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15245-540x335In case you don’t know who Michael Godard is, all you need to do is look at the artwork on the bottles of vodka and gin.  Yes, he’s the artist whose fanciful artwork of olives, limes and assorted cocktail paraphernalia have graced the covers of books, compact discs and low-brow pop art items around the globe.  What makes his art more interesting is his personal back story.

In 2006, his 16 yr. old daughter Paige passed away after a battle with brain cancer. As Godard says, “All the money in the world can not bring her back, but the funds I help raise for a cure will help save another child.”  As a result Godard now works very closely with St Jude’s, Make a Wish, Nevada Cancer Institute and The Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Foundation.

The vodka is made from Dutch wheat that undergoes five distillations.  I assume that the gin uses the same base, but other than juniper I’m not sure what the other botanicals are.  Oh, each bottle is numbered in a limited edition, which makes for a potential collectible.

Michael Godard Vodka (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Sweet and with an unusual berry character.
Taste: A bit chalky with a moderate amount of minerality.  Somewhat sweet, but there is more body and heat here than I was expecting.  A bit of bitterness creeps in towards the end.  But, that’s not a bad thing.
Finish:  Dry, with a lot of mouthfeel.
Overall: Perfectly serviceable vodka with more character than many others on the market.
GSN Rating: B

Michael Godard Gin (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: A lot of high, bright herbal notes with a prevalent juniper character.
Taste: Quite light and sweet, but with a good sense of juniper.  It seems a bit unbalanced and harshly botanical.  There is more than a bit of fire and again, a lot of minerality.  Here, it seems at odds with the overall effect of the infusions.  Rather than a tight unity of flavors, they seem to be disparate and at odds with one another.
Finish: A lot of lingering sweetness, along with a chalky edge.
Overall: I’m not sure what to make of this gin.  It seems like a decent first attempt, but never really rises to the occasion.
GSN Rating: B-

For more information go to: Michael Godard Spirits

hero-foams-usBols has been making spirits and liqueurs since 1575, making it one of the oldest extant distilleries in the world.  Their line of liqueurs encompasses over 30 different flavors.  They recently debuted three flavored foams in the US.

The molecular mixology craze has died down somewhat, but the addition of these foams certainly makes it easy for bartenders to create some interesting cocktails.  What I like in particular is that everything is self-contained, and does not require purchase of cartridges or specialized equipment.  All you need to do is attach the enclosed pump to the bottle, press a few times, and voila!

Bols Amaretto Foam (48 proof)
Overall: A fairly tasty amaretto, but more sweet than I prefer.  The color of the foam is a light tan.
GSN Rating: B-

Bols Blue Curacao Foam (42 proof)
Overall: A mild curacao flavor with just a hint of orange candy.  The foam is a pretty Robin’s egg blue.
GSN Rating: B-

Bols Cassis Foam (34 proof)
Overall:  Berry flavored and quite sweet.  It makes for an interesting purple foam.
GSN Rating: B+

My only real hesitation about these foams is that the screw-tops on the bottles are very small, so you have to use the 200ml bottles.  Of course once you run out of product, you can fill it with something new and see what happens.  ;)

For more information go to: Bols Foam

J.Labanda-2It feels as if Grand Marnier has been around for at least a few centuries.  But, this quintessential spirit only dates back to 1880.  The recipe was created by Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle who worked at a fruit liqueur distillery owned by his wife’s grandfather.  He sourced Citrus Bagaradia oranges grown in the West Indies, which are still used in the production today.  The Cognac base is made from the Ugni Blanc grape grown in the Cognac region of France.  Sugar syrup is added, and then everything is aged in oak casks and filtered before bottling.

Here are a few classic cocktails for you to try that call for Grand Marnier:

Leap Year
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
1 dash lemon juice
Shake with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Satan’s Whiskers
3/4 ounce gin
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce orange juice
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
1 dash orange bitters
Shake with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass.

DDay Calvados smllIt’s entirely appropriate that fifth generation distiller Jean-Roger Groult is paying tribute to the 70th anniversary of the liberation of France from Nazi control. In fact, this is the third in a series of special limited editions, the others marking the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the famous battle.

As one of the distilleries’ press releases reveals, “In 1939 several years before the invasion, Jean-Roger’s grandfather, Roger Groult, for whom the distillery is named, was serving in the French resistance as a truck driver when he was wounded by an exploding hand grenade. Following the attack, he was captured and sent to a Nazi military hospital with shrapnel in both his legs. In 1941, because of the severity of his injuries, he was released and allowed to return to his family and farm located in Saint-Cyr Du Ronceray in Normandy. During 1942, in an effort to protect as much Calvados as possible from the Nazis, producers from lower Normandy, like Roger Groult, worked with the INAO to create an official Calvados Pays d’Auge AOC, (Appellation d’Origine Controlee), declaring their beloved apple brandy a national cultural treasure to be protected from enemy requisition during war. Shortly after the D-Day invasion, Nazi soldiers commandeered and occupied a portion of the Groult family property. During this time, most French men, including Roger Groult were needed away from home in the war effort. Madam Groult, who was left to tend the farm, used to tell the story of their first taste of liberation, which came in early August, 1944. Apparently, the Nazi soldiers who had commandeered the farm intercepted radio transmissions stating allied forces were now in Vimoutiers, (20 miles to the South) so they turned and asked Madam Groult how close that village was to the farm. Thinking quickly, Jean-Roger’s grandmother convincingly told the soldiers Vimoutiers was just down the road, causing the soldiers to immediately flee in the other direction. Official liberation of Saint-Cyr Du Ronceray finally arrived a few weeks later on August 22, 1944.”

