Talisker Distiller’s Edition (2013 release)

Maker: Talisker, Carbost, Isle of Skye, Highland, Scotland, UK (Diageo)20171013_121622.jpg

Region: Island

Style: Peated single malt, finished in amorosa (cream) sherry casks

Age: 10-11 y/o (distilled 2002, bottled 2013)

ABV: 45.8%

Michigan state minimum: $81

Appearance: Light copper.

Nose: Peat, old oak, roasted almond, vanilla, lemon meringue.

Palate: Medium-bodied, medium sweet, creamy. Custard, toffee, apricot.

Finish: Big and ashy. Fireplace with a nibble of toffee.

Parting words: Back in 2014 I reviewed Talisker Storm and I liked it a lot, but I thought it was “by the numbers” with little in the way of surprises. The Distiller’s Edition does have some surprises up its sleeve. I’m not a fan of sweetened cream sherries as beverages but their casks do good things to peaty whisky! Talisker DE is complex and rounded in a way that Storm and the 10 y/o aren’t. It’s more than worth the extra $3 over the Storm (which I still do enjoy). It’s a Talisker suitable for after-dinner sipping in the living room, while Storm and the 10 are post-snow-shoveling malts, if that makes sense. This is an older vintage but I don’t think much has changed since 2013. Talisker Distiller’s Edition is recommended.

 

 

 

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Entropy

Maker: Gitche Gumee Ciderworks, Hancock,  Houghton County, Michigan, USA20170909_154436

Style: Wild fermented feral apple cider. Finished in French oak barrels

Harvest: 2015

ABV: 6.9%

Price: $15 (only available in the western portion of the Upper Peninsula)

Note: Bottle provided for review by maker.

Appearance: Amber with persistant bubbles. Slightly cloudy.

Nose: Cut lumber, Raclette cheese, cut apple.

Palate: Dry, medium bodied. Tart apple, apple peel, French oak.

Finish: Chewy oak and apple tannins, touch of tartness.

Parting words: I had never heard of Gitche Gumee before founder Phillip Kelm contacted me in August. There’s a reason for that outside my own obliviousness, though. Entropy is their first release. Phillip is currently planning two more releases, Dancing Fatman which he describes as “a more approachable table cider” and Carmelita which will be a thimbleberry-infused cider. Thimbleberry is a wild raspberry native to Western North America and the upper Great Lakes region. It’s beloved in Upper Michigan, especially in the Keweenaw Peninsula where Hancock Michigan is located.

Phillip’s day job is as a brewery builder. In an email to me he wrote, “History of the venture is somewhat involved.  I have worked in breweries for many years.  But my first love was always apples and cider.  Happy to be working with apples and cider now.  I’ve also opened South Korea’s first cidery, made Palau’s first cider, and am working now to finish India’s only cidery.  There’s lots to those stories, but I’ve only so much time to write!”  For more on Phillips’s career, look here.

Phillip was aiming for a French-style cider with Entropy and I think he hit the bullseye. It’s actually better than many Norman or Breton ciders I’ve had. The funk and tannin (augmented by French oak in this case) take the lead, but the are assisted by a supporting cast of acid, fruit and sweetness (in that order). The result is a great cider. Sorry to do this to you, dear readers, but this hard to find American cider is highly recommended.

 

 

Cooper’s Craft

Maker: Brown-Forman, Louisville, Kentucky, USA20170825_202011

Style: Standard recipe bourbon filtered through beech and birch charcoal and aged in pre-toasted, charred barrels .

Age: NAS (4-6 y/o?)

Proof: 86 (43% ABV)

Price: $24 (The Party Source)

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Lumber yard, caramel corn, fennel, nutmeg.

Palate: Full bodied and mellow. Grape soda, tootsie roll, bubble gum.

Finish: Creme brulee, dark chocolate. Similar to a Speyside Single Malt.

Mixed: I tried it in all my usual whiskey cocktails: Manhattan, perfect Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Holdfast boulevardier, with Coke, with ginger ale, and with Benedictine. It excelled in every one of them, hampered only by low proof in the boulevardier.

Parting words: This bourbon from Brown-Forman, with its recipe somewhere between high(ish) rye Old Forester and high corn Early Times, is intended as a tribute to the Brown-Forman cooperage in Louisville, Kentucky. B-F is the only Kentucky bourbon distiller with its own cooperage, a rightful point of pride for them. Cooper’s Craft puts that wood to work (I’m pretty sure that’s a Lil Kim lyric).

The pretoasted barrels and unique filtration process bring out sweet, chocolate flavors rarely found in bourbons, macrodistilled ones anyway. At 86 proof, it’s not a world beater, but honestly “some different flavors” is more than one expects for $24 these days. Cooper’s Craft is recommended.

 

 

 

 

Moletto Gin

Maker: Moletto Società Agricola, Motta di Livenza, Triviso, Veneto, Italy20170808_174534

Style: Dry gin with tomato.

ABV: 43%

Michigan State Minimum: $40

Appearance: Clear.

Nose: Alcohol, ripe cut tomatoes, lime zest, juniper.

Palate: Full bodied and sweet. Lemon, tomato.

Finish: Limeade, tomato juice, juniper.

Parting words: Moletto is a producer of wine and grappa (among other things) in Veneto, in Northeast Italy. I’m not sure when or why they decided to produce this gin, but it is one of the weirdest ones I’ve ever tasted.

I bought it on a whim, looking for something different from the American micro-gins I had been drinking. It’s different all right. Once I realized it was made with tomato I was eager to try it in just about every cocktail I could think of. How would it possibly work in traditional gin cocktails? The tomato would surely clash. Arguably the weirdest thing about this gin is how little it clashed at all. It didn’t do well with tonic or orange juice but it did well with everything else I could think of. Tomato is a natural fit with lemon and the sort of things that go into vermouth, so those cocktails were a good fit. The tomato added a counterpoint of sweetness and acidity to bitter cocktails too. I didn’t try it in a bloody mary. Too obvious.

While it’s never going to be a go-to, I really enjoyed this gin with one caveat: my wife didn’t like it. She’s mostly a G & T drinker, though, so that may have been the reason. The price is high, but it’s unique as far as I know, so that makes it worth a little more to me. Moletto Gin is recommended.

 

A Visit to Castle & Key: A Photo Essay, pt 2

Last week, I posted part 1 of my photos of the Castle & Key distillery, FKA The Old Taylor Distillery. The photos were of the World’s Longest Rickhouse and some other buildings on the site that were not yet restored. This week, the photos will be of the distillery itself (and associated buildings), the springhouse and the the dam.

For further reading on this building and Castle & Key check out what friend-of-the-blog Chuck Cowdery has had to say about Old Taylor/Castle & Key here, and posts on Old Taylor’s sister distillery, Old Crow here and here.

Other friend-of-the-blog Fred Minnick takes better pictures than I do. He’s been to OT/C&K several times. Here’s his visits from 2015,  and 2013, just before the current owners purchased the property.

Also check out the Lipmans’ piece about Old Taylor and Old Crow from 1999 (with a 2015 update).

Without further ado…

 

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The iconic springhouse. 
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Columns holding up the springhouse roof. All of the springhouse is original, except for that roof, which has been replaced.
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The iconic view of the iconic key hole shaped springhouse. The pool is ten feet deep. The water looks murky but is perfectly clear when drawn out. Minimal filtration is needed for use. The water is high in calcium and magnesium. The benches now placed around the pool were found inside it!
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The top of the key with the new roof visable. The springhouse is popular for wedding, prom and other photos.
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The well house between the springhouse and the dam on Glenn’s Creek.

I took a short video of the dam and the well house too.

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Entering the boiler building.
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New skylight in boiler building, to eventually become a visitor’s center. The roof was repaired with materials recovered from other buildings on the campus.
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Where the boilers was.
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The front entrance to the distillery building, aka the castle.
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The tower by the main gate, for defensive purposes, obviously.
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The front door.
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Original hardwood floor inside the entrance.
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Fermentation room. White corn is used for the bourbon.
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Heating coils inside the fermenter.
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The still column behind our guide. They’re distilling a lot already about 20 barrels worth a day. They have capacity to go up to 60 a day. They’re doing a lot of contract distilling too. According to our guide, 70% of their output is contract, 30% for themselves. He said it was “no secrets” contract distilling, at least on their end.
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The pot still, thumper, doubler, whatever it’s called. The second part of the still. Their bourbon enters the barrel at 107 proof, rye at 118 proof. I should have mentioned it earlier but they will be using barrels from the Speyside Cooperage in Jackson, Ohio. They swear by them. Laser cut, never leak, apparently. They use numbers 3 and 4 char.
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Distillery building on the right, on the left is the building that was the lab, now serves as an office (upstairs) for Master Distiller Marianne Barnes and a bride’s room (downstairs).
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Walkways from the distillery building to the old lab.
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Second floor walkway to old lab, with Old Taylor stone.
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Same stone as above, from a different angle. Construction began on the distillery building in 1887 and it took twelve years or so to complete, according to our guide. That stone is visible from the road, but before the restoration, it was overgown with vines. I have a picture of this somewhere, but I haven’t been able to track it down.
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Panoramic photo of the beautifully sunken garden behi
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View from the garden looking back at the castle and the old lab.
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Opposite view with Warehouse E on the left.
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The fish pond at the center of the garden.
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Closer view of the pond. When the sunkern garden was being restored, the pond was called “the snakepit”. It was meant literally.
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View of the old office building across McCracken Pike. The roof has collapsed entirely. Eventually, Castle & Key hopes to restore this building too. Hope you enjoyed the photos! Peace.

Wölffer Estate Rosé, 2015

Maker: Wölffer Estate Vineyard, Mattituck, NY20170516_082230

Grapes: 49% Merlot, 30% Chardonnay, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 4% Riesling (2016 vintage)

Place of origin: Wölffer estate vineyards, Long Island AVA, New York, USA

ABV: 11.9%

Purchased for $18 (Glen’s Garden Market, Dupont Square, Washington DC)

Appearance: Pale pink, almost orange.

Nose: Very light. Mineral water, strawberry, straw.

Palate: Medium bodied and austere. Limestone dust, woodruff, underripe peach, orange peel.

Finish: A little more fruit in the finish but still very dry for a rosé.

Parting words: This is the first Long Island wine I’ve ever purchased or maybe even tried. I picked it up while in DC visiting friend of the Wölffer Estate is located near Bridgehampton on the eastern end of Long Island. They make a wide range of wines including at least two other rosés and of course ciders. This wine itself is made from a wide range of grapes, as seen above. It is not a blend of reds and whites, though. None of the juice had contact with skins for any length of time.

Wölffer Estate Rosé isn’t particularly flavorful, but it is a great summertime lunch or dinner on the patio wine. Very good with grilled pork or chicken but at its best with hot dogs. I’m officially against austerity, but it feels natural here, not imposed. Wölffer Estate Rosé is recommended.

Free Run Cellars Grappa

Maker: Round Barn, Baroda, Michigan, USA20170504_170405

Grapes: Gewürztraminer, Muscat.

Style: Pomace brandy.

ABV: 40%

Note: I received a 25% media discount on purchases and a free lunch when I purchased this brandy.

Appearance: Clear.

Nose: Alcohol, lavender, antique rose, boxwood, woodruff, mango, pink peppercorns.

Palate: Sweet. Candied orange peel, alcohol.

Finish: Pungent and perfumed. Clears out sinuses and lingers.

Parting words: Free Run is a line of estate spirits and wines from Round Barn in southwestern Michigan. My wife and I (and our baby!) visited there last summer. An account of that, with details on Free Run is here. I reviewed Black Star Farms’ white grappa in 2013 and I loved it. This one is more rose pedals and musk than BSF’s fruity grappa. Some fruit, other than the faint mango note, would have been welcome for balance but this is good all the same. I forgot to write the price down but Free Run brandies are produced in limited runs and are priced accordingly (for a 375 ml bottle). Free Run Cellars Grappa Pomace Brandy is recommended.

Père Jules Cidre de Normandie, Brut

Maker: Léon Desfrièches & Fils, Saint-Désir-de-Lisieux, Calvados, France20170325_130447

Varieties: Undisclosed but “no less than 20 varieities” according to the website.

Place of origin: Normandy, France.

