A: White Label
B: 12 y/o
Maker: Dewar & Sons, Perthshire, Scotland, UK (Bacardi)
B: 12 y/o
Appearance (coloring likely added)
A: Pale gold.
B: Pale copper.
A: Young. Malt, varnish, and a bit of brown butter.
B: Richer. Woodruff, malt, hints of sherry and oak.
On the palate
A: Full bodied and immature. New make, alcohol, malt, not much else.
B: Full bodied and more rounded. Malt, butterscotch, honey, oak.
A: Hot and brash with a bit of candy sweetness on the back end.
B: Creamy and sweet with a little bite. Fades slowly.
A: Adequate in a hot toddy, but doesn’t contribute much. Same with a butterscotch, Rob Roy and
Rusty Nail. Pleasantly malty with soda.
B: Does well in all the above drinks, adding a nice buttery note and more depth. In other words, one can actually taste the whisky in the drink.
Parting words: Both of these were perfectly adequate whiskies with the 12 y/o being the richer and more rounded of the two. Surprisingly, given the price difference, I would rank Dewar’s White label above Johnny Walker Red, but it’s still no more than a mixer. To confuse things further, I would rank the 12 y/o version below Johnny Walker Black, even though the two are the same age. The 12 does really well in cocktails but falls flat as a sipper. JW Black isn’t the most complex blend on the market but it has enough smoke and oak to keep me from dozing off mid sip.
In conclusion, Dewar’s White Label is mildly recommended for mixing but not for sipping and Dewar’s 12 y/o is recommended for mixing but only mildly recommended for sipping.
Grape: Cabernet Franc
Region: Michigan, USA
Online price: $17
Appearance: Pale pink with thick legs.
Nose: Subtle. A whiff of smoke, plum, black cherry, hint of cedar.
On the palate: Light bodied and delicately sweet. White mulberry, white pepper, slightly underripe blueberry.
Finish: Plum, ripe fig, then a delicate oaky flavor as it fades.
Parting words: Sassy Rosé is dedicated to the memory of the Moffats’ beloved Airedale Rosie (2003-2011), who I actually met on a couple occasions while stopping by the tasting room in Jackson. She was a friendly dog, but being an Airedale she could be, well, sassy.
I’m a big fan of dry rosés, especially those from the South of France, so I came into this wine with high hopes. I have had it before at the winery and it tasted good, but wines tend to taste better when sampled at the winery with friends. I was eager to get it home and write up a review.
When I first opened it, I was disappointed. It was much sweeter than I remembered and lacking in sass. After spending eighteen or so hours in the refrigerator, it has improved quite a bit. The profile is much closer to dry French rosés and much more enjoyable now. It gets a bit overwhelmed by spicy food, but does well with a light lunch of cheese and crackers or with holiday turkey. The price is on the high side but it’s fair for what it is and may be a little cheaper at the tasting room if I recall correctly. Sassy Rosé is recommended.
Style: American Pale Ale
Purchased for: $10/6 pack
Appearance: Dark tan with a foamy head that dissipates fairly quickly.
Nose: Creamy malt, flowery hops, hint of sweetness.
On the palate: Cream on first entry, then springs into bloom. Dried flowers, coriander seed, epazote.
Finish: Fairly dry with big, brash hops. Lingers for a long, long time getting more and more bitter.
Parting words: Greenbush is a newish brewery in Southwest Michigan in the heart of wine country, the Lake Michigan Shore AVA, specifically. It’s a big, bold American Pale Ale that reminds me a lot of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale but it lacks the finesse of Two Hearted and the hoppy finish can get unpleasant when not drinking with food. I had it with a variety of foods and it seems to drink best with rich, spicy ones like sausage or pizza. Price is normal for a quality microbrew. I look forward to trying and reviewing more from this brewery soon! Closure is recommended.
Age: 14 y/o
Proof: 101 (50.5% ABV)
Retail Price: $100 (Binny’s)
Michigan State Minimum (when available): $120
Appearance: Auburn with long, regularly spaced legs.
Nose: Alcohol, leather, barrel char, citrus blossom, Genoese basil.
On the palate: Full-bodied and rich. Burn, purple Kool-Aid, oak, ginger, mace, brown sugar.
Finish: Fruity in the cheeks, dry on the tongue and the actual palate.
Parting words: This is Wild Turkey at its finest, complex but still powerful. It strikes a lovely balance between fruity sweetness, spice, alcohol and oak, even without water. Compared to its siblings, I would rank Tradition above American Spirit (some of my friends might reverse that ranking), but not as good as Tribute. It’s a perfect holiday or special occasion sipping bourbon.
The packaging is absurdly complex with a display stand covered by a chestnut colored cover, but the bottle itself is simple and elegant. The over the top packaging does mean that it travels and ships well, so that’s something.
Tradition was released in 2009, but I was still seeing them on shelves as late as a year ago. The price is steep for a bourbon but these limited edition Turkeys rarely disappoint, and it is officially a dusty now so if you see it for $150 or less, buy it. Wild Turkey Tradition is recommended.
Maker: B. Nektar, Ferndale, Michigan
Style: Wildflower mead aged in rye whiskey barrels for one year.
Appearance: pale gold with big thick legs.
Nose: Brown butter, oak, overdone fruitcake, dandelion stems.
On the palate: Sweet and full bodied. Honey, citrus, cut clover, old oak, woodruff.
Finish: Sweet and viscous. Some acrid oak and orange peel. Then fades slowly.
Parting words: This is a good one. It’s much more drinkable than the first bourbon barrel finished mead they did. The bitter edges of the mead are taken off by the barrel aging and probably my cellaring for even longer. I still have one bottle held back in reserve.
It’s a cliché, but this mead is dangerous for the pocketbook and the brain. It tastes like a before dinner drink but it’s at an after dinner ABV. The price is steep but it’s a one-off and delicious. Sleeping Giant is going to be really hard to find at this point, but consider my recommendation as an endorsement of all B. Nektar barrel aged meads. Sleeping Giant is highly recommended.
Age: 12 y/o
Style: Canadian blended whisky
Michigan State Minimum: $28
Appearance: Medium gold.
Nose: Spicy and dry. Fresh lumber, chipotle, hay, cardamom.
On the palate: Medium-full bodied and spicy. Butterscotch, red pepper, curry powder.
Finish: Big and buttery with a touch of oak and butterscotch candy. Fades quickly, unfortunately.
Parting words: Gibson’s is an old Schenley brand that has traveled a lot in its long history. For now, it is made at the Walkerville plant in Windsor and belongs to Grant & Sons, Scottish distillers best known for their blended whisky Grant’s and as the owner of the Glenfiddich and Balvenie distilleries. In Canada, an NAS and an 18 y/o version are also available.
At any rate, in its current incarnation, Gibson’s 12 y/o has long been a popular duty-free brand and it’s easy to taste why. Unlike many of its Canadian siblings, it packs a lot of flavor into 40% ABV. It’s bold but not brash, and offers a healthy dose of oak, always a pleasant surprise in a Canadian blend. It’s now available in Michigan at a very reasonable price. Gibson’s Finest is recommended.
Style: Imperial stout with cocoa and mint flavoring added.
Thanks to Rhiannon for this bottle.
Appearance: Black coffee with a lacy beige head.
Nose: Dark roasted malt, dark chocolate, faint herbal note.
On the palate: Full bodied and sweet. Like a Shamrock Shake upon initial entry. Some bitterness does surface later and on subsequent sips. Very dark chocolate, Espresso with a shot of peppermint schnapps.
Finish: Long, bitter and slightly sweet. The mint is in the background but still present.
Parting words: I wasn’t so sure what this beer was going to be like, but my doubts were unfounded. It’s delicious. The cocoa dovetails with the Stout-ness perfectly even to the point where I don’t think I would notice it if I didn’t already know it was there. The mint is noticeable but subtle, especially as the beer sits in the glass. I would have preferred a little more mint, but that’s a quibble. I also don’t know if adding cocoa was really needed but it didn’t hurt.
I received this beer as a gift from my cousin, so I’m not sure how much it sold for, but I’ve been able to find it online for $3 for a 12 oz. bottle. That’s not cheap, but since this is more of a novelty than a go-to brew, I wouldn’t mind paying that for a bottle or two. Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout is recommended.
Style: Blend of straight whiskeys (bourbon and rye)
Proof: 91 (45.5% ABV)
Michigan state minimum: $51
Thanks to Oscar for the sample
Appearance: Medium copper with legs and a decent necklace.
Nose: Alcohol, fresh cut grass, sawdust, lavender, hint of barbecue sauce, corn chips.
On the palate: Hot and dry but with a soft mouth feel. A bit of sweetness, a kiss of oak and then nothing but alcohol.
Finish: Mild alcohol burn, a touch of anise, then nothing.
Parting words: Upon tasting this bourbon I was filled with joy. That joy was because I hadn’t spent $50+ on a full bottle. Thanks again to Oscar for this sample! Forgiven was named for an alleged incident when a WT employee mistakenly mixed bourbon and rye (Your chocolate’s in my peanut butter!) but was forgiven because of the allegedly delicious results. The end result is not awful, but really dull. Boring is forgivable at <$25, but not at $51. This is another miss for Wild Turkey under Campari’s ownership. Forgotten seems like a more appropriate name. Not recommended.
Note: Only available at the tasting room/bar
Nose: lemon peel, Clementine, angelica, cinnamon, ginger, tobacco.
On the palate: Full bodied and spicy. Black pepper, cardamom, cassia, alcohol. A splash of water brings out more sweetness and a lot more cinnamon.
Finish: Cinnamon disk and alcohol burn. Fades very slowly.
Mixed: Does surprisingly well in cocktails that are traditionally better suited to unaged gin. Makes a spicy dry martini and a respectable gin and tonic. It is really fantastic in a perfect martini (half dry and half sweet vermouth) and adds a great spicy aspect to a negroni.
Parting words: Like its unaged sibling, this gin is a wild ride. When I tasted it neat (how Rifino Valentine says he drinks it) it changed in the glass substantially from first sip to last. At first it was all citrus. Then it shifted to more traditional Old Tom Gin flavors, then it became a cinnamon bomb.
As noted above it is available only at the distillery in Ferndale, for a bit more than the standard version. It’s over the top, but it’s delicious. Barrel-aged Liberator is highly recommended.
ABV: 56.1% (cask strength)
Michigan State Minimum: $120 (I bought it when the price was $90)
Appearance: Pale gold.
Nose: Peat, smoke, dried flowers, alcohol. Softens up a bit with water, but the peat is still front and center.
On the palate: Full bodied and aggressive. Burn, smoke, peat. Sweeter and more balanced with water. Butterscotch candy, fireplace, peat, amaretto.
Finish: campfire smoke, vanilla custard, burn. With water I get hardwood ash, vanilla pudding, and burn.
Parting words: Lagavulin 16 y/o (reviewed here) is still my favorite single malt Scotch, but this one has come very close. It’s not nearly as refined as its older sister but it has a powerful smokiness that rivals Laphroaig or Ardbeg. I’m getting into Malt Imposter territory here, but if Lagavulin were the Clash, the 16 year old would be London Calling and the 12 year old cask strength would be The Clash. The former is more polished and complex, but the latter has an urgency and power that is compelling.
The state minimum price in Michigan unfortunately went up by $30 recently so it is much less of a value than it used to be. Still, it’s a wonderful, delicious whisky worth trying and buying if it fits into your budget. I love and recommend Lagavulin 12 y/o Limited Edition 2012, Cask Strength.