Archive for the ‘Spirits & Liqueurs’ Category

HP-Dark-Origins-bottle-pack-70cl-1000One would think that Highland Park whisky originates in the Highlands of Scotland.  But, one would be wrong.  In fact, the distillery is the northernmost located in the Orkney Islands.  Highland Park also malts their own barley using a mix of local peat and heather.  They have a small, but solid portfolio of aged whiskies.  The latest is a tribute to a man many suppose founded the distillery, or at the very least smuggled it past the constant surveillance of excisemen.  It is his portrait which is given artistic license as a mysterious hooded character on the bottle’s container.

His name was Magnus Eunson, and the following story about him made an appearance in an early tome about the whiskey trade “Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom” by Alfred Barnard written in 1887.

“Hearing that the Church was to be searched for whisky by a new party of excisemen, Eunson had all the kegs removed to his house, placed in the middle of an empty room and covered with a clean white cloth. As the officers approached after their unsuccessful search in the church, Eunson gathered all his people, including the maidservants, round the whisky, which, with its covering of white, under which a coffin lid had been placed, looked like a (funeral) bier. Eunson knelt at the head with the Bible in his hand and the others with their psalm books. As the door opened they set up a wail for the dead, and Eunson made a sign to the officers that it was a death and one of the attendants whispered “smallpox”. Immediately the officer and his men made off as fast as they could and left the smuggler for some time in peace.”

Highland Park Dark Origins (93.6 proof)
Visual: Yellowed gold.
Nose: Mild smokiness with a hefty dose of malted barley.
Taste: Quite smooth for such a high-proof.  The initial impression is of sweet roasted grain, but is soon followed by a dose of smoke.  The two flavors play tag over a few minutes, until the game fades leaving a dusky memory.
Finish: Medium long with a defined balance of malt and peat.
Overall: Slightly smokier than a blended whisky, but the same approachability.  Perfect for a chilly Autumnal evening’s enjoyment.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Highland Park

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bottle-knobcreekKnob Creek has an interesting history.  The bourbon is named after the area where US President Abraham Lincoln grew up as a youngster.  In fact, he nearly drowned in Knob Creek as a boy when heavy rains swelled the waterway.  Fast forward to 1933, the year prohibition was finally repealed.  Lincoln’s boyhood home had by this time become a national shrine of sorts.  Some far-sighted businessmen decided to erect a tavern on the property in his name to attract the flocks of tourists who would come into town.  Undoubtedly, the bourbon flowed freely as vacationers made merry inside the large tavern cum dance hall.  Today, it is sadly just a gift shop.  But, the Knob Creek name still lives on in the form of one of Beam Suntory Inc.’s “small batch” Bourbons introduced in 1992.

Unlike most Bourbons, Knob Creek is aged for nine years and bottled at 100 proof, giving it a heartier color and flavor.

Knob Creek (100 proof)
Visual: Medium brown.
Nose: A lot of high and assertive notes.  This is a bourbon that won’t back down.
Taste: Woody notes percolate through milder flavors of roasted sweet corn and a touch of spicy rye.  Straight from the bottle, everything is very tight, but opens up into a wider vista of flavors with the addition of some branch water.  The main profile is of wood which makes for a bourbon which will make you stand up and take notice.
Finish: Fairly long with a balance of sweet and spicy.
Overall: Try of touch of this in your next sweet tea, or in a Mint Julep.  The high-proof will withstand the dilution handily.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Knob Creek

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BASIL HAYDENS BOURBON“Yeah, my whole family done give up on me
And it makes me feel oh so bad
The only one who will hang out with me
Is my dear Old Grand-Dad
And we drink alone, yeah
With nobody else
Yeah, you know when I drink alone
I prefer to be by myself.” – George Thorogood

Ever wonder who the dear old grand-dad is in this classic blues number?  As it turns out, it’s none other than Basil Hayden, Sr.  Interestingly, he was also the man who helped establish the first Catholic church in Kentucky.  Who knew?

But, of course, it is his namesake bourbon that we are concerned with today.  Hayden’s grandson created a version of bourbon in 1840 which he named “Old Grand-Dad” in memory of his ancestor.  In fact, if you look on that product’s label, the picture is of old Basil H. himself.

Basil Hayden’s is a modern bourbon and part of the Beam Suntory “small Batch” collection of whiskies.  Arguably the easiest of the quartet to drink (the others being Knob Creek, Booker’s and Baker’s), it is an absolutely fine spirit that we here at the GSN offices have been enjoying in Manhattans all week.

Basil Hayden’s Bourbon (80 proof)
Visual: Deep gold.
Nose: Rich, enveloping and welcoming notes of rye spice, oak stave, peppermint tea leaf and a touch of char.
Taste: Sweet corn, but with a rye forward spiciness.  A lighter touch of baking spice, caramel and vanilla comes through as a secondary wave.  Exceptionally smooth and yet with a depth of character that few other young bourbons can match.
Finish: Medium long with plenty of rye brightness to take home with you.
Overall: My current favorite bourbon for sipping straight, this also is absolutely amazing in Manhattans, Sazeracs and even Old Fashioneds.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Basil Haydens

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Glendalough-Poitín-365x320Every drinker certainly knows about Irish whiskey, but very few are aware of Ireland’s oldest spirit.  Known as Poitín (pot-cheen) it dates back to the late 6th century.  It was the emerald isle’s national spirits until it was outlawed in 1661 by Charles II.  In fact it wasn’t until 1997 that it was legalized.

