GSN Review: Glenmorangie Signet

For one week each year, the stills at Glenmorangie’s distillery in the Scottish Highlands are dedicated to the creation of Glenmorangie Signet, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2018. Created by Dr. Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie’s Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation & Whisky Stocks, Glenmorangie Signet was the first single malt to use high roast ‘chocolate malt’ barley in its production and includes some of the distillery’s rarest whiskies matured in bespoke designer casks.

The distillation of Glenmorangie Signet is a rare occasion that takes place for one week every year – Signet Week. For seven days each year, the distillery only produces the ‘chocolate malt’ and halts production on all other whiskies, a highly unusual occurrence in the whisky industry. While the exact secrets of its production are known only to Glenmorangie’s whisky creators, the high-roast ‘chocolate malt’ is tumble-roasted in small quantities, coaxing out a spirit of espresso intensity and is tempered over many years by a marriage of unique cask types. Bourbon barrels, sherry butts, and unusual virgin charred oak casks are all balanced by some of Glenmorangie’s oldest stocks. 

“Glenmorangie has always been known for pushing the boundaries of the taste experience through innovation and Signet is, in many ways, the embodiment of that creative vision,” says Dr. Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie’s Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation & Whisky Stocks. “My favorite cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee inspired me to create Signet and it took years of hard work and painstaking attention to detail to bring it to life. We had to forge new ground: to create a spirit that united the ‘chocolate malt’ with Glenmorangie’s signature house malt, to dedicate the stills to that purpose alone for seven days each year, and then to perfect an assemblage from our rarest and most precious whiskies. It remains one of my proudest creations and one I’m delighted to see enjoyed around the world by whisky connoisseurs and newcomers in equal measure.”

Glenmorangie Signet (92 proof)
Visual: Orange-yellow.
Nose: Finely appointed oak nose with just a hint of sherry capping off the high notes. A wealth of medium tones reveal a rich and temperate body.
Taste: Next to no smokiness, but instead a cheery and sweetened blend of highland malt with a warm embrace of bourbon and sherry character.
Finish: Medium long with a soft fade.
Overall: The overall effect is of supreme balance and self-assuredness. The chocolate malt really lends itself to this flavorful expression.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Glenmorangie

GSN Review: Nikka Whiskey From The Barrel

First introduced in Japan in 1986, Nikka From The Barrel has developed a cult-like status in the world of Japanese whisky – often the most coveted expression to bring back from its homeland. Recently, Nikka Japanese Whisky and U.S. importer Hotaling & Co. announced the arrival of Nikka From The Barrel in the U.S. beginning August 2018.

An extremely complex blended whisky, Nikka From The Barrel was created to deliver full flavors and richness drawn from a blend of more than 100 different batches of malt whisky and grain whisky produced at Nikka’s Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries, and aged in multiple types of ex-Bourbon barrels and puncheons, ex-sherry butts, refilled, recharred and remade hogsheads. The higher proof helps to merge the wide array of flavor compounds, while the 3-6 months of additional aging at Nikka’s aging cellar ensures a marriage of flavors to harmonize the liquid. The iconic bottle is designed to reflect “a small block of whisky” – embodying the rich, strong taste of the whisky within.

“Nikka From The Barrel is the best-selling expression outside of Japan,” says Hotaling & Co. president and CEO, Dennis Carr. “We are thrilled to bring this beloved whisky to the U.S. and look forward to seeing the cocktail creativity it inspires in bartenders across the country.”

Nikka Whiskey From The Barrel (102.8 proof)
Visual: Rich yellow.
Nose: A melange of wood stave patinaed with a gentle touch of sherry and honey. Very direct, forward and compact in tone.
Taste: Sweet and well blended with a bakery flavor similar to sweet rolls. There is a hazelnut character that keeps popping up every few minutes or so. Very smooth.
Finish: Medium, with a fairly quick fade.
Overall: As with most Japanese whiskies, this one is exceptionally well-crafted. The higher proof makes this a great entry-level Nikka whiskey for those who like more than a splash of water in their drink. Easy going and full of bright character.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Hotaling & Co.

GSN Review: Hue-Hue Coffee Rum

Eastside Distilling, Inc. recently announced the introduction of Hue-Hue (pronounced “way-way”) Coffee Rum. Hue-Hue is a coffee-infused rum that starts with Arabica coffee beans grown at the Finca El Paternal Estate in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. This free trade coffee is custom light roasted by Portland Roasting Company, then small-batch cold brewed by Eastside by hand, following a proprietary process that has been optimized for spirits by Eastside’s Master Distiller, Mel Heim. After brewing, the coffee is hand blended with silver rum and a trace amount of raw Demerara sugar. The result is a 70 proof spirit that is “all about the coffee.” Hue-Hue is unique in having the full flavor and richness of cold brew coffee, without the syrupy sweetness of sugar-drenched coffee liqueurs.

The Hue-Hue name is derived from Huehuetenango, a city in the highlands of western Guatemala where the coffee is sourced. The Hue-Hue bottle design created by Portland’s Sandstrom Partner’s takes inspiration from Guatemala’s burlap coffee sacks that are uniformly labeled throughout the country to convey details of origin. Similarly, the Hue-Hue bottle conveys the coffee’s origin on the El Paternal Estate, its Portland roasting history, and the cold brewing and infusion with select rum.

Mel Heim, Master Distiller of Eastside, commented, “Our contemporary imagining of coffee rum as a hip incarnation of Pacific Northwest ‘cold brew’ is a premium spirit that quickly rose to be the number one seller by volume in our tasting rooms. We were very proud of cold brew coffee rum and we knew we had a hit, but the old ‘Below Deck’ bottle it was packed in was keeping its great DNA a secret. The new Sandstrom Hue-Hue bottle fixes that and then some because it explains what our cold brew coffee rum is in a way that is worthy of its premium ingredients and it also tells the fascinating back story of its Guatemalan and Portland roots. I think that people will see Hue-Hue on the shelf and be attracted to its uniqueness. When they experience it, I think they will convert to Hue-Hue as their coffee spirit, the same way they’ve converted to cold brew as their coffee of choice.”

Hue-Hue Coffee Rum (70 proof)
Visual: Dark reddish-brown.
Nose: Intense powerhouse of fresh ground coffee bean laid over a subdued warm and buttery rum base.
Taste: Exactly what you’d expect, only better. A dark shroud of rich coffee supported by a hefty rum base, and this is the important part, lightly sweetened. In some ways it has the characteristics of an espresso, but with just a touch of sugar.
Finish: Long with the deep coffee roast flavor going on and on long after the rum and sugar have faded.
Overall: Yes, I would gladly wake up and smell the coffee if it was Hue-Hue. This is miles ahead of any mass-produced coffee liqueurs on the market. Excellent!
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Eastside Distilling

GSN Review: La Valdotaine Amaro Dente di Leone & Verney Vermouth

Vermouth was invented in Turin at the end of the 18th century and was made fashionable by the royal house of Savoia. Soon there was an explosion of different vermouth recipes. The formula for Verney was inspired by a document attributed to Abbé Edouard Berard, a botanist from the Aosta Valley. The recipe for his special ‘mountain wine’ called for parietta (Savory) benefort (Artemisia or Wormwood) as well as the aromatic sarieula or Alpine Thyme. These mountain herbs are the essence of the uniqueness of Verney.

La Valdôtaine is a small mountain distillery which draws its inspiration from local traditions, where old copper stills produce small batches of hand-crafted spirits. Rare mountain botanicals are infused and then carefully distilled. The traditional alembics, local Alpine ingredients and mineral-rich waters give a special mountain character to Verney.

