Bombay Sapphire East

Maker: G&J Greenall, Warrington, England, UK (Bacardi)

Style: London Dry (with added lemongrass and black pepper)

ABV: 42%

Appearance: Clear.

Nose: Dry. Juniper, pepper, citrus, alcohol.

On the palate: Full-bodied and sweet. Some spice does come through but not a lot. Tangerine, maybe.

Finish: Sweet at first, then shifting into a warm, dry spice. Still some tangerine in the background though.

Mixed: Very nice in a Tom Collins. The lemon juice really complements and enhances the Black Pepper and lemongrass. Performs well with tonic, too. Adds a slightly bitter, spicy bite. Does very well in a dry martini, as long as one goes easy on the vermouth (I tend to overdo it sometimes). The black pepper really comes out and adds an interesting element. Would probably work very well in a dirty martini.

Parting words: Not much else to say about Bombay Sapphire East. It delivers on its promises. It adds Southeast Asian tang to mixed drinks. I’ve only seen it in travel retail shops around here, but it may be available elsewhere. Pick one up the next time you make a run for the border. Recommended.

John E. Fitzgerald Larceny

Maker: Heaven Hill, Bardstown/Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Style: Wheat Bourbon

Age: NAS

Proof: 92 (46% ABV)

Appearance: Reddish copper. Lazy, clingy robe.

Nose: Alcohol, caramel, cola, oak, leather. A vague, undefinable Heaven Hill-ishness that instantly makes me think of the Bardstown Bourbon Heritage Center.

On the palate: Medium-bodied. Pretty close to the nose. Vanilla Coke, old leather jacket, mango nectar, sweet cinnamon, allspice, oak.

Finish: Sweet and fruity, then spicy cassia, then burn. Fades to a long-running tingle on the lips.

Parting words: Larceny is a brand-spanking new addition to the venerable Old Fitzgerald line of wheated bourbons put out by Heaven Hill. Heaven Hill acquired the line after United Distillers (a corporate ancestor of Diageo) closed the Stitzel-Weller distillery in Shively, Kentucky and divested itself of all its wheated bourbon brands (except for one, but that’s another show). Since the Heaven Hill acquisition, many bourbon lovers have considered Old Fitz a poor relation to the Weller wheated bourbons made by Buffalo Trace. Like the Parker’s Heritage Collection Wheated bourbon release of a couple years ago, Larceny is an attempt to rectify that.

Larceny does not rise to the dizzying heights of the 2010 PHC, but it is definitely an improvement. It stands up to its competition, namely Maker’s Mark, Weller Special Reserve and even the 90 proof Old Rip Van Winkle. It would be a mistake to compare it to something older and more expensive than those. It’s delicately sweet like a wheater should be, with some nice fruit and spice not found in its peers. It lacks the bitter char notes that often crop up in Maker’s and sometimes overpower the Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond.  Larceny won’t change your life, but it’s a pleasant weeknight sipper. It also paired nicely with a book I am reading about the theft of saint’s relics in the early middle ages. Larceny is recommended.

Rogue Spirits Pink Spruce Gin

Maker: Rogue, Newport, Oregon, USA

ABV: 45%

Notes: “Seasoned In Oregon Pinot Barrels” [sic]

Thanks to: Amy for the sample.

Appearance: Pale, pinkish gold.

Nose: Coniferous. Spruce, juniper, cedar, ginger, orange peel.

On the palate: Full-bodied. rainier cherries, plum, cedar, oak, ginger, juniper, spruce.

Finish: Lightly sweet then some spruce and then burn slowly fading to sweetness again

Parting words: Weird but good. I was only able to taste it in a dry martini and not in a G & T. According to my friend, it didn’t do too well in that application. At any rate, I enjoyed it. Its odd coniferousness sets it apart from the competition, and the Pinot (Noir, I’m assuming) finish takes the edge off the woodsy notes. Not a go-to, but good for a change of pace. The only criticism I would have is the rather high price, $35 at one of my local haunts. Nevertheless, Rogue Spirits Pink Spruce Gin is recommended.

Redemption High Rye Bourbon

Maker: Strong Spirits Spirits Inc., Bardstown, Kentucky, USA

Distilled by: LDI, Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA (MGP)

Age: 2+ yrs.

Proof: 92 (46% ABV)

Appearance: Shiny new penny. Fleeting, thin legs.

Nose: Alcohol, nail polish, mango, a bit of leather. Like a party at Elton John’s house.

On the palate: Soft and silky mouthfeel. More fruit, black cherry juice, Juicy Fruit gum, then a brutally hot alcohol assault. Burns everywhere, even with water.

Finish: Hot and then hot. Nothing in the way of oak, a little bit of that fruitiness but not much.

Mixed: Works well in an agressively sweetned Old Fashioned. Does ok in a bourbon and Coke, too, but doesn’t particularly distinguish itself.

Parting words: Redemption High-Rye Bourbon isn’t as bad as I remember it being the last time I opened the bottle. If that’s not faint praise I don’t know what is. This has the makings of a good bourbon, but at 2 years and a day, it’s not even close to being there yet.  If you are looking for LDI bourbon in Michigan, you can purchase Traverse City Whiskey Co. Bourbon  for $1 more. It’s  lower proof, but it’s much more rounded and although it is age stated at four years, there seems to be some fairly old whiskey in the mix. W.H. Harrison barrel proof is also better LDI bourbon, but overpriced and hard to find outside of Indiana. If you are just looking for a well-quality bourbon, Evan Williams and Very Old Barton sell for half the price of Redemption. Either way there is no good reason to seek out Redemption, the bourbon anyway. Not recommended.

The Wanderer Session India Pale Ale

Maker: North Peak, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Style: India Pale Ale

ABV: 4.2%

Appearance: Golden brown with a foamy head. An odd cloud hangs over the top half of the beer as I drink it.

Nose: Floral but slightly fruity. Wildflowers, fresh pineapple, peppered mango.

On the palate: Medium bodied and complex. Hops are the biggest flavor component here, naturally, but there are fruit and malt flavors here too. Dried wildflowers, orange peel, breadfruit.

Finish: Malty and hoppy. Lingers for a pretty long time.

Parting words: Against my better judgment, I bought yet another North Peak beer to review, based on the recommendation of another blogger. I’m glad I did. This is a fine, well-made IPA with more than just bitterness going on. The lightly fruity undertones of the Wanderer take it beyond the realms of the workaday session IPAs. I was very pleasantly surprised with this one. Maybe there is hope for North Peak yet. The Wanderer is recommended.

Cola Head to Head: Faygo Original Cola vs. Towne Club Cola vs. Trader Joe’s Vintage Cola

I don’t do a lot of reviewing of non-alcohol beverages but I thought it might be interesting to do a review of three colas as mixers. Coke, Pepsi and RC are known quantities, so I decided to taste some off brands and one generic. I tasted them by themselves, with bourbon (Very Old Barton 90 proof), and in a Cuba Libre (Olo Silver).

First, Faygo (I bought it in the bottle, can pictured). By itself it has a nice fizz. Syrupy like an old fashioned soda machine where the syrup and water come out separately. Heavy on the cane sugar, light on the spice. Refreshing but too sweet. In bourbon and cola it’s ok, but doesn’t really bring anything distinctive to the table. The bourbon has plenty of sweetness on its own. Faygo adds nothing but more sweetness. In a Cuba Libre it performs better, but it still adds very little. Meh.

Towne Club Cola: By itself it is fairly bland. The only thing interesting going on is a weird fruity note. Very little in the way of spice, just sweetness and stale fruit cocktail. With boubon, the fruity taste is covered up slightly, but still comes through. In a Cuba Libre, it clashes with the lime in a weird way and becomes very unpleasant. Not good.

Trader Joe’s Vintage Cola: Trader Joe’s is known for having good generics of almost every type of food or drink. Vintage Cola is firmly in that tradition. It’s certainly not as good as Coke or Pepsi, but it is on a level with RC. Like Faygo, TJ uses cane sugar, not Corn Syrup. Unlike Faygo, TJ’s is caffeine free. By itself, much more spice than the two others tasted. Works very well with bourbon, the spice and cane sugar complements the  corny sweetness of the bourbon. It’s very good in a Cuba Libre too. Fills out the drink very nicely.

Overall, The Trader Joe’s Vintage Cola was is my favorite of the three. Faygo would be second, but might appeal to drinkers with more of a sweet tooth. Coke is still my favorite, but anyone looking to save a few bucks or cut back on the caffeine should give TJ’s Vintage Cola a try.

The Tyrconnell Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Maker: Cooley, County Louth, Ireland

Age: NAS

ABV: 40%

Appearance: Dark straw with long voluptuous legs.

Nose: Papaya, creme brulee, mandarin orange, alcohol

On the palate: Full-bodied and sweet. Hot, but sexy. Lots of fruit. Apricot sherbet, custard, tropical fruit salad, vanilla. Water brings out a new rubber tire. Don’t add water.

Finish: Fairly hot, with a lot of sherry. Faint fruit in the distant background and some oak.

Parting words: This is a whiskey I have gone back and forth on in the several months in which I’ve had it. As I am nearing the end of the bottle, I’m enjoying it more. The fruity dessert notes have won out. Sometimes it just tastes too hot (puzzling for something at 40% ABV), so one is tempted to add water to the whiskey. But bad things happen when water is added. Foul, over-sherried rubber tire scents and flavors dominate and turn a sexy whiskey into a day at the tire store.

If I were to sum it up, it’s like a grown up version of Jameson. Not as floral but just as light and sweet with the added complexity one would expect from a single malt Irish. Recommended.

Pelee Island Winery Pinot Gris

Maker: Pelee Island Winery

Place of origin: Pelee Island VQA, Ontario, Canda

Vintage: 2008

Style: Late Harvest

ABV: 13.5%

Appearance: Light gold with thick, sparse legs.

Nose: Dry and mild. Light smoke, heirloom apples.

On the palate: Medium bodied. Slightly smokey and oaky. A bit of fruit with lychee and dry apple cider.

Finish: Woody and smoky but well balanced.

Parting Words: I was pleasantly surprised by this wine. The smoke (and spelling) of this wine invoke Alsace, but it’s  drier with less fruit than most Alsatian Pinot Gris I’ve had, belying its late harvest status.

After tasting a couple of Pelee Island’s high end wines on my last trip to their tasting room (in Kingsville, not on the island itself) I had low expectations for this one. But this Pinot Gris is top notch.

Highly recommended.