Archive for the ‘Spirits & Liqueurs’ Category

Founded in 1883, the Amodeo family’s Don Cicco & Figli distillery enjoyed nearly a century of liqueur production on the Amalfi Coast. It was started in 1883 by Vincenzo Amodeo in his small house in Atrani, and enjoyed over 45 years of success before shuttered during World War II. In 1951 Francesco “Don Ciccio” Amodeo built a new distillery further up the coast in the town of Furore, which thrived until November 23, 1980 when a massive earthquake hit the region, destroying the distillery and the surrounding lemon trees.

Today, the Amodeo family tradition lives on in Washington, D.C., where founder and distiller Franceso Amodeo produces his family’s liqueurs in small batches using traditional methods. Currently Don Cicco & Figli offers 13 products including amari, aperitivi and cordials. “Our liqueurs offer a refreshing glimpse of the past with a nod to the future which we’re excited to share,” says Francesco Amodeo, President & Master Distiller of Don Ciccio & Figli.

Early this year, the company launched C3 Carciofo artichoke liqueur. This new liqueur is available just in time for the spring months when Artichoke festivals mark the advent of spring in Italy, celebrating warmer weather and seasonal bounty.

C3 is based on a traditional Italian recipe from 1911, a nod to the original Don Cicco & Figli distillery, which produced liqueurs on Italy’s picturesque Amalfi Coast for nearly a century. Today, this recipe is being resurrected stateside by fourth generation family owner Francesco Amodeo who opened the Washington, D.C. distillery in 2012.

C3 is a bitter aperitivo based on an infusion of three types of California-grown artichokes, cardoons, grapefruit, and 18 selected botanicals. It is also barrel-aged for 12 months. While the amaro category has grown significantly in recent years, there is presently just one other artichoke-based liqueur available in the U.S., making this an exciting addition to an intriguing category. The medium-to-high bitterness level was designed with cocktail aficionados and fans of bitter aperitivi like the Negroni and Americano in mind.


C3 Carciofo Artichoke Liqueur (46 proof)
Visual: Intensely dark brown.
Nose: Funky root and dried baking spice nose. Even the scent is like an olfactory aperitif.
Taste: Deep and earthy with a lot of similarity to bark and root flavored beverages. But, the difference ends there, as within a few seconds the familiar semi-bitter and vegetal artichoke character kicks in.
Finish: Long, with a pleasantly herbal palate cleanse.
Overall: If you like Cynar, you will love C3.  This takes everything and kicks it up several notches.  Try this in a 1-1-1 ratio Negroni with Old Tom gin, Aperol and a splash of Cointreau.  Killer.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Don Cicco & Figli

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Banned for 100 years, March 5th, 2017 marked the 10th Anniversary of the repeal of the Absinthe ban in the US.  Chemist and Master Distiller Ted Breaux was a leading force in disproving the myths which had plagued the storied spirit and helped convince the FDA to remove the ban and allow Absinthe back into the US on March 5, 2007.

Lucid was developed in France by Breaux and distilled in the historical Combier Distillery in Saumur, in France’s Loire Valley. It is created using original antique copper absinthe stills, many of which were designed by Gustav Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) in the 1800’s.

Watch the 10th anniversary celebration which took place at the Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar in New Orleans on 03.05.17 here.

Lucid Absinthe (124 proof)
Visual: Pale yellow-green.
Nose: Deep and rich anise nose with lighter and more floral herbs rounding out the top notes.  It all smells amazingly fresh and verdant.  Hints or green pepper, wet grass, buttery toffee, shoe polish, and black licorice tea all blend together to create a heady experience.
Taste: Intense and powerful anise tamed by a rounded sweetness, this fades after a few moments leaving a dry and almost tannic bitterness.  With a generous splash of water to produce the desired louching effect, everything tames down to a soft and warming dessert-like wash.
Finish: Quite long with a back and forth battle for domination between the sweet and the bitter.  You won’t forget this one for several minutes.
Overall: We at the GSN offices were the first to buy a bottle of the original Lucid back in 2007 when the label was a bit more playful.  Now as then, we were impressed by the depth of character and perfect balance of botanicals.  This was and continues to be one of the industry standards for absinthe. Cheers, Ted!  We’ll toast you again in another ten years!
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Drink Lucid

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Uncut, straight from the barrel without chill filtering, the nose, taste, and finish created by twelve years of aging are preserved in their simplest form with Elijah Craig barrel Proof. You can enjoy Elijah Craig much the same way our Master Distillers do when they sample straight from the barrel in our Kentucky rickhouses. Or, add water to reduce the proof to where you want it.

Each Barrel Proof release is a unique proof, because it is made from an authentic and unaltered batch of 200 barrels or less.

All releases have a unique identifying four-digit code, found on the label beginning in January 2017. The digits indicate the bottle’s release order and date, so you can easily track the Barrel Proof you’re enjoying.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof – Batch No. A117 (127 proof)
Visual: Tarnishing copper.
Nose: Quite wood forward.  More subtle notes of fresh saddle leather, drying straw, rough sawn oak wood, and a touch of smokey creosote on the very top. A very tight and intense presentation.
Taste: With a splash of water, the flavor is remarkably smooth and almost creamy. Certainly there is some heat and corn sweetness here, but it is a low rumble.  This bourbon has a lot of bass notes and a darkness that lends a sensibility of the genteel.
Finish: Medium long with a lovely caramel finish.
Overall: A killer bourbon that only gets better as a cube of ice integrates into the glass.  What starts out as a powerhouse of intensity, slowly becomes a soft, warm evening by the hearth in a glass.  Very well done.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Elijah Craig

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The latest release in Glenmorangie Single Malt Whisky’s Private Edition series is inspired by the gentle warmth of long, balmy days on the Madeira Islands. In its pursuit of innovation, the Scottish Highland Distillery introduces Glenmorangie Bacalta, the first Glenmorangie finished entirely in Malmsey Madeira casks.

Taking its name from Scots Gaelic for baked, Bacalta reflects Glenmorangie’s approach to extra-maturation, employing a custom-designed Malmsey Madeira finish that reveals a complex character that radiates sun-baked sweetness.

The inspiration for this intriguing limited edition first glimmered more than 20 years ago, with the release of Glenmorangie Madeira Finish, the world’s first whisky extra-matured in Madeira casks. For Dr. Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie’s Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation and Whisky Stocks, the memory of that expression lingered on. Determined to realize his vision of the perfect Madeira-finished Glenmorangie, he drew on the expertise gained from the Distillery’s years of pioneering work in cask management.

First, Dr. Lumsden arranged for bespoke American oak casks to be created and heavily toasted. The casks were then seasoned to his specifications by Malmsey wine – the sweetest and most prized of the Madeira wines – which was baked within to maturity as the casks lay in the heat of Madeira’s sun. Emptied, shipped to Scotland and filled with specially selected spirit – already matured in ex-bourbon barrels, the Malmsey casks lend layers of sun-baked sweetness to Glenmorangie Bacalta.

Glenmorangie Bacalta (92 proof)
Visual: Pale gold.
Nose: Immediate Malmsey nose supported by a heathery, lively malt nose.  Quite inviting and spice laden with dark fruit overtones.
Taste: Round, warm, exceptionally smooth and with a perfect balance of wood, this is exceptional.  It’s not hyperbole, but you can actually taste a sense of sunshine in the glass.  The Madeira adds so much to the mix, but never overwhelms the whisky.
Finish: Long with a lot of drawn out sweet, fruity and caramel tones.  This is the definition of a dessert scotch whisky.
Overall: Phenomenal.  A lovely scotch that hits all of the right notes without being obvious about it.  Highly recommended.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Glenmorangie


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Owners Amanda & Nick Swift were tired of investing long hours in service of someone else’s vision. So, they searched the world over for the best ingredients, tools, and techniques to bring authentic Scottish whisky making traditions home to Texas. The distillery was founded in 2012, but their research and travels began years before.

They traveled to Scotland, Ireland, Japan, and hit the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. They visited distilleries, breweries, vineyards, and cooperages. They collaborated with Portuguese still makers, Spanish bodegas, and the people of Dripping Springs, Texas. With no hired staff, Nick and Amanda created this spirit themselves, everything from the distilling to the actual bottling.

Swift Single Malt is twice-distilled in the Swift’s Dripping Springs facility from 100% Scottish malted barley, with tight cuts taken off of hand-hammered copper pot stills from Portugal to fine tune the spirit by taste. Modeled after a traditional Speyside Scotch, Swift Single Malt is made with water that is controlled (down to the molecular level) to match the composition of Scotland’s water, and is never chill-filtered. Instead the Swifts rely on maintaining flavor using its malt, and by aging each batch in Kentucky Bourbon barrels, which were hand selected by the Swifts on the Bourbon Trail, and finished in Oloroso sherry casks straight from the bodega in Spain, surprisingly the only casks being put to use for whiskey in the States. Each barrel and cask is coopered in-house by Nick using only sustainable methods. From the casks, Swift Single Malt is hand bottled and labeled by the couple.

Swift Single Malt (86 proof)
Visual: Bright gold.
Nose: Malty and sweet with some cinnamon notes. Somewhat shy and reclusive, a bit of branch water draws out the expression.
Taste: Akin to a Speyside region Highland Scotch or even a pot still Irish whiskey, this is very smooth and goes down easy. I can only imagine that this would benefit from a few more years in oak, and then finished in the sherry casks.  The sweetness obviously comes from the sherry, but only a tinge.  Fine as is, but I’d love to see a 4-5 year old expression.
Finish: Medium-short, with malty, semi-maple notes leading to a dry, clean finish.
Overall: Quite potable, with a youngish character that would only benefit from a few more years under its belt.  A pleasant, and surprisingly European styled American whiskey.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: Swift Distillery


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Union Horse Distilling was initially launched as Dark Horse Distilling in 2010, but was forced to change their name due to a trademark dispute between the distillery and the E&J Gallo Winery. Since the name change, the distillery, located in Lenexa, Kansas has released both Reunion Straight Rye as well as Reserve Straight Bourbon in addition to their un-aged Long Shot White Whiskey and Rider Vodka.

Reunion Straight Rye is a handcrafted small batch 100% rye distilled using Union Horse’s sour mash recipe and is listed as having been aged up to 5 years, representing some of the earliest barrels laid down by the distillery, although no age statement is available on the bottle.

With a focus on locally sourced grain and a family owned business, Union Horse is faithful to the spirit of a family owned American small business.

Reunion Barrel Strength Rye Whiskey (112.3 proof)
Visual: Dark orange-brown.
Nose: A perfect balance of spice and sweet char.  This smells like you’re stepping into a rickhouse. Full of character and expectation.
Taste: A rush of intense rye that never fades, but opens up into a bloom of woody caramelization.  The grain flavor goes on and on with teasing notes of sweetness and rich smoked oak.  A wake up call to the taste buds.
Finish: As I mentioned, this goes on a long time.  It’s not just the barrel strength that imbues it with a strong character.  The flavor itself is memorable from the first sip and retains a presence long after you’ve finished your dram.
Overall: One of the best rye whiskies not only to come out of the mid-west, but one of the finest in the U.S. Seek this one out ASAP, you will not regret it.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Union Horse


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15626399_144244089397489_1467792453588275863_oThere aren’t a whole lot of spiced whiskies out there. So, I was quite intrigued to receive a sample of one by the same couple who head up Sukkah Hill Spirits (see my reviews of their liqueurs here). Here’s what owners Howard and Marni Witkin have to say about their journey towards creating CALI.

“We didn’t realize that we were going into the liquor business. We just thought that we were sharing a delicious home-made drink with friends. Our founder, Taste Mistress, and resident foodie – started making homemade liqueurs in our kitchen. We poured it for dinner guests, and they were hooked. Soon a few bottles grew to dozens of bottles and we had local stores asking to carry our liqueurs.

By the time we caught our breath, we had an operating distilled spirits plant, pallets of liquor, gold medals, industry recognition, and two of the best liqueurs on the market. But our taste mistress is a whiskey girl at heart, and we started dreaming about a whiskey we could call our own. It took us a few years, but the sipping whiskey that emerged is something unique and incredible. A full-bodied whiskey with whispers of wonderful aromatic spices and botanicals. The flavors of CALI arise organically from the interaction of the rich corn mash bourbon, and spicy rye, mellowed by clean oak and then finished with our own signature blends of herbs, spices and botanicals.

We make every bottle by hand, in our little beach town distilled spirits plant from all natural ingredients. Never GMO. Never Industrial. We are truly excited to bring our family of natural hand crafted spirits to your family.”

CALI California Sipping Whiskey (85 proof)
Visual: Orange-gold.
Nose: Ginger, cinnamon and clove painted against malty whiskey canvas.
Taste: Remarkably smooth for a higher-proof whiskey.  The initial impression is of warmth and spice cake.  This opens up quickly into a broader palate that is predominantly cinnamon.
Finish: Long with a lot of the spices lingering and creating a cooling sensation on the tongue. Very much akin to an allspice liqueur.
Overall: I wish this was more widely available.  It honestly puts many spiced rums to shame.  You can even use it in Tiki drinks for extra pop. Try this is a Hot Toddy or neat in a Brandy snifter.  It is a great winter warmer.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: CALI Distillery

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