Archive for the ‘Spirits & Liqueurs’ Category

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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YamazakiVerticalLogo-1Continuing the GSN series on Japanese whiskies, today we’ll be focusing on Yamazaki.  The Distillery is located Shimamoto, Osaka Prefecture, Japan. Opened in 1923, by Shinjiro Torii the founder of Suntory, it was Japan’s first commercial whisky distillery.  Over the past 90 years, they have amassed over 7,000 bottles of unblended malt whisky in an amazing “Whisky Library”.  Visitors can tour the library, but if you’re unable to go in person, this video by a fellow beverage blogger at PeteDrinks.com.

Yamazaki 12 (86 proof)
Visual: Medium gold.
Nose: Mild smoke and salt, with some ginger, seaweed and fresh-cut oak.
Taste: Sweet, but impressively aggressive mouthfeel and flavor.  Very rich and viscous whisky.  This will hold up to any ice you throw in the glass.  The depth of malt and quality of distillation makes this seem like a 100 proof spirit.
Finish: Long, long, long.  The sweeter notes fade into a cascade of spice and wood, leaving your mouth refreshed.  Almost as if you’d just eaten a piece of candied ginger.
Overall: Very nice.  If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive Japanese whisky for your “go-to” nightcap, I’d recommend this in a heartbeat.
GSN Rating: A

Yamazaki 18 (86 proof)
Visual: Dark copper.
Nose: Heavy wood with a goodly dose of smoke.  Quite dark and brooding.  Mystery in a glass.
Taste: Surprisingly light and expressive, with plenty of malt and wood playing tag.  The flavors move from sugar maple to an almost sherry-like fruitiness, and then move on to a hearty powerhouse of oak char.  A fine partner for a quality cigar.
Finish: Long and wistful.  There is a sense of Autumn, cooler weather and reminiscence.
Overall: The nose reminds me of opening an old sea chest in the attic.  Quite evocative.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: The Yamazaki

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main_visual_hakushuContinuing our reviews of Japanese whiskies, today we focus on Hakashu.  Owned by Suntory in Japan, the Hakashu distillery is located in Torihara, Yamanashi Prefecture.

Half a century after the Yamazaki distillery was founded, Keizo Saji inherited his father’s vision, and in his quest for innovation, constructed Suntory’s second distillery in 1973.

Built amidst the deepest forests of Mt. Kaikomagatake in the Japanese Southern Alps, the Hakushu distillery is without question one of the highest in the world. The majestic forest that surrounds the distillery shelters some six thousand varieties of plants-almost twice the number found in Western Europe.

The malt whiskies born here are simultaneously blessed with a very particular microclimate, luxurious forests, and water offering a rare softness and purity, only made possible by filtration of rain and snow through thousand-year-old granite rocks.

Founded in 1973, they make six styles of whiskey, two of which are limited editions.  The GSN staff were sent the following for review.

Hakashu 12 (86 proof)
Visual: Yellow gold.
Nose: Smokey, rich and with some young leather.
Taste: Very Scotch-like in character, with an abundance of sweet, hazelnut-like tones.  The smoke edges are kept to a minimum, while the malts play much more freely and add a hearty depth to the affair.  A fulsome mouthfeel that belies a maturity and assertive quality.
Finish: Interestingly, I pick up a sense of mountain air and loads of sunshine here.  A summer-y kind of whisky that reminds me of a unbridaled spirit ready to take on the world.
Overall: Very nice indeed.  An oriental version of a Highland Scotch.
GSN Rating: A-

Hakashu Single Malt Heavily Peated (96 proof)
Visual: Mild gold.
Nose: Yes, quite peaty with heavy charred smoke.  But, tempered by a wry, sweet edge.  This is a marriage between a bold malting floor and a more delicate malted barley.
Taste: A vine fruit entry leads immediately into a noirish smoke-laden atmosphere.  You can almost imagine yourself in a 1930’s Japanese bar casually sipping a snifter, while watching a floor show.  More to the point, this is an evocative whisky that will take you places.
Finish: The smoke lingers for several minutes, but I’m more impressed with the way the distillate has a warm, almost sensual sweetness.  As soon as one glass is finished, you’ll find yourself longing for another rendezvous.
Overall: Possibly the finest Japanese peated whisky on the planet.  If you can find a bottle, buy it immediately and only share with your closest friends and loved ones.
GSN Rating: A++

