Sipsmith London Dry Gin

Maker: Sipsmith, Hounslow (Chiswick), Greater London, England, UK. (Beam Suntory)20161220_085558.jpg

ABV: 41.6%

Michigan state minimum: $40

Appearance: Crystal clear.

Nose: Juniper, lime peel, navel orange, alcohol, horehound.

Palate: Full bodied, Orange peel, alcohol, juniper.

Finish: Licorice, alcohol, pepper jam.

Mixed: Out of balance in dry martinis and with tonic. Better with juice and in richer cocktails like Negronis or Princetons.

Parting words: Sipsmith is one of the few micro-distillers that has chosen to focus on gin specifically. Many make it (and make it well) but others are focused on whiskey and see gin and vodka as a way to bring in cash while their whiskey ages. I applaud how gin-focused Sipsmith is and how seriously they seem to take their craft. That care and focus has paid off in a big way for Sipsmith’s founder when they sold out to Beam Suntory for an undisclosed sum earlier this month (December 2016).

All that said, this gin is so unbalanced that I can’t recommend it. I enjoy dry, spicy gins, but Sipsmith London dry takes it too far. It’s all sharp juniper and citrus peel balanced with nothing but alcohol. It’s like a soprano singing a capella at the top of her range for ninety minutes. High notes are good, but absent a chorus with beefy altos and basses, they become noise.

At $40, this gin is on the top shelf, even for micