Archive for the ‘Spirits & Liqueurs’ Category


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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The creation of Cachaça Yaguara is rooted in the friendship of three young entrepreneurs. Thyrso and Thiago Camargo met Hamilton Lowe during their formative years, becoming fast friends during their time at school together. Over the years, Hamilton often travelled from his native England to visit the brothers at their home in Brazil, when they would occasionally visit Thyrso and Thiago’s grandfather – a man who has spent his life perfecting his own cachaça, “Cachaça do Barba.” It was on one such visit to Paraná that they realized there was an opportunity to bridge that family cachaça tradition with modern Brazil. They hatched a plan to create their own cachaça and Yaguara Cachaça was born.

Produced in small batches under the watchful eye of renowned Brazilian master blender Erwin Weimann, Yaguara combines the century-old Meneghel family recipe with finest white cachaça, using traditional alambique copper stills and a completely sustainable process. Every batch is supervised and signed off by the Yaguara Master Blender before bottling.

Yaguara Ouro is a blend of cachaça aged in two Brazilian native woods,  Cabreúva and Amburana, as well as American oak.

Yaguara Branca (81 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Clean and straightforward cachaça nose.  Vegetal and akin to a rhum agricole.
Taste: Fresh, bright, lively and young.  A lot of energy come forth from the distillate with a slight peppery and grassy aspect.
Finish: Medium long with a few of the deeper notes of vanilla and cane stalk lingering.
Overall: A very nice cachaça that will carry a Caipirinha easily.
GSN Rating: B+

Yaguara Organic Blended (83 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Softer than the branca with a more feminine approach.  Still with a noticeable vegetal perfume however.
Taste: Laid back, mellow and soft like a pillow.  Very smooth and easy-going.  There are no sharp or discordant notes of flavor here at all.
Finish: Fairly quick and short.  It all fades away leaving only a tinge of greenery.
Overall: An ultra smooth and extremely approachable cachaça.  If you are looking to introduce silver rum or vodka drinkers to this spirit, this is the way to do it.
GSN Rating: B+

Yaguara Ouro (84 proof)
Visual: Pale gold.
Nose: Eastern spices brighten up the nose with jasmine, green peppercorn, sandalwood and clove.  Like an olfactory meal.  Make that a slice of fresh pumpkin pie.
Taste: Low, deep notes with more of the wood character laying over the distillate.  Intriguing and mysterious.  Literally unlike any other spirit I’ve had, with the exception of other cachaças aged in exotic South American woods.  This is a product that deserves time to get to know and have a conversation with.
Finish: Fairly long, with a lot of the spice character trailing off at a slow pace.
Overall: Distinctly different and a cachaça that is better served neat than mixed to fully appreciate its subtleties.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Cachaca Yaguara

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The Macallan estate lies in an area of great natural beauty; its scale and diversity unique among distilleries and managed in harmony with the beautiful landscape. The estate covers 390 acres (158 hectares), of which some 90 acres are sown in the spring with their own exclusive Minstrel barley variety to make The Macallan.  The river Spey, one of Scotland’s most famous salmon rivers, borders the estate to the south and south-east.

The Macallan’s curiously small spirit stills are the smallest on Speyside. Their unique size and shape give the spirit maximum contact with the copper, helping to concentrate the ‘new make’ spirit and provide the viscosity and flavors characteristic of The Macallan. There are fourteen of these curiously small stills, crafted from copper, each holding an initial ‘charge’ of 3,900 litres. These stills are so famous that they have appeared on the back of a Bank of Scotland £10 banknote!

