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cbc67e20-a700-4d2e-8b28-334324e7e417GSN’s editor Blair Frodelius recently attended the premier edition of BevCon Charleston. Designed as a showcase for all manner of potable liquids, there was a lot to take in and enjoy.  Focusing primarily on what is termed “craft” beverages, attendees had the chance to sample locally roasted coffees, teas, sodas, beer, spirits and foods, along with sessions devoted to ciders, wine, amaros and aperitifs, and industry focused discussions.  Along with the general programs, each evening allowed for tasting sessions, parties held at local bars and even a distillery event a few blocks away.  As a bonus to early attendees, there were opportunities to try one of a variety of local excursions.

All in all, it was an extremely well lubricated event, with everything going according to plan and a lot of fun for attendees.  What made it especially enjoyable, was that virtually everything was within walking distance, all seminars were in one hotel and attendance was capped.  Thus, no need to take a taxi or Uber, no crowds to wade through, and a guaranteed seat at every seminar.  As Blair said, “I look forward to my next visit and seeing my new friends in Charleston!”

For more information, go to: BevConChs

Here’s a photo recap of some of the highlights from BevCon.

Greeted by a rainbow from my hotel room at the Hyatt Place on King St.

Greeted by a rainbow from my hotel room at the Hyatt Place on King St.

The bar at Prohibition, my favorite new find!

The bar at Prohibition, my new favorite discovery!

On board the Schooner Pride in Charleston Bay for a rum excursion with Wayne Curtis.

On board the Schooner Pride in Charleston Bay for a rum excursion with Wayne Curtis.

Lunch at Pearlz Oyster Bar

Lunch at Pearlz Oyster Bar

BevCon party at High Wire Distilling

BevCon party at High Wire Distilling

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The BBQ at High Wire Distilling

Opening seminar: What Is Craft?

Opening seminar: What Is Craft?

Amaro Tasting Session

Amaro Tasting Session

Endless sandwiches for lunch made by a local restaurant

Endless sandwiches for lunch made by a local restaurant

Swag from a session (stress bunny)

Swag from a session (stress bunny)

Fall/Winter Beverage Tasting Session

Fall/Winter Beverage Tasting Session

Daiquiri from Pierre Ferrand rum session

Daiquiri from Pierre Ferrand rum session

Getting silly at the wine seminar

Getting silly during the wine tasting seminar

Virgil Kaine's Ashcat Blended Bourbon release party at Proof on King St.

Virgil Kaine’s Ashcat Blended Bourbon release party cocktail at Proof on King St.

Derek Brown wows the crowd with stories about D.C. cocktails

Derek Brown wows the crowd with stories about D.C. cocktails

 

5399967For the third incarnation of its seasonal limited-edition syrups, Cocktail & Sons is looking deep into the past this summer. Since the late 1600s, thirsty Americans have tried to beat the summer heat by sipping switchel, a sweet-tart-spicy syrup made from vinegar, ginger and a sweetener like sugar, molasses or maple syrup. It’s a delicious and refreshing beverage, but not one that’s terribly well-known today. “Switchel was originally most popular in the Northeast,” says Cocktail & Sons founder Max Messier. “But because summers in New Orleans are probably the most brutal you’ll ever find, it was an obvious choice for our summer syrup.”

For Cocktail & Sons Switchel Syrup, Messier lets a mix of fresh-cut ginger, lemon peels and sugar sit for a week to draw out the flavorful oils, then steeps the mixture with lemon balm and orange peel, adds apple cider vinegar and sweetens with honey. And that honey is something very special: It’s produced in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward by Capstone, a non-profit that turns blighted and vacant lots in the Hurricane Katrina-ravaged neighborhood into productive gardens, orchards and apiaries. (Part of the profits from every bottle of sold will go back to Capstone as well.)

