Archive for the ‘Spirits & Liqueurs’ Category

Savannah Spirits Group has announced that it will open a new distillery in the heart of Savannah’s National Historic District in March 2018.  The 12,000 square foot building, built in the late 1800’s, will also house an upscale chop-house with multiple dining rooms, a full bar and private event space with a terrace on the upper floors all surrounded by the original brick that has been uncovered during the renovations.

In the meantime, Savannah Spirits is currently producing its first two products off-site, Silver and Amber Rums.  The Amber Rum, made with the guidance of expert distillers from Imperial Sugar, fuses the caramel notes of Savannah Spirits Silver Rum with Imperial Sugar-made dark cane syrup. The rums are the first in a line that will include vodka, gin and whiskey.

“This has been a long time in the making and to introduce Savannah Spirits to the Lowcountry starting with our rum, we feel, is the most apropos way to honor the bustling spirit of the region and its people, and to celebrate Savannah’s fanciful history,” says co-founder Dean Bell.

Heavily inspired by Savannah’s colorful history and often pit stop location for history’s most notorious rum-runners, both Savannah Spirits rums reflect the distinctive character and provenance of the city. The town was founded in 1734 where the only laws were ‘No Slaves, No Lawyers, No Liquor,’ particularly rum.  Soon tunnels had been dug beneath the town for smuggling rum.  When Georgia went dry in 1908, Savannahians pushed to secede to form their own state, and during Prohibition, Savannah was known as the “Bootleg Spigot of the South.”

“It’s all about the history. Our concept is, taste the history. A lot of people don’t really know how associated Savannah is with rum running and the craziness that went on, so we’re taking advantage of that,” says Bell.

Savannah Spirits Silver Rum (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Rich cane funk. Grassy, sweet and rustic.
Taste: Akin to an agricole style rhum, with a full-bodied depth of character that highlights the cane juice. The barrel aging keeps sweetness tempered down with a dry and slightly spicy ending.
Finish: Medium long with a tapered and vegetal finish.
Overall: Very interesting and loaded with possibilities for use in cocktails. There’s a cachaca sensibility that begs for lime juice.
GSN Rating: B+

Savannah Spirits Amber Rum (80 proof)
Visual: Pale gold.
Nose: Similar to the silver rum, but headily dosed with a molasses-like penumbra. The kind of rum that seems like it stepped out of the 1700’s.
Taste: The cane syrup works wonders here by toning down the herbal character of the rum, sweetening up the whole package and at the same time adding a dark caramel essence.
Finish: Long, with a slight cocoa finish.
Overall: In a way, this is almost a bottled Old-Fashioned. Just pour a few ounces in a rocks glass, add a splash of aromatic bitters, and stir with a few cubes of ice. Using cane syrup in this rum is a brilliant move and adds a new dimension to this New World spirit.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Savannah Spirits


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In 2015, six leading New York State distilleries banded together to create a consortium dedicated to establishing a whiskey style for the Empire State. This whiskey was to be as distinctive, precisely crafted and held to as high a standard as any of the illustrious whiskey styles in the world.

And so, Empire Rye was born–an homage to New York State’s pre-Prohibition rye whiskey-making heritage and a testament to the ingenuity and industriousness of its contemporary distillers. Each distiller’s bottling of Empire Rye is crafted in accordance with the same exacting specifications and yet each is given ample space to express their creativity. Finger Lakes Distilling recently released their McKenzie Single Barrel Rye Whiskey to celebrate. In time, the hope is that more New York distillers will choose to produce a rye whiskey in accordance with these standards and make the category of Empire Rye known throughout the world.

What are the requirements to make Empire Rye?

-It must conform to the New York Farm Distiller (Class D) requirement that 75% of the mash bill be New York grain; in this instance that 75% MUST be New York State-grown rye grain, which may be raw, malted or a combination.

-The remaining 25% of the mash bill may be composed of any raw or malted grain, New York-grown or otherwise, or any combination thereof.

-Distilled to no more than 160 proof.

-Aged for a minimum of two years in charred, new oak barrels at not more than 115 proof at time of entry.

-Must be mashed, fermented, distilled, barreled and aged at a single New York State distillery in a single distilling season (The period from January 1 through June 30, is the spring season and the period from July 1 through December 31 is the fall season).

-A blended whisky containing no less than 100% qualifying Empire Rye whiskies from multiple distilleries may be called Blended Empire Rye.

