Blue Water Pinot Noir

Maker: Blue Water Winery & Vineyard, Lexington, Michigan, USAwp-1585183684968.jpg

Grape: Pinot Noir (at least 75%)

Place of origin: Michigan (at least 75%)

Vintage: 2015

ABV: 13.5%

Purchased for $22 (Michigan by the Bottle Sipper Club)

Nose: Blackberry, red currant, fresh mushroom.

Palate: Medium bodied. Chewy, with black raspberries and wet earth.

Finish: Black currant, wet leaves.

Parting words: Blue Water is located in the tourist town of Lexington, Michigan. I reviewed their Chardonnay back in 2018 and I recommended it. This Pinot Noir is uncharacteristic of Michigan. It’s much earthier than most around here which makes for a refreshing change from the tart fruit that dominates in the Mitten State.  That said, this wine could stand to be more balanced. Still, not bad for a $22 bottle from one of the most challenging vintages in state history. 2015 Blue Water Pinot Noir is recommended.

Hell-Cat Maggie

Maker: World Spirits, Princeton, Minnesota, USA (Phillips)

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Distiller: Cooley, Louth, Leinster, Ireland (Beam Suntory)

Style: Blended Irish Whiskey

Age: NAS (at least three years old)

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $22

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Sweet malt, a little sherry, leather, woodruff, anise.

Palate: Full bodied and soft. Caramel, butterscotch candy with a little bit on the back end.

Finish: Vanilla custard, white pepper, nutmeg, alcohol.

Parting words: Like 2 Gingers, this is another Irish whiskey from Minnesota (?!) but this one comes with a story about someone in a gang in New York or something. I don’t care about NDP marketing bullshit, so I’m not going to get into that.

I’m a big fan of the Cooley Distillery, and Hell-Cat Maggie is in the classic Cooley style, so it has that going for it. It’s not as elegant as Tyrconnell or Knappogue Castle but it’s a little more refined than 2 Gingers (which one would expect at $8 more). It mixes well too. My only criticism is that this Hell-Cat lacks claws and teeth. She would benefit from 2%- 6% higher ABV. Still, I like her. Hell-Cat Maggie is recommended.

Dartigalongue 1996, Seelbach’s selection

Maker: Maison Dartigalongue, Nogaro, Gers, France.wp-1581044510102.jpg

Region: Bas Armagnac, Gers, France

Age: 23 y/o (distilled 1996)

ABV: 45.4%

Price: $85 (Seelbach’s)

Appearance: Dark copper.

Nose: Strong. Old French oak, star anise, grape soda, chipotle chili.

Palate: Full bodied and semi-dry. Blackberry jam, jalapeno jelly.

Finish: Licorice, burn.

Parting words: I don’t usually pay over $100 for spirits, but I did for this bottle. It was highly recommended by pals from the Serious Brandy Facebook group. I can say that, unlike recent rye and bourbon purchases in that range, I have never once suffered from buyers remorse brought on by this bottle. It’s complex and mature but not overoaked at all. It’s also even cheaper now than it was when I bought a bottle. I just might buy another one, even at $85. I can’t say more about this brandy because I’ve said it all and it’s getting late. Dartigalongue 1996, Seelbach’s selection is highly recommended.

 

Old Ezra

Maker: Lux Row, Bardstown, Kentucky, USA(Luxcon)wp-1582340562351.jpg

Distiller: Undisclosed (tastes like Jim Beam, Claremont/Boston, Kentucky, USA)

Style: standard recipe bourbon

Age: 7 y/o

Proof: 117 (58.5% ABV)

Purchased for $50

Appearance: Bright copper.

Nose: Cayenne, corn chips, lavender.

Palate: Medium bodied. Sweet. Caramel, vanilla, oak, then big alcohol burn. Water makes it a little leathery.

Finish: Nutty and then burn. Same but more mild.

Parting words: For many years, Old Ezra 101 was one of my go-to bourbons. As I said in my previous review, it was maybe the best example of Heaven Hill’s distictive, minty, yeast-driven style despite having a Luxco label.

Alas, a few years ago Luxco turned this relatively obscure favorite into a barrel proof high-end release at more than twice the price. Before that, the source of the bourbon changed from Heaven Hill to Jim Beam (according to my tastebuds anyway). Beam does a lot of contract/bulk whiskey work these days, since it’s one of the few distillers in Kentucky that still has the ability to do so.

At any rate, this is no substitute for the good old HH Old Ezra 101, but it’s still pretty good. Old Ezra is recommended.

Kilkerran 12 y/o

Distillery: Glengyle, Campbeltown, Argyle & Bute, Scotland, UK (J & A Mitchell)wp-1577138212646.jpg

Style: Single Malt Scotch

Region: Campbeltown

Age: 12 y/o

ABV: 46%

Price: $70 (Binny’s)

Appearance: Medium gold.

Nose: Sweet malt, swimming pool, old oak.

Palate: Full bodied and semi-dry. Butterscotch, oak, burn. Hint of sherry and smoke.

Finish: Malty and chewy.

Parting words: This review was from a 200 ml bottle I purchased at Cadenhead’s in Edinburgh back in July of 2019. I was talked into it by the salesperson, without much resistance on my part. It’s hard to find around here and I do like Springbank so it was an easy choice. I’m glad I made it.

Kilkerran 12 isn’t complex, but it is a well-balanced, enjoyable single malt and it is worth the money. If you can find it, Kilkerran 12 y/o is recommended!

 

 

JK’s Scrumpy Orchard Gate Gold

Maker: Almar Orchards, Flushing, Michigan, USAwp-1577637955256.jpg

Apples: Propietary blend of unspecified organic apples.

Place of origin: Koan Family Orchards, Flushing, Michigan, USA

Style: Semi-dry Farmhouse cider

ABV: 6%

Purchased for $13/4 pint cans

Appearance: Dark gold, slightly hazy. Lightly bubbly.

Nose: Apple juice, caramel, vanilla, butterscotch.

Palate: Tart apple, sweetened apple sauce, touch of tannin.

Finish: Tart and a little sweet.

Parting words: This is the flagship cider of JK’s Scrumpy and the easiest one to find. It’s got big apple flavors, is semi-dry to semi-sweet (depending on who you ask) with no additives, food friendly and accessible to newbies. There’s nothing not to like here unless you’re a dry cider diehard. I would appreciate a little more tannic grip on the back end of the palate and in the finish, but that’s a minor complaint. An excellent example of a middle of the road organic cider, JK’s Scrumpy Orchard Gate Gold is recommended.

Look for more JK’s reviews to come!

 

 

Mackinaw Trail Late Harvest Riesling, 2013

Maker: Mackinaw Trail, Petoskey, Michigan, USAwp-1580342023816.jpg

Grape: Riesling (at least 75%)

Place of origin: Michigan (at least 75%)

Style: Late harvest Riesling

Vintage: 2013

Note: 24 brix at harvest

ABV: 10%

Purchased for $14 (forgotten liquor store)

Appearance: Light gold.

Nose: Peach, pear.

Palate: Medium bodied. Mandarin oranges, ripe peach, gravel.

Finish: Peach then canned pear.

Parting words: This is the first bottle from Mackinaw Trail I have purchased in the last five years at least. Why? Well, several years ago, my friends and I visited the Mackinaw Trail tasting room in Petoskey and had a very pleasant time. Liz and I both liked the Merlot, so we bought a bottle and took it home.

When I opened it a few months later, it tasted terrible and was fizzy. I don’t mean Vinho Verde or Beaujolais Nouveau fizzy, I mean Vernor’s Ginger Ale fizzy. I dumped it out and vowed never to buy another bottle from them. I should have contacted someone, I know, but it was so disgusting that I didn’t want to have anything to do with them again.

A few months ago, I was killing time in a local liquor store and came across this bottle. I love late harvest Riesling (almost any Riesling, really) and this bottle was pretty mature so I thought I’d give Mackinaw Trail another chance. I’m glad I did.

This wine is not complex, and not as good as LHRs produced by some of the larger Michigan wineries like St. Julian, Black Star Farms and Chateau Grand Traverse, but it’s good enough for the price and it held up well for sitting on the shelf of a party store for five years. I’m glad I gave  Mackinaw Trail another try. Makinaw Trail’s 2013 Late Harvest Riesling is recommended.

Old Forester 1910

Maker: Brown-Forman, Louisville, Kentucky, USAwp-1578702014650.jpg

Style: Barrel-finished straight bourbon whiskey.

Age: NAS

Proof: 93 (46.5% ABV)

Michigan State Minimum: $55

Appearance: Chestnut.

Nose: Light oak, ghost pepper, toasted pecan.

Palate: Full-bodied. Brown Sugar and then burn. With water: Pralines, plum, cocoa.

Finish: Long. Maple candy, then alcohol and bubble gum.

Parting words: This is the fourth and final entry in Old Forester’s superb Whiskey Row series of historically inspired bourbons. I’ve liked every single one and I like this one too. The first two, 1870 and 1897, were better (probably older) versions of their two standard expressions the 86 proof and 100 proof (fka Signature) Old Foresters. The third (my favorite) was the 114 proof 1920.

Brown-Forman went in a different direction for 1910, jumping backward ten years to replicate an alleged incident when a fire on the bottling line forced the distillery to store bourbon in a second barrel for some reason. The whole thing sounds a bit dubious to me, but, historicity aside, this is a very good bourbon. The second barrel (new I believe) rounds out OF’s usually sharp edges to give it decadent candy flavors without becoming overly sweet. Depite the relatively low (93) proof for serious bourbon people like you and me, OF 1910 benefits from a few drops of water.

1910 is cheaper than 1920, but much harder to find in my experience. $55 may seem like a lot for a 93 proof NAS bourbon from a big distillery, but it’s well worth it in this case. It’s an excellent capstone to the Whiskey Row series. Old Forester 1910 is highly recommended.