The Switchel Syrup will only be sold at wholesale for use by bars but will be available for purchase online as well at a price of $14.95 for an 8-ounce bottle. Switchel Syrup joins Cocktail & Sons’ regular, year-round line of artisanal cocktail syrups, including Haymaker’s Punch, Spiced Demerara, Oleo Saccharum, Honeysuckle & Peppercorns and Mint & Lemon Verbena.

Cocktail & Sons Switchel Syrup: Nicely balanced and with a viscous mouthfeel.  Quite sweet and lemony (as it should be), but set off with tingling heat from the ginger, a funky sourness from the vinegar cider and a touch of mellow honey.  This switchel will work with just about any cocktail you can think of that calls for a citrus simple syrup.  We recommend trying this in your next tiki or faux-tropical libation.  You won’t go wrong.  Great stuff!  GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Cocktail and Sons

syracuse-university_syracuse_ny_usa_SKU_rocks_perspective_city_grandeHard to believe summer is almost over and students are back at school already.  For the college student who enjoys classy glassware in their dorm room, there are some new products available from UncommonGreen. Their College Town Glassware collection offers a variety of glass styles featuring intricate maps of famous college towns from all over the country. Designed with precise and stylish maps of the streets and neighborhoods of iconic American college towns, you can choose from either classic etched rocks and wine glasses or vividly screen-printed pints, which come in the school colors? There are nearly 100 iconic U.S. college towns to choose from.  The GSN offices received a pair of rocks and pint glasses featuring our local college, Syracuse University.  Everyone has been loving the detailed maps of local neighborhoods where they grab a beer or cocktail during happy hour!syracuse-university_syracuse_ny_usa_40049_staggeredSidePairRightFocus_af4ec2c0-fd85-4f43-825b-953a2803086d_grande

If you can’t find your college town in their in-stock offerings, UncommonGreen now offers every U.S. college town in their brand new Your College Town collection! Each glass is engraved-to-order, making this a truly unique gift for anyone (especially yourself!).

UncommonGreen can also send your student a reminder of home. Their Original City Map Glassware collection is the perfect way to survive homesickness. Your son or daughter will feel comforted seeing their neighborhood each time they raise their glass. You can even engrave a special message of love to go with the city of your choice.

Review: Both the rocks and pint glasses are well weighted and smooth, with beveled bases and rounded rims.  The rock glasses are etched and have a frosted appearance, while the pint glasses are enameled in Syracuse University’s school colors of orange and blue.  I prefer the colored glasses because it makes it easier to see the streets and neighborhoods, but the rocks glass also has appeal as it will show off the color of the cocktail or spirit to better effect.  Also of note is that each glass also shows the latitude and longitude of the town.  For those of you who might be interested, Syracuse is 43.0380, -76.1340.  Overall, these are well made glasses and will make great gifts for students, teachers and alumni.  GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: The Uncommon Green

westland-garryana1

Recently, Seattle’s Westland Distillery and San Francisco’s Anchor Distilling Company released the first in Westland’s Native Oak Series: Garryana American Single Malt Whiskey, which features a component whiskey matured in Quercus garryana, a species of white oak unique to the Pacific Northwest.

“This oak is extremely rare and it’s a unique opportunity we’ve been given to use it to make whiskey,” says Westland’s Master Distiller Matt Hofmann, who is dedicated to exploring the intersection of single malt whiskey production and Pacific Northwest terroir. “It’s a really fascinating species of oak and certainly one of the most charismatic I have ever worked with.”

In this first edition, just 2,500 bottles of Garryana will be available in limited distribution nationwide and in select overseas markets. Future editions in the Native Oak Series will be released in 2017 and beyond.

Garryana American Single Malt Whiskey (112.4 proof)
Visual: Bright yellow-gold.
Nose: Open and vista-like with a ton of high notes.  Much like a Highland Scotch, there is a slight smokiness that tops off the woodiness.  Almost like week-old campfire smoke on a fall pullover.
Taste: Sweet on the entry, this quickly cools down  into a serious and tonal whiskey with a lot of meatiness and body.  The Garryana wood has a tannic and dry cinnamon edge that hits the back of the palate and stays for minutes.  Everything is tightly bundled in flavor, whereas the nose is more of an adventure seeker.
Finish: Long with coffee bean notes and bittersweet chocolate finishing things off.
Overall: Another very fine whiskey from Westland and one that any collector should grab a bottle of soon, before they’re gone forever.  Actually, get two.  One to cellar and one to share with special friends.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Westland Distillery

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However you feel about it, flavored vodka is here to stay. And it was inevitable that a marijuana or hemp flavored version would be released. Co-Founder and President of Swiss Vodka Inc., Macsen Apollo, says, “Elation hemp flavored vodka was created with love, hard work, and patience. We crafted a very high-end grain vodka three times distilled and ten times filtered. Flavored with the hemp fields of Switzerland.”

Elation Vodka is made is produced and manufactured in Winterthur, Switzerland using a wheat and rye based spirit. While other hemp vodkas use hemp seeds, Elation uses blossoms from the finest Swiss hemp to flavor the vodka. There is no residual THC in the final product however. This may or may not disappoint the drinker.

Elation Hemp Flavored Vodka (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Grassy, herbal and hemp plant nose. I’m reminded of Buffalo Grass or South American exotic hardwoods.
Taste: Mild and delicate hemp flavor adds a high note (no pun intended) to the deeper, yet solid vodka base. This is not a powerhouse of hemp character by any means, but more of a subtle essence that lingers over the tongue.
Finish: Medium long, but with ghostly hemp pockets that appear and disappear on and off again over a few minutes.
Overall: A solid vodka that takes what could be a novelty flavor and elevates it.  Hence, the name.  There are a myriad of uses for this in cocktails. Give it a try in your next Martini.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: Elation Vodka

1972374_1549933071899560_27244082_nI first met Ben and Shiobhan Reilley last year when they were just getting started with their new distilling company located in Nelson, NY, about 30 minutes from the GSN offices.  Down to earth, family oriented and enthusiastic about their products, both husband and wife regularly set up at local farmer’s markets on the weekend handing out samples of their vodkas and cocktail in a can, Disco Lemonade.  This year, they took their products to the New York State Fair.  Ben recently tweeted that he thinks they just might sell out of their Disco Lemonade over the 12 day event.

The name is memorable and the drink fits the casual Central New York lifestyle.  Packaged in an aluminum can, it’s ready-to-go and goes down easy.  Blended from their raspberry vodka and lemon flavoring, it is already making its way onto local grocery store shelves.

Life of Reilley uses New York State corn for their vodkas, and the distillery is a part of what is called the Cazenovia Beverage Trail. You can easily spend a day driving around and visiting all of the facilities that are located within a few minutes of each other. Other stops include Critz Farms’ Harvest Moon Cidery, Empire Farmstead Brewery, Heidelberg Brewing Co. and Owera Vineyards.  As Ben Reilly said, “It’s an exciting time to be in this business.”

Premium Vodka (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Fresh, lively, and clean.  Some minerality, with a tight and defined nose.
Taste: Remarkably smooth and creamy.  Slightly powdered sugar sweet, but with a lot of peppery body.  Rich, full and self-assured.
Finish: Medium long with more slate and chalk notes lending a dry finish.
Overall: If you gave me a glass of this and I didn’t know better, I’d say this is a winter wheat vodka.  An amazing transformation and a top-notch vodka right out of the gate.
GSN Rating: A-

Raspberry Vodka (70 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Sprightly raspberry and again a decent amount of minerality.  Quite fresh.
Taste: Light and semi-dry fruit flavor with no overtly sugary character.  The vodka itself shines through the raspberry flavor and this adds to its appeal.
Finish: Medium short with lingering berry essence.
Overall: A really good raspberry vodka, especially when compared to many others on the market.  This is fantastic in a punch or with ginger ale.
GSN Rating: A-

Vanilla Vodka (70 proof)
Visual: Ultra pale gold.
Nose: Reminiscent of vanilla tobacco.  Sweet, inviting and redolent with vanilla bean.
Taste: Subtle, not obtrusive or artificial tasting.  In fact, the vanilla here acts as more of a patina to the vodka.  You definitely notice it, but it doesn’t smack you in the face.
Finish: Short and with a slight lingering vanillin note.
Overall: Again, a fine vodka that doesn’t seek to overwhelm with the flavoring.  This is nice with cola, or sipped neat with a berry dessert pairing.
GSN Rating: B+

Disco Lemonade (6.5% abv) – This is a ready-made cocktail-in-a-can made with LOR’s raspberry vodka and natural flavors.  On the nose, it’s slightly herbal and funky like a traditional vinegar-based shrub.  But, the flavor is more akin to a traditional lemonade with raspberry flavoring added. It’s sweet, but not overly so.  Straight out of the can, it is a little intensely flavored.  I’d suggest pouring this over ice and enjoying.  Definitely a summer beverage for the party goer! GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: Life of Reilley

redemption-whiskey-feat-410x441

Following limited-edition releases in December 2015, Redemption Whiskey, is expanding the portfolio with its first-ever cask strength Bourbon and High Rye Bourbon bottlings. Redemption Whiskey recently introduced three new limited-edition expressions in the Aged Barrel Proof Collection: Straight Rye Whiskey (Aged 8 years), Straight Bourbon (Aged 9 years) and High Rye Bourbon (Aged 9 years).

The Redemption Aged Barrel Proof selections are distilled from mash bills of rye, barley and corn: Straight Rye (95% rye, 5% barley), Bourbon (75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley), and High Rye Bourbon (60% corn, 36% rye, 4% barley). The expressions have been aged between 8-9 years in charred new oak barrels, and after proper aging, each whiskey is minimally filtered and bottled immediately at full proof. The combination of high rye content and high-proof in each expression ensure consistent flavor in each batch.

Straight Bourbon (Aged 9 years) (109.2 proof)
Visual: Dark gold.
Nose: Deep woodiness with a topcoat of fine peppery corn distillate.  Very inviting and immediately engaging.  This smells like a still house in the glass.
Taste: Sweet southern drawl on the tongue, with a lick of vanilla and thick caramel.  Still, there is a crispness and lightness that imbues an airy quality and elegance.
Finish: Medium long, with some tight singing spice notes to send you off fondly.
Overall: A very solid bourbon that will not disappoint.  The higher proof allows you to tweak the final character making this a great choice for the bourbon enthusiast.
GSN Rating: A

High Rye Bourbon (Aged 9 years) (110.6 proof)
Visual: Dark gold.
Nose: Bracingly spicy, with rye toast crunchiness on the nose.  Underneath it all, quietly supporting the endeavor lies a sweet and sassy corn and barley portmanteau.
Taste: Still sweet with maple and cinnamon sugar, the rye tempers everything down as the spiced heat kicks in after a few seconds.  I’m reminded of maple butter spread on a light rye bread slice.  This really opens up after a minute and decompresses into a wider journey of flavor.
Finish: Medium long with the rye spice hanging on far beyond what you might expect.
Overall: A nice blend of the two styles of American whiskey, with neither the rye nor the corn dominating.  They are like siblings that have agreed on the rules of the game.
GSN Rating: A

Straight Rye Whiskey (Aged 8 years) (122.2 proof)
Visual: Dark gold.
Nose: Bright, high, crisp, dry, almost slightly saline nose with sun-warmed wood staves.  Autumn in a glass.
Taste: Intense spice and rye flavor with an insistent and aggressive body.  This is a rye that holds on and won’t let go until long after you’ve had your way with it.  The amount of rye forward character calls for a bit of sweetness to tone things down, making this a perfect whiskey for your next Sazerac.  Just make sure you add a bit of water to lessen the intensity.
Finish: Long and powerful.  The rye flavor goes on for miles.
Overall: A great rye whiskey that in my opinion gives the PVW whiskies a run for their money.  Seek this one out and keep it for when dignitaries come to call.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Redemption Rye

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