McKenzie Single Barrel Rye Whiskey (101.1 proof)
Visual: Dark gold.
Nose: Heady rye spice balanced with fresh-cut oak stave. Some slight hints of young caramel and vanilla. Late autumn in a glass.
Taste: Very tight mash bill which opens up slightly with a cube of ice. Intensely rich and flavorful spice, sweetness and warmth all at once. There is a sherry-like sweetness which keeps things from being a spice bomb.
Finish: Long with dried plum, golden raisin, soft rye bread and baking spice.
Overall: It gets better with every sip.  Try this in a Sazerac, Vieux Carre or Boulevardier for an amazing expression. A phenomenal craft spirit from one of the first of New York State’s 21st century distilleries.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Empire Rye and Finger Lakes Distilling

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Old Potrero recently introduced Hotaling’s 11 Year Old Whiskey, a single-barrel, pot-distilled 100% malted rye whiskey aged in once-used charred fine-grain American oak barrels that previously held Old Potrero Straight Rye Whiskey. Hotaling’s Whiskey, which varies from other Old Potrero whiskies in the barrel-aging, commemorates the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, celebrates San Francisco’s remarkable rebirth, and the A.P. Hotaling & Co. whiskey warehouse on Jackson Street that miraculously survived the disaster.

“If as they say, God spanked the town
For being over frisky,
Why did He burn the churches down
And save Hotaling’s whiskey?”- Charles K. Field

Read on to find out the answer…

Old Potrero Hotaling’s 11 Year Old Single Malt Rye Whiskey (100 proof)
Visual: Medium gold.
Nose: High, fine, keening notes of rye spice embedded in a rounded oak-laden distillate.
Taste: Amazingly smooth and well-balanced for a 100% rye. Easily one of the most temperate rye whiskies I enjoyed. The length of aging has done wonders to even out any possible roughness or fire, bringing an equity between the grain of the field and grain of the barrel. Lovely.
Finish: Long with hints of dark cherry, rye cracker, apricot and surprisingly, kiwifruit.
Overall: A winner in the rye whisky field.  As always, the fine folks at Old Potrero have produced a stellar spirit. Highly Recommended.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Anchor Distilling

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Jura Whisky recently announced the launch of Jura 10, an Island Single Malt Scotch Whisky and the first release in Jura’s new core line for the U.S.  Hailing from one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, this whisky marries peated and unpeated malt with a Sherry cask finish.

Jura 10 is handcrafted on the Isle of Jura, a rugged, elemental island nestled a few miles off the West Coast of Scotland.  Home to around 200 Islanders, one road, one pub and one distillery, Jura was once described by author George Orwell as the ‘most un-get-at-able’ place due to its remote location. Established in 1810, Jura whisky has been crafted on its island home for over two centuries.

“The launch of the new Jura 10 celebrates our heritage of whisky-making,” said Graham Logan, Jura Distillery Manager. The craft of producing great whisky has been at the heart of Jura’s close-knit community for hundreds of years and we look forward to sharing the long-standing traditions and unmistakable flavors of Jura 10’s island home with the world.”

While many distilleries create either peated or unpeated whiskies, Jura 10 marries together the best of both for a truly unique Island Single Malt that is subtly smoky with a sweet Sherry cask finish. It is matured for ten years in American White Oak ex-bourbon barrels with an aged Oloroso Sherry cask finish.


Jura 10-Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (80 proof)
Visual: Deep gold.
Nose: Warm and softly smokey with a rich malt base. A hint of sea salt and dried leaves. Enticing.
Taste: Elegant and well-appointed. The oak has softened and bedded itself well with the peated malt, while the unpeated malt softens the intensity. Some small hints of burnt sugar, dark caramel and hazelnut. Just what it needs to be.
Finish: Long with more of the dry, nuttiness coming through. The sherry comes through at the very end with a sweet pop.
Overall: A grand whisky that can be enjoyed by any whisky enthusiast without breaking the bank. Recommended!
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Jura Whisky

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It’s widely believed that sake’s first introduction to the U.S. occurred when American soldiers stationed in Japan after World War II returned home with a taste for it. While this prompted an increase in sake importing and popularity among restaurateurs and despite numerous sake varietals in the marketplace, the vast majority of American’s are only familiar with the choice between having house sake, served hot or cold. Since the time it was introduced in America there has been little change in the diversity breadth of diversity of sake offered – until now.

From the renowned fifth-generation-run sake producer Umenoyado in Nara, Japan comes the unique “Haikara Sake.” Building upon a traditional foundation, this new fruit-infused sake was created in celebration of the popularity of Japanese culture throughout the United States serving to meld the cultures of east and west.

The Western influence in Japan has brought new trends in style, fashion, and culture, which inspired Umenoyado to name this new sake “Haikara.” Literally translating to “High Collar,” in reference to the collared shirts worn by Westerners, but meaning “Fashionably Western, this term is now recognized as a way to describe the synergistic blending of cultures. The popularity of “Fashionably Western,” in Japan as well as the admiration of Japanese cultures in America was the catalyst that shaped Haikara’s development, including the flavor profiles, the recipe and even the packaging.

