Scotch Review: Bunnahabhain 12 year

December 23, 2011 1 comment

Bunnahabhain 12 year 
Distiller: Bunnahabhain
Spirit: Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Price: $50.00
ABV: 46.3%

Nose:
Sherry, vanilla, buttery, creamy, light peat, candy or sugary icing, fruit, salt in the background

Taste: 
Sherry, toffee, vanilla, salt, spices (nutmeg and cinnamon), fruit

Finish:
The finish is incredibly quick and smooth which gives this scotch a fresh and light feeling to it. I am getting some slightly nutty or toasty flavors, but that’s about it.

Cocktail: 
I didn’t make a cocktail with this.

Bottle: 
Decent design. I like the image of the sailor returning home more than anything else, and I wish they adopted more maritime influences to their design. Overall, it’s an average bottle. It won’t stand out on the bar.

Conclusion:
Richard:
Bunnahabhain rests comfortably in the 50 dollar range, which needs to be taken into account when thinking about it’s value. Is it better than some 60 or 70 dollar bottles I’ve had? Yes. Are any other 50 dollar bottles better? Not in my experience. That isn’t to say that your classic Macallan or Glenmorangie aren’t great spirits; I am only saying that this bottle should be right next to those bottles on everyone’s $50 scotch list. What this scotch lacks in complexity, it makes up for in flavor. Simply put, this scotch is very tasty, but it isn’t something to analyze too heavily. It’s character reminds me of Suntory Hibiki 12 in that its simply a whisky to be simply enjoyed. Will it blow your socks off? Probably not. But if you are looking for a 50 dollar bottle, and you like the idea of a less intense Islay malt, then definitely give this one a look.


Categories: Reviews

Gin Review: Citadelle Reserve

September 24, 2011 1 comment

Citadelle Reserve - 2009 (Cask 18/21 -- Bottle No. 114) Citadelle Reserve Gin (2009)
Distiller: Citadelle Gin
Spirit: Cognac Barrel-Aged Gin
Price: $31.00
ABV: 44%

Nose:
A perfect balance of juniper, floral notes, citrus and grapefruit, with a subtle note of vanilla — this is truly delightful.

Taste: 
Juniper, flowers, grapefruit, and white wine (riesling) are up front, while citrus sits in the second row. Vanilla is in the peanut gallery. Incredibly, I can actually taste many of the 19 botanicals they use. Most gins use a lot of botanicals to create a couple main tasting notes. However, Citadelle Reserve manages to maintain an incredibly complex balance between every ingredient. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before.

Finish: 
As smooth as they come. Grapefruit and vanilla are more pronounced near the end, whereas juniper and citrus dissipate. Fairly quick finish – it doesn’t linger around, but rather disappears, leaving your mouth in anticipation of the next sip.

Cocktail: 
While this is a sipping gin if there ever was one, it is a chief contender for the best martini gin on the market, regardless of price. It brings a whole new level of complexity to cocktails which I had previously never experienced. As for gin and tonic, while it does a terrific job, I frankly prefer it’s less prestigious younger brother (Citadelle Gin) partially because I have a hard time justifying using this gin in anything other than a martini due to it’s limited release, and also because melting ice will overwhelm much of the subtle complexity of this gin. All this being said, you cannot possibly go wrong introducing this gin into any of your gin cocktails.

Please note: if you are having a martini with this gin, use a lemon twist, or perhaps, a cocktail onion; olives work, but to truly compliment Citadelle Reserve, citrus works best.

Bottle: 
This is one of my all time favorite bottles. I love that it is very similar to the original Citadelle gin, but with an added elegant luster. The nautical theme and foreign script transport me to a place where I am not simply drinking gin, but rather, a naval chemist’s concoction which required the traversing of the tumultuous open seas in order to discover necessary exotic ingredients. Finally, The black and gold lettering make the gin’s gold color pop which helps remind you that you are about to drink something special (this gin is aged in cognac barrels which give it its golden hue).

