GSN Book Review: Curious Cocktails From Wonderland

This niche book brings readers back to basics with an introduction to tools and techniques, liquors and liqueurs, and most importantly it introduces readers to the passion of creating curious cocktails. The literary whimsy behind Nick Perry and Paul Rosser’s Curious Cocktails From Wonderland and their tremendous tipples thoughtfully “lent themselves to the fantastical, the unusual, and the strange.” Climbing down the rabbit hole of libations I found myself at a drink aptly named “Off With Her Head”. Perry and Rosser follow the “twisted interpretation of time” by beginning the recipe section with a drinkable grand finale. With an edible flower and a frothy egg white foam, this drink is sure the impress the Queen of Hearts herself. Equally impressive, each recipe includes a quote from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and a short description of its literary foundation.

Following the authors through the cocktail glass, I was impressed with the selection of batch recipes that followed. Emphasizing that the book is meant for hosting events such as unbirthday parties, it does a good job of catering to its audience. Perry and Rosser smartly added directions for creating their signature syrups, bitters and garnishes for those readers who want a challenge. Staying true to Carroll’s work, they include a delectable “Buttered Toast-infused Rum” referencing Alice’s first tincture: “It had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavor of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast.”

Overall, it was quite the adventure reading this book. We here at Good Spirits News love the fact that Perry and Rosser encourage their readers to play with their drinkable creations. They emphasize that their recipes are not written in stone, and in fact are capable of changing as quickly and magically as the world of Wonderland itself. I would like to end where the book began by encouraging our readers that “when presented with the opportunity, always remember: Drink me!”

Review by Autumn Ellen Rose for Good Spirits News

GSN Review: Wintersun Organic Aquavit

Bluewater Organic Distilling, a Pacific Northwest small-batch distillery recently announced the launch of Wintersun Organic Aquavit – The first certified organic Aquavit in America.

John Lundin, Bluewater’s founder and head distiller chose to honor his Swedish heritage by creating an expression of traditional Aquavit. Staying true to the Scandinavian spirit’s classic roots, Wintersun blends 100% copper-distilled grain spirit with a balanced aromatic profile of caraway, aniseed and orange peel.

“I wanted to craft an approachable Aquavit that would invite sipping, and introduce new palates to this intriguing and storied spirit. As the recipe evolved over several years, we began to surprise ourselves with how incredibly versatile Aquavit can be in craft cocktails,” says Lundin. “At our distillery bar, I love how our mixologists explore everything from sparkling wine drinks to cucumber gimlets to variations of old favorites like corpse revivers, Wintersun brings a new, exciting dimension to these drinks.”

To celebrate the launch of Wintersun, the distillery’s flagship Bar + Bistro will also serve The Expedition,” an exclusive cocktail made with Bluewater’s Bering Sea Barrel Expedition where the distillery dispatched a cask of Aquavit to voyage the King Crab fishing grounds of Alaska aboard the F/V Wizard of Deadliest Catch fame.

Sustainability is a core foundation to Bluewater’s mission and Wintersun continues the distillery’s commitment of sourcing 100% organic ingredients, supporting American-made packaging, and contributing a portion of sales to environmental conservation via their 1% for the Planet membership.

Wintersun Organic Aquavit (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Layered anise, then caraway, finished with a touch of orange peel all presented in a clean and sprightly distillate.
Taste: Quite clean, with very little complexity from the infusions. They play a more subtle role in the expression. Slightly sweet, with a touch of herbality.
Finish: Short with some orange carrying on at the end.
Overall: Unlike most barrel-aged aquavits, this is young and more akin to a flavored vodka. Yet, the impression of a nordic spirit is there. I can see where this would be a perfect pairing for a light meal, but not a match for some heavier Scandinavian foods. A good spirit for the aquavit beginner.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: Bluewater Distilling

GSN Review: Brewers Batch No. 2 Virginia-Highland Whisky

The Virginia Distillery Company recently released the second edition of its Brewers Batch Virginia-Highland Whisky. Batch No. 2 was created in collaboration with 3 Stars Brewing Company, a Washington D.C. brewery known for pushing the limits of creativity in artisanal craft ales. Last year, 3 Stars Brewing Company used Virginia Distillery Company whisky barrels to age its Barrel Aged Ale. Virginia Distillery Company took the barrels back for finishing for eight months to make its second release of Brewers Batch.

In February 2018, Virginia Distillery Company introduced the Brewers Batch series in collaboration with Three Notch’d Brewing. Along with an annual Virginia project, the Brewers Batch series will continue to collaborate with breweries in markets outside of Virginia where Virginia Distillery Company whisky is available.

“We love partnering with passionate makers and are proud to collaborate with the talented team at 3 Stars Brewing,” said Gareth H. Moore, Virginia Distillery Company’s CEO. “We know consumers will enjoy the latest offering in the Brewers Batch series and look forward to working with more breweries in the future.”

