Lapinette

Maker: Virtue Farms, Fennville, Michigan, USAwpid-2014-12-16-16.53.00.jpg.jpeg

Style: Cidre Brut (in the style of dry Norman cider)

ABV: 6.8%

Purchased: $8/750 ml

Appearance: Pale gold. Very little effervescence.

Nose: Yeasty funk with a light sweet apple juice aroma.

Palate: Mineral water with hints of apple, yeast and lemon juice.

Finish: Clean and quick. Flint, dry citrus.

Parting words: The last cider I reviewed was a real Norman cider, so I thought it might be fun to try this hommage. It’s firmly in the style with all the yeasty dryness of its French cousin. Maybe I’m just getting used to the style but I enjoyed this one a little more. Not that I really love it but it’s more enjoyable. No criticism of Virtue here, they nailed the style, but Lapinette is only mildly recommended.

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Enlighten

Maker: Chapman’s, Angola, Indiana, USAwpid-20141201_133600.jpg

Style: Kölsch style

ABV: 5.3%

Purchased for $11/4 pint cans

Appearance: Dark gold with a foamy head.

Nose: Sweet cereal, yeast.

Palate: medium bodied. Crisp, grassy and bitter with a subtle underpinning of sweetness.

Finish: Dry and bitter. Lasts quite some time.

Parting words: This is the first beer I’ve had from Chapman’s and it’s pretty good and a good example of the style. It’s a fine table beer and would be quite refreshing served ice cold in the summertime. The biggest problem is the price. For that much, I expect more than this by-the-numbers approach. Chapman’s Enlighten is mildly recommended.

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Collingwood

Maker: Canadian Mist, Collingwood, Ontario, Canada (Brown-Forman).wpid-20141121_112418.jpg

Age: NAS (at least three years old)

Style: Blended Canadian finished with toasted maple staves.

ABV: 40%

Michigan State Minimum: $30

Appearance: Pale copper.

Nose: Popcorn, butterscotch, cut maple.

Palate: Semi-dry with a velvety mouthfeel. Hotter than expected. Maple candy, a bit of grassiness.

Finish: Maple syrup, sweet cinnamon. Fades fairly quickly.

Mixed: Good in an Old Fashioned and in a cocktail I found called a Ste. Agathe made with triple sec, lemon juice and grenadine but it didn’t hold up in one I tried called an Original (shot of whisky with a teaspoon each of sweet vermouth and grenadine). A cocktail from the Collingwood website called a Collingwood Classic (muddled orange peel, bitters and syrup) was tasty and refreshing. Orange seemed to work well with the rye and maple notes in the whisky.

Parting words: “Mellowed” with maple staves in a stainless steel vat after aging, Collingwood is a relatively new addition to the Michigan state list. I’m not sure why that term is used and not  finishing or infusing. Mellowing has the potential to confuse consumers who may be more familiar with the mellowing process used by B-F’s cash cow Jack Daniels. Jack Daniels is filtered through a vat filled with maple charcoal after distilling, so there’s beyond the use of maple wood, there’s no similarity.

I’m not familiar with Collingwood’s sibling, Canadian Mist, so I can’t make that comparison but Collingwood compares favorably with other Canadians in the $20-$35 range. It’s not as good as Gibson’s Finest, but better than Crown Royal and Forty Creek Barrel Select. Plus the maple finishing adds an extra element that justifies a couple extra bucks.

The bottle looks like it should contain aftershave but it does fit easily on a shelf and comes with a built-in pourer like a 175 ml bottle.

Collingwood works best as a quality mixer or a casual post-supper sipper. Recommended.

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Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau

Maker: Duboeuf, Romanèche-Thorins, Saône-et-Loire, Burgundy, Francewpid-2014-11-26-10.03.20.jpg.jpeg

Grape: Gamay

Place of origin: Beaujolais, Burgundy, France

Vintage: 2014

ABV: 12%

Purchased for $9

Appearance: Dark burgundy.

Nose: Blueberry, red current, red raspberry, black cherry.

Palate: Same berry flavors on the palate, but with a hint of pepper.

Finish: Short with a slight tang and more berries.

Parting words: Duboeuf is one of the most famous of the Bungundian négociants and it’s probably most famous for this wine, Beaujolais Nouveau. This wine has come a long way from the heady days of the late 20th century, but it still graces many American Thanksgiving Day tables and serves as a gateway to Burgundy for many people, as it was for me.

