Head to head: Jura 10 vs. Superstition vs. 16

10= Isle of Jura Origin, 10 y/owpid-2014-09-16-13.30.12.jpg.jpeg

S= Jura Superstition (NAS)

16= Isle of Jura, Diurach’s Own, 16 y/o

Maker: Isle of Jura, Argyll, Scotland, UK (?) (Whyte & Mackay/United Breweries)

Region: Islands

ABV: 43%

Michigan State Minimum

10: $48

S: $57

16: $71

Appearance (caramel color likely added)

10: New penny with long, well-spaced legs.

S: Slightly darker like a middle aged penny. Extensive necklacing.

16: Even darker. Old amber with long thick legs.


10: Light clover honey, heather, alcohol, hint of leather.

S: Light peat, alcohol, honey, alcohol.

16: Baklava, oak, alcohol.


10: Medium bodied. Golden apple, wildflower honey, chamomile tea.

S: Butterscotch, thyme, alcohol.

16: Toffee, butterscotch, vanilla custard.


10: Orange blossom honey but without any bitterness.

S: Smoke finally comes through followed by burn but it then settles down into a peat-infused sweetness.

16: Dark chocolate covered caramels with a little bitter oak on the tail end.

Parting words: I love mini sets like this, because they enable me to affordably give you the head to head tasting you so love, dear readers.

Isle of Jura (distilled and aged on the Isle of Jura, Islay’s neighbor to the northeast) was one of the first single malts I ever tried. Back then all I could find was the ten year old version. I always found it enjoyable but dull. Tasting it again now hasn’t changed my assessment too much. It’s still mild, but it’s enjoyable enough and works well as an entry level or weeknight malt.

Superstition was one of the first Jura line extensions available in the US. It is mildly peated, which adds a nice extra dimension to the malty, honeyed character of the standard Jura.

The 16 y/o is a big toffee-filled dessert dram. It’s not cheap compared to the others, but it’s more affordable than most single malt whiskies its age. Again, it’s not particularly complex but it does one thing and does it very well. In the state of Michigan it also comes in a gift pack with a pair of glasses (for your whisky, not your eyes), so factor that into the price.

All three are good values and recommended.

Verterra Dry Riesling

Maker: Verterra/Chaos, Lake Leelenau, Michigan, USAwpid-2014-09-16-13.28.54.jpg.jpeg

Place of origin: Leelanau Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2011

ABV: 12%

Purchased for $15

Appearance: Light gold with

Nose: ripe peach, granny smith apple, bitter orange.

Palate: Medium bodied. Red pear, navel orange, mineral water, white grapefruit.

Finish: Clean and dry. More peaches and pears with a hint of vanilla.

Parting words: The 2011 vintage in Northern Michigan continues to impress me. Leelanau is a much larger area than Old Mission with many more wineries, so the region as a whole is less consistent than the OMP. Verterra itself is of consistently high quality, though. I recommend trying anything of theirs you see.

This wine is everything a dry Michigan Riesling should be. It’s dry and food-friendly without sacrificing any character. Orchard fruit in abundance with a touch of acid for balance. Even eighteen hours after opening, it was still delicious, maybe even better. It’s worth every penny and then some. Verterra’s 2011 Dry Riesling is highly recommended.

Maestro Dobel: Kakos Market blend (9/11/2013)

Maker: Proximo, Jalisco, Mexico.wpid-20140912_182014.jpg

Notes from label: Single barrel. Aged in French Oak, La Mesa Ranch, barrel No. 3719, bottle No. 174.

ABV: 40%

Michigan State Minimum: $50

Appearance: Clear with abundant, evenly spaced legs.

Nose: Agave syrup, peppermint, lavender, jicama, touch of oak, cracked white pepper.

Palate: Full bodied and sweet. Alcohol, white grape juice, orange rind.

Finish: Black pepper, red dradish, oak, lime peel.

Mixed: I tried it in several traditional tequila cocktails, despite the high price. My preferred method for drinking tequila is with a squeeze of lime, but that didn’t really complement the flavors in this one. It did very well in a traditional margarita and in a tequila sunrise. Did OK in cola with a squeeze of lime but got a little lost.

Parting words: Maestro Dobel Tequila is a single estate tequila from the Cuervo people. It’s technically a reposado, but is actually a blend of reposado, añejo, and extra-añejo tequilas. For some reason it’s been filtered so as to strip away all color from the spirit. Maybe it had an unappealing color or clear was deemed to be more marketable.

At any rate Maestro Dobel is a sweet, easy drinking sipper that works ok in top shelf cocktails too. At this price I would like a little more character and proof, but as it stands I think it’s worth a purchase. Maestro Dobel is recommended.

American Prairie Reserve

Maker: High West, Park City, Utah, USAwpid-2014-09-12-19.18.58.jpg.jpeg

Distillers: MGPI, Lawrenceburg, Indiana/Four Roses, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, USA

Style: Blend of straight bourbons (cannot be called straight because bourbons are from different states)

Age: 6 y/o (blend of 6 y/o MGPI with 10 y/o Four Roses)

Proof: 92 (46% ABV)

Michigan State Minimum: $42

Appearance: Medium copper with evenly spaced legs.

Nose: Alcohol, bubble gum, leather, salted caramel, whiff of steamed asparagus.

Palate: Spicy and a little hot. Cotton candy, jalapeno, oak, country ham.

Finish: Semi-dry. Oak, raw pecans, alcohol.

Parting words: High West has gone from a start up to one of America’s premier blenders and rectifiers in just a few short years. This bourbon (their first & only to my knowledge) is actually a reunion of sorts. The distilleries now called MGPI and Four Roses were both once owned by Seagram’s, which I imagine led to a lot of farcical missed meetings. “OK, I’m in Lawrenceburg, where are you?” “I’m in Lawrenceburg, where are YOU?” “Lawrenceburg, Kentucky!” “UHOH!”

Anyway, American Prairie Reserve is not cheap, but it’s well done and worth the price, especially considering that 10% of after tax profits go toward efforts to establish a federal American Prairie Reserve in northeastern Montana. That’s also why there’s a grouse on the label.

American Prairie Reserve is recommended.


Maker: Greenbush, Sawyer, Michigan, USAwpid-20140908_191327.jpg

Style: Black IPA

ABV: 7.6%

Purchased for $11 for a 6 pack.

Appearance: Dark coffee, lacy, light colored head.

Nose: Grapefruit, lavender, coriander, toasted brown bread.

Palate: Sweet and spicy. Black pepper, coffee, hint of chipotle.

Finish: Mildly sweet and more dry hoppy spice. Black cherry, then a bit roasty bitterness.

Parting words: I’ll admit to being a man who got sick of IPAs. The IPA madness seems to have died down about so I came out of my hiding place to buy myself a pack of Anger.

Anger makes me happy. It has lots of hoppy IPA aggression but it is perfectly balanced by toasty and subtly sweet flavors. It goes ok with food, but some of the subtlety is lost. This is an IPA I can drink (a lot) and enjoy. Anger is recommended.

Wild Scotsman

Maker: Wild Scotsman, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.wpid-20140904_135744-1.jpg

Distillers: Various (One cask each from five whisky regions)

Style: Blended malt whiskey (formerly known as vatted malt).

Age: 15 y/o

ABV: 46%

Price: $74 (The Party Source)

Appearance: Pale gold (no coloring)

Nose: Butterscotch, fig, vanilla, alcohol, oak.

Palate: Soft and semi-sweet. Apricot, vanilla bean crème brûlée, alcohol, gingerbread.

Finish: Fairly hot, sweet malt, toffee, white chocolate.

Parting words: I bought a mini bottle of The Wild Scotsman on a lark as I was checking out at a liquor store in Indianapolis. I had never heard of it before, but I have found it enjoyable.

Although the makers of Wild Scotsman blended malt claim that there are whiskies from five regions in each batch, it is quite Highland in character. Perhaps the Island and Islay components were unpeated because I detected no peat or smoke at all. At any rate, “wild” is a bit of a misnomer for this whisky but it still has plenty of character. It’s very fruity with lots of creamy dessert notes, but the relatively high proof and lack of chill filtering keeps it from being dull.

$74 is pricy for what it is, but vanishing age statements and tightening malt supplies being what they are, that’s probably a fair price. I wouldn’t pay much more than that, though. Wild Scotsman is recommended.

Ugly Dog Gin

Maker: Ugly Dog, Chelsea, Michigan, USAwpid-2014-08-29-19.05.35.jpg.jpeg

ABV: 45%

Michigan State Minimum: $20

Appearance: Clear with

Nose: Harsh. Alcohol, lime peel, juniper, hint of licorice.

Palate: Surprisingly Sweet. GNS, sugar, pine sap, orange juice from concentrate.

Finish: Cedar, alcohol, sugar.

Mixed: Unremarkable but adequate in a G & T, Princeton and Tom Collins. Flat in a dry martini and AWOL in a Negroni.

Parting words: With this gin, Ugly Dog (known primarily for their bacon flavored vodka) is doing the opposite of what most micro-distillers are trying to do. Instead of producing something different than what the big distillers are doing, their strategy seems to be to make an unpretentious, indistinct, workhorse gin. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that the big boys can do it much cheaper. Beefeater & Bombay are $18, New Amsterdam & Pearl are $12, Seagram’s Dry is $11 and Gilbey’s & Gordon’s are $10.

To add insult to injury, the label and bottle are ugly as hell. Gin is all about aromas and the smell of dog is not what most gin drinkers are looking for. Plus, it made me think of this scene from The Simpsons. “Needs more dog”.

Anyway, as you may have guessed, Ugly Dog Gin is not recommended.

Chateau Grand Traverse Pinot Grigio

Maker: Chateau Grand Traverse, Traverse City, Michigan, USAwpid-2014-09-03-17.34.23.jpg.jpeg

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

Vintage: 2012


Price: $11 (website)

Appearance: Light gold with some necklacing.

Nose: Semi-dry. Underripe pears, Golden Delicious apples, lemon thyme.

Palate: Medium bodied and semi-dry. White peach, pink grapefruit.

Finish: Dry and herbal. Mineral water, sage, a bit of smoke.

Parting words: When I think Pinot Grigio, I think of boring, sorry, “crisp” wines from the Veneto that are pounded back on movie nights and in cheesy restaurants. When I think Pinot Gris (The French name for the same grape, “gray pinot”) I think of the wonderfully smoky and herbaceous made from this grape in Alsace. This wine is somewhere between those camps. When chilled according to bottle directions, it is in the crisp camp but as it warms up, some Alsatian character comes to the fore.

It’s cheap for a wine of this quality and does very well with food. This is a Grigio you can drink and not feel embarrassed or bored by. Chateau Grand Traverse 2012 Pinot Grigio.