The Brewers Batch Virginia-Highland Whisky is one of several other available offerings from Virginia Distillery Company, including the distillery’s flagship Port Cask Finished Virginia-Highland Whisky, Cider Cask Finished Virginia-Highland Whisky and Chardonnay Cask Finished Virginia-Highland Whisky. The distillery is currently crafting its ultra-premium American Single Malt, Courage & Conviction. The flagship offering, made from 100% malted barley and aged in former Bourbon, Sherry and Cuvée wine casks, will be released in the spring of 2020. The name is a nod to a phrase founder Dr. George G. Moore was often heard saying: “Always have the courage of your convictions”.

Brewers Batch No. 2 Virginia-Highland Whisky (92 proof)
Visual: Pale gold.
Nose: High malt notes with a rich oak char patinaed with a curious hop nose. Even tempered and approachable.
Taste: At first a light malt character comes through in the style of a young single malt, but then a slightly acidic/bitter tinge adds a layer of depth and intrigue. The hoppy quality comes through in an entirely different form that is only vaguely reminiscent of an ale. But, it adds enough to the experience that you know this is a unique whiskey. There is an almost fruity apple taste that has a cider-like quality.
Finish: Dry, light and even. The beer essence hangs on surprisingly long, but this makes for a more interesting lasting impression.
Overall: We really enjoyed this experiment and look forward to more from the Virginia Distillery Company. This is easy-going and special.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: VA Distillery Company

GSN Review: Highland Park Valknut Whisky

Highland Park recently announced the release of a new special ­edition single­ malt Scotch whisky: Valknut. In partnership with renowned Danish designer Jim Lyngvild, Highland Park Valknut is the second in a series of three Viking Legends releases inspired by the rich Viking heritage and mythology of Highland Park’s Orkney Islands home.

The first expression, Valkyrie, was released in mid-2017. Viking sagas tell of the Valkyries, the fierce angels of Norse mythology who combed the battlefields for the bravest fallen warriors. Vikings who met an honorable death were marked out by the symbol of the Valknut and spirited away by the Valkyries to Valhalla to join Odin’s mighty army and prepare for Ragnarok, the battle of the end of the world.

Valknut means “knot of those killed in battle” and is represented visually by three interlinked triangles. This symbol is closely associated with the Norse god Odin, who guided the spirits of the dead to Valhalla. Designer Jim Lyngvild says, “The story of the Valknut is compelling and I wanted to ensure that the design feature of this packaging was a fitting match to the whisky created by Master Whisky Maker Gordon Motion. Also, as Valknut is part of a series of three expressions, I made sure that there is continuity in the style of the packaging; for example, the frieze design at top is consistent in look, but the story of the symbol has been brought to the front panel.”

“Valknut is a bolder, more intense style of Highland Park with a drier and smokier profile and a higher ABV than Valkyrie. It has been matured predominantly in American sherry seasoned oak casks with a slightly higher phenolic level compared to Valkyrie,” says Jason Craig, Highland Park’s Global Brand Director. “We’ve also used a small amount of Orkney ­grown tartan barley, which adds to its smokier edge and lingering sweet, spicy finish.”

Highland Park Valknut will be succeeded by Valfather, the final expression in the Viking Legends trilogy.

Highland Park Valknut Whisky (93.6 proof)
Visual: Light gold.
Nose: Smoke-forward nose with a light sherry top note. Friendly, approachable and very much akin to the previous iteration in this trio of whiskies.
Taste: A fair amount of spice gives added weight to the blend of sweet malt and smokey barley. There is an overall light, dry and tight flavor profile which wraps the whisky in a blanket of autumnal warmth.
Finish: Lingering notes are of fading sweetness, and a hint of creosote.
Overall: A welcome addition to the Viking Legends portfolio. This is a more aggressive and semi-rustic brother to Valkyrie. Like night and day in terms of similarity. We can’t wait to see what the Valfather expression is like.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Highland Park Whisky

GSN Review: FEW American Whiskey

FEW Spirits recently announced the debut of its newest expression, FEW American Whiskey, a blend of FEW Bourbon and FEW Rye Whiskies, along with an experimental FEW Cherrywood-smoked Malt Whiskey. FEW American Whiskey was born through Founder and Distiller Paul Hletko’s constant quest for his team to create bold, one-of-a kind, unique spirits.

“It all started with a unique Cherrywood-smoked Single Malt we created, which is delicious but defied category rules”, says Paul. “We loved the flavor of this whisky and were especially blown away by how it mingled and married with our Bourbon and Rye.  That bold decision worked in our favor and from there our FEW American Whiskey was born.”

