Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Calvados Lemorton 25

Lemorton is probably the best known producer in the Domfrontais region of Calvados. Today I'm tasting their highly regarded 25 year old.

Lemorton 25 yo, 40% abv ($125)

This has a beautiful nose with sweet apple notes and some floral notes. The palate is slightly acidic with apple and then spice fading into a spicy finish which develops a nice, light apple note.

The nose on this is the strongest element. The palate is a bit mundane and it feels a bit watery, though it has a nice finish. While $125 is not an unfair price for a 25 year old Calvados, I don't think I would buy a second bottle of this.

Friday, December 23, 2016

New Whiskey Labels: Jefferson's, Deanston, Tobermory and More

This week's most interesting new labels from the federal TTB database:

Kentucky Artisan Distillers issued two new bourbon labels for the Jefferson's label: Jefferson's Jounrey and Jefferson's New Fill. Both appear to be distilled by Kentucky Artisan.

The importer for Burn Steward whiskies cleared two new labels for distillery bottlings: a 10 year old Deanston with a Pedro Ximenez finish and a 21 year old Tobermory with a Manzanilla finish.

Here's a mysterious one. Pennsylvania bottler Charles Jacquin cleared a label for a new expression of Hochstadter's Rye, a 15 year old straight rye made from 100% rye. Normally, 100% rye mashbill on a sourced whiskey points to Alberta Distillers in Canada, but this label does not state that the whiskey was imported. So, what do we think it is?

Note:  The fact that a label appears on the TTB database does not necessarily mean it will be produced.  In addition, some details on the label, such as proof, can change in the final product.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sazerac, Remy and Pernod in Bidding War for Guy who Made Whiskey in his Kitchen Last Week

Spirits giants Pernod Ricard, Remy Cointreau and Sazerac are in a multi-million dollar bidding war over the distilling operation of Ralph Peterson of Boise, Idaho who made a batch of whiskey on his kitchen stove last Thursday. Asked about his operation, Peterson said he used a mash of corn meal, sugar cubes and "whatever else he had around," and distilled it on his stove using two pots connected by a length of garden hose. Peterson admitted that his whiskey was "pretty terrible" and he didn't think he would try making it again, but that all changed once news of his experiment spread and the offers started pouring in.

There was no official comment from any of the bidding companies, but one spokesman anonymously explained, "The spirits industry is really starting to recognize the ingenuity and unique character of craft distilling, and that's what we're looking for. By the way, have you ever made whiskey? Do you know anyone who has?  I've got my check book right here."

As of late Thursday, the bidding was up to $130 million. Peterson said he was considering all of the offers very seriously, and had been in discussions with the competing bidders about his future role.

"I'd like to stay on as Master Distiller or at least work at the gift shop," Peterson stated, "it's really important to me to preserve the integrity of my distillery, er, stove."

Astor Wines Calvados Exclusives: Roger Groult & Montreuil

Today I'm tasting two Calvados exclusives from Astor Wines, both from the Pays D'Auge region. Roger Groult is one of the major producers in Calvados; Montreuil is less well known.

Roger Groult 10, Cask #3, 42% (Astor Wines $75)

The nose has dry apples and spice. The palate is dry and earthy with apple and some burnt sugar notes leading into a spicy and somewhat medicinal finish. This is a nice, dry Calvados - perfect for a winter night.

Domaine Montreuil 15, 42% abv (Astor Wines $85)

There is an apple and cinnamon aroma on this, but it's also slightly metallic. The palate has nice apple and honey notes along with earthy notes that turn medicinal into the finish. Longer into the finish there is the apple/honey from the palate. I like this one.

Both of these were good, but I definitely preferred the Montreuil which seemed to have more going on.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Three Michel Huard Calvados

There are really only two American retailers that matter when you're talking about French brandy: K&L in California and Astor Wines in New York. Now each of them have an exclusive from Calvados producer Michel Huard so I thought I'd compare them along with one Huard's general releases. These come from star importer Charles Neal.

Michel Huard Hors D'Age 90-92-99, 40% ($60)

This is a general Huard release that is a blend of brandies from 1990, 1992 and 1999, ranging from 16 to 25 years old. It has a big apple nose. On the palate, it's quite sweet with apple and spice notes. The finish has cinnamon and baking spices. This one's a bit sweet for me, and not particularly complex, but it's certainly drinkable.

Michel Huard Vieux (K&L), 43% abv ($53)

K&L's entry (pictured) is a blend of seven and 17 year old brandies. The nose is dry with apples and spice. Those notes continue on the palate - apples and spice, along with some new make type notes, and followed by a medicinal note that lingers into the finish where it grows stronger. This is decent but not particularly complex, and the finish is a bit overly medicinal for me.

Michel Huard 1999, (Astor) 16 yo, 43% abv ($80)

This is Astor's pick, a vintage 1999 16 year old. The nose is dry brandy without a lot of distinctive apple. The palate is spicy with light apple that leads to a medicinal finish.

These were three very different Calvados. None of them blew me away, but between the three, I liked the 1999 from Astor the best. It was dry and refined. The 90-92-99 had a totally different character - sweet and apple forward; it was very drinkable. My least favorite was K&L's Vieux which was raw and medicinal compared to the other two.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Serious Brandy

Is one of your New Year's resolutions to drink more brandy?  As I've said before, it's the Golden Age of Brandy, but there aren't a lot of places to find information or reviews on serious brandies. One place you can go is the Serious Brandy Facebook group dedicated to serious brandy reviews and information. And because it's brandy, there's no flipping, no obnoxious "look at what I found and am never going to open" posts and no "how much is this worth" queries. It's just folks drinking and discussing serious brandy, be it Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados, eau de vie, Spanish, American, Armenian, whatever.

Join us!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Cask Strength Rhum Clement

This is another K&L rum pick, a cask strength, single barrel of rhum agricole from Clement in Martinique. Aged in new American oak, it's on the young side, just shy of four years old.

Clement Cask Collection, K&L Pick, Distilled Sept. 1, 2012, 62.5% ($50)

The nose has anise, mint and spices. It smells like MGP rye. On the palate it's piney and herbal with more anise and some cocoa; then it gets that sweet, earthy funk so typical of rhum agricole The finish is sweet and herbal.

This is very tasty and a great rum for whiskey drinkers. Tasting blind, I probably would have guessed that it was an MGP rye. It's also a great deal for a cask strength rhum agricole.

Friday, December 16, 2016

New Whiskey Labels: Medley, Walrus Blood and More

This week's most interesting new labels from the federal TTB database:

Frank-Lin cleared a label for a barrel proof version of Medley Family Private Selection.

Another craft distillery cleared a label for a bottled in bond whiskey. Kentucky Peerless Distillery cleared a label for a bonded rye.

News of the weird: A Florida company called Mango Bottling cleared a label for Walrus Blood, described as "Artisanal blended whiskey flavored and colored with Hungarian oak cubes soaked in port wine." Oh, and be sure to read the back label for some good nonsensical blather.

Note:  The fact that a label appears on the TTB database does not necessarily mean it will be produced.  In addition, some details on the label, such as proof, can change in the final product.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Jacoulot Marc de Bourgogne

Marc, aka pomace brandy, is a special spirit and, for many, an acquired taste. It's made from the dregs of wine production (skins, seeds, etc.). There are many varieties, grappa being the most well known, but from Burgundy comes Marc de Bourgogne. Jacoulot is one of the most prominent producers (and one of the few imported to the US). It's made from from Pinot Noir waste materials.

Jacoulot Marc de Bourgogne, 7 yo, 45% abv ($90 for 1 liter)

The nose is funky and earthy with some old rotting garbage notes. On the palate it's just a funk-fest of earthy notes, with dirt and really strong French cheese rind, wild mushrooms and grape seeds. The finish is minty and spicy with raisins and a sweet, stewed fruit on the nose as you exhale.

This is marc! It's funky and weird and wonderful. It takes you on a roller coaster from garbage to subtle grape notes...repulsive and endearing at the same time. It's like the durian of spirits.

If you like Marc or you just want a fabulously bizarre spirit experience, definitely pick up some of this stuff.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pacory 15 Calvados

I was a big fan of the cask strength Pacory Reserve Calvados that K&L brought in last summer.  Now they have a 15 year old Pacory, though not at cask strength. Pacory is in the Domfrontais sub-region which means that it must be composed of at least 30% pear. This one is 100% pear.

Pacory 15 year old, 42% abv ($60)

Despite the 100% pear composition, the nose still has strong apple notes with just a hint of pear. On the palate it starts with sweet fruit then turns dry and spicy. The finish is spicy and just slightly bitter.

This is great stuff, balanced and drinkable. I think I like it even better than the Reserve, which I liked a lot.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Three Jamaican Rums from K&L

K&L recently brought in a trio of Jamaican rums from three different distilleries from Scottish bottler Hunter Laing. These use a new label called Golden Devil similar to Laing's Kill Devil label that is used overseas (I would guess there was a trademark issues with that name in the US because the bottles otherwise look the same).

Monymusk 2007, Golden Devil, 9 yo, 50% abv ($50)

The nose on this is very nice with both funky and fruity notes. The palate is light with a slight funk and some alcohol notes. The finish is a bit flat. Overall this one has some nice notes but is a bit light and flat.

Worthy Park 2006, Golden Devil, 10 yo, 50% abv ($50)

This one has a similar light funk on the nose to the Monymusk but more of the molasses comes out. On the palate it's rich with a light funk and vanilla notes. It gets more funky toward the end and has a mildly funky finish. I thought this one was quite good.

Hampden 1992, Golden Devil, 24 yo, 50% abv ($100)

I was a huge fan of the last Hampden rum that K&L brought in so I was excited to try this one. The nose definitely has that deep, sweet funk that the other Hampden had. On the palate it has honey, prunes, overripe fruit and a savory umami note. The finish is funky. This one is really good.

The Hampden is definitely the one to get here. The Worthy Park was also good, if a bit lighter, and I didn't care for the Monymusk.

Thanks to Dan Walbrun for the samples. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Year in Whiskey: A New Hope

While much of the whiskey news of 2016 was the same parade of idiocy we've grown accustomed to, there were, for the first time in a number of years, some signs of hope.

The year started inauspiciously when Heaven Hill removed the 12 year age statement that had been hiding on the back label of Elijah Craig. Would be another year of crappy moves by big whiskey?

Most of the new releases followed the now half-decade pattern of rising prices and falling quality.  It was the year of stupid expensive whiskeys like Booker's Rye, the new Longmorn range and a new NAS expression of Michter's Celebration for $5,000.

Even the more affordable whiskeys saw unprecedented inflation with Beam Suntory announcing last week that they would raise the price of Booker's from $60 to $100. Yes, you read that right, a 66% increase. Of course, after their ridiculously priced (and in my opinion highly overrated) Booker's Rye became the darling of everyone from Jim Murray to Whisky Advocate, you can hardly be surprised - clearly they were testing the waters on premiumizing the Booker's name in the hopes that everyone would pay more for their bourbon in the future. I'm surprised they didn't change the name to Pappy Van Booker's.

And we probably can look forward to more such antics. It was a year of continued corporate consolidation with Brown Forman buying BenRiach (including Glendronach), Constellation Brands swallowing up High West, Remy Cointreau gobbling up the Westland Distillery, and just last week, Pernod Ricard buying a majority share in Smooth Ambler. Over the last month, hardly a week seemed to go buy without a proudly independent distiller cashing in.

But despite all of that crap, for the first time in a while, there were some signs of hope in the whiskey world. Ardbeg finally dug into its vaults to produce a whiskey with some age on it, Heaven Hill released a decent bourbon for this year's Parker's Heritage Collection and Barton gave us the deal of the year with its 1792 Full Proof. Even Highland Park's ridiculously packaged Ice was pretty tasty.

On the craft scene, more and more craft distilleries are releasing aged product, and quite a number of them are now releasing bonded whiskey, a move which has the potential to revitalize that languishing category, known for high quality at affordable prices.

If things keep going in this direction, maybe I'll start drinking whiskey again, but for now, enjoy a bunch of brandy and rum reviews from now until Christmas.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Gift Idea: Butcher Box

Butcher Box is a meat delivery service specializing in grass fed beef, organic chicken and heritage pork. They offer 4 different boxes with a variety of meats and cuts for $129, which includes shipping.

The content of the boxes vary depending on what cuts they have available and they appear to source from a variety of producers. The company sent me some samples and they were tasty.

Pork chops were excellent, flavorful and juicy. Beef top sirloin was a beautiful cut, but people who haven't cooked grass fed beef before should note that it's quite lean and can be tough - marinating it is key. A package of Pederson's Bacon (the only meat with the source listed on the package) from Texas looked like mostly fat but was crisp and tasty when cooked up.

For a meat lover, a Butcher Box would make a great gift.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Gift Idea: The New Single Malt Whiskey

If you know someone who's a fan of single malt or world whiskeys, you should consider The New Single Malt Whiskey as a holiday gift. Edited by Carlo DeVito, the massive tome covers nearly every aspect of single malt including reviews of over 300 malts from nearly 200 distilleries across the globe. The list of over 60 contributors includes nearly everyone who has ever written anything about whiskey (myself included).

The only caution I'd give is that if you're a frequent reader of blogs, a number of these pieces will look familiar, having been lifted directly from the whiskey blogosphere.

The New Single Malt Whiskey ($35)
Carlos DeVito, Editor
Cider Mill Press

Friday, December 2, 2016

New Whiskey Labels: Glen Grant, Early Times, Willett and More

This week's most interesting new labels from the federal TTB database:

Gordon & MacPhail cleared a label for a 1952 Glen Grant.

Brown Forman cleared a label for bottled in bond expression of Early Times bourbon.

Buffalo Trace cleared the first label for its new OFC series, a 1980 bourbon.

The Willett Distillery cleared a label for a bottled in bond bourbon, distilled at Willett, to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the company's founding.

Compass Box cleared a label for Rivals, a blended malt.

Luxco cleared a label for Blood Oath Pact 3, finished in Cabernet casks.

Note:  The fact that a label appears on the TTB database does not necessarily mean it will be produced.  In addition, some details on the label, such as proof, can change in the final product.