Archive for the ‘Spirits & Liqueurs’ Category


Recently, Seattle’s Westland Distillery and San Francisco’s Anchor Distilling Company released the first in Westland’s Native Oak Series: Garryana American Single Malt Whiskey, which features a component whiskey matured in Quercus garryana, a species of white oak unique to the Pacific Northwest.

“This oak is extremely rare and it’s a unique opportunity we’ve been given to use it to make whiskey,” says Westland’s Master Distiller Matt Hofmann, who is dedicated to exploring the intersection of single malt whiskey production and Pacific Northwest terroir. “It’s a really fascinating species of oak and certainly one of the most charismatic I have ever worked with.”

In this first edition, just 2,500 bottles of Garryana will be available in limited distribution nationwide and in select overseas markets. Future editions in the Native Oak Series will be released in 2017 and beyond.

Garryana American Single Malt Whiskey (112.4 proof)
Visual: Bright yellow-gold.
Nose: Open and vista-like with a ton of high notes.  Much like a Highland Scotch, there is a slight smokiness that tops off the woodiness.  Almost like week-old campfire smoke on a fall pullover.
Taste: Sweet on the entry, this quickly cools down  into a serious and tonal whiskey with a lot of meatiness and body.  The Garryana wood has a tannic and dry cinnamon edge that hits the back of the palate and stays for minutes.  Everything is tightly bundled in flavor, whereas the nose is more of an adventure seeker.
Finish: Long with coffee bean notes and bittersweet chocolate finishing things off.
Overall: Another very fine whiskey from Westland and one that any collector should grab a bottle of soon, before they’re gone forever.  Actually, get two.  One to cellar and one to share with special friends.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Westland Distillery

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However you feel about it, flavored vodka is here to stay. And it was inevitable that a marijuana or hemp flavored version would be released. Co-Founder and President of Swiss Vodka Inc., Macsen Apollo, says, “Elation hemp flavored vodka was created with love, hard work, and patience. We crafted a very high-end grain vodka three times distilled and ten times filtered. Flavored with the hemp fields of Switzerland.”

Elation Vodka is made is produced and manufactured in Winterthur, Switzerland using a wheat and rye based spirit. While other hemp vodkas use hemp seeds, Elation uses blossoms from the finest Swiss hemp to flavor the vodka. There is no residual THC in the final product however. This may or may not disappoint the drinker.

Elation Hemp Flavored Vodka (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Grassy, herbal and hemp plant nose. I’m reminded of Buffalo Grass or South American exotic hardwoods.
Taste: Mild and delicate hemp flavor adds a high note (no pun intended) to the deeper, yet solid vodka base. This is not a powerhouse of hemp character by any means, but more of a subtle essence that lingers over the tongue.
Finish: Medium long, but with ghostly hemp pockets that appear and disappear on and off again over a few minutes.
Overall: A solid vodka that takes what could be a novelty flavor and elevates it.  Hence, the name.  There are a myriad of uses for this in cocktails. Give it a try in your next Martini.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: Elation Vodka

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1972374_1549933071899560_27244082_nI first met Ben and Shiobhan Reilley last year when they were just getting started with their new distilling company located in Nelson, NY, about 30 minutes from the GSN offices.  Down to earth, family oriented and enthusiastic about their products, both husband and wife regularly set up at local farmer’s markets on the weekend handing out samples of their vodkas and cocktail in a can, Disco Lemonade.  This year, they took their products to the New York State Fair.  Ben recently tweeted that he thinks they just might sell out of their Disco Lemonade over the 12 day event.

The name is memorable and the drink fits the casual Central New York lifestyle.  Packaged in an aluminum can, it’s ready-to-go and goes down easy.  Blended from their raspberry vodka and lemon flavoring, it is already making its way onto local grocery store shelves.

Life of Reilley uses New York State corn for their vodkas, and the distillery is a part of what is called the Cazenovia Beverage Trail. You can easily spend a day driving around and visiting all of the facilities that are located within a few minutes of each other. Other stops include Critz Farms’ Harvest Moon Cidery, Empire Farmstead Brewery, Heidelberg Brewing Co. and Owera Vineyards.  As Ben Reilly said, “It’s an exciting time to be in this business.”

