Kirkland Premium Small Batch Bourbon

Maker: Costco, Issaquah, Washington, USAwpid-20150326_121209.jpg

Distilled by: Beam, Clemont, Kentucky, USA (Beam-Suntory)

Age: 7 y/o

Proof: 103 (51.5% ABV)

Batch B-5183

Purchased for around $20/1 liter (Not available in Michigan)

Appearance: Dark copper with thin legs and a lot of necklacing.

Nose: Sweet peanut butter, lavender, alcohol, cut grass.

Palate: Caramel, toffee, alcohol, milk chocolate.

Finish: Dry and herbaceous with a touch of toffee.

Parting words: Costco’s Kirkland brand has appeared on everything from bottled water to dog food and beyond, including booze. There’s Kirkland beer, wine, vodka, rum, tequila, bourbon, Canadian whisky and even a 40 year old single malt Scotch distilled by Glenlivet.

All are good values but the bourbon is a standout. On paper, it’s hard to do better. Where else can one get a liter of 103 proof, 7 y/o bourbon for around $20? Nowhere, unless you have a time machine. It’s almost as good in the glass as it is on paper. The label’s statement that it was distilled and bottled by a company with facilities in Clermont & Frankfort, Kentucky reveals that this is a Jim Beam product.

The Beam product that is closest to this is the 7 y/o, 107 proof Baker’s bourbon, a sleeper bourbon if there ever was one. While this is similar, it’s a bit milder (4 proof points will do that) but the lower price more than makes up for that. Kirkland is a little harsh at first pour, but opens up beautifully the longer it sits, bringing out chocolate-covered toffee.

I’m a sucker for a cheap, high proof bourbon in the 6-10 year range. The 6 y/o Very Old Barton Bottled-in-Bond is about the only one that tops this in that category. Kirkland Premium Small Batch is highly recommended.

Verterra Reserve Chardonnay

Maker: Verterra, Leland, Michigan, USAwpid-2015-03-25-14.54.50.jpg.jpeg

Place of origin: Leelanau Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2012

Price: $20 (website)

ABV: Unknown (not listed on label or received from producer by press time)

Appearance: Medium gold with some necklacing.

Nose: Butter, toasted oak, plum, white peach, mineral water.

Palate: Golden delicious apple, lychee, oak, white pepper.

Finish: Chewy oak, canned pear, brown butter.

Parting words: Verterra is one of the best producers on Leelanau and it shows in this wine. They make two Chards, an unoaked (a popular style in these parts) and this one that spent several months in french oak before being bottled, also undergoing malolactic fermentation. It tastes pretty Californian to me, which isn’t a bad thing if you like that style like I do (usually).

As the wine sat and warmed in the glass, some of the fruit seemed to disappear, which was disappointing. It was still tasty, just not quite so well balanced as it was when the cork first came off. Unfortunately, due to poor meal planning, I was unable to taste it with food, but based on experience with similar wines I think it would pair well with chicken, swordfish, shark and the like. The price is very nice for a quality Michigan wine. The 2012 Verterra Reserve Chardonnay is recommended.

Green Hat “Ginavit” (Fall/Winter edition) Gin

Maker: New Columbia, Washington D.C., USAwpid-2015-03-17-20.40.25.jpg.jpeg

ABV: 45%

Price: Unknown, $35 for standard edition gin at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill.

Thanks for Lee & Abby for the bottle.

Appearance: Mostly clear but with an amber tinge.

Nose: Grain alcohol, lime peel, caraway, pine sap.

Palate: Full and soft with some harshness on the back end. Citrus, angelica, licorice, caraway.

Finish: Big cough drop finish. Sap and alcohol linger for a very long time.

Mixed: Did very well in cocktails with vermouth (martinis, Negroni, etc), but overpowered in tonic and a Tom Collins.

Parting words: New Columbia was founded by two hobbyist couples (related I’m guessing) back in 2011. In spite of the corny prohibition-related marketing (The man with the green hat was apparently a DC bootlegger), this is an idiosyncratic but solid cocktail gin. It lacks the finesse of Miller’s, another caraway-forward gin, but if they’re going for something like Aquavit, as the name suggests, maybe the rougher character is in keeping with that tradition.

At any rate, Green Hat Fall/Winter edition is recommended.

Moher Stout

Maker: Shorts, Bellaire, Michigan, USAwpid-2015-03-16-10.30.26.jpg.jpeg

Style: Double Irish-style stout.

ABV: 9.7%

Purchased for $13/6 pack

Appearance: Dark coffee brown with a beige lacy head.

Nose: Slightly toasty, sweet malt.

Palate: Sweet and a little sticky. Oatmeal, molasses, effervescence.

Finish: Some bitterness and a bit of smoke. Dry.

Parting words: Moher Stout is named for a scenic group of cliffs in Ireland that were, according to the bottle, the scene of at least one shipwreck.

Anyway, this differs from their Uncle Steve’s Stout in two ways. First, it’s at “double” strength and second oatmeal is used in the making of it. These two factors lift it above Uncle Steve’s and into highly recommended territory. Unfortunately the high price takes it down a peg from there. Moher Stout is, like I said, recommended.

Jameson Special Reserve, 12 y/o

Maker: Irish Distillers, Midleton, Cork, Irelandwpid-2015-03-13-17.43.43.jpg.jpeg

Style: Irish blend

ABV: 40%

Michigan State Minimum: $70

Appearance: Bright amber (coloring probably used).

Nose: Cut oak, cashews, vanilla, alcohol.

Palate: Full bodied, soft and mild. Butterscotch hard candy, alcohol.

Finish: Chewy. Oak with a whiff of smoke. Fairly short.

Parting words: There are two age stated whiskeys from Jameson available in the state of Michigan, this and the 18 y/o edition. The 18 y/o goes for $140 here so chances are good that this is the oldest Jameson expression you’ll see grace this blog.

This is certainly a step up from the standard Jameson. It has much more depth of flavor and a lot more oak. Unfortunately, the charming floral characteristics of the standard edition are gone too. Still, this is a tasty, flavorful whiskey.

Its only problem (one shared with all the other Jamesons) is price. In Michigan, Redbreast 12 is $65, Power’s 12 is $45 and Knappogue Castle 12 is $32(!). ¬†All of those are as good or better than Jameson 12, and two of those are made at the same distillery as Jameson! That price disparity earns Jameson Special Reserve, 12 y/o only a mild recommendation.

Spice Tree

spicetree_bottle-sm
from http://www.compassboxwhisky.com/images/trade_press/bottle_shots/spicetree_bottle-sm.jpg

Maker: Compass Box, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Style: Blended malt in American oak with toasted French oak barrel heads (see here for more information: http://www.compassboxwhisky.com/pdf/TheSpiceTree.pdf)

Region: Northern Highlands

Note: Not colored or chill-filtered.

ABV: 46%

Michigan state minimum: $62

Appearance: Medium gold with long thin legs

Nose: Sweet malt, vanilla, nutmeg, pinch of ginger.

Palate: Soft with a hint of spice. Custard, cassia, allspice, mace, ginger, clove.

Finish: Spice followed by a hit of vanilla fading into alcohol heat.

Parting words: The original edition of Spice Tree was aged with French oak barrel inserts. The Scotch Whisky Association threatened legal action against Compass Box because of this process. Compass Box decided not to fight the SWA and changed their process to one utilizing French oak barrel heads instead of the inserts.

I never got a chance to taste the old controversial version but this one is very good. I enjoy the Northern Highland whiskies very much on their own and the French oak process has nicely enhanced the spicy flavors of these malts. One would also be hard pressed to get a malt from any of those distilleries at this price that tastes this good. Spice Tree is recommended.

Batasiolo Barbera D’Alba

Maker: Batasiolo, La Morra, Cueno, Piedmont, Italywpid-2015-03-01-19.37.06.jpg.jpeg

Place of origin: Alba, Cueno, Piedmont, Italy

Vintage: 2007

ABV: 14.5%

Purchased for $17

Appearance: Very dark purple, nearly black.

Nose: Cherry jam, hardwood smoke, blueberry juice, blackberry.

Palate: Slightly chewy but not overly tannic. Toasted oak and cherry again.

Finish: Big cherry in the finish.

wpid-20150304_111028.jpgParting words: Barbera is a long suffering grape. Given a bland or worse treatment in its Piedmontese homeland for many years, it was involved in a deadly contamination scandal in the 1980s when thirty people died from drinking Barbera containing a deadly amount of methyl alcohol. As one can imagine, when a wine kills a bunch of people consumers tend to shy away from it for a while.

Barbera can be delicious when done right and this is a great example. It’s bold and a little spicy but still very fruity and easy to enjoy with or without food. We had it with medium rare rump roast and roasted rutabagas (a.k.a. swedes) and it did well. It also threw a crazy amount of sediment into the glass, as you can see. ¬†Batasiolo Barbera D’Alba 2007 is recommended.

Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

Maker: Arcadia Ales, Battle Creek/Kalamazoo, Michigan, USAwpid-2015-03-02-19.36.32.jpg.jpeg

Purchased: 2012

ABV: 12%

Price: Don’t remember.

Appearance: Dark chocolate brown with a short-lived lacy head.

Nose: Bourbon, sweet malt, strawberry licorice, light molasses.

Palate: Medium bodied and powerful. Coffee, anise, rye recipe bourbon, piloncillo.

Finish: Light with a little bourbon and molasses.

Parting words: Aging beer is something I got really interested in a couple years ago and it’s starting to pay off now. I had an aged Arcadia Imperial Stout at the Arcadia brewpub once and it was good but was all anise and little else. This is much richer but oddly playful. The various flavors pop up seemingly at random on the palate to engage in a tug of war with the others. The result is not well integrated but still very enjoyable. If I have a complaint, it’s that it’s too enjoyable. I almost never get drunk off of beer but after just one of these I felt a pretty big buzz. At 12% ABV this beer is best drunk in the same way as a fortified wine. Find a friend or two and split a bottle after supper. I don’t remember what I paid for it but I think it was around $8 for one bottle which I think is fair for a liquid dessert. Barrel Aged Imperial Stout is recommended. Put it away for a while if you can.