GSN Review: Starward Nova Whisky

Starward was founded by David Vitale in 2007 in Melbourne, Australia and is elementally matured for three “Melbourne years” in Australian red wine barrels, pushing the boundaries of what whisky can be. The core ethos is built on the foundation of Old World – traditional product and stills, and New World – maturation methods and attitude. The ingredients used to distill Starward are a day’s drive away from the Melbourne-based distillery. The red wine barrels that mature the whisky are built around a broad cross section of big Australian reds, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir with the keystone being 100L Barossa Shiraz barrels. Using a minimal intervention approach, the quick turnaround time between the barrels being disgorged at the winery and arriving at Starward means that the barrels retain much of their original character.

Starward Nova Whisky (82 proof)
Visual: Bright copper-red.
Nose: Instant red wine nose laid over a solid malt whisky base. A lot of high notes create a dry, crisp olfactory sensation.
Taste: Sweet fruity entry that tones down quickly to a familiar caramel whisky flavor. Lots of rich character similar to a fresh-baked pastry. The wine cask flavor keeps things interesting and adds a layer of dessert-like complexity that pushes this whisky towards a dessert-like finish.
Finish: Medium long, with the wine barrel and the distillate playing tag with each other.
Overall: A really tasty whisky that has a lot to offer the connoisseur. Starward has a hit on their hands.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Starward

GSN Review: Frapin 1270 Premier Cru Grande Champagne Cognac

Frapin 1270 is the embodiment of 21 generations of wine growers and distillers. Created on the single-family Frapin estate established in 1270 in the heart of Cognac’s most exclusive region, Grand Champagne, Frapin 1270 ensures the continuity of  style that has been passed down from generation to generation. Exclusively harvested, distilled, and aged on the estate, the blend is a perfect introduction to the entire Frapin collection. Located in the heart of the Grande Champagne region, the Frapin’s single-family estate comprises approximately 600 acres of vines surrounding the Château Fontpinot.

This new cognac is made in exactly the same way as all Frapin cognacs – distilling over fine lees and extended aging with the entire process controlled from vineyard to bottle on the estate by cellar master, Patrice Piveteau. Patrice understands the traditions of Cognac Frapin and contributes by adding his own insights and techniques without forgetting the ancestral methods of the house. Frapin 1270 unlike a typical VS is aged for about five years in both humid & dry cellars.

Frapin 1270 Premier Cru Grande Champagne Cognac (80 proof)
Visual: Dark copper.
Nose: Deep nose of oak and well-aged cognac. Some vanilla bean and young leather along with a hint of baking spice.
Taste: Rich entry with a cask profile. After about half a minute, the grape character comes into play and stays for a pleasant visit.
Finish: Long and lingering vine fruit sweetness.
Overall: This is all a great cognac needs to be. Perfect on its own, it also has enough originality to play well in brandy cocktails that call for strong lead actor. A great bargain and a fine addition to your back bar.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Cognac Frapin

GSN Review: Grand Marnier Cuvee Louis Alexandre

In 1880, Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle, blended fine cognac with a rare, bitter orange liqueur. His success in building Grand Marnier awarded him the “Legion d’Honneur” bestowed by the President of the Republic of France.

The appeal and excellence of this exquisite creation was recognized by Louis-Alexandre’s dear friend César Ritz, who suggested he give Grand Marnier its current name, stating it was “a Grand name for a Grand product.” Ever since that defining moment, the vision to “Live Grand” was a driving force that guided Louis-Alexandre’s life and continues to guide Grand Marnier’s ethos today. To “Live Grand” centers on the journey of taking a good experience and transforming it into a Grand one.

Today the House of Grand Marnier, best known for its award-winning, French luxury liqueur, honors his memory, his boldness, and his joie de vivre with the launch of the eponymous Cuvée Louis Alexandre. This new VSOP expression joins the Cuvée Collection, a lauded selection of the world’s finest cognac-based liqueurs.

Master Blender Patrick Raguenaud – President of the Professional National Cognac Bureau adds, “Cuvée Louis Alexandre is an exquisite liqueur and a fitting tribute to Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle. I was inspired by his fearless drive to push boundaries and create something truly unique.”

Cuvée Louis Alexandre is 82% cognac and 18% orange liqueur. The cognacs used in this premium Cuvée come from the finest growing areas in the Cognac region and are carefully aged in Tronçais and Limousin oak casks in Bourg-Charente.

Grand Marnier Cuvee Louis Alexandre (80 proof)
Visual: Light copper.
Nose: Tantalizing bitter orange nose with a hint of spiciness. There is a dark richness here akin of fresh apricot.
Taste: I’m impressed by the blending. The liqueur adds just enough of a sweet and fruity coloration to the cognac, making this more of  flavored brandy than an orange liqueur. This actually serves it quite well. The cognac is heady and full of character, and retains a cohesiveness and assuredness.
Finish: Medium long, with the orange flavor hanging on for a few minutes.
Overall: Would recommend this in place of the flagship Grand Marnier if you’re looking for a less sweet cocktail. But, it stands on its own quite well and makes a lovely pousse-café.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Grand Marnier

GSN Review: Haku Vodka

Beam Suntory recently announced the introduction of Haku Japanese Vodka to the United States. Created from Japanese ingredients by the master artisans at the House of Suntory, this premium spirit embodies Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii’s philosophy of monozukuri craftsmanship: a relentless pursuit of perfection, meticulous attention to detail and commitment to quality.

