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 Alert: Cocktail Book Preview – Winter 2018 (January-March)

It’s looking to be a long winter, so why not curl up with a good book?  GSN presents the latest round-up of new titles coming out in the next three months.  Learn some new tricks, brush up on your knowledge, and try a new cocktail or two!

The Pocket Guide to Whisky by Blair Bowman (Birlinn Pocket Guides) The ever-expanding world of whisky can be a daunting one, with a deluge of new brands, distilleries and literature on the subject making it all but impossible for the amateur whisky drinker to find their feet in the industry. Following on from the bestselling Pocket Guide to Wine, Blair Bowman provides a compact and accessible, easy-to-use guide to help budding whisky enthusiasts on their way. Uniquely, The Pocket Guide to Whisky explores every kind of whisky, from the well known Scottish giants of Glenlivet, to the exotic Japanese Hibiki, and includes the ever-growing and hotly debated blended whiskies too! This little volume will tell you everything you need to know, from what to look for in whisky and what to avoid, to getting the best value for money to the perfect accompaniments to your dram and the ideal whisky for every occasion. From novice to expert, this guide enables whisky lovers to find out more about the brands they already like and to make informed choices as they explore further.

Whiskies Galore: A Tour of Scotland’s Island Distilleries by Ian Buxton (Birlinn Ltd) Island whiskies have long held a fascination and a powerful emotional draw on whisky drinkers the world over. Their special combination of heritage, mystique, and remote location captures the imagination; their highly distinctive flavours are often imitated but seldom bettered. There have been few books on island whisky and none written in recent years. But Whiskies Galore is not your average whisky book. It is not merely a catalogue of distilleries, but a story of discovery and adventure. Join Ian Buxton on a personal journey across Scotland’s islands, where he learns to shoot with high explosives, ends up hurling his dinner into the sea, and comes face to face with a basking shark. Combining an expert’s knowledge of whisky with a travel writer’s fondness for anecdote, and with a keen description of place, he provides a special treat for all who love the islands’ magical drams.

The Connoisseur’s Guide to Worldwide Spirits: Selecting and Savoring Whiskey, Vodka, Scotch, Rum, Tequila . . . and Everything Else (An Expert’s Guide … and Savoring Every Spirit in the World) by Richard Carleton Hacker (Skyhorse Publishing) Everyone thinks that they know how to drink, but do you really know the difference between a scotch and a whiskey? How about a gin or vodka martini? Do you know whether Johnny Walker is a single malt or a scotch? Well now is the time to finally learn the definitive answers to these questions, and so many more that you’ve always had about your favorite drinks. In The Connoisseur’s Guide to Worldwide Drinking, world-class connoisseur and celebrated critic Richard Carleton Hacker provides you with all the information that you’ll ever need to properly enjoy and imbibe very type of spirit, and to start drinking alcohol the right way. Complete more than a 100 full color photographs, The Connoisseur’s Guide to Worldwide Drinking is a perfect buy for every alcohol consumer, whether novice or aficionado. With The Connoisseur’s Guide to Worldwide Drinking you’ll be the most knowledgeable drinker in every bar that you walk into and at every cocktail party that you attend.

What a Swell Party It Was!: Rediscovering Food & Drink from the Golden Age of the American Nightclub by Michael Turback (Skyhorse Publishing) Opening this book is like swinging open the doors to another time and place, when big city life was a unique mixture of innocence and sophistication, romance and formality. It spotlights twenty-five legendary clubs that thrived in the 1930s and ’40s, just as Jazz exploded into mainstream popularity and alcohol was no longer illegal to serve. Through these pages and recipes, enter past the proverbial velvet rope into establishments forever-immortalized, such as Chez Paree in Chicago, Café Trocadero in Hollywood, The Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles, The Blue Room in New Orleans, and New York City’s Cotton Club. In addition to including entrée, appetizer, dessert, and cocktail recipes from their original menus, each featured venue will be introduced with vivid anecdotes and history, narrated in a breezy style and illustrated with reproductions of vintage photos.

Sunny’s Nights: Lost and Found at a Bar on the Edge of the World by Tim Sultan (Random House Trade Paperbacks) The first time he saw Sunny’s Bar, in 1995, Tim Sultan was lost, thirsty for a drink, and intrigued by the single bar sign among the forlorn warehouses lining the Brooklyn waterfront. Inside, he found a dimly lit room crammed with maritime artifacts, a dozen well-seasoned drinkers, and, strangely, a projector playing a classic Martha Graham dance performance. Sultan knew he had stumbled upon someplace special. What he didn’t know was that he had just found his new home. Soon enough, Sultan has quit his office job to bar tend full-time for Sunny Balzano, the bar’s owner. A wild-haired Tony Bennett lookalike with a fondness for quoting Shakespeare and Samuel Beckett, Sunny is truly one of a kind. Born next to the saloon that has been in his family for one hundred years, Sunny has over the years partied with Andy Warhol, spent time in India at the feet of a guru, and painted abstract expressionist originals. But his masterpiece is the bar itself, a place where a sublime mix of artists, mobsters, honky-tonk musicians, neighborhood drunks, nuns, longshoremen, and assorted eccentrics rub elbows. Set against the backdrop of a rapidly transforming city, Sunny’s Nights is a loving and singular portrait of the dream experience we’re all searching for every time we walk into a bar, and an enchanting memoir of an unlikely and abiding friendship.

Julep: Southern Cocktails Refashioned by Alba Huerta & Marah Stets (Lorena Jones Books) Craft cocktail maven Alba Huerta succinctly tells the story of drinking in the South through themes such as “Trading with the Enemy,” “the Rural South,” “the Drinking Society,” “the Saltwater South,” and others that anchor the menu at her destination bar, Julep. With historical overviews, 15 bar snack recipes, and 65 bespoke cocktail recipes, ranging from the iconic Mint Julep (and variations such as Rye Julep and Sparkling Julep) to modern inventions like the Snakebit Sprout, Liquid Currency, and Hot July, Huerta recounts the tales and traditions that define drinking culture in the American South today. Approximately 80 evocative cocktail and location photographs convey the romance and style that distinguish Julep and serve to inspire beverage enthusiasts to relive Southern history via the bar cart.

Belgian Abbey Beers by Jef Van den Steen (Lannoo Publishers) Belgian beer expert Jef Van den Steen looks at the history and production of all thirty Belgian abbey beers. What are the remarkable stories about this authentic, labor-intensive product? In which way are Trappist beers different from the others? In Belgian Abbey Beers, Jef Van den Steen unravels the different stages in the production process of the beers and talks very passionately about the origin and development of the various breweries within the walls or under the license of the abbey. Each brewery is presented with practical information, different types of beer, and tips for tourists. Photographer Andrew Verschetze magnificently captures the beers from the barrel to the glass.



GSN Original Cocktail: The Powderkeg

Looking for a fantastic tiki-style rum drink to chill with this summer? The Powderkeg will blow your socks off!  Featuring three rums, Campari and bitters, this drink is an explosion in your mouth.

Crafted by Blair Frodelius (editor of Good Spirits News) as a tribute to the iconic Barrel O’ Rum served at the venerable Mai Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, this drink hearkens back to the sultry and exotic days of 1950’s tiki culture.  Make one this week and enjoy a trip to the tropics, no matter where you are!

1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
1/4 ounce Campari
3/4 ounce Goya passion fruit cocktail
1/2 ounce rock candy syrup
2 ounces Montanya Platino Rum
1 1/4 ounces Montanya Oro Rum
3/4 ounce Cruzan Black Strap Rum
2 dashes Fee Brothers whiskey barrel aged bitters
1 ounce Orangina

Add all to barrel-shaped mug filled halfway with crushed ice. Top off with more crushed ice as needed and garnish with a straw and a lit candle (to represent a fuse).

Cocktail created by Blair Frodelius

GSN Alert: Cocktail Book Preview – Spring 2016 (April-June)

GSN presents our annual roundup of new books coming onto the market this spring.  Everything from spirits, aperitifs, cocktails both classic and new, tiki drinks and even marijuana tinctures!  It’s all here folks.

51MaM8PbtvLCraft Spirits by Eric Grossman (DK) – The first book to combine reference and practical how-to information from the most pioneering distillers around the world, and the first global catalog with photographs of every important craft spirit. Small-batch artisan spirits have arrived in a big way, with micro-distillery start-ups hitting record levels around the world and hand-crafted spirits crowding the top shelf. From vodka to rum to moonshine and more, Craft Spirits is your guide to which spirits to try and which pioneering distillers to watch. Craft Spirits will bring out your inner mixologist with cocktail recipes for each spirit it features, and will inspire you to shake or stir your own unique signature cocktail. Tasting notes, step-by-step advice, and profiles of the key micro-distilleries in every category make this book a must-have for enthusiasts. Highlighting more than 250 of the most important craft spirits, Craft Spirits is the first book of its kind, and author Eric Grossman, a key influencer within the industry, brings his knowledge of craft spirits and international cocktail trends to its pages.

51wTQGVBNqLSouthern Spirits: Four Hundred Years of Drinking in the American South, with Recipes by Robert F. Moss (Ten Speed Press) –  Ask almost anyone to name a uniquely Southern drink, and bourbon and mint juleps–perhaps moonshine–are about the only beverages that come up. But what about rye whiskey, Madeira wine, and fine imported Cognac? Or peach brandy, applejack, and lager beer? At various times in the past, these drinks were as likely to be found at the Southern bar as barrel-aged bourbon and raw corn likker. The image of genteel planters in white suits sipping mint juleps on the veranda is a myth that never was–the true picture is far more complex and fascinating. Southern Spirits is the first book to tell the full story of liquor, beer, and wine in the American South. This story is deeply intertwined with the region, from the period when British colonists found themselves stranded in a new world without their native beer, to the 21st century, when classic spirits and cocktails of the pre-Prohibition South have come back into vogue. Along the way, the book challenges the stereotypes of Southern drinking culture, including the ubiquity of bourbon and the geographic definition of the South itself, and reveals how that culture has shaped the South and America as a whole.

51quJtlKRZLAperitivo: The Cocktail Culture of Italy by Marisa Huff (Rizolli) – Kick off the evening as the Italians do, with these recipes for drinks and small dishes from the best bars and restaurants of Venice, Milan, Turin, and beyond. Aperitivo takes the reader on a spirited ride through this cocktail culture, covering variations on all the classics including the Negroni, the Bellini, and the spritz and stopping at the chicest bars that have elevated this ritual to an art form. Many of the drinks are structured around vermouths and other botanical-infused liqueurs, which offer a new world of complex flavors. They yield enticingly simple cocktails that refresh—without stunning the palate (thanks to a lighter alcohol content). But Aperitivo is just as much about the food because in Italy, drinking and eating go hand in hand. Recipes feature fried sage leaves, oven-roasted eggplant, and carbonara tramezzini, as well as many delicious riffs on crostini, frittata, and focaccia. Whether planning a party or just having a friend over for a quick drink, Aperitivo brings a whole new spirit of conviviality and true Italian style to the occasion.

4114VnbJmCLThe Manhattan: The Story of the First Modern Cocktail with Recipes by Philip Greene (Sterling Epicure) – When the Manhattan came along, it changed everything. As Gotham’s finest watering holes embraced the new concoction, the original cocktail soon became old hat and known as the Old-Fashioned. Cocktail historian Philip Greene expertly traces the evolution of this new drink from its competing origin stories through its continuing influence and extensive progeny, including the almighty Martini itself. Richly illustrated with vintage ads and artwork and luxe photographs, this definitive, illustrated story of the Manhattan also offers 65 easy-to-follow recipes. Classic variations and contemporary updates range from the Brooklyn and the Vesper to the Little Italy and Red Hook. If you’re thirsty for a good story, you’ve come to the right place.

61lKAmu7tALThe Curious Bartender’s Gin Palace by Tristan Stephenson (Ryland Peters & Small) – An innovative, captivating tour of the finest gins and distilleries the world has to offer, brought to you by bestselling author and gin connoisseur Tristan Stephenson. The Curious Bartender’s Gin Palace is the follow-up to master mixologist Tristan Stephenson’s hugely successful books, ‘The Curious Bartender’ and ‘The Curious Bartender: An Odyssey of Malt, Bourbon & Rye Whiskies’. Discover the extraordinary journey that gin has taken, from its origins in the Middle Ages as the herbal medicine ‘genever’ to gin’s commercialization and the dark days of the Gin Craze in mid 18th Century London, through to its partnership with tonic water–creating the most palatable and enjoyable anti malarial medication – to the golden age that it is now experiencing. In the last few years, hundreds of distilleries and micro-distilleries are cropping up all over the world, producing superb craft products infused with remarkable new blends of botanicals. In this book, you’ll be at the cutting-edge of the most exciting developments, uncovering the alchemy of the gin production process and the science of flavor before taking a tour through the most exciting distilleries and gins the world has to offer. Finally, put Tristan’s mixology skills into practice with a dozen spectacular cocktails including a Purl, a Rickey, and a Fruit Cup.

61dwyKjEdgLWhiskey: A Spirited Story with 75 Classic and Original Cocktails by Michael Dietsch (Countryman Press) – After decades of being seen as an old man’s drink, whiskey is booming in popularity. Craft distilleries are popping up all over the United States, making whiskeys not just from corn, rye, and malted barley, but also from grains such as quinoa, blue corn, and triticale. Cocktail lovers, moving away from sweet and fruity flavor profiles, have embraced the earthy, bitter, savory notes that come from the “brown” spirits. In this collection, Shrubs author Michael Dietsch reaches out to those cocktail drinkers with recipes both classic and original, in historical order. He begins with colonial-era drinks such as Cherry Bounce and the Stone Fence, moving to early whiskey drinks like the Toddy and Julep, and then into the cocktail explosion of the Jerry Thomas era circa 1880s. This leads to the drinks of pre-Prohibition, Prohibition, and post-Repeal, and then to a section on the cocktail renaissance of the last 15 years. Author Michael Dietsch writes, “Whiskey is a spirit with a story,” and he includes an overview and some history without losing sight of the pleasures in drinking the stuff. His cocktail recipes are also infused with stories, making this book a joy to both read and use.

51R2-L8wo-LBrooklyn Bartender: A Modern Guide to Cocktails and Spirits by Carey Jones (Black Dog & Leventhal) – A first-of-its-kind collection, The Brooklyn Bartender gathers 300 of the most innovative, exciting, and authentic cocktail recipes from this booming, destination borough at the height of its international popularity. Brooklyn is one of the top trendsetting places today anywhere. Its neighborhoods, artists, writers, restaurants, and, yes, drinking establishments set the pace for the rest of the nation. Brooklyn Bartender takes us behind the bar to experience 300 of the best and most inventive drinks being served today, plus tips for at-home mixologists. Organized by spirit, the recipes allow readers to replicate bartenders’ signature drinks, including everything from the ornate juleps and cobblers of Maison Premiere to the party-friendly “Frozemonade” at Extra Fancy to the namesake gin cocktail of Clover Club. Additional features include “5 Takes on the Martini” and variations on other classic drinks, as well as bartenders’ recommendation for events, infused spirits, and more.

51fBp8W9Z4LCannabis Cocktails, Mocktails, and Tonics: The Art of Spirited Drinks and Buzz-Worthy Libations by Warren Bobrow (Fair Winds Press) – Combining cannabis and cocktails is a hot new trend, and Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails, and Tonicsshows you how. Featuring a collection of 75 recipes of cannabis influenced cocktails and drinks; The Cocktail Whisperer Warren Bobrow will show you the essential instructions for de-carbing cannabis to release its full psychoactive effect. Learn the history of cannabis as a social drug and its growing acceptance to becoming a medicinal. Look beyond cocktails and create successful tonics, syrups, shrubs, bitters, compound butter and exotic infused oil to use in any drink. Start your day with coffee, tea, and milk-based cannabis beverages for healing and relaxation. Get your afternoon pick-me-up with gut healing shrubs and mood enhancing syrups. Make cooling lemonades and sparking herbal infusions to soothe the fevered brow. Then, have an after dinner herbal-based cannabis drink for relaxation at the end of a good meal. The options are endless with Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails, and Tonics!

51nmUw2Tu9LSmuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki by Martin and Rebecca Cate (Ten Speed Press) – Cast aside your cares and worries. Make yourself a Mai Tai, put your favorite exotica record on the hi-fi, and prepare to lose yourself in the fantastical world of tiki, one of the most alluring—and often misunderstood—movements in American cultural history. Martin and Rebecca Cate, founders and owners of Smuggler’s Cove (the most acclaimed tiki bar of the modern era) take you on a colorful journey into the lore and legend of tiki: its birth as an escapist fantasy for Depression-era Americans; how exotic cocktails were invented, stolen, and re-invented; Hollywood starlets and scandals; and tiki’s modern-day revival. Featuring more than 100 delicious recipes (original and historic), plus a groundbreaking new approach to understanding rum, Smuggler’s Cove is the magnum opus of the contemporary tiki renaissance. Whether you’re looking for a new favorite cocktail, tips on how to trick out your home tiki grotto, help stocking your bar with great rums, or inspiration for your next tiki party, Smuggler’s Cove has everything you need to transform your world into a Polynesian Pop fantasia.

41AgHJO38YLDrink Like a Man: The Only Cocktail Guide Anyone Really Needs by Editors of Esquire (Chronicle Books) – Drink Like a Man distills 83 years of drinking wisdom into this indispensable manual. With more than 125 cocktail recipes and 100 photos, including 13 drinks every man should know how to make, variations on classic cocktails, and drinks batched large enough to satisfy a crowd, it’s an essential guide to cocktail making, but also a manual for how to drink. As a host, at a bar, with a friend, on your own—whatever the situation may be—Esquire offers wisdom, encouragement, and instructions. And also a damn good drink.




GSN Review: Facundo Neo & Eximo Rums

2013-Facundo-Rum-EO-750Bottle-Straight-On-copy1 facundo-eximo-rumThe Bacardi company has been crafting fine rums since 1862 when it was founded by Don Facundo Bacardi Massó.  It is his given name that is used in tribute to this latest collection of rare limited release sipping rums.  There are four expressions available, two of which were sent to the GSN offices for review at this time.

Neo is a blend of rums aged between one to eight years and then filtered to remove all traces of coloration.  Eximo is interesting in that is was blended from unaged and young aged rums, and then aged again for ten years.

NEO (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Tropical notes with a heady dose of fresh lime, spun sugar candy, marshmallow, and even a hint of black licorice.
Taste: Viscous mouthfeel with a depth unlike any rum I’ve come across.  This tastes like it’s been distilled only twice, leaving a lot of the character of the cane molasses intact.  Sweet, but also tempered with a slightly grassy and bitter edge.  The lime nose that I detected comes through here in the flavor towards the end, making the whole effect quite refreshing and yet rich.
Finish: Medium long with a slight warming ginger root tang on the back of the palate.
Overall: An amazing rum that is well worth adding to your collection.  I hesitate to recommend this in a highball, but it will shine in a Daiquiri.  But, to truly appreciate, you should just sip neat at room temperature.
GSN Rating: A

Eximo (80 proof)
Visual: Copper.
Nose: Raspberry, blackberry, baking spice, and vanilla.
Taste: Immediate berry fruit flavor that leads into cinnamon, then caramel corn, and finishing with a touch of toasted vanilla bean.  Very interesting.  Very, very easy to drink and lovely in a rum old-fashioned, or just straight with a large single cube of ice.
Finish: It goes on for a good long while with a lot more of the wood and spice character coming through.  A perfect rum for the transition between summer and autumn.
Overall: Another truly fine rum that stands on its own without any need to mix it.  One taste, and you’ll be hooked.  Best get a bottle ASAP.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Facundo Rum

GSN Review: The Real McCoy 3 & 12 Year Old Rums

RealMcCoy3YearRumThe Real McCoy Spirits Company recently introduced two new expressions to add to their award-winning 5-year-old Bajan rum.  Both a younger and an older sibling bookend the range of flavors being produced by RL Seale’s Foursquare distillery on Barbados.  Crafted in vacuum column and pot stills and aged in American white oak ex-bourbon casks, all three rums have garnered awards in 2014 from the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, the San Fransisco World Spirits Competition, and Paul Pacult’s Ultimate Spirits Challenge.

GSN previously reviewed The Real McCoy 5-year-old rum last winter, here.

The Real McCoy 3 Year Old (80 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Sweet, clear rum notes with a clean and fulsome scent.
Taste: Exceptionally smooth with a warm and round mouth feel.  Light bodied, yet not to the point of anorexia.  There is a healthy and wholesome vivaciousness here that makes for a surprising amount of character.
Finish: Medium long with crystalline notes of barley sugar and just a touch of caramel.
Overall: A clear winner for use in daiquiri, mojitos and tiki style concoctions.
GSN Rating: A-

RealMcCoy12YearRumeditThe Real McCoy 12 Year Old (80 proof)
Visual: Golden brown.
Nose: Demerara sugar with more than a hint of maple candy.
Taste: Again, amazingly smooth and with nary a hint of a rumblestrip.  The candied vanilla and caramel elements really come out to play here with an eager eye to seduction.  This is a rum that you could easily find yourself sipping all evening long and never tiring.
Finish: Rich, caramel tones leave a lasting dessert like flavor that never overwhelms.
Overall: A truly fine rum and one well deserving of a space on your backbar.  If this is an indication of the styles of rum that are just coming on the market, we’re in for a rum renaissance.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Real McCoy Spirits

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

GSN Review: The Real McCoy Rum

Thr-Real-McCoy-Rum-5-YearThe real McCoy was named Bill and he was known as a rum runner.  Now, of course, there is a tropical cocktail by that name, but Bill was a bit more interesting than the drink.  In fact, he was born in Good Spirits News’ hometown of Syracuse, New York in the late 1800’s.

Bill McCoy saw a market for rum during the days of prohibition and took advantage of that fact.  This isn’t surprising, since a lot of people made a lot of money through dealing liquor to thirsty Americans.  But Bill decided to do it in an honest and serviceable way.  He would travel between the Bahamas and Long Island, NY delivering 100% pure (rare at the time) rum to customers.  He side-stepped the mafia and paying off corrupt officials and simply delivered the genuine product at an affordable price. Eventually, he was caught by the Coast Guard and served nine months in prison.  But, his name became a catchphrase for the best rum that could be obtained during the dry years.

Thus, this new spirit is named in his honor by the Foursquare Distillery in Barbados.

The Real McCoy Rum (80 proof)
Visual: Golden honey-brown.
Nose: Rich vanilla essence with a lot of woodiness to offset the caramel.  There’s an unusual quality that I’ve usually only found in dark rums.  Luscious and mouth-watering.
Taste:  Warm, with a lot of vanilla and cream notes.  Quite like a dessert.  The body and proof of the spirit makes for a hearty intensity.  This is not a bland rum by any means.
Finish: Peppery notes kick in after a minute or two, but are married to a chewy molasses sweetness.
Overall:  A rum with real character and intrigue. Well worth seeking out as a sipping rum.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Real McCoy Spirits

GSN Review: Caña Brava Panama Rum

S0420-2For most Americans, the hope of drinking a cocktail made with Cuban rum has largely been impossible, if not difficult for the past half century.  Many Cuban distillers moved to other countries after Fidel Castro came to power, and although they started making rum again, something had changed in the recipes.  With Caña Brava, you at last have a chance to get a taste of authentic old world Cuban rum.  The reason is two-fold.

1) The master distiller is Francisco “Don Pancho” J Fernandez who made Cuban rum for 35 years.

2) He was given the freedom to create a rum in the style of what he enjoyed in Cuba.

Caña Brava is another fine spirit over seen by the spirited collective known as the 86 Co. (Simon Ford, Jason Kosmos, Dushan Zaric, Malte Barnekow and Kris Roth).  Oh, and the name Caña Brava?  It is a type of wild grass that can grown up to 20 feet high.

Caña Brava (86 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Sweet, dry and with a lot of lime citrus.
Taste: Full flavored and rich with a hefty body.  A lot of minerality comes through along with hints of citrus zest, peppery spices and a slight sea salt edge.
Finish: Amazingly long, considering it’s only been aged for three years.  I think this comes from the dual aging in a combination of new, un-charred American oak and used American Whiskey barrels.
Overall: Really, a powerhouse of a blanco rum.  I guarantee that this rum will enliven a Daiquiri, Mojito or Between the Sheets cocktail.  Better than many rums that have been on the market for decades.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Caña Brava

GSN Review: Penny Blue XO Mauritian Rum

Penny_Blue_bottle_for webMany, many years ago, I was a stamp collector.  Now, I collect spirits.  This new rum got me to reminiscing and thinking about how far I’ve come with my obsessions.  Not too far, apparently as friends of mine know.  🙂

The Penny Blue stamp originated on the island of Mauritius back in 1847.  Because of an engraving error, the stamp has become one of the most sought after postage stamps in the world.  There are only 12 in existence today.  So, now that you know the story behind the name of this rum, how about some information on the rum itself?

Made at the Medine distillery on the island (in operation for over 85 years) the spirit is a blend of rums aged for an average of seven years in Bourbon, Cognac and Whisky barrels.  Each batch is hand selected, non-chill filtered and numbered.  So, if like me, you have the collecting bug, you will want to purchase a bottle from each progressive batch.  But, it may cost you a pretty penny to do so.  The initial allocation of 5,946 individually numbered bottles retail for $79.99 each.

Penny Blue XO (88.2 proof)
Visual: Medium gold.
Nose: Like fresh hay and clover honey.  Summer encapsulated in a glass.
Taste: Sweet and expressive with a lot a percolating baking spices peeking through the initial layer of sugar.  The higher proof brings out a peppery heat that works well to distinguish it from other older aged rums.
Finish: A slightly dry and perfectly suited bitter note, creeps in and balances out the typical sweetness found in rum.
Overall: Quite memorable and engaging.  I like this in a snifter with just a drop or two of water to bring out a richer nose and more layered flavor.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Anchor Distilling

GSN Review: Tanduay Asian Rum

Tanduay_gold_LRLike vodka, whiskies and gin; rum can be made from different fermentable sources.  Tanduay uses sugar cane grown, harvested and milled in the Philippines.  It is then distilled and blended with local water and a proprietary yeast made exclusively for Tanduay.  Finally, the rum is rested for up to seven years in charred oak barrels to smooth it out and give it the rich coloration.  Gold Tanduay is a blend of these rums.  Of note is the fact that the Tanduay Distillery is over 150 years old, making it one of the oldest continually operating rum companies in the world.

Tanduay Silver Rum (80 proof)
Visual: Very pale gold.
Nose: Coconut, lime, sweet vanilla bean and dairy cream.
Taste: Lightly sweet with a dry and semi-spicy aspect.  The slight hint of citrus works well to play off the grassy notes.
Finish:  Medium long with a fading key lime pie flavor.
Overall: There’s a lot of body here.  Great for rum-based cocktails that call for lime.
GSN Rating: B+

Tanduay Gold Rum (80 proof)
Visual: Medium gold.
Nose: Notes of coconut, vanilla, creme brulee and nutmeg.
Taste: Sweet, but with a heady dose of peppery spice.  Rich and almost creamy with a lot of body.
Finish: Long with a deep caramel flavor that satisfies.
Overall: A hearty and at the same time well-defined sipping rum that will mix well in tiki drinks.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Tanduay Rum USA

GSN Review: Lola Belle Cherry Rum


Faithful GSN readers know that I love a good story.  It always makes the product that much more interesting.  However, I was able to find no supporting story to back up the claim that Lola Belle was a historical burlesque dancer who covered herself with cherries.  Yet, that is the supposed back story behind Lola Belle Cherry Rum.  I wish it was true, it would make the product seem that much more interesting.  Regardless of any story to share with you, here are my review notes.

Lola Belle Cherry Rum (80 proof)
Visual: Bright candy apple red.
Nose: Intense cherry nose similar to what you find inside a chocolate covered cherry.
Taste: Surprisingly dry and not at all sweet considering the bright color.  Instead, a slightly bitter and intense cherry flavor that seems to lack any rum character.  If you had set this down in front of me while I was blindfolded, I’d swear it was cherry flavored vodka.
Finish: There’s a somewhat harsh bitterness that lingers.  I find myself wanting something to cleanse the palate.
Overall: A decent flavor for mixing with soda like cola or lemon-lime, but I’m not sure that it works so well in mixed cocktails.  Perhaps ice-cold shots of Lola Belle will suit the college crowd.
GSN Rating: C

For more information go to: Lola Belle

GSN Review: Don Q Pasión Rum

Don Q Pasión Rum (60 proof) –  On my recent trip to Puerto Rico, I had the opportunity to sample several different Don Q rums.  Their latest release uses the natural flavor and extraction of locally island grown passionfruits.  If you’re wondering what Puerto Rico might be like if it were summed up in a spirit, then I think you need look no further.

Visually, it is crystal clear, which makes a nice change from some of the artificially neon colored liquors I’ve seen glaring at me from the bottom shelves of my local alcohol warehouse.  The nose is fruity and tropical with a natural passionfruit character that is immediate and present.  The flavor is more subtle, coming through more on the finish than up front.  But, the character of a fresh slice of passionfruit is evident.   I was surprised at the almost tannic quality that plays off the sweetness of the rum, giving it a more mature edge.  Unlike other flavored rums I’ve had, Don Q Pasión seems more natural, laid back and much less cloying than other fruit rums.  With Don Q expanding their repertoire on a seemingly yearly basis, I look forward to tasting more rums like this in the future!  GSN Rating: B+

For more information about Don Q Pasión, go to:

GSN Review: Bacardi Oakheart Rum

Bacardi Oakheart (70 proof) –  The spiced rum market is heating up with several new contenders entering the ring these days.  The latest comes from venerable Puerto Rican rum producer Bacardi, who are about to celebrate 150 years of distilling in 2012.  Oakheart is aged in charred American white oak barrels with the addition of maple, cinnamon, nutmeg, honey and vanilla spices.  It’s a lighter style rum that will undoubtedly go over well with the 20-something crowd.

The color is golden orange with a super vanilla forward nose.  Scent has additional elements of cinnamon, orange sugar, and hot cross buns.  Initial taste is very sweet and liqueur like, almost like liquid creme brulee. Other interesting notes include dark cherry, mild yellow curry powder, toasted coconut, carmelized butter, and french toast.

The finish is slightly bitter, with the wood notes coming out towards the end.   Overall, it has less body than the other spiced rums currently on the market, and seems designed specifically as a mixer; but will add some sweet and spice notes to a tropical drink calling for amber rum.  GSN Rating: B

More information about Bacardi Oakheart can be found at: