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Staff Favorites - Mahon McGrath
Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Champagne
Review Date: 05-27-2015
The key feature of this Champagne is, for me, the completeness. You get a little bit of everything, without an excess of anything. We have other non-vintage brut Champagnes that hit this or that mark well, but few that tie it all together so convincingly. Flavor wise, there’s fresh bread yeastiness, with just a slightly toasty aspect, citrus, and an underlying sense of minerality. The wine has good intensity, yet never takes it over the edge into the realm of the rich and robust, keeping a trimmer profile, and maintaining its vibrancy. Taste this once, and you’ll next thought will be to wonder whether you had the forethought to buy a second bottle.
2014 Domaine des Côtes Blanches Sancerre Rosé
Review Date: 05-18-2015
The soft texture of Pinot Noir is here lain on top of a slight mineral rasp, and a brisk, prickling acidity, to delightful effect. Lemon-lime flavors, with fresh herb shadings, and wet rocks are joined to just a suggestion of the sweeter, berry fruit side of the rose spectrum in this wine. The sense of focus somehow concentrates the relatively delicate range of flavors in this rose into a precision beam that hits your palate with more force than might be expected.
2014 Domaine Les Pins Bourgueil Rosé
Review Date: 05-18-2015
This pretty Bourgueil rose boasts citrus, petrichor, and a delicate suggestion of florality in the aromatics. On the palate, the ruby grapefruit notes segue into a hint of peppery lentil before concluding with a lip-smacking finish. While I’d class this as one of those roses that appear solidly “dry”, it is not at all austere, just not flamboyant (well, the color excepted!) or candied, and at eleven dollars, it’s a steal!
2013 Ermacora Pinot Grigio Colli Orientali del Friuli
Review Date: 05-18-2015
Ermacora’s Pinot Grigio is a happy, easy going generalist. There is just enough acidity here to keep things fresh, though this is not a wine to make the insides of your cheeks meet in the middle of your mouth from the pucker, and so it is equally at home on the dinner table or all on its lonesome. The flavors of waxy apple, lemony spice, and orange blossom honey not extravagant, but you don’t have to go looking for them, either. Keep a few bottles of this versatile wine chilled in the 'fridge’, and you’ll be prepared for many, if not all, vinous situations.
Bellussi Prosecco di Valdobbiadene
Review Date: 05-15-2015
Sweetly citric; more orange-y than lemon/lime, with a bit of crisp apple, this prosecco still cleaves to the drier end of the spectrum. The texture is almost the most salient feature to my mind: the mousse is generous, but oh-so-soft, and provides a wonderful frame for the gentle suggestion of sweetness implicit in the wine’s flavors. The only thing that will bring you up short is finding yourself at the bottom of the bottle.
2014 Domaine des Côtes Blanches Sancerre
Review Date: 05-04-2015
Lemon-lime, green plum, wet rock, tomato leaf on the nose leads to a focused, citric-driven palate with echoes of the aromatics that appear on the nose. Lots of vim and vigor here, and a less deep shade of green than some Sancerres get up to, this can do duty as a cocktail wine in addition to pairing well with a wide variety of foods.
2013 TWR (Te Whare Ra) Pinot Noir Marlborough
Review Date: 04-30-2015
Both the nose and the palate here bear evidence of the earthy, woodsy side of Pinot Noir. Roast beet mingles with cherry and dry brush on the nose, while the palate takes that cherry aspect and adds cocoa powder, earth, and more forest floor notes. The tannins are light, and the wine has an acidic profile, keeping this Pinot Noir lively.
2010 Soluve Chianti Classico Riserva
Review Date: 04-30-2015
The 2010 Soluve commences with balsamic notes, with a hint of anise, and dried cherry. The cherry fruit, while still dried, really comes holographically alive on the palate, where it is joined to tobacco, tar, and sandalwood. The tannins and acidity are well concealed within the wine’s over-all volume, making this an easy-drinking Chianti Classico Riserva for immediate enjoyment.
2013 Weingut Allram "Papageno" Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) Kamptal
Review Date: 04-24-2015
Apple blossom, lemon verbena, pea shoots, tangerine and meyer lemon scents emerge from the glass as you swirl this Austrian Pinot Blanc. “Emerge” doesn’t quite do it justice; there is a bodacious richness to the aromatics here. This firms up a bit on the palate, with the weight and flesh snapped into line by high acidity. Pleasantly juicy, there is just a wisp of something like almond/hazelnut-y lurking on the margins, before it finishes clean and fresh. If you like Chardonnay’s power, but are burned out on oak and butter, this Weissburgunder could be your lifeline.
2012 Joël Taluau "Le Vau Jaumier" St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil
Review Date: 04-22-2015
Earthy, spicy, and dry describes the aromatics in the 2012 Le Vau Jaumier. Lentil scents get seasoned with paprika and black pepper, with cassis lingering demurely in the background, on the nose, run towards flavors of grilled eggplant and dusty fruit on the palate, before finishing with a reprise of the initial peppery notes. Modest tannins make this easy to drink now, and I’d say this is a must-try for anyone looking for an inexpensive, and emphatically dry red wine, whose character is driven neither by fruit nor oak.
2010 Von Hövel Oberemmeler Hütte Riesling Spätlese
Review Date: 04-20-2015
The Oberemmeler Hutte Spatlese leads with what appears at first to be an intensely petrol note. As you continue to sniff, however, it begins to resolve more in the direction of some hypothetical eau de parfum of wet rock. Besides this, there is a wealth of spice, bracing lemon, and honey and stone fruit. After this initial impact and drama, the palate is a halcyon idyll, with spice, and light quince-like notes that have a gossamer translucency to them. The impression is aided, no doubt, by the wine being more robustly acidic than it is ripe and sweet. The wine has already seemed to change, judging by what the published critical notes circa 2012 reveal, and will continue to evolve for many years to come, though it is more a question of how patient you are, than one of waiting for perfection: it already has charm to spare.
2013 Von Strasser "Rudy" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 04-17-2015
Ripe plum, gravel, charcoal, and an ethereal vanilla note all feature in the profile of the 2013 Rudy Cabernet Sauvignon. Medium bodied and juicy, this vintage has slightly higher tannins than the previous one, but is still remains moderate overall. A light cedar note rounds out the roast plum that comes out on the finish.
2012 Antech "Cuvée Eugenie" Cremant de Limoux
Review Date: 04-06-2015
Pretty lemon-lime-tangerine notes meet up with yeasty, fresh baked bread on the nose of the Eugenie. The initial vigor of the effervescence is pleasantly belied by the fineness of the mousse here, before the wine settles down to clean, light toasty flavors and a suggestion of something like sweet-tarts. Still one of the best deals going in inexpensive bubbly, this Cremant can easily go toe-to-toe with any sparkling wine in this price range, from any location, and win.
2013 Weingut Allram Grüner Veltliner (1L)
Review Date: 04-06-2015
Green melon, crisp apple, and wet pavement come through on the nose. While fresh and crisp, this wine’s acidity is buffered by its mid-palate weight, and so does not come across as austere. Gregarious and easy going, this is, as ever, a superb everyday white, and inexpensive enough to pour with relative abandon. Invite it to your next backyard b.b.q., take it with you on your next picnic; it can be your boon companion whenever and wherever the services of a good, thirst-quenching white wine is called for.
2013 Ermacora Pinot Bianco Colli Orientali del Friuli
Review Date: 03-30-2015
Aromas of lemon and wet sand start this Pinot Bianco off in a precise and steely vein. The first impression is belied, however, by the mid-palate, which does have a little roundness to it, with flavors of tangerine, a hint of just-ripe pineapple, and raw almond, with mineral backing. An excellent choice for a vibrant, refreshing, everyday white wine that’ll blend seamlessly into a wide variety of circumstances.
2010 McClean X "Simone" Paso Robles Zinfandel
Review Date: 03-23-2015
The Petite Sirah in this blend really makes a difference, even though it isn't the dominant partner, taking the Zinfandel well away from what you normally consider Paso Robles Zinfandel to be about. Black, tarry fruit, cocoa powder, and toasted coconut come out on the nose, leading into dusty, brooding, plummy fruit on the palate. Fine grained tannins make this easy to drink right now, and acidity keeps it lively.
2012 Philippe Tessier "Les Sables" Cour Cheverny
Review Date: 03-23-2015
The fruit for this bottling comes from 60 year old vines, versus a vine age of 30 years for the standard Cour-Cheverny. Not too different than its younger sibling, the 2012 “Les Sables” simply offers more of everything: there’s resin, lemon juice, hazelnut, beeswax, and dried citrus peel and ginger, on this medium bodied white wine, along with bracing acidity. Anyone lamenting the scarcity of stellar white Burgundy at bargain prices could do worse than to give this wine a whirl!
2013 Cave de Saumur Saumur Blanc
Review Date: 03-11-2015
The Cave de Saumur blanc is a great everyday white. Fresh, ripe Anjou pear meets stone fruit on the nose, with both catching a bit of lift, courtesy of a light floral dimension. The palate is a little tauter than the nose might suggest; though starting off with good weight and breadth, the wine narrows inexorably towards a wet stone dimension, while, simultaneously, the wine’s significant acidic verve also makes its presence felt.
