Amaretto_Bottles_4 Today is National Amaretto Day.  I’ll bet you had no idea.  Well, break out that dusty bottle from where it’s languishing in your closet and fix yourself an Amaretto Sour while I tell you a little background behind this unusual liqueur.

Amaretto Sour
2 oz Amaretto liqueur
1 oz Fresh squeezed lemon juice
½  fresh organic Egg white
2 dashes Aromatic Bitters

Dry shake (without ice) all ingredients. Add ice, shake again and strain into ice-filled glass.

Amaretto literally means “a little bitter”.  The original recipe contained bitter almond, but today’s liqueurs tend to be quite sweet.  We’ve all tasted a brand at least once.  Usually our first experience was sneaking a swig from our parents liquor cabinet.  Memorable and probably not our finest drinking moment.  “It has essence of tree nut, with elements of cane sugar”.

Yet, Amaretto has a long and distinguished heritage.  And it’s not necessarily almonds that you’re tasting.

Interestingly, the world’s best-selling brand DiSaronno contains no almonds, but rather uses a blend of seventeen herbs, fruits and most importantly apricot pits.  In fact, this recipe has been around since 1525, so who’s to say whether the product is supposed to be almond or apricot pit flavored?

Lastly, Portland bartender extraordinaire Jeffery Morganthaler claims to have perfected the world’s best Amaretto Sour.  You can check out his version here.

ImpressionWhat do George W. Bush, Francois Mitterand and a 19th century Mayor of Le Francois, Martinque have in common?  Surprisingly, the Rhum Clément distillery.  In 1887 Mayor Homère Clément bought the Domaine de l’Acajou sugar plantation and soon transformed it into the Habitation Clément distillery and estate.  Just over a century later United States President Bush and France’s President Mitterand met on the grounds to discuss the Gulf War.  Whether the two 20th century leaders actually drank any rhum agricole while visiting the island is not known.  I know I would have sampled one of everything.

The distillery is one of the premier tourist attractions on Martinique today, receiving over 160,000 visitors a year.  It’s no wonder, as they produce some of the world’s finest rhum agricoles (rum made from sugar cane instead of molasses).

GSN was recently sent two bottles of some of their most recent products for review.

Canne Bleue (100 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Very vegetal and fresh with cane.  Clean, dry and expressive.  mouth-watering.
Taste: Remarkably smooth in spite of the high-proof.  Crisp, flavorful and with a tannic element that makes a lasting impression.
Finish: Dry, with percolating hints of sugar cane and cask wood.
Overall: Absolutely perfect in a Ti Punch, or as a powerhouse rhum in a tiki style cocktail.  This rhum does not disappoint.
GSN Rating: A



rum_cle16Select Barrel (80 proof)
Visual: Brownish gold.
Nose: Vanilla, clove, green banana, caramel and nutmeg.
Taste: Light, elegant and smooth as silk.  Hints of green apple, peppercorn, and a definite hearty cane sugar heart play with the taste buds.
Finish: Medium long with a lot going on.  Spices lead to fruitiness to woodiness and back again in a never-ending harmony of flavors.
Overall: An XO rhum.  So good, you’ll be saddened when the bottle is empty.  Absolutely one of the finest rhums I’ve ever had.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Rhum Clement USA

sammys_beach_bar_rum__63128.1378316154.1280.1280Sammy Hagar can’t drive 55, but can he craft a rum worth drinking?  Read on…

Sammy has been all over the map in terms of his musical and spirited adventures.  Lead singer for both Montrose and Van Halen and creator of the hugely successful Cabo Wabo tequila, he branched into Hawaiian rums a few years ago.  He chose the Haliimaile Distilling Company in Maui to craft his rums from first-growth, first-press sugar cane.  This makes for a more floral and less sweet rums than the majority which are generally molasses based.  Also of note is that the Beach Bar Rum is aged for two years which is much longer than most white rums.