Jean-Roger says, “Because the invasion took place on June 6, 1944, this Calvados will have a minimum age of 6 years and only 1,944 bottles will be produced.” The label for this limited edition D-Day Calvados was inspired by a hand-drawn landing map borrowed from an old French journal. It loosely depicts the Omaha Beach invasion site and lists the allied nations who participated in the assault against the Nazi occupation.

Roger Groult D-Day 70th Anniversary Calvados Pays D’Auge (82 proof)
Visual: Pale gold.
Nose: Aged apple is very much upfront, reminiscent of an Autumn harvest and cider mill.
Taste: Exceptionally smooth with creamy and rich apple notes.  After half a minute, the apple opens up into a fresh and juicy experience that makes you swear you’ve taken a bite from a just picked fruit.  The aging has not overtaken the flavor of the spirit, but rather enhanced it.
Finish: Lingering notes of apple flesh, peel and just the slightest hint of vanilla and spice.
Overall: One of the smoother calvados I’ve had.  A fine sipping brandy that is deserving of special celebrations.  Perfect as a finishing touch to a French meal.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Calvados Groult

ungava_enI first heard the word “Ungava” back in 1987 in a song by Bruce Cockburn.  I never thought to look up where it was located until the GSN offices received this bright yellow colored gin.  Ungava Bay is located at the northern edge of Quebec and is home to the Inuit peoples.  The script you see above the word Ungave on the bottle’s label is written in Inuktitut and is their word for the area.

The color of this gin is striking, and I originally thought perhaps it was infused with saffron, but instead it is a blend of six traditional Canadian herbs: Nordic Juniper, Wild Rose Hips, Cloudberry, Crowberry, Arctic Blend and Labrador Te.  They all combine to make a spirit that manages to be quite traditional in flavor, and yet unique in the world of gins.

Ungava Canadian Gin (86.2 proof)
Visual: Clear yellow.
Nose: Bright top notes of juniper, citrus and herb.
Taste: Sweet and mellow with less juniper coming through, but a definite herbal flavor.  There’s an almost marshmallow-like flavor keeping everything subdued. Refreshing and cohesive, with a great distillation.
Finish: The sweetness fades and a minerality takes over leaving a slight bitterness that clears the palate.
Overall: A very nice gin with some traditional aspects, but enough of a difference (certainly in color) that you will sit up and take notice.  Perfect for martinis as well as gin based fruit cocktails.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Ungava Gin

indexWilliam Grant & Sons’ Milagro Tequila has released the second edition of its ultra-premium Unico expression. Rolling out in September, the limited edition offering is a joven blend, made with a mix of aged silver Tequila and barrel-aged reposado and añejo reserves. After blending, the liquid is filtered and oxygenated to remove color, then packaged in a handcrafted bottle. Just 1,500 bottles of Unico’s second iteration will be available at select retailers, bars and restaurants, priced at $300 each.

indexLucas Bols USA has launched its Bols Watermelon liqueur in the U.S. Previously available in Europe, the extension is targeted largely toward the cocktail occasion, for use in watermelon Spritzers and Martinis, among other drinks. Bols Watermelon is currently available across U.S. trade channels in a 1-liter format. The liqueur’s U.S. debut comes on the heels of Lucas Bols USA’s launch of Bols Elderflower in February, and brings the brand’s lineup to around 35 flavored liqueurs.

indexMoët Hennessy is debuting Glenmorangie Pride 1978, which the company hails as Glenmorangie’s rarest whisky to date. The luxury single malt—sourced from five casks in the distiller’s archives—was bottled in 2012 following 15 years of extra-maturation in Bordeaux Premier Grand Cru Classé casks, the longest extra-maturation of any of Glenmorangie offering thus far. Retailing at around $5,000 a bottle, Glenmorangie Pride 1978 is rolling out in a limited edition of 700 decanters worldwide.

indexGonzález Byass has unveiled Nomad Outland Whisky, a new Scotch whisky finished in Jerez, Spain. Created by González Byass master blender Antonio Flores in collaboration with whisky distiller Richard Paterson, Nomad Outland is a blend featuring more than 30 whiskies aged five to eight years, sourced primarily from Speyside. The blend was matured in Sherry butts in Scotland for three years before being brought to Jerez to mature in Pedro Ximénez barrels for a minimum of 12 months. Nomad Outland is entering the U.S. in limited supply, imported by Vin Divino, González Byass’ wholly-owned U.S. import and distribution arm.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily

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What at first appears to be a variation on the classic Sidecar, instead turns out to be an utter failure.  If you look at the ratios, you will quickly conclude that this drink is damned sour.  After making it to spec, tasting and wincing, I then doubled the amount of cassis.  Still no good.  The problem is that creme de cassis is a much lower proof than a top shelf triple sec or curacao.  Thus, you really need to double the cassis ratio to lemon juice.  This makes for a huge cocktail.  So, here is my suggestion: 3 parts brandy, 2 parts creme de cassis, 1 part lemon juice.  See what you think.  It’s still just average in my opinion.  Which is a shame, because I love a good cassis.

Brandy Cassis
1.5oz brandy
1oz lemon juice
0.5oz creme de cassis
Garnish: lemon twist

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.  Add lemon twist.

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