GSN Year in Review 2018 Edition: The Best of the Best

Each year, the Good Spirits News offices receive hundreds of products sent to us unsolicited for review.  While many are good, some are average, and a few are poor, what we always hope for is a product that is 1) true to its style, 2) exceptionally well crafted and 3) creative.

The following are the various products that garnered GSN ratings ranging from an A- to an A++ during this calendar year.  All are highly recommended and well worth seeking out.

Unsurprisingly, American whiskies dominated the field, while other worldwide whiskies also made inroads into the fastest growing segment of the spirits industry.

Amaro Montenegro
Baltamaro Amaros
Cerasum Aperitivo
Donna Rosa Rabarbaro
Riga Black Balsam Bitter

Hine Rare, Homage & Antique Cognac
Pierre Ferrand Renegade Barrel No. 1 Cognac
Pierre Ferrand Renegade Barrel No. 2 Eau-de-vie

Cocktail Subscription Box
Shaker & Spoon Cocktail Club Subscription Boxes

Bols 100% Malt Spirit

Gin – American
Battle Standard American Dry Navy Strength Gin
Rogue Spirits Gin

Gin – Flavored
Beefeater Pink Gin
Luxardo Sour Cherry Gin

Gin – Irish
Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin

Tequila & Mezcal Jarritos Glasses

Colina Colada

Bacardi Añejo Cuatro, Reserva Ocho & Gran Reserva Diez Rums
Bumbu Rum
Don Q Double Aged Vermouth Cask Finish Rum
Owney’s Rum
Plantation Jamaica Xaymaca Special Dry Rum

Rum – Flavored
Hue-Hue Coffee Rum

HeavenSake Sake

Shochu – Flavored
Rihei Ginger

Syrups & Bitters
Curious No. 1 Cocktail Elixir
RAFT Botanicals Cocktail Syrups & Bitters
RAFT Botanicals Cranberry Five Spice Cocktail Syrup

La Valdotaine Amaro Dente di Leone & Verney Vermouth
Little City Vermouth

Nemiroff Vodka

Vodka – Flavored
Nemiroff Vodka

Whiskey – American
Bare Knuckle Bourbon, Rye & Wheat Whiskies
Basil Hayden’s 10 Year Old Bourbon Whiskey
Basil Hayden’s Two by Two Rye
Booker’s Batch 2018-02 “Backyard BBQ”
Booker’s “Kathleen’s Batch” Bourbon
Brewers Batch No. 2 Virginia-Highland Whisky
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch No. C918
FEW American Whiskey
Heaven’s Door American Whiskeys
Heaven Hill 27-Year-Old Barrel Proof Whiskey
J.H. Cutter Whisky
Knob Creek Cask Rye Whiskey
Knob Creek Twice Barreled Rye
Little Book Whiskey: Noe Simple Task
Lock Stock & Barrel 18-Year Straight Rye Whiskey
Maker’s Mark Private Select & Cask Strength
McKenzie Bottled in Bond Bourbon Whiskey
McKenzie Single Barrel Bourbon – Lucky Hare Collaboration
Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond Fall 2018 Edition
Parker’s Heritage Collection 12th Edition Whiskey
Redwood Empire American Whiskey
Rogue Spirits Whiskies
Tommyrotter Triple Barrel American Whiskey
Westland Garryana 2018, Edition 3|1 Whiskey
WhistlePig The Boss Hog V: The Spirit of Mauve

Whiskey – Flavored
Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock and Rye Whiskey

Whisky – French
Brenne French Single Malt Whisky

Whiskey – Irish
Egan’s Fortitude Irish Whiskey
Egan’s Legacy Reserve Irish Whiskey
Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye Irish Whiskey
Powers Three Swallow Irish Whiskey
Tipperary Boutique Distillery Whiskey
The Tyrconnell 15 Year Old Madeira Cask Finish

Whisky – Japanese
Nikka Whiskey From The Barrel

Whisky – Scotch
Glenfiddich Fire & Cane
The Glenlivet Code
Glenmorangie Signet
Glenmorangie Spios
Highland Park’s The DARK Whisky
Highland Park Valknut Whisky
Laphroaig Cairdeas Fino Cask

GSN Review: Flaviar Spirits Club

flaviar_image-620x350Over the years I’ve discovered that one of the best ways to learn about spirits is at home.  You can take your time savoring and discovering the differences between different styles and brands of each of the six main spirits: brandies, whiskies, rums, gins, vodkas and tequilas.  The only real issue is financial.  Go out to the local liquor store and try to buy five different bottles of spirit that aren’t hangover inducing crap for under $50.  It’s impossible.

What if I were to tell you that you and two friends could try five different top shelf spirits for less than $50?  What if every month there was a new package delivered to your door containing five new spirits to try ranging from hard to find Japanese whiskies to Highland scotches and more?  Each delivered with a guide on tasting notes, info on the distilleries and how to host a tasting party.  Sound too good to be true?  It isn’t.  Check it out below and begin your “spiritual” journey of discovery.

For more information go to: Flaviar

Imbibing Mr. Boston: Bosom Caresser Cocktail

IMG_4640-800An early use of a titillating cocktail name to encourage more sales.  Of course these days people would probably call this a “Second Base” or something similarly juvenile.  Be that as it may, this is a light and interesting drink which might lead to an interesting evening.

There aren’t too many calls for madeira wine in cocktails, so after checking my fortified wine cabinet, I discovered I would have to go out and buy a bottle yesterday.  I ended up with the “Rainwater” style which is considered an apéritif, and which I thought would work well with a VSOP Cognac.  The triple sec adds just enough of a sweet orange character to keep this from being too dry.

Bosom Caresser
1oz brandy
1oz madeira
0.5oz triple sec

Stir with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

GSN Review: Charbay Brandy No. 83

Brandy375ml_lgOften, first efforts are never as good as hoped.  As time passes, skills develop and knowledge increases.  Thus, it is interesting that this brandy even exists 30 years after it was first crafted.  This is 1983, remember!  Craft spirits were as rare as hen’s teeth at that point in America’s history.  Double distilled way back in 1983, and then aged in French Limousin & Nevers Oak, this unusual 100% Folle Blanche Brandy is both a tribute to and memory of the Charbay Distillery’s humble beginnings.  In the years since, they have branched out into other spirits such as vodkas, whiskey, rum and even tequila.  But, I believe that the heart of their endeavor can be found within this seminal bottling of their inaugural spirit.  And the fact that we have it today to enjoy is a testament to their patience and excellence.

Charbay Brandy No. 83 (80 proof)
Visual: Bright copper.
Nose: Floral with plenty of grape notes suffused with currants, key lime, and oddly enough, strawberry.  The slightest hint of vanilla comes out to play after a few minutes of air time.
Taste: Rich, velvety, but with some heat; there are layers of vanilla, pineapple, clove, cinnamon, oak, black pepper, and bitter almond.  Amazingly expressive, with no one feature dominating the overall effect.
Finish: The flavor goes on for quite some time, and the heat has a slighty spicy character.  You know you’ve been sipping a spirit that has been aged much longer than most.
Overall: A contemplative brandy that has a rustic yet refined flavor.  It tastes like a much higher proof, so adding a bit of water will bring out more subtle notes.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Charbay

GSN Review: Osocalis Brandies

It’s always a treat to discover a new artisanal brandy.  Normally, I stock my home bar with cognacs, but with American distilleries taking off, there are several names to be on the lookout for.  One of them is Osocalis, located in Santa Cruz, Ca.  Using a very un-French like blend of Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Pinot Noir and Semillon grapes in their grape brandies, as well as over a dozen varieties of Northern California apples in their apple brandy; they have set the bar even higher by distilling using two antique alembic Charentais stills, imported from Cognac.

Apple Brandy – Bright yellow gold color.  Warm, fresh and crisp apple nose with overtones of just made cider.  Light, smooth and sweet apple flavor with hints of peel, juicy flesh and nicely balanced tartness.  This is a fine sipping brandy, and one that stands on it’s own; but would tend to get lost if used in a Jack Rose Cocktail, as the flavors are more delicate and subtle than the old standby of Laird’s Bottled-in-Bond Applejack.  Bring this out on a cool Autumn evening to celebrate the changing of the seasons.  GSN Rating: B+

Rare Alembic Brandy – Fine subdued gold color.  Nose is rich and enticing with hints of pomace, spice, aged fruit and barrel wood.  The taste is an ascending staircase of flavors which reveal themselves quickly, moving from round and open grape brandy, to notes of anise, pine forest, saffron, white pepper, dried orange peel, mint and sandalwood.  Amazingly complex and as good an American brandy as I’ve had the pleasure to partake.  Quite the marvel.  GSN Rating: A

XO Alembic Brandy – Mellow, golden sunlight color.  Nose has notes of baking chocolate, currents, frozen grapeskin, and a hint of vanilla custard.  The initial taste is so cohesive as to be one intense burst of flavor, making the various elements difficult to pick out.  But, they gradually give way to a beautiful oleo-resin vanilla and pecan flavored spice mix, with a strong and supportive grape base.  Surprisingly, despite brandies up to 14 years old in the mix, there are very few woody notes, instead there is a penumbra of caramel and almost a dry sherry character.  There is almost a shy, schluechtern quality here that deserves a quiet evening one-on-one with this brandy in order to get to know it intimately.  An excellent brandy and a standout among American distillers.  GSN Rating: A-

Osocalis also produces a Heritage brandy which I did not have the good fortune to try.

Osocalis products are available in IL, MA, FL DC, MD, CA, NY, CT & NJ.