This Aussie cabernet shows some of the classic trappings of the grape: blackberry and currants, with a sweetness that approaches pie filling at times. As the fruit mellows out in the glass, the wine evolves to show notes of clove, mint, and graphite, a modest acidity balancing a touch of vanilla. The racier back end allows the wine to show more complexity than you might otherwise expect based on first impressions.
B+ / $14 / barossavalleyestate.com
Ardbeg’s latest Ardbeg Day Committee Release is here (or at least it will be in June): The funkily named Ardbeg Grooves. If you’re thinking music has something to do with it, you’re not wrong, as the whisky is inspired by the life and times of livin’ on Islay in the 1960s. Says Ardbeg:
From the experimental folk at Ardbeg, comes this intensely mellow dram – Ardbeg Grooves.
Here at Ardbeg, we’ve always been passionate about the benefits of an alternative lifestyle. We dig peat. But we also dig crofting, crocheting, Celtic crosses and campfires.
And for this Limited Edition Committee bottling, we’re rolling back the years to an Islay time gone by – back to village of Peat & Love.
Produced using our grooviest casks ever, aromas of smoked spices combine with distant bonfires fading into a mellow haze of apple and smoked pear.
Ardbeg Grooves – It’s just good vibes…and good whisky, man.
That’s not a lot of information to work with, but it turns out those “groovy casks” are actually re-toasted red-wine casks, of which a portion of the whisky has been matured.
We received a sample of the cask-strength Committee Edition (as always, a lower-proof version will also be available in wider release). Let’s taste.
The aroma of the whisky isn’t immediately expressive of what’s inside. Saline and seaweed dominate, with more of a wood-burning campfire smoke heavy on the nose. The palate is...
Allagash Brewing Company has been busy of late creating new beers with unique profiles. Belfiüs is particularly adventurous, labeled as a Saison Ale Blended with Spontaneously Fermented Ale. The bottle provides a helpful description:
This bottle contains two of Belgium’s well-known beer styles: a spontaneously fermented ale and a saison. The spontaneously fermented ale is also known as our Coolship beer. The name comes from a key brewing tool – the coolship – that allows the beer to be inoculated with wild yeast and other microflora.
After inoculation, the beer ages in oak barrels for up to three years. The second beer in the blend is our Saison, a dry ale defined by its notes of citrus and peppery spice. Blended together, they create a golden beer with an herbal aroma that contains both spice and tart fruit. Its taste is one of restrained sourness rounded out by a hint of oak.
Let’s give it a try. Poured aggressively into a glass, this bright yellow-golden beer presents a large head that quickly dissipates. The nose offers vibrant saison character with notes of hay, grass, citrus, and green apple. The beer’s high carbonation level can be seen in the bubbles that rise steadily from the bottom of the glass. It is a pleasure to note that the carbonation results from the fermentation process that takes place in French oak wine barrels, not other sources.
We’re filling in some of the back catalog today, kicking things off with a long overdue review of Crown Royal, the Canadian whisky classic with the motto “An Unmistakably Smooth Taste.”
The original Crown Royal — the one in the purple bag — is officially known as Crown Royal Deluxe (or “Fine de Luxe” if you’re feeling Quebecois). The whisky’s a blend, but a blend of what? Crown says a full fifty whiskies go into the mix here, but beyond that, who knows?
Let’s give the cruise ship standby a sip, shall we?
The nose is heavy with apples, followed by some basic barrel aromas and hints of the cereal so common with young whisky. It’s all fairly innocuous, though, and the palate follows suit: That apple fruit is unmistakable, as is a significant brown sugar and honey note that provides plenty of sweetness to the whisky. The finish has an industrial bent to it — in that there really isn’t one, just a quick fade-out designed to be as harmless as possible.
It’s not much for sipping straight, but considering what Crown Royal is really for — to mix with Coke and not really be tasted — it’s probably just about perfect.
B- / $17 / crownroyal.com
Today it’s a trio of 2016 vintage wines from Landmark Vineyards in Sonoma — a chardonnay and two pinot noirs — including a few expressions we’ve never seen before.
2016 Landmark Vineyards Damaris Reserve Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – This standby chardonnay finds a moderate to heavy wood profile giving its underlying fruit a slathering of bacon, vanilla, and a hint of Eastern spices. The finish is lengthy and unctuous with butter and oak; on its own it’s a bit much, but it does pair well with seafood. B+ / $40
2016 Landmark Vineyards Grand Detour Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – With that earthiness and chewy graphite character, this is iconic Sonoma Coast pinot noir from the outset. Notes of tea leaf give the black cherries at the wine’s core some gravitas, with a light meatiness adding weight to the back end. Some floral notes emerge in time, particularly as that finish lingers. While its dense and rich, there’s an elegance here that’s beautiful today — and will probably be more forthcoming in 2021 and beyond. A- / $30
2016 Landmark Vineyards Overlook Pinot Noir – Very meaty, this wine is almost tough with notes of beef jerky and fried ham, with a bit of a charred, burnt toast character to it. The savory elements dominate any fruit that’s to be found here; that runs to plums and a slightly raisiny, almost...
Remember Crystal Head Vodka, the Dan Aykroyd-conceived spirit that wrapped UFOs, ectoplasm, and other planes of existence into the mythology of a bottle of 80-proof booze? Well, 10 years later, Crystal Head is back with a new, special edition called Aurora, complete with an updated skull bottle, and a revamped spirit inside.
Here’s how Aurora is different, in a nutshell, starting with the inventive showpiece of a bottle:
Distilled in Newfoundland, Canada, Crystal Head AURORA comes in a beautifully crafted bottle, which is an accurate rendering of the human skull. With an iridescent finish, the bottle was designed in celebration of the most vivid aerial phenomenon in the world – ‘the Northern Lights.’ To create the aesthetic of the lights’ mysterious visual properties, the skull shaped bottle is first placed into a sealed chamber and electrically charged. Two metals in powder form are activated seven times and released in the pressurized chamber. The powder is drawn to the electrically charged bottle – completely coating it. Then heated at high temperature, the powder melts, creating a uniquely iridescent metallized finish in which no two bottles are alike.
Inside, the spirit has also seen some changes.
AURORA is additive-free and made with high quality English wheat grown in the hills of North Yorkshire, and with pristine water from St. John’s, Newfoundland. It is five times distilled in a traditional column still prior...
The upscale bedroom community of Mount Pleasant is just a few minutes and a big bridge away from Charleston, South Carolina, and a decade ago no one would have thought to put a high-end French bistro in these parts. Things have changed, though, as Mt. Pleasant has continued to vault its way upmarket.
NICO, which opened here five months ago, isn’t just a restaurant and bar, it’s also a man: Nico Romo, who is one of the world’s youngest French Master Chefs. The man clearly has a passion for seafood, and his and general manager Cal Goodell have even extended that to the drinks menu with the Scotch Oyster.
Put simply, the Scotch Oyster is a raw oyster with a small shot of Scotch served on the side. You drink the brine, pour a little whisky on the bivalve, gobble the combination up, then pour the rest of the Scotch into the shell to finish it off. NICO used to use Bowmore in the menu item, but at $12 it was a little ritzy. At $6 with a shot of blended whisky John Barr, it’s something you can probably have by the tray instead of just a single. The combination works well, too: I’ve had the oyster-whisky...
“The Scottish Tequila Company” — UWA — has as its avowed mission a question: “What would happen if we took elements from both [regions] and created a blend of both tequila and whisky in a single drink?”
Don’t be too alarmed. UWA isn’t a blend of tequila and scotch; it’s merely tequila that has been aged in single malt, Speyside-born Scotch whisky casks instead of the typical American bourbon casks. UWA is 100% Lowlands blue agave, triple distilled, then aged according to the rules of tequila. While the three standard varieties are available, today we look at only the Blanco and Reposado.
Both are 80 proof. Thoughts follow.
UWA Tequila Platinum Blanco – This is unaged tequila, so only a bit of a nod to Scotland. Heavy agave on the nose initially comes across as a bit rough, but some air gives it life, revealing notes of juicy lemon and pear. The palate is extremely peppery, but this too settles down a bit to reveal a softer side, including some citrus and applesauce notes. The finish is spicy but not overwhelming, particularly given some time in glass. B+ / $61
UWA Tequila Reposado – Aged for seven months in cask. The time in whisky casks gives this spirit an impressive depth. The nose is a mix of agave and vanilla, some red pepper, but the palate takes things down a new...
Traverse City is a craft whisky distillery in the eponymous town in Michigan. Lately they’re also introduced cocktail cherries — of the “brandied” variety, not artificial maraschinos. Some details:
TCWC Co-founder Chris Fredrickson chose to use Northern Michigan Balaton Cherries,which are harvested exclusively from orchards in the Traverse City area. The large, plump, firm cherries, which are dark burgundy in color, are delivered to the distillery in five-gallon pails that also contain a natural syrup base that acts as a buffer to protect the fruit from smashing together. The syrup is mixed with Traverse City Straight Bourbon Whiskey and brought to a boil, while the Balaton Cherries are heated to a near-boil, in nearby copper pots, before jarring.
Once the premium cherries are jarred and weighed, they get backfilled with the boiling syrup, which has burned off all of the alcohol during its slow-cooking process. The TCWC team prides itself on traditional jarring methods, better known as the “hot-filled” process, which kills all possible bacteria.
We gave them a try in a couple of cocktails to see if they were worth adding to your garnish library.
These are big cherries, larger than your typical Luxardo, and considerably different in flavor, too. The texture difference is immediate: Traverse’s cherries have bite, almost crunchy, with a relative dryness at their core instead of a burst of juice. The flavor takes a spin away from the typical sweet/tart cherry character...
“In many ways, for wine, Chile is like a mirror image of California,” said Byron Kosuge as we strolled from the winery to view the vast expanse of Kingston Family Vineyards in Casablanca Valley. Byron has been consulting winemaker for Kingston Family since 2003. He spends part of each year in Chile and the rest in Northern California where he consults for other labels and produces his well-regarded eponymous label B. Kosuge Wines.Wonderful hosts at Espiritu Santo Restaurant
His comparisons to California stem from Casablanca’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean, which provides a recurrent marine layer that protects and nurtures the fruit in an otherwise hot and dry climate, the valley’s mineral rich soils and the temperatures ranging from roughly 45 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit—warm days, cool nights.
I was lucky enough to get an insider’s recommendations about which other Casablanca wineries to visit on my trip, and all the wines I tasted were very well made. The following four producers, distinct in character and vision from each other, all produce beautiful expressions of the land they’ve planted. And the land in Casablanca! The mountain ranges are massive and never-ending, mountains behind mountains...
Melvin Brewing can be found in Alpine, Wyoming, where some serious hopheads have been turning out brews since 2009. Today we take a spin through our first encounter with Melvin, both of which are available in cans, but only one of which (the big boy) has WWE wrestler Hacksaw Jim Duggan as a spokesman.
Melvin Brewing TGR Pilsgnar – A collaboration of sorts with Teton Gravity Research, an action sports media company, this is a bright and lemony pilsner, light on the malt and crisp on the finish with notes of saltines and a hint of applesauce. Very easy to enjoy, and harmless at a mere 4.5% abv. B+ / $NA
Melvin Brewing 2×4 DIPA – A bruiser of a double IPA, this burly brew is densely packed with the trappings of the IPA world — “a stupid amount of hops,” per the label. Sticky, resinous pine tar is thick on the palate, but there’s complexity here in the form of orange peel and salted caramel notes. The intense bitterness lingers on the finish for days, a reminder that you’re drinking a beer that clocks in at a whopping 9.9% abv. Hello! A- / $9 per 4-pack
Amaro dell’Etna isn’t a new brand of amaro, but it’s new to America. To wit:
M.S. Walker has announced that it is introducing Amaro dell’Etna, a Sicilian digestif that has been produced near Mt. Etna in Italy for more than 100 years, into the U.S. market. Amaro dell’Etna has its roots, both literally and figuratively, on the slopes of Mt. Etna, where more than twenty-six native herbs and aromatic plants used to craft this spectacular digestif grow. The 100% natural recipe embodies the volcanic nature of Sicilian soil and, even after more than one hundred years, still possesses its traditional taste.
The process to craft Amaro dell’Etna follows a traditional recipe and utilizes the best raw materials obtained from a selection of over twenty-six herbs and aromatic plants, including organic bitter orange peel, licorice, cinnamon, vanilla, caramel, and more. The all-natural ingredients are carefully washed before the flavors and aromas are skillfully extracted via maceration, with the liquid then left to mature for more than two months to draw out the full potential and bold spiced flavor of Amaro dell’Etna.
Let’s give this amaro a try.
Aromatically, there are lots of cinnamon and cloves here, which is a nice balance to the lightly minty, moderately bitter nose. The palate sees the addition of vanilla, some cocoa powder, and an orange peel element all layering upon one another, leading to a finish that...
The BroBasket is part of the burgeoning “man crate” market, but with a focus on giving, not receiving. The company offers a wide array of baskets designed for giving to your man-friends, many of which are built around booze. In the photo above you’ll see a gofl-themed basket, complete with a bottle of Johnny Walker. For kicks, the company sent me a martini-themed basket, built around a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin, dry vermouth, and — in a fun twist — pickled green tomatoes instead of the usual olives. The baskets aren’t cheap (ranging up to $300), but you can always customize your own if one of the premade collections don’t work for you.
Check it out! Father’s Day, after all, isn’t far off.
I recently had the opportunity to attend Mondovino, an annual tasting event in Northern Virginia hosted by Kysela Pere et Fils wine distributors. The company was founded by a Master Sommelier whose own father is one of the larger wine collectors in America, so it was no surprise that the event showcased an exceptionally well-curated (and massive) collection of wines. I spent the bulk of my time stalking the Rhone Valley tables where I discovered some real gems you’ll want in your cellar for 2018.
Brief thoughts on everything tasted follow.
2015 Alain Jaume, Cairannes, Les Travees – big and bold with lush dark berry notes. A-
2015 Alain Jaume, Rasteau, Les Valats – fruity with a touch too much drying smoke. B+
2016 Alain Jaume, Vacqueyras, Grande Garrigue – bright and clean with black fruit and spice. A-
2015 Chateau Mazane Vacqueyras Rouge – full-bodied with nice vanilla and cinnamon notes. A-
2015 Alain Jaume Gigondas Terrasses de Montmirali – surprisingly sweet and light on the palate. B+
2015 Alain Jaume Domain du Clos de Sixte Lirac Rouge – floral nose and big dark fruit palate. A–
2016 Alain Jaume Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge Vieux Terron – a little too much stewed fruit and currant. B
2016 Grand Veneur Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge Le Miocene – drinking a tad on the sweet side. B+
2016 Grand Veneur Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge Les Origines – rich and complex; young but absolutely ready to drink. A
South Africa’s Simonsig (pronounced SEE-mun-sigg) is one of the country’s most noteworthy operations, and recently we had the opportunity to sample five of its wines, courtesy of a live tasting with its winemaking and business staff, broadcast to us from Stellenbosch in South Africa.
We walked through five wines that run the gamut of Simonsig’s production. Thoughts follow.
2016 Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Rose – We reviewed the 2015 vintage of this wine only a month ago. Mystery from that review solved: “Kaapse Vonkel” means “cape sparkling” in Afrikaans. The 2016 expression is made from the same three red grapes, and as with the 2015, it’s a very dry expression of sparkling wine, a bit meaty, its fruit character running to notes of rhubarb and dried strawberry. Quiet on the finish. B / $18
2017 Simonsig Chenin Blanc – Simonsig’s first wine, this chenin blanc is made from untrained, en gobelet vines. Picked very ripe, the wine has some natural sweetness to it, a honey and vanilla character that counters some of the earthier elements in the wine. A crisp, green apple note gives the finish a lift. B+ / $13
2015 Simonsig Pinotage – Bold and smoky bacon on the nose of this typical pinotage (a cross of pinot noir and cinsault) leads into a mildly fruity, somewhat thin palate, showing blackberry and raspberry, with licorice notes on the back end. That smoky bacon endures well...
Hey, look who’s not breaking his foot this year! Last year’s Whiskies of the World Expo was cut extremely short for me, but this year, safety was the name of the game. (Reminder: Don’t text while on the stairs, kids!)
I spent a lot more time than usual on American whiskeys this year, reflecting an amazing surge of craft distilleries appearing at WotW as well as a relative dearth of Scotch. That said, some of the Scottish drams I sampled were some of the best whiskies I’ve ever had — particularly Glencadam’s glorious 25 year old, to which I gave a spot rating of A+, thanks to its delightfully bright texture and fruit-forward palate. There was plenty of whiskey to like in America and beyond, too, but if I had to pick one product I’d like to sample in more depth, it’d have to be Healdsburg-based Alley 6’s bitters made from candy cap mushrooms they forage themselves on the Sonoma Coast.
Thoughts on everything tasted follow, as always.
GlenDronach 12 Years Old – Bold sherry, nutty, with spice, but vegetal on the back end. B
GlenDronach 18 Years Old – Richer and better balanced, with big spices and some chocolate notes. A-
Ancnoc 24 Years Old – A surprising amount of grain here for a 24 year old, with some orange peel notes; perfectly approachable but not overwhelming. B+
From a packaging standpoint, Deadhead Rum is definitively one of the most talked-about bottles in my collection. Now the company is extending the line into a flavored rum — dark chocolate, specifically — while attempting to outdo itself with this monkey-headed decanter. (Again, it’s a plastic shell on top of a glass bottle beneath.)
It’s a lot like Cocoa Pebbles on the nose, a little dusty with dry cocoa powder notes dominating, but with a slight vegetal hint underneath. The palate is semi-sweet with chocolate dominating, alongside significant notes of vanilla, burnt caramel, and a slightly winey character. The finish gets a bit saccharine as the chocolate notes fade in prominence, though that’s probably not readily noticeable in a cocktail (preferably one with ice cream). As flavored rums go, it’s one of the better ones on the block, and that’s not even considering the insane monkey head bottle.
B+ / $35 / deadheadrum.com
Kauai, Hawaii-based Koloa’s latest rum has hit the market, a three-year old product “artfully crafted in single-batches at its Kalaheo distillery. Kauai Reserve is made from the finest Hawaii sugar cane and fresh island water that was slowly filtered through volcanic strata before reaching vast underground aquifers. Kauai Reserve is carefully aged for a minimum of three years in select American white oak barrels and contains no added sugar, color or other ingredients.”
Compare to previous Koloa releases, then read on…
A very sweet nose offers notes of bold coconut, vanilla cream, and orange juice, almost impossibly sugary at times. On the palate, the sweetness kicks off the show, but it fades fast enough to reveal more of a toasted coconut character, hints of chocolate and butterscotch, and a ruddy, sometimes muddy, character that takes over as the finish develops. What remains on the palate is a slight chemical aftertaste, an unfortunate conclusion to the earlier proceedings.
B / $50 / koloarum.com
Glenfiddich has long been one of Scotland’s more adventurous distillers, and true to its reputation, the operation is out with a new whisky: Glenfiddich Winter Storm, the first-ever single malt Scotch to be finished in ice wine casks, the latest release in the Glenfiddich Experimental Series, joining Glenfiddich India Pale Ale Cask Finish and Glenfiddich Project XX (twenty).
Created by Malt Master Brian Kinsman, Glenfiddich Winter Storm was inspired by a trip to Canada’s renowned Peller Estate winery in January 2016. Enduring the freezing Niagara weather, he toured the beautiful vineyards and learned how the grapes had to be picked by moonlight at 14?F as soon as they reached full solidity to produce the ideal ice wine. Kinsman returned to the Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown and began experimenting with several French oak Ice wine casks from the Canadian winery, filling them with various Glenfiddich aged malts for up to six months.
There will be 650 9-liter cases available in select markets, and there will be no further releases of the 2017 ice wine vintage.
It certainly sounds enticing. Let’s see how the reality lives up to the hype.
Surprisingly, nothing much unusual kicks off the nose: It smells like bourbon-casked Glenfiddich, full of malt, gentle wood, and — perhaps the most unique element here — hints of lemon. This lemon character is also what’s most striking on the palate, a...
April 9th is the day we raise our Gins and Tonic in a toast to the cocktail that idealizes spring. Whether you like yours sweet, savory, or spicy, we know you’ll thoroughly enjoy these cocktails. Whip one up to enjoy while you make our Gin Penne Pasta, which you’ll find at the bottom of the page. It’s perfect for a dinner with friends or lunch out in the garden.
Poached and Tonic
1 ½ oz. The Botanist Gin
1 slice of Bosc Pear
1 cinnamon quill
Press the Bosc Pear slice into a cocktail glass and leave in glass. (Note: muddle it if you want more pear flavor.) Add The Botanist Gin, then ice. Top with Tonic Water and garnish with a cinnamon quill.
Hot Gin and Tonic
courtesy of Bar Belly, NYC
1 1/2 oz. Brooklyn Gin
1/4 oz. TomR’s Tonic syrup
1/2 oz. Salers Aperitif
1/2 oz. Amaretto Disaronna Lemon wedge with clove and cinnamon
Combine Brooklyn Gin, TomR’s Tonic syrup in a glass mug. Stir well and top with boiling water. Garnish with a Lemon wedge, clove and cinnamon.
created by Hendrick’s Ambassador, Mattias Horseman
2 parts Hendrick’s Gin
2 parts squeezed mandarin juice
¼ part lavender flavored soda water
Shake the first two ingredients together and strain into...