Mas Codina Cava Brut Reserva Penedès
Review Date: 03-02-2015
The Mas Codina cleaves more to the doughy-yeasty side of things, but has a light, delicate fruit character, in a citrus, tart apple vein. This definitely comes across on the dry side, and finishes clean, with a suggestion of green apple. Absolutely affordable, and well balanced, this is a great pick when you need good, inexpensive fizz!
Marietta "Old Vine Red-Lot #62" Red Blend
Review Date: 02-25-2015
Bright cherry-berry fruit, with warm baking spice accents framing it, lead into a medium bodied, juicy mouthful of wine. There is only the faintest whiff of tannin here; the wine derives its freshness and structure courtesy of its vibrant acidity. There aren't many domestic wines that stand up to the best of the competition at this price point from Spain, say, but this is one that really does, and boasts an unmistakably Californian character besides. This slides easily into the roster of top, everyday-red deals!
2013 Santo Assyrtiko Santorini
Review Date: 02-20-2015
You don’t necessarily need to cleave to cool climate wine regions in order to find a nice core of minerality in your white wine. This Assyrtiko, from the island of Santorini, situated out alone in the bright blue of the Mediterranean about equidistant to Turkey, Crete, and the Greek mainland, handily proves the point. The palate shows richness and breadth, with some ripe, sweet flavors, before tightening up on the finish as the wet stone character re-asserts itself. If you want a slight detour from your usual Muscadet or Chablis, say, this would be well worth exploring in similar contexts food-wise.
2012 Château de la Charrière Bourgogne Rouge Domaine Yves Girardin
Review Date: 02-09-2015
This is everything you'd hope for in a Bourgogne rouge: dusty, earthy, dark cherry fruit enlivened by a touch of blood orange on the nose, leading to low-key, natural fruit and spice notes on the palate, with good flesh, gentle tannins, decent length on the finish, and for a low price to boot! Stock up while you can!
2013 Franck Millet "Insolite" Sancerre
Review Date: 02-06-2015
The 2013 Insolite boasts a veritable rainbow of citrus scents: lemon, lime, and orange mingle with a pungent quality reminiscent of the first bite of a kumquat, along with pea shoot and lemon grass. The palate is clean, streamlined, sleek, and cool, with the cuvee’s characteristic richness all but enveloping the bristling acidity until the very end, and a smidgen of talc dusting the robust fruit.
2013 Rutherford Ranch Napa Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 10-20-2014
Round and juicy, this Chardonnay is driven by clean, tropical flavors of sweet citrus and pineapple. Its easy-going style, with a price to match, should make it a hit with those looking for an everyday white that has a little more richness than a Sauvignon Blanc, say, but avoids the oak-and-butter side of the Chardonnay spectrum.
2012 Joseph Jewell Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 09-15-2014
From out of a lineup of domestic Pinot Noirs recently, this one really stole the show for me. Funny thing is, it isn’t a show stopper: it is commendable for the restraint it displays. The fruit is very pure and natural, dialing back the ripeness quotient you often contend with in California Pinot Noirs, the flavors have intensity without heaviness, and the body is trim, taut, and focused; in other words, it shows all the gracefulness you might hope for in a Pinot, but which is often sadly lacking for one reason or another.
Sherman & Hooker's Shebang! "Cuvee III" Sauvignon Blanc
Review Date: 08-20-2014
You may already be familiar with the Shebang red, which has been a big hit for a California red blend. Well, it is time to get acquainted another good bargain bottle from the folks at Bedrock: their third Sauvignon Blanc cuvee. Flavors of tangerine, lemon, and cantaloupe, set against a green shiso note, mark this tasty, tart white. This isn’t grassy, feline, or highly herbaceous, and should be a good all-arounder when a fresh, lighter bodied, inexpensive white is what you want.
2012 Viña Robles "Estate" Paso Robles Sauvignon Blanc
Review Date: 07-21-2014
The Vina Robles Jardine Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc starts off with aromas of lemon, lemon grass, and a dry, wicker-like note, before a subtle honeydew melon aspect reveals itself. While plush and round in texture, only a sliver of aforementioned melon pops up on the palate, and there is plenty of tart acidity sitting behind it, keeping the overall impression light and fresh. Probably the best inexpensive domestic Sauvignon Blancs I’ve crossed paths with recently.
2013 Margerum "K&L Blend" Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc
Review Date: 05-26-2014
With a nose offering up citrus, lemongrass, and honeydew melon, this is a vital, vivacious Sauvignon Blanc. Svelte on the palate, the flavors run to pomelo and melon, while managing just a suggestion of a mineral dimension in the form of powdery talc notes. Should perform yeoman duty as the summer party season commences!
Powers & Sons 12 Year Old John's Lane Pot Still Irish Whiskey 750ml
Review Date: 01-20-2014
The all pot-stilled Powers John’s Lane bottling really ratchets up the intensity and complexity from the usual run of Irish whiskies, while remaining true to type. You’d never mistake this for Bourbon, Scotch or any other style of whiskey. The nose gives up orange marmalade, yellow plum, honeysuckle, powdery vanilla, and cedar, before a duet between toasted graininess and yuzu fruit, with spice and crème brulee accents, begins on the palate. I hope we soon see more like this!
Lot 40 Single Pot Still Canadian Rye Whisky 750ml
Review Date: 01-20-2014
Unctuous and rich, this Canadian Rye packs in an intriguing array of flavors that stays true to the character of the grain. Style-wise, it skews to the sweeter side of things, with a fat mid-palate, and a supple, seamless texture. This is definitely the best new addition to the--of recent days--rather un-crowded field of contemplative, sipping Rye Whiskeys that I've had occasion to sample.
Sean Thackrey "Pleiades XXIII" Old Vine Red Blend
Review Date: 11-10-2013
The twenty-third Pleiades features aromas of tart raspberry backed with lily. I almost want to say rhubarb, but it never quite gets all the way there. A smidgeon of discrete toast backs the vibrant fruit on the palate. Compared to the previous release, this has a more ample mid-palate, and more of a sense of continuity from beginning to end, while remaining a very light on its feet and graceful, with a transparency of flavor many a Ca. Pinot Noir wishes it had.
2011 Stolpman "Estate" Santa Ynez Valley Syrah
Review Date: 08-31-2013
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.
James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Rye Whiskey 750ml
Review Date: 04-29-2013
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: 04-29-2013
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: 11-04-2012
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!
Tempus Fugit Kina L'Aero D'Or Aperitif Du Quinquina750ml
Review Date: 10-08-2012
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: 09-04-2012
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: 09-04-2012
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: 08-03-2012
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: 06-19-2012
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.
Pierre Ferrand 1840 Formula 90 proof Cognac 750ml
Review Date: 05-31-2012
There aren’t a bevy of Cognacs out there built for mixing. This one has two things going for it: 45% abv, and a formulation that is an attempt to recreate the flavor profile of a pre-phylloxera Cognac. So, does it fly? Yes, it does. That little bit extra strength combined with the robust flavor profile gives this the power to really sing out in mixed drinks where other Cognacs might just fade into the background. The flavor is mostly in the dry fruit and new leather vein, with a papery vanilla, and some citron and bergamot, in the background in this plump, round, reasonably sweet brandy. Try a sidecar with it and see for yourself!
Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength Irish Whiskey 750ml
Review Date: 04-15-2012
This cask strength bottling of Red Breast certainly ratchets up the drama. There is more oomph, more richness and intensity, on both nose and palate. It remains, however, an Irish pure pot still whiskey foremost, and as such bears closer kinship to its more familiar version lower proof bottling than to the untamed ferocity of something like a George T Stagg. You ain’t toying with no pipsqueak, though; you will want ice or water or a bit of both to round the edge off. You get a wonderful range of baked banana, dried fruits, butterscotch and sweet grain, enlivened by a citric note that keeps things from seeming cloying or fatty. The finish here rolls on like thunder—well, civilized thunder, anyway. I’d note, too, that if you’re mixing a Manhattan-style cocktail with Irish whiskey, this is probably the best one for the job I’ve come across to date. The cask strength really keeps the whiskey from getting lost amidst the other ingredients.
Hidalgo "Napoleon" Amontillado Sanlucar de Barrameda (500ml)
Review Date: 01-21-2012
This has a meaty, rich, sweet date scented nose with toasted walnut and almond behind it. Once sipped, you recognize immediately that this sherry was none of the fat you might expect. While the flavors have good depth, this is quite devoid of heaviness and has plenty of salty, lip-smacking tang. The finish is lively and bracingly fresh, with a slight chalkiness and a lingering almond character. You can luxuriate in this Amontillado without the flavors ever cloying. With that said, however, you just might have to keep an eye that the 17.5% doesn’t get the better of you…
Rare Wine Company Historic Series Charleston Sercial Madeira
Review Date: 11-27-2011
The dominant character here is a subdued toasted nuttiness, not specifically almond or walnut, with undercurrents of dried fruit. The palate is another thing altogether. This is one a wine that succeeds more on texture than nuance of flavor. While it is a sweet wine, it doesn’t put itself across the way a sauterne or even a sweet sherry would. It is as though you’d put the proverbial “spoon full of sugar” in your mouth-though for the purposes of this analogy we’d better make sure you’re visualizing raw sugar-and then sucked a fat wedge of lime. The tremendous acidity doesn’t just balance out the sweetness, but actually overcompensates for it, making it seem to finish much drier than it started and lip-smacking, too. Singular stuff. Works pretty nice with a slice of pumpkin pie and I’d wager you would get good mileage out of it with well-seasoned meaty bites, say dumplings of some sort.
El Dorado 15 year old Demerara Guyana Rum 750ml (ships in a 1.5 box)
Review Date: 07-01-2011
Demerara-rah; that’s the spirit! The El Dorado 15 year certainly shows the benefits of the time that the spirit spent in barrel in the initial intensity of the nose and palate. What is better still is it pulls back a bit towards the finish and finds a little reserve, avoiding the bombast of certain other “too much isn’t nearly enough” long-aged spirits. Toasted chestnuts, antique woodsy vanilla and candied pear, papaya and pineapple ornament a core of lush, sweet sugar cane that switches about between the continuum of sugar-brown sugar-molasses without ever settling on just one, a sort of olfactory iridescence. Pull up an evening and a chair and settle in; you’ll want to linger long—in the same way that the finish does—with this rum.
La Cigarrera Manzanilla Sanlucar de Barrameda (375ml)
Review Date: 05-30-2011
This manzanilla plays down the toasted almond dimension of sherry, and offers instead clean, vibrant, salty aromas coupled with golden apple and a little sprinkling of parsley, even. Take a sip, and you’ll find a smooth texture and a pleasantly plump middle palate, finishing with a citric pucker and a lingering evocation of wet stone. Well worth trying where you’d normally reach for muscadet, say.
Elijah Craig 12 year old Small Batch Bourbon 750ml (ships as a 1.5L)
Review Date: 04-28-2011
This has got to be one of the best values in an aged bourbon that we carry. The 12 years this spent in barrel is amply attested to by the nose: full, heavy, oaky vanilla fudge, a beam of bright maple syrup, peach and loads of spice. The flavors follow in a similar vein, with good richness of body. Relatively smooth, there is only a slight rasp from the oak aging and the finish brings back some of that light, bright vertical maple character. To my taste, it is a little too contumacious to use in a mixed drink; I recommend you sip this one only, but that, of course, in whatever fashion you like.
Tariquet 15 Year Old Cask Strength Folle Blanche Armagnac 750ml
Review Date: 04-28-2011
The 15 year is a really wonderfully warm, enveloping spirit. Apple, powdery vanilla, light caramel-almond notes build slowly as it warms in the glass until it has an almost palpable presence. The palate takes the apple in a dried dimension that somehow simultaneously has an unexpected juiciness to it, and, along with the caramel, gradually builds to an almost brown-sugary, date like intensity before fading gently to a finish of dried fruit and flowers. While this takes awhile to really strut its stuff, when it does it, it comes on with a vengeance. Be forewarned, this armagnac could definitely be habit forming.
Tempus Fugit Liqueur De Violettes 750ml
Review Date: 03-30-2011
One could reasonably expect a violet liqueur to taste like… well, violets, no? And yet, of the four varieties I’ve had occasion to sample, none taste exactly like the others. This new bottling, in my estimation, happens to be one of the best. Why do I say that? Pour a jigger of it over some ice cubes and add some soda. Take a sip. This is a liqueur with an arc, the flavor moving from a dry, dry-woodsy start into cool berry fruit and then on into a dusty, tranquil, ethereal twilight. Since it doesn’t have any coloring added, it won’t stain your drink a pretty purple-blue, but that is a small price to pay for the clarity of flavor it offers.
Leopold Bros. Small Batch American Gin 750ml
Review Date: 01-31-2011
Damn, this is pretty! So very pretty-pretty! Juniper shares the stage with a prominent sweet citrus oil component and a delicately floral dimension in the nose. While the Leopold’s would have to be counted amongst new-styled American gins, I think it is really in a category all its own. Why? Take a sip. Yes; just of the gin straight, at room temperature. This is gentler, softer, suppler, and more delicate than any gin I’ve heretofore had occasion to taste. Now, I wouldn’t necessarily advise this for use in every cocktail recipe out there. For people who want that indomitable juniper character shining through in a drink despite citrus juices, liqueurs, bitters, absinthe, whatever you might throw at a gin in the course of making a cocktail, well, this probably isn’t that spirit. In more gin-centric drinks, this is beautiful, fresh, gracefully perfumed... and well worth a try!