Although Haku literally means “white,” the subtlety of the Japanese language often gives kanji (Japanese characters) several meanings. While “Haku” is rooted in the word “Hakumai,” translated as Japanese white rice, its nuanced meaning can also be elevated to evoke “Junpaku,” which connotes an untainted brilliance.

Haku is made from 100 percent Japanese white rice. In Kagoshima, Kyushu, a region historically famous for its rice spirit making, the process begins with white rice fermented with koji rice to create a mash. The mash is then distilled through pot stills to create a rice spirit. It is then distilled for a second time through two different processes in a pot still and column still to create a uniquely flavored liquid. This liquid is then blended and filtered through bamboo charcoal in Osaka, Japan. This process, unique to Suntory, preserves and enhances the rice’s delicately sweet and subtle flavors.

The craftsmanship that goes into this liquid is complemented by its beautiful bottle. The curved lines on the Haku bottle represent the streams glistening through nature in Japan as they run through the four seasons. The label design consists of Junpaku (pure-white) washi paper – representing the beauty of Japanese white rice, the soul of this vodka – and Kanji calligraphy with sumi ink.

Haku Vodka (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Fresh, clean, and full of character. Like a heady mix of rain, minerals, peppermint and a whiff of vanilla bean.
Taste: Lovely smooth and clear entry. After a few seconds, more flavor comes into play, with some medium slate/chalk character; then as it fades, a hint of  licorice adds just a touch of sweetness.
Finish: Medium long and with a refreshing liveliness.
Overall: An exceptional vodka made all the more exceptional due to it being crafted from rice. Really stunning.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Haku Vodka Suntory

GSN Alert: May 18, 2019 – World Whiskey Day


World Whisky Day invites everyone to try a dram and celebrate the water of life. Events are taking place all over the globe. If you can’t find an event happening near you why not host your own World Whisky day event? All you need is a bottle of whisky to share with your friends. World Whisky day celebrates all types of whisky/whiskey and encourages everyone to enjoy whisky responsibly.

World Whisky Day is all about making whisky fun and enjoyable. It’s not about being exclusive or prescriptive. You can drink it however you enjoy it (ice, water, mixer – whatever works for you). We want to be all inclusive and that means any kind of whisky/whiskey from anywhere in the world.

For more info go to: World Whisky Day

GSN Alert: May 15th – National Aperitif Day

indexA few years ago, the Lillet company declared a “National Aperitif Day” in honor of their latest product, Lillet Rose.  It’s not a bad time of year to do so.  Spring feels like a natural time for lighter and less inebriating beverages.

The word aperitif is French and literally means “to open.” The idea is that a short drink will prepare the imbiber for a lovely meal.  The original version was created in Turin, Italy by Antonio Carpano in 1786.  The next iteration came 60 years later when Joseph Dubonnet added quinine to a herbally infused wine and created, you guessed it, Dubonnet.

Lillet dates back to 1872, when it was known as Kina Lillet.  Notable fictional characters James Bond and Hannibal Lecter both enjoyed Kina.  Today, the original formula has been reformulated into Lillet Blanc.  As I mentioned there is also Lillet Rose and a third version Lillet Rouge which debuted in 1990.

Some classic cocktails calling for Lillet are the Vesper, the Corpse Reviver #2 (a personal favorite) and the 20th Century (a cocktail well deserving of a revival) in the 21st century.

GSN Review: Virginia Distillery Co. Chardonnay Cask Finished Virginia-Highland Whisky

Just in time for warmer weather, American Single Malt whisky distillery Virginia Distillery Company recently released batch #3 of its Chardonnay Cask Finished Virginia-Highland Whisky. Earlier batches produced limited cases, some going out of stock shortly after release.

This time, the bottle kicks off the distillery’s rolling release schedule of its Virginia-Highland Whisky series. The new approach will allow consumers to purchase offerings from the line more regularly throughout the year.

The Virginia-Highland Whisky series is made from 100% malted barley and marries American Single Malt whisky made on-site in Virginia with whisky from Scotland. It is then cask finished in barrels sourced from wineries, cideries and breweries across Virginia and beyond. Batch #3 of the Chardonnay Cask Finished Virginia-Highland Whisky spent an additional 8 to 10 months in Chardonnay casks.

“We’re excited to have these whiskies back in our regular rotation,” said Ian Thomas, Distillery Director at Virginia Distillery Company. “The offerings from our Virginia-Highland Whisky series are a great testament to our many partnerships across the state of Virginia – and the result is some pretty phenomenal whisky.”

This new batch release is part of the Virginia-Highland Whisky series, which includes the flagship offering, Port Cask Finished Virginia-Highland Whisky and a beer finished whisky, Brewers Batch Virginia-Highland Whisky.

Virginia Distillery Co. Chardonnay Cask Whiskey (92 proof)
Visual: Light gold.
Nose: Light honeyed sweetness with a goodly dose of oak. Engaging and well-rounded.
Taste: Initially, there is a lot of rich malt spirit, but after a few seconds, a subtle but present wine character comes into play and stay for the duration. In fact, as time goes on, the malt fades and the Chardonnay flavor takes center stage.
Finish: Medium long, with more of the sweetness and a warning grape character shining through.
Overall: One of the more subtle ex-wine cask whiskies that we’ve had the pleasure of tasting. The Virginia Distillery Co. is one to keep an eye on over the next few years.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: VA Distillery