To paraphrase Linus, “it’s not a bad little wine.” It pairs well with turkey and smoked meats and is inoffensive enough to serve to the whole family. This vintage is all berries and little else. If that appeals to you, get it. Also, remember it’s only $9, so pound away (slightly chilled.

). Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2014 is recommended.

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Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouché Brut de Normandie

Maker: Etienne Dupont, Victot-Pontfol, Normandy, Francewpid-2014-11-18-10.22.09.jpg.jpeg

Vintage: 2012

ABV: 5.5%

Purchased for $12/750 ml

Appearance: light ochre with a big fizzy head that disperses soon after pouring.

Nose: Dry and flinty with a hint of yeasty funk.

Palate: Fizzy, apple juice, sourdough, chalk dust.

Finish: Fairly clean with a little funk and a touch of sweetness.

Parting words: There are very few denizens of the Wonderful Land of Booze that I just don’t enjoy. Sherry, flavored vodka, American blended whiskey, Coors/Bud/Miller beer and French cider all fall into that category.

This cider is drinkable enough, but the combination of funky yeast and dry chalk don’t exactly keep me coming back. Maybe I should have started my cider journey in Normandy and then sailed to the UK and US, or it’s over or underaged but this is not a repeat buy, especially at this price. Not recommended.

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Four Roses triple header: OESO vs. OESO vs. OESO single barrel selections

Maker: Four Roses, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, USAwpid-2014-11-12-17.24.33.jpg.jpeg

BBD= Binny’s

TPS= The Party Source

GBS= Georgia Bourbon Society

Warehouse: BN

Barrel

BBD: 31-1D

TPS: 30-3E

GBS: 30-3G

Age

BBD: 10 yrs, 11 mos.

TPS: 10 yrs, 3 mos.

GBS: 11 yrs, 5 mos.

Proof

BBD: 103.8 (51.9% ABV)

TPS: 115 (57.5% ABV)

GBS: 114 (57% ABV)

BBD: $55

TPS: $50 (current price for private selections)

GBS: Not disclosed (<$50)

Appearance

BBD: Medium dark copper.

TPS: A little lighter with more orange.

GBS: Somewhere between the two (which are pretty similar anyway).

Nose

BBD: Leather, peanut brittle, cumin.

TPS: Big oak, touch of caramel.

GBS: Oak is just as big, but with more spice. Chili powder, Tabasco sauce.

Palate

BBD: Sweet and creamy on the palate, like vanilla toffee chews.

TPS: Sweet and creamy too, but not quite as rich.

GBS: Similar mouthfeel to BBD and just as sweet but more complex with Mexican chocolate flavors.

Finish

BBD: Sweet but drying. Toasted marshmallows. Lingers for a long time,

TPS: The oak carries through in the finish but with enough caramel to round it off.

GBS: Best of the bunch. Smoky chocolate and toffee.

Parting words: OESO is one of the most popular of Four Roses’ ten recipes for retailer and private selections, as this tasting illustrates. The E indicates the lower rye mashbill and the final O indicates the O yeast was used in fermentation. The O yeast is known for contributing a “robust fruitiness” to its offspring. These bourbons are all quite robust but not much was there in the way of fruitiness.

They are all very similar, as one might expect, but some of the subtle differences surprised me. I arranged the tasting the way I did, because I assumed that the TPS and the GBS would be closest in flavor but they weren’t. They were rick neighbors and came out at similar proofs but they ended up being the least alike of the three. The closest in profile were the BBD and GBS barrels. There were subtle differences between them but I highly doubt I could win a Pepsi Challenge scenario with the two of them.  The TPS barrel was the outlier. It is the youngest, but it was the woodiest of the three.

All three were very good, but the edge here goes to the product of the GBS barrel (which I and some friends of the blog helped select). The GBS selection was not for sale to the general public, but any GBS member would be happy to pour you some if you ask nicely. All are highly recommended.

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Vanderbush

Makers: Greenbush, Sawyer, Michigan/Vandermill, Spring Lake, Michigan, USAwpid-20141110_170204.jpg

Style: Tripel brewed with cider.

ABV: 10.2%

Purchased for $13/4 pack

Appearance: Like cloudy cider with a big foamy head.

Nose: Sweet malt, hot cereal, hot cider.