Beach Bar Rum (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Slight funk of cane sugar rum with an edgy tang and grassy vegetal nose.
Taste: Very peppery and with a slight grassiness.  Not too sweet, and a lot of terroir character.
Finish: A lot of vegetal notes fade into a fresh cane like sweetness.  The pepper notes linger for quite some time.
Overall: In some ways this reminds me of a rhum agricole and in others it reminds me of pisco.  Very different for a rum and one that lends itself to creative mixing in cocktails.
GSN Rating: B+

Beach Bar Red Head Rum (70 proof)
Visual: Dark purplish-red.
Nose: Very nutty, but also with a hefty dose of cane rum.  Uniquely different.
Taste: Quite sweet and sugary with a healthy dose of macadamia nut flavor.  This seems more like a liqueur than anything else.
Finish: Lingering sugar goes on for a long time.  The nuttiness is pleasant, but somehow reminiscent of peanuts.
Overall: Definitely easy to mix with sodas and juices, this might work really well with coffee based cocktails.  You could add this as a float (as recommended on the bottle), but I think it will work better as a base to a sweet highball style drink.
GSN Rating: B-

For more information go to: Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum


The Berentzen legacy has been around since 1758 when it was officially recognized as a distillery in the town of Haselünne, Emsland, Germany.  Town Councilor Johann Bernhard Berentzen began a long history of making spirits that today include dozens of spirits and liqueurs.

However, the company’s best-selling product is a fairly recent one having been created in 1976.  Apfelkorn (literally apple grain) is a low proof wheat based schnapps that has apple juice added to it.  If you like hard cider, this takes it one step further.

The GSN offices also received a bottle of their pear liqueur.  This too is a neutral grain spirit with pear juice added.

Berentzen Apple (40 proof)
Visual: Light gold.
Nose: Very cider-like with natural apple scent.
Taste: Sweet baked apple with just a hint of caramel.  Very natural and nothing like the neon green apple liqueurs you’ll find on the bottom shelf of you local liquor store.
Finish: Medium long with the sweetness making a lasting impression.
Overall: A bit sweet for my taste, but loads better than many apple flavored products on the market.  Quite good.
GSN Rating: B

Berentzen Pear (30 proof)
Visual: Slightly cloudy, but clear.
Nose: Candy-like pear notes reminiscent of Japanese sweets.
Taste: Light and quite like an elegant pear dessert.  Fruity, juicy and not overly sweet.
Finish: Dry and crisp with faint lingering notes of pear that hang on to the end.
Overall: Very low in alcohol, making this ideal for less inebriating cocktails.  This will also be great in a Sangria or punch.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: Berentzen USA

vaportini_1948818I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about the Vaportini.  After all, shouldn’t drinking a cocktail involve all five senses?  With this latest steampunk-esque  marvel it still does, but in an entirely different way.

First of all, the Vaportini just plain looks extremely cool.  Candle flame burning in a pint glass, hand-blown glass orb, even a glass straw.  The 40-50 proof alcohol (not a cocktail mind you) is poured into the sphere through a tiny funnel, so there is a bit of color depending on the spirit you choose.  You could even add a drop of food coloring if you so desired to create say… blue vodka.

Secondly, even though you are inhaling alcoholic vapors, you do experience the flavor of the spirit. To a much lesser degree than if you were drinking it, but it’s still there.  Thirdly, there is a warmth to the whole process that works very well on a cold evening.  Not so much on a hot summer day.  That is one down side to the Vaportini.  It’s not as refreshing as a chilled beverage.

Fourthly, there is a scent of burning candle wax  in the air.  This makes for a kind of sacred sensation.  Almost as if there is a sense of ritual to the whole affair.

Lastly, the glass pieces themselves have a sensual feel with smooth edges and curves.  Yeah, this is definitely a holistic semi-sexual experience.

GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Vaportini

indexSerrallés USA and Brooklyn-based Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur have formed a new U.S. sales and marketing partnership. The 22%-abv ginger liqueur will join Serrallés USA’s portfolio, which includes Don Q, Caliche Rum, Palo Viejo, Death’s Door Spirits, Wondermint and Kringle Cream Liqueur. Beginning in April and May, the rollout will focus on markets in the Northeast, with Southern Wine & Spirits distributing the product in New York, Fedway in New Jersey, Brescome Barton, Inc. in Connecticut and M.S. Walker in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C. and Maryland will follow later this year and national distribution is expected in 2015. Barrow’s retails for about $31.99 a 750-ml. and $19.99 a 375-ml.

indexDiageo has partnered with global soccer icon David Beckham and entrepreneur Simon Fuller for the worldwide launch of Haig Club Single Grain Scotch Whisky. Produced by House of Haig, one of Scotland’s oldest grain whisky makers, Haig Club is crafted by combining grain from three cask types for a smooth taste the company hopes will draw in new consumers of whisky as well as current whisky drinkers. Along with Haig Club, House of Haig also produces the Haig Blended Scotch and Dimple Scotch whiskies.

indexBeam Inc. is releasing the latest expression of Sauza Tequila’s ready-to-serve Sparkling Margarita range, Sauza Sparkling Margarita Watermelon. Following last year’s successful launch of the Sparkling line—which includes Original Lime, Wild Berry and Mango Peach—Watermelon will launch this month with a suggested retail price of $12.99 a 750-ml. The 9.95%-abv extensions use Sauza Silver Tequila for a base that is complemented by Triple Sec and made sparkling.

indexAgave Loco’s RumChata cream liqueur brand has launched its new RumChata Summer Iced Coffee Sampler Pack nationwide. The pack, which includes two 8-ounce cans of Casa del Sol coffee and a 750-ml. bottle of RumChata, provides the ingredients needed to make a RumChata iced coffee cocktail. The RumChata Summer Iced Coffee Sampler Pack is priced at around $19.95, in line with a regular 750-ml. of RumChata.

indexCognac Ferrand is debuting the Citadelle Gin Reserve Solera 2013 to the U.S. market this month. The French company’s latest release from its gin range is aged in three different casks for between two and five months and is then poured into a main solera vat before being bottled to achieve solera aging, the first gin to be produced in this method, according to the company. The casks used are ex-Cognac, ex-Pineau des Charente and American oak casks. The 44%-abv Citadelle Gin Solera Vintage 2013 is available nationwide in the U.S. for a suggested retail price of $34.99 a 750-ml.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily

index Pernod Ricard-owned Absolut vodka is introducing a new vodka series in partnership with local     entrepreneurs around the globe. The Our/Vodka initiative, which began last year in Berlin, will now spread to 11 cities across the U.S., Europe and Australia. In each city, Absolut has linked with local partners to open micro-distilleries that will produce vodka with a focus on local ingredients, although each will have the same recipe and be packaged in a small bottle with a crown cap. Absolut’s partners will have responsibility for running the individual businesses and marketing the new offerings. An Our/Vodka distillery in Detroit is set to open in June, with projects in Seattle (opening in September), New York (November), Amsterdam, Los Angeles and London to follow later in the year. Our/Austin, Our/Miami, Our/Nashville, Our/New Orleans and Our/Melbourne vodkas are scheduled to begin production in 2015.

indexBuffalo Trace Distillery has launched a limited release single barrel Bourbon in honor of the distillery’s early master distiller. Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon will be available in limited quantities for suggest retail price of $34.99. Elmer T. Lee, who passed away last year at the age of 93, worked at the distillery from 1949 to 1985 and is credited with creating the world’s first single barrel Bourbon in 1984, according to the company. The 46.5%-abv Bourbon will hit retail shelves in April.

imagesFour craft distilleries from the Midwest have collaborated on a limited release offering, Four Kings Bourbon Whiskey, to be sold exclusively at Binny’s Beverage Depot’s 30 stores across Illinois. Corsair Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee; Few Spirits in Evanston, Illinois; Journeyman Distilling in Three Oaks, Michigan and Mississippi River Distilling Company in Le Claire, Iowa each contributed 30 gallons of whiskey from their own distilleries for the project. About 600 bottles will be produced and will debut at the Whiskey Week Chicago 2014 event April 20-26. The whiskey is comprised of four grains from the distilleries’ different mash bills: corn, wheat, rye and barley. Plans are in the works for another blend in time for Whiskey Week 2015.

DryFly-Logo-BlackWashington state craft distiller Dry Fly is prepping the launch of a new five-year-old Irish-style whiskey under the O’Danaher brand. That limited-release offering will retail at around $65 a 750-ml. Dry Fly’s line also includes a vodka, gin, Washington wheat whiskey, Washington Bourbon and Triticale whiskey.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily.

%d bloggers like this: