Magellan Gin

Maker: ???, France. Imported by Crillon Importers Ltd, Paramus, New Jersey, USAMAg

ABV: 44%

Appearance: Blue, like diluted window cleaning solution.

Nose: Lots of juniper and iris (I’m assuming the other botanical I’m smelling a lot of is iris, given the fact that iris is emphasized on the label). Citrus peel, grains-of-paradise.

On the palate: Full bodied and semi-sweet with a bit of spice on the back end.

Finish: Sweet and spicy, then a little hot.

Mixed: A little brash with tonic, but goes down ok. Very good in a Tom Collins and good in a dry martini.

Parting words:  Magellan is a good gin. It’s a little too aggressive for my tastes, but it does OK mixed, which is what most gin is going to be used for. The cheesy branding and the blue coloring are distractions I could do without. The $30 price tag is also something I could do without. I’m kind of on the fence about this one, but I’ll err on the side of niceness this time and give Magellan Gin a recommendation.

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Atwater Winterbock

Maker: Atwater Brewery, Detroit, Michigan, USAATWATER_WINTER_BOTTLE

Style: High gravity bock.

ABV: 7.5%

Appearance: Chestnut with a short-lived foamy head.

Nose: Malt, prunes, dark toast.

On the palate: Medium bodied. Bitter with just a bit of sweetness and malt. Like the burnt drippings of off a mixed berry pie.

Finish: Fruitier, but fades into warm toastiness.

Parting words: Bock is one of my favorite styles of beer. This is a decent example and a decent beer. Still, I would have appreciated a little less bitterness, a little more sweetness and a lower price. Atwater Winterbock is mildly recommended.

Rendezvous Rye

Maker: High West, Park City, Utah, USArendezvous-bottle

Distillers: MGPI, Lawrenceburg, Indiana (6 y/o, 95% rye component) & Barton-1792, Bardstown, Kentucky (16 y/o, 80% Rye component)

Style: Indiana style rye whiskey (high rye)

Batch: 12A31

Age: 6 y/o (but blended with a 16 y/o)

Proof: 92 (46% ABV)

Appearance: Copper with a pinkish hue. Slightly cloudy.

Nose: Cedar, barbecue sauce, fresh cut grass.

On the palate: Medium bodied and soft. Dry with some spearmint. Water brings out a gentle sweetness to balance out the grassiness. Thyme, caramel, allspice, ginger.

Finish: Light, with a little sweetness but mostly tarragon and burn. Some char comes through and then softly fades. Much the same with water, but the burn has been transformed into a pleasant tingle.

Mixed: Very tasty in a Sazerac. Didn’t try it in anything else.

Parting Words: Rendezvous Rye was the first (or at least one of the first) products to be released by High West. The source material has shifted since that first bottling, but Rendezvous has been HW’s most consistant, and to me, most successful product. The tangy ketchup notes that plague Son of Bourye are here too, but they are kept firmly in the background by caramel and herbal flavors and aromas. Through prudent barrel selection and judicious mingling of ryes of two different styles, High West as created a rye that is very much worth seeking out. With rye supplies tightening, I hope they can continue to keep Rendezvous at an affordable price and at its current level of quality. Rendezvous Rye is recommended.

BWW House Red

Maker: Blue Water Winery, Carsonville, Michigan, USA

Grapes: Chambourcin, Catawba, Concord.

Place of origin: Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2009

ABV: 13%

Appearance: Very dark purple. Nearly black.

Nose: Concord grape jelly, lighter fluid, moldy blackberries.

On the palate: Light -bodied and tangy. Grape juice, brown sugar, lemon peel with the pith attached.

Finsih: Charcoal, iodine, grape pips.

Parting words: When I first saw the name of this wine, I thought it was BBW House Red, not BWW House Red. That made me a little excited, but this wine has none of the voluptuous delights of a BBW. While most wine labels exaggerate, this one goes over the top in declaring this to be a “very drinkable wine”. “Barely drinkable” would be more apt. The label also recommends serving the wine chilled, which is excellent advice. I would recommend drinking it at around 33° F or 1° C or better yet, not at all.

The winery is located less than ten miles away from Lexington, Michigan, a popular vacation destination on Lake Huron, so I suppose the bulk of their business comes from well-meaning tourists looking for something local. I received a half bottle of this wine as a gift from a very sweet lady who also happens to be the mother-in-law of a good friend of mine. I didn’t take it personally. I’m just glad I didn’t spend any money on this.

I have no beef with native grape varieties or hybrids. Long time readers will know that I have given positive reviews to wines made with hybrids and native grape species. I am not a speciesist. I have had 100% Chambourcin , Catawba, and even Concord wines that were much, much better than this. This is just a bad wine.

What makes it worse is the price, $14 a bottle on the website. That is absurd. One can get a very tasty wine from practically anywhere in the world for that much, including all four Michigan AVAs. Why bother with something like this? In case you haven’t already guessed, BWW House Red is not recommended.

John J. Bowman Single Barrel

Maker: A. Smith Bowman, Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA (Sazerac)john-j-bowman-101106699

Distiller: Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, Kentucky/ A. Smith Bowman, Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA

Style: High Corn Bourbon

Age: NAS

Proof: 100 (50% ABV)

Note: Triple distilled. Twice (column & doubler) at Buffalo Trace and once (pot still?) at Bowman.

Appearance: Light copper with fairly thick legs.

Nose: Caramel, oak, woodruff, alcohol, grape hyacinth.

On the palate: Light bodied and dry. Oak, alcohol, toffee, tarragon.

Finish: Dry, but with a fruity note that slowly emerges as the taste fades.

Parting words: Bowman single barrel is a stylish whiskey worth seeking out. The Buffalo Trace grassiness is apparent but the oak and caramel sweetness do an excellent job of keeping it from overrunning the whiskey.

The first one of these I purchased shortly after its initial release. It was very light with a vaguely coppery taste and aroma. I enjoyed it but it wasn’t great. This one is very, very good. I have had a few other bottles recently including a couple private selections and they have all been good, so I either got a bottle from a mediocre barrel the first time, or the product as a whole has been improved. Whatever the case, John J. Bowman is now one of those whiskeys that I always pick up when I am visiting a part of the country in which it is sold. Bowman Single Barrel is recommended.

Arcturos Riesling, 2011

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

Place of Origin: Montaña Rusa, Montague Estate & Capella vineyards, Old Mission AVA, Michigan, USA

Style: Medium Dry

ABV: 11%

Appearance: Pale straw with not much in the way of legs.

Nose: Lemon thyme, orange zest, ripe peach, mango nectar.

On the palate: Full bodied for a Riesling. Slightly racy but with just enough minerality. Fresh apricots, peach cobbler, hint of limestone.

Finish: Mildly sweet and citric. A little background minerality and then a soft fade.

Parting words: Long time readers of this blog have come to expect gushing reviews of Four Roses special releases and wines from Black Star Farms. This review will not depart from pre-established patterns in any way. This is a delightful wine. The 2011 vintage in northwestern Michigan continues to impress. This wine is like that rare friend who is intellectual but not pedantic and a lot of fun at parties but never embarrassing to be around.

My only regret is that I drank it too soon. I probably should have waited for until next summer but it’s damn good night now. 2011 Arcturos Riesling is highly recommended.