Verney Vermouth (16.5% abv)
Visual: Dark reddish-brown.
Nose: Sweetened herb blend with a hint of vine fruit. Aromatic and mouth-watering.
Taste: Medium sweetness with a light and pleasing herbal tang. There is no hint of burnt sugar or caramel, but instead a light and refreshing wine base which shines throughout.
Finish: Medium, with a pleasant smooth finish tempered by a slight bitter edge.
Overall: A very nice sweet vermouth which hits all the marks of a traditional, well made product.
GSN Rating: A-

The dandelion, (literally ‘lion’s tooth’) was always thought to possess magical powers. The Ancient Greeks believed the seeds were dust thrown up by the chariot of Helios, the sun-god. Dandelion leaves nourished Theseus for thirty days before his victory over the Minotaur. Lovers attempt to discover their amorous destinies by blowing dandelion seeds into the wind …‘loves me, loves me not…’. Herbalists favor the mountain variety with its smaller, richer leaves and intense aroma. Amaro Dente di Leone blends dandelion with other Alpine herbs such as gentian and genepy. It is sweetened with a pinch of muscovado sugar.

Amaro Dente di Leone (32.6% abv)
Visual: Dark reddish-orange.
Nose: A hint of pine and mountain herbs. Think Ricola.
Taste: A tangy herb bill lightly sweetened and tempered by a fairly forward alcohol base. Quite different and leaning more toward the drier, more bitter amaros.
Finish: Medium-long with a palate opening digestif presence.
Overall: Again, a fine product that is both familiar and unusual. This is perfect for an after dinner shot or used in a complex cocktail.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: La Valdotaine

GSN Review: Basil Hayden’s Two by Two Rye

Basil Hayden’s Bourbon, recently announced the limited release of Basil Hayden’s Two by Two Rye. A blend of two Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskies and two Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskies, Basil Hayden’s Two by Two Rye breaks category norms to offer the best of both worlds: the full spiciness of rye, complemented by the sweet characteristics and finish of bourbon.

Two by Two Rye offers a balance of 5-year-old Kentucky Straight Rye, a 7-year-old “high-rye” Kentucky Straight Rye, a 13-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon, and a 6-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon, the result is a wholly unique whiskey that remains approachable at 80 proof.

“Basil Hayden’s has always been known for its distinctive spicy finish, so innovating in the rye category continues to be an exciting venture for the brand, especially as interest in the category grows exponentially,” said Rob Mason, Vice President Marketing, Whiskey at Beam Suntory. “While Basil Hayden’s Two by Two Rye upholds our trademark spice and approachability, this blend also challenges the status quo and encourages fans to discover the versatility of rye.”

The launch of Basil Hayden’s Two by Two Rye builds on momentum set by two recent launches, including Basil Hayden’s Rye Whiskey and Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye. Both were met with impressive reception and acclaim, with Basil Hayden’s Rye Whiskey being awarded “Rye Whiskey of The Year” at the 2017 New York International Spirits Competition.

Basil Hayden’s Two by Two Rye (80 proof)
Visual: Medium gold.
Nose: Quite rye laden with a pungent and evocative oaked nose.
Taste: Very well-balanced, with a tinge of sweetness, but mostly leaning toward a dry and oaken finish. As it opens up, over time a refreshingly crisp spiciness blooms and teases the palate.
Finish: Medium long with a cinnamon/sandalwood touch.
Overall: An excellent whiskey that has been a new favorite here at GSN. Well worth seeking out at the very reasonable price point.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Basil Hayden’s

GSN Alert: August 16th – National Rum Day

lots-of-rumIn honor of National rum day, here are a few of the original rum based cocktails that I’ve created over the years!


Blair Frodelius – editor

Captain Grey
4 oz piping hot organic Earl Grey tea
1.5 oz Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
0.25 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp organic honey

Pre-warm a cognac glass with warm to hot water.  Steep Earl Grey tea for 3-5 minutes in a mug with water just off the boil.  Empty cognac glass, then add tea, rum, lemon juice and honey.  Gently stir and garnish with a lemon wheel.

Cook’s Redemption
2.5 oz El Dorado Special Reserve 15-year-old rum
0.5 oz Bacardi vanilla rum
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
0.5 oz fresh orange juice
0.5 oz cinnamon syrup
1 dash of Fee’s black walnut bitters
1 dash of Fee’s barrel-aged aromatic bitters

Add all ingredients to a goblet filled with crushed ice.  Stir and add more ice to top off and serve with a straw.  Optional: garnish with grated nutmeg.

2 oz. Appleton Special Jamaica Rum
1 oz. Barenjager Honey liqueur
0.5oz Lustau Dry Amontillado Los Arcos Sherry
0.5 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 dash Dale Degroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters

Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake well and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Flying Monkey
1.5oz Deadhead rum
0.75oz Dekuyper creme de banana liqueur
0.25oz Hiram Walker Original Cinn liqueur
0.25oz Don Q Limon rum
0.25oz Fee brothers vanilla syrup
scant tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

Fill tiki mug with crushed ice and add all ingredients.  Swizzle and then garnish with baby banana, edible flower and straw.

Kaddū Raj
2 tablespoons of organic pumpkin puree
1.5 oz Malibu rum
0.75 oz Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
2 dashes of The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters

Stir briskly with cracked ice for ten seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a light dusting of mild yellow curry powder.

Peri Banu
2 oz Appleton gold rum
1 oz Absolut vanilla vodka
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
0.5 oz fresh orange juice
0.5 oz Hiram Walker Original Cinn schnapps
0.5 oz simple syrup
2 dashes of Fee’s old-fashioned bitters

Add all ingredients to a goblet filled with crushed ice.  Stir and add more ice to top off and serve with a straw.  Optional: garnish with an edible flower.

1.5 oz Barenjager
1.5 oz Cruzan Black Strap Rum
1 oz Absolut Peppar
1 tsp St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram

Add all ingredients to mixing glass with ice and stir until well chilled.  Strain into a cocktail glass rimmed with a mix of grated nutmeg and superfine sugar.

1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
0.5 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
0.75 oz Goya passionfruit cocktail
1 oz Orangina
0.75 oz Fee Brothers rock candy syrup
0.25 oz Campari
2 oz Montanya platino rum
1.25 oz Montanya oro rum
0.75 oz Cruzan black strap rum
2 dashes Fee Brothers whiskey-barrel aged aromatic bitters

Add all to mixing glass with ice.  Shake powerfully, pray to your favorite tiki god, and pour into a barrel-shaped mug.  Garnish with sparkling long, thin black candle (made to look like a fuse).

Punch the Monkey
1 750ml bottle gosling’s dark rum
8 oz Chartreuse Green
4 oz Benedictine
8 oz pineapple juice
8 oz lime juice
7 oz orgeat
35 dashes Angostura bitters

Add all to punchbowl with block of ice. Ladle individual servings in half of a Milton Bradley “Barrel of Monkeys” container over crushed ice.

GSN Review: Heaven’s Door American Whiskeys

Spirits Investment Partnership (“SIP”), in partnership with Bob Dylan, recently announced the debut of Heaven’s Door, a collection of super-premium craft American Whiskeys. Bob Dylan’s first and only brand partnership, Heaven’s Door will be an ever-evolving portfolio of handcrafted whiskeys in collaboration with different master distillers and blenders from across the country.

The genesis of Heaven’s Door came when spirits entrepreneur Marc Bushala, CEO of SIP, read that Bob Dylan had registered a trademark application for “Bootleg Whiskey” in 2015. Bushala embarked on a mission to connect with the artist and explore ideas. Through a mutual friend, a meeting between the two was arranged. Together, they developed the idea of creating a whiskey collection that would be the perfect blend of art and craft, incorporating Bob Dylan’s artwork in the packaging.

