Tasting with Branded Spirts: Hana Gin, Motu Rum, HM Blended Scotch, and Majeste Cognac

Treasure Island, California-based Branded Spirits recently sent us its Arctic Fox Vodka for review… then they stopped by with more — everything the company is currently producing, in fact. Originally a major exporter to China — where it once held the license to sell Heineken beer — it’s now making a bigger, broader push for the U.S.…

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Review: Kibo Junmai Sake

Canned beer is old news. Canned sake, now that’s something else. Kibo, made in Japan and imported by Oregon’s SakeOne, is released in memory of the 2011 earthquake that devastated Japan and the Suisen Shuzo in which this sake is made. Rising from the rubble, Suisen Shuzo is now exporting Kibo (the name translates as “hope”)…

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Review: Mezcal Amaras

This new brand of mezcal hails from San Juan del Rio in Oaxaca. It’s a blanco made in a decidedly traditional style. To wit: This traditional mezcal is made from Espadín agave plants grown on the hills surrounding San Juan del Rio, which are harvested at their optimum maturity by Jimadores, and roasted for 5 days…

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Review: Hermitage Brewing Company Belgian Blonde, Hermit Ale, and Boysenberry Sour

Three limited release beers from our friends in San Jose at Hermitage Brewing Company. Thoughts follow. Hermitage Brewing Company Belgian-Style Blonde – A chewy, malty brew, this Belgian blonde is drier than most beers of this style, offering restrained notes of fresh barley, just a touch of dried fruit, and gentle hops on the back…

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Review: Limoncello di Capri

Molinari produces this limoncello on the island of Capri using local lemons as well as those from Sorrento. I can’t verify whether this is, as the bottle claims, “the original limoncello,” though there’s a story that dates to the early 1900s that says it was invented by one Vincenza Canale, an ancestor of the Molinari clan.…

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Review: 2013 J Vineyards Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Two new wines from our friends at J Vineyards, located in Sonoma County, California. Thoughts follow. 2013 J Vineyards Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – Rich, currant-laced fruit pops beautifully in this well-crafted Pinot Noir, offering notes of slightly sweetened tea up front and coffee bean and chocolate on the back end. Touches of cloves…

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Review: Bittermilk Mixers No. 5 and 6

Two new Bittermilk mixers for your approval. As always, these are non-alcoholic syrups and tonics that make high-end mixology embarassingly easy. Thoughts follow. Bittermilk No. 5 Charred Grapefruit Tonic – Made with lemon and lime juice, cane sugar, charred grapefruit peel, cinchona bark, and Bulla Bay sea salt. Designed as a mixer with vodka and soda…

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Review: Bear Republic Apex Special IPA (2015)

Ah, another fine seasonal release from our NorCal neighbors at Bear Republic. Apex, an Imperial IPA, isn’t made every year, but 2015 marks two years in a row that it has. Each year the beer’s profile changes, reflecting seasonal varieties of hops available and new strains that are developed. Apex is a beer that is…

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