GSN Review: Baltimore Spirits Epoch Straight Rye

Straight Rye whiskey has returned home to Baltimore, Maryland, one of the cradles of American distilling. Open top wooden fermented, copper pot distilled, geothermal cooling and made with a massive amount of rye malt, this spirit is a completely unique expression in the genre. Epoch Rye can be found in the distillery during one of their scheduled Epoch releases.

Baltimore Spirits Epoch Straight Rye (100 proof)
Visual: Dark gold.
Nose: Defined rye spice bomb. Grain forward with a hearty bite of oak and char.
Taste: Bam! Spice right out of the gate with a strong punch to the palate. There’s a subtle hint of burnt caramel as well which sweetens it up just enough.
Finish: Long, dry and memorable. Self-assured.
Overall: This is a great rye for a Sazerac as the flavor profile works so well with absinthe. Try this in a Manhattan as well, but be cautious due to the higher proof which might overwhelm if the ratio is unbalanced.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Baltimore Spirits Co.

GSN Review: Hangar 1 Bentwing Brandy

Hangar 1 Vodka transitions to The Hangar 1 Distillery with the launch of its first-ever non-vodka offering: Bentwing Brandy, a blend of Northern California and Chenin Blanc-style French brandies. Inspired by its home state of California and an abundance of local ingredients, Bentwing Brandy offers a unique take on the growing California brandy category, by marrying American know-how with Old World eau de vie blending techniques and finished in charred whiskey barrels.

“Bentwing Brandy takes our grape-based blending expertise a step further, celebrating both fresh California ingredients and old European heritage,” said head distiller Caley Shoemaker. “Brandy is historically at the heart of many cocktails that we commonly associate with whiskey. I’ve loved experimenting with our brandy and discovering that it easily fits into so many of the classic cocktails that I already know and love.”

Paying homage to the brand’s aviation history and its home at the former Alameda Naval Air Station, Bentwing Brandy is also a nod to where Hangar 1 started, taking its name from the inventive gull-wing aircraft used during WWII: the ‘Bentwing Bird.’

Hangar 1 Bentwing Brandy (80 proof)
Visual: Gold.
Nose: Picture-perfect blend of grape and cask. Light, lively and exceptionally fresh scent. The fruitiness is captivating.
Taste: Plenty of grape come through, making this quite a fruit-forward brandy and sweeter than dry. This adds to its appeal, as the overall effect is of a down-to-earth, friendly and quite approachable brandy.
Finish: Medium long with more of the grape edging out the oak. At the tail end, some of the whiskey flavor comes through.
Overall: This has been a hit at the GSN offices. One of the best American brandies to come out this century. Hangar 1 brings it in for a landing!
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Hangar One

GSN Review: Gem & Bolt Mezcal + Damiana

Gem & Bolt is a fair-trade, sustainable mezcal made with 100 percent Espadin agave and uniquely distilled with damiana—a Mexican herb long revered for its mood elevating qualities—by fourth generation master distillers in Oaxaca, Mexico. Co-founded by artist-alchemist duo Adrin Adrina & Elliott Coon, Gem & Bolt is rooted in the sophistication of fine art, celebration, ritual and plant intelligence.

Gem & Bolt mezcal is made from hand-harvested Espadin agave, then slowly wood-roasted and mashed with a traditional tahona stone. The roasted mash is fermented naturally in wooden vats and then distilled with damiana, a traditional Mexican herb long-revered by the Maya & Aztec for its myriad mood-elevating properties in small copper stills.

Gem & Bolt Mezcal (88 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Heavy agave nose with a medium smoked wood tone. Slight tree fruit finished with rounded earthiness.
Taste: Quite dry and slightly sweet, but smoke comes through louder than anything. A curious fruit character lightly touches the overall flavor palette. After a few minutes, a clove flavor appears giving a final finish to the experience.
Finish: Tight, dry and clove-like.
Overall: Quite interesting and smoother than many artisanal mezcals I’ve tried. A great mezcal for the beginner, and a surprisingly easy one for highballs or to add a dash of mystery to a tiki-styled concoction.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Gem & Bolt

GSN Review: Uncle Nearest 1856 Aged Whiskey

Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey is inspired by the first African-American master distiller on record in the United States, Nathan “Nearest” Green. Known by those in his hometown of Lynchburg, Tenn., as Uncle Nearest he was also the first head stiller, now commonly referred to as master distiller, for Jack Daniel Distillery. He is now recognized by the distillery as having taught a young Jack Daniel how to make Tennessee Whiskey. Green is also thought to have helped perfect the Lincoln County Process, a sugar maple charcoal filtering method required to be considered Tennessee Whiskey, named after the county in which he lived and made whiskey.

Nathan “Nearest” Green’s triumph over his original circumstances was remarkable, and his journey from slavery to one of the wealthiest and best-known African-Americans in the area was as much about his spirit of forgiveness and grace as it was about his legacy of excellence. It is that legacy the Nearest Green Foundation works with his descendants to uphold and share with the world. Currently, ten of Nearest Green’s descendants have full undergraduate and graduate scholarships from NGF at universities across the country, from the University of Tennessee to Texas A&M to Auburn University. Funding is provided by sales of Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey. The Uncle Nearest brand encompasses Uncle Nearest 1856 and Nearest Green 1820 Single Barrel Edition; distilled, aged, bottled and hand-labeled in Tennessee using locally sourced grains.

Uncle Nearest 1856 Aged Whiskey (100 proof)
Visual: Dark copper.
Nose: Rich malt nose with high notes of caramel, vanilla, young leather, cask char and maple sugar.
Taste: Satisfyingly smooth in spite of the potential fire of the higher proof. The balance of distillate, length of aging and type of char is near perfection. A “go to” whiskey if there ever was one.
Finish: Long, with a slightly sweet edge that begs you to have another sip.
Overall: This is a drinking man’s (or woman’s) Tennessee whiskey. Really hits all of the marks in every way. Perfect for upping your cocktail game.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Uncle Nearest

GSN Review: Apologue Liqueurs

Apologue crafts their liqueurs from entirely natural ingredients. Apologue’s liqueurs each feature unique, regional ingredients. Initial expressions include Aronia Berry, Celery Root and Persimmon. Produced out of Soltis Family Distillery on the South Side, Apologue leverages a unique set of experienced palates and makers to bring something new and unexpected to the cocktail scene. More savory than sweet, expressions include Aronia Berry, Celery Root and Persimmon. The liqueurs are sweetened with organic cane sugar and feature full ingredient transparency right on the label, spotlighting the fruits, roots, herbs and barks in each bottle.

Apologue founders Robby Haynes, Jordan Tepper and Ziyad Asrar are shifting the paradigm for what liqueur can be with their new line of palate-provoking, spirited liqueurs. Violet Hour alum Robby has quietly influenced food and beverage culture in Chicago for the past ten years, developing Letherbee Distillers’ industry favorite BËSK and opening Logan Square’s critic-favorite Analogue (RIP). Complementing Robby’s vision, Jordan utilizes his background in food and beverage consulting to cultivate local supplier and grower relationships and lead community engagement. Ziyad’s experience running bar programs such as La Sirena Clandestina coupled with his background in music makes him well suited for his role overseeing programming, cultural events and sales.

GSN did not receive a sample of the Aronia Berry liqueur.

Apologue Celery Root (37% abv)
Visual: Citrine.
Nose: Quite herbal and dry with a sweet overtone. In some ways it has a wormwood and bison grass scent, and yet neither ingredient is used in the potpourri.
Taste: Pleasantly sweetened with the spices and herbs adding a soft touch the overall effect. Very much akin to a bitter amaro. In spite of a plethora of ingredients, none of them stand out as a key player. A very well done blend indeed.
Finish: Medium long with the sweet hanging on for some time.
Overall: If you enjoy herbal lozenges, this will not disappoint. A fantastic additional to your bartending arsenal, this will add a new essence to savory cocktails.
GSN Rating: A

Apologue Persimmon (27% abv)
Visual: Ruby
Nose: Spiced fruit in the same vein as a wine poached pear. Darker and tangier than the Apologue Celery.
Taste: The citrus comes through in a gentle way, but with an entirely dry and slightly bitter quality. The sweetness softens the blow, but is not overpowering. A fruity bitter amaro.
Finish: Long, with more of the root quality overlaying the sweet base, leaving a digestif flavor.
Overall: Another excellent bitter liqueur that will work with just about any spirit you can throw at it. Really good.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Apologue Liqueurs

GSN Review: Son of a Peat Batch 02 Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

Flaviar recently announced the long-awaited return of Son of a Peat, with the release of Son of a Peat Batch 02. Son of a Peat Batch 01 received critical acclaim from the industry and consumers alike and sold out in record time.

Son of a Peat Batch 02 shares the same DNA as Batch 01, just with a touch more maturity and sherry richness. Each batch is unique and in short supply, but members will be able to buy up to three bottles each, subject to availability; one to open, one to gift and one to save for later.

All 2,000 bottles will be available via a lottery system, exclusively to Flaviar members, so everyone gets the same chance to get their hands on this complex, commanding whisky bottled at the peak of its powers.

Grisa Soba, co-founder of Flaviar, comments: “Years of analyzing data and customer reviews on our platform has helped us understand what a perfect peated malt is for our members, and also what someone new to peated whisky, would enjoy as their first experience of a peated Scotch. With Son of a Peat we’ve been able to satisfy both camps, those that have already fallen for peat and those just starting to explore the peated Scotch world.”

Son of a Peat Batch 02 (94.4 proof)
Visual: Medium gold.
Nose: Hefty peated nose caressed by a tangy and sweet malt aroma. The best of both worlds.
Taste: Creosote and medium-heavy peat out of the gate, tempered by a rich and engaging lightly sweet malt. The smoke has a chewiness that is right on the edge of aggressive, but manages to simmer down after a minute into a soft rumble.
Finish: Long with a playful battle between the peat and the malt, neither one being declared the obvious champion.
Overall: A really nice Scotch in the style of an Islay, but softer and friendlier to those looking to try something new. This works exceptionally well on a single large rock. The GSN staff is unanimously enthusiastic about this release.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Son of a Peat

GSN Review: Proper Twelve Irish Whiskey

For years, Conor McGregor developed his whiskey under the project name “Notorious” through which came the foundation of what was to eventually become Proper No. Twelve.  It became a longer and more complicated project than originally expected, so McGregor turned to a distillery with a proven history of quality whiskey making.  He met with the master distiller, and together they took measures to bring the whiskey to fruition.  “We created close to one hundred blends and ultimately selected what we knew was the one and only proper whiskey blend.  We took the time to develop an incredible whiskey that is reasonably priced and I am excited to share it with the world,” said McGregor.

McGregor added, “Many ask where the name Proper No. Twelve comes from.  I was born and bred in the Dublin suburb of Crumlin, Dublin 12 – this is a proper Irish whiskey and being a ‘Dublin 12 Man’ we named my brand Proper No. Twelve.  My success can be traced from the lessons I learned growing up in D12, the values of loyalty and hard work.”

It is important to McGregor to give back in a meaningful way.  First responders and emergency service providers exemplify his core values and those of Proper No. Twelve – commitment, loyalty and community – a “ONE FOR ALL” mentality.  “First responders and emergency personnel all over the world are the unsung heroes who act with courage and answer the call of duty every day for people in need,” said McGregor.  The company has committed to donate $5 for every case sold to local first responders and emergency service organizations and charities, up to $1 million annually.  The organizations will be identified for each country around the world and donations will go directly to specific countries where sales take place.

Proper No. Twelve’s first expression is a blend of grain and single malt.

Proper Twelve Irish Whiskey (80 proof)
Visual: Dark gold.
Nose: A lot of wood tinged with butterscotch, young leather, dried straw and autumn leaves.
Taste: Smooth and surprisingly tame. The initial flavors take a while to kick in , and when they do, they are subdued. Slight vanilla, mild oak, tiny bit of char, and a quiet maltiness.
Finish: Medium long with some lingering sweetness and a bread-like finish.
Overall: Not a lot going on here, but it is in no way a disappointment. This is an Irish that is fine for shots, or in light cocktails such as an Irish Old-Fashioned or Irish Manhattan.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: Proper Whiskey