Archive for the ‘Spirits & Liqueurs’ Category

With all of the alcoholic sodas out there these days, it was only a matter of time before soda flavored spirits made their way onto the shelves of your local liquor store.  One of the first we’ve come across is Root Out Root Beer Flavored Whisky.  The product is a blend of root beer flavoring with four-year old Canadian blended whisky aged in ex-bourbon American Oak barrels.

Root Out (70 proof)
Visual: Medium brown.
Nose: Root beer. Not a hint of whiskey.
Taste: Alcoholic root beer.  Very much a syrup flavor as opposed to a natural blend of traditional root herbs and spices.  Not bad in any way, just very soda-like.  I don’t detect any whiskey character.
Finish: Long, with the root beer character hanging on for several minutes.
Overall: I could see this being a popular shot, along the lines of cinnamon flavored whiskies.  I’d have to be in the mood though.  A curiosity.
GSN Rating: B-

For more information go to: Root Out Whisky



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Sangre de Vida “Blood of Life” blanco tequila begins with slowly roasting agave piña hearts in stone-walled brick ovens. This centuries-old art of slow-cooking is then followed by cooling, shredding, and finally squeezing the hearts into a mosto (sweet juice), which then ferments for five days, after which it is then distilled a total of three times (with its final distillation completed in small stills at a higher temperature).

Inspired by Lotería card number 27, El Corazón, this special edition offering of Sangre de Vida Blanco is presented in a stunning, glass heart bottle.  Perfect for lovers or perhaps the Tin Man.

Sangre de Vida Blanco (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Quite funky and almost metallic. The agave seems to be fighting with the oak.
Taste: A bit sweet and thin. The agave flavor is shy, but the barrel flavor is reticent as well. At the tail end of the tasting, there is an unusual strawberry flavor.  It’s tequila, but unlike any I’ve had before.
Finish: Medium, with the sweetness lingering like a bubblegum.
Overall: The bottle is awesome, the tequila less so.  It seems rushed and lacks any real character.
GSN Rating: C+

For more information go to: Sangre de Vida 

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Tommyrotter Distillery’s foray into brown spirits began last November with the release of their Triple Barrel American Whiskey and limited edition Napa Valley Heritage Cask Straight Bourbon Whiskey. A small-batch distillery based in Buffalo, New York, Tommyrotter’s Triple Barrel American Whiskey is a blend of three different bases — two Indiana bourbons and one Tennessee whiskey aged in two types of white American oak barrels and finished in a red wine French oak barrel.

Tommyrotter is at home in the F.N. Burt building, a 115-year-old paper box factory located in the heart of Buffalo’s historic Hydraulics manufacturing district. At its height of production, the company produced as many as 4 million boxes a day, used to store everything from cigarettes to shoe polish. After decades of dormancy, the building was most recently home to New Era Cap Company. Beginning in 2015, and with new revitalization of the Hydraulics district, Tommyrotter Distillery began distilling small batch craft spirits on this historic site.

Tommyrotter Triple Barrel American Whiskey (92 proof)
Visual: Medium yellow-gold.
Nose: Lively malt patina with milder notes of char, vanilla and leather.
Taste: Exceptionally flavorful and balanced.  The aging is just young enough to add sprightliness, but old enough to smooth out any rough edges.  This is surprisingly like a single malt.
Finish: Medium long with more of the buttery and creamy notes lingering to good effect.
Overall: A new favorite at the GSN offices.  This works equally well straight or in a classic whiskey cocktail.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Tommyrotter

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The Baltimore Whiskey Co. recently introduced a host of new flavors to the local spirits scene this fall with the release of three amaros. The new offerings will expand the products offered by the distillery, which began operating in 2015 and so far has produced four year-round spirits.

American-made amaro is “still a very small niche” that is growing, co-owner Max Lents said. He and the distillery’s other owners are fans of the herbal liqueur, and wanted to create a homegrown version. “From when we opened, we were kind of amaro enthusiasts and always had some bottles sitting around,” he said, so “we started poking around on it at a personal level.”

Developing the amaro recipes took about a year of work, with multiple test batches and revisions, Lents said. The spirit comes in three flavors: Szechuan pepper, coffee, and fernet, which has a bitter, minty taste.

