the palate for a long fade-out. Beautiful (and built for food), it’s an easy selection whenever you see it on a wine list.

A / $25 /