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
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
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.
A new expression from Johnnie Walker
Johnnie Walker presents a good lesson in the way the world really works: the rich drink Blue, the working man drinks Red, and in between there are rungs on the ladder of purchasing power. If you can make it to Double Black, you might just be able to claw your way into a bottle of Johnnie Walker Platinum Label ($110), now available in the United States.
It's the end of the world (as we know it)
Seventeen years is a long time to experiment. That’s evident in Stone’s 17th Anniversary Götterdämmerung IPA, a beer with a name that means “the twilight of the gods” (in this case, meaning “the end of the world”) and shares its title with a Wagner opera. This nomenclature lends an impression of serious clout, and in many ways it’s warranted.
Small batch, big pleasures
Asking us to choose between whiskey (bourbon) and whisky (single malt scotch) is like posing the question, “Would you prefer to drive a C2 Corvette Split Window or a Jaguar E-Type?” The answer is always “both and yes.” But if you’re a single malt devotee, you’d do right to expand your taste horizons, and the best way to experiment with bourbon is to go small batch — the complexities are pleasing, and you’ll find yourself a worshiper in many different temples. There’s a lot to love. Here are tasting notes on our five favorite small batch bourbons worth warming your palate.
A Capitol Brew
DC has its downsides. It’s not a state. Traffic is depression inducing. The city is built on a swamp and has the clime to match. The poor folks who reside there have to deal with the assholes who run our country. But add to the list of good things (it really is a long list, despite our recent pessimism) DC Brau, the home-town brewery for our nation’s capitol, which besides this one, has surprisingly little beer to offer. We recently got a chance to try all three of their flagship brews.
There’s nothing like a bottle beach plum liqueur to conjure even totally made up memories of summering on the Atlantic coast. The only such spirit with a commercial release? Greenhook Ginsmiths Beach Plum Gin Liqueur ($50), made in Brooklyn, NY, by the young distillery whose American Dry Gin we’ve also sampled.
Same country, new port
Pike Creek Whiskey was available stateside in the 90s. Slow sales soon put the importation experiment to an end, despite a budding cult following. Now, Pernod Ricard is reintroducing the spirit back to select American markets. Unlike typical Canadian whiskies, Pike Creek is finished in Port barrels, and left at the mercy of the elements in unheated warehouses. But is it really a different? Read our full review to find out.
Full body, full wallet(?)
You know the pinnacle of wine-making remains in France. Well, so do all those newly minted Chinese millionaires, and they’ve driven the price of Old World red wines sky high. This is especially true for top-end Bordeaux, which carry the highest cache among French wines. Those of us without a state-sponsored fortune, trust fund, or impending Wall Street bonus, however, have to look elsewhere for quality wine. Here are two splurge-caliber choices, made in the same style, of the same grape — merlot — though one comes without the inflation of appellation.
Canadian flag, Caribbean taste
Angel’s Envy’s latest creation, a rye whiskey finished in Caribbean rum barrels, supposes to pair a contrasting set of spirit flavors. We take a few sips and find out for ourselves.
Our first delicious encounter with home brewing
All of our tasting notes to date have been focused on commercially available spirits, beers and wines. Recently, Sam Shipley of Shipley & Halmos fame invited us to try his latest batch of home brew, created in collaboration with Allison Sires of Thomas Sires. This BITTER A.S.S.S BEER is an English-style IPA and damn delicious. Our resident beer aficionado Chris Wright approached the subject in a slightly more intelligent manner.
A voyage to Midleton Distillery in Cork County, Ireland
There’s a published sociologist somewhere who said integration is the key to acceptance. Maybe we’re just paraphrasing Costner’s journal in Dances with Wolves. Regardless of who penned it, whisk(e)y makes a convincing case for the theory. Various cultures, united by their admiration of the caramel liquid’s charms, have each honed their own rituals for conjuring the spirit — and we, the imbibing people, have reaped the benefits of these diverse forms of worship.
Irish whiskey is one tradition that many beyond the Emerald Isle scarcely know, despite the island’s profound role in molding the drink into the revered male favorite it has become. But this wasn’t always the case. At the height of its glory, the product of Ireland’s distilleries was once the favored drink of the British empire, and its most notable ambassador, Jameson, was the world’s favorite whiskey. What happened next reads like a lost Dumas manuscript, complete with revolution, religion and economic turmoil all ending in the drink’s unjust imprisonment. The good news for drinkers is that after patiently biding its time for well over a century, the era of Irish whiskey’s redemption is finally arriving, and it’s easy to spot if you know where to look.
Good tequila? Aqui
Last Cinco de Mayo you ended up in the gutter with an extra-large sombrero shading your bloodshot eyes. Ready to grow up a bit for this year’s celebration? May we recommend Qui tequila ($57), sipped straight while you fight the waves of heartburn your taco feast brings on.
If you can't beat 'em (in soccer), join 'em
With Brazil coming into dominance on a world scale in preparation for its 2012 Olympics and World Cup hosting job, it only makes sense that some Carnival culture would find its way into our borders. But cachaça? What is exactly is that stuff? In short, it’s Brazil’s most popular distilled alcoholic beverage, a cousin of rum made from fermented sugarcane juice rather than molasses. Leblon’s Maison Leblon Reserva Especial ($28) refines the liquor’s raw power through a two-year aging process in Limousin French Oak Barrels.
An hour wasn't enough
What’s big and floral and more hopped up than a GP editor after the Fortnight of Coffee? The continuously-hopped 60 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head, of course. And now the Delaware brewery has combined that beer with syrah grape must to make the first new foamer in its core lineup since 2007: Dogfish Head Sixty-One ($9), available this month.
Tequila's lunatic cousin
It’s been a while since we rode the mezcal train, so let’s begin with a brief primer. Actually, let’s begin with a shot. Good. Now, on to the primer. Mezcal and tequila are sort of like langoustines and prawns: we’d bet a shiny nickel they’re different, but if pressed for an explanation we’d have to say they both basically taste like shrimp. Sombra Mezcal ($40) is made by baking the agave hearts in a conical pit lined with rocks that have been heated with an oak fire — and its earthy, spicy taste is a great one to throw back.
It is, so you don't have to be
Vodka: The purest spirit. Oddly enough, it causes some of the most unpure activity we know about. Purity Vodka won’t set the vice-ridden straight, but it will give them something to deeply enjoy as they go on their merry, sinning way. Boasting a talented master blender, an intense distilling process, a very unique home base and a whole bunch of awards, the Swedish-produced Vodka offers up a drink that bridges the gap between affordability and connoisseur-level quality.
A bubbly worthy of Bond
The truth is, we’ve never sipped an ounce of champagne from this silencer-inspired bottle of Bollinger 002 for 007 Limited Edition Champagne (~$160), which opens only when the code “007″ is entered into the gimmicky combination lock. But we have been fortunate enough to taste this particular vintage of Bollinger La Grande Année 2002 once…
Grab your booze by the horns with two classic beef cocktails
The Beef Council successfully hijacked America’s dinner plans in the early 90s with one simple phrase. Now, we’re executing a hostile takeover of your bar with just two simple words: “beef drinks”. Yeah, you heard us — that same intoxicating meat flavor that works wonders on your taste buds at mealtime is just as delicious…
Moonshine is dangerous: for backwoods brewers, the lawmen chasing them (whom we imagine as bumbling Sheriff Roscoes) and for your sobriety. Palmetto Moonshine, South Carolina’s first legal moonshine distillery, claims to deliver a hooch that tastes less like jet fuel and more like fine liquor. We were skeptical. Don’t get us wrong — the stuff…
Double barreled flavors
The gentle chill of early fall spurs dreams of crackling fires, wool blankets and some good single malt Scotch. To fulfill that last desire, we looked to The Balvenie’s latest release, DoubleWood 17 Year Old. Created by Malt Master (what a title) David Stewart, DoubleWood is aged in vanilla-imparting oak casks for 17 years and…
No salt required
Mariposa is the Spanish word for butterfly, and for Heaven Hill Distilleries’ (makers of Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, Rittenhouse Rye and yes, Hpnotiq) it’s also a new brand designed to flutter around Mexico’s exclusive international right to the name “Tequila”, which can only be applied to agave spirits made in the areas in and around…
Single Down South
Smoked whiskey isn’t usually America’s cup o’hooch but that doesn’t mean braver distillers won’t try their hand at it. Corsair Artisan Distillery plies their hand at the smoked flavor palate with their newest whiskey, Triple Smoke Single Barrel American Malt.Crafted from malted barley smoked by three different flavor fuels including cherry wood, peat and beechwood,…
Product of Canada, eh?
Mixing two famous Canadian products such as rye whiskey and maple syrup may seem crazy at first, but the result is far from it. Tap 357 Maple Rye Whiskey is the culmination of a match made in heaven, a perfect blend of various aged rye whiskeys ranging from 3 to 7 years and fresh, “Grade…
Copperhead road never imagined this one
White Mule Farms had us hooked at “wine with a kick.” Spodee ($9+) combines prohibition history — one of our favorite eras — with a witch’s brew of flavors that does pretty well to defy genre and description. Its makers call it depression era hooch, but even they admit it’s a drink shrouded in secrecy;…
Throughout the ages, explorers have embraced a shared passion besides venturing into the unknown. Whiskey. Now the story behind this Park City based whiskey may not involve stories of crusading into the unknown, but it does involve a fortuitous encounter with a dessert of ripe honeydew drizzled with simmering peated whiskey and sugar. Lightbulb. Why…
Rockin' good bourbon
In the single barrel bourbon space, the Buffalo Trace Distillery is at the top of our list for their variety of well-made, accessible and just generally great bourbons. Their Blanton’s Bourbon gets most of the shelf space — and for good reason, it’s delicious — but our current single barrel favorites in the Buffalo Trace…