Baltimore Whiskey Co.’s other products include Shot Tower Gin, Charles Street Apple Brandy, 1904 Liqueur, a limited-release apple brandy, along with a unique pechuga and a rye whiskey.

Baltamaro Coffee Liqueur (70 proof)
Visual: Medium orange.
Nose: Heavily herbal and spiced. The coffee scent is comprised of high top notes. Engaging and unusual.
Taste: Somewhat sweet, with notes of orange and clove. The coffee comes through well, with a deep permeating richness and natural flavor.
Finish: Quite long with softer bitter notes tying into the coffee fade.
Overall: Excellent and a perfect after dinner amaro to drink neat or on the rocks.  This also makes for a fantastic cocktail amaro with rye, bourbon, dark rum, and lighter tequilas.  This is an ingenious addition to the amaro world.
GSN Rating: A

Baltamaro Szechuan Liqueur (70 proof)
Visual: Bright yellow.
Nose: Grassy herbality with a slight lemon hint. Hovering over this base is a light wave of peppery heat.
Taste: Medium sweetness with a light herbal touch of lemongrass and ginger.  However, the heat kicks in quickly and while not overwhelming, gives a beautifully subdued warming effect.
Finish: Medium long with the lasting impression being one of cinnamon/ginger/red pepper heat layered over dried herb.
Overall: Wow! Another winner and this one is totally balanced in every way.  We were expecting a blast of pepper that would obliterate everything else.  Instead, this is a subtle and very unique amaro which is just begging for use in cocktails. Try this with light rums in a tiki styled concoction, or with vodka and reposado tequilas.
GSN Rating: A

Baltamaro Fernet (100 proof)
Visual: Darkening orange.
Nose: A massive dose of spiced orange with lighter notes of spearmint.
Taste: There’s a lot going on in this one. The higher proof brings sharper and crisper herbs into play. Not as intensely minty as many fernets on the market, but still quite bitter and rugged.  As the initial flavor wears on, more bitterness creeps out and the menthol kicks in on the front palate.
Finish: Very long with a bittermint finish.
Overall: A good effort that seems to lack intensity.  We liked the overall bitterness, but were looking for something that resembled the traditional fernets we’re used to.  This makes for an interesting rinse in a Sazerac or as a shot to celebrate the end of a shift.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: The Baltimore Whiskey Co.

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1610834_10152862980905943_61540934822568108_nThe Pisco Sour has been around for nearly 100 years now, but you still rarely see it on cocktail menus outside of metropolitan cities.  Hailing from Lima, Peru, it was created by Victor Morris an ex-patriot American.  Designed as a South American spin on the Whiskey Sour, it became an instant hit.  Originally a simple mix of pisco, simple syrup and lime juice, by 1924 the recipe included the key addition of egg white topped with aromatic bitters.  Sadly, only five years later Morris declared bankruptcy and soon passed from cirrhosis of the liver.  Perhaps too much of a good thing.

If you want the total authentic experience, make sure to use Amargo Chuncho bitters which are made in Peru.

Pisco Sour
1.5oz Peruvian pisco (Porton, Barsol or Encanto are good brands)
0.75oz fresh lemon juice
1oz simple syrup
1 small egg white
Amargo Chuncho Peruvian Cocktail Bitters (use Angostura bitters in a pinch)Combine pisco, juice, syrup and egg white in a shaker; and shake vigorously without ice. Add ice, shake well again and strain neat. Place a few drops of bitters on top of the foam.

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KO Distilling recently unveiled its third brown spirit – Bare Knuckle Straight Bourbon Whiskey (aged 2 years). Hand crafted from local Virginia corn, wheat and malted barley, the bourbon is rested in charred new American Oak barrels sourced from a cooperage in Louisville, Kentucky.

Bare Knuckle Straight Bourbon Whiskey joins the rest of the KO portfolio of aged spirits, which includes Bare Knuckle American Wheat Whiskey (aged 12 months) and Bare Knuckle American Rye Whiskey (aged 18 months).

KO sources its wheat, corn, rye and malted barley to make small batch whiskeys from local farms. In so doing, it supports a “grain-to-glass” concept for its spirits, similar to the “farm-to-table” food model for restaurants. This helps small businesses in the area work together to support the local economy. “We’re all about helping local small businesses, and sourcing our grains from Virginia farms allows all of us to work together to support the local economy,” said Co-Founder and Head Distiller John O’Mara.

