Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Review: Roxor Artisan Gin

Color (5%): Water clear, no legs, no oils. 4/5

Nose (10%): Lovely grapefruit notes. The bitter pith and the citrus oils balance quite nicely. There is some spice coming from the juniper. This is 90-proof but it doesn't come off as hot at all. Slight tannic tea notes do appear on the back end. 9/10

Palate (20%): Very clean. Nice and dry. almost no sweetness whatsoever on the tip of the tongue. Reflective of starting with grain-neutral spirit. It takes a second but the citrus oil and spice start dancing in. They make themselves known without being overpowering and offensive. It's a delicate spice for a gin compared to the styles from across the pond. 17/20

Finish (10%): That is dry on the back end. Lots of punch on that first sip especially. though I don't often drink gin neat. A few of those cocoa nibs show their face as those fumes dissipate. Some of the tannic hibiscus notes pop up as well.  7/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): It's been a while since I sipped gin neat. This is quite enjoyable. I'd love to try this with a citrus-forward tonic like Fentiman's. This also would do well in a Collins cocktail. It's easy to see the application of this gin in cocktails across the board really. I'm not sure how it'd work in a martini with some super botanical vermouth or bitters. but with some acid, this plays extremely well with others. 27/30

Retry on Ice (25%): The tea comes out a lot with a bit of ice. The citrus tempers out and some of those earthy notes start to spring forth. You get the pecan nuttiness. This has me reevaluate my thought on cocktail applications. Which flavors do I want to complement through my drink design? The citrus was huge on the nose and when tasted neat but that switches to earth when well chilled. Interesting nuance and evolution. Nice. 23/25

Total Ranking: 87% Legendary, AmazingGreatGood, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $29
Actual Price: $32

Conclusion:  This is a fun little gin that I got to try on a United States Bartender's Guild trip. The New Artisan Distillery is in a cute industrial district and has some charming staff. The head distiller, Robert del Grande, is a James Beard-awarded chef based out of Houston despite the distillery being based just outside of Dallas. The flavor profile is fresh and vibrant. They openly advertise using fresh natural ingredients in their gin and other products rather than relying on chemical extracts and concentrates. The sense of art and design showcased at the distillery and in the bottle design is truly impressive. The skyline building by frank lloyd wright was a clear influence on the bottle design. In terms of the juice, it's quite good. there's a very "American gin" vibe to it, being very citrus-forward and not overly spiced with juniper. This does exceptionally well for its category and it's not overly expensive. The advertisement of real plants seems unnecessary to me. Most small distilleries I tour use raw natural materials as far as I'm aware though I may be a victim of marketing I guess. This reminds me of Bluecoat and a few other American gin brands. If you're a gin drinker I definitely recommend sampling this. Once the bottle is gone I'm not sure if I'll restock but I in no way regret my purchase. I'm wary of overly unique packaging as I know that cost is passed on to me. I like simple unless it's from a brand that is turning out high volumes of bottles that they can buy in bulk. Knock the price down a few dollars and I'd keep this in my rotation of gins. The juice is good. 

Fact Sheet:
Distillery location: Dallas, Texas
ABV: 45%

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Review: Grand Old Parr 12 Year

Color (5%):  Beautiful amber and copper hues. Medium thinning.  4/5

Nose (10%): Honeyed bread predominantly. some medicinal oily notes, nice dry oak at the end. 8/10

Palate (20%): Lots of honey sugars coming through. Medium full-bodied. nice dried fruits and cooked fruits and orange notes. some baking spices, and lots of Christmas cake flavors coming through. Yummy sherry cask finish notes. Not much if any peat but lots of oak heat. 17/20

Finish (10%): Very dry oaky finish compared to the sweet palate. There is a bit of a bite to this. 6/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): This is an oaky whiskey for the price. Possibly too oaky for some but I like it. There's some nice complexity to this blend. honey, cooked fruit, and oak spice. There's a nice evolution as it goes through the mouth. It's not boring and one note, but it's not the craziest this ever. I suppose it is a blend but this has a lot more character than any budget scotch you'll find in the well. 24/30

Retry on Ice (25%): Quite nice actually. The oak shrinks down a little bit, making it softer and easier. the honey strays throughout. the dried fruit gets a little muted but it's still there. This is easy drinking for me. It's not too abrasive at all. 20/25

Total Ranking: 79% Legendary, Amazing, Great, Good, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $24
Actual Price: $27

Conclusion: This product has been around since 1909. It's owned by Diageo and while it doesn't get as much marketing publicity as say Johnnie Walker this is a quality whiskey with quite a few loyal followers. it's widely popular in the U.S. and in Latin America as well as some fans in Japan. I first heard about this whiskey from the anime/manga "Bartender". It's a delicious whiskey for the price. I'm curious to try the 18-year-old. Given this has so much oak I'm curious what six more years in the wood does to it. The oak makes it a bit acrid to the point where I can't see it getting much use in cocktails. I feel like a good drink would have to mute that oak character a bit which would defeat the point of using this. But as a sipping whiskey, this certainly beats out a lot of other blended whiskies at this price point. Give it a go, it's worth the money. I was one point away from calling this amazing, but it's certainly great. 

Fact Sheet:
ABV: 40%
A blend of several distilleries (predominantly Cragganmore), blended and bottled in Leven, Fife

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Review: Clément VSOP Rhum Vieux

Color (5%):  Very light, faint gold honey, no brown at all. Medium thinning at the edges. 4/5

Nose (10%): There's a bit of salt to this. lots of fresh sea air. Sweet notes of butterscotch. The sugar notes are more delicate. Dried fruits and orange marmalade 8/10

Palate (20%): Nice and oily. lots of orange coming through on the back end. nutty, almond, and amaretto notes dance around. Some coconut milk slips in. Creamy butterscotch.  Actually pretty dry in terms of sugar content. It's odd talking about sugary flavors and saying that it's not sweet, but that's how rum works I guess.  17/20

Finish (10%): The heat lingers for quite a while. lots of grassy sugarcane flavor and lots of spice. It's actually pretty dry in terms of sugar content.  7/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): It's been a while since I sipped rum neat. This is quite enjoyable. I bought this for mixing in tiki cocktails, and it certainly is great for that but it's decent on its own. I would like a bit more age on here but it's a tasty gold rum. Lots of complexity, a great body, and a great mouthfeel.   25/30

Retry on Ice (25%): That's really nice. The spices come out a lot more. more punchy all around. All those oils open up to something big. I don't notice anything major being lost. this pops and I want to have this in tiki cocktails.  23/25

Total Ranking: 84% Legendary, AmazingGreatGood, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $44
Actual Price: $36

Conclusion:  If you are seeking out a good rum experience and education you should try this. Rums are broken down into innumerable categories from color to country to age to language to the method of distillation to everything under the sun. Your best rum bartender couldn't narrow down rum into less than 10 categories. There are other rums within similar categories that will do the job in place of this in cocktails but this boy has some depth of character. This will work in fruit-forward tiki drinks and in rum old-fashioned cocktails. This with just lime juice and sugar will make a tremendous daiquiri.

I like an agricole, it has a serious earthy pure taste. It feels like nothing is hidden or masked. It's easy to find an application for this rum but I can't give it a perfect score. I can't think of a rum that beats this one out in terms of friendliness and versatility for the cost but it'll never be the best option for my own applications for certain cocktails. If I was building a cocktail menu I'd opt for cheaper rums for my builds, but If you want to explore the rum cocktail world this is a great investment that will meet so many of your needs. If you haven't tried it yet, buy it. Buy it early on. You will probably find a different rum that you will like a bit better for your own applications, be it neat or in cocktails, but this is a great benchmark to start at and developed a frame of reference from. I'm happy to have this on my shelf, it's an easy teaching rum. If you think you can be a mentor/guide for someone into the rum world, you should have this. 

Fact Sheet:
Country: Martinique
ABV: 40%

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Review: Willett Family Estate Bottled Small Batch Rye

Color (5%):  Medium amber, dark honey, hay hues. medium thinning at the edges. 3/5

Nose (10%):  You can smell this one from 5 feet away. It is potent and the rye is sharp. There are notes of pine and a good amount of oak. crisp caramel sugars dance with apple and toffee. The rye is there and you do get some of that deli rye bread scent. 8/10

Palate (20%): Big dried fruit notes on the back end. Lots of raisin characteristics almost like a port wine. there's a menthol character and with the high alcohol, it almost feels like Vic's on your tongue. That sounds worse than it is. Slight green tea feels. lots of green and purple. Very dry, with very little sugar, and tiny honey notes before the botanicals and spice kick in. 14/20

Finish (10%): The alcohol is definitely there. The menthol and botanical notes fade into a bit of black pepper spice and toasted barley. Medium length. 7/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): This took some getting used to but I don't mind it. There's some complexity but for an over-proof whiskey, I prefer a bit more mellowness. This booze is hot. This brand makes some great bourbon but this is pretty rough. I wouldn't call it anything too special. The age statement is pretty standard and I might actually want it to have more oak and char. It's got lots of flavors but no real sense of harmony. 21/30

Retry on Ice (25%): The menthol stays the dominant note here. A bit more fruit starts to poke its head out. There are notes of citrus. I still want more oak. mild improvement from neat but not much really changes.  20/25

Total Ranking: 73% Legendary, Amazing, GreatGood, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $42
Actual Price: $55

Conclusion: I think this is just okay. As I said before the bourbon these guys make is great but this is a pretty rough rye. It's an experiment that they slapped their branding unto. There's an upcharge for the name brand. Honestly, there isn't much of a market for overproof rye whiskeys. Knob Creek or even Russell's Reserve / Wild Turkey beat this guy out in my book, especially for a rocks serve. If it's available, it's worth a try, but this will probably sit on my shelf for a while. 

Fact Sheet: 
ABV: 54.9% (varies batch to batch)
Mashbill: A blend of Willett high rye mashbill (74% rye, 11% corn, 15% malted barley) with the Willett low rye mashbill (51% rye, 34% corn, 15% malted barley)
Aged 4 years
Distilled at Willett Distillery, Bardstown, Kentucky 

Monday, March 27, 2023

Review: Smoke Wagon Uncut the Younger Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Color (5%):  Faint amber, dark honey, hay hues. Lots of thinning at the edges. 3/5

Nose (10%):  Powdered sugar candy sweetness. Dried apricot, light sweet cinnamon. rye spice reminds me of that dense Christmas fruitcake or panettone. Alcohol is very present, naturally. 8/10

Palate (20%): That is a complex, hot whiskey. A delicate honey sweetness starts you off which gets a bit darker. Lots of cooked fruit, roasted apples, and pears. Not a lot of oak when compared to the other two smoke wagons I've tried, the Small Batch and the standard Straight Bourbon. There's a fair bit of botanical flavor filling that oaky void. There's a mint characteristic to it. Very nice thick texture. 18/20

Finish (10%): The alcohol is there but you get used to it. There's a subdued sweetness and mild cinnamon spice given from the relatively high rye content. Spice usually gets brought out by the roasted toasted oak but we don't have that oak here so the spice stays relatively mild when compared to other bourbons in this category. 7/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): This took some getting used to but I do properly like it. It's complex and it shifts on you as you acclimate to it. The booze hits hard but you slowly pick out loads of different flavors from all over the place. A minty whiskey is interesting to me. I want to try this in some version of a Manhattan, probably a dry or a perfect variation. Honestly, I don't love over-oaked bourbons and this certainly doesn't fall into that pitfall. The alcohol is undeniable. Have water on hand.   27/30

Retry on Ice (25%): The botanical finish really comes out even more, reinforcing how I want to try this in a spirit-forward cocktail. The sweetness remains pretty mild, possibly even less mild which is unusual. The rye spices fade to mild from their medium intensity before. Honestly, it's a bit bland after trying it neat. 21/25

Total Ranking: 84% Legendary, AmazingGreatGood, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $52
Actual Price: $42

Conclusion: Smoke Wagon admits to sourcing most if not all of its whiskey from MGP. Unfortunately, Smoke Wagon was too successful for its own good and the demand has begun to overtake the supply. The juice that is Smoke Wagon's mash bill is starting to become scarce. So to meet the market they've started putting out a younger product under their banner. This is a tasty whiskey that they should be proud of but if you ordered something called Smoke Wagon and got this you'd be upset. I understand that this is their younger version but if this was your first experience with the brand you'd be confused. That said, if you got this in a flight this would be a really interesting component and likely would be a few people's favorite. For an over-proof whiskey at this price point, this is a really good deal. If you are a smoke and oak lover this isn't for you, but it is for me. I'm not sure I'd sip this neat regularly as a part of my rotation but it's worth sampling.

Fact Sheet: 60% Corn, 36% Rye, 4% Malted Barley
Distillery Location: Las Vegas, Nevada H&C Distilling Co
Aged a minimum of 39 months
ABV: 58.11%

Friday, March 24, 2023

Review: Smoke Wagon Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Color (5%):  Dark amber, faint copper. quite a bit of thinning at the edges. 4/5

Nose (10%):  nice sweet vanilla caramel notes, somewhat creamy, reminds me of a cow tail or one of those gotze's caramel cream candies. alcohol is certainly more present than their standard straight bourbon. there's a faint peppery spice if you look for it but the sweetness is much more noticeable. 7/10

