Archive for the ‘Spirits & Liqueurs’ Category

embed-01_189WhistlePig announced this spring, the launch of its 15 Year rye whiskey, aged for 15 years in New American Oak and ex-bourbon barrels, and finished in Vermont White Oak. Kentucky oak trees are fat, Vermont ones are tight. Tight wood rings deliver more flavor and depth into whiskey. Raj Peter Bhakta, Founder and CEO of WhistlePig says, “Tight is better than fat, and old is better than young. In whiskey at least. Since day one, our vision was to create a fully farm-to-bottle operation, and with the release of the 15 Year, the public can now enjoy a top-notch whiskey aged in barrels made from wood right here on our farm.”

To fully accentuate the unique flavor profile of the oak, WhistlePig developed a Custom-Charring Initiative for the 15 Year. The barrels receive a long toast and heavy char designed to draw out a rich sweetness that complements the natural spice of aged rye, and ultimately provides a lush mouthfeel.

With the opening of its distillery on the WhistlePig Farm in Shoreham, Vermont in the fall of 2015, WhistlePig became one of the few whiskey companies to house every aspect of the whiskey production process in one location, from harvesting the rye fields to distillation, barreling, aging, and bottling the liquid. The 15 Year is the first WhistlePig release aged in barrels constructed from oak grown on the farm, and rounds out WhistlePig’s portfolio as the most premium offering, accompanied by the 10 Year and 12 Year Old World Series. WhistlePig also plans to release additional innovative products matured in Vermont White Oak moving forward.

The 15 Year comes from a mash of 100% rye and is hand bottled at 92 proof. The whiskey is aged in three separate whiskey barrels: #3 Charred New American Oak, used bourbon barrels, and finished for six months in custom #4 charred Vermont White Oak.

The 15 Year is a highly limited release and is available in select markets.

15 Year Rye Whiskey (100 proof)
Visual: Pale copper.
Nose: Tangy, sherry-like woody notes.  Fresh leather, spice cake, cut wood and just a dollop of maple syrup.  The high, peppery rye is accented beautifully by the level of char.
Taste: Quite dry, intensely rye forward with a curious, but slight fruitiness.  This is a peppery, spice-bomb all the way.
Finish: Long and clean with the graininess of the rye tasting just like a fresh-cut slice from a loaf.
Overall: A powerhouse of a rye whiskey masterfully aged and blended.  Save this one for sipping neat on special occasions or in an over the top Sazerac.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: WhistlePigWhiskey

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Almost every day the GSN desk gets sent a sample of a new vodka.  Everything from breakfast cereal and candy flavors, to oddballs like tobacco, bacon or hemp infused. Bellion, however is in an entirely new category – called “functional spirits” – booze with health benefits. Not surprisingly, the US government has some issues with this claim. So, Bellion Vodka filed a petition against the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to enable them to communicate this information to consumers.

A team of well-backed PhD’s have developed, tested and proven this unusual claim over the past 10 years. There is a safer way to consume alcohol that won’t harm your liver and further reduces DNA damage. It’s backed by all of the scientific data that you could ask for. Plus, it’s been independently reviewed by scholars and has U.S. issued patents.

Julie Wilson from naturalnews.com reported on this new technology last December: “Developed by Chigurupati Technologies, NTX was contrived through a multi-million dollar eight-year project completed by a team of pharmaceutical PhDs hoping to make the “drinking experience smarter,” according to NTXTechnology.com.

Founded in 2006 by Harsha Chigurupati, a young entrepreneur from Hyderabad, India, who was raised in a family of scientists, pharmacists and physicians, Chigurupati Technologies first sought to eliminate the side-effects of over-the-counter drugs before dabbling in the alcoholic beverage industry.

The innovative molecule is “Scientific, preventative and recreational all at the same time—while protecting the liver,” Chigurupati told the Tasting Panel Magazine last year. Human study trial results showed that NTX massively reduced harmful effects on the liver by up to 93 percent.

Using a “proprietary blend of ingredients” designated as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), NTX works by shielding your liver from the harmful effects of consuming alcohol, without comprising a beverage’s taste. While the pharma company has not fully disclosed its product’s ingredients, we do know that licorice root and sugar alcohol are some of its key components.

NTX can be infused into several types of alcohol, but is currently designed to “evolve distilled spirits.” The first company to utilize this breakthrough technology is Bellion Vodka, developing what they call “the first functional spirit on the planet.””

But how does it taste?  Read on…

Bellion Vodka (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Sweet, almost malty notes with dry minerality.  Some peppermint and anise.
Taste: Ultra sweet saccharine taste, quite artificial and cloying.  If you’ve ever had Splenda, you know what I’m taking about.  The vodka itself is buried underneath a patina of the kind of sweetness you find in licorice tea.
Finish: What can I say?  It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  After fifteen minutes, I’m looking for something to cleanse my palate.
Overall: Sad to say, but whatever they’ve done to this vodka makes it virtually undrinkable.  If mixed into a soda, juice or sourmix based cocktail, the sweetness level goes over the top.  I love the idea behind the science, but in the end this is just another flavored vodka, albeit one that has no redeeming qualities in flavor.
GSN Rating: F

For more information go to: Bellion Vodka


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Lilac-GinBlack Button Distilling, Rochester NY’s first 21st century craft distillery, launched their hand crafted, limited edition Lilac Gin on May 6, 2016, to commemorate the first day of Rochester’s annual Lilac Festival and mark the start of the spring season. Following the overwhelming success of the first limited edition Lilac Gin release last year — all 600 bottles were sold in just 10 days — Black Button Distilling expects to produce a limited edition Lilac Gin each year to mark the start of spring and pay tribute to Rochester’s rich botanical heritage as “The Flower City.”

“The ability to use a unique local ingredient and showcase it in our own way is exactly what Black Button is all about,” said Jason Barrett, Black Button Distilling owner/head distiller. “We have received overwhelming feedback from accounts all over the country about our Lilac Gin, and I’m sure if we could produce it year round there would be a market for it,” he said. “But we need to use the flowers at the peak of their bloom – which we can’t do all year.” Black Button’s Lilac Gin is made with hand-picked fresh lilac petals and complimentary botanicals. “This year we made 1,800 bottles and over half of those are already committed to accounts throughout Western NY,” he said.

Black Button Lilac Gin (84 proof)
Visual: Faint violet gemstone.
Nose: Floral sweetness led by a rich juniper nose.  Reminiscent of Choward’s scented chewing gum.  Almost subtly perfume-like.  Unique and intoxicating.
Taste: More florality than on the nose.  It floats above the rest of the botanical sachet and lends a delicate, feminine and somewhat Victorian air to the final product.  Captivating and instantly engaging.
Finish: Short with a final, slightly bitter edge to the finish which clearly delineates the lilac penumbra from the juniper canvas which it covers.
Overall: A truly unique gin that remains simple, despite its one of a kind flavor.  Of many New World reviewed on GSN, this one is top of the class.  A sipping gin on its own, rather than one to mix and subdue with too many other flavorings.  But, try it in a Lime Rickey or Tom Collins if you are looking for something new.  Just remember that this is a highly limited edition and you’ll have to wait another twelve months before you can obtain another bottle once it’s gone!
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Black Button Distilling

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Diplome Dry Gin-1000x1000Diplôme Dry Gin, an historic gin from the city of Dijon, France uses the original 1945 recipe crafted during WWII and designated the official gin for the American army stationed throughout Europe. The recipe for Diplôme Dry Gin is one of the oldest in France. Using natural botanicals sourced from Europe and Morocco, Diplôme Dry Gin is made from a selection of juniper berries, coriander, whole lemons, orange peel, angelica, saffron, iris root and fennel seed.

Today, the gin is catching on in Japan, Australia, Canada and much of Europe.  After 70 years, Diplôme made its debut in the U.S. in late February, 2016, launching first in Boston, New York, and Chicago.

Diplôme Dry Gin (88 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: High, dry, crisp juniper framed with a faint citrus nose.  Juniper is the headliner here as it should be in an old-school style dry gin.
Taste: Slight sweetness highlighted by orange oil and lemon rind at the front, then a more spicy headiness kicks in with very dry juniper and sharp crushed black pepper notes.  An elegant and refined blend of botanicals balances everything out.
Finish: Medium long with a brut finish enhanced with a semblance of both green and black pepper.
Overall: An excellent gin in the traditional style of a London Dry, but with a little extra character and finesse.  Perfect for gin forward cocktails and punches.  Yes, please.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Heavenly Spirits

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Poitín, anglicized as potcheen or poteen, is a traditional Irish distilled beverage. Poitín was traditionally distilled in a small pot still and the term is a diminutive of the Irish word pota, meaning “pot”. Amusingly, the Irish word for a hangover is póit.

Poitin was traditionally produced in remote and rural farming areas of Ireland, popularly distilled using potatoes. Though home distillation of the spirit was made illegal in 1661, production of Poitin continued underground, commonly taking advantage of windy, rainy weather to hide the smoke that came as a result of heating the stills. “Poitin plays a large role in the history of Irish spirits with an underground local distilling tradition similar to that of American Moonshine,” states John Ralph, Co-founder, Mad March Imports.

Mad March Hare is crafted using locally sourced malted barley, to deliver a more refined, yet authentic Irish Poitin.  “With the U.S. market accounting for approximately 36% of Irish whiskey sales, and craft spirits continuously growing in popularity, we feel it is the perfect opportunity to introduce the U.S. consumer to a new Irish craft offering,” Ralph continued.

Mad March Hare Irish Poitin (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: White dog funk with a predominance of high notes, slight smoke, eucalyptus, spun sugar, black peppercorn.
Taste: Elegantly smooth and refined.  Rich in mouthfeel, with a slight salinity that brings out a plethora of minerality.
Finish: Medium long with a satisfying and crisp peppery fade.
Overall: Much like a twice distilled vodka, but with a silky smooth experience from beginning to end, this is a very well done Poitin.  Use this in place of vodka, or even a blanco tequila in your favorite cocktail and see what you think.  This will also make a killer white old-fashioned.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Mad March Hare Poitin

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Rum making in Louisiana paralleled the advent of sugar-making in Louisiana beginning in our early colonial history. Then the art slowly disappeared soon after the Civil War took a toll on our sugar plantation culture.

Bayou Rum is handmade in the largest privately-owned rum distillery in the USA, utilizing traditional methods with state-of-the-art technology for all four steps: fermentation, distillation, maturation, and bottling. The facility in Lacassine, Louisiana offers distillery tours, rum tasting bar and a gift shop experience for those who visit the home of Bayou Rum.

Silver Bayou Rum is proofed with triple filtered fresh water delivering the cleanest and purest taste possible. Bayou Select Rum is fermented with cane yeast, distilled in American copper pot stills, and rested in American oak in the Louisiana heat,.

Bayou Silver (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Crushed sugar cane nose, more akin to rhum agricole than typical light rum.  Chewy and fat with a lot of rustic, hospitable character.
Taste: Fresh marshmallow, vanilla cream, cane juice and a slight grassiness.
Finish: Medium long, with a lot of the vanilla predominating.
Overall: A lot of body and presence that will stand up to anything you throw in the mix.  I’d hesitate to use this as a replacement for a Cuban-style rum in a Daiquiri, but this will embolden a punch or tiki cocktail.
GSN Rating: B+

Bayou Select (80 proof)
Visual: Golden bronze.
Nose: Sweet oak, maple sugar, cinnamon toast, honeyed oats.
Taste: Exceptionally smooth and balanced.  The aging is exquisite and tempers the sweetness down to a soft glow.  A pecan-like nuttiness adds to the palette, making this a gorgeous sipping rum.
Finish: Long and sweet, with a lagniappe of decadent richness that leaves you wanting more.
Overall: One of the best American rums from the South that we’ve had the pleasure of meeting.  A gold rum that puts many other brands that have been around for a few centuries to shame.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Bayou Rum

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frey-ranch-estate-distilleryFrey Ranch Estate Distillery, a Nevada-based estate grain distillery for the past six years, released Frey Ranch Gin in the fall of 2015.  It is the second premium craft spirit produced by Frey Ranch. The product begins with three different grains – rye, barley and corn – grown and milled right on the ranch and combined with juniper berries and sagebrush sourced from the ranch. These ingredients are joined by coriander, Angelia root, cardamom pod, lemon peel and orange peel. The Gin was released just one year after a successful launch of Frey Ranch Vodka which incorporates four different grains – corn, rye, wheat and barley – also grown right on the ranch.

Frey Ranch is located in Churchill County and, in the midst of its beautiful 1,200-acre farm, sits a 4,600 square-foot distillery featuring a stillroom, tank room, barreling room, tasting room and a malt house. The centerpiece of the distillery is a one-of-a-kind, custom-made Vendome still that is capable of producing 10,000 cases of spirits a month. Additionally, there are four 5,000 gallon fermenters, one 5,000 gallon mash cooker, one 5,000 gallon beer well, one 500 gallon pot still, a 24-foot continuous still and 23-foot vodka column.

Frey Ranch spirits are available throughout Nevada, California and Chicago and will soon be available in other markets across the country.

Frey Ranch Vodka (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Slight fresh crushed mint, faint corn kernel, but overall a bright, high almost poitin-like nose.
Taste: Some initial spice with a tinge of bitter herb, gives way to a more open and classic vodka approach.  Yet, this is definitely a craft spirit with some of the rough edges retained, lending a more forceful character.
Finish: Fairly long with a slow fade of rye spice on the back of the palate.
Overall: A vodka that chooses to retain the character of the grain bill.  Not soft and flavorless, but rather direct and with sprightly character.
GSN Rating: B

Frey Ranch Gin (90 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Fresh cut grass, crushed juniper, lemon oil, lime zest.
Taste: More citrus than juniper out of the gate, but it picks up after a few moments letting you know that this is not a lemon vodka.  Quite spicy and lively with more of the same rustic quality as the vodka.  The botanicals work well within this range, creating a dense palate of 18th century style London gin.
Finish: Lemon lingers long after everything has faded, but there is a still a lot of spice playing on the tongue.
Overall: A gin that will work well in cocktails like a Tom Collins, a Rickey or a G&T.  The citrus forward aspect makes it more difficult to manage in more gin forward drinks like a Martini or Negroni.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: Frey Ranch

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