Inspired by courage, strength, fortitude, and using your hands to get things done, the Bare Knuckle branding is a play on KO – “Knock Out.”  The bottle labels feature historic fighting figures, such as African-American world heavyweight champion Jack G. Johnson and Irish-American fighter Jimmy Gardner.  Gracing the label of KO’s newest release is early 20th-century U.S. champion fighter Mary “Texas Mamie” Donovan.

“The imagery and the text on the bottle label celebrate life, not violence,” said Co-Founder Bill Karlson. “The Bare Knuckle brand is about winning, advancing and prevailing in life and in your craft. For ages, women, like men, have battled for family, to make a living, for rights and just causes. For all of those women who work hard every day, we salute you and are proud to feature an American female fighter on our bottle.”

Bare Knuckle American Wheat (90 proof)
Bright copper.
Nose: Slightly funky with a white dog character. Lighter notes of oak, char and leather float on top of the more rugged base.
Taste: Fairly smooth considering the relatively young 1 year aging. Nice and soft with wheat character and easy-going. Towards the end, more of the oak character reveals itself.
Finish: Medium long, with a dry and woody finality.
Overall: Our favorite of the trio.  Fine as a sipper, this also works really well in a Manhattan.
GSN Rating: A-

Bare Knuckle American Rye (90 proof)
Visual: Darkening copper.
Nose: Rye spice comes out at the gate, followed by a strong whiff of barrel char. Surprisingly, there is a dark port scent here as well.
Taste: Fairly mild rye character at first, but opens up into a toasty, dark and spicy treasure hunt. The 18 months of aging has done much to temper down the usual fiery quality of a rye forward whiskey.
Finish: Medium long, with a pleasant and tingling cinnamon sensation on the palate.
Overall: A mid-range rye that won’t disappoint.  We do think however, that another half-year of aging would tighten things up a bit.
GSN Rating: B+

Bare Knuckle Straight Bourbon (90 proof)
Visual: Medium copper.
Nose: More of the musky white dog aura with a touch of sweet corn. Overall though, quite a bit of cask.
Taste: A less sweet and more aggressive bourbon, tending towards a bit too long in the barrel.  At two years, it should be smoothing out, but the oak char has really set its teeth in this whiskey.  Some of you may love this, but for us it needs tweaking.
Finish: After a few minutes, the flavors settle down and some more typical caramel and butterscotch notes come out. The finish is fine and tasty.
Overall: A good effort that will serve well in a mixed drink, but a bit unbalanced on its own.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: KO Distilling

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KO Distilling, co-founded by college classmates and long-time friends Bill Karlson and John O’Mara in 2013 is one of the newest craft distilleries in  Manassas, VA. They are proud to be the 19th operating distillery in Virginia and one of roughly 1,000 (and growing) craft distilleries in the United States. They are also privileged to partner with many other small businesses, suppliers and farmers in the local area. They have a large portfolio of unusual spirits, including a Navy Strength Gin.

Battle Standard 142 Navy Strength Gin gets its name from our founders’ alma mater, the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA). 142 Cadet/Midshipmen from the USMMA lost their lives during World War II serving their country. USMMA is the only federal academy authorized to fly a Battle Standard in memory of those brave men who made the ultimate sacrifice. The term Navy Strength comes from the British Navy’s practice of proofing the Gin provided as Navy rations to 114 proof, so in the event it was accidentally spilled on the ship’s gun powder, it could still be fired in battle.

Battle Standard American Dry Navy Strength Gin (114 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Luscious juniper berry and woodruff scent, with softer accents of lemon zest and rose petal.
Taste: Powerhouse of crisp, dry and juniper forward gin, with just a sly hint of sweetness to lessen the blow. A second tasting brings out more of the citrus oils and herbaceousness.
Finish: Long with some bitter notes on the top of the palate, counter balanced with lingering lemon on the tongue.
Overall: This has a lot going for it.  The botanicals are all well-balanced and most importantly, it tastes like gin.  When used in a cocktail, make sure to properly dilute in order to keep things from going overboard.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: KO Distilling

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