Palate: Effervescent with hops, apple juice, and sourdough swimming around.

Finish: Bizarre. Big bitter hops clashing with a slightly sweet, apple flavor. Like chewing on cotton or accidently swallowing a bug.

Parting words: I have had lots of great beers from Greenbush and lots of great ciders from Vandermill. I have nothing but love and respect for both producers. That said, this is a terrible product. The nose and palate are decent, but nothing special. The finish is what kills it. It’s just gross. If a cider-beer from two great craft producers tastes this bad, I shudder to think what the corporate versions taste like. Vanderbush is not recommended.

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Bowers Harbor Red Cépages

Maker: Bowers Harbor, Lake Leelanau, Michigan, USAwpid-20141112_171618.jpg

Grapes: Unknown (likely some hybrids in the mix)

Place of origin: Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2010

ABV: 12.5%

Purchased for $13

Appearance: Brick red with long thick legs, pretty close together.

Nose: Semi-sweet and jammy. Black cherry jam, cedar, a touch of foxiness.

Palate: More tart than the nose would suggest. Blueberry jam, blackberries, oak.

Finish: Chewy and sweet. Wild blackberries, leather, a bit of tartness.

Parting words: This wine was a bit of a surprise to me, but it shouldn’t have been. It was sweeter than I expected but still has enough underlying structure to keep it from falling into pop wine territory. It seemed more like a table wine to me than the French-style red blend I was expecting. I should have looked more closely at the label, because it says right under the boat “Red Table Wine”.

The price is a little more than I like to pay for table wines, but I liked it over all. It did OK with our supper of homemade macaroni and cheese. My wife said that she prefers that style of wine in the summertime, and I can’t disagree with her there. Red Cépages works best as a casual warm weather sipper. As such, it is recommended.

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Hedonism

Maker: Compass Box, Edinburgh, Scotland, UKwpid-hedonism_bottle.jpg

Distillers vary by batch but often includes whisky from : Cameron Bridge (Fife), Carsebridge, Cambus , Port Dundas or Dumbarton.

Style: Blended Grain Scotch Whisky

ABV: 43%

Michigan State Minimum: $110

Appearance: Light gold with long moderately thick legs.

Nose: Vanilla, woodruff, white pepper, persimmon.

Palate: Medium sweet and full bodied. Vanilla pudding, alcohol, toffee, caramel, pecan.

Finish: Medium hot, creamy and herbaceous. Lasts a long time and gets sweeter as it goes.

Parting words: Grain whisky is Scotch whisky made from a grain other than malted barley. That grain can be anything, but wheat and corn are most common. It is distilled in a column still to a higher ABV than malt whisky, which is distilled in pot stills. Grain whisky is most commonly used to blend with single malt whisky to create blended Scotch. The malt component is used to give flavor to blends, while the grain is used to fill it out and round it off to create a very drinkable spirit.

Scotch grain whiskies are rarely bottled on their own, but Compass Box has decided to make this one a part of its core range. It’s round and rich with lots of character, giving the lie to the assertion that column distillation only produces bland, thin whisky (of course, bourbon gives the lie to this assertion as well). Aged mostly in ex-bourbon casks, it is a rich and complex as most single malts, if not richer. This is a wonderful whisky that is delicious all the way around. It’s expensive, though, and that keeps it out of the highly recommended category. Compass Box Hedonism is recommended.

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Dark Penance

Maker: Founders, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USAwpid-2014-11-03-17.35.42.jpg.jpeg

Style: Imperial Black IPA

ABV: 8.9%

Purchased for $12/4 pack

Appearance: Dark chocolate brown with a foamy head.

Nose: Big hops, ruby red grapefruit, dried flowers.

Palate: Hot cocoa, floral hops, bitter citrus peel.

Finish: Big and bitter but split between roasted malt and hops.

Parting words: The best way to describe the flavor of this beer is as a hybrid of a porter and a pale ale. Most black IPAs I’ve had seemed to be little more than a darker colored IPA. A few have had some more depth and toastiness, but none as rich as this one. It has all the bite and spice of a good IPA but with the depth and power of an imperial stout. I’m not often overawed by beers, especially not IPAs, but this one did it to me.

It’s expensive even by craft beer standards but it’s the best beer of this style I’ve ever had and I think it’s very much worth the price. Dark Penance is highly recommended.

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