Archive for the ‘Spirits & Liqueurs’ Category

tin-cup-american-whiskey-77380pWith the advent of craft distilleries popping up at an ever-increasing pace in the United States, it’s always nice to try a product that is both new and yet made by someone with years of experience.  TINCUP American Whiskey is just such a spirit.  Created by Jess Graber who has been distilling for over 40 years and founded Colorado’s first legal distillery since prohibition (Stranahan’s), TINCUP is a hybrid of corn, rye and malt grains.

The bottle is striking, and yes the cap doubles as a shot glass, except it is made of tin.  The inspiration behind the name comes from an 1800’s mining town in Gunnison County, Colorado actually named Tincup.  Knowing what I know about the life of those involved in the gold rush, I have no doubt that many of them had more than their fair share of whiskey.

Tincup American Whiskey (84 proof)
Visual: Light copper.
Nose: Bright high rye notes, with an intensely aggressive leathery nose.  It fools you into thinking this is a cask strength whiskey.
Taste: Surprisingly smooth and mellow sweet notes, slowly percolate into sharper and more peppery rye accents.  There is a mellow creaminess which surprises, but makes for a warm and friendly whiskey that you will make friends with quickly.
Finish: Medium long, with more sweet tones than spicy ones.  This only leads to a desire to have yet another taste.
Overall: Totally mixable in cocktails like a Manhattan or a Sazerac, this also makes for a fine end of the evening sipper straight from the bottle.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Tincup Whiskey

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jeppson_s_malort__86402.1405480557.1280.1280There aren’t too many polarizing spirits and liqueurs which you will either love or hate.  A shot of Campari, Fernet, or 151 rum sometimes becomes a rite of passage mongst the bartending community as a “dare” at the end of the night.  I’ve tasted many unusually strong or bitter spirits over the years, but the one I’m reviewing definitely takes the cake.

It is a Chicago version of the traditional Swedish liquor Bäsk which is flavored with wormwood (“malört”).  Of course, wormwood is associated with absinthe, and less so with vermouth, but it has been used in alcoholic beverages for centuries as a tonic and a flavoring agent.  Jeppson’s was the only legally sold product containing wormwood during prohibition due to its supposed medicinal qualities.  Surprisingly, it never outgrew its locale.  90% of Jeppson’s is sold within the Chicago area.  Even more surprisingly, the entire company is run by only two employees.

Jeppson’s Malört (70 proof)
Visual: Gold.
Nose: Honey and herb.
Taste: Initially, it seems dry and slightly bitter along the lines of Campari, but within seconds it grows exponentially bitter to the point where you wonder if you’ve just ruined your taste buds for life.  There are other more subtle herbal things going on, but they are quickly overwhelmed by the wormwood.
Finish: The longest finish of anything I’ve ever had.  Twenty minutes after I had a small sip, I was still tasting it, despite repeated healthy swallows of water.  The bitterness is memorable, if not necessarily appealing.
Overall: Definitely a niche beverage, this will probably be one of those bottles that rarely gets opened unless you like to watch people’s facial reactions.
GSN Rating: A+ for uniqueness, F for enjoyment.

For more information go to: Jeppson’s Malört

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Scotland’s Laphroaig distillery laphroaig_select_mit_gp_700mlcontinues to expand their smokey scotch whiskey portfolio this summer with a blend of old and new world aging styles.  First rested in European oak casks, the spirit is then transferred to American oak ex-bourbon barrels to give it a slightly sweeter finish.  This makes for a more approachable character for those unused to the intense peaty quality of Islay whiskies.  It also makes it ideal for use in punches and cocktails.

Laphroaig Select (80 proof)
Visual: Golden honey.
Nose: Some stone fruit, honey, medium smoke, and almond.
Taste: Light, sweet and somewhat dessert-like.  An interesting maple candy character works quite well with the smokey and salty essence.  Think of candied smoked almonds or bar nuts.
Finish: Medium long with a lot of the sweet smokey notes not wanting to let you go.
Overall: Goes down easy and still retains the usual Laphroaig character, but adds a new dimension which gives it a lot more flexibility for mixology.  In some ways, I’m reminded of Batavia Arrack.
GSN Rating: A-

You can read my review of Laphroaig’s flagship 10-year-old whiskey here.

For more information go to: Laphroaig

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Westland-American-Single-Malt-Whiskey1Seattle’s Westland Distillery has only been in operation since 2010.  Hard to believe since their Single Malt tastes like it has been perfected over decades.  Yet, it was less than a year ago that their flagship whiskey, Westland American Single Malt burst onto the spirits scene.  Crafted from a blend of five types of malted barleys, distilled in copper pot stills, aged in deeply charred new American oak barrels and brought down to proof with local Seattle water; Westland has a truly local product that speaks well of the region’s potential to craft world-class spirits.

Westland American Single Malt (92 proof)
Visual: Warm golden brown.
Nose: Spice with lighter notes of vanilla and caramel.  Quite complex and intense with a lot of olfactory body.
Taste: Brown bread, sandalwood, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean and a touch of minerality.  Rich, deep and intriguing.  Well developed and certainly not overdone.
Finish: Medium long with the more subtle sweet tones coming out to take a peek.  You’d almost swear there was a touch of salt here as well.  Perhaps due to the Scotch style distillation.
Overall: This is a young whiskey that acts a lot older than it is.  The higher proof serves it well as it holds more of the terroir within the spirit. Lovely in the glass, this also works quite well in a Sazerac.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Westland

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Solbeso BottleMuch like coffee, it is the cacao bean and not the fruit that is in demand.  But, what happens to the fruit surrounding the seed?  Sadly, most of it is thrown away and wasted.  As with apples and bananas, the fruit browns quickly after being exposed to oxygen.  The creator of Solbeso, Tom Higbee decided to trying his hand at distilling this fruit.  Working with Peruvian Pisco producers, over four years he developed a product that is entirely unique in the world of spirits.

Solbeso (“sun-kissed”), is crafted from cacao fruit harvested on family farms in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and northern Peru.  And again, like coffee, there are varietals.  Solbeso chooses twelve different species of cacao fruit and blends them according to flavor and aromatics.  And as with ice wine, there is just a short window of opportunity to make the final product before the fruit is rendered useless.  It is an intense process that must utilize the fruit within 6-8 hours.

The yeast used for fermentation is proprietary using a blend of both local and Champagne cultures.  It is during the fermentation process that it is exposed again to the open air, where it is sun-kissed.  It is then distilled in both copper alembic and column stills to achieve the final product, before it is brought down to proof with water in the United States and bottled for shipping.

Solbeso Cacao Spirit (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Slightly musky and fruity, with a nose leaning towards mango.
Taste: I’m immediately reminded of unaged whiskey with a fruity rather than sweet corn based edge.  There’s a bit of heat that fools the tongue into thinking this is a higher proof spirit.  The flavor is pleasant but seems one dimensional.  I’m curious to know how this would fare if it was aged in a tropical wood, as some cachacas are.
Finish: Fairly short with both an interesting salty and fruity character.
Overall: This tastes best ice-cold as a shot, or as a base in a fruit based cocktail.  This is also killer in a Bloody Mary, although you have to call it a Bloody Mariya.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: Solbeso

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The House of Angostura Amaro di AngosturaI had the opportunity to be one of the first people to ever taste the Angostura company’s latest product while at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans this past July.  The company held a special media luncheon on the top floor of the Hotel Monteleone, hosted by Angostura’s global brand ambassador, Daniyel Jones.  The interesting thing was that none of the guests knew what the product was going to be.  So, it was a complete surprise that they decided to go with an amaro.  A wise choice, as Angostura’s version is noticeably different from traditional Italian or French styles, as well as having a noticable tropical character.  Luckily, I was able to take a small sample home with me, and so I present my tasting notes below.

Amaro di Angostura (70 proof)
Visual: Dark brown.
Nose: Allspice, sweet molasses, with an overlayer of rich and dark mouth-watering notes.
Taste: Clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and a much sweeter base than I was expecting.  This makes it perfect for tiki style cocktails and mixability with rums.  I particularly favor the balance between the spice and sweet elements.  In some ways, it reminds me of cinnamon red-hots, and in other of Christmas baking spices.  Truly unique.
Finish: The dry almost electric tingle of the allspice lingers for quite some time, leaving a dry and slightly bitter edge.
Overall: As I remarked when I first tasted it in New Orleans, it is love-child of sweet vermouth and pimento dram.  On its own, it is fantastic as a liqueur, but will also add pizzazz to cocktails needing some high and bitter notes that won’t go overboard.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Angostura

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lots-of-rumIn honor of National rum day, here are a few of the original rum based cocktails that I’ve created over the years!


Blair Frodelius – editor

Captain Grey
4 oz piping hot organic Earl Grey tea
1.5 oz Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
0.25 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp organic honey

Pre-warm a cognac glass with warm to hot water.  Steep Earl Grey tea for 3-5 minutes in a mug with water just off the boil.  Empty cognac glass, then add tea, rum, lemon juice and honey.  Gently stir and garnish with a lemon wheel.

Cook’s Redemption
2.5 oz El Dorado Special Reserve 15-year-old rum
0.5 oz Bacardi vanilla rum
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
0.5 oz fresh orange juice
0.5 oz cinnamon syrup
1 dash of Fee’s black walnut bitters
1 dash of Fee’s barrel-aged aromatic bitters

Add all ingredients to a goblet filled with crushed ice.  Stir and add more ice to top off and serve with a straw.  Optional: garnish with grated nutmeg.

2 oz. Appleton Special Jamaica Rum
1 oz. Barenjager Honey liqueur
0.5oz Lustau Dry Amontillado Los Arcos Sherry
0.5 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 dash Dale Degroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters

Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake well and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Flying Monkey
1.5oz Deadhead rum
0.75oz Dekuyper creme de banana liqueur
0.25oz Hiram Walker Original Cinn liqueur
0.25oz Don Q Limon rum
0.25oz Fee brothers vanilla syrup
scant tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

Fill tiki mug with crushed ice and add all ingredients.  Swizzle and then garnish with baby banana, edible flower and straw.

Kaddū Raj
2 tablespoons of organic pumpkin puree
1.5 oz Malibu rum
0.75 oz Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
2 dashes of The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters

Stir briskly with cracked ice for ten seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a light dusting of mild yellow curry powder.

Peri Banu
2 oz Appleton gold rum
1 oz Absolut vanilla vodka
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
0.5 oz fresh orange juice
0.5 oz Hiram Walker Original Cinn schnapps
0.5 oz simple syrup
2 dashes of Fee’s old-fashioned bitters

Add all ingredients to a goblet filled with crushed ice.  Stir and add more ice to top off and serve with a straw.  Optional: garnish with an edible flower.

1.5 oz Barenjager
1.5 oz Cruzan Black Strap Rum
1 oz Absolut Peppar
1 tsp St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram

Add all ingredients to mixing glass with ice and stir until well chilled.  Strain into a cocktail glass rimmed with a mix of grated nutmeg and superfine sugar.

1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
0.5 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
0.75 oz Goya passionfruit cocktail
1 oz Orangina
0.75 oz Fee Brothers rock candy syrup
0.25 oz Campari
2 oz Montanya platino rum
1.25 oz Montanya oro rum
0.75 oz Cruzan black strap rum
2 dashes Fee Brothers whiskey-barrel aged aromatic bitters

Add all to mixing glass with ice.  Shake powerfully, pray to your favorite tiki god, and pour into a barrel-shaped mug.  Garnish with sparkling long, thin black candle (made to look like a fuse).

Punch the Monkey
1 750ml bottle gosling’s dark rum
8 oz Chartreuse Green
4 oz Benedictine
8 oz pineapple juice
8 oz lime juice
7 oz orgeat
35 dashes Angostura bitters

Add all to punchbowl with block of ice. Ladle individual servings in half of a Milton Bradley “Barrel of Monkeys” container over crushed ice.

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