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.