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vodka_glass_gl_16dec10_istock_bIn honor of National Vodka Day, Good Spirits News is proud to share some of our many reviews from over the years, plus a few original flavored vodka cocktails created by Blair Frodelius.  Cheers!

Alchemia

Aylesbury Duck

Bak’s Bison Grass

Bengerminz

Bootlegger 21

Boru

Cariel

Chopin

Crystal Head

Deep Eddy

Double Cross

Exclusiv & here

Golia

Karlsson’s Gold

Ketel One

Leaf

Michael Godard

Orange V

Oval

Purity

Rehorst

Reyka

Russian Diamond

Smooth Ambler

Sobieski

Spring 44

Tuthilltown Indigenous

Vesica

Wódka

Orient Express
2 oz citron vodka
1 0z grand marnier
0.5 oz canton ginger liqueur
0.5 oz lime juice
2 dashes Fee’s orange bitters
Shake and strain into cocktail glass.  Spear a piece of pickled ginger on bamboo skewer and lay across top of glass.

Admiral Perry
2 oz absolut pear vodka
1 oz original cinn schnapps
1 oz dry vermouth
0.25 teaspoon white creme de cacao
Add all ingredients to mixing glass and stir with ice until chilled.  Strain into cocktail glass.  Garnish with a thin slice of pear.

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

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

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

indexVan Gogh Imports is releasing Tap Rye Sherry Finished 8-year-old Canadian whisky to the U.S. market next month. The 8-year-old Canadian rye whisky is blended with Spanish Amontillado Sherry from Spain’s Jerez region in small batches by master blender Michel Marcel in Quebec. It’s then rested in charred white oak Bourbon barrels for more than 60 days. It will be available in U.S. retail accounts beginning mid-October for $39.99 a 750-ml. The Tap Whisky Finished Collection also includes Tap 357 Canadian Maple Rye Whisky and Tap Port Finished Canadian Rye Whisky.

index2Pernod Ricard has unveiled a new range of ultra-luxury 50-year-old single malt Scotch whiskies, The Glenlivet Winchester Collection. Debuting with a Vintage 1964 Glenlivet priced at $25,000 a bottle, the Winchester series—named for Glenlivet master distiller Alan Winchester—will follow with further releases in the years ahead, including a Vintage 1966 that will be the next in the line. 100 bottles of the 1964 vintage are being released worldwide. According to Impact Databank, The Glenlivet grew 8% globally to 1 million cases last year.

indexBacardi Ltd.’s John Dewar & Sons Ltd. is set to introduce its Last Great Malt collection, featuring a range of new, never-before-released single malts. Set to debut this week at the Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival, the range includes offerings from Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Craigellachie, The Deveron and Royal Brackla, which are to roll out in phases, available in a complete set of five or a variety of combinations. The collection will initially be available across 10 key global markets, including the U.S. and Canada.

indexPernod Ricard is launching its Wyborowa vodka brand in the U.S. through New Jersey-based Crillon Importers. The brand, which is among the market leaders in its native Poland, will be available stateside in a long-neck bottle and newly designed ripped-paper label in navy blue and silver.

indexDiageo’s Smirnoff vodka has extended its flavor stable with the addition of its new Smirnoff Sours range. The lineup, which features Green Apple, Watermelon and Fruit Punch expressions, is targeted toward the shot occasion and priced at $15.99 a 750-ml.

indexNicaraguan rum brand Flor de Caña, part of the William Grant & Sons USA (WGUSA) portfolio, is launching a new upscale entry, Centenario 25. Meant to be served neat or on the rocks, Centenario 25 is aged in ex-Bourbon barrels and retails at $155 a 750-ml. It joins Centenario 12 and 18 rums in Flor de Caña’s upscale range. The brand portfolio also includes 4-, 5- and 7-year-old premium rums, as well as Gran Reserva 7 and the recently launched Blanco Reserva 7.

indexPernod Ricard’s Martell Cognac has created a new ultra-luxury limited edition, Martell Premier Voyage, to celebrate the brand’s upcoming 300th anniversary, which will be marked next year. The blend for Premier Voyage was made by cellar master Benoît Fil using founder Jean Martell’s original correspondence to seek out the descendants of his key suppliers, some of whom are still winegrowers today. The resulting Cognac is packaged in a teardrop-shaped Sèvres crystal decanter, of which 300 are being released worldwide at €10,000 ($12,800) apiece.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily.

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

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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