Zombies Take Manhattan

Maker: B. Nektar, Ferndale, Michigan, USAZ take M

Style: Imperial Apple Mead with cherries added and finished in rye whiskey barrels.

Purchased for:$14/500 ml

ABV: 12%

Appearance: Gold with a reddish tinge.

Nose: Spicy and fruity. Caramel apples, marachino cherries, a bit of curry.

On the palate: Medium bodied and fizzy. More caramel apple but with a little oak, butterscotch and cherries jubilee.

Finish: Semi-sweet and quick fading. A slightly tannic flavor lingers in the mouth though.

Parting words: I’m sick to death of zombies. I never found them all that interesting or scary in the first place but now that they’re everywhere I find them irritating too. What does that have to do with this review? Nothing, I just needed to say it.

The Zombie Killer Cyser with cherry added was one of the first of these 500 ml, horror themed meads from B. Nektar that I enjoyed. Zombies Take Manhattan is a higher ABV, barrel finished version of that product. I’m not sure where the “Manhattan” element in the name comes from and I’m too lazy to do any research on it right now, but I suspect it may be finished in Tuthilltown Manhattan Rye barrels.

As you can see from the “style” category above, they did a hell of a lot of stuff to this zombie. It pays off. It has all the good things barrel aging a mead or beer can bring, but without some of the weird, bitter flavors that sometimes plague barrel finished meads.

The price is high, but you get half a liter and it’s higher ABV so it’s all good. This is an excellent product. Zombies Take Manhattan is recommended.

Rochester Red Ale

Rochester Red AleMaker: Rochester Mills, Rochester Hills, Michigan, USA

ABV: 5.9%

Appearance: Auburn with a lacy head.

Nose: Sweet. Cherry juice, malt, hint of yeast.

On the palate: Medium bodied and fruity and malty. More cherry juice, almost balanced by hops and dark roasted malt.

Finish: More balanced. A hit of cherry and then a long, lingering bitterness.

Parting words: The consensus in online reviews is that this beer is a little dull. I agree with that asessment. It’s not bad, not at all. There are some nice things going on, but the fruitiness of this beer is out of balance and makes it difficult to drink with food, something one expects to be able to do with a red ale or lager. To be clear, no cherry juice has been added to this, but the flavor is all over the place for me.

I don’t remember how much I paid for this, but I don’t remember it being too expensive, $9-$10 for four pint cans. It’s not bad but there’s not enough going on for me here to justify another purchase. Rochester Red Ale is mildly recommended.

Crown Royal

Maker: Crown Royal, Gimli, Manitoba, Canada. (Diageo)Crown-Royal

Style: Blended Canadian Whisky

Age: NAS (at least 3 y/o by Canadian law)

ABV: 40%

Michigan State Minimum: $25/750 ml.

Appearance: Pale copper with some spotty necklacing.

Nose: Harsh and grainy. Burnt creamed corn, a sharp shot of rye, wood varnish.

On the palate: Full-bodied and sweet. Clotted cream, a touch of caramel, slight bite of alcohol and wood tannins.

Finish: Grape Nuts Cereal, a bit of caramel and then it quickly fades.

Mixed: Good with ginger ale and in an Old Fashioned. OK in a Manhattan and in an old cocktail recipe I dug up called a Frontenac (Canadian Whisky, Grand Marnier and bitters). It doesn’t add much to either of the latter, except perhaps some body, but it doesn’t hurt them either.

Parting words: Crown Royal has all the hallmarks of very young whiskey: cereal, full body and sharpness. This is most pronounced in the nose, which is by far the least appealing aspect of this whisky. It borders on nauseating. The rest of it isn’t so bad, just dull.

As a mixing whisky it does well as noted above, but it is hampered by the low proof. There is also a Crown Royal Black at 90 proof that may be a better option for Manhattans and similar cocktails but given the nose, it might not be a bad thing to cover that mess up with mixers.

My biggest beef is the price. $25 is too much for something this young and brash. Canadian Club 100 is $17 and comes in at 50% ABV, and the 12 y/o CC Classic comes in at $23 and sips as well as it mixes. A minor beef is the gaudy, ridiculous bottle and packaging. The bottle resembles something that might contain perfume belonging to an elderly French prostitute and the purple gold trimmed felt sack that it comes in goes right into the garbage as soon as it’s purchased. Overall, Crown Royal is mildly recommended for cocktails, but not recommended as a sipping whisky.

Plymouth Gin

Maker: Black Friars, Plymouth, Devon, England, UK (Pernod-Ricard)Plymouth Gin

Style: Plymouth Gin

ABV: 41.2%

Michigan State Minimum: $35

Appearance: Clear.

Nose: Juniper, angelica, iris, coriander, citrus zest.

On the palate: Sweet and delicately spicy. Juniper, root spices, Clementine.

Finish: Spicy and fairly hot. A little bit of sweetness lingers on the lips for quite a while.

Mixed: Gets a little lost in a Tom Collins, but good in a G & T with quality tonic. Makes a wonderful dry martini well-chilled going easy on the vermouth.

Parting words: Plymouth is both a style of gin and brand of gin in addition to being a city (or two). The name is protected under EU regulations. In days gone by there were more than just one gin distiller in Plymouth, but there has only been Plymouth in Plymouth for quite a while now.

Stylistically, it’s between a London Dry and an Old Tom. It has the spice and juniper of a Dry but the delicate body of an Old Tom. It is fantastic in martinis and similar cocktails, adding elegantly balanced flavors and the right amount of body.

It’s a little too expensive to be an everyday, go-to type gin (except for those with bigger budgets) but it’s perfect for sophisticated classic cocktails. It also comes in a navy strength version at 57% ABV for just $5 more. Plymouth Gin is recommended.

Left Foot Charley Pinot Gris

Maker: Left Foot Charley, Traverse City, Michigan, USALFC Pinot Gris

Place of origin: Tale Feathers Vineyard, Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2011

ABV: 13.5%

Purchased for $18

Miscellaneous label info: Tale Feathers is “1.8 acres of sandy loam soils facing due west in the heart of Old Mission Peninsula.” Harvested 10/17/11, 7.8 tons, 23.3 Brix sugar at harvest, TA: 7g/1, Residual Sugar: 3g/1. So there.

Appearance: Pale gold with long broad legs.

Nose: Grapey and semi-sweet. Hardwood smoke, hard apple cider, pear.

On the palate: Full bodied and, again, semi-sweet. Golden Delicious apples, Bartlett pear, plum.

Finish: Medium dry. A touch of cedar and a little peach linger in the mouth.

Parting words: I’ve reviewed wines from Left Foot Charley before, so I’ll spare you a rehash of where this winery is and what they do. Like the other LFC wines I’ve had, this is a very good wine with great varietal and terroir-driven character. It has all the characteristics of fine Pinot Gris from Alsace or elsewhere, but it also has a light, bright (but not tart) character its French cousins often lack. It also lacks the voluptuous mouthfeel of Alsatian whites, but it’s plenty sexy as it is.

This wine does well with the usual white wine fare like poultry and seafood, but has enough depth and complexity to hold one’s attention on its own. It could probably have been fine with another six months to a year in the bottle too, but it’s best not to push things too much with a Gris. The price is reasonable for a vintage varietal that more than delivers on its promises. Left Foot Charley’s 2011 Pinot Gris is recommended.

Russell’s Reserve Rye

Maker: Wild Turkey, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, USA (Campari)RRR

Age: 6 y/o

Style: Kentucky Rye

Proof: 90 (45% ABV)

Michigan State Minimum: $40

Note: Two person review!

J: Josh

A: Friend of the Blog, Amy


J: Pale copper, with spotty legs.

A: Light, bright gold with hard-to-find legs.


J: Oak, peanut butter, alcohol, barrel char, bubble gum. Changes a lot in the glass.

A: Mild rye aroma, hint of grass and mint.

On the palate

J: Medium bodied and sweet. Oak, fruity hard candy, burn, butterscotch.

A: Light bodied with soft mouth feel. Very sweet but with kick.


J: Leather, cumin, coriander and a lingering sweetness.

A: Rye much more present in the finish than on the palate.

Parting Words

A: Having met Jimmy Russell in person, I am always happy to sample his wares. It’s not a rye that hits you over the head with rye. I like it.

J: I’ll try to elaborate on Amy’s minimalist remarks. Russell’s Reserve Rye was one of the first ryes I really loved. Since then I’ve fallen in love with Rittenhouse and had affairs with Sazerac and Willet and my horizons have broadened. Still, I think this is a good solid rye whiskey, albeit overpriced. Although it was never one of my favorites, now that Wild Turkey Rye 101 proof has been debased into the 81 proof swill, Russell’s Reserve is the only label under which one can get a drinkable rye whiskey from Wild Turkey. As such and because it tastes good, Russell’s Reserve Rye is recommended.

Chateau Chantal Pinot Noir

Maker: Chateau Chantal, Traverse City, Michigan, USAChCh Pinot 2011

Place of origin: Old Mission AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2011

ABV: 12%

Purchased for $15

Note: Notes taken after having been open 24 hrs.

Appearance: Light burgundy.

Nose: Light and vaguely fruity. Blackberry jam, cedar, grape juice.

On the palate: Light and easy drinking. Fresh strawberries, a taste of wood, not much else.

Finish: More cedar and a bit of black pepper, but still lightly fruity.

Parting words: Pinot Noir is an up and coming grape for Northern Michigan. It has been grown there for some time, but there have been raised expectations as of late. There’s no reason why good Pinot couldn’t be produced in Michigan. Pinot Noir is widely grown in the same regions in Europe where Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer are grown and all those do well in the Great Lakes State.

This is a wine without any obvious flaws (aside being a little lively upon first pour) but I was disappointed with how timid it was. It reminds me of inexpensive négociant-produced red Burgundy I’ve had. In the wine’s defense, the back label makes it pretty clear what to expect: an easy-going, food friendly wine. I would stay away from beef, lamb or ham, but pork, turkey or salmon would pair very nicely with this wine as would a cheese course or dark chocolate.

There is no shortage of decent red Michigan blends available for purchase just about anywhere in this state. Some of the best of those are from Chateau Chantal. When I buy a vintage varietal for a vintage varietal price, I expect more character than I got in this bottle. For that reason, Chateau Chantal Pinot Noir 2011 is only mildly recommended.

The Glenrothes 1998

Maker: Glenrothes, Rothes, Moray, Scotland, UK. (Berry Bros. & Rudd)Glenrothes 1998

Region: Speyside- Rothes

Age: 14 y/o

ABV: 43%

Michigan State Minimum: $80

Appearance: Dark copper (possibly colored), with long persistent legs.

Nose: Sherry, oak, honey, alcohol, butterscotch, golden raisins. Water brings vanilla to the party.

On the palate: Full bodied and creamy. Crème brulee, more sherry and wood, toffee. Water brings out some curry spices and vanilla.

Finish: Warm and a little spicy. Butter cream, old oak, cinnamon.

Parting words: Glenrothes 1998 vintage is typically Speyside. The sherry wood notes are Gladys Knight and the bourbon cask ones are the Pips. It has heft that some of Glenrothes’ neighbors lack but still has sophistication and brightness they are known for. Wood is very present on the nose, palate and finish but it never drags the whisky down, it beefs it up. As you can tell from the notes, I think this works best as an after dinner dram.

I purchased this bottle of Glenrothes 1998 for a Burns Night celebration (for a much lower price than the current state minimum) and all of the guests who tried it, loved it. It’s probably worth noting that most of them were bourbon drinkers. At $80, it’s more expensive than I am usually eager to shell out but all in all a fair price for a malt of this quality. Glenrothes 1998 is recommended.

Josh Cellars Sauvignon Blanc

Maker: Joseph Carr, Healdsburg, California, USA

Place of Origin: Sonoma County, California, USA

Vintage: 2012

ABV: 13.5%

Purchased for: $14Josh SB

Appearance: Light straw with

Nose: Apricot, pear, mandarin orange, pineapple.

On the palate: Medium dry and mild. Unripe pear, not much else other than a little sweetness and an herbal touch as the wine warms up.

Finish: Sweet, fruity and mild. a little sweetness lingers in the cheeks for a while and then slowly fades.

Parting words: When I saw the Josh Cellars display at a local grocery store, I thought “Well, it looks like it will be pretty dull, but I have to buy some and post notes, right?” Right.

 Sauvignon Blanc is a grape I have grown to appreciate after having some really tasty New Zealand ones. I’ve had some good California SBs too, but most of them have been very dull. This one falls into the dull category. There’s nothing wrong with it per se, and it has a very nice nose, but it falls flat on the palate and it has no finish to speak of. It works best well-chilled with poultry or mild seafood.

The price is not good, but if you can find it for closer to $10 it might be worth a try. Otherwise, grab a Joel Gott or one of the cheaper brands from NZ.  Josh Sauvignon Blanc is mildly recommend.