Style: Dry

ABV: 5%

Purchased for $12/750 ml (Pour, Royal Oak, Michigan)

Note: Made from 100% apple juice, no sugar added.

Parting words: The Le Père Jules brand was named for the father of Leon Desfrièches who began the family business in 1919 after returning home to Normandy after World War I. Jules began distilling Calvados in 1923. Son Léon joined the business in 1949 and founded the company as it is today, creating the brand. Jules’ grandson Thierry and Thierry’s son Guilliame run the business now and produce Cider, Perry (Poiré), Pommeau and Calvados. The cider is made in brut (dry), demi-sec (semi-dry) and doux (sweet). Unfortunately, only the Brut Cider and Perry are available in the US as far as I can tell.

When it comes to French ciders, I usually prefer Breton to Norman, because all of the Norman ciders I’ve had have been yeasty and brutally tannic. The Breton ciders have been more balanced and not as puckeringly austere. This cider has changed my mind about Normandy. It’s perfectly balanced with the trademark tannins and yeasty funk but with a counterpoint of fruit to bring it together and produce an elegant harmonious whole. This is the best French cider I’ve had and easily in the top five ciders I’ve had from anywhere. Père Jules Brut is highly recommended.

Uncle John’s Perry

Maker: Uncle John’s, St. John’s, Michigan, USA20170302_115559.jpg

Varietal: 100% Bartlett

Style: Dry Perry

ABV: 5%

Price: $11/750 ml (Binny’s)

Note: Note: At the time of purchase, I received a complimentary bottle of Russet cider and of Uncle John’s Apple Brandy.

Appearance: Bright yellow with a big fizzy head.

Nose: Fresh cut pear, golden delicious apples, kiwi, papaya.

Palate: Dry and effervescent. Pear peel, Meyer lemon, leather mineral water.

Finish: Drying and slightly tart.

Parting words: Uncle John’s Perry is part of their line of premium ciders including Russet (blend of Russet varieties, with Golden Russet making up the majority), Melded (a blend of English, French and American heritage cider apples), and Baldwin (single variety cider from Lake Michigan Shore apples).

This perry is a source of pride for Uncle John’s co-owner and operator Mike Beck. It’s easy to see why. Many perries taste and smell like fermented syrup from a can of pears. This perry is beautifully dry and gently tannic, all made using Bartlett, the same variety of pears that end up in the can! Mike told me that there are heirloom pear varieties that are intended for use in perry but they are even harder to find than cider apples. If anybody reading this has more information about perry pears, please comment!

Anyway, this is the best perry I’ve ever had. It made me rethink the category as a whole. America needs more good perry! Uncle John’s Perry is highly recommended.

Four Roses Single Barrel Barrel Strength, Gift Shop Selection

Maker: Four Roses, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, USA20170302_144319.jpg

Age: 9 1/2 y/o

Recipe: OESV

Warehouse RN, Barrel 57-2G

Bottled August of 2015

Proof: 112.4 (56.2% ABV)

Purchased for $70? (from memory)

Appearance: Bright caramel.

Nose: Caramel, lavender,  alcohol, oak, butterscotch, pool chlorine. More light chlorine with water.

Palate: Sweet on entry, butterscotch then burn. Bubblegum comes out with water.

Finish: Hot, oaky, chocolatey. Muted with water added.

wp-1488638774417.jpgParting words: Having reviewed pretty much every American whiskey on the market (and some not on the market) over the years, I’m going to start doing something I’ve resisted doing in the recent past: reviewing store picks of bourbon and rye. Given how quickly picks move off the shelves and how slowly I drink them, the goal is not to call attention to the picks themselves but to establish which retailers are good pickers and which aren’t. Gift shop selections are usually a safe bet and the selections from the Four Roses gift shops have been some of the best.

This one I wasn’t so sure about at first, though. With one judiciously applied ice crude, it was all oak. When I finally sat down with it neat, it started speaking to me. It has the beautiful interplay of candy and flowers we all expect from Four Roses. Now, the pool chlorine notes sound bad, I know, but it’s more of a whiff of summer swimming pools than bleach.

This was one of the last gift shop selections made during the tenure of 4R’s sainted former master distiller, Jim Rutledge. It’s a worthy farewell. This Four Roses gift shop selection is recommended.