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Staff Favorites - Mahon McGrath
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1991 Cambus 21 Year Old K&L Exclusive Signatory Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Grain Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 10-11-2013
Citrus and orange peel show up prominently in the nose, set against cracker-ish baked grain, and spice that seems to be pulling in a caraway-dill direction. While the palate is more linear than what you'd expect from a malt, the age shows in the intensity of flavor here, and it has plenty of easy-going charm, with more bright fruit, and a gentle dusting of powdery vanilla.
2011 Stolpman "Estate" Santa Ynez Valley Syrah
Review Date: 8-31-2013
An enveloping bouquet of meaty, peppery, charcoal intensity in the 2011 Stolpman Syrah finds a pretty floral lift. Tart berry and plum flavors, with a suggestion of hot asphalt, come through on this medium-full bodied wine, before it finishes long, bright, and fresh, with negligible tannins, and considerable suavity.
2011 Gritsch "Axpoint" Gruner Veltliner Federspiel Wachau
Review Date: 8-21-2013
The Gritsch Axpoint shows a full, rich, character from start to wide, glycerol finish. Aromas of star fruit, talc, and tangerine lead into a palate of beeswax, blossom, and orange, while a subtle, bitter under current adds an enlivening contrast. With its bold, but not heavy, personality, this would be a good match for richer white wine fare. The relative intensity of flavor at this price point marks it as a particular value.
1993 Domaine du Miquer K&L Exclusive Bas Armagnac 750ml
Review Date: 8-5-2013
Conjures up an a evocative compromise between light cigar tobacco, dried flowers, fruit cake, baking spice, new leather, licorice, and dusty vanilla. A wonderfully layered Armagnac, this has a tremendous length and concentration, while simultaneously keeping a certain lightness and refinement. Following its evolution in the glass is pure pleasure; with so much going on, it never strikes you exactly the same way twice.
Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe Fino En Rama Jerez de la Frontera
Review Date: 7-8-2013
I knew something was afoot when this new Sherry hit our shelves and our customer's immediately started scooping it up, with no encouragement from the staff. Having since tried it myself, I can tell you it was no fluke! There is more of everything in this Fino: insensity, length, flavor, and complexity. Dominated by a strongly flinty character, this also gives up flavors of lemon juice, brine, fungus, and, ever so faintly on the back end, toasted nuts. This is a great buy for dry Sherry fans; get it while you can!
2010 Couly Dutheil "Baronnie Madeleine" Chinon
Review Date: 6-29-2013
This wine foregrounds close knit scents of lentil, tobacco and currant leaf at present, with darker fruit character lurking in the rear. Lighter bodied, this yet has good intensity of flavor. Despite being a little firm and closed in on the finish, it offers no serious impediment to near term enjoyment for those who aren't inclined to wait for the much supple drink it will become a few years down the road. That that evolution is something worth waiting for I can attest to: older vintages from this producer I've had the chance to sample have all been wonderful.
2012 Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc
Review Date: 5-13-2013
With summer a short ways off, this crisp, affordable Sauvignon Blanc answers the call of warm days and backyard grilling parties, picnics, and the like. Light and refreshing, with green melon, citrus, and a dash of herbs, this could either make a good foil to, say, grilled shrimp, or serve as a nice, straightforward, juicy, "cocktail" wine.
James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Rye Whiskey 750ml
Review Date: 4-29-2013
Surprisingly sweet and round, with lemon, mandarin peel, and pine contrasting toasted almond, marshmallow, and vanilla, there is a solid depth of flavor here for a two year old rye. That being said, if you plan to make a Manhattan or some similar creation, go with a lighter sweet vermouth and be chary with it. I find this works best for my palate in cocktails with just a few small additions. As an aside, it is refreshing to see that the bottle's legend freely admits to the whiskey being from sourced barrels, while the label's own distillates are coming of age.
Old Forester Bourbon 86 Proof 750ml
Review Date: 4-29-2013
Not every whiskey needs to be pondered. Sometimes, you just want something enjoyable that you can splash liberally about. For under twenty dollars, this delivers. Robust without being heavy, this Bourbon ranges from dried fruit, crème anglais, pecan and nougat, through to cinnamon, allspice, and cedar. While you could nit-pick this or that aspect, overall, I find this quite easy to enjoy just on its own, straight up. Nicely done!
