Arcturos Gewurztraminer

Maker: Black Star Farms, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Place of origin: Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2012

ABV: 13%

Price: $22.50 (website)

Appearance: Pale gold.

Nose: Lychee, melon, mango.

Palate: Medium bodied. Cantaloupe, white pepper, white peach, touch of pineapple mint.

Finish: Slightly bitter tempered with tropical fruit.

Parting words: For me, the sweet spot for American Gewurz is 2-3 years, right where this one is. To me, this bottle drinks like a crisper, lighter version of an Alsatian Gewurz. That’s not better or worse, it’s just a matter of style. What they share is a commitment to bringing the spicy aspects of the grape to the fore. This wine is not afraid to embrace its Gewurz-ness. I like that approach and I love this wine. This is another big winner from Black Star Farms and another testament to the character and overall excellence of the 2012 vintage. Pairs well with the usual suspects. Arcturos 2012 Gewurztraminer is highly recommended.

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Gordon & MacPhail Mortlach 15 y/o

Maker: Mortlach, Dufftown, Moray, Scotland, UK (Diageo)

Bottled by Gordon & MacPhail, Elgin, Moray, Scotland, UK

Region: Speyside- Dufftown

ABV: 43%

Price: $75 (Binny’s)

Appearance: Dark gold

Nose: Sweet malt, wildflowers, oak, caramel.

Palate: Thick mouthfeel. Brown butter, wildflower honey, beef bullion, alcohol.

Finish: alcohol, butterscotch, vanilla cream, toasted oak.

Parting words: Mortlach was one of the malts that made me reconsider my dislike of Speysiders. This bottling is an excellent example of why I fell in love with this distillery. Meatiness is a house characteristic of Mortlach and it’s in evidence in this bottling. It’s not heavy-handed, though. There’s plenty of sweetness and oak to round it off nicely. It’s complex without being busy. The price is high (for me) but not completely out of whack for a high-quality single malt and cheaper than the new distillery bottlings are going for. If you like the heavier Speyside style and see one of these pick it up. G & M’s 15 y/o Mortlach is recommended.

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Good Harbor Cherry Wine

Maker: Good Harbor, Leland, Michigan, USAwpid-2015-01-21-20.33.42.jpg.jpeg

Place of origin: Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan, USA

Cherries: Montmorency, Balaton.

ABV: 10%

Purchased for $12

Notes: Estate grown.

Appearance: Brick red.

Nose: Spiced cherry pie,

Palate: Medium bodied. Tart cherries, nectarine, white pepper.

Finish: Black cherries slowly morphing into a lingering tartness.

Parting words: I don’t recall ever drinking, let alone seeing, an estate grown Michigan cherry wine before this one. Lots of credit to Good Harbor for taking cherry wine seriously and most of all, making a very good one. This is an elegant dessert wine that’s worth every penny. Good Harbor Cherry Wine is highly recommended.

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English Whiskey Company Cask Strength Binny’s Handpicked Dual Cask Peated Single Malt

Maker: English Whisky Co., Roundham, Norfolk, England, UKwpid-2015-01-16-16.11.11.jpg.jpeg

Age: NAS

ABV: 60.9%

Price: $70

Notes: Natural color, unfiltered. Limited edition: Casks 108 & 166.

Appearance: Pale gold with thick legs.

Nose: Lemon pepper, peat, vanilla.

Palate: Full bodied. Lemon Meringue, peat, then burn and a touch of gravel.

Finish: Lots of heat and smoke. Hot but enjoyable.

Parting words: OK, so the name of this one doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it is delicious. I’ve had English Whisky Co.’s Classic Malt in years past and it struck me as whisky with lots of potential, but nothing impressive. This is impressive. It easily goes toe to toe with entry level peated Scotches without being an imitation of peated Scotch. The sweet citrus notes in the nose and on the palate set it apart from Islay and other attempts at peated spirits from outside of Scotland.

$70 for a cask-strength peated whisky this delicious is a steal. There are only a few bottles left (mine is #405 out of 426) so run to Binny’s immediately and grab yourself a couple. English Whiskey Company Cask Strength Binny’s Handpicked Dual Cask Peated Single Malt is highly recommended.

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Peninsula Dry Riesling

Maker: Peninsula Cellars, Traverse City, Michigan, USAwpid-2015-01-07-21.45.18.jpg.jpeg

Place of origin: Hawkeye, Kroupa vineyards, Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2012

ABV: 12%

Price: $18 (website)

Appearance: Bright gold.

Nose: Fresh cut green apple, Anjou pear, sweet melon, fizzy mineral water.

Palate: Drying. Underripe apple, white mulberry, gravel.

Finish: Racy, slightly tart. Lingers faintly for a moderate length of time.

Parting words: Peninsula Cellars is located in the central part of the Old Mission Peninsula north of Traverse City, Michigan. They’re best known for their table blends, Old School White, Old School Red and Detention. The school theme comes from the old school house that serves as their tasting room (at a different location than their winery).

Peninsula’s blends may be their most popular and best known wines, but they also produce some seriously good varietals, including a single-vineyard Gewürztraminer and this dry Reisling from grapes grown at two nearby vineyards, Hawkeye and Kroupa. It’s a first rate example of how this style of Reisling is done in Michigan. The winemakers have done a wonderful job of balancing fruit with dry minerality. Like most dry Reisling, it does well with poultry, fish and Asian dishes, but this is one that you’ll want to spend a summer or even winter afternoon contemplating. Peninsula Cellars’ 2012 Dry Reisling is highly recommended.

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Standard Issue Gin

Maker: Few Spirits, Evanston, Illinois, USA


Batch: 4/14

ABV: 57%

Price: $40 (Binny’s)

Appearance: Clear with thick legs.

Nose: Powerful. Cut pine, fennel, alcohol, wet earth, dried wildflowers.

Palate: Full- bodied and velvety. Sweetness then burn.

Finish: Sappy and sweet but quickly drying into citrus blossom and orange peel with a hit of anise at the end.

Mixed: Good in a dry martini with an aggressive, grassy vermouth. Does even better in a perfect martini. Sublime in a Negroni. OK with tonic and with bitter lemon, but overwhelms the mixer. Ditto with orange juice. I would recommend using 1/3 to 1/4 less than your usual proportions when mixing due to the high ABV and powerful flavors of this gin.

Parting words: Last time I was at Binny’s, I was hoping to find some of Few’s much ballyhooed rye. They were all out of that (a promising sign!) so I went home with a bottle of this, which is their navy strength gin.

Once I opened it, I was not disappointed. This is powerful stuff, even when taken down to proof. Big sappy juniper and fennel/anise dominate with everything else taking a backseat. If you enjoy those flavors (I do) you will love this gin. If you prefer your gin a little dryer or milder, then you may not love it. It does fine with tonic and similar mixers but this is a cocktail gin at heart.

$40 is a good price for a gin of this quality and strength. Few Standard Issue Gin is recommended.

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Cup A Joe

Maker: Short’s, Elk Rapids, Michigan, USAwpid-2015-01-05-20.53.18.jpg.jpeg

Style: Coffee Cream Stout (made with FTO coffee from Higher Grounds roasters, Traverse City, Michigan).

ABV: 7%

Purchased for $12/6 pack

Appearance: Dark coffee with a short-lived lacy head.

Nose: Fresh ground coffee, sour yeast, cocoa.

Palate: Coffee with extra cream, and a little bit of funk.

Finish: Bitter and caffeinated like your ex but with a sweetness he or she lacks.

Parting words: This is one of my favorite styles from one of my favorite Michigan breweries, so buying it was an easy decision to make. I was not disappointed. The coffee, stout and cream elements blend together seamlessly and the result is a great after-dinner (or as-dinner) stout. Doesn’t do too bad with food either, at least with (electric) grilled pork chops. It’s pricy but worth it. Cup A Joe is recommended.

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Mosaic Promise

Maker: Founders, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USAwpid-2014-12-22-17.31.24.jpg.jpeg

Style: IPA

ABV: 5.5%

Purchased for $10/6 pack

Notes: Brewed with a single malt (Golden Promise) and a single hop (Mosaic). Limited distrubion (Michigan, Wisconsin and the Chicago and NYC metro areas).

Appearance: Translucent orange with a delicate lacy head.

Nose: Big spicy hops with a bit of funk of indeterminate origin.

Palate: Spicy hops and a huge grapefruit flavor.

Finish: Big dry and bitter. Like having your oral cavity stuffed full of hops.

Parting words: Brewed to support the ArtPrize art competition in Grand Rapids, the beautiful image on the label is from a stained glass piece created by Matt and Elizabeth Kolenda that won the competition in 2013.

This is a beer I’m sure most hop heads will love this. It’s crisp and refreshing with hops out the wazoo. It’s a solid but one-dimensional effort. I understand that they were going for something simple but for $10 a six pack, I expect more complexity. The proceeds  go to a good cause so maybe that can be factored in when deciding if it’s worth buying. Mosaic Promise is mildly recommended.


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Medley Bros.

Maker: Charles W. Medley, Owensboro, Kentucky, USAwpid-2014-12-13-10.25.47.jpg.jpeg

Distiller: Unknown.

Age: NAS

Proof: 102 (51% ABV)

Price: $24 (The Party Source)

Appearance: Pale copper.

Nose: Corn chips, tarragon, leather.

Palate: Soft mouthfeel. A delicate slight corny or maybe malty sweetness. It slowly grows hotter and hotter until it fills the mouth with cayenne pepper.

Finish: Like Mae West: hot and corny with maybe a touch of sweet malt.

Mixed: Very good in cocktails. Excellent in a Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Boulevardier, with Benedictines and even in a hot toddy.

Parting words: Medley Bros. is the cheapest, highest proof and newest product in the Medley line of bourbons. The brands are owned by Charles W. Medley (son of Wathen, 2nd from right on the label) and his son Sam. All their bourbons are custom distilled by an undisclosed Kentucky distiller and bottled by Frank-Linn of Fairfield, California. According to Chuck Cowdery, they are all made from the family mashbill, which has a high malt content relative to other bourbons.

It tastes like it. It has a mild sweetness that resembles what I imagine a high malt bourbon would taste like. The only bourbon I’ve had with a similar sweetness is 1792, which is also (maybe) a high malt bourbon.

It fares well against the competition, too. I tasted it next side by side with Wild Turkey 101, Old Forester Signature, Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond (white label) and Very Old Barton Bottled-in-Bond. It didn’t blow any of them away, but it held its own. For cocktails, the Bros. are hard to beat. I wish I could have tasted it alongside Charter 101 and Old Grand Dad to get a more complete picture, but I forgot to get a bottle of either of those.

The label is crisp with just enough kitsch to be fun with portraits of the five brothers and the “heart of the run” neck thingy. The price is in line with the competition. My only complaint is the nose. As it sits in the glass, the corn chip aroma becomes stronger and stronger to the point of unpleasantness. In spite of that, Medley Bros. is recommended and highly recommended for cocktails. It is currently limited in distribution so pick up a bottle or two next time you’re in Kentucky.



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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