For more information go to: Suntory

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hibiki-whiskyJapanese whiskies are on the rise.  I’ll be reviewing some different brands over the next few days.  Each are owned by Suntory Holdings Limited located in Osaka, Japan.  Suntory was established in 1899 and not only makes fine spirits, but has branched out into beers, soft drinks and even teas.  The company recently purchased Beam, Inc. maker of Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Canadian Club, Cooley-Kilbeggan, Ardmore, Laphroaig, and others.  But, for today, we’ll be focusing on Hibiki whiskey.

Hibiki, literally “resonance” debuted in 1989 and is a malt whisky blended from Yamazaki and Hakushu single malts, as well as grain whisky from Chita.  Hibiki is aged in a variety of casks including Japanese mizunara oak “mizunara” and ex-Umeshu casks.  Umeshu is a Japanese liqueur made from ume fruits, shochu and sugar.  You can find this labeled as “plum wine” on the shelves of your local liquor store.

Hibiki 12 (80 proof)
Visual: Golden yellow.
Nose: Sweet notes of honey, quite floral and bright with a buttery character.  Some wood grain and peppery spice.
Taste: Rich and smooth with an easy balance of malt and wood aging.
Finish: Some slight bitter notes creep out after a minute, keeping things from being too malty or sweet.  But, there is a definite butter and honey flavor here which is surprisingly agreeable and lovely.
Overall: I’m reminded of an Irish whiskey, with a bit more character.  A fine entry-level Japanese whisky that you can’t go wrong with.
GSN Rating: A-

Hibiki 17 (80 proof)
Visual: Slightly darker golden-yellow than the 12-year-old.
Nose: Finer and tighter character with an impressively fragrant nose. Slight rose petal, vanilla bean, banana, melon, and spice cake.
Taste: Round and warm mouthfeel with a mild salinity and a lot of cask.  The spiciness comes to the forefront quite readily and there is an effusive amount of sandalwood and cinnamon.
Finish: Clean, dry and only slightly sweet.  More of a spice bomb.
Overall: Perhaps just a little too much florality and spice, but it makes for a very interesting whisky that will capture your attention.
GSN Rating: A-

Hibiki 21 (80 proof)
Visual: Dark golden-yellow leaning to copper.
Nose: Rich notes of burnt sugar, dark wood,
Taste: Sublime on the entry, but opens quickly into an enveloping calliope of spirited notes.  The spice of the 17-year-old is now at the back of the palate, while the malt is quite tempered in the front.  So much going on in between these two bookends, I would need to write a lexicon to describe it all.  One way to describe this whisky is self-assured.
Finish: Long and dry with plenty of lingering notes of sugar and spice and everything nice.
Overall: Very close to the epitome of an aged blended whiskey.  With a few drops of water, it opens up into a thing of beauty and grace.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Suntory

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glenglassaugh_evolution_tennesseeAlthough the Glenglassaugh Distillery on the outskirts of Speyside was built in 1875, it closed operations in 1986.  They specialized in making whiskies bound for blends such as Cutty Sark and Famous Grouse.  But due to the increased interest in whiskies over the past decade, they re-opened in 2008 and released new product in 2011.  In 2013, the company was purchased by The Benriach Distillery Company who also own The Glendronach Distillery.  These three new whiskies are the first expressions available to general public.

Revival is non-chill filtered, aged in ex-red wine and bourbon casks, and finished with an extra aging session in ex-sherry barrels.

Evolution is non-chill filtered and matured in ex-bourbon barrels.

Torfa is an unusually smokey Highland whiskey using heavily peated malted barley.

Revival (92 proof)
Visual: Medium gold.
Nose: Sweet malty notes with heady body and a slight salinity.
Taste: Quite light and delicate at first, almost hesitant, but it quickly opens up and matures into a fully endowed spirit.  There is a lot of Scotland here.  You get a feel for the land, the sea and the wild weather.
Finish: Quite long with faint smokey and floral notes lingering for several minutes.  The flavors beckon contemplation.
Overall: A whiskey that summons up a late Autumn evening around the hearth.  Quite evocative and wistful.
GSN Rating: A-

Evolution (100 proof)
Visual: Light gold.
Nose: Heathery, ethereal, and amazingly laden with top notes.
Taste: Despite the high-proof, subdued sweet notes along with some spice tickle the tongue.  Almost no smoke flavor at first, but there’s no mistaking this for anything but a Scotch whiskey.  Rich, enveloping and quite malty.
Finish: Welcoming sweet, dessert-like fig and anise tones slowly make their way to a fond memory of high summer.
Overall: The great outdoors captured for a moment in time.  Very approachable and warm.  Perfect for an end of the day nip.
GSN Rating: A-

Torfa (100 proof)
Visual: Very pale gold.
Nose: Loads of smoke with distant tinges of malt.
Taste: Yes, it’s smoke heavy, but in an entirely balanced and pleasant way. The malt shares the load equally and makes for a highly drinkable ode to Islay style whisky.  Very pleasant and a perfect companion for that cigar or pipe tobacco you’ve been saving for a special occasion.
Finish: The smoke casts a penumbra over everything, but the overall effect is of joyful youth and exuberance.  This is a fun whisky!
Overall: One of the more interesting Speyside whiskies and definitely one that will find a lot of Scotch lovers come courting.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Glenglassaugh

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Partida line high-res Amazingly enough, Partida has only been in business for nine years.  I first heard of them through F. Paul Pacult’s Spirits Journal around the same time, when he awarded all three of their tequilas a rare 5-star rating.  Partida was started by an unlikely pair from California, investor J. Gary Shansby, and Mexican-American Sofia Partida June 2005.

The tequilas are crafted from 10-year-old Blue Weber agave pinas which are baked in stainless steel ovens, then distilled twice.  The blanco is bottled almost immediately, while the Reposado and Anejo is aged in ex-Jack Daniel’s French-Canadian oak  barrels for six and eighteen months respectively.

Blanco (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Fresh and fruity agave with a hint of spearmint, cinnamon and crushed peppercorn.  Bright, crisp and mouth-watering.
Taste: Light and almost ethereal, with a true sense of spirit here.  There isn’t an aggressive character here, but rather a sweet, young and slightly immature friendliness.  Very easy to drink and marvelous in a Margarita.
Finish: Medium long, with more saline notes coming out to peek around the corner.  A lasting impression of wistful youth is here.
Overall: Well played.  Easily one of the most drinkable young tequilas I’ve ever savored.
GSN Rating: A

Reposado (80 proof)
Visual: Pale gold.
Nose: Spicy, with clove, anise, sandalwood and more subtle notes of vanilla and burnt caramel.
Taste: Viscous and caramel laden with a hefty dose of tannins.  Fools the palate into thinking this is an anejo.  Interestingly, there is a curious orange citrus note that comes through after a minute or two.  The bottom tones are impressively deep and spicy, but the high notes are the ones that carry the overall profile.
Finish: Medium long with a lot more vanilla and spice than expected.
Overall: A fine sipping tequila that will work well in a tequila old-fashioned, or with ginger beer and a slice of orange.
GSN Rating: A-

Anejo (80 proof)
Visual: Light gold.
Nose: Sweet, honeyed spice with toasted walnut, dried orange peel, macadamia and prune.
Taste: unbelievably smooth and effortless on the palate.  Like sipping agave water.  But, with the addition of an entire cornucopia of baking spices.  It’s as if this is a Mexican kitchen in the glass.
Finish: Medium long with lingering sweet barley sugar notes and rich dessert body.
Overall: Absolutely beautiful.  An amazing tequila that will enhance a traditional Mexican meal.  If I had to choose a tequila to celebrate the spirit of Mexican distillation, this would be it.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Partida Tequila

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