Archive for the ‘Spirits & Liqueurs’ Category


As most of my readers know, you can make alcohol from any fermentable grain or fruit.  In 1983, the Southern Liqueur Company of South Africa launched a marula (maroela mampoer) spirit.  Six years later, they debuted Amarula Cream. Similar in many ways to an Irish Cream, Amarula has the addition of a guava-like fruitiness.  As with Irish whiskey, the Marula distillate is aged in oak barrels, but only for two years, then blended with shelf stable cream.

The marula fruit grows on what is colloquially known as the Elephant tree.  Not because it looks like an elephant, but because the fermented fruit is quite attractive to elephants.  There have been hundreds of sightings of what appears to be intoxicated elephants eating over-ripe marula fruits.  No wonder they love it.  Akubekuhle!

Amarula Cream Liqueur (34 proof)
Visual: Beige.
Nose: Strawberries and cream.
Taste: Sweet and fruity with a hearty dose of cream
Finish:Lots of cream stays on the palate, with a blend of fruit and milk chocolate.  You can almost swear you’ve just enjoyed a boozy sundae in a glass.
Overall: The addition of fruitiness works exceptionally well.  In fact, several of us at the GSN offices say they prefer Amarula Cream over Irish Cream.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Amarula

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exclusiveThere’s a vague sense of the underworld in this whiskies’ name.  However, the real story is fairly innocuous.  Here’s the story:

“In 1958, a rare blend of Scotch malt and grain whiskies was discovered in 10 oak casks in the Port of Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland in a warehouse owned by William Muir Bond 9 Limited (Founded in 1823). The whisky was originally distilled in 1954 and the recipe , created by Marshall Taplow (est. London in 1760), dates back to the 1800s and has been enjoyed by Royalty and the British Aristocracy.

In 1966 a small quantity of the whisky, which was by then 12 Years Old, was bottled for the
private use of the Directors of William Muir Bond 9 Limited and a restricted number of their
friends. A total of six individuals comprising lawyers, accountants and bankers were instrumental in forming what became known as SYNDICATE 58/6 – hence the name.”

The whisky itself is a blend of eighteen single malts and four single grain distillates.  Most interesting however, is that Syndicate 58/6 is made using the solera method, whereby different agings are used and added to the same original batch over the years.  The youngest is over twelve years old, and there is even an infinitesimal trace of the original 1958 in there as well.

Syndicate 58/6 Scotch Whisky (86 proof)
Visual: Brooding amber.
Nose: Light, heathery, and slyly honeyed.
Taste: Quite delicate, and with the faintest touch of peat smoke.  A dry, sherry-like tone intertwined with clover honey creates a well-appointed Scotch.
Finish: Medium long, with more autumnal and spice driven elements peeking out.
Overall: I can certainly imagine this as the house whiskey at a private men’s club.  There’s almost an air of exclusiveness here.  Just the thing to warm up from a wind-driven, rain laden day.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: Syndicate 58-6

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TeelingSmallBatchThe Teeling family has a long history with crafting Irish whiskies which dates back to 1782.  Walter Teeling was the first to begin distilling when he set up shop in Dublin.  Amazingly enough, there were at that time thirty-seven different distilleries operating in the city.  Over time with the vagaries of economic disaster, two world wars and prohibition every single distillery shuttered their doors.  But, as of December 2014, current owner Jack Teeling will open the first new distillery in The Liberties area of Dublin’s Newmarket in 125 years.  In celebration of this milestone, Teeling Small Batch debuted earlier this year.

It is a blend of 65% grain and 35% malt whiskies, aged between 4-7 years, then re-matured in ex-Flor de Caña rum barrels for up to half a year.  Non-chill filtered, and bottled at 92 proof, this is one unique Irish whiskey.

Teeling Whiskey Small Batch (92 proof)
Visual: Light gold.
Nose: A lot of high, bright and spicy, sweet notes.
Taste: Rich and malty, with some barley sugar tendencies.  There is a surprising amount of wood spice here which mellows out with a splash of branch water.  Almost no detectable citrus, this whiskey instead goes for more vanilla, caramel and baking spices.
Finish: Medium long with a tender sweetness that undoubtedly comes from the double dose of aging in used rum barrels.
Overall: A perfect Irish for use in cocktails, the higher proof adds more depth and body.  If drinking straight, definitely add a good dose of water or a large cube of ice to open it up.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Teeling Whiskey

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IMG_8001One doesn’t necessarily think of rum production and New Orleans as going hand in hand, but there is a long history.  Louisiana has been growing sugarcane since the early 1800′s and many small rum producers made product.  Today, there is a resurgence in rum distilleries in the New Orleans area.

But, regarding this cocktail, it is generally made with Jamaican or Barbados dark rum.  Using a light rum, this is technically a Shanghai buck.  As I mentioned in my previous article, a buck is a cocktail made with a spirit, citrus juice and ginger beer or ginger ale.  So, what is the difference between these two carbonated, typically non-alcoholic mixers?

Generally, ginger ale is clear and sweeter, whereas ginger beer is cloudy and spicier.  Use whichever you prefer in this drink.  I tend to use ginger ale with light-colored spirits (vodka, gin, silver tequila, light rum) and ginger beer with darker spirits (dark rum, bourbon, cognac, anejo tequila).

New Orleans Buck
1.5oz light rum
1oz orange juice
0.25oz lemon juice
ginger ale

Shake first three ingredients with ice and strain into ice-filled Collins glass. Fill with ginger ale and stir.


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“The Buck stops here” – Harry S Truman

Sure, a lot of people try to pass the buck, but probably not the cocktail.  Oddly enough, the buck cocktail is also sometimes known as a mule.  Why name an antiquary cocktail after two designations for quadruped animals?  Who knows…?!

Anyway, a buck is a cocktail that calls for ginger beer or ale, citrus juice and a spirit.  Amazingly enough, this simple recipe seems to work with any spirit.  Today, we’re focusing on the gin buck, which is more commonly known as a London Buck, or if you’re into the golden age of Hollywood, a Ginger Rogers.

Simple, it goes down easy.  Not a lot of depth here, but a great drink for a hot day, or even something to wet the whistle after a hard day.

To make things a little more interesting, I used Blue Sky organic ginger ale.  This will also work well with a ginger beer.  More about that in my next article.

Orange Buck
1.5oz gin
1oz orange juice
0.25oz lime juice
ginger ale

Shake first three ingredients with ice and strain into ice-filled highball glass. Fill with ginger ale and stir.

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1413301533807Autumn is here, and time to break out the cider!  Although to be honest it feels more like mid-Winter in Syracuse today at only 22 degrees.  But, aside from that, there is something about this season that begs for enjoying a few apple flavored beverages.

If you didn’t already know, New York State is home to over two dozen of varieties of apples.  In fact, there is an annual apple festival just outside of Syracuse that has been held since 1973 and now attracts over 90,000 visitors per year! So apples are big business here.

Awestruck Cider is crafted on the fringes of the Catskill Mountains in rural Walton, New York.  They make three styles and were kind enough to visit the GSN office and personally drop off three 750ml bottles for us to enjoy.

Eastern Dry - Not too sweet or sour, this cider strikes a perfect balance between the two.  The carbonation level is just right, as well.  A lovely cider for sharing over a charcuterie board with a friend or two.  GSN Rating: B+

Hibiscus Ginger - Sweeter than I was expecting, but not overly so.  The hibiscus adds color, while the ginger gives it a little kick of heat.  I think a bit more ginger would make this cider even more appealing.  I found this cider served on the rocks was even better than stright up, and an interesting alternative to ginger ale in a highball.  GSN Rating: B

Lavender Hops - Beer is hopped, and even some spirits, so why not cider?  Why not go a step further and add perfumed floral notes with lavender?  That’s what you’ll find here.  In spite of the potential for this experiment to go horribly wrong, it works beautifully well.  Of the three ciders, this was by far my favorite.  Each sip surprises the palate and engages the mind to really reflect on what you’re drinking.  Very clever, creative and a real winner among ciders!  GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Awestruck Ciders

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central-hero-images-core-range-aoAuchentoshan continues their unique line of triple-distilled whiskies with their latest which is aged in ex-Bourbon barrels.  You can also read my previous reviews of Auchentoshan Classic, 12-year-old, and Three Wood, as well as Auchentoshan Virgin Oak.

Auchentoshan American Oak (80 proof)
Visual: Medium gold.
Nose: Rich, deep, dark and malt-laden.  Hearty and with a fresh popped sweet corn nose.
Taste: Creamy, enveloping, and smooth.  Luscious notes of caramel, vanilla and out-of-the-oven baked biscuits draws you in.  This is the equivalent to the shortcake that goes with summertime strawberries.
Finish: Medium long with a lot of sweetness and vibrancy.  There is an electric excitement in this whisky which transcends mere words.
Overall: This is a spirit to convert non-Scotch lovers to the wonderful world of Scotch.  If you are already a Scotchophile, this is one to keep within hand’s reach when arriving home after a bitterly cold winter’s day.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Auchentoshan

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