“Rather than make a single whiskey or work with one master distiller, we thought it would be far more interesting to work with various master distillers and blenders to make whiskeys that would each have their own unique signature,” Bushala explains, “By working with different whiskey artisans for each new expression, the portfolio would be more diverse and eclectic.”

“We both wanted to create a collection of American whiskeys that, in their own way, tell a story, “said Dylan.  “I’ve been traveling for decades, and I’ve been able to try some of the best spirits that the world of whiskey has to offer. This is great whiskey. I am happy to be partnering with Marc and our entire team as we bring Heaven’s Door to the public.”

After years and countless iterations of blending and finishing, Heaven’s Door arrived at its first three expressions. The trilogy includes a Straight Tennessee Bourbon, a Double Barrel Whiskey, and a Straight Rye Whiskey finished in “Cigar” Barrels from Vosges, France.

Heaven’s Door bottles feature Bob Dylan’s distinctive iron gates that he created in his studio, Black Buffalo Ironworks, from objects found on farms and scrap yards across America. Complementing the mainstay portfolio, next year Heaven’s Door will introduce The Bootleg Series, showcasing Bob Dylan’s paintings on proprietary bottles. The Bootleg Series will offer rare whiskey stocks and special blends, available in extremely limited quantities.

In 2019, Heaven’s Door will open its distillery and brand experience center in a 140-year-old church in Nashville where Dylan recorded four albums and made a lasting impact on the Music City.

The inaugural Heaven’s Door expressions are:

TENNESSEE STRAIGHT BOURBON – Heaven’s Door Tennessee Bourbon utilizes 30% “small grains” to complement the character imparted from spending almost seven years in new American Oak barrels.

STRAIGHT RYE WHISKEY – Breaking with convention, Heaven’s Door finishes its Straight Rye Whiskey in toasted oak cigar barrels, harvested and air-dried in the low-lying mountain region of Vosges, France.

DOUBLE BARREL WHISKEY FROM TENNESSEE – Comprised of a distinctive blend of three different whiskeys, the Heaven’s Door Double Barrel finishing process utilizes hand toasted, new American Oak barrels for a secondary aging worthy of another year’s wait.

Heaven’s Door Tennessee Bourbon (90 proof)
Visual: Medium gold.
Nose: Compact package of intensely pungent oak laden mash bill. Welcoming and friendly, like a favorite uncle.
Taste: Nicely sweet, with a hint of cinnamon. A very smooth entry that leads into a spice cake flavor. The oak never overwhelms the distillate, rather it enhances what was already there.
Finish: Medium long, with the curious cinnamon “red-hot” candy-like flavor.
Overall: Very easy to drink and with enough of a difference in character, as to make this a welcome addition to your back bar.
GSN Rating: A-

Heaven’s Door Straight Rye Whiskey (92 proof)
Visual: Deep gold.
Nose: Loads of fresh cracked rye spice out of the gate, followed by a softer, sweet nose.
Taste: Again, a refreshing sweetness which rounds out any possible rough edges from a typically robust straight rye. Ryes tend to have an overabundance of high notes, but this one is tempered.
Finish: Medium long, and with a bit of the spice hanging on to remind you that you’ve just had rye.
Overall: I really like this one, and would love to try a 100 proof version just to see what else comes out.
GSN Rating: A+

Heaven’s Door Double Barrel (100 proof)
Visual: Deep gold.
Nose: Oak, oak, oak. A powerhouse in the glass. You can tell this one is pushing the boundaries.
Taste: Sprightly oak stave colors the whiskey with a maple butter and brown butter flavor. A warm and soft whiskey that proves that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  It all just works incredibly well together.
Finish: Medium long, with the barrel character finishing things off at a slow pace.
Overall: Very well done, and despite the second resting period, nothing is out-of-place. A special whiskey that barely needs any water or ice.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Heaven’s Door