Wild Turkey Tradition

Maker: Wild Turkey, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, USAWT Trad

Age: 14 y/o

Proof: 101 (50.5% ABV)

Retail Price: $100 (Binny’s)

Michigan State Minimum (when available): $120

Appearance: Auburn with long, regularly spaced legs.

Nose: Alcohol, leather, barrel char, citrus blossom, Genoese basil.

On the palate: Full-bodied and rich. Burn, purple Kool-Aid, oak, ginger, mace, brown sugar.

Finish: Fruity in the cheeks, dry on the tongue and the actual palate.

Parting words: This is Wild Turkey at its finest, complex but still powerful. It strikes a lovely balance between fruity sweetness, spice, alcohol and oak, even without water. Compared to its siblings, I would rank Tradition above American Spirit (some of my friends might reverse that ranking), but not as good as Tribute. It’s a perfect holiday or special occasion sipping bourbon.

The packaging is absurdly complex with a display stand covered by a chestnut colored cover, but the bottle itself is simple and elegant. The over the top packaging does mean that it travels and ships well, so that’s something.

Tradition was released in 2009, but I was still seeing them on shelves as late as a year ago. The price is steep for a bourbon but these limited edition Turkeys rarely disappoint, and it is officially a dusty now so if you see it for $150 or less, buy it. Wild Turkey Tradition is recommended.

Sleeping Giant

Maker: B. Nektar, Ferndale, Michigan

Style: Wildflower mead aged in rye whiskey barrels for one year.

ABV: 19.5%

Purchased for: $25/375 mlSleeping Giant

Appearance: pale gold with big thick legs.

Nose: Brown butter, oak, overdone fruitcake, dandelion stems.

On the palate: Sweet and full bodied. Honey, citrus, cut clover, old oak, woodruff.

Finish: Sweet and viscous. Some acrid oak and orange peel. Then fades slowly.

Parting words: This is a good one. It’s much more drinkable than the first bourbon barrel finished mead they did. The bitter edges of the mead are taken off by the barrel aging and probably my cellaring for even longer. I still have one bottle held back in reserve.

It’s a clichĂ©, but this mead is dangerous for the pocketbook and the brain. It tastes like a before dinner drink but it’s at an after dinner ABV. The price is steep but it’s a one-off and delicious. Sleeping Giant is going to be really hard to find at this point, but consider my recommendation as an endorsement of all B. Nektar barrel aged meads. Sleeping Giant is highly recommended.

Gibson’s Finest

Maker: Hiram Walker, Windsor, Ontario, Canada (Wm. Grant & Sons.)Gibsons Finest

Age: 12 y/o

Style: Canadian blended whisky

ABV: 40%

Michigan State Minimum: $28

Appearance: Medium gold.

Nose: Spicy and dry. Fresh lumber, chipotle, hay, cardamom.

On the palate: Medium-full bodied and spicy. Butterscotch, red pepper, curry powder.

Finish: Big and buttery with a touch of oak and butterscotch candy. Fades quickly, unfortunately.

Parting words: Gibson’s is an old Schenley brand that has traveled a lot in its long history. For now, it is made at the Walkerville plant in Windsor and belongs to Grant & Sons, Scottish distillers best known for their blended whisky Grant’s and as the owner of the Glenfiddich and Balvenie distilleries. In Canada, an NAS and an 18 y/o version are also available.

At any rate, in its current incarnation, Gibson’s 12 y/o has long been a popular duty-free brand and it’s easy to taste why. Unlike many of its Canadian siblings, it packs a lot of flavor into 40% ABV. It’s bold but not brash, and offers a healthy dose of oak, always a pleasant surprise in a Canadian blend. It’s now available in Michigan at a very reasonable price. Gibson’s Finest is recommended.

Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout

Maker: Aloha Plenty/Iron Fist/Stone, California, USAMCIS

Style: Imperial stout with cocoa and mint flavoring added.

Vintage: 2012

ABV: 9.6%

Thanks to Rhiannon for this bottle.

Appearance: Black coffee with a lacy beige head.

Nose: Dark roasted malt, dark chocolate, faint herbal note.

On the palate: Full bodied and sweet. Like a Shamrock Shake upon initial entry. Some bitterness does surface later and on subsequent sips. Very dark chocolate, Espresso with a shot of peppermint schnapps.

Finish: Long, bitter and slightly sweet. The mint is in the background but still present.

Parting words: I wasn’t so sure what this beer was going to be like, but my doubts were unfounded. It’s delicious. The cocoa dovetails with the Stout-ness perfectly even to the point where I don’t think I would notice it if I didn’t already know it was there. The mint is noticeable but subtle, especially as the beer sits in the glass. I would have preferred a little more mint, but that’s a quibble. I also don’t know if adding cocoa was really needed but it didn’t hurt.

I received this beer as a gift from my cousin, so I’m not sure how much it sold for, but I’ve been able to find it online for $3 for a 12 oz. bottle. That’s not cheap, but since this is more of a novelty than a go-to brew, I wouldn’t mind paying that for a bottle or two. Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout is recommended.

Wild Turkey Forgiven

Wild-Turkey-Forgiven-WhiskeyMaker: Wild Turkey, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, USA

Style: Blend of straight whiskeys (bourbon and rye)

Age: NAS

Proof: 91 (45.5% ABV)

Batch: 302

Michigan state minimum: $51

Thanks to Oscar for the sample

Appearance: Medium copper with legs and a decent necklace.

Nose: Alcohol, fresh cut grass, sawdust, lavender, hint of barbecue sauce, corn chips.

On the palate: Hot and dry but with a soft mouth feel. A bit of sweetness, a kiss of oak and then nothing but alcohol.

Finish: Mild alcohol burn, a touch of anise, then nothing.

Parting words: Upon tasting this bourbon I was filled with joy. That joy was because I hadn’t spent $50+ on a full bottle. Thanks again to Oscar for this sample! Forgiven was named for an alleged incident when a WT employee mistakenly mixed bourbon and rye (Your chocolate’s in my peanut butter!) but was forgiven because of the allegedly delicious results. The end result is not awful, but really dull. Boring is forgivable at <$25, but not at $51. This is another miss for Wild Turkey under Campari’s ownership. Forgotten seems like a more appropriate name. Not recommended.

Liberator Barrel Aged Old Tom Gin

Maker: Valentine, Ferndale, Michigan, USALiberator aged

ABV: 45.2%

Note: Only available at the tasting room/bar

Nose: lemon peel, Clementine, angelica, cinnamon, ginger, tobacco.

On the palate: Full bodied and spicy. Black pepper, cardamom, cassia, alcohol. A splash of water brings out more sweetness and a lot more cinnamon.

Finish: Cinnamon disk and alcohol burn. Fades very slowly.

Mixed: Does surprisingly well in cocktails that are traditionally better suited to unaged gin. Makes a spicy dry martini and a respectable gin and tonic. It is really fantastic in a perfect martini (half dry and half sweet vermouth) and adds a great spicy aspect to a negroni.

Parting words: Like its unaged sibling, this gin is a wild ride. When I tasted it neat (how Rifino Valentine says he drinks it) it changed in the glass substantially from first sip to last. At first it was all citrus. Then it shifted to more traditional Old Tom Gin flavors, then it became a cinnamon bomb.

As noted above it is available only at the distillery in Ferndale, for a bit more than the standard version. It’s over the top, but it’s delicious. Barrel-aged Liberator is highly recommended.

Lagavulin 12, Limited Edition 2012

Maker: Lagavulin, Port Ellen, Islay, Scotland, UK.Lag 12

Region: Islay

ABV: 56.1% (cask strength)

Michigan State Minimum: $120 (I bought it when the price was $90)

Appearance: Pale gold.

Nose: Peat, smoke, dried flowers, alcohol. Softens up a bit with water, but the peat is still front and center.

On the palate: Full bodied and aggressive. Burn, smoke, peat. Sweeter and more balanced with water. Butterscotch candy, fireplace, peat, amaretto.

Finish: campfire smoke, vanilla custard, burn. With water I get hardwood ash, vanilla pudding, and burn.

Parting words: Lagavulin 16 y/o (reviewed here) is still my favorite single malt Scotch, but this one has come very close. It’s not nearly as refined as its older sister but it has a powerful smokiness that rivals Laphroaig or Ardbeg. I’m getting into Malt Imposter territory here, but if Lagavulin were the Clash, the 16 year old would be London Calling and the 12 year old cask strength would be The Clash. The former is more polished and complex, but the latter has an urgency and power that is compelling.

The state minimum price in Michigan unfortunately went up by $30 recently so it is much less of a value than it used to be. Still, it’s a wonderful, delicious whisky worth trying and buying if it fits into your budget. I love and recommend Lagavulin 12 y/o Limited Edition 2012, Cask Strength.

Edition Maximilian Rheingau Pinot Noir

Maker: Hans Lang, Eltville, Hesse, Germany.Ed Max Pinot 2009

Vintage: 2009

ABV: 11.5%

Purchased for: Around $7

Appearance: Light burgindy, like red raspberry juice.

Nose: Light and fruity. Strawberry, raspberry jam.

On the palate: Also light and fruity but with some complexity and not a lot of sweetness. Strawberry juice, underripe plum, cherry preserves, a dash of white pepper.

Finish: Pleasant but quick-fading. Some fruity sweetness followed by gentle oak.

Parting words: This is another favorite of mine from Trader Joe’s. The U.S. gets a very limited selection of fine German white wines. Good German reds are even harder to find. The German name for the grape is Spätburgunder but many German producers have been astutely using the more familiar French name on labels intended for sale in the U.S.

Rheingau is one of Germany’s historically great wine-producing regions. It lies on the north bank of the Rhine in the vicinity of Wiesbaden where the river takes a westward turn between where it is joined by the Main and where it turns back north. As one might expect Riesling is the mostly widely planted vine, but a significant proportion of Pinot Noir is also grown.

At any rate, I like this wine a lot for what it is. It lacks noticeable flaws, though it also lacks depth and complexity. It does very well with all types of cuisine and is very easy drinking. At $7 there’s nothing not to like. Edition Maximilian Rheingau 2009 Pinot Noir is recommended.

Old Crow Reserve

Maker: Jim Beam, Clermont/Frankfort, Kentucky, USAOld Crow Res

Age: 4 y/o

Proof: 86 (43% ABV)

Michigan State Minimum: $11

Appearance: pale copper, thin wispy legs.

Nose: Alcohol, cumin, dumpster, Romaine lettuce

On the palate: Soft, medium bodied. Alcohol, caramel, parsley.

Finish: Alcohol, more dumpster. Fades quickly, thank God.

Parting words: I wanted to give this a more positive review, I really did, but it’s just not good at all. I was planning on saying this was another missed opportunity for a good line extension of a heritage brand, much like Early Times 354. It is that, but while ET 354 was dull, Old Crow Reserve is just bad. Four years old is not very old for a bourbon, but it’s usually long enough for some of the funk to be taken off, but it actually seems to have increased in this case. I could say more, but nothing needs to be said. If you are desperate for alcohol to put into cola, this might be acceptable. Otherwise, it doesn’t work at all on any level. One of the worst bourbons I’ve had. Old Crow Reserve is not recommended.