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: Charbay Nostalgie Black Walnut Liqueur


When I was quite young, my grandparents would pay me a penny apiece to pick up the hundreds of Black Walnuts that would fall from the trees in their backyard.  The smell of the sticky green hulls always brings me back to childhood.  Unfortunately, the nuts were never used for anything other than compost, but I remember the work involved in getting the nuts gathered.  Crawling around the ground wearing gloves and getting sticky black goo on my clothes.

So, it is this memory that gives me admiration for the individuals at Charbay who actually gather three different kinds of locally grown walnuts by hand to make this beverage.  The nuts are aged for two years in spirits and then blended with a proprietary mixture of herbs and spices and sugar.  One taste and you’ll never look back.

Charbay Black Walnut Liqueur (60 proof)
Visual: Intensely dark brown.
Nose: Spiced nuts with a heady dose of walnut.  Mouth-watering baking spices and homemade nut pie along with sweet molasses notes bring everything together in a sum greater than its parts.
Taste: Rich, intense sweetness with an almost chewy walnut flavor.  Bordering on the edge of syrup, the liqueur remains entirely elegant, dessert-like, and akin to a nut nectar.  You can almost imagine royalty sipping this in medieval period Europe.
Finish: The nut character goes on forever and never becomes cloying.  The sweetness reminds you that this is a liqueur and that one small glass is entirely suitable.
Overall: As with most Charbay products, this is both unique and outstanding.  Truly a delight to share on extra special occasions.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Charbay

GSN Review: Charbay Green Tea Aperitif


Very few “ready-to-pour” cocktails are worth buying, let alone tasting. Charbay Distillery located in the Napa Valley rises to the challenge and more than succeeds.  Using 100% green tea leaves, along with a white wine and pot still brandy base, this is an outstanding aperitif that not only works on it’s own, but makes for an intriguing addition to brandy, vodka and blanco rum cocktails.

Charbay Green Tea Aperitif (42 proof)
Visual: Cloudy greenish-gold with settled particulates.
Nose: Lime citrus and green tea candy notes.
Taste: Tangy, with a slightly bitter quality, but quickly balanced with a simple sweetness.  The tea gives it a tannic and somewhat dry character.  It reminds me of a lime green tea cocktail.  Quite engaging.
Finish:  An alternating pairing of dry and sour with sweet and fruity comes and goes in a fairly long finish.  Refreshing and tantalizing on the tongue.
Overall: Definitely unique and not at all a sweet drink.  This is a fully realized cocktail in the glass.  Served chilled, it makes for an amazing pairing with soft cheeses, fresh grapes, and charcuterie.  I’m a fan!
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Charbay

GSN Review: Charbay Tahitian Vanilla Bean Rum


The Charbay distillery located in St. Helena, California continues to expand their portfolio with interesting and often quite unusual spirits and liqueurs.  One of their latest is a vanilla rum which does not disappoint.  Using Hawaiian Sugar Cane Honey which is distilled in a Alambic Charentais Pot Still along with100% Tahitian vanilla beans (which make up less than 5% of the world’s supply of vanilla)  Charbay has created a unique blend of flavors unlike any other rum on the market.

Charbay Tahitian Vanilla Bean Rum (70 proof)
Visual: Very light golden hue.
Nose: Rich and slightly smokey vanilla bean.  The rum base adds a sweet and sugary note with hints of honeyed overtones.
Taste: The vanilla plays a supporting role to the well-distilled rum.  Dry and with just a touch of smoke, the vanilla subdues the sweetness of the rum giving it a genteel character.
Finish: As it fades, there is a hint of vanilla tobacco and black tea.
Overall: The rum itself is light and sweet, but has plenty of rich body.  Overall, the vanilla flavor is a positive accent to the rum.  It is one of the few rums I’ve had that uses vanilla as a dance partner instead of the main attraction.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Charbay