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Staff Favorites - Mahon McGrath
2012 Casanova di Neri Rosso di Montalcino
Review Date: 02-05-2016
Dried cherry, fruitcake, and fennel come out on the nose of this Rosso di Montalcino. A hint of mint accents the juicy cherry notes on the palate, which shows good depth of flavor. There’s lots of youthful vitality here yet, though the tannins are fine enough to make this approachable now.
2011 Kir-Yianni "Ramnista" Xinomavro Naoussa
Review Date: 02-03-2016
If I were to smell this blind, I’d probably guess I was in the presence of a Barbaresco. Licorice and mint curl up with berry fruit and warm baking spices on the nose, before it goes in an emphatically dry, high-toned, resinous, woody direction on the palate. The high acidity and strong tannins mark this one as an excellent candidate for squirreling away in a cold cellar; this is going to last for many years. And what will you find years on when its sleep is ended? I suspect that as the resinous notes are absorbed, the wonderfully natural raspberry fruit and dry herb notes that come out now only on the finish will emerge, and the wine will take on a elegant, supple, and seductive character, supplanting the bold and forceful one it displays at present.
2012 Kir-Yianni "Yianakohori Hills" Red Blend Macedonia
Review Date: 02-03-2016
There’s a rich, plummy character, with a tart edge, on the nose here which is nicely accented by some subdued spice. Something like an alternate-world claret in body, there’s boysenberry, bay leaf, and asphalt flavors in this blend, along with bright acidity, and lively tannic structure(hello, Xinomavro!), marking this one as best suited to the dinner table. If it’s rich, savory, and/or meaty, this one will get along with it swimmingly.
2014 Eric Cottat Sancerre
Review Date: 01-31-2016
Over a foundational bed of flinty minerality, the 2014 Eric Cottat Sancerre Blanc builds from a gooseberry, lemon-lime, nettle, tomato leaf framework towards suggestions of more exotic fruit notes. The evocation of “cool” here is primary, though: try not to think of green mossy rocks and ferns stream side while sipping this. The palate turns the tables, and sees the flinty dimension come to the fore, with the citrus dovetailing down towards a wonderful, tooth-suckingly acid finish. The difference between this Sancerre blanc and others around its price point, to my palate, is in the length, and intensity, of flavor. While it doesn’t quite manage the heft of larger scaled Sancerres, it hints at it. Get these while you can; we never seem to have enough from this small grower-producer to meet all the demand!
2014 Franck Millet "Vieilles Vignes" Sancerre
Review Date: 12-30-2015
The old vine Millet Sancerre is a veritable beam of flinty, tomato leaf, and gooseberry character on the nose. Bolder and more emphatic than its younger sibling, there is less of the easier-going mid-palate fruit here, and a more stony focus. The intensity is most obvious in the wines bracing citric drive, the extra torque more or less compelling your mouth to water the moment it hits your tongue. If you like the standard expression, but want to ratchet up the drama, you should definitely check the 2014 Vieilles Vignes cuvee out. This could make beautiful music with a plate of oysters on the half shell.
2013 Castillo de Monseran Garnacha Cariñena
Review Date: 11-30-2015
Dried herb and spice notes segue into low-key, juicy berry fruit on this easygoing red. Less ripe than some Garnachas, the acidity contributes more towards giving the wine its overall shape than the gentle tannins, and it finishes with a tart cherry note.
2013 Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel
Review Date: 11-25-2015
Black cherry, blackberry, and blueberry preserve notes mingle with suggestions of cumin and black pepper on the nose. The palate re-states that, with the addition of nectarine and sandalwood to the list. Darkly juicy, but not over-ripe, with understated oak, wispy tannins, and enough acidity to tie it all together without making you notice it. Fans take note: this is a great Zinfandel for the money, giving you just enough of the hedonic quality the variety is known for without going overboard.
Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Rosé Champagne
Review Date: 11-23-2015
While obviously rose in color, this Champagne strays from the normal expectation of a rosé, stylistically. There’s less fruit here than in many examples, and what there is, is more delicate in its expression. The nose leads off with fresh baked bread, spice, and nut skin. The palate shows a leesy aspect that suggests Parmesan, then veers towards lemon- blood orange-tangerine citrus notes, before finishing cleanly.
2007 Chateau De Varennes Savennières
Review Date: 11-18-2015
There is a thorough-going dryness to this bold Savennieres, tempered by only a soupcon of mid-palate sweetness. The waxy, nutty, dried flower aromas, with a powdery mineral component, give out onto flavors of nut oil and Bosc pear. Still youthful, this would appear to have a fairly long arc.