Palate (20%): Not much initial sweetness but it does come through in the mid-palate. Very roasted back end, with notes of dark coffee. Heavy rye spice for a bourbon. Intense peppercorn, manageable, but intense. certainly not for beginners but certainly good for someone with a little experience.  17/20

Finish (10%): This starts mild and slowly builds and builds. dry oak and leather start us off before that rye spice takes over. That's a lot of rye heat. The flavor is there even for a 100-proof bourbon. There's a bit of sweetness poking its head through but it is a big wall of spice. 7/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): This is an intense, bonded whiskey. I typically don't care for overproof high rye whiskeys. but there is a soft sweetness layered through this spirit. This I typically wouldn't pair with most foods, maybe a robust cigar. It's a bit over-spiced by my standards, likely to the rapid aging in the Nevada heat. This style of rapid aging has become more and more common, with a lot of Texas distilleries taking similar approaches. As any Scotsman will tell you "There is no substitute for time." I prefer their softer version, I find it has a bit more evolution on the tongue. 22/30

Retry on Ice (25%): Ice again really brings out the sweetness on the nose and mutes those boozy notes. I do think that ice helps the drinkability of this one. With ice, this could pair with a steak au poivre or a lamb curry. Ice mutes the flavor to a level of intensity I prefer. The finish smoothes out to a softer bell curve of intensity rather than a harsh spike. 22/25

Total Ranking: 79% Legendary, AmazingGreatGood, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $60
Actual Price: $52

Conclusion: This is a very good medium-tier bourbon. That $45-70 range has some fierce contenders like Four Roses and Elijah Craig. This holds up as a rye-forward bourbon. It's certainly worth sampling and I'm sure it'll make a few people's top ten lists, just not mine,. High spice and alcohol bite aren't my go-to sippers, but it was nice over ice. As I said before, it's an irony that this brand is sought after by hoarders and collectors. Its slogan "Bibamus Moriendum Est" means "Drink, for we must die". Yet, so many bottles from this award-winning distillery will just end up gathering dust on some collector's shelf. If you find this bottle, open it, try it, and share it with friends. If you like it, get it again, if not, let someone else give it a chance. 

Fact Sheet: 60% Corn, 36% Rye, 4% Malted Barley
Distillery Location: Las Vegas, Nevada H&C Distilling Co.
ABV: 50%

Review: Smoke Wagon Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Color (5%):  light caramel, to golden hay hues. Medium thinning at the edges. 4/5

Nose (10%):  nice toasted aroma. Lovely punchy oak, light sweetness, not too much alcohol burn in the nose. feels like a heavy age statement though going off the color I assume it's fairly young. 8/10

Palate (20%): toffee caramel sugars immediately hit the tip of the tongue and wash over bringing warm spices and soft vanilla. Much less toasted oak than comes through on the nose. Mild warming baking spices, nutmeg. Very clean mouthfeel, not quite creamy, but certainly not thin. Not oily despite being non-chill filtered, but there's certainly a viscosity. complex, elegant, I like it. 19/20

Finish (10%): The finish is quite mild. As it passes down the throat there's a very quick punch of spice which fades quickly and lingers actually quite a long duration. It must be that nice rye content. 8/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): This is a very layered and nuanced whiskey. The flavor changes in the mouth from beginning to end. You can see why it has earned so many accolades and is so sought after in the whiskey-collecting community. The other bourbons in the Smoke Wagon's portfolio are a bit higher proof but this does not come off as muted or over-diluted. This is an excellent sipping whiskey. I first had this at a lunch over texas barbeque and it was exquisite. I may have had some rose-tinted glasses on given the scarcity of the product but my family seemed to agree on its quality without having any background information. 27/30

Retry on Ice (25%): Ice brings out the sweetness on the nose and masks a lot of those roasted flavors I was getting on my initial impression. Ice mutes the flavor a little bit but not by much. It didn't really need softening any particular harsh edges. The finish stays punchy. 23/25

Total Ranking: 89% Legendary, AmazingGreatGood, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $48
Actual Price: $30

Conclusion: This is a very good bourbon for the price point. By my standards, it certainly beats out common brands at similar price points, like Bulleit. An irony of this brand is that it's sought after by hoarders and collectors. Its slogan "Bibamus Moriendum Est" means "Drink, for we must die". Yet, so many bottles from this award-winning distillery will just end up gathering dust on some collector's shelf. Drink this whiskey, consider that an order.

Fact Sheet: 60% Corn, 36% Rye, 4% Malted Barley
Distillery Location: Las Vegas, Nevada H&C Distilling Co.
ABV: 46.25%