The Macallan 10 Year Old (80 proof)
Visual: Medium-light gold.
Nose: Rich, malty expressiveness with a slight smoky toast.  Young leather, hay, and a hint of wild honey.
Taste: Smooth, mild and laid back.  There is a slight fruitiness, but the lasting impression is of soft malt.  A quite reticent and sleepy Speyside whisky.
Finish: Medium long with a few lingering notes of barrel and baked bread.
Overall: An extremely easy-going Scotch that is a perfect entry-level whisky for those just beginning their exploration.  Fine in all respects.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: The Macallan

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Located between the historic towns of Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon, only 80 miles from London and about 50 miles from Birmingham, the Cotswolds Distillery utilizes Forsyth whisky stills that have been custom-made; with the 500kg mash tun, 2,400l wash still, 1,600l spirit still and four 2,500l fermenters being able to produce over 100,000 bottles of Cotswold Single Malt Whisky annually. Cotswolds Gin is crafted using a tailor-made hybrid Holstein still with a capacity of 500l.

Located on five acres of beautiful Cotswolds countryside in Stourton, one of the most unspoilt villages in the Cotswolds, the distillery also made a big investment in the beauty of the land, re-planting native trees, shrubs, flowers and even botanicals to be incorporated into their gin recipes. Not only that, but the distillery’s production waste is recycled. The spent grains of barley from the mash go to feed Cotswold cattle, and the other co-products created by the distilling process are turned into bio-gas at a nearby anaerobic digestor.

Cotswolds Dry Gin (92 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Juniper forward, with a piney, citrus laden nose.  Mouth-watering and traditionally evocative of a British style.
Taste: Dry, wintry juniper powerhouse with a softer and supportive lemony blanket.  Lovely, well-balanced mix of far subtler botanicals lend a wash of herbality.
Finish: Medium long with crisp, sharp and defined edges.  The botanicals fade with grace, while you are left with an almost creamy finish.
Overall: Very, very nice.  It’s clear that a lot of care went into the crafting of this spirit.  Seek this one out and see what I mean.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Cotswolds Distillery

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Three Meadow Spirits recently released a unique, 5-times distilled vodka, developed from a recipe infused with an array of botanicals. Not to be confused with a ‘flavored’ vodka, Peony Vodka’s floral notes result in a spirit that resembles the profile of a gin, but lacks the sharp juniper taste associated with gins.

Created by Three Meadow Spirits founder Leslie Farhangi, the brand was developed with inspiration taken from the uncomplicated ‘country-living’ lifestyle found in Dutchess County, located one hundred miles north of New York City. Home to Farhangi, the 170-acre horse farm also has an abundance of lush Peony flowers, which led to the brand’s name.

After a year of experimentation, numerous focus groups and countless taste tests, Farhangi and her team settled on a recipe that consists of Geranium, Vanilla, Jasmine, White Pepper, Gardenia, Peony among other botanicals.

Although the liquor business has long been a bastion of male ownership and management, Peony vodka has an all woman management team and 80% of the founding investors are also self-made women.

“Our team put great effort into developing Peony Vodka. In addition to the recipe, which has steadily been winning a diverse fan base, we also expressed the brand and our lifestyle through the bottle design. It reflects who we are, what we love, and what we sense others are drawn to,” said Farhangi.

The bespoke bottle design, created by Alexander Isley, further conveys the brands beauty and elegant character. A single eye-catching peony flower adorns the front label while the reverse features one of three unique artistic works. Each a part of a triptych commissioned from internationally renowned illustrator Romy Blümel, the three different scenes evokes Hudson Valley country life: a summertime farmyard; a garden frolic; and an amble across the rolling landscape.

Three Meadows Spirits Peony Vodka (70 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Some florality, but more vanilla in the top notes.  Delicate and shy.
Taste: Slightly sweet with a semi-saccharine flavor.  Whether this is due to the botanicals or a sweetening agent, is unclear.  Certainly not a flowery vodka, but one that will mix well with sodas and tonics.
Finish: Medium long, but with a peppery finish that lingers for a good while.
Overall: I had hoped to get more of a floral quality from this vodka, and certainly less sweetness.  It’s an interesting idea, but I think it needs some tweaking to have the recipe shine.
GSN Rating: B-

For more information go to: Peony Vodka

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