Zeppelin Bend Straight Malt Whiskey

Maker: New Holland, Holland, Michigan, USA

Age: NAS

Proof: 90 (45% ABV)

Appearance: Burnt orange with long sticky legs.

Nose: Prunes, cardamom, ginger, mace, cocoa

On the Palate: Full-bodied and sweet upon first entrance. Heavily spiced mincemeat pie, and then red wine chocolate truffles dusted with Dutch process cocoa powder. Yes those exist.

Finish: Hot, but then a dry chocolaty sweetness that too quickly fades.

Mixed: A highball of Zeppelin Bend and club soda on the rocks is pretty good, even if it does taste a bit like a watered down Choc-Cola. Other classic Scotch cocktails work well, too. A rusty nail has a nice bitter, spicey note that balances out the honey liqueur nicely, and a Rob Roy is quite good, even if it’s not quite sure if it’s a Rob Roy or a Manhattan.

Parting Words: American straight malt whiskey is has not been very popular historically, and as a result has not been made much by American distillers. Like a rye or bourbon, American malt must be aged in new charred oak barrels and must have a mash bill of at least 51% of the grain in question, malted barley. But where Big Whiskey saw no reason to tread, a few micro distillers saw an opportunity. Stranahan’s in Colorado led the way, followed by (among others) Pritchard’s in Tennesee, and New Holland in Holland Michigan. Bourbon and rye still excite me more than any other American whiskeys, but of the American straight malts I’ve tried, Zeppelin Bend is the best. This is another case in which a micro is doing what a micro should be doing: offering interesting spirits that the big boys don’t.

Pelee Island Pinot Noir

Maker: Pelee Island Winery, Kingsville, Ontario, Canada

Grape: Pinot Noir

Region: Pelee Island VQA, Ontario, Canada

Vintage: 2007

ABV: 13%

Appearance: light Burgundy (of course) nice, thick legs

Nose: Black raspberry, black currant, black cherry

On the Palate: light body, raspberry, tart cherry, leather, firewood, blackberry, blueberry

Finish: leather, blackberry jam

Parting words: Two things make Pelee Island’s terroir unique in Canada.  First, Pelee Island, located in Lake Erie, is the southernmost point in Canada (ok, a small island south of Pelee actually is). Its latitude is approximately  42° N, which also passes through Spain, Corsica, Central Italy, and constitutes the border between California and Oregon, all wine country to varying degrees. Second the waters of the lake moderate the climate preventing late frosts in spring and early frosts in winter. Pelee Island’s climate is warm and temperate compared even to other areas of Southern Ontario. The island is also host to a wide variety of rare (for Canada) flora and fauna, many of which make appearances on Pelee Island Winery labels.

Southern Ontario, like its neighbors in upstate New York and Northern Michigan, is not known for its reds. Pinot Noir is grown in Ontario and adjacent areas but is up and down in terms of quality, and often gets chucked into table blends. This wine, however, is an up one.  It is an enjoyable and reasonably complex wine that can stand up to any middle-shelf Pinot on the planet. Recommended.