Charles Baur "Emotion" Cremant d'Alsace Brut
Review Date: 11-18-2015
The golden apple and lemon tart nose pick up a prominent dried ginger spiciness. The evocation of softer flavors like pastry crust on the palate are firmed up by a greater degree of acidity than one typically finds in a Cremant, which creates the impression of the wine leaning in more of a Champagne-esque direction, even if it doesn’t muster quite that degree of verve, layering, or richness. At twenty bucks, though, it's hard to beat!
2010 Michel Delhommeau "Monnières Saint Fiacre" Muscadet Sèvre et Maine
Review Date: 10-11-2015
It is hard to praise something as being “cheesy”, but that’s precisely what I have to do here. Pleasant though it may be, the lengthy lees contact has definitely left its yeasty mark upon this wine in scent and flavor. The beginning is something like Normandy butter set against citrus, and the texture is fat and oily compared to other styles of Muscadet. The region reasserts itself on the finish, with cleansing acidity and minerality making their appearance on the stage, negating the richness: a great balancing act.
2014 Schloss Lieser Niederberg Helden Riesling Grosses Gewächs Mosel
Review Date: 10-07-2015
Aromatically, the Niederberg Helden is on the slender side, with a taut feeling to the hyacinth, spice, and mineral notes. The wine opens up on the palate a bit, though, keeping that sense of verve. The floral component is front and center at first, but this is only like a thin printed curtain that is swiftly drawn back to reveal a wet, mineral vibrancy that finally resolves in a saline direction. There is only a soupcon of mid-palate viscosity to let you know this wine is there, as, ultimately, this is the very opposite of dense, being fleet and precise, like the skilled thrust of a rapier.
2014 Franck Millet "Insolite" Sancerre
Review Date: 10-02-2015
Well, for those of you who liked Frank Millet’s basic 2014 Sancerre Blanc (and I know there are more than a few of you out there, as it sold out with a quickness), good news is at hand: here comes the 2014 Insolite! All the richness, body, and depth of flavor you’ve come to expect from this cuvee are on display here. Compared with the previous vintage, the aromatics and flavors are more classically tart and green, with honeydew melon, lemongrass, green apple, kiwi, and jalapeno jelly, while the regions minerality makes itself felt via suggestions of pulverized stone throughout. If you are a fan of Loire Sauvignon Blanc, assay a bottle, and you’re bound to become a convert!
2014 Domaine de Biéville (Louis Moreau) Chablis
Review Date: 09-28-2015
Finding those inexpensive bottles that you can really get behind is a wonderful thing in the wine biz. While you won’t hallucinate Xanadu when under its influence, I can say, in general, that it is one of our best un-oaked Chardonnays, and is, furthermore, one of our most accessible, crowd-pleasing, Chablis. The nose is clean, racy, and tart, with the classic cool, wet stone, and saline notes, adding intrigue. The palate delivers a relatively open, round mouth-feel, for Chablis, before resolving in a brisk, mineral direction, making this one that can pair food or stand alone equally well. Catch it while you can!
2013 Clos de l'Elu "Ephata" Anjou Blanc
Review Date: 09-14-2015
You can see the relationship between the Ephata and Clos de l‘Elu’s Anjou blanc (formerly known as the Bastingage), but they are distinct. With the Ephata, which is from a different site and amphora aged, you will find much more depth and richness. Persimmon, quince, gravel, beeswax, and chestnut all make an appearance, though at its heart, this is still a wine of purity, not decadence. A slight sweetness mounts in the finish, before yielding completely to echoes of spice and rock. The underlying tension animating the breadth of flavor makes this a scintillating, dynamic expression of Loire Chenin Blanc.
2013 Clos de l'Elu Anjou Blanc
Review Date: 09-14-2015
The reticent nose only jealously relinquishes faint scents of candied ginger, but no matter. The drama is not so much in the glass as in the mouth: starkly, piercingly acid, there is only just enough flesh to the wine to robe it, with delicate, tart flavors of pear and apple, and suggestions of raw nuts. If quiveringly vibrant white wine is your thing, this Anjou blanc delivers. I reckon it’ll get on like a house on fire with seafood; the fresher(and rawer), the better.
2013 Maison Idiart Sauvignon Blanc Touraine
Review Date: 09-13-2015
Quince, golden apple, guava, and lemongrass share the stage with wet stone on the nose of this distinctive Loire valley Sauvignon Blanc. The quince and guava come to the fore on the palate, edging towards the drier, spicier side of those flavors, before finishing briskly, with a quinine dimension, and an echo of the aforementioned mineral component.
2014 Regina Gris de Toul Rosé Lorraine (last of vintage)
Review Date: 09-11-2015
While we’ve got other Gamay-based rosés in stock, none of ‘em taste quite like this: it is sui generis. Instead of the bright berry fruit and watermelon you typically encounter, here you are greeted instead by a nose of dusty citrus flavors of lime, tangerine, and orange, given dimension by a floral edge. The palate carries on with the theme, yet what is most intriguing here is the dialectical tension in the way that the robust acidity plays off the mid-palate heft, and the subdued sweetness of the fruit. Wonderful texture, plus a less ripe and fruity style, along with a very reasonable price, make this rosé a cinch.