Conclusion:
Richard:
Firstly, I would be in the wrong to review this spirit and not mention what is obviously the most intriguing characteristic about it: the color, and the process by which it receives it. This gin has been aged in oak barrels from the Cognac region of France (where this gin is distilled); the oak barrels tone down the citrus slightly from what was previously a notably citrus-heavy gin, and they introduce a note of vanilla similar to that of a whisky. It also gives it a beautiful golden color which, in turn, creates a martini that is damned beautiful to look at. Secondly, this is by far  the most complex and perfectly balanced gin I have yet to taste. Actually, it’s one of the most perfectly balanced spirits I have ever had the pleasure of sipping. Not only is this gin something to which all other gins should aspire, but its perfect execution of form and style is something to which all spirits should aspire. Not a single flaw can be found in this spirit, and it leaves nothing to be desired; it fulfills every fantasy I’ve ever had about gin. From its presentation to its incredibly unique palate, it delivers an unparalleled Spiritus-Juniperus experience. Quite simply, there is nothing like this gin, and every gin enthusiast should, with incredible speed, attempt to attain a bottle for him or herself. This is quite possible the easiest 10-out-of-10 I will ever give to a spirit (and rightfully so, seeing as it is the most exclusive gin in the world with only 21 small casks being released in a year — 1,200 bottles).


Categories: Gin, Reviews

Bourbon Review: George T. Stagg (2010)

George T. Stagg 2010
Distiller: Buffalo Trace
Spirit: Cask Strength Bourbon
Price: $78.60
ABV: 71.5%

Nose:
Heavy notes of oak, vanilla, spice, ripe bananas, maple syrup, molasses, dark brown sugar, dried fruits

Taste:
Vanilla, ripe bananas, dried figs, raisin, molasses, spice, oak, and there is a dark cola flavor that lurks in the background

Finish:
About as long as “long” gets. Heavy spice, oak, sweet maple candy

Cocktail:
I feel guilty making a drink with this, but then again, my manhattan makes me want to run down the street, hugging and kissing everyone I see. You might try a cocktail, just to see how good it is (add a little water since this is such an incredibly strong bourbon), but frankly, you really only do it justice when you sip it neat or straight.

Bottle:
As with all the bottles in Buffalo Trace’s “Antique Collection,” George T. Stagg comes in a tall, slender bottle with minimal, white, elegant, old-fashioned-style lettering on the front. The liquid is the focus, as well it should be; the crystal clear bottle shows off the dark, rich mahogany color. There are a set of deer antlers right about the lettering which adds a nice distinction from the others in the series; at the very bottom lies a paper label with that specific batch’s alcohol content. Overall, it’s a simple bottle, that is neither overly beautiful, nor underwhelming.

Conclusion:
Richard:
Where do I start with this one? I guess the first thing that most people notice is that this bourbon packs an enormous kick; at 143% proof, it is the strongest whiskey I’ve ever heard of, but even so, it remains remarkably smooth (considering its proof). I knew I was in for something special when I bought this bottle, but I wasn’t quite sure what was going to be special about it. Was it the incredibly complex nose? Or perhaps roaring flavor that lasts on your tongue? Simply, it is a combination of these two things mixed with the fact that they were able to produce such an incredibly delicious bourbon at such a high proof. I find it hard to compare this to any other bourbon because the experience of drinking it by itself is truly unique, and it shines a light on the many possibilities available in bourbon production. This comes out once a year as a special release, and I am going to make certain that I get at least one bottle next year. This is truly an outstanding spirit.

Reviewed by Richard Borean

Scotch Review: Highland Park 18 year


Highland Park 18 Year

Distiller: Highland Park Distillery
Spirit: Single Malt Scotch
Price: $99.90
ABV: 43%

Nose:
Heavy oak, soft smoke, honeydew, slight ginger and clove

Taste:
Honey, peat, oak, cocoa, dried fruit, sea water, spice

Finish:
Long and soft finish with fruit up front and a fair amount of smoke at the end. ‘Tis one incredibly smooth dram.

Cocktail:
Bullocks!

Bottle:
I have one major complain with this bottle, but first let me say what I like. I love the raised glass emblem beneath the label. The label itself offer elegant class, whilst offering a more mechanical appearance than some labels (there is something about it that screams “European Industrial Revolution”). The colors are beautiful, and although the text is a bit chaotic, there is a certain order which effortlessly leads your eyes from one intricate detail to the next. Now… for my only “beef” with this bottle: Why on earth would you put such an expensive dram in such a thin bottle? This thing is shaped like a giant’s flask, and it’s just about as stable as a guy who just drank the whole bottle. My advice to you: keep this bottle LOW to the ground.

Conclusion:
Richard:
When I first tasted this whisky a few months ago, I was blown away, and was convinced that I was enjoying the finest scotch in the world. There is so much hype behind this bottle with F. Paul Pacult naming it the finest spirit in the world (2005) and Jim Murray declaring it 2011′s finest single malt scotch; I put extra effort into coming to my own conclusions, and not being swayed by any sort of publicity. After all, Pacult and Murray offer only opinions, not facts. However, though I’ve tried, I cannot find any aspect of this whisky that isn’t captivating. The perfectly balanced peat, smoke, fruit, and spice combine to make one hell of an incredible drinking experience. Is this an everyday whisky? No. However, it is something special to be enjoyed several times throughout the year. So far, I have not had another Single Malt Scotch whisky that pleases me as greatly as Highland Park 18 year, regardless of price.



Reviewed by Richard Borean

Categories: Reviews, Scotch, Single Malts

Scotch Review: Glenmorangie 18 Year

January 18, 2011 3 comments

 

Glenmorangie 18 Year:
Distiller: Glenmorangie
Spirit: Single Malt Scotch
Price: $114.90
ABV: 43%

Appearance:

Light caramel color that lightly coats the glass with few if any legs.

Nose:
Caramel, vanilla, fall spice, light smoke

Taste:
Grapefruit, orange, caramel, no peat/smoke, citrus, honey, creamy malt

Finish:
Heaven? Caramel stays through for the long run, slight sting on the tongue (which is goooood). Smooth x 1000. As the grapefruit disappears throughout the finish, it does make a comeback at the very end.

Cocktail:
If you think using a whisky that costs more than $115.00 in a cocktail is an reasonable decision, then please stop drinking immediately and check yourself into your local insane asylum.

Bottle:
One of the best bottles we’ve seen. We like our scotch bottles like we like our women — curvy and intoxicating — and this bottle delivers. A slightly minimalistic label with elegant lettering; the focus here is not on the label (like most bottles) but on the whisky itself. The thicker base allows light to enter regardless of where you place it, showing off the beautiful liquid inside. It also comes in a classy, bi-fold case which some might think is a bit presumptuous, but frankly, on a $100+ bottle, it should be viewed as insurance on your prized goods.

Conclusion:
Richard:
This is certainly the smoothest whisky I’ve ever tasted, and although I really enjoyed it, I cannot say that it was my favorite (or even close). While the palate was shockingly interesting with it’s bouquet of sweet citrus, I cannot imagine myself drinking this more than once or twice a year. I need to be in a specific mood for such a focused whisky; it’s fairly complex, but citrus it the overwhelming flavor, and that has never been my cup-o’-tea when it comes to whisky. It is an excellent dram — one smell, or sip is enough to show the craftsmanship, dedicated, and passion put into making it — but frankly, I have enjoyed many other scotches more than the Glenmorangie 18, and they didn’t cost an arm and a leg (which is about where this one will land you).

Scott:
Without question, this is the finest whisky I’ve ever tasted (but then again, I’m not usually in this price range). Layers upon layers of delicate, complex tastes here. Reserve for very special occasions.

Reviewed by Richard Borean and Scott Drenkard

Categories: Reviews, Scotch, Single Malts

Japanese Whisky Review: Suntory Hibiki 12 Year

January 17, 2011 1 comment

Suntory Hibiki 12 Year:
Distiller: Suntory
Spirit: Blended Whisky
Price: $59.99
Abv: 43%

Nose:
Plum, honey, caramel, pineapple, custard, cinammon and spice, tangerine, berries

Taste:
Tangerine, oak, caramel, sweet and mellow, with a slight sourness, and of this is incredibly well balanced.

Finish:
Hibiki 12 has a spicy and fruity, long finish. When take your first sip, it makes your mouth water, but then finishes dry like a highland park. This has one of the smoothest finishes I’ve ever experienced.

Cocktail:
I haven’t, and probably will not, use this whisky in a cocktail. There is not one characteristic that jumps out at me ahead of the others, and I find that cocktails usually need that in a liquor. However, this might do well in a mild cocktail requiring a softer scotch/blended whisky, but please know that its delicate spice would be killed off by any other ingredients in a cocktail. Personally, this whisky is meant to be enjoyed one way, and one way only: neat.

Bottle:
This bottle might take the cake for my all time favorite bottle. First of all, the glass is absolutely beautiful; it is shorter and thicker than most whisky bottles I’ve seen, and its geometric edges really make this bottle stand out on the bar. The cork is topped by a glass knob with a frosted glass emblem in the center with the Japanese symbols for what I believe is the word “Hibiki.” The short neck is wrapped in a simple, yet elegant amber and gold label which does not distract one from the bottle’s main label. The creamy label exudes elegance and creates an expectation of excellence. There is not a single word or image on its label that is out of place. The lettering, while reminiscent of some bourbon or scotch letterings, remains distinctively genuine to the Suntory distillery in Japan. The attention to its intricate details really sets this bottle apart from all others in my possession; even if I didn’t like the whisky (which I most certainly do), I would put this out in front for the mere sake of it looking so damned pretty.

Conclusion:
Richard:
I think I’m turning Japanese. One review I read said that this is not a whisky to dissect, but simply to enjoy; I could not agree more. While there is plenty of complexity to go around, Suntory Hibiki 12 is so incredibly well balanced, and offers such a pleasant aroma, taste and finish, that I found myself wanting to end this review as quickly as possible so that I could sit back and enjoy it without worrying about the intricacies. Yes, you can talk about the complexity and balance of the spice and fruit, and how the sweet oak prevents it from burning the back of your throat on the way down. However, I think you are doing this whisky and yourself an injustice if you try to analyze it too much. It’s a bit like classical music; when I first started listening to it, all I could think about was the complexity of the rhythms, the orchestral planning, etc. and I hardly took any time to actually enjoy the beauty coming through the speakers. However, now whenever I play a favorite piece by Chopin or Camille Saint-Saëns, I simply sit back and fall in love with music all over again. Likewise, this whisky has reminded me why I fell in love with whisky in the first place: because a good whisky makes you feel so incredibly fantastic! When I simply want to smile and enjoy one of life’s small pleasures, I will reach for this bottle again and again.




Reviewed by Richard Borean

Bourbon Review: Elijah Craig 12 Year

Elijah Craig 12 Year:
Distiller: Heaven Hill Distilleries
Spirit: Small Batch Bourbon
Price: $22.95
ABV: 47%

Nose:
Strong vanilla, vanilla, oak, agave nectar, cloves, and spices

Taste:
Again, strong vanilla and caramel up front. It hits your tongue extremely smoothly, and a spice immediately follows. The last flavors to hit your tongue are certainly citrus and agave nectar (like a mild honey).

Finish:
Leaves your mouth with a pleasant reminder of what you have been drinking.  The taste of alcohol velvetly lingers while keeping the wonderful flavors in your mouth: slightly oily, and a bit buttery.

Cocktail:
“Vermont Sunset”  We opted for one of Josh’s current favorite cocktails  – named by Josh, yet adapted from the “Dave” of the  Magnificent Bastard Cocktail Contest:

1.5 parts Elijah Craig
.5 parts lemon juice
.5 parts maple syrup

As the Elijah Craig has remnant tastes of citrus, we thought it would balance nicely against the lemon juice.  And we were right!  The bourbon continues to shine, despite the strong presence displayed by the lemon juice and syrup.  We suspect that Elijah Craig will perform well in any of the classic bourbon cocktails.

Bottle:
Elijah Craig 12 comes in a very conservative and simple bottle.  Josh mentioned that it reminds him of prohibition style bottling: nothing too fancy, raised glass lettering, simple label, etc. I [Richard] certainly agree. While this will not add special aesthetic value to your home bar, it will stand out amongst the other bourbons due to its shape. It is not your archetypal bourbon bottle (tall and round or square); it is more short and plump. We aren’t overly impressed, but this bottle gets the job done.

Conclusion:
Richard:
Elijah Craig is a phenomenal bargain on sale, and a steal at its regular price (around $23) . While there are certainly better bourbons for a few more dollars, EC manages to hold its own with some much more expensive liquors. It is a good bourbon that does well on its own; however, it really shines in cocktails. I enjoy it straight, I really do, but the cocktail Josh made this evening was like pure candy for adults. Whatever mixers you use cover up any alcoholic flavors present in the whiskey, but the strong vanilla, caramel, and spice add a refined complexity to any cocktail  you want to make. If you can get this on sale, or below 20 dollars, make this a staple bourbon in your home bar (you will not find any better), otherwise I would spend the extra few dollars for Buffalo Trace or Eagle Rare (reviews coming soon).

Joshua:
Elijah Craig represents an extreme value considering it’s price point (as low as $14, up to a regular price of about $23).  Far outperforming the likes of Mr. Beam and his bastard Tennessee cousin, Elijah Craig is suitable for drinking straight and makes a very good cocktail.  This is safely added as a staple bourbon to your home bar.
Nose: Strong notes of vanilla and caramel followed by an almost equal note of smoke; there is a slight astringent aspect to the nose, but nothing offensive. If you really search for the nose, you will notice some oak and roasted nut notes as well.


Reviewed by Richard and Joshua Borean

Categories: American Spirits, Bourbon
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