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Jamaica, by way of food, culture and of course, rum

GP Excursion | Out of the Blue: 5 Days in Jamaica

When the Jamaica Tourist Board invites you to Jamaica for five days of culinary and cultural adventures, you don’t say no. You pack some sandals and swim gear, and you leave some extra space in your bag for local rum. Turns out there was very little beach time on the trip, but as this writer…

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Double aged for twice the taste

Tasting Notes: Brugal 1888 Rum

Brugal 1888 ($45-50) is what happens when five generations of Maestros Roneros, or Rum Masters, have been hand-crafting Brugal rums since the company was founded in 1888. This latest product blends that experience with a double distillation and double aging process for a unique, flavorful rum that’s perfect for sipping on a cool fall day….

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New whiskey from an industry veteran

Tasting Notes: Angel’s Envy Bourbon

Angel’s Envy Bourbon ($43) comes courtesy of Lincoln Henderson, a former 40-year veteran of Brown-Forman who was tasked with crafting some of the world’s most popular and widely-consumed whiskeys. Henderson’s latest venture defies rules and corporate expectations as he makes the bourbon he always wanted to make. Angel’s Envy starts with Kentucky-grown corn and rye…

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Good tequila, great value

Tasting Notes: Espolon Reposado Tequila

Crafted from 100% blue agave in the highlands region of Jalisco, Mexico and aged for six months in American oak barrels, Espolon Reposado Tequila ($20) has a rich, golden hue. The nose gives off pleasant aromas of spicy agave, pepper and hints of sweet caramel, and the bold flavors range from roasted agave and sweet…

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A history of the new world in 10 cocktails

Tasting Notes: And a Bottle of Rum by Wayne Curtis

William Faulkner once said, “Civilization begins with distillation.” Sounds about right. The more history you read, the more entwined it becomes with booze, and not just because you’re often drinking while reading. In his book And a Bottle of Rum ($11), travel writer Wayne Curtis tells the tale of rum-soaked America, from its innocent beginnings…

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Bottled History

Tasting Notes: Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac

Don’t be confused by the name. This Cognac isn’t 171 years old; rather, it’s fashioned in the style of “three-star” Cognacs that were consumed around 1840. Those Cognacs were very mixable and often bottled at a higher proof (Pierre Ferrand 1840 rings in at 90 proof) than today’s Cognacs, which are primarily meant for sipping….

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Sip, savor, repeat

Tasting Notes: Ron Abuelo 7 Anos Rum

Ron Abuelo 7 Anos Rum ($23) hails from Panama where it’s produced entirely from estate-grown sugar cane. It’s a rich blend of rums hand-selected by the Master Blender and aged for seven years in small oak barrels, which gives the rum a rich, mellow and refined flavor. In the glass, the rum is a lovely…

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Vodka, With Flavor. Not Flavored Vodka.

Tasting Notes: Reyka Vodka

In the world of vodka, there’s more parity than any other spirit category, and there’s seemingly a new vodka on the market each week. Given the competition, most resort to lifestyle claims for differentiation tactics – and to justify steep prices – rather than focusing on what’s in the bottle. Bucking that trend is Reyka…

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Liquor from a beer state

Tasting Notes: Death’s Door White Whisky

The unaged whiskey category is alive and well, with product offerings available from heavy hitters like Buffalo Trace and artisan producers like Death’s Door. Death’s Door White Whisky ($30) is distilled in Wisconsin and made from a blend of local wheat and malted barley. As the name implies, the spirit lacks the gold, amber or…

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Small Batches and Pretty Bottles

Tasting Notes: Milagro Select Barrel Reserve Reposado Tequila

Milagro makes a full range of quality tequilas – silver, reposado and anejo – each distilled in small batches from 100% blue agave grown in the Jalisco highlands. In addition to the base lineup, Milagro offers its line of Select Barrel Reserve tequilas, which are produced from hand-selected agave meeting specific quality requirements. Milagro Select…

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Czech It Out

Tasting Notes: Becherovka Liqueur

More than two centuries old, Becherovka ($26) is a bitter herbal liqueur hailing from the Czech town of Karlovy Vary. The top-secret recipe includes a mix of more than 20 herbs and spices blended with aromatic oils and mineral-rich water. It’s the number one imported spirit from the Czech Republic, but until its recent distribution…

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Hand-crafted in Austin, TX

Tasting Notes: Treaty Oak Platinum Rum

Rum: the storied beverage that fueled the slave trade and pirates, and still fuels tropical vacations. Texas: the larger-than-life state of red meat and cold beer. Merging the two dissociated subjects is Austin-based Treaty Oak Platinum Rum ($25), a spirit containing only Texas ingredients, including molasses from the last operating sugar mill in the state….

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That’s right, Tasmania

Tasting Notes: Lark Tasmanian Whisky

Though most malt whiskeys emanate from Scotland, other countries including the U.S.A., Japan and even India produce some terrific drams. Established in 1992, Tasmania’s Lark Distillery makes one of those worldly whiskeys that’s impressed us with both its heritage and its single cask offerings. Lark Tasmanian Whisky ($100-$150) is available in three expressions: 86 proof…

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On July 27th, Celebrate Accordingly

Tasting Notes: National Scotch Day and The Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve

It’s not that we ever need a reason to drink, but when one presents itself – especially one of such distinction as National Scotch Day – we’re obliged to raise our glass. The origin of this boozy holiday, like most, is shrouded in mystery and probably found life on the cocktail napkin of some marketing…

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Reading About Drinking

The Punch Bowl by Dan Searing

Henny Youngman once said, “when I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.” We like to channel the comedian’s wise words by only reading about books that champion drinking, like The Punch Bowl ($10) by Dan Searing. This veritable tome of punchy goodness celebrates the modern renaissance of this social concoction while…

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Two casks, one great whiskey

Tasting Notes: Bowmore Islay Darkest 15-Year Single Malt Scotch

Bowmore produces a full range of Scotch whiskeys, from the entry-level 12 year old bottle to the 25-year, plus some really rare drams that sell for thousands at auction. One of the most interesting in the whole lineup though is Bowmore Darkest ($70), aged 15 years. Bowmore Darkest is an apt name for this whiskey….

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From Peru to you

Tasting Notes: Pisco Portón

In the mid-to-late 1800s, pisco was all over San Francisco, shipped up the coast from Peru to quench the thirst of hopeful gold miners who moved west in 1849. Pisco Punch was the most popular cocktail at the time, and in general, life was good for pisco producers until Prohibition ended its rampant supply. Since…

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A boozy tribute to Kentucky

Tasting Notes: 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon

Named for the year that Kentucky became a state, 1792 Ridgemont Reserve ($28) is a handcrafted small batch bourbon from the whiskey-soaked hills of Bardstown. Created with a high percentage of rye grains, aged for eight years and bottled at 93.7 proof, this bourbon is spicy, complex and full-bodied. On the nose, 1792 Ridgemont Reserve…

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Before Gin, there was Genever

Tasting Notes: Bols Genever

Originally produced as medicine in the late 1500s by a Dutch chemist, genever was a spirit distilled from malt wine. It was strong and not particularly tasty, but juniper berries and herbs were added to improve the flavor. Soon genever was a favorite drink among the people of Holland. It eventually made its way to…

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Nothing says love and appreciation like liquor

Tasting Notes | Father’s Day Cocktail: The Boulevardier

Your dad. The guy who taught you most of what you know, including the nuances of fine whiskey and the satisfaction of working with your hands. This year, combine both of those valuable life skills to craft Dad a well-deserved drink. The Boulevardier is a fine, father-friendly cocktail – a timeless classic that’s unpretentious, elegant…

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Drink your dinner: Chicken-infused booze

Tasting Notes: Del Maguey Mezcal

For years, the mythical spirit mezcal (also spelled mescal) was considered to be Mexican moonshine and often associated with cheap, fiery liquor housing a worm. While the worm was merely a marketing gimmick employed by certain producers, mezcal lives on and is growing in popularity across the country thanks to companies like Del Maguey ($40-$200),…

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A Throwback to the Rums of Old

Tasting Notes: Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaican Rum

Smith and Cross Traditional Jamaican Rum ($29) is what happened when importer Haus Alpenz teamed up with some industry luminaries to create a new rum – one that pays homage to the rums of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While many of today’s rums feature light and sweet flavor profiles, earlier era Jamaican…

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Big whiskey in small batches

Tasting Notes: Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve

Bourbon itself is a manly drink, but ratchet up the proof to 120 – that’s 60% alcohol – and you’re operating on an entirely different level. Of course, we discerning drinkers care about more than just alcohol content. After all, when’s the last time you kicked back with a glass of Everclear? Enter Knob Creek…

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The green fairy, made in America

Tasting Notes: Vieux Carré Absinthe

After decades of misinformation and smear campaigns that resulted in absinthe’s being outlawed in the United States since 1915, it was reintroduced to the market in 2007. Slow adoption has since sped up, and these days absinthe can be found in liquor stores and bars across the country. There’s even an American-made product courtesy of…

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Single malts don’t just come from Scotland

Tasting Notes: Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old Irish Whiskey

Historically, Knappogue Castle Irish whiskeys have been bottled according to the year of their distillation and labeled with a vintage date, similar to wine. But last year, in an effort to better reflect the age of their whiskeys, Knappogue Castle introduced an age statement –- in this case, a 12 year old bottling. While veteran…

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Because bitter is better

Tasting Notes: Campari

Bright red and bitingly bitter, Campari is a solid addition to any well-stocked home bar. The Italian aperitif is sucked down like water in Western Europe, and while it’s found a spot on bar shelves across the U.S., it’s still an intimidating drink for the uninitiated. Campari begins its life as a base spirit and…

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Too smooth to shoot

Tasting Notes: Partida Añejo Tequila

The days of shooting bad tequila with salt and a lime are nearing an end. The tequila category has shaken off its sordid past and reemerged better than ever, with renewed interest in the spirit and a spate of new labels on store shelves. This is good news for discerning drinkers, who are rediscovering classics…

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Drink like a navy man

Tasting Notes: Black Tot Last Consignment Rum

July 31, 1970 was a tough day for British sailors as the 300 year tradition of daily rum rations ended. With the market for British Royal Naval Rum drying up, remaining stocks were stored away in warehouses laying mostly undisturbed, only brought out for state functions and royal weddings. Luckily for us, in the true…