2014 Hubert Veneau Côteaux du Giennois Rosé (last of vintage)
Review Date: 08-09-2015
Seeking out a refreshing, dry, tart rosé to wrap up your summer with? Heeeere’s Veneau! The flavors run to cherry, candied apple, and watermelon, but that makes it sound like a much different wine than it actually is. This rosé’s flavors come across more as redolent of, or fragrant, than fully saturated, and it finishes clean and lip-smacking. Modestly priced, it is a great “why not?” sort of rosé to keep in the fridge for any old time, as well as for irrigating your larger, informal social gatherings with.
2014 Domaine Cherrier Père & Fils Sancerre
Review Date: 07-24-2015
The 2014 opens with notes of green melon, talc, lime, and tomato leaf. There is a decidedly cool, brisk, greenness to this Sancerre, with its focused, tangy flavors of lime and crushed rock. The mineral component asserts itself on the finish, giving the emerald glade bit a little textural contrast.
2014 Les Roches Sauvignon Touraine
Review Date: 07-20-2015
There’s no mistaking the varietal here: this is indubitably Sauvignon Blanc. Lemongrass and pepper have the van, followed by a tropical/citrus dimension, and, lastly, wet riverine rocks. All those aforementioned notes recur on the palate, with the fruit taking up a little more bandwidth in the overall scheme of things. This has a tad more to say about what it is made of, than where it is from, compared with other Loire Valley Sauvignon Blancs, and so is a nice crossover wine for fans of domestic or Kiwi bottling of that varietal. Perfect breezy, light-on-the-pocketbook refreshment.
2014 Les Ligeriens Rosé d'Anjou (last of vintage)
Review Date: 07-15-2015
Most people ask you for a dry rosé if they’re searching for rosé, but not all. When made off-dry, the danger of the wine being cloying is real; however, getting the balance in an off-dry wine right is also possible, too. Bugey Cerdon is a useful example of this, and so is the Les Ligeriens Rose d’Anjou. Not at all a dessert wine, this is basically dry. There is plenty of acidity backing up the softer, sweeter, floral dimension you find initially, and it finishes cleanly, without any residual sweetness. This is a cheerful, happy-go-lucky wine, and the low alcohol makes it perfectly suited to an afternoon picnic, for instance, or any other warm weather, out-of-doors get-together.
2010 Maison Idiart Blanc de Blanc Brut
Review Date: 06-29-2015
Are you looking for an emphatically dry sparkling wine, but at an everyday price? Then the Nicolas Idiart Blanc de Blanc Brut is definitely one you should try. Scents of citrus, yeast, and florality on the nose lead the way into a medium-weight palate which evokes fresh-baked bread, in a diaphanous vein, before concluding with a welcome snap. Every fridge door this summer should be prepared, for the advent of necessity or whim, with at least a couple bottles of this fizzy delight.
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!
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.
2013 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.
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.
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!
2005 Bodegas Casa Juan Señor de Lesmos Reserva Rioja
Review Date: 02-25-2015
Roasted herb, leather, and iron meet up with salty, balsamic, caraway notions, and light shadings of toasted coconut, on the nose. Somewhat fresher than the nose might lead you to believe, the dusty fruit on the palate is still well seasoned with spice and anise. The tannins are fairly gentle, though sufficient to imagine a future for this wine: whether you hold it will be down to how patient you are! The acidity, while there, never makes its presence obvious. Great Riserva for a great price!
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!
Franck Bonville Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne
Review Date: 04-16-2014
Fresh and racy, showing crisp apple and citrus, with hints of mineral and brioche rounding out the palate, this focused and elegant Champagne is as good as--or better than--its previous incarnations, and remains a steal for the price.
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.
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 86 Proof Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whisky (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 English 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 Quinquina (750ml)
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…
La Guita Manzanilla Sanlucar de Barrameda
Review Date: 12-26-2011
What? A new sherry to try? On it. This manzanilla gives up sea breeze, wet gravel, brine, a gentle toasted almond note and a lemon juice-citric tang on the finish, showing all the character you’d expect and at a reasonable price, too. While this certainly shows where it’s from, there is a softness to the middle that can almost fool you into thinking you’re sipping a brisk, dry white that didn’t mature under a veil of flor. There’s a funny piece of twine on the bottle’s front. I gave it a tug and it came unstuck from the labels holding it in place. Alas, it let loose no confetti. I afterwards ascertained that the name “La Guita” came from a favorite quip of the house’s founder, and was a slang word for “money” but also meant “cord.” Now you know. That they also stamp the bottling date on the back is perhaps the more salient, and appreciated, detail with a perishable item like sherry.
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.