190008-rueverte-explore-goudoulin-setArmagnac is one of those spirits that, unfortunately, gets little attention outside of France.  It’s a shame because often Armagnac outshines the Cognac that is exported throughout the world.  To help remedy this situation, RUEVERTE offers mail order Armagnac flights to introduce this wonderful spirit to the consumer who wants to learn more.

Here is a basic lesson on what Armagnac is and how it differs from Cognac.  Armagnac is made in the Gascony region of France in three areas: Bas Armagnac in the west, Armagnac Ténarèze in the center, and Haut Armagnac in the East and South.  Each has its own particular type of soil which lends character to the grapes used in the production.  The aging of Armagnac generally runs from 1 year (VS) to Hors d’Age (10 years).  The RUEVERTE explore set differs somewhat, offering 8 and 20-year samples and an Hors d’Age of unknown age.  So, these are all exceptional brandies.

Here are my thoughts on this particular set from the House of Goudoulin which dates back to 1935 and is based in the Bas Armagnac region.

8 year: Deep yellow-orange color with a vibrant and appealing nose.  Flavors of juicy apple and pear.  Light, smooth and well-balanced.  There is an interesting funky woodiness that seems down to earth and honestly rustic.

20 year: Color is only slightly lighter (oddly enough) than the 8-year-old.  A deeper nose with granny smith apple and marzipan notes.  Heavier and with a lot more body and character.  The woody character has been tempered down creating more vanilla and soft caramel flavors.

Hors d’Age: The color is similar to the first two brandies.  A venerable nose that hints of years in cask.  No fruit, just spirit, and wood.  The flavor is miles and away quite different from the others.  Dark, enveloping, rich and with dried fruit.  Hints of cinnamon and cranberry pop in.  I am left with a feeling of Christmas.

The three bottlings can best be summed up as seasonal.  Summer, Autumn and Winter.  It makes for an interesting Armagnac flight from one distillery.

You can read my review of the Absinthexplore sampler here.

For more information go to: Digestif.com

indexBrown-Forman’s Southern Comfort liqueur brand has officially launched its new Caramel Comfort offshoot. Featuring notes of caramel, vanilla and spice, the new 27.5%-abv entry is priced at $16.99 a 750-ml., and joins SoCo’s existing Special Reserve, 100 Proof, Bold Black Cherry and Lime extensions.

indexM.S. Walker and MacDuff International have released Grand Macnish Six Cask Edition blended malt Scotch whisky in the U.S. market. The blend is a combination of six selected single malts representing each of Scotland’s whisky-producing regions—Highland, Speyside, Islay, Campbeltown, Lowland and Islands—for a taste of “Scotland in bottle,” the company says. Macnish Six Cask Edition retails at $36.99 a 750-ml. Grand Macnish has been in continuous production since being founded in 1863 by Glasgow merchant Robert McNish.

indexHillsboro, Oregon’s Big Bottom Distilling has added to its whiskey line with the launch of Big Bottom Barlow Trail, Port Cask Finish ($37.95 a bottle). The latest release, which continues the distillery’s practice of finishing whiskey in Port casks, is a proprietary blend of three whiskies with a straight Bourbon base. It is finished in American oak Tawny Port casks for a sweet berry and citrus nose and ripe berry and spice palate. Big Bottom products are available in Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Illinois, Georgia and South Carolina.

imagesDiageo is set to reintroduce the I.W. Harper Bourbon brand, which it stopped selling in the U.S. in the 1990s. I.W. Harper will relaunch this month in 4- and 15-year-old variants, which are a blend of whiskies from the New Bernheim Distillery in Louisville and other sources, the Associated Press reports. The 15-year-old variant, which will have more limited distribution than its younger counterpart, is 86 proof and has a mashbill that includes 86% corn and 6% rye. The new I.W. Harper 15-year-old will retail at around $75 a bottle, about twice as much as the more widely available 4-year-old, which contains 73% corn and is 82 proof.

indexSanta Cruz, California’s Venus Spirits has released its second gin entry, Venus Spirits Gin Blend No. 02. Made with a botanical blend featuring notes of orange, bay, cinnamon, vanilla, sage and fennel, Gin Blend No. 02 ($38 a bottle) is rested in American oak casks, giving the gin a golden hue. Gin Blend No. 02 joins Venus Spirits’ Gin Blend No. 01, as well as the distiller’s El Ladrón Blanco Blue Agave Spirit and Wayward Whiskey Single Malt labels.

indexPatrón Spirits has unveiled its first-ever limited edition offering, Patrón Extra Añejo 7 Años. The company’s oldest offering to date, the 100% Weber Blue agave Tequila was aged seven years in 30 French oak barrels at the Hacienda Patrón distillery in Jalisco, Mexico. It was originally meant to age one year, but the company says that as more barrels were added to the aging room, it was forgotten for seven years. Its location in the aging room allowed it to maintain its agave character. Patrón Extra Añejo 7 Años (80 proof) is bottled in a replica of the first hand-blown glass Patrón bottles and finished with a glass stopper. It retails at $299 a 750-ml., with fewer than 700 cases available nationwide.

imagesM.S. Walker has introduced West Cork Distillers’ Glory Irish Poitin into the U.S. market. Translating to “little pot,” Poitin is an Irish white spirit dating to the sixth century. Made from barley, beet sugar and spring water, West Cork Distillers’ version is produced in a classic copper pot still and is recommended to be served in cocktails, neat or on the rocks. Glory Irish Poitin will retail in the U.S. at around $25 a 750-ml. bottle.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily

JustOneShift-Bill-Inserts-orange-red-page-001gaz regan, the bartender previously known as Gary Regan, announces the third annual Just One Shift, which raises funds to fight the water crisis via Wine To Water, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded by Doc Hendley, an ex-bartender and CNN Hero.

Currently, 800 million people lack access to clean water, and 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation. Water-related disease kills a child every 21 seconds. Wine To Water is a movement dedicated to providing clean water and sanitation to those in need around the world.

World Water Day is on Sunday, March 22nd, so the 2015 program will kick off on Monday, March 16th and run through that day. During this week, bartenders and servers worldwide are asked to donate all or part of their tips from just one shift.

New this year, the top two donors will have the opportunity to attend an all-expenses-paid Wine to Water service trip to the Dominican Republic on dates of their choosing. These individuals will gain a unique cultural experience while providing clean water to those who need it.

A similar trip will run from August 22-29, 2015, open exclusively to bartenders and servers who participated in Just One Shift 2015. Full information is here.

In a past year, $41,872.67 was raised, which provided clean water to 40,000 people for an entire year. Just One Shift bartenders and servers donated an average of $244.87 each to achieve that figure. Texas Roadhouse was a particularly proud supporter and in 2014 raised more than $19,000 in two weeks at their North Carolina restaurants. “We encourage every restaurant in the country to participate,” urges Kirsten Sands, Regional Marketing Director for Texas Roadhouse. “Our guests and staffs were more than supportive of this initiative, and our North Carolina locations have raised the bar and committed to raise $30,000 more in 2015 starting in the month of March.”

To sign up, please visit Just One Shift; the site maintains a list of participating bars and restaurants sorted by state, as well as a calendar of shifts. At the end of the given shift, the bartender or server makes his or her donation via the honor system, online.

gaz, who has a network of more than 20,000 social media followers, says, “Bartenders and servers have been changing the world via the Just One Shift/Wine to Water campaign for the past few years; they have helped save the lives of thousands of people they’ll never meet. I know for sure that these bartenders and servers will continue to change the world, and hopefully they will encourage their friends in the industry to join them.”

IMG_7898-800In general, if you want to drink something on St. Patrick’s Day you’re left with a choice between green beer or shots of Irish whiskey.  Instead we here at GSN invite you try our unique spin on a traditional New Orleans cocktail, the Grasshopper.  Originally created at Tujague’s bar located at 823 Decatur St. by Phillip Guichet in 1928, this cooling refresher tastes especially Irish at this time of the year.  Traditionally made with creme de cacao, creme de menthe and heavy cream; we decided on a lighter blend including Brancamenta and Teeling Irish Whiskey.  Of course, grasshoppers aren’t always green.

This is a short drink with an intense flavor meant to be followed by an Irish ale.

Dreoilín Teaspaigh (Irish for Grasshopper)

1.5 oz  Teeling Irish Whiskey
0.75 oz  White Creme De Cacao
Brancamenta rinse

Directions: Pour 1/4 ounce of Brancamenta into chilled cocktail coupe and coat inside of glass.  Throw excess over your left shoulder for luck.  Add whiskey and creme de cacao to ice-filled mixing glass and stir well.  Strain into a rinsed cocktail glass.

Optional: Garnish with a green or orange reception stick candy* (see picture below).

*Green if you are Catholic Irish and orange if you are Protestant Irish.


IMG_7881-800Here’s a modern classic that itself is a spin on a venerable cocktail, the Sidecar.  Crafted by Las Vegas bartender extraordinaire Tony Abou-Ganim, he chose spiced rum instead of Cognac and a cinnamon-sugar rim instead of a plain sugared one. Brilliant!

Personally, I don’t include a sprinkle of cinnamon on top of the drink as printed in the Mr. Boston guide.  It muddies the look of the drink and adds a unpleasant powdery mouthfeel.  The original version doesn’t call for this, anyway.

Here’s what Tony has to say about this drink: “The Cable Car is a simple balance of Captain Morgan spiced rum, orange curaçao, and fresh lemon sour, served up in a cinnamon-sugar rimmed cocktail glass. Perhaps the best known of my original recipes, it was created in 1996 as a signature cocktail for Harry Denton’s Starlight Room, a nightclub and cocktail lounge atop the historic Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco. One of the city’s landmark properties, the Sir Francis Drake is located along the world-famous Nob Hill cable car tracks. Its Starlight Room is affectionately referred to as the lounge that can be found “between the stars and the cable cars.”

Cable Car
2oz spiced rum
0.75oz triple sec
0.75oz lemon juice
0.5oz simple syrup
Garnish: lemon twist, ground cinnamon
For glass: lemon wedge, cinnamon sugar*

Rim chilled cocktail glass with lemon wedge and cinnamon sugar.  Shake remaining ingredients with ice and strain into glass.  Add lemon twist and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

*Cinnamon sugar – Mix equal parts superfine sugar and ground cinnamon.

BROTHERS LOGOFee’s along with Angostura are undoubtedly the most used bitters at bars around the globe.  The latter dates back to 1824 in Venezuela, while Fee’s has been making cocktail bitters since 1863 here in Upstate New York.  Currently overseen by Joe & Ellen Fee (brother & sister) they regularly continue introducing new products to the bartending market.  Their latest is sheer genius.

Molasses is the basis for a lot of baked goods along with rum.  What a natural fit for cocktails which are in themselves miniature recipes of blended flavors.

Fee’s Molasses Bitters: Peppery nose with a dark molasses undertone. There are three flavors used in these bitters: black strap molasses, nutmeg and coffee.  The taste is subtle at first, then kicks in with a rich and spicy molasses character.  Somewhat chewy and thick, the glycerine does well to hold all the flavors together.  In case you don’t know, none of Fee’s bitters contain alcohol, which make them quite unique.  Overall, these are sweet, spicy and dry.  These could almost double as espresso bitters if you wanted to think of them that way.  Excellent for aged rums, bourbons and ryes, and in anjeo tequilas.  Another winner!
GSN Rating: A

P.S. If you see Joe Fee, remind him that Blair says he should change the official company slogan to “Seize the Fee’s”.

For more information go to: Fee Brothers

amaro-lucano-70clOur story begins in Naples, Italy in the late 1800’s with a man named Pasquale Vena.  He had traveled to the capital of Campania with his brothers to emigrate to the land of dreams, America.  But, something held Pasquale back, and instead he settled down to a simple life of a baker and pastry chef in Naples.  He then moved to Pisticci Scalo where he opened Coffee Vena in 1894 and began working on an amaro which would eventually be called Amaro Lucano.

Created from a blend of over 30 herbs, by the turn of the century, the beverage proved so popular that the House of Savoy hired Vena as their official supplier.  At the time, Umberto I was ruling the country but was assassinated by an Italian-American named Gaetano Bresci.  If you feel inclined you should look into this fascinating story.  Even though Bresci was guilty and sentenced to life in prison, he became a folk hero. Today there is even a monument to him in Carrara, Italy and a street was named after him as recently as 1976 in Prato, Italy.  Anyway, getting back to the Vena family, they continued to have success over the years and the company now makes sambuca, limoncello and a coffee flavored liqueur.

Amaro Lucano (56 proof)
Visual: Dark coffee brown.
Nose: Quite herbal and slightly medicinal with a root beer character.
Taste: Initially sweet, quickly developing into a bitter edge.  I’m reminded of sassafras.  Plenty of herb character here and just the right balance of sugar to keep things from getting too intense.
Finish: Medium long with a sweet herbal candy finish.
Overall: A hearty amaro that has a stronger, dark, root presence than many.  A few ounces of this over ice with a slice of orange or a twist of lemon makes for a great welcome home at the end of the day.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: The Spirit of Italy

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