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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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green-spot-bottle-1At one time, there existed several “spots” of whiskey including red, blue, yellow and green.  Today, the only one that has consistently withstood the vagaries of time is Green Spot.

Why the name?  Originally the colored spots were used on the casks to designate the length of aged whiskey within.  Simple as that.  It also happens to be one of the few bonded spirits in Ireland.  The license being held by Mitchell & Sons wine merchants.  Most of the bottles are sold in Dublin from their storefront, and in general only about 500 cases are bottled per year.  So, this has been a difficult whiskey to obtain until Pernod-Ricard recently managed to have Green Spot imported into the US. If you can find it, pick up a few for the bargain price of only $50 a bottle.

Green Spot is a blended 7-10 year old single pot still whiskey, aged in new bourbon and sherry casks.

Green Spot (80 proof)
Visual:  Golden yellow.
Nose: Rich, sweet and malty.
Taste: Smooth and rich with a mellow spiciness.  Definite peppery notes come from the bourbon barrels and the sherry barrels give it a wine-like sweetness that comes through at the very end.
Finish: A lot of interesting character develops rapidly.  Sweet, then peppery, then woody, then vine-fruit, then malty, and a rustic sensibility.
Overall: At first it seems like a typical Irish single pot still, but there’s more than that going on here, than let’s say what you find in Redbreast (another of my all-time favorites).  Green Spot has a bit of terroir which for the life of me, seems elusive.  It’s almost as if Ireland itself has been captured in the bottle.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Irish Distillers

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cover13-256x350Imported by San Francisco’s Haas Brothers, Tequila ArteNOM is the first company authorized by the Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT) to bottle tequilas from different distilleries and release them under a single brand name. These limited edition spirits, sourced from different regions within Jalisco, Mexico celebrate the best of tequila craftsmanship by highlighting the agave cultivation altitude, soil and masterful distillation techniques of different producers.

Selección de 1580  Blanco: Rancho El Olvido in Jesús-María (elev. 6,200′) is tequila’s highest altitude distillery, producing small artisan batches of bright, intensely aromatic tequila, owing to porous soil that “stresses” the agave plants to create a rich agave flavor.

Selección de 1414  Reposado:  Tequila Reposado is produced by Master Distiller José Manuel Vivanco at Destileria El Ranchito (elev. 5,400′) in Arandas, Jalisco.  Vivanco has been cultivating highland agave since Mexico’s tumultuous post-revolutionary period of 1919-1929. The family now holds 2,000 acres of estate-grown agave producing a rich, well-balanced spirit.

Selección de 1146  Añejo: ArteNOM “Seleccion de 1146″ Tequila Anejo is created by  fifth-generation agave cultivator and master distiller Enrique Fonseca at Casa Tequileña in Atotonilco el Alto (Elev. 4,620′), Jalisco. This Añejo selection is drawn from old French and American oak to create a unique and unforgettable complexity.   Sixty percent of this anejo was matured in French oak for two years, while forty percent was matured in French oak for three years. They were then expertly married together and aged for one more year in American White Oak bourbon barrels.

1580 Blanco (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Notes of caramel, lime, and plenty of agave. Bright, expressive and succulent.
Taste: Salt and pepper up front with a light and somewhat citrusy juiciness.
Finish: Short and quick, with lingering elements of lime.
Overall: A very fresh tequila, absolutely perfect for margaritas or sipping along with traditional Mexican cuisine.
GSN Rating: B+

1414 Reposado (80 proof)
Visual: Very pale gold.
Nose: Oak and mild agave.
Taste: Quite smooth and mellow with a creamy texture.  Notes of chocolate, salted caramel, and sweet corn.
Finish: The flavor overall is of sweetness and that’s the lasting impression given here.  Not a bit of heat or smoke.
Overall: A very fine sipping tequila that has just enough character imparted from the barrel to give it a slight edginess.
GSN Rating: B+

1146 Anejo (80 proof)
Visual: Golden brown.
Nose: Sourdough bread, slight hint of citrus and floral.
Taste: Sweet and oaked, with almost sherry-like indications.  Reminiscent of a warm Autumn afternoon.
Finish: Rich, sweet and enveloping.  Think of a wonderful bread pudding.
Overall: This would make for a splendid tequila old-fashioned.  But, perhaps even better is a snifter on its own.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Del Tequila

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GroupShot_Wht_Organic_ColorChangeEven though Tres Agaves tequila is a relatively new product on the market, it is crafted at one of the oldest distilleries in Jalisco, Mexico; Destiladora Azteca de Jalisco.  As well, they have won some outstanding industry awards from the likes of Paul Pacult’s Ultimate Beverage Challenge and Ultimate Cocktail Challenge.

Their margarita mixer is a blend of organic lime juice, organic agave nectar grown in Jalisco and filtered water.  Simple, yet the only organic version on the market.  Trend setting.

So, with these two products in hand, how does their brand name Margarita stand up?  Read on….

Tres Agaves Silver (80 proof)
Visual: Crystal.
Nose: Fresh, lively and strong agave body.
Taste: Exceptionally smooth, round and creamy, yet at the same time full of bright, vegetal pepperiness. The whole flavor moves from one end of the spectrum to the other.  The mouthfeel is beautiful and the agave is done to perfection.  Quite lovely and certainly a standout in the blanco category.
Finish: Medium long with fresh flavor of pressed agave aged to the peak of the character imparted by the wood.
Overall: Summer in a glass.  This is the kind of tequila you want to take home and introduce to your mother. ;)
GSN Rating: A+

Tres Agaves Organic Margarita Mix (non-alcoholic)
Overall:  Used as specified on the bottle’s label, the Margarita with Tres Agaves Silver tasted fine, but without the essential oils found in fresh-squeezed limes, it has a somewhat one dimensional taste.    I was also surprised at the serving suggestions which calls for the drink to be served on the rocks in a old-fashioned glass.  I appreciated the overall flavor, and the organic ingredients, but would always make it fresh if at all possible.  Barring that, this is one of the best mixes I’ve tasted.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: Tres Agaves

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