Premium Vodka (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Fresh, lively, and clean.  Some minerality, with a tight and defined nose.
Taste: Remarkably smooth and creamy.  Slightly powdered sugar sweet, but with a lot of peppery body.  Rich, full and self-assured.
Finish: Medium long with more slate and chalk notes lending a dry finish.
Overall: If you gave me a glass of this and I didn’t know better, I’d say this is a winter wheat vodka.  An amazing transformation and a top-notch vodka right out of the gate.
GSN Rating: A-

Raspberry Vodka (70 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Sprightly raspberry and again a decent amount of minerality.  Quite fresh.
Taste: Light and semi-dry fruit flavor with no overtly sugary character.  The vodka itself shines through the raspberry flavor and this adds to its appeal.
Finish: Medium short with lingering berry essence.
Overall: A really good raspberry vodka, especially when compared to many others on the market.  This is fantastic in a punch or with ginger ale.
GSN Rating: A-

Vanilla Vodka (70 proof)
Visual: Ultra pale gold.
Nose: Reminiscent of vanilla tobacco.  Sweet, inviting and redolent with vanilla bean.
Taste: Subtle, not obtrusive or artificial tasting.  In fact, the vanilla here acts as more of a patina to the vodka.  You definitely notice it, but it doesn’t smack you in the face.
Finish: Short and with a slight lingering vanillin note.
Overall: Again, a fine vodka that doesn’t seek to overwhelm with the flavoring.  This is nice with cola, or sipped neat with a berry dessert pairing.
GSN Rating: B+

Disco Lemonade (6.5% abv) – This is a ready-made cocktail-in-a-can made with LOR’s raspberry vodka and natural flavors.  On the nose, it’s slightly herbal and funky like a traditional vinegar-based shrub.  But, the flavor is more akin to a traditional lemonade with raspberry flavoring added. It’s sweet, but not overly so.  Straight out of the can, it is a little intensely flavored.  I’d suggest pouring this over ice and enjoying.  Definitely a summer beverage for the party goer! GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: Life of Reilley

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Following limited-edition releases in December 2015, Redemption Whiskey, is expanding the portfolio with its first-ever cask strength Bourbon and High Rye Bourbon bottlings. Redemption Whiskey recently introduced three new limited-edition expressions in the Aged Barrel Proof Collection: Straight Rye Whiskey (Aged 8 years), Straight Bourbon (Aged 9 years) and High Rye Bourbon (Aged 9 years).

The Redemption Aged Barrel Proof selections are distilled from mash bills of rye, barley and corn: Straight Rye (95% rye, 5% barley), Bourbon (75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley), and High Rye Bourbon (60% corn, 36% rye, 4% barley). The expressions have been aged between 8-9 years in charred new oak barrels, and after proper aging, each whiskey is minimally filtered and bottled immediately at full proof. The combination of high rye content and high-proof in each expression ensure consistent flavor in each batch.

Straight Bourbon (Aged 9 years) (109.2 proof)
Visual: Dark gold.
Nose: Deep woodiness with a topcoat of fine peppery corn distillate.  Very inviting and immediately engaging.  This smells like a still house in the glass.
Taste: Sweet southern drawl on the tongue, with a lick of vanilla and thick caramel.  Still, there is a crispness and lightness that imbues an airy quality and elegance.
Finish: Medium long, with some tight singing spice notes to send you off fondly.
Overall: A very solid bourbon that will not disappoint.  The higher proof allows you to tweak the final character making this a great choice for the bourbon enthusiast.
GSN Rating: A

High Rye Bourbon (Aged 9 years) (110.6 proof)
Visual: Dark gold.
Nose: Bracingly spicy, with rye toast crunchiness on the nose.  Underneath it all, quietly supporting the endeavor lies a sweet and sassy corn and barley portmanteau.
Taste: Still sweet with maple and cinnamon sugar, the rye tempers everything down as the spiced heat kicks in after a few seconds.  I’m reminded of maple butter spread on a light rye bread slice.  This really opens up after a minute and decompresses into a wider journey of flavor.
Finish: Medium long with the rye spice hanging on far beyond what you might expect.
Overall: A nice blend of the two styles of American whiskey, with neither the rye nor the corn dominating.  They are like siblings that have agreed on the rules of the game.
GSN Rating: A

Straight Rye Whiskey (Aged 8 years) (122.2 proof)
Visual: Dark gold.
Nose: Bright, high, crisp, dry, almost slightly saline nose with sun-warmed wood staves.  Autumn in a glass.
Taste: Intense spice and rye flavor with an insistent and aggressive body.  This is a rye that holds on and won’t let go until long after you’ve had your way with it.  The amount of rye forward character calls for a bit of sweetness to tone things down, making this a perfect whiskey for your next Sazerac.  Just make sure you add a bit of water to lessen the intensity.
Finish: Long and powerful.  The rye flavor goes on for miles.
Overall: A great rye whiskey that in my opinion gives the PVW whiskies a run for their money.  Seek this one out and keep it for when dignitaries come to call.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Redemption Rye

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There have been distilleries at Lagavulin since the 18th century; although it wasn’t until 1816 that farmer John Johnston founded the first legal operation. A year later a second distillery appeared, this one run by Archibald Campbell. The two were united under a Glasgow trader, and in 1887, Peter Mackie arrived at the distillery, under whose guiding hand the distillery, and the name Lagavulin, was born.
Lagavulin Single Malt Scotch whisky has the longest distillation and maturation of any in the Classic Malts Collection. And, in 2016, they are celebrating 200 years of making whisky at Lagavulin. In 1880, legendary whisky journalist Alfred Barnard described an 8 Year Old Lagavulin as “exceptionally fine”. For that reason, this year of celebrations kicked off with a limited edition anniversary release of Lagavulin 8 Year Old. Though this might seem a little young to our 21st century eyes, 8 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky was considered ancient in the 19th Century. This latest release joins a family which includes the 16 Year Old (reviewed below), the Distillers Edition and Special Release 12 Year Old.
The release is the first highlight in a year-long celebration which includes events and tastings around the world – and some changes at the distillery too. A video booth will be installed to enable people to share their stories when they visit. There’s also a special new garden with a phenomenal view across the bay to Dunyvaig Castle, so visitors can drink in the sense of island life which has powered this whisky for two centuries.
Lagavulin 16-Year-Old Whisky (86 proof)
Visual: Rich gold.
Nose: A punch of sweet leaf cigar smoke.  Chewy, and reminiscent of old Havana.  Really.
Taste: Here, the smoke is tempered by the sweet maltiness of the whisky.  Amazingly well-balanced, both engage the palate equally and playfully. There is an inherent warmth and quiet joy in this Scotch that many others just don’t have.
Finish: Medium long, with the creosote lingering just a bit longer than you might expect, causing you to reach for another sip to whet your whistle.
Overall: One of my favorites in the Classic Malts Selection, this one is well deserving of a special place on any bar.  Do dheagh shlàinte!
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Malts

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Dalwhinnie distillery is situated between the gentle, grassy style of the Lowlands and the austere, firm body of Speyside which begins some 25 miles to the north. So remote, that in 1994 it was officially recorded as the coldest inhabited place in Scotland that year.

Dalwhinnie derives its name from the Gaelic for a ‘meeting place’ of sheep and cattle drovers. No other distillery may use the water from Lochan an Doire Uaine, (Gaelic for “Loch of the green thicket”) which lies at 2,000 feet in the Drumochter Hills.

Dalwhinnie 15-Year-Old Whisky (86 proof)
Visual: Mild gold.
Nose: Soft, feathery and straw-like malt.  A lot of high notes from the distillate, while the wood aging frames the olfactory art.
Taste: Elegant, sweet, old school and yet very much in the vein of Speyside as opposed to a Lowlands style.  Toasty, brightly percolating high notes smile from the glass.  This is like meeting with an old chum to reminisce.
Finish: Medium short, with a dry, slightly tannic finish.  The sweetness long faded, the final impression is of quiet evening by the fire.
Overall: Very nice and approachable.  It definitely puts one in the mood for relaxing.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Malts

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Caol Ila (pronounced “Cull Eela”) is the Gaelic name for the Sound of Islay, which separates the island from Jura. For some, the distillery’s pronunciation is as hard to grasp as its location, sitting as it does on the rugged eastern coast, where it has remained hidden from view since 1846.

For more than 100 years small coal-fired “puffers” like the S.S. Pibroch brought barley, coal and empty casks to the distillery, returning her whisky to the mainland through the Sound of Islay. The barley used here is still malted locally at Port Ellen and pure spring water still rises from limestone in nearby Loch nam Ban, then falls to the sea at Caol Ila in a clear crystal stream.

Caol Ila 12-Year-Old Whisky (86 proof)
Visual: Mild gold.
Nose: Fairly heavy peat smoke with an undercurrent of rich malt.
Taste: Overlaid with Islay smoke and brine, the actual whisky itself plays a quieter game.  Slightly sweet and quite delicate, it is straight-forward and honest.
Finish: The creosote goes on for a while, whilst the whisky quickly fades into a distant memory.
Overall: Very much what you night expect.  This is a Scotch for regular enjoyment over a single cube of ice or a splash of branch water.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: Malts

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