GSN Spirited News: July 28th 2020 Edition

Portland, Oregon’s Freeland Spirits has launched Freeland Dry Gin, a new Navy Strength spirit. The 57% abv offering is juniper forward, and according to the company also has notes of mulling spices, green olives, citrus, and pine forest. To celebrate the launch, Freeland is selling $60 Martini kits from its tasting room and will host a virtual happy hour on Instagram at 5pm Pacific time on July 30. Freeland Dry Gin is rolling out now for around $35 in Oregon, Washington, California, Illinois, Florida, and New York.

Clase Azul Tequila is introducing a new high-end Gold expression. The new offering, limited to 6,000 bottles retailing at $300 each, is a blend of Clase Azul Plata and an eight-year-old extra añejo that was first aged in Bourbon barrels and then finished in Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks. It comes in a decanter that’s a combination of glass with high heat ceramic featuring a 24k gold trimming. The Clase Azul portfolio includes also includes Plata, Reposado, Añejo, Ultra Añejo, Mezcal, and La Pinta Pomegranate Liqueur made with Tequila.

Memphis, Tennessee’s B.R. Distilling Company has added a new expression to its Blue Note Bourbon line: Juke Joint. The 46.5% abv whiskey is a non-age-statement expression and joins the company’s 9-year-old Blue Note Premium Small Batch Bourbon (bottled at 46.5% and distilled in Tennessee). Juke Joint is sourced from Kentucky and bottled by B.R. Distilling after at least three years. It’s now available in Tennessee for $30 a 750-ml. with wider distribution to follow.

Lansdale, Pennsylvania-based Boardroom Spirits has launched several new products. A new rum brand called Ship’s Cat is available in two varieties, White Rum (40% abv, $22 a 750-ml.) and Navy Strength (64% abv, $28). Boardroom American Dry Gin (44% abv, $27) and cinnamon honey whiskey Fire Bear (35% abv, $27) have also joined the lineup. Like many other distillers, Boardroom has expanded its online sales capabilities with delivery and curbside pickup options as well and has begun selling prepared cocktails such as Passion Fruit Rum and Elderberry Cucumber Cooler (both $38 a 750-ml.). The distillery runs on 100% renewable energy.

Puerto Rico’s Destilería Serrallés has expanded its Don Q family of rums with Reserva 7 Años. The 7-year-old spirit is bottled at 40% abv and blended from both column and pot still distilled rums aged in American oak. The release is packaged in Don Q’s new bottle design—created by U.K.-based Stranger and Stranger—that features an updated logo for the brand. Don Q Reserva 7 Años will be available in select retailers across the U.S. beginning in August, for a suggested price of $25 a 750-ml.

F!ve Cocktails, a line of canned cocktails with spirits plus four or fewer ingredients, is now available nationwide. The company was founded by CEO Felipe Szpigel and CFO Roberto Schuback, both former AB InBev executives from the brewing giant’s craft beer division and ZX Ventures, respectively. The line includes Moscow Mule (9% abv), Margarita (10% abv), Mojito (9% abv), Gin and Tonic (11% abv), Watermelon Vodka Soda (5.9% abv), and Paloma (9% abv). All are now available across the U.S. in 4-packs for around $10.

Johnnie Walker is introducing four new offerings coinciding with the brand’s 200th anniversary.The first is Johnnie Walker Blue Label 200th Anniversary Limited Edition Design, which features special packaging illustrating some of the key scenes in the brand’s history. Johnnie Walker Blue Label Legendary Eight is a new blend of whiskies from eight legendary distilleries that all existed in 1820, including some whiskies from long-closed “ghost” distilleries. John Walker & Sons Celebratory Blend is billed as a complex Scotch inspired by the flavors found in the Walker family’s grocery store during the 1860s, and a blend of whiskies from distilleries operating at that time. Finally, John Walker & Sons Bicentennial Blend includes whiskies from ghost distilleries such as Pittyvaich, Cambus, and the soon to be re-opened Port Ellen, all aged at least 28 years. The new expressions will launch in October.