“One may think a company that has been making sake for over 100 years would be stuck in their ways, however, this is not the case for Umenoyado,” said Kayo Yoshida, the President of Umenoyado. “Umenoyado is a leader in sake innovation and prides itself on being an industry pioneer while staying true to the age-old craft of making sake. There are two things Umenoyado will not compromise on: water and rice. The water flows from Mt. Katsuragi and the rice is nurtured in Hyogo. This ensures that the sake, no matter how innovative, always maintains the legacy and roots of its origin.”

Haikara is currently available in two varieties: ‘Yuzu,’ which is made with a Japanese citrus fruit that looks like a small grapefruit; and ‘Momo,’ which is derived from a type of Japanese peach that is larger and softer than Western peaches. GSN received a bottle of the Yuzu for review.

Haikara Yuzu Sake (12.5% abv)
Visual: Cloudy yellow-white.
Nose: Grassy citrus with an unusual semi-musky funk.
Taste: Tart and very citrus forward. The sake supports the yuzu with a soft creaminess, but make no mistake this is akin to a sour mix in character, which makes it perfect for use in cocktails.
Finish: Medium long, with the sweeter notes coming out of hiding after the tang has faded.
Overall: A very interesting and surprisingly addictive beverage. We tried it room temperature straight, on the rocks, chilled and even in a few sours, and it worked every time.  The consensus is that chilling helps the flavors cohesiveness, but that’s up to you.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Haikara Sake

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Hailing from Bogotá, Columbia, Parce Rum is a collection of 3 expressions: 3-Year, 8-Year, and 12-Year old. Aged Columbian rum has generally been a rare category in America, Parce was launched three years ago in Chicago and until now was only available in Illinois and other select markets.

Parce’s’s master blenders, Arthur Fernandes and his son Brojen Fernandes Domecq use natural spring water and homegrown yeast for optimal fermentation. They also use a blend of sugar cane juice, fresh-crushed from three cane varieties, and after distillation the spirit is aged in charred oak whisky barrels.

For each bottle of Parce Rum sold, we plant a native species tree in the Colombian rainforest through the Colombian environmental organization Contreebute and their reforestation initiative.

By the way, “Parce” (PAR-say) is Colombian slang for “buddy” or “pal,” used among good friends in good times. GSN was sent a bottle of the 3-year rum for review.

Parce 3-Year Old Rum (86 proof)
Visual: Medium gold.
Nose: Good heft of oak and char painted over a clean, expressive rum canvas.
Taste: Interestingly, although this is a cane based rum, there is no “agricole” sensibility here. Instead, it is straight forward, dry and aged to a young degree to just impart enough vanilla and oak to give it a broader spectrum of flavor.
Finish: Medium long, with a somewhat tannic moment. At the very end there is a brown sugar finish.
Overall: Younger than I’d prefer, this is still a great rum for use in cocktails and highballs. The distillate begs for a few more years in the barrel.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: Parce Rum

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The Beam family is proud to officially announce the first and highly anticipated product release from Freddie Noe, eighth generation Beam family member and son of current Beam master distiller, Fred Noe. Named after the childhood nickname given to Freddie by his grandfather, legendary master distiller, Booker Noe, Little Book is an annual, limited release series that will feature a new and unique blend each year, presented uncut and unfiltered.

“I’m humbled and honored to share Little Book with the world,” said Freddie, who currently serves as the distillery’s fermentation manager. “When I joined the family business five years ago, I told Dad I wanted to learn everything there was to know about making whiskey. Along the way, I discovered I’m particularly fascinated by the endless taste profiles that can be created through blending. I’m excited for whiskey fans to taste the first batch of this annual release, and I look forward to sharing new, one-of-a-kind blends every year. It’s a real honor to carry on my family’s legacy, and I hope I’ve done them proud.”

The inaugural batch release of Little Book, called Little Book “The Easy,” is a blended straight whiskey that features four unique components: uncut and unfiltered corn, rye and malt whiskies – representative of the three grains commonly found in a bourbon mash bill balanced with uncut, unfiltered Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey. Creating the final liquid for Little Book “The Easy” was a labor of love for Freddie, who worked on the final recipe for over a year and tried more than 25 different blends of the liquid before he decided that it was worthy of his debut release.

The unique blend contains a 4-year-old Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey, a 13-year-old corn whiskey, and roughly 6-year-old 100% malt and 6-year-old high-rye whiskies.

Little Book “The Easy” Whiskey (128.2 proof)
Visual: Darkening copper.
Nose: Intense, compact corn bourbon nose broadcast with sharp notes of rye spice. A luxurious and mouth-watering bouquet of blended whiskey.
Taste: Soft fire with a medium char and a whole lot of woodcraft. The aging portfolio works in tandem to create hints of cherry fruit, toasted vanilla, smoked sea salt, roasted sweetcorn, and a dollop of maple sugar. There is a whole lot going on here that creates an introspection of flavors.
Finish: Medium long, with the spice and fruitier notes evoking a cinnamon apple portrait.
Overall: A knockout by any standard. This is a real winner and speaks of great things to come from Freddie Noe.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Beam Suntory

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