The Glendalough distillery was founded by a quintet of Irish lads to reintroduce this almost forgotten spirit to the world.

Premium Poitin (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Deeply malty with a crisp and peppery high note.
Taste: Slightly sweet with a funky bitter edge.  Think of a vodka that’s been distilled just a few times.  Viscous mouthfeel has an enveloping character.
Finish: As it fades, delicate notes of fresh pear appear.
Overall: Rough in an appealing way, this shares much of the style of american “white dog”.
GSN Rating: B

Sherry Cask Finish Poitin (80 proof)
Visual: Golden yellow.
Nose: Sweet malt tempered by a vivacious sherry overcoat.  Quite enticing.
Taste: Delicate and elegant notes of sherry perfectly balanced with a heftier malt base.
Finish: More pepper and ginger spice develop as it fades.  A fair amount of tannins on the back of the palate leave a warming baking spice heat.
Overall: Quite unique and unusual.  The sherry works beautifully here.
GSN Rating: A-

Mountain Strength Poitin (120 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Intensely fresh and bracing nose.  Loads of pepper spice and just the slightest note of wintergreen.
Taste: A lot of heat (no surprise there), but controlled by a powerhouse of well distilled malt flavor.  Almost chewy and in the mould of sourdough bread.  Very approachable and to the point.
Finish: Quite long with a goodly dose of heat retention and sprightly peppercorn.
Overall: Probably the closest you would come to the original style of Poitin made in the hills of Ireland circa 750 A.D.  If you want to shake off a winter chill, an ounce of this will do you fine.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Glendalough Distillery

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indexCasamigos Tequila has extended its ultra-premium lineup with a new Añejo entry. The small-batch expression is made with 100% Blue Weber agave, which is roasted for 72 hours and then slow fermented for an additional 80 hours. Available in 1-liter, 750-ml., 375-ml. and 50-ml. formats, Casamigos Añejo is priced at $54.99 a 750-ml. and joins the brand’s existing Blanco ($45.99) and Reposado ($49.99) offerings. Casamigos, launched by actor George Clooney and entrepreneurs Rande Gerber and Mike Meldman in 2013, is handled in the U.S. by Sidney Frank Importing Co. and distributed nationwide.

indexLa Martiniquaise’s Label 5 blended Scotch brand has released Label 5 Gold Heritage, a new super-premium extension. Gold Heritage features a blend of hand-selected whiskies from different casks, aged for a variety of years. The new expression, which is priced at $40 a 750-ml., will initially launch in the U.S., China and Australia, with worldwide availability to follow. Gold Heritage joins Classic Black, Extra Premium 12-year-old, Extra Rare 18-year-old and Reserve No. 55 in Label 5’s Scotch portfolio.

All information couresty of Shanken News Daily

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MW-CQ699_facund_20140814164006_MGThe Bacardi company has been crafting fine rums since 1862 when it was founded by Don Facundo Bacardi Massó.  It is his given name that is used in tribute to this latest collection of rare limited release sipping rums.  There are four expressions available, two of which were sent to the GSN offices for review.

Neo is a blend of rums aged between one to eight years and then filtered to remove all traces of coloration.  Eximo is interesting in that is was blended from unaged and young aged rums, and then aged again for ten years.

NEO (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Tropical notes with a heady dose of fresh lime, spun sugar candy, marshmallow, and even a hint of black licorice.
Taste: Viscous mouthfeel with a depth unlike any rum I’ve come across.  This tastes like it’s been distilled only twice, leaving a lot of the character of the cane molasses intact.  Sweet, but also tempered with a slightly grassy and bitter edge.  The lime nose that I detected comes through here in the flavor towards the end, making the whole effect quite refreshing and yet rich.
Finish: Medium long with a slight warming ginger root tang on the back of the palate.
Overall: An amazing rum that is well worth adding to your collection.  I hesitate to recommend this in a highball, but it will shine in a Daiquiri.  But, to truly appreciate, you should just sip neat at room temperature.
GSN Rating: A

Eximo (80 proof)
Visual: Copper.
Nose: Raspberry, blackberry, baking spice, and vanilla.
Taste: Immediate berry fruit flavor that leads into cinnamon, then caramel corn, and finishing with a touch of toasted vanilla bean.  Very interesting.  Very, very easy to drink and lovely in a rum old-fashioned, or just straight with a large single cube of ice.
Finish: It goes on for a good long while with a lot more of the wood and spice character coming through.  A perfect rum for the transition between summer and autumn.
Overall: Another truly fine rum that stands on its own without any need to mix it.  One taste, and you’ll be hooked.  Best get a bottle ASAP.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Facundo Rum

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image002Milagro continues their line of ultra-premium tequilas with a second iteration of UNICO.  This is a silver tequila blended with barrel aged reserves, creating a flavor profile that has joven, reposado and anejo characteristics.  By using a special process, Milagro removes all of the color from the blend, thus leaving it crystal clear.  GSN reviewed the first edition here back in 2012.  Read on to see how the latest 2014 version compares.

UNICO, Second Edition (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Floral, sweet agave, high spice notes with a darker and ruminating oak coloration.
Taste: Quite sweet and rich with a lot of vanilla.  I’m reminded of agave sweetened whipped cream.  Very smooth and easy to drink.
Finish: The sweetness fades fairly quickly, leaving some spice notes and a dry mouthfeel.
Overall: A dessert-like tequila which is unusual in that it has both the freshness of a young tequila and the depth of more intriguing aged spirits.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: Milagro

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