Price: $14/750 ml (Binny’s)
Thanks to Rhiannon to help in acquiring this bottle.
Appearance: Black coffee with a big frothy head
Nose: Faint. Coffee.
On the palate: Full bodied and rich. Roasted malt, effervescence, chocolate covered raisins, Ethiopian Harrar coffee.
Finish: Bitter and slightly sweet. Coffee and dark chocolate stick to the lips for a long time.
Parting words: Lost Abbey’s Serpent’s Stout is one of the best stout’s I’ve ever had. It’s fantastic beer that has a strong classic stout profile but is has a complexity and balance that puts it ahead of the competition. The fruity notes were a bit of a surprise but a welcome addition. As usual, I feel like I’m reaching for descriptors for a beer. I all have left to say is that one tastes really good. Lost Abbey Serpent’s Stout is highly recommended.
Distiller: Unknown (Contract distilled)
Bottler: Frank-Lin, Fairfield, California, USA
Age: 12 y/o
Proof: 86.8 (43.4% ABV)
Michigan State Minimum: $46
Appearance: Copper with thin legs.
Nose: Dry oak with a hint of sweetness.
Palate: Medium bodied and a little hot. Light brown sugar, oak, cocoa powder, alcohol, cayenne pepper.
Finish: Well-balanced and long. Alcohol, oak, caramel.
Parting words: Old Medley is a relatively new product and a very new one to Michigan. According to the best information available, Old Medley is a (relatively) high malt bourbon, coming in at 13% malt, higher than the percentage of rye in the mash. 1792 Ridgemont Reserve has also been rumored to be made with a high malt mashbill, but there has never been any evidence to confirm those rumors.
The Medleys are one of the great distilling families of Kentucky with a history that reaches far back into the nineteenth century. Most of that history is in and around Owensboro, Ketucky. The current Roman Catholic bishop of Owensboro is even a Medley. A distillery with the name of Charles Medley still stands there, but it is currently not in operation although its owner, the government of Trinidad & Tobago (long story), have been shopping it around for years with little success. After the Medleys lost control of their own distillery, they carried on as a non-distiller producer with Wathen’s Single Barrel ($33 state minimum), named after ancestor R. Wathen Medley (himself named for the Wathen family of which his mother Florence was a member). Wathen’s son Charles (b. 1941) and grandson Sam (b. 1975) are currently running the business. Recently a NAS, 102 proof bourbon by the name of Medley Brothers has also been released, but has yet to make it to Michigan.
As for the bourbon itself, it’s quite good. It’s an easy drinking mature bourbon. Sometimes I think it’s too mature and might be a little better at 10 y/o with more sweetness and less oak. But that’s a minor gripe and most of the time I enjoy it.
There are a lot of very good 12 year old bourbons on the market that are better values than Old Medley. Elijah Craig and Weller 12 are hard to beat. On the other hand, there are also a lot of garbage bourbons on the shelves that NDPs or micro-distillers are changing $40-$50 for. Old Medley is not that. It’s an easy going after dinner porch sipping whiskey. It is recommended.
Region: Beneventano IGT, Campania, Italy
Appearance: Very deep purple, nearly black.
Nose: Blueberry, pomegranate juice.
Palate: Medium bodied and fruity but with a little chewiness to hold everything together. Light cherry juice, blueberries, white mulberry, plum, touch of leather.
Finish: Medium dry. Toasted oak, vanilla, clove.
Parting words: Epicuro is another Trader Joe’s line of <$10 wines but one of the few I have not explored as of yet. Epicuro’s wines are all marketed by the varietal and all from relatively lesser known (i.e. not Piedmont or Tuscan) regions.
Beneventano IGT (IGT is roughly equivalent to the French vin de pays; for a synopsis of the Italian regional wine system look here) is in Campania in southern Italy. Campania and neighboring Basilicata constitute the home turf of Aglianico. The latter is home to the best known DOC featuring the grape, Aglianico del Vulture and the former is home to the Taurasi DOCG.
When doing research for this review I discovered that f.o.t.b. Oliver has reviews on three vintages of Epicuro’s Salice Solentino here. It’s a personal favorite of his. He and other reviewers don’t typically hold the Aglianico in as a high regard, but as you can tell from my review above, I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t say it was a game-changer for me, but it was easy drinking and cheap without any real flaws. It paired moderately well with beef stew with peas (from an Italian cookbook) but it might work better with pork or chicken as a summer BBQ wine.
Style: Sour Brown Ale with cherries, finished in a bourbon barrel
Appearance: Murky auburn with a moderate head.
Nose: Charred oak, hops, roasted malt, hint of cherry.
Palate: Medium bodied and delicately sweet. Cheery, oak, bourbon, brown ale.
Finish: Fruity and slightly sour. Carries on in a low key fashion for quite a while.
