Chateau Grand Traverse Late Harvest Riesling

Maker: Chateau Grand Traverse, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Grape: Riesling

Style: Late Harvest

Region: Old Mission AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2009 (different vintage pictured)

ABV: 9.5%

Appearance: Pale gold

Nose: Apple, peach, rhubarb, orange blossom, lemon thyme.

On the palate: full-bodied and sweet. Fruity, Golden Delicious Apple, Barlett pear, lavender.

Finish: Sweet and honeyed (wildflower to be specific) with a note of bitterness followed by a tart Macintosh apple note.

Parting words: This wine is not particularly complex but rich and enjoyable, especially after it opens up. This is a perfect cheese course wine. It would be a bit much with a full meal, though. Overall CGT Late Harvest Riesling is a very enjoyable wine, and a great example of Northern Michigan Late Harvest Riesling. Recommended.

Sunset Hills Virginia Gin

Maker: A. Smith Bowman, Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA (Sazerac)

ABV: 40%

Appearance: Clear.

Nose: Lime peel, lemon peel, angelica, anise, very light juniper.

On the palate: Fairly heavy mouth feel. Very light, little taste except alcohol.

Finish: Some sweetness, some light herbal notes, and then fades away.

Mixed: Makes perfectly serviceable martinis and does ok with tonic and bitter lemon. All are enjoyable, but dull.

Parting words: I really wanted to like this gin. I am Facebook friends with the master distiller at Bowman, and I enjoy the Bowman bourbons and ryes. But this gin is just boring. It’s neither here nor there. It lacks the rough edges of bottom shelf gins, but it also lacks the interest of upper shelf gins. It’s not too expensive, but why bother? There is nothing going on here. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend Sunset Hills Virginia Gin.

High West Double Rye!

Maker: High West, Park City, Utah, USA

Distillers: LDI, Lawrenceburg, Indiana & Barton-1792, Bardstown, Kentucky, USA

Age: 2 y/o (blend of 2 y/o and 16 y/o ryes)

Proof: 92 (46% ABV)

Appearance: Rich copper

Nose: Aggressive, minty, lavender, tarragon

On the palate: Sweet and hot, rock candy, spearmint sharpening into peppermint.

Finish: Starlight mints, peppermint heat with a sweet sugary background.

Parting words: This is the first High West rye I’ve reviewed. It tastes like a marriage of Bulleit and Fleischmann’s ryes and there’s a very good reason for that. That’s basically what it is. There’s been some confusion online as to whether the two year old rye in this is from LDI or High West’s own product. Judging by my taste buds, I would say that it’s definitely LDI, at least in this bottle. The resemblance to Bulleit rye is striking, but the undertones bear a strong resemblance to the Fleischmann’s.

I expected more oak, given the venerable age of the Barton rye, but it is completely absent. The young rye is so pungent that it almost overwhelms the older stuff, but old manages to keep the it in its place, barely. For sipping, it works well, and works well in cocktails, though the older component is completely overwhelmed in Manhattans and Sazeracs.

This is a good rye overall at a not unreasonable price. The bottle is also hand-blown (or at least looks like it) and beautiful, although the campy hangtags are a bit much. High West Double Rye! gets a recommendation.

Col. E.H. Taylor Old Fashioned Sour Mash, Bottled in Bond (1st edition)

Maker: Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, Kentucky, USA (Sazerac)

Age: 9 y/o

Style: High Corn Bourbon

Proof: 100 (50% ABV)

Appearance: Copper with thick lumbering legs

Nose: Slightly yeasty, but not unpleasant. Hint of tobacco, spearmint.

On the palate: Medium bodied, bit of caramel, spearmint, and tarragon. Sweeter with a splash of water. Homemade marshmallows, Alpine Mints.

Finish: Fairly short, some caramel, vanilla. Longer and mintier with water. Leaves behind a nice tingle in the lips.

Parting Words: First, I should mention the bottle and the canister this came in. Both are beautiful. They’re similar in design, busy and slightly campy, but very well designed. I know I’m a sap, but I got a little choked up to see the Old Taylor “Castle” Distillery gone from the right side of the label, replaced by a vintage picture of the O.F.C. Distillery (nka Buffalo Trace).

The Old Taylor castle is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) derelict distilleries in Kentucky. If you are visiting Woodford Reserve distillery, turn left out of the parking lot and keep driving down McCracken Pike through the woods and horse farms. You’ll think you’re lost, until a massive castle-like distillery looms up on your left side. Right next door is the Old Crow distillery. Park on the right side of the road, look around and take a lot of pictures. Trespassing is, of course, illegal.

At any rate, this new Old Taylor, made at E.H. Taylor’s first distillery, is the first in the series of high-end bottlings under that name from Buffalo Trace, who acquired the brand from Beam in 2010 (I think). Buffalo Trace representatives have said they want this line to be for rye-recipe bourbons what Van Winkle has become for wheaters. They have a long way to go.

This first edition was made using an older method of creating a sour mash. Instead of adjusting the ph in the mash tub, the mash was allowed to sit in the holding area before going into the still for a few days until proper sourness was achieved. This shows up in some of the sourdough notes I picked up. The second release was single barrel, the current release is the “Tornado Survivor” edition, which I hope to acquire and review in a few weeks.

At any rate, Taylor Old Fashioned Sour Mash is not bad, pretty good, actually. The problem is the price. I’ve had Binny’s ¬†selected bottles of Buffalo Trace bourbon that were as good or better than this, but at half the price. I don’t think it’s fair to give this a non-recommendation since I did enjoy it, but I can’t bring myself to be enthusiastic either. Col. E.H. Taylor Old Fashioned Sour Mash gets a mild recommendation.


Thanks to John Burlowski for helping me acquire this bottle.

Cabin Fever

Maker: New Holland, Holland, Michigan, USA

Style: Brown Ale

ABV: 6.25%

Appearance: Dark Coffee Brown

Nose: meaty, cocoa

On the palate: Thick, caramel brownies, dark chocolate, brown butter.

Finish: long and pleasantly bitter and chocolately

Parting Words: This is a delicious, luscious brown ale. Loads of chocolate and caramel, similar to many barrel-aged ales, but not overly boozey. I wish I could say more, but this is just a damn good beer. Cabin Fever is highly recommended.

Trader Joe’s Reserve Syrah

Maker: ???

Grape: Shiraz/Syrah

Region: Mendocino Valley AVA, California, USA

Vintage: 2007

ABV: 14.7%

Notes: Certified organic, single vineyard.

Appearance: Deep purple.

Nose: wild blackberries, black currant, hint of leather

On the palate: Medium-bodied. Mixed berry jam, blueberries, chewy, some tannin.

Finish: Jammy then dry, much more tannic than on the palate, lingers for a while then fades rather quickly.

Parting words: Trader Joe’s Reserve wines are never bad, but they can occasionally be dull. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this one dull, but I’ve had more interesting Syrahs. For what it is, it delivers. There is lots of varietal character and it did well with corned beef. It would probably pair well with other rich red meats. For the price, it’s a good wine. Trader Joe’s 2007 Reserve Mendocino Syrah is recommended.

Pappy Van Winkle’s Reserve Bourbon Liqueur

I received this letter a few weeks ago, but I can finally post it here.
Dear Lover of Fine Bourbon,
As one of our most valued, elite friends in the media, we wanted you to be one of the first to try an exciting new product we have created. Allow us to introduce you to Pappy Van Winkle’s¬† Reserve Bourbon Liqueur. As you probably know, this is the first bourbon liqueur we have ever created, but it is firmly in Van Winkle tradition. It is bottled at 87 proof, made with 15 year old wheat-recipe bourbon from the legendary Stitzel-Weller distillery, Jefferson County Kentucky honey produced just feet from Stitzel-Weller and the finest herbs and spices. The whiskey liqueur segment has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years, and the success of products like Drambuie 15 year oldhave shown that there is a large market for premium liqueurs. We think Pappy would be very proud. Please accept this sample with our compliments. All we askis that you keep this exciting new product to yourself until April. Thanks for your support!
Julian Van Winkle III

Some tasting notes on the sample I received:

Appearance: Dark copper,thick sticky legs.
Nose: Bit of oak, honey, thyme, grass.
On the palate: Sweet, thick,wildflower honey, oak, orange peel, anise.
Finish: sweet with a hint of oak. Leaves my mouth all sticky.

Not bad as liqueurs go.