Tasting Notes

Americana in a bottle

The Spirit of Autumn: Best American Apple Brandies

If you're into vintage -- your dad's aviators, reclaimed wood counters, old military watches -- then it doesn’t get much more old school than apple brandy, a spirit distilled from the hard cider of fermented fresh apples and then aged in oak.

The Original Barrel Aged Beer

Tasting the Full 2014 Bourbon County Stout Line

If you heard Goose Island Beer Co. was coming into town with their upcoming Black Friday release of their Bourbon County Stout lineup, which features some of the most coveted beers brewed in the US, you’d expect a little fanfare. But when Mike Siegel, innovations manager for Goose Island, carried the lineup in for tasting, it was at room temperature and accompanied by little plastic cups, the sort any corner store would carry.

Update your food pyramid

Cream of the Crop: The Best American Fruit Beers

Fruit beers have long been the redheaded stepchildren of the beer world. But now American brewers are using more complex bases -- stouts, brown ales, rye ales and barleywines among others -- and taking cues from the Belgians, those oldest of fruit beer brewers, to harness the nation’s harvest, from pumpkins to pluots. These are the best fruit beers of their labor.

Beware of the dark side

Highland Park’s Dark Offering Takes Aim at New Fans

We review Highland Park's latest edition to their core lineup of single malts, Dark Origins, which is defined by a high percentage of double first fill sherry casks and a peatiness yet unheard of from the brand.

Pat's Backcountry Beverages Supplies Passable Camp Beer and Excellent Soda

For Happy Hour in the Backcountry, Just Add Water

Leave it to an Alaskan to invent a new way to drink alcohol outdoors. Pat Tatera, the founder of Pat’s Backcountry Beverages, developed a system for carrying concentrated forms of both alcohol and soda into the wild for hikers to make their own carbonated beverages in minutes with the help of stream water and small carbonation pouches.

Some very old wine indeed

Tasting Notes: Taylor Fladgate 1964 Single Harvest

Taylor Fladgate, one of the council of elders in the Port world, released a 50-year-old tawny port in 2014. In honor of our other stories about Portugal, we raised a glass of it.

Four Award-Winning Whiskies

Tasting Notes: Aberlour Full Line

On a recent visit to Aberlour distillery smack dab in the middle of the famed Speyside region, our task at hand was to gain an appreciation for the distiller's unique malting, mashing, blending and maturation processes, and of course, the tasting.

The Best Reason to Drink

Tasting Notes: Salute American Vodka

Not only is Salute American Vodka made in the U.S., one dollar for every bottle sold is donated to a charity benefitting American military veterans. But this is beside the point: the vodka could sell on taste alone, especially at around $20 a bottle.

Yes We Can

10 Canned Craft Beers To Drink Now

Today, at least 400 craft breweries are canning more than 1,400 beers. These 10 are the best of the major styles, from double IPAs to strong ales.

American Beer Meets Irish Whiskey

Tasting the First Beer Aged in Jameson Barrels

Among the fastest growing trends named by brewers at the American Craft Beer Festival was barrel aging, so it's no surprise that the world's largest Irish whiskey producer, Jameson, is constantly approached by craft brewers looking for used barrels. Despite this, not once in Jameson's 234 years of distilling whiskey had the company loaned their barrels to a U.S. company. Well, not until this year, when they gave KelSo Beer Co. founder Kelly Taylor ten barrels to use for an aged IPA.

Peaty and Proud of it

Tasting Notes: Laphroaig 18

Laphroaig's 18 year old is divisive for more than its bold flavor profile -- it replaced the beloved 15 year in 2009. We give it a try.

Not Your Great Great Great Grandfather's Ale

Tasting Notes: Lost Tribes Tej

We try Tej, an Ethiopian honey wine brought to the United States by gypsy brewer and recipe reviver Lost Tribes Beverage.

A Visit to Tel Aviv's Beer Bazaar

Holy Water: 6 Best Israeli Microbrews

Not far from where Jesus converted water to wine, Israeli craft brewers are trying their hand at beer. GP editor Jeremy Berger tippled quite a few and came away with a good set of recommendations.

Liquid Geography

Around the World in Seven Vodkas

Vodka has recently undergone a renaissance, thanks in part to distillers from around the world who take advantage of native ingredients and traditional distilling methods to put their own unique twists on the drink. These seven from around the globe offer a unique range of flavors and styles.

Tequila with a Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi

Tasting Notes: 1800 Milenio

1800 Milenio represents a departure from the traditional tequila aging process: instead of white oak, 1800 lets the Milenio spend five years in French oak Cognac barrels. Is it a victorious marriage? Si. Or is it oui?

Sampling the Core Expressions

Highland Park 12 to 40 Year Old, We Try Them All

Learning about the process of whisky-making is one reason to take a distillery tour, but we all know that the real name of the game is the post-tour tasting. Any day spent sampling a range of whiskies is a special one in our books. Throw in the chance to try 25-, 30- and 40-year-old expressions, and you've got a once in a lifetime drinking experience.

Finding 'the best whisky in the world' on the Scottish Island of Orkney

True Norse: A Visit to Highland Park Distillery

Highland Park has officially been making whisky in Kirkwall since 1798. The distillery requires no introduction for rabid fans of single malt. F. Paul Pacult, known as one of America’s foremost experts on spirits, heralded the 25 year old expression as the "Best Spirit in the World" in 2013; it's an honor he’s also bestowed on the 18 year old twice before. For more casual imbibers, noting Highland Park’s relationship as the sister distillery to The Macallan generates a good number of nods. Our managing Editor Ben Bowers took the journey to the northern Scottish islands of Orkney to learn first hand how some of the world's finest single malt is made.

Two Experts, Three Cellars, and a Lot of Big Beers

Cellar’s Market: A Guide to Aging Beer

In our own beer cellar, we've got a couple bottles of Brooklyn Black Ops, a Firestone Walker Parabola and a Perennial Abraxus -- all great beers, but we could use a few additions. For some new suggestions, as well as some tips on beer aging, we contacted our friends at The Cannibal NYC, who run extensive cellaring collections, both personally and professionally.

The Quest for Affordable Pappy

Hacking Pappy: An Experiment in Home Whiskey Blending

At night, when bourbon connoisseurs go to bed, many dream of Pappy Van Winkle, a line of three exquisite bourbons (15, 20 and 23 years old, all of them colloquially referred to as "Pappy") distilled and bottled by the Sazerac Company at the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Much of Pappy's legend comes from its high demand: when it's released, liquor stores dust off month-long waiting lists to decide who gets a bottle. At the end of last year, Bourbonr Blog made headlines in the liquor community by posting a recipe for "Poor Man's Pappy," a mix of two mid-range W.L. Weller whiskies that they claim, while not being able to emulate Pappy Van Winkle completely, "comes close." But does the recipe hold up? With $50, a postal scale and a mason jar, we decided to find out for ourselves.

We Test 10 Huge Imperial IPAs

Doubling Down on IPAs

Over the past 20 years, the way to make a double IPA (otherwise known as DIPA or “imperial IPA”) hasn't really changed: roughly double the ingredients that would go into a normal IPA and you get a double IPA. As the weather changes, more and more stores begin cellaring their heavy winter stouts and replacing them with these hop- and malt-forward beasts. For those looking to expand their palates, doubles offer the citrus hop and bready malt flavors of regular IPAs, but amplified, and with plenty more complexity to spare. We tasted ten of our favorites.

Cream of the Cropless

Tasting Notes: Gluten-Free Beer Shootout

A fair amount of people in this country drink gluten-free by necessity, and that's not even counting those who do it by choice. But when you tinker with malt, one of the four main ingredients in beer and the one that activates the autoimmune response in those with celiac disease, does the resulting product still taste like beer? And if so, how does it hold up against more traditional counterparts? To find out, we put ten gluten-free beers to a blind taste test.

Smokeshows

Smoked Beer: Our Favorite Winter Oddity

Because their flavor profiles range from hearty to downright bacon-filled savoriness, Rauchbiers -- especially smoked porters -- are the perfect winter beer, sipped alone or paired with charred meats. Crack one of these five in your living room in front of a roaring fire; if you don't have a fireplace, it won't be hard to imagine one.

Worth another look

Tasting Notes: Wiser’s 18 Year Old

Wiser's is one of the oldest brands in the Great White North, having started life in 1857. While its ownership has changed hands several times, its reputation for quality among the locals has typically remained strong. Wiser’s 18, also sold as Wiser’s Very Old, is a premium offering worth a try for any drinker interested in tasting some of the best Canada has to offer at a reasonable price.

An American Road Trip for a Great American Beer

Off To See The Alchemist: A Quest for the Elusive Heady Topper

From the Archives: On November 9th, we asked K.B. Gould and Henry Phillips to make a fall pilgrimage to the Alchemist Brewery in Waterbury, Vermont. The closing of the brewery's retail operation loomed just days away. The two accepted their assignment: visit the home of Heady Topper, one of the highest-rated beers in the world, to pay homage to its brewmasters, enjoy a taste and a tour and scrounge a rare case. This is the chronicle of their trip.

60, 61, 75, 90, 120, Floor

Tasting Notes: A Profile of the Dogfish Head Minute IPAs

Though Dogfish Head currently produces 33 beers, 65 percent of their sales come from their five "continuously hopped" IPAs -- the 60, Sixty-One, 75, 90 and 120 Minute. We tasted them all, in numerical order, and learned much more about Dogfish Head, and craft beer in general, than we expected.

A Dram of Tam

Tasting Notes: Cutty Sark Whiskies

Founded in 1923, Cutty Sark originally made a name for itself by offering an accessibly priced blended cocktail Scotch. By the 1960s, Cutty Sark produced the best-selling Scotch whisky in the United States; then it disappeared. In 2010, The Edrington Group bought Cutty with hopes of reviving the dying brand. The brand's new line now consists of six whiskies, three of which are available in the United States.

Limited Release, 13-Year-Old Straight Rye Whiskey

Tasting Notes: Lock, Stock & Barrel Rye

Drinking alone gets a bad rap, but there’s having a drink alone and then there’s really drinking alone, getting after it, sitting on a creaky chair the garage with a case of Keystone and no real plans to speak of except to power through it. Be careful with that. But in the first scenario a man reaches beneath his desk around 6:00 p.m., puts The Best of Dean Martin on the phonograph, starts nodding to the music, and pours himself a measure of something good and strong. During a recent six o’clock hour we opened up a bottle of Lock Stock & Barrel ($118) straight rye whiskey -- and it’s just about as smooth and rich as Dino’s voice.

A look inside New York's first ever Bourbon

Tasting Notes: Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey

On a brisk Manhattan morning, we met with Ralph Erenzo of Hudson Whiskey for a taste test. He introduced us to Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey ($45), the first bourbon whiskey ever made in New York, and the first legal pot-distilled whiskey made in New York since prohibition. Made from 100 percent New York corn and aged in American Oak barrels, it proves that not all good bourbon needs to come from the South.

The One Percent

Tasting Notes: L’Artisan Cognac

Evan Yurman, Chief Design Director of his father's jewelry empire, and Nicolas Palazzi, owner of PM Spirits, recently combined their passions to form L'Artisan. The idea behind the brand is to source pure Cognacs from French farmers, many of whom have had it in their cellars since their fathers or grandfathers distilled it decades ago. They just released their first offering, L'Artisan No. 50, and we were lucky enough to have a taste.

No Reason to be Bitter

Tasting Notes: Angostura Rum

The House of Angostura makes the best-known bitters in the world. In fact, with all the press given to Angostura’s bitters, it’s easy to overlook their line of rums, which they've been making for over 100 years. We had a chance to try the three rums in Angostura's premium line -- rums for sipping.

An American Road Trip for a Great American Beer

Off To See The Alchemist: A Quest for the Elusive Heady Topper

On November 9th, we asked K.B. Gould and Henry Phillips to make a fall pilgrimage to the Alchemist Brewery in Waterbury, Vermont. The closing of the brewery's retail operation loomed just days away. Joined by driver Dave Watson, the two accepted their assignment: visit the home of Heady Topper, one of the highest-rated beers in the world, to pay homage to its brewmasters, enjoy a taste and a tour and scrounge a rare case. This is the chronicle of their trip.

The everyman's Champagne

Tasting Notes: Donkey and Goat 2012 Lily’s Cuvée Chardonnay

In that casual game of preference, Would You Rather, we’re often faced with important decisions, like raising a child at 15 or never having kids, or losing a pinky toe or never eating steak again. During one of these games, when asked about giving up beer for eternity, we came to a realization: while undesirable, the parting of ways wouldn't be the end of the world -- and we could do it without becoming a hard-hitting liquor drinker. How? With a lifetime supply of sparkling wine, and specifically, a style of sparkling wine called pétillant naturel. One glass of the 2012 Lily's Cuvée Chardonnay ($28) from California’s Donkey & Goat winery and you’ll know what we’re talking about.

Peat With A Side of Whisky

Tasting Notes: Laphroaig Triple Wood

We happily endorse the lobbyists from the Friends of Laphroaig group who convinced the distillery to bring back their limited edition Laphroaig Triple Wood. In case you didn’t guess from the name, the Triple Wood matures in three different types of cask: American Oak, ex-Bourbon Barrels, 19th Century style Quarter Casks, and European Oak Butts, previously used to hold Oloroso Sherry. All three casks play different but equally important roles in the whisky’s development, and the final result is an incredible flavorful whisky with notes of oak, smoke and peat on the nose, a peaty, charred taste and well-known Islay brine after the finish.

Big beer for Bigfoot

Great Divide Oatmeal Yeti Imperial Stout

Great beers -- really great ones -- have of late fallen into two categories. Big IPAs make their impression with complex hop mixes, while big stouts levy another piece of the puzzle, malt, for a savory warmth of chocolate, toffee, vanilla, smokiness and even bourbon notes. Great Divide Oatmeal Yeti Imperial Stout ($10) comes from a family of "big" beers, but the simple inclusion of rolled oats and some raisins (among a few other tweaks) in its brewing process makes this beast a different breed. This Yeti went to Yale.

Not for pancakes

Tasting Notes: Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon

Fall is upon us, and there's no better way to usher in the cooler months than with a spirit seemingly created in autumn's honor: Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon ($31). To be clear, we've been completely satisfied with the standard Knob Creek 9 Year Straight Bourbon, but expanding whiskey horizons can't be a bad thing. Still, adding flavoring to a solid whiskey can be a risky endeavor. Did Knob Creek gamble and lose by producing something tantamount to being whacked in the face by a maple syrup bottle, or did they win by creating a real bourbon that hums its own tune?

Brown Suede Shoes

Tasting Notes: 10 Barrel/Bluejacket/Stone Suede Imperial Porter

Normally, we like our fruity beers fruity and our dark beers dark, period. But we managed to get our hands on a bottle of 10 Barrel/Bluejacket/Stone Suede Imperial Porter -- which comes in a sexy brown and purple bomber -- before the official October 7th release, and were pleasantly surprised at the result.

Oldies but Goodies

Tasting Notes: Comparing Bowmore’s 12 Years Old and 15 Years Old Darkest

There’s something to be said for a little maturation. Age yields refinement, which more than compensates for lost youth. Poetic, eh? We think so. Anyways, one only has to look at Bowmore’s 12 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky and their 15 Years Old Single Malt Darkest to see the effects of age in action. We tasted both side by side.