Plymouth Navy Strength Gin 750ml
Review Date: 11-4-2012
It had been bruited about that such a creature as “navy strength” Plymouth gin existed, or once had, and here in the midst of the great cocktail revival, where many a long-lost dream comes true, it once more graces these shores. If you’re familiar with Plymouth gin, there are no great surprises in store for you here; which is just fine. Why mess with success? The Navy Strength bottling is simply a brawnier version of the classic Plymouth taste. When this is, for instance, mixed up simply 1:1 gin to vermouth(Noilly Prat), no garnish, as a Wondrich reprint of an early 1850's San Francisco Gibson recipe suggests, this is a fabulous drink, and one in which a standard proof just wouldn't cut it. With the Navy Stength, you can taste the gin’s presence clearly and distinctly. An excellent addition to the canon!
Kina L'Avion D'Or Aperitif 750ml
Review Date: 10-8-2012
Does Kina l’Avion d’Or replace Lillet? Not exactly; more like compliments Lillet. While you can have a glass of Lillet all by itself, L’Avion is much too sweet for such a maneuver. The bitterness is also, correspondingly, more pronounced in the l’Avion d’Or, though it is still only moderately bitter. What is different is the scope. It would be more correct to say that it has an array of bitter flavors. When mixing, those flavors and l’Avion’s over-all robustness really stand out when you substitute this in a cocktail in place of Lillet. I think you might even find you want to adjust your proportions accordingly to take that into account. The fact that this is so clearly its own creature is to be commended, and provides plenty of room for the imagination to invent new drinks as well as showing established recipes in a different light.
Tempus Fugit Creme de Menthe 750ml
Review Date: 9-4-2012
I admit, I had my doubts. While a devoted fan of the sweetly aromatic, cooling smell of fresh mint, any attempt to capture that essence always seems to me to come up short. This liqueur comes about as close as I reckon you can. It doesn’t, naturally, take the place of fresh mint in cocktails; as much as it is true to the flavor, it is best considered as its own creature. It mixes splendidly, especially in gin drinks, where the juniper and the crème de menthe get together and execute a sort of cool tango on your tongue, and in a way that muddled sprigs wouldn't. So, yeah, I'm a convert: this is well worth checking this out.
Byrrh Grand Quinquina Aperitif 750ml
Review Date: 9-4-2012
What sort of aperitif is this? I'd liken it more to Dubonnet than sweet Vermouth, though it has a brighter, fresher berry-fruit character to Dubonnet's plush, bass heavy profile, and a more pronounced bitterness as a counterpoint. Note, though, that this is skewed more towards the sweet than the bitter, and therefore seems to me to suggest it wants dilution of some sort, whether passively by serving it over ice, or through mixing: dust off your copy of the Savoy Cocktail book for a few suggestions on how to get started if that latter course strikes your fancy.
Leopold Bros Navy Strength Gin 750ml
Review Date: 8-3-2012
As noted, this is NOT the same creature as the Leopold Bros small batch gin. At first, you might think it bears no resemblance; the aromatic profile is markedly different and I don't think anybody would want to sip this as is. What happens, though, when you mix it, is that that recognizable Leopold's suppleness of texture comes out. True, the botanicals here sing out clearly even when you are mixing it 1:1:1, but it still comes across more polished than savage, with the result that you can more easily plug this into a wide variety of recipes with excellent results.
Leopold Bros Orange Liqueur 750ml
Review Date: 6-19-2012
Ever notice the way things can seem to recede from you apace with the attention you give to them? What seems a solid, known quantity or concept—a river, say—can be, depending on where you observe it from, both a bubbling spring on down to a many branched, meandering delta, and so is not one thing but many things. And even observing the portion that accords with the more straight forward conception of “river” is, itself, is up for question: where it is can shift drastically, and what it is, too: spring’s rush to fall’s hush, never exactly the same, as the old saw goes, twice. If there is a fault, it owes not so much to our perception and experience as to the limitation inherent in creating an idea of, and a name for, a phenomena or process both varied and fluxional. “What the heck does this all this have to do with orange liqueur!?” I can hear you wondering. Well, where once there was but Cointreau and Grand Marinier at the top, in recent years, the narrow scope of high-quality sweetened spirits flavored with oranges has burst its banks and proliferated considerably. You have at once recreations of historic recipes as well as re-imaginings with different spirit bases, or, as in this case, different oranges, specifically bergamot here. Considering the ongoing popularity of Earl Grey tea, and the ubiquity of bergamot as a component in perfumery, I’d say the Leopold Bros decision to include bergamot in the recipe for their orange liqueur constitutes a very sage twist on the Curacao tradition. While the aroma and flavor is distinctive, it is not so far removed from traditional preparations that it cannot be profitably put to use in cocktail recipes calling for triple sec, etc. If it is not the one orange liqueur everyone must have, I nevertheless heartily recommend it both as a tasty, finely crafted spirit and as a ingenious expansion of the possibilities of the genre’s boundaries, a welcome additional texture to the multiplicity of expressions the concept of orange liqueur is capable of.
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