GSN Review: WhistlePig X Flaviar Chef’s Blend 2019

Flaviar & WhistlePig Rye Whiskey have joined forces with four top chefs to release WhistlePig X Flaviar Chef’s Blend 2019 to be sold exclusively via Flaviar.com. The four chefs who helped create WhistlePig X Flaviar Chef’s Blend 2019 are Michael Gulotta of MOPHO/Maypop fame in New Orleans; Jamie Malone from Minneapolis’ stunning Grand Café; David Posey – one half of the dream team at Elske, Chicago; and Justin Woodward of Castagna in Portland. The four James Beard Award-nominated chefs worked together at the WhistlePig Farm in Shoreham, Vermont to create WhistlePig X Flaviar Chef’s Blend 2019 back in June this year.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given this was a blend created by chefs at WhistlePig, it is comprised entirely of wine casks. WhistlePig X Flaviar Chef’s Blend 2019 is made up of 40% Madeira, 30% Sherry, 20% Port and 10% Sauternes – all drinks traditionally accompanied with food. Pete Lynch, Master Blender at WhistlePig, comments: “Madeira, Port and Sauternes are the magic trio in our WhistlePig 12, and the chefs’ decision to add Sherry Cask Finished Rye so prominently to the WhistlePig X Flaviar Chef’s Blend 2019 takes that trio to a place we’ve never before seen. The blend showcases a rich complexity with subtle nuances, adding a great Sherry derived spice and nuttiness, and tremendously deepening the flavor profile.”

Grisa Soba, co-founder of Flaviar.com adds: “The process of blending a whiskey has much in common with the creative process of creating a menu and so we thought it would be an interesting experiment to take four incredible chefs, who are real bastions of flavor, and have them play around with the blend of a new whiskey expression. The collaboration is another way for us to challenge our members to try more new things, more often.”

Referring to the most challenging aspect of the blending process, Michael Gulotta, Chef Proprietor of MOPHO/Maypop, comments: “The realization that a small percentage change in the base spirits can drastically alter the final taste and finish of the whiskey made the blending an exceptionally difficult task.” Malone, adds: “I was incredibly surprised to learn and taste and smell how the different barrel finishes interacted with each other. In many ways to results were very unexpected, not exactly the sum of their parts, but much more complex.”

Only 1,000 bottles are available, so order yours ASAP!

WhistlePig X Flaviar Chef’s Blend 2019 (86 proof)
Visual: Medium gold.
Nose: Loads of grape right off the bat. An almost floral quality that blends fruit and oak into a blanket surrounding a softer base of spicy rye and warm malt. I’ve had plenty of wine cask aged whiskies over the years, but this one dials it up to 11.
Taste: On the palate, the rye performs the starring role with a prickly, peppery edge that easily cuts through the vine fruit presence. There is no doubt that this is a rye whiskey, but one that has an added essence of slight fruity sweetness.
Finish: Long and with a slight numbing cinnamon-like quality.
Overall: I can see where this would be a great whiskey to pair with seared beef, BBQ, crème brûlée and sweet potatoes. It doesn’t overwhelm that palate, but draws the flavors in from what you have on your plate. On the other hand, if you just want to enjoy a dram on its own, you will not be disappointed. This is a very self assured whiskey.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Flaviar

 

GSN Review: Larga Vida XO Rum

Flaviar recently announced the return of Larga Vida with the release of Larga Vida XO 2019 Edition. Following last year’s debut of Larga Vida XO 2018 which sold out in record time, Flaviar has handpicked tropical rums from ten different countries and blended them. The rums come from 10 rum nations, each known for its distinctive character: Barbados, Dominican Republic, Guadalupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Jamaica, Mauritius, Panama, Trinidad, and Colombia. As well, different styles of premium barrels – new and used, toasted and charred, ex-wine and sherry casks were used.

The Larga Vida name is inspired by the Spanish phrase, Larga Vida y Prosperidad, which translates to “long life and prosperity”. The rum consists of bitter and sweet flavor combinations, embodying the sweetness and bitterness of life.

Commenting on the flavor profile of Larga Vida XO 2019, Grisa Soba, Flaviar co-founder and maker of Larga Vida says: “We could say Larga Vida is just another sourced rum. But that wouldn’t be fair. The first release was over 3 years in the making and with Larga Vida XO 2019 we wanted to kick things up a notch and elevate the blend with an additional rum, so it is even more complex but still smooth…

It’s a privilege to be able to source rums directly from the makers, to separately finish the expressions, to blend them and marry them, so that the flavors can integrate, harmonize and fully develop. The result is more than the sum of its parts – more complex, balanced and rounded. Two Cherries on top? If you know your way around Rum, you may recognize some Foursquare Rum that went into this blend. And the stopper… Well, we’re pretty sure our speedboat will make everyone’s inner Sonny Crockett proud.”

Larga Vida XO Rum (80 proof)
Visual: Dark amber.
Nose: Mouthwatering entry on the nose with light spice, medium sweetness and heavy wood. The sherry holds all of the high notes, while the char secures the low end with a vibrant liveliness. A sniff is akin to a taste in this case.
Taste: A deep char greets that palate with a smokey, almost cigar-like flavor. The bitter tobacco similarity makes this rum very different from any other that we’ve tried. After a minute, dark caramel and brown bread notes peek out, but this is anything but a sweet rum.
Finish: Long and luxurious. The fade is elegant and slow. A perfect after dinner rum that lends itself to slow, contemplative sipping.
Overall: One of a kind and well blended. This is a rum for special occasions, and a great entry for whiskey drinkers who think they don’t like rum.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Larga Vida Rum

GSN Alert: World Sake Day – October 1st

October 1st is World Sake Day and heralds the beginning of the sake making season in Japan.  A wonderfully varied beverage with many styles, sake is a perfect way to toast the beginning of the autumnal season.

Sake is not an easy beverage to make, and there are many, many styles.  What you should know is that the highest classification is Junmai which is pure and unadulterated, similar to what you want in a 100% blue agave tequila.  You don’t get additional flavorings, colorings or alcohol added into the mix, which indicates a less than stellar product.  Low end sakes are the ones served hot to cover up their inadequacies.  Junmai Ginjo is made from rice that has been polished to such a high degree that it loses 45% of it’s outer covering, leaving only the heart of the rice.  This is then fermented not only using yeast, but also a proprietary domesticated fungus called Koji (Aspergillus oryzae).  Sounds weird, but this combination is so efficient at turning rice sugars into alcohol, that you end up with an initial alcohol level of 14-20%.  So, kudos for fungus!

GSN Review: Campari Cask Tales

Campari recently introduced a new expression to the United States in limited quantity to celebrate over 150 years of the legacy of Davide Campari. Created by Herbalist & Master Blender, Bruno Malavasi, Campari Cask Tales represents a contemporary take on the classic Campari that is finished in bourbon barrels. Malavasi experimented with casks from multiple sources to find the ideal environment to age and flavor the liqueur, which finally led to the selection of second-fill bourbon casks.

Campari Cask Tales was largely inspired and informed by passionate bartenders from around the globe, including Leo Robitschek, gaz regan, and Jeffrey Morgenthaler, who shared their expertise and guidance alongside Bruno. Their invaluable insight coupled with the patience of time within the cask were essential to define the best variation of the spirit.

Malavasi says “Having worked at Campari Group for over 20 years, Davide Campari is a figure I have consistently admired for his commitment and innovation. I knew that I had to pay homage to the man who fundamentally inspired my craft. Davide’s intuitive way of connecting with the future inspired me to go out and explore the latest sensory experiences, seeing how to blend art forms and merge the future with the past. Bitter, but now slightly fruity; sweet, but just a little smoky; a unique expression has been created that keeps the iconic flavor of the original Campari.”

Campari Cask Tales (25% ABV)
Visual: Clear red-orange.
Nose: Bitter top notes of sandalwood and chinotto, with more subdued sweet bourbon and oak to bring a warmth to the nose.
Taste: The bitterness is tempered down a tad, and the sweetness ramped up through the lovely vanilla and caramel tones of the ex-Bourbon cask.
Finish: Long and wistful.
Overall: This is a really nice apéritif on its own, but if you’re looking for a little extra something in your next Negroni or spritzer, look no further. The flavor is sublime.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Campari

GSN Review: Tod & Vixen’s Dry Gin 1651

The Vale Fox Distillery in the Hudson Valley of New York, recently released their debut spirit, Tod & Vixen’s Dry Gin 1651. With three of the world’s top bartenders, gaz regan, Leo Robitschek and Jeffrey Morgenthaler involved from day one, Tod & Vixen’s Dry Gin 1651 is specifically designed to enhance flavors in cocktails. Add the expertise of our British Master Distiller and you have one lively mix of British sophistication and American mischief.

Inspired either by ancestral calling or beautiful coincidence, The Vale Fox Distillery founder Eral Gokgol-Kline left behind his life as a global investment expert to construct an exceptional full-scale distillery from the ground-up, making an incredible discovery not long after:

“Through some genealogical research, I learned that in 1651, my great, great (great, great, truly great) Dutch grandfather founded a New York distillery. I hope we’re making his “spirit” (sorry…) proud, though you have to wonder what he would have thought of the Brit we have in here refining old-world distillation techniques with a newly scientific approach…”

Arthur Shapiro, former EVP of Marketing at Seagram, works closely with Gokgol-Kline to consult on marketing. Shapiro is also the author of The Vale Fox Distillery’s one-of-a-kind graphic novel for Tod & Vixen’s Dry Gin 1651, which tells the tongue-in-cheek tale of two eponymous grey foxes with a penchant for imbibing who embark on a quest to save their homeland from imminent environmental destruction. In their honor, Gokgol-Kline carefully preserves his environment, protecting the indigenous deer by banning property hunting, erecting luxury residences (protected natural habitats) for the endangered turtles and bats, and using geothermal energy in the facilities.

The Vale Fox Distillery is located just 75 miles north of NYC on a 120-acre plot, and in addition to a 6,500 sq. ft. purpose built building and 4,000 sq. ft. production area, features a 2,500 sq. ft. welcome center and tasting room, with tours and experiences and open views of the estate’s rolling hills, sassy wildlife and all.

Tod & Vixen’s Dry Gin 1651 (96 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Bright juniper greets the nose with a traditional, yet floral forward scent. Subtle citrus plays a supporting role in a very tight olfactory package.
Taste: Here the citrus leads the procession with the piney flavors hitting all the marks in the right balance. There is a fruitiness and a fresh floral bouquet that eventually leads into a slightly sweet vanilla-like finish.
Finish: Medium long and very mellow.
Overall: A really fine gin that has been crafted with care and attention. Perfect for your Martini, G&T or as the third partner in a Negroni.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: The Vale Fox

GSN Review: Cathead Bourbon, Vodka & Chicory Liqueur

Cathead, Mississippi’s first legal distillery is located in the heart of downtown Jackson. Founded in 2010 by friends and blues fans Austin Evans and Richard Patrick, the distillery produces beverages with a unique local flair. Austin and Richard, along with Distiller Phillip Ladner created seven spirits including Cathead Original Vodka, Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka, Cathead Pecan Vodka, Bristow Gin, Bristow Barrel Aged Gin, Hoodoo Chicory Liquor, and, now, Old Soul Bourbon Whiskey.

From crawfish boils to live music, the Cathead Distillery has become an integral part of the Jackson community. Locals and visitors alike come to take a tour, enjoy the annual two-day music spring festival, Cathead Jam, and check out the curated retail shop onsite.

The name “Cathead,” a term first coined by Mississippi blues musicians as a nod to respected artists, pays homage to the state’s rich musical heritage; in this spirit, Cathead is actively involved in local and regional philanthropy and donates a portion of proceeds to nonprofits that contribute to Southern arts and culture.

Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka (70 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Light floral nose overlying a vodka base.
Taste: Sweet and somewhat honey-like, with a slight floral flavor.
Finish: Short, with a lasting sweet note.
Overall: This is a very subtle vodka. Everything is slight with the exception of the sweetness.
GSN Rating: B

Cathead Pecan Vodka (70 proof)
Visual: Dark gold.
Nose: A nutty nose evocative of toasted pecan.
Taste: A dry and nut-like character balanced with a viscous sugary aspect. Like boozy pecan pie.
Finish: Long and with a slight bitter edge.
Overall: Not as sweet as a liqueur, but certainly agreeable as a dessert-like vodka. Unique and tasty.
GSN Rating: B+

Old Soul Bourbon Whiskey (90 proof)
Visual: Dark brown.
Nose: A lot of wood on the nose with a evocative nose of bright rye spice and roasted corn. Autumnal and warming.
Taste: Really nice entry with a touch of sweet corn, but it instantly shifts to a percolating rye spiciness.
Finish: Long, mellow and sweet. This memory stays with you.
Overall: Well balanced, expertly blended and aged. This is a true sipping bourbon that just begs to be married to a mint julep.
GSN Rating: A

HooDoo Chicory Liqueur (66.6 proof)
Visual: Cola syrup brown.
Nose: Cheery, nut and toasted grain nose.
Taste: Sweetened chicory beverage flavor. Reminiscent of sugared espresso. Just enough of a bitter edge and a “wake me up” flavor that could be a great shot in your coffee or served over a rock for a spirited take on cold brew.
Finish: Long and with a molasses and chicory ending.
Overall: An excellent liqueur that fits in well with the myriad coffee liqueurs that can tend to be somewhat one-dimensional and overly sugary. Worth seeking out!
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Cathead Distillery

GSN Review: Firefly Vodka

Jim Irvin is a scientist, Scott Newitt is a visionary. Jim had a winery. Scott was in the wine business. That’s how they met, became friends and soon realized they both shared a crazy idea to build a distillery; something that proved to be much easier said than done. Scott & Jim did not have a big budget to buy a still so they built their own from scratch. It was a 55 gallon stainless steel tank on top of a propane burner that is now on display in the Firefly Distillery’s Tasting Room.

Scott explains the name, “We named our distillery Firefly because Fireflies are magical. We remember catching them in mason jars and we love that feeling of mystery and southern nostalgia.”

Firefly Vodka (80 proof) Slightly sweet, clean and with some residual corn flavor. GSN Rating: B-

Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka (70 proof) Nice, natural sweet tea flavor. Easy going and ready to drink on the rocks. GSN Rating: A-

Firefly Ruby Red Vodka (60 proof) Soft red grapefruit flavor that doesn’t go over the top. Somewhat soda-like in flavor. GSN Rating: B

Firefly Lemonade Vodka (60 proof) Too tart, consisting of intense lemon juice flavor. Where is the sweetener? We’d classify this as a lemon vodka, but not lemonade.  GSN Rating: C-

For more information go to: Firefly Spirits