Distilled at a tucked away grain-to-glass distillery in an alleyway in Evanston, IL, FEW American Whiskey is a
distinctive reflection of the originality and innovation that has taken place over the past seven years. FEW American Whiskey can be purchased at select liquor stores in the Chicago and NYC areas and directly at the FEW distillery.

FEW American Whiskey (93 proof)
Visual: Bronze.
Nose: Light smokiness (think wood fire), with a hint of stone fruit. Light rye spice with a rich scent of corn-led bourbon.
Taste: More of the smoke comes through, but not overwhelming to the overall blend. In fact, it adds a deeper dimension than is usually found in North American whiskies. The distillate itself does have a curious cherry flavor that can only be described as woody. Everything is underplayed, but present.
Finish: Medium long with a semi-sweet, almost Ethiopian coffee-like finish.
Overall: A unique whiskey that grows on you. The experiment succeeds, and I’d like to see more unusual woods used in blended whiskies.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: FEW Spirits

GSN Review: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch No. C918

Each batch of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is an uncut Small Batch of 12-year-old Bourbon bottled straight from the barrel. At full barrel proof, you can taste Elijah Craig much the same way the Master Distillers do when they sample straight from the barrel in Heaven Hill’s Kentucky rickhouses. The variance in proof from batch to batch presents a unique opportunity to explore the impact of the angel’s share and the resulting proof in a small batch of barrels.

The first letter of the batch number indicates which of that year’s releases the bottle was a part of starting with “A”, while the second digit is a number that determines the month of the year the bottle was released. The third and fourth digits indicate the year. Batch No. C918 is the third and final release of 2018, debuting this past September.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch No. C918 (131 proof)
Visual: Medium orange-brown.
Nose: Warm corn-forward nose with a sweet and oak laden nose. A touch of toffee and lightly roasted coffee bean.
Taste: Richly sweet bourbon flavor that has a medium body and a touch of chocolate malt, peanut shell, and rye toast.
Finish: Medium-long, tending towards a dry finish.
Overall: Another excellent release in the 12-year-old series. Not breaking any new ground, but continuing the high quality.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Elijah Craig

GSN Review: Little Book Whiskey: Noe Simple Task

Freddie Noe, eighth generation Beam distiller and creator of Little Book Whiskey, recently announced the second installment in his annual, limited-release series of blends – “Little Book Chapter 2: Noe Simple Task.”

Like last year’s inaugural Little Book release, Little Book “Noe Simple Task” is an embodiment of Noe’s passion for blending high quality spirits as a means to discover unique taste profiles unlike any others on the market. The 2018 chapter delivers on this vision, featuring a blend that marries Kentucky straight rye from Noe’s home roots and the more delicate flavors of aged Canadian whiskies. “Noe Simple Task” is crafted with three uncut and unfiltered whiskies:

  • 13-year-old, uncut and unfiltered Canadian rye whisky at 111.9 proof
  • 8-year-old, uncut and unfiltered Kentucky straight rye whiskey at 119.8 proof
  • 40-year-old, uncut and unfiltered Canadian whisky at 137.8 proof

“For Little Book Chapter 2, I was inspired to work with the extra-aged Canadian whiskies I tasted while visiting our Canadian distilleries last year, but I knew I had my work cut out for me,” said Noe. “The floral, fruit notes Canadian whiskies achieve really intrigued me, along with the aging and production styles that are so different from what we do here in Kentucky. It was a step outside my comfort zone to bring these two worlds of whisk(e)y together, and I’m really proud of the unique blend I was able to achieve.”

As the name implies, crafting the final blend for Little Book “Noe Simple Task” was a long journey that tested Noe’s skills as a blender. After experimenting with nearly 40 different blends, Noe selected recipe number 29 as the blend that met his vision for his second release. Balancing the strong flavor and high proof of the 40-year-old Canadian whisky, in particular, proved to be the biggest challenge; yet, like his grandfather Booker Noe, Noe’s curiosity and innovative spirit guided him through to the end.

“Freddie is really coming into his own as a Beam distiller, and it makes me proud to watch him explore his passion for blending and the unique taste profiles he can achieve with each Little Book release,” said Fred Noe, Freddie’s father and Beam’s seventh generation master distiller. “Freddie is a real perfectionist, and he doesn’t rest until he’s completely satisfied with the final product. I really enjoy his latest labor of love, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.”

Noe Simple Task (118.8 proof)
Visual: Dark yellow gold.
Nose: Rye spice, spice cake, chamomile, dried apricot, light butter toffee.
Taste: Smoother than its proof belies, the whiskey initially seems light and more in line with Canadian styled expressions than American.  But, after several seconds a huge rye spice bomb kicks in and opens up with floral and fruit elements.
Finish: Medium-long with a lingering cinnamon spice and warm vanilla fade.
Overall: Remarkably smooth and well-balanced. A high achievement for Freddie. We look forward to Little Book No. 3.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Little Book Whiskey