Parting words: I normally don’t review beer one-offs like this, especially not years after they were released, but I have an enormous backlog of beers to review and not a lot of space to store them in so I have decided to review what I have instead of buying new stuff.
This beer was one of two special releases Arcadia put out in honor of their 15th anniversary in December of 2011. The other one was XV ale. It was finished in white wine barrels while this one got the bourbon barrel treatment. This one was said to be a sour brown ale brewed with cherries but I don’t get much sour out of this at all. Either the sourness has mellowed during the time in the bottle or the cherry sweetness has done the mellowing.
I bought it in 2013 or 2012 when visiting Arcadia with Friend-of-the-Blog Oscar. I don’t remember how much I paid for it, but I am sure it was between $10 and $24. I don’t mind paying that much for a one-off of this quality in a 22 oz. bottle like this. If you can find it, Arcardia’s 15 Ale is recommended.
Michigan State Minimum: $77
Appearance: Light caramel (likely colored)
Nose: Peat, dried flowers, smoke, alcohol, pine needles. Water brings out more smoke but doesn’t alter the flavor much otherwise.
On the palate: Full bodied and sweet. Smoke, cocoa powder, alcohol. Water brings out vanilla, white cake and then a burst of smoke.
Finish: Soot, alcohol, butterscotch candy, Mexican chocolate. Water doesn’t change much here.
Talisker Storm is a relatively new expression from Diageo. Price-wise it is situated between Talisker 10 y/o ($70 state minimum) and the Distiller’s Edition ($80). All three are bottled at the same proof. I have not had the Distiller’s Edition, so I can’t comment on how Storm compares to that, but Storm is definitely superior to the 10 y/o. Storm tastes more mature and shows better flavor integration than the 10, which seems to vacillate between sappy new make and murky maritime peat. Storm works better than the 10 as a gateway to Talisker and smoky Hebridean single malts in general. There is also a Dark Storm available in travel retail outlets that is aged in heavily charred casks.
If I have one criticism, it’s that it’s by-the-numbers with nothing in the way of surprises lurking in the nose or finish. That’s OK though, since it seems to be intended as a gateway or go-to type malt. It’s not cheap, but the price is firmly in line with comparable malts. If I have two criticisms, it’s that the label and packaging are cheesy.
In sum, I liked it, and could see myself buying it again. Talisker Storm is recommended. It’s worthwhile noting that this whiskyalso won Whisky Advocate’s Highland/Island Single Malt Scotch of the Year for 2013.
Distiller: MGPI, Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA
Bottled: 5/2/2013 by Nikki.
Age: 10 y/o
Proof: 100 (50% ABV)
Price: $55 Michigan State Minimum (this bottle purchased in Kentucky for $50)
Appearance: Dark copper with thin, evenly spaced legs.
Nose: Almond extract, leather, alcohol, dried flowers. More leathery and herbal with water.
On the palate: Full bodied, sweet and rich. Caramel, burn, amaretto candy, cocoa powder. With water more sweetness and some lavender and tarragon.
Finish: Hot. Red pepper flakes, with a touch of oak and caramel as it fades. Less hot with water and sweeter with a touch of basil or tarragon.
Parting words: Smooth Ambler is a breath of fresh air when it comes to micro-distillers/bottlers. Unlike the smoke and mirrors that usually goes with sourced whiskey in this country, Smooth Ambler has always been very up front about the origins of their whiskeys. Their bourbons and ryes are even called “Old Scout” as a nod to the fact that they are indeed sourced, or scouted, from elsewhere. This may not seem like a lot, but even the best known NDPs (Non-Distiller Producers) are usually less than candid about their products.
At any rate, lest that sound like faint praise, their whiskey is damn good too. I’ve reviewed MGPI bourbon before with mixed results. This one is an unqualified success. It shows excellent balance and works well as a rich, creamy after-dinner, cold-weather sipper. The family resemblance to Four Roses is in evidence. Old Scout has a certain aromatic quality (yeast-driven if I were to guess) that I get in Four Roses but no other Kentucky bourbon.
This bottle proves to me once and for all that MGPI can indeed produce high quality bourbon. At $50-$55 it’s not cheap but it’s 100 proof and very tasty. That earns Old Scout Ten a recommendation.
Place of origin: Champagne, Cognac, France. (Not to be confused with the winemaking region of the same name).
Age: NAS (minimum 2 y/o )
Michigan State Minimum: $50
Appearance: Auburn with thick legs and necklace.
Nose: Fruity. Fresh wine grapes, cardamom, dried blueberries, saffron, ginger.
On the palate: Medium bodied and sweet. Panettone with raisins.
Finish: Golden raisins, hint of oak and alcohol. Fades fairly quickly.
Parting words: I believe this is the first Cognac I have reviewed for the blog, although I did review an Armagnac back in 2012. I decided that I needed to review a Cognac when I recently purchased a bourbon finished in a Cognac barrel and I realized I couldn’t pick out any specific Cognac influenced aromas or tastes.
For those who may not be familiar with Cognac, it’s a French brandy made from white wine made from grapes grown in and around the city of Cognac in western France, north of Bordeaux. There are six subregions within the Cognac zone: Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bon Bois and Bois Ordinaire. Rémy Martin 1738 is a Champagne Cognac, meaning it was made with a blend of grapes from both Grande and Petite Champagne. According to the Rémy Martin website, it is composed of 65% Grande and 35% Petite. Cognac is distilled in an old style of pot still called an alembic still and must be aged for a minimum of two years in French oak before being sold. The grapes used to produce the wine used to produce Cognac are typically wines that don’t drink very well. Ugni Blanc (aka Trebbiano) is one of the primary varietals used
1783 (named for the date of a royal warrant the company was granted) is positioned in the middle of the Rémy Martin range and as such I thought it represented a good place to jump in to the Cognac. I was not disappointed. It contains no age statement or age grade (V.O., V.S.O.P., etc), but strikes what seems to be a good balance between fruity youth and oaky maturity. It’s worth the price, but if you’re still not sure, it is availble in 375 and 200 ml bottles as well. Rémy Martin 1738 is recommended.
Place of origin: Michigan (Pioneer Wine Trail), USA
Price: $15 (website)
Appearance: Pale straw, scant legs.
Nose: Bartlett pear, dried flowers, orange blossom honey.
On the palate: Medium bodied and slightly tart. Tangerine, wildflower honey, lemon thyme, minerals.
Finish: Surprisingly dry. A touch of grapefruit and thyme. Fades slowly.
Parting words: I am a lover of all Michigan wine, but I don’t love every Michigan wine. The wines Michigan’s AVAs tend to be of consistently higher quality than those that just read “Michigan” on the label. The wineries of the Pioneer Wine Trail in Michigan are spread over many miles in Southeast and South Michigan and their vineyards occupy a wide variety of sites. What they have in common is they are more “continental” in climate with hotter summers and colder, drier winters than points west and north. All that said, any wine that simply calls itself “Michigan” can contain grapes grown anywhere in the state.
J. Trees is a fairly new winery, but they are producing like old pros. Their 2011 Dry Riesling wine is well executed and delicious from start to finish. It’s dry enough to pair well with food traditionally matched with white wines (we had ours with cheese tortellini in chicken stock) but complex enough for Saturday afternoon sipping with a good book.
The price is very fair for a wine of this quality and versatility. J. Trees Dry Riesling is recommended.
Batch: No. 47, Sept 2012
Price: $50 (Binny’s)
Appearance: Pale gold, long, lazy legs (no coloring used).
Nose: Malt, fresh cut lumber, alcohol.
On the palate: Full bodied and sweet. Butterscotch, vanilla buttercream icing, coconut cream.
Finish: Warm, but not hot with oak and sweet malt. Fades slowly into tingliness.
Parting words: Amrut is a fairly new brand of whisky. It was introduced to the world outside India in 2004 at an Indian restaurant in Glasgow. After a change in distribution strategy, it was eventually launched the North America in 2010. Before that, the distillery produced malt whisky for blending.
As one might expect, whisky and other spirits in India mature much more quickly than in Scotland or even Kentucky due to the hot climate. According to Wikipedia, the evaporation rate for Amrut whisky in the barrel is about 11% per year compared to 2% on average in Scotland.
This whisky does taste like a 10-12 y/o Speyside malt, and a pretty good one at that. The only off note I detected was the cut lumber in the nose. It is close to the sharp woody aroma that comes through in many micro-distilled American malt whiskeys. Fortunately it dissapates as the whisky opens up in the glass and bottle. Overall, Amrut makes for a pleasant after dinner sipper or a starter whisky for a Scotch session.
At $50 it’s not cheap but it is fair for comparable Single Malt Scotches, many of which are at a lower ABV. Amrut Single Malt is recommended.
Grape: 100% Monstrell (Mourvèdre)
Place of origin: Yecla DO, Spain
Purchased for: $9
Appearance: Dark crimson, thick legs.
Nose: Strawberry preserves, blackberries, black cherries, oak. A little boozy.
On the palate: Raspberry jam, black pepper.
Finish: Light and fades quickly. Cherry juice and a touch of leather.
Parting words: For a $9 wine, this a very good stuff. Mourvèdre/Monstrell is a staple of Mediterranean vineyards, especially those in the southern parts of Spain and France. It often is blended with Grenache and similar wines to counteract its rustic character. This is Mourvèdre of a gentler sort. It’s jammy but has enough structure and oak to make it appropriate for drinking with a hearty meal. Wines from Rioja and the Duero valley have gotten very hot in recent years, but lesser known regions in Spain like Yecla are still producing value wines and this is a great example. Castaña Monstrell is recommended.