Archive for the ‘Spirits & Liqueurs’ Category

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

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »


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

Read Full Post »


A well made rum is truly a lovely thing.  We here at Good Spirits News have been enjoying a Dominican version recently sent to us for review.  Crafted by Rum Master Pedro Ramon Lopez Oliver in the Cuban style, the rum is produced using the Solera method.  Interestingly, the blend is created from small batch rums aged in ex-bourbon, sherry, port or single malt Scotch casks.  This gives an amazing depth and breadth to the flavor profile which rivals any spiced rum I’ve tasted.  Honestly, this rum is a bargain at only $27.99 a bottle.  You might as well pick up a case.

South Bay Rum (80 proof)
Visual: Warm golden brown.
Nose: Spices, rich molasses and vanilla bean.
Taste: Incredibly smooth and richly flavorful.  Part cinnamon spice, part molasses, part vanilla and part oak.  Each element works to make a cohesive whole that excels on every level.  This is the kind of rum that you will begin a life long friendship with.
Finish: Nice and long with just a hint of the inherent wood aging at the end to give it some zing.  Lovely.
Overall: A beautiful rum for sipping on its own, making a Rum Old-Fashioned, or giving character and elegance to a Dark & Stormy.  Better yet, use this in your next Fish House Punch!
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: South Bay Rum

Read Full Post »

picture 34400Who was Martin Miller?  Surprisingly, he was the author of dozens of bestselling antique price guides.  Why name a gin after him?  It turns out he was the partner with two other businessmen, Andreas Versteegh and David Bromige who created the gin back in 1999.  You have to admit that the other two names don’t trip off the tongue quite as easily as Martin Miller’s.  Sadly, Mr. Miller passed away on Christmas Eve 2013 at the age of 67.  Luckily for us, the gin continues to find it’s way onto the shelves of some of the world’s greatest bars.

Martin Miller’s Gin (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose:  Tangy juniper notes blend with a fresh lemony citrus scent.
Taste: Smooth and mild with more peppery notes picking up midway through the initial tasting.  Quite a lot of citrus character adds a summery warmth.
Finish: Clean, crisp and with a touch of minerality.
Overall: A great gin for martinis and gin forward cocktails.  Try this one on the rocks with some house-made tonic water, a squeeze of lime and pretend that it’s high summer already.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Martin Miller’s Gin

Read Full Post »

Knappogue-FamilyKnappogue Castle has an interesting and varied history.  Originally built in 1467 by the Clan MacNamara, it was their home for almost 300 years until the Cromwellian government of England seized it and gave it to one of their loyal Roundheads.  Upon the restoration of the English Royal crown five years later, the MacNamaras once again held it as their own until finally selling it to the Scott Family in 1800. About 120 years later during the Irish War of Independence, the castle served as the headquarters for the County Clare rebels.  After the war, it was sold to a local farmer purely for pastureland.  The building sat uninhabited for 45 years, until an American Scotch collector by the name of Mark Edwin Andrews bought it in 1966.  He along with his wife restored it to its beautiful condition today.  It is his whiskies that bear the name of this venerable castle, and they can be sipped while you visit the grounds.

Traditionally, Knappogue whiskies are vintage labeled as are many fine wines, but recently Mr. Andrews’ son has introduced 12, 14 and 16 year olds to the thirsty public.

Knappogue Castle 12 (80 proof)
Visual: Very pale gold.
Nose: Woody, with an autumnal and comfortable sense of antiquity.
Taste: Smooth, light and to the point.  A very traditional Scotch that knows what it’s aiming for.  Caramel, vanilla and just a hint of smokiness.
Finish: Warming, friendly and like stepping back in time with each sip.
Overall: This is the kind of Scotch I imagine James “All Creatures Great & Small” Herriot enjoying a snifter of after a day traversing the Yorkshire Dales.
GSN Rating: A-

Knappogue Castle 14 (92 proof)
Visual: Light yellow-gold.
Nose: Quite a bit of woody edginess.  Still the inherent malty sweetness is the baseline here.
Taste: Sweet vanilla with more than a touch of oak.  The two flavors work in tandem to create an interesting see-saw effect on the palate.  This is a more assertive whiskey that has a balanced finesse.
Finish: Masculine and self-assured.  You know you’ve just had a whiskey that has reached the age of consent.
Overall: This is surprisingly in line with some single pot still Irish whiskies I’ve had.  Very nice indeed.
GSN Rating: A

Knappogue Castle 16 (80 proof)
Visual: Golden yellow.
Nose: Rich deep caramel with fruity raspberry notes.
Taste: Refined, light and dry with more tannin than sweetness.  An almost gamey quality of roasted fowl.  Quite interestingly, elements of Thanksgiving spices come through towards the end.
Finish: Intensely spice driven and chewy.  A lot of ginger-like notes along with faint rosemary and sage creep in here and there.
Overall: Very unusual and surprising.  I felt like I had enjoyed a savory meal.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Knappogue Castle

Read Full Post »

clontarf-1014-irish-whiskey Here we have a whiskey that commemorates a crucial battle in Ireland that took place almost exactly 1000 years ago.  On April 23rd, 2014, Brian Boru the High King of Ireland fought against Mael Morda mac Murchada the rebellious King of Leinster.  Unfortunately, High King Boru lost his life when some Norsemen in the hire of the Mael Morda slew him as they fled the battlefield.  Because of this, Ireland became many small kingdoms and all of Brian’s work toward uniting Ireland was lost for centuries.

Clontarf 1014 (80 proof)
Visual: Medium-light gold.
Nose: Nutty, caramel cream, and oak wood.
Taste: Light, smooth and sweet with a fair amount of vanilla.  I’m somehow reminded of a maple-frosted cinnamon bun.
Finish: Long lasting sweetness.
Overall: A very dessert-like Irish whiskey.  This will be a good choice for your next Irish Coffee.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: Clontarf 1014

Read Full Post »

2_91746175_3One doesn’t normally think of vodka when Irish spirits are mentioned.  Yet, here we have one.  Boru is a quintuple distilled grain vodka made with Irish spring water.  It is named after Brian Boru who was High King of Ireland from 1002-1014 AD.  In fact, he was killed in battle on Good Friday exactly one thousand years ago.  So, perhaps you would do him the honor of toasting his memory in a few weeks.  Slainte!

Boru Vodka (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Oddly buttery and sweet.
Taste: Quite sweet with a malty character.  The minerality plays second fiddle to the main very thick almost glycerine-like mouthfeel.  This is a heavy vodka that has a spun sugar essence.
Finish: Lasting sweetness percolated with hints of ginger spice and fresh-cut grass.
Overall: Quite different, and definitely a vodka that will stand up to anything you add to it.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: Boru

Read Full Post »

LQ1001_fI’m not sure how the rabbit’s foot became associated with luck.  However, with this new tequila (suerte is Spanish for luck) the rabbit on the bottle is a bit more interesting.  It has all four feet, plus some symbolic tattoos.  A sort of hipster/punk jack-rabbit.  Silly rabbit….

Suerte is prepared in a traditional manner along with some extra finesse.  Here are the details: The agaves are baked for 52 hours and then crushed with a Tahona stone for 16 hours.  Fermentation with a proprietary yeast lasts for 72 hours, and then it is double distilled over a 72 hour period.

Suerte also makes a reposado and an anejo.  GSN was sent the blanco for review.

Suerte Blanco (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Salty, spicy and with heavy with agave funk.
Taste: Warming with a sweet and peppery spice character.  There’s more salinity evident after the initial burst of flavors.  This is a very crisp tequila.
Finish: The peppercorn lingers for quite awhile.  A final note of lime zest completes the picture.
Overall: A perfect tequila for drinking neat or used in a Bloody Maria.  In a Margarita I think it’s a bit too spice forward.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: Drink Suerte

Read Full Post »

Glenrothes 2001 vintageEveryone loves a good ghost story.  Not too many are associated with distilleries, but The Glenrothes has one.

During the Boer war, a Colonel Grant from Rothes discovered an orphaned boy hiding in some bushes.  Apparently, they hit it off, because Grant took the boy back to England with him after the war.  His name was Byeway Makalaga and he became quite well-known in the town of Rothes over the years.  He even joined the local football team.  Finally, in 1972 he passed away.  He was buried near the Glenrothes distillery in the town’s cemetery.

In 1979, two new stills were installed, and several workers reported seeing the ghost of Byeway on the grounds.  University professor Cedric Wilson was called in to investigate the rumours.  He decided that the new project had disturbed some leylines under the earth.  He suggested that the stills be relocated elsewhere in the factory.  Some time later, the professor visited the cemetery with several others from Rothes and looked out at the hundreds of tombstones.  He then directly walked 70 yards to a distant grave marker and appeared to be talking to himself.  Even though he had never before been in the cemetery, nor knew where Byeway was buried, he had eerily gone directly to his resting place.  When he returned to the crowd of onlookers, he simply told them that the spirit was at rest now.  And his ghost has never been seen since.

The Glenrothes 2001 (86 proof)
Visual: Medium gold.
Nose: A nice balance of sweet and smoke.
Taste: Fruity, with a back-burner of heathery smoke and wood.  There are almost two distinct layers here with a vanilla/cherry cobbler holding hands with a traditional Speyside whisky.  The belle of the ball.
Finish: Long and with more of those fruity, black cherry notes.  Memorable.
Overall: Well done, and a testament to the twelve years spent under the watchful eye of the master distiller.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: The Glenrothes

Read Full Post »

glendronach-logoGlendronach was only the second distillery to legally make whisky after the Excise Act of 1823 was passed.  Founded in 1826, it is located in the Speyside district of Scotland. Most of the grain is grown on the distillery’s farms and the water used in fermentation comes from the Dronac stream that flows through the grounds. It’s a self-sufficient system, as they do their own floor maltings and utilize two wash stills along with two spirit stills.  Interestingly, they also use the only extant coal-fired furnaces in all of Scotland to heat the stills.

The Glendronach Tawny Port 15 Year Old (92 proof)
Visual: Peach!
Nose: Quite wine-like with just a touch of smoked malt.
Taste: Elegant, light, feminine and remarkably unique amongst any Scotch whiskies I’ve had the pleasure of tasting.  There’s a fruity, semi-strawberry flavor that brings to mind a sparkling rosé wine.
Finish: Long and lingering with much of the port character creating a lasting impression.
Overall: This is almost an entirely unique product.  There is such an intense presence of Port here, that it has transcended the whisky category altogether.
GSN Rating: A

The Glendronach Cask Strength Batch 2 (100-120 proof)
Visual: Dark gold.
Nose: Hearth fire and toasted multi-grain loaf.
Taste: Hearty, rich and intensely Scottish.  Not overly smoked though.  Chewy and bread-like with a creamy mouthfeel.
Finish: Warming and a bit like sitting in front of a crackling fire on a winter’s day.  You will feel like you have been transported back in time to a simpler era where life was worth savoring.
Overall: A great cask strength whisky.  Just a few drops of branch water will open this up into a fantastic world of lusciousness.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: The Glendronach

Read Full Post »

2-Gingers-irish-whiskey2 Gingers, although a true Irish whiskey was created by a Minnesotan by the name of Kieran Folliard.  Folliard was a bar owner who saw bottle after bottle of Jameson’s emptied by his thirsty customers.  Thinking he could come up with an equally impressive product, he contracted the Kilbeggan (formerly Cooley) Distillery to craft a four-year old blended Irish whiskey to his specifications.

As for the two ginger haired beauties portrayed on the label?  They are Kieran’s mother and aunt, whom I assume enjoyed their dram of Irish on occasion. 

2 Gingers (80 proof)
Visual: Honeyed gold.
Nose: Mellow notes of malted grain, more caramel than citrus.  Pleasantly traditional.
Taste: Quite smooth and quaffable.  There is a hint of bitter woodiness towards the end, but in my mind that’s better than too much sweetness.
Finish: There’s a bit of fire here which I find surprising.  It’s not necessarily in the distillation, but I think rather in the blending.
Overall: A well done Irish, which stands up to many of the big boys.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: 2 Gingers

Read Full Post »

Redbreast 21 Year OldRedbreast continues to push the boundaries of Irish whiskies by introducing their most venerable expression yet.  They have consistently won awards for each of their products over the past 114 years.  What you may not know is that Midleton is now one of the most modern distilleries in the world, with its production areas linked via fibre-optic networks. It also produces an astounding 64 million litres of spirit per year from their three pot stills and three column stills.

Made at the Midleton Distillery in Cork, Ireland, Redbreast 21 is a triple copper pot distilled 21-year-old crafted from a mash of malted and unmalted barley and matured in a combination of American Bourbon barrels and first fill Spanish oloroso sherry casks.

I’ve previously reviewed Redbreast 12, Redbreast 12 Cask Strength and Redbreast 15.

Redbreast 21 (92 proof)
Visual: Honeyed gold.
Nose: Sprightly honeyed woodiness, with a lot of forthright intention.
Taste: Amazingly layered with a peppery sweetness that holds hands with the malty caramel sweetness.  Warm and rich baking spices seem to percolate throughout, giving this Redbreast the personality of an Irish whiskey that knows what it wants and where it’s going.
Finish: Much longer than expected, with a lingering and tender-hearted wistfulness.  This is a whiskey that loves you.
Overall: They’ve done it again.  The Midleton Distillers have set the bar for Irish whiskies beyond anything else on the market.  Honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that it retails for $200+ a bottle, I would gladly make this my daily nightcap.
GSN Rating: A++

For more information go to: Irish Distillers

Read Full Post »

indexWhat do Lady Godiva and the Campbell Soup Company have in common?  Probably not chocolate.  And yet, the Godiva Chocolatier company which was founded in 1926 and named after the naked Anglo-Saxon equestrian was owned by the “Soup is good food” company for almost 40 years.  A strange history for a company which originally only created edible chocolates and now include quaffable chocolates amongst their many enterprises.  This latest in a line of chocolate liqueurs which already includes white and milk chocolate, contains no dairy and has only half of the calories of the other two.

Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur (30 proof)
Visual: Dark clear brown.
Nose: Slightly sweet chocolate.
Taste: Less intense than what I was expecting.  Not to say that it is weak, but the overall character seems somewhat watered down.  It does taste like chocolate though, and not a whole lot like a sugary liqueur.  Think, a dry creme de cacao.
Finish: Simple and slightly bittersweet.
Overall: An interesting liqueur for use in cocktails.  Much less sweet and cloying than a typical creme de cacao, but also much richer in real chocolate flavor.  Try this in your next Commodore or Brandy Alexander and see what you think.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: Godiva Spirits

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: