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: Pennypacker Whiskey

gil500_bottleIt’s rare that an American spirit is imported from Europe.  But, Pennypacker is made in Bardstown, KY and then sent to Germany for bottling, then sent back to the US for sale.  How crazy is that?  Nonetheless, Pennypacker is a well-balanced and interesting bourbon made from 70% corn and the balance from rye and malted barley.  It is then aged for at least four years in new charred American oak before being brought down to 80 proof using Kentucky spring water.

The reason you may have never heard of Pennypacker until now is that it had been bottled for export for the past 40 years or so.  Which also explains the hyper-American labeling.  One glance of the bottle on a liquor store shelf in Western Europe, and you know this whiskey is from the good old U.S. of A.

Pennypacker Whiskey (80 proof)
Visual: New minted copper penny.
Nose: Spiced corn with a powerhouse of caramel and vanilla.
Taste: Nice and spicy with a good amount of heat.  The aging is spot on, just hinting at a little too much wood.
Finish: Fairly short, with a residual spice towards the back of the palate.
Overall: The body is somewhat thin, but the flavor is quite good.  A decent mid-shelf whiskey that can definitely compete with several of the more well-known bourbons.  Good enough to drink straight or with a little water to open it up.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: Our Niche

GSN Review: Berentzen Bushel & Barrel

Berentzen has been making apple flavored liqueurs since 1976 (see our previous review of their Apfelkorn here).   This spring, they debuted a new product combining a barrel aged Kentucky Bourbon, apple juice and a neutral grain spirit.  The blend makes for an interesting liqueur in the up and coming category of flavored whiskies.

Berentzen Bushel & Barrel (60 proof)
Visual: Copper.
Nose: Green apple with a hint of whiskey barrel.
Taste: Apple liqueur with a decent dose of bourbon to give it some heft and bite.  The balance of flavors works well, with neither overwhelming the other.  Somewhat sweet, but not overly so.
Finish: Medium long with apple being the lingering memory here.
Overall: Tasty enough on its own as a shot or a sipper served neat.  This also has uses in cocktails to lend a less cloying apple flavor to cocktails than most liqueurs.
GSN Rating: B+

For more information go to: Berentzen USA

GSN Review: High West’s A Midwinter Night’s Dram Whiskey

Midsummer-Nights-Dram-web-1Now that we are fully into the first signs of spring, it seems a little odd to be reviewing a spirit crafted for mid-winter tippling, but be that as it may….

High West, out of Park City, Utah recently debuted another fine rye blend whiskey finished in port and French oak casks.  For those of you interested in the technical details: the final product is a blend of a 6-year old straight rye whiskey: 95% rye and 5% barley malt and a 16-year old straight rye: 80% rye, 10% corn, 10% barley malt.

GSN has previously reviewed several other whiskies in the High West portfolio here.

A Midwinter Nights Dram (98.6 proof)
Visual: Ruby tinged copper.
Nose: Rich, enveloping port notes create a dessert-like nose that opens the curtain onto a spicy and thoughtful stage of prominent actors.  Quite sultry and seductive.
Taste: A surprisingly fruity and cooking spice tinged entry reminiscent of ginger cake.  Hefty and hearty without being overwhelming, this whiskey manages to be assertive and yet quite confident in its presence.  There is a lot of dialogue going on between the spotlighted high notes and the more venerable low tonality.  An interesting concept.
Finish: Medium long with a lot of the fruitier port notes taking curtain calls.
Overall: A contemplative whiskey that is best enjoyed on a cool evening.  Quite remarkably memorable.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: High West

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: Great Lakes Distillery KinnicKinnic Whiskey

KinnicKinnic Whiskey (86 proof) –  The word Ojibwe word kinnickinnic means “what is mixed”, so I already had an idea of what to expect from this whiskey.  However, it’s an unusual North meets South blend of Kentucky straight whiskey made by an unnamed major player in the bourbon field and aged for a minimum of four years, together with a barely aged malt whiskey made by Great Lakes Distilling.  In addition, they do no filtration of the blend, so as to increase the flavor profile.

Visually, it has a burnished copper color with cloudy particulates, no doubt due to the lack of filtration.  The nose is pleasant with notes of wet straw, toffee, spice, caramel, bicycle tire, and tanned leather.  The flavor is somewhat bitter with a lot of wood up front.  Some smoke and funky vegetal qualities similar to what you get in a white dog moonshine, hit the mid-palate.  Not at all sweet like a bourbon, this is more akin to a very young lightly peated scotch.  I think it could do with a longer aged Kentucky whiskey to smooth out some of the wrinkles.  Overall, a unique product.  GSN Rating: B-

More information about Great Lakes Distilling can be found at: