Maker: North Peak Brewing, Dexter/Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Appearance: Like cloudy lemonade. Fizzy head upon decanting, then with a few bubbles in the haze.
Nose: A crisp, subtle apple aroma with a bit of limestone in the background.
On the palate: Medium-bodied and very dry. Golden delicious, more mineral water.
Finish: Crisp and clean. Leaves a bit of a carbonated tingle behind.
Parting words: This is hands down the driest American cider I have ever tasted. It’s really remarkable. Not that it’s the best one I’ve ever had, but it’s unlike anything I have had made in this country. I’ve had British ciders that approached this level of dryness, but the closest comparison that came to my mind was the dry Austrian Riesling I reviewed a while back. An apple-infused San Pellegrino or Gerolsteiner come close too.
My only complaint is the price, which is very high. If I recall correctly I paid over $12 for a six pack. Still, there’s not much out there like it, and it’s very refreshing on a hot, humid summer day. Nomad Dry cider is recommended.
Our Walloon Lake tasting panel returns with a head to head, or tête-à-tête as it were, tasting of Eagle Rare 101 and Eagle Rare Single Barrel (Kahn’s Fine Wine selection). I was going to edit this video down a little but I decided to go with the extended director’s cut. We had a lot of fun making these review, and I hope you enjoy it! Cheers!
Maker: Bowers Harbor Vineyards, Lake Leelenau, Michigan, USA
Place of origin: Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Appearance: Pale straw.
Nose: Lychee, white peach, pear, whiff of dried flowers.
On the palate: Medium bodied and slightly tart. Queen Ann cherries, white mulberries, rose water.
Finish: Fairly dry with a hint of tartness. Pear, plum and Golden Delicious apple.
Parting words: Is orchardy a word? Because if it is, it applies to this wine. I don’t usually buy into claims that terroir makes much of a difference beyond soil composition and climate, but this BHV’s Medium Dry Riesling is very much in the spirit of Northern Michigan. Cherries and other stone fruit are abundant with a bit of apple and pear thrown in there as well. Starts to get overly tart after being opened for a day or more, but this one is so tasty it should not be a problem to finish a bottle within 24 hours. The dryness makes it quite food friendly and it would go very well with mild flavored fish (the label recommends Walleye) and chicken. Bowers Harbor Medium Dry Riesling is highly recommended.
Maker: Bell’s, Kalamazoo/Comstock, Michigan, USA.
Thanks to Brian for leaving three of these at my house!
Appearance: Dark coffee brown with a creamy beige head.
Nose: Semi-sweet chocolate, apricot.
On the palate: Full-bodied, creamy, and slighly fizzy. Chocolate brownies with raspberry morsels mixed in while drinking a cup of Ethiopian Harrar coffee. I know that sounds nuts, but 1) that’s how it tastes and 2) Shut up.
Finish: Intense, but not heavy-handed. Like sucking on a wedge of dark (70%+) chocolate. Fades away very slowly leaving a delicious and slightly bitter coating all over the lips and tongue.
Parting words: Wow. Bell’s Double Cream Stout is a fantastic beer, probably the best stout I can remember having ever. The depth and subtlety of this beer is just stunning. I found myself wracking my brains trying to pick out flavors and descriptors for this review, even moreso than I usually do for beers! There was a lot more there than I could put into words.
For long-time Michigan microbrew drinkers, Bell’s can seem old hat at times. Oberon comes in mini-kegs and 12 packs here and I sometimes find myself rolling my eyes at the raving about Bell’s by out of state beer drinkers. “Oh you’re excited about picking up some Oberon and Two-hearted Ale today are you? How cute.” This stout shows very clearly why Bell’s has become the juggernaut (by microbrew standards) it is. Bell’s Double Cream Stout is a masterpiece and highly recommended.
I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to mention the passing of Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee on July 16, 2013. He was the MD there through some of the darkest days of the American whiskey industry when consumption was plummeting and the structure of industry was changing rapidly. What’s now called Buffalo Trace was right in the middle of all of that but the distillery emerged from that era as a leader and an innovator. Elmer T. Lee was one of the people responsible for that. Up until his death he was still picking barrels that would go into the single barrel bourbon that bares his name (and is one of the best values in the single barrel bourbon category).
While the early death of Truman Cox was shocking and tragic, the death of Elmer T. Lee at 93 years of age is an occasion for celebrating a full life well-lived. Here are a few links pertaining to Elmer, his life and work:
A copy of the letter sent from Sazerac president Mark Brown announcing Elmer’s death (Posted on Lew Bryson’s Seen Through a Glass blog): http://lewbryson.blogspot.com/2013/07/rip-elmer-t-lee.html
An old interview with Elmer in which he talks a bit about himself and the runs through the entire bourbon making process (38 minutes).
2008 interview of Elmer for the Buffalo Trace Oral History project (52 minutes)
He will be greatly missed but as long as the bourbon continues to flow his legacy will too.
Our Walloon Lake tasting panel returns with a review of two newish whiskeys from Grand Traverse Distillery. Featuring a cameo from Tober the Wonder Dog.
Maker: Two Birds, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA
Distiller: Yahara Bay Distillers, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Appearance: Clear but leaves big thick legs running down the side of the glass.
Nose: Dry. Big juniper, but complex underneath and never smells like wood cleaner. Meyer lemon, orange peel, grains of paradise, coriander, cumin, angelica.
On the palate: Full-bodied and floral. Juniper, boxwood, some citrus and white pepper.
Finish: Herbal and spicy with a bit of burn. Clean and dry.
Mixed: Makes an excellent dry martini but go very easy on the vermouth. Does well in a Tom Collins and with tonic, but a little wasted in those applications.
Parting words: Greyling is an excellent dry gin. It’s complex but never timid or confused. Juniper takes the lead here and everything else is harmonizing with it. Media coverage of the release of the gin emphasized the use of Michigan-grown lavender in the mix of botanicals, but I didn’t notice any when I was tasting for whatever reason. I would class this as a great martini gin or even for drinking neat. At just over $30 it’s priced reasonably for that sort of product.
Two Birds is not as a distillery yet, if it ever will be, but the distiller is printed clearly on the back label without any sort of weasel words or other obfuscation. That’s a breath of fresh air in a world flooded by micro-bottlers trying to pass themselves off as distillers. And why should they hide anything about this product? It speaks for itself. Greyling Gin is highly recommended.
Maker: Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, Missouri, USA (InBev)
Thanks to Oscar for the sample.
Appearance: Dark gold and very fizzy.
Nose: American lager, apple juice, light brown sugar.
On the palate: Full bodied and sweet. Apple crisp.
Finish: Medium long and sweet with a slight apple flavor.
Parting words: This is not a bad cider at all. It’s very drinkable and it’s basically what one would expect from a big brewery cider. My biggest complaint is that it is much too sweet for causal sipping or with a meal. I love drinking cider on a hot summer afternoon or with lunch or a light supper, but this is not one I would reach for at those times. It drinks like a dessert fruit wine in spite of claims that it is in a drier “European style” by marketers. It is nothing of the sort. The prices I’ve seen have been on par with micro-brewed ciders which makes it too expensive for me. Finally the fact that it’s brewed in the US while being marketed as an import complete with a pretentious pronunciation and spelling irritates me. At any rate, Stella Artois Cidre is mildly recommended.
Maker: Jim Beam, Clermont, Kentucky, USA (Beam Inc.)
Age: 7 y/o
Proof: 90 (45% ABV)
Appearance: Medium copper with nice thick legs.
Nose: Alcohol, caramel, oak, tan roux, sourdough starter, lavender.
On the palate: Full bodied and slighly sour. Heat, cola, caramel, vanilla, yeast.
Finish: Heat building into more heat. In the background some corn syrup, licorice, and a touch of wood.
Parting words: This is officially a dusty now, meaning it is no longer being produced and is only available as old stock sitting on shelves. When it was released a few years ago it wasn’t met with much hoopla by the bourbon enthusiast community. Jim Beam is not a popular line with many enthusiasts and there has been a seven year old version of the white label Jim Beam available in Kentucky for many years. So many were underwhelmed or simply ignored this bottle. One bourbon writer said the only reason to buy it would be for the fine picture of Fred Noe on the label, and he already has a few of those. I disagree.
I think for what it is, Distillers Series is a fine bourbon. While the seven year old white label is bottled at 80 proof (and the eight year old black label at 86), DS was bottled at 90 proof and was available all over. To me, it tastes how the standard white label should taste. It’s not subtle or particularly complex, but it’s a good sipping bourbon for the beginning of the evening or while tending the grill or smoker. I think it’s worth seeking out if you enjoy that sort of thing. Jim Beam Distiller’s Series is recommended.
Video reviews from Walloon Lake are back! Now with 100% more bikinis.
This time our tasting panel reviews a sparkling red wine from L. Mawby. Enjoy! Note: batch number and bottle number not the same as pictured.