Courtesy of Shanken News Daily

GSN Alert: Destilería Serrallés focuses on hurricane relief efforts for Puerto Rico

PONCE, Puerto Rico — In the aftermath of Hurricane María and its devastating path through Puerto Rico, Destilería Serrallés, Inc., producer of Don Q, Puerto Rico’s #1 family of premium rums, concentrated its initial efforts on ensuring the whereabouts and safety of its employees.  Immediately thereafter, the distillery quickly shifted its focus towards restoring its operations and assisting Puerto Rico with much-needed aid.

“As in other parts of the Island, the southern region, where the Distillery is based, is still offline in terms of the telecommunications infrastructure, making the company’s recovery efforts very challenging. A total lack of electric power and communications are the greatest obstacles that we are currently facing, along with the personal challenges and difficulties our employees are dealing with”, said Philippe Brechot, President and CEO of Serrallés.

On September 24th, the company launched a fundraising program throughout the United States, including Miami, New York, Houston and over a dozen other cities. Each participating bar is crafting a special drink menu with Don Q Rum where net proceeds will be matched by Serrallés and all proceeds donated to relief efforts.  The company is working with the nonprofit ConPRmetidos, in partnership with Foundation for Puerto Rico to raise funds for those affected by Hurricane María. At present more than 40 fundraisers are currently under way with additional events being scheduled every week.

Serrallés is also actively collaborating in helping facilitate temporary work on the mainland for local bartenders who have been out of work for several weeks as a result of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane María.  The bartending and hospitality community’s response has been immediate and overwhelming, very supportive and eager to help in any possible way.  At present, 21 bartenders have signed up to receive the company’s support and more than 80 bars in the mainland have offered help via temporary employment or housing local bartenders during this emergency.

The company’s stateside employees in Miami, Boston, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles and Dallas have also been very active in organizing collection centers for Puerto Rico Rises to collect a wide variety of basic necessities to help families on the Island. Other grassroots efforts are underway.

About Destilería Serrallés, Inc.: Destilería Serrallés is based in Ponce, Puerto Rico where it produces its flagship product, the award-winning Don Q rum, the #1 selling rum on the Island.  Please visit us at: and follow us on and @donqrum.

GSN Review: Don Q Piña Rum

Destilería Serrallés Inc., the producers of Don Q, Puerto Rico’s number-one rum, is proud to announce the release of Don Q Piña, the latest expression in Don Q’s family of naturally flavored rums, including Coco, Limón, Mojito and Pasión.

This new spirit is crafted with aged rums ranging one to one-and-a-half years in American white oak barrels and infused with 100% natural pineapple juice.  No artificial flavors or colors are added. Roberto Serrallés, 6th generation rum maker, Jaiker Soto, Master Blender, and Silvia Santiago, SVP of production at Destilería Serrallés, teamed up for the crafting of this spirit that captures the fresh and bright flavors of this native island fruit with Don Q’s aged rum.

“Don Q Piña is another example of how our team at Destilería Serrallés continues to innovate and expand our brand’s portfolio, while preserving the exceptional character that has been the hallmark of Don Q, Puerto Rico’s number-one rum” stated Roberto Serralles.

Destilería Serrallés is one of America’s oldest family-owned businesses with a rum making tradition that spans 6 generations and over 152 years.  Destilería Serrallés is based in Ponce, Puerto Rico where it produces its flagship product, the award-winning Don Q rum, the #1 selling rum on the island.  Destileria Serralles has been commended for its environmentally friendly production initiatives.

You can read about GSN’s visit to the distillery here.

Don Q Piña (60 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Sweet rum and fresh pineapple.
Taste: Fruity with pineapple and light aged rum. This is exactly what it needs to be, and it is done well. Nothing artificial or cloying, just pineapple and blanco rum.
Finish: Medium long with a pleasant tropical fruit flavor (oddly enough I’m reminded of Juicy Fruit gum).
Overall: A well done flavored rum that should be a hit with cocktail lovers. We tried it with coconut water and ice and it definitely hit the spot.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: Don Q

GSN Review: Don Q 151 Rum

detail-151A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Destilería Serrallés in Puerto Rico.  You can read all about it here.  One of my more memorable moments on that trip was when I had the chance to taste high-proof rum right out of the barrel.  Strong, yet flavorful and slightly sweet.  It only made sense that they would eventually come up with a one-hundred-fifty-one proof version.

First off, why is 151 the magic number?  According to Ed Hamilton from, 75.5% alcohol is about the distillation proof of old pot stills.  Double the percentage to arrive at the proof.  So, what is proof? The word goes back to 16th-century England, when it was used for taxation purposes.  A small pellet of gunpowder was soaked with the liquor in question. If it was possible to ignite the wet gunpowder, the alcohol content of the liquor was considered above proof and taxed at a higher rate.  If however, the powder failed to ignite it was taxed at a lower rate.  So, generally, 151 rum would have been one of the most expensive spirits five centuries ago.  Today, however, things are more affordable.

Another important point to note is that U.S. regulations prevent rums over 155 proof from entering the country.  So, by keeping their spirits at the euphonious designation of one-five-one, manufacturers are able to sell more product.  Don Q 151 is only the second overproof rum to be offered by a Puerto Rican distillery.

Don Q 151 (151 proof)
Visual: Deep gold.
Nose: Hot and clean with a nice smoky touch.
Taste: Slightly funky with a curious whiff of smoke on the tongue.  There is a lot of body here and mouthfeel that goes beyond a typical lighter style Puerto Rican rum.
Finish: Sweeter than expected with a fine burn that is mouth-watering.  Dry and tight at the end.
Overall: This fits in with the Don Q line perfectly.  A lot of attention to detail has been given to this rum.  If you water this down 50/50, you will still be able to enjoy the flavor.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Don Q

GSN’s One For the Road: Destilería Serrallés, Puerto Rico

Recently, I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico to attend an awards ceremony for Destilería Serrallés’ Don Q gran anejo rum and tour the historic distillery.  Their flagship spirit is Don Q rum, which is the best-selling rum in Puerto Rico, far outselling Bacardi.  During the days I spent there, I spent a good deal of time enjoying the varied tastes of Puerto Rican food and beverage.  One thing I noticed over and over, was that rum based cocktails are regularly served with food instead of the more typical wine.  Most restaurants offer mojitos, rum punches or pina coladas made with Don Q Cristal, or you can order a gran anejo rum on the rocks.

Because of the high quality the Serrallés family puts into their products, Don Q rum continually receives spirit and cocktail awards year after year.  Their Blackbeard Spiced Rum won a well deserved Chairman’s award from Paul Pacult’s Ultimate Cocktail Challenge in 2011, and their anejo and gran anejo rums placed high in the challenge as well.  Not only that, but their rums have won numerous platinum and gold medals at other international competitions as well.

My journey really began the first night, when those of us who had been invited to attend the week’s festivities, carpooled to a local restaurant named Buddatai, headed up by Next Iron Chef, Robert Trevino.  Everyone started the evening with a round of mojitos and I had the pleasure of sharing a table along with Esteban Ordonez (seen at right with two friends), the national brand ambassador for Don Q.  I think I learned more about the world of spirits in those few hours than I have over the past several years.  After an evening of listening to stories about the history of rum in Puerto Rican culture over a delicious meal, everyone headed back to the El San Juan Hotel for a nightcap at the bar.

The next day was literally full of planned food & drink activities, and we began by taking two tour buses to La Plaza Del Mercado in nearby Santurce, for a lunchtime of fresh shrimp and octopus ceviches, grilled chicken, mashed plantains and the favorite local beverage of Don Q Cristal with coconut water and lime juice poured over ice.  From there, we went to local seaside restaurant Soleil for a heartier meal of beef, seafood and vegetable tapas plates served with fresh rum punches.  Lastly, we stopped for a taste of the entire Don Q product line at Casa Don Q which is the museum and shop in San Juan.  After the heat of the day, it was great to have a Pina Colada in the style of Ramon “Monchito” Marrero (seen at left), who is said to have created the drink back in 1954.

The evening’s main event was the 5 Star Diamond Award given to Félix J. Serrallés Jr., President and CEO of Destilería Serrallés (pictured 2nd from the left) held at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. In this day and age, when conglomerates regularly buy out small family run distilleries, it is a breath of fresh air to find out that Destilería Serrallés is still run by the descendents of the original founder.  During the evening, I took the opportunity to talk with some of the other attendees including Ian “Rum Ambassador” Burrell, Camper English, Martin Cate and Estaban Ordonez about rum and it’s increasing popularity in the world of cocktails.  The event was packed and at times quite surreal with a Puerto Rican string band playing in one corner while the Serrallés family crest was shown dancing around the ceiling in a light show reminiscent of the Bat Signal.  The drinks were interesting too, as gran anejo Manhattans and spiced rum daiquiris flowed along with flutes of Cava.

The program itself was blessedly short and to the point, with American Academy of Hospitality Sciences President & CEO, Joseph D. Cinque and Karen Lynn Dixon, International General Manager giving a summary introduction to the history of the Serrallés family’s business.  During the award ceremony, Mr. Félix J. Serrallés, Jr. was joined on stage with other Destilería Serrallés Board Members & Family Members, including Roberto J. Serrallés, Vice President of Business Development at Destilería Serrallés and 6th Generation Rum Maker to accept the The Five-Star Diamond Award which is usually only given to restaurants and hotels.  In fact, Don Q is only the 4th spirit to receive this award and the only rum!  As Félix was about to leave the stage, he was also given a lifetime achievement award for his contributions to the economy and welfare of Puerto Rico.  He gave a brief thank you speech, and the evening quickly ended.  Before we left tho’, several of us made our way over to Laurel, the museum’s restaurant/bar for a last Don Q gran anejo on the rocks before calling it a night.

The next day was the real highlight for most of us, as we all took a trip over the mountains to Ponce where Destilería Serrallés is located. Our tour was hosted by Roberto Serrallés, son of fifth generation Félix, and I was surprised to learn that the distillery doesn’t normally give tours to anyone.  Although considering the enthusiasm that Roberto showed during the next few hours, he could easily do so if he decided to retire.

We started with a short overview of the grounds via a blueprint in the boardroom, then took a walk through the headquarters.  We each donned construction helmets and went out into the late morning heat to inspect the barrel shed, then over to one of the aging warehouses where we got a chance to taste high-proof rum right out of the barrel.  The rest of the tour took us to the fermenting tanks, a decades old pot still (still in use) and the new gleaming steel column stills.  One area that Roberto was most excited about was a building which held cutting edge equipment designed to completely purify the waste water.  He said that they are one of the few rum distilleries in the Caribbean that does not dump their waste into the ocean, but rather recycles it for local farming use.  In fact, Destilería Serrallés is one of the “greenest” companies around since they reuse or reclaim virtually every aspect of their resources.  Within the grounds of the distillery they make their own bio gas, electricity, mulch and irrigation water.

After the tour, we got the chance to taste four different unblended spirits: two unaged rums made by pot still and column still; and two aged pot still and column still rums.  Each was quite unique and different from any rum I’ve ever tasted.  Ms. Silvia Santiago, the master blender creates a careful blending of several of these “unfinished” rums to achieve the taste profile they’re known for before anything is released to market.  Their master blender only has to smell the rums to know what the end result will be. Pretty impressive stuff!

We were all famished by this point, so we boarded the buses and drove  back towards San Juan to make a late lunch stop.  We ended up stopping at local roadside diner Guavate, for some awesome roasted pig, morcella, rice with pigeon peas, mofungo, and tostones. Looking around the diner, I saw numerous signs and bottles of Don Q once again.  It was apparent that Don Q, in a very real sense is the spirit of Puerto Rico and it’s people.  It is as much a part of the Hispanic lifestyle as their religious faith.  Perhaps, the angels are watching over the Serrallés distillery while enjoying their angel’s share.

My friend Chris Milligan, the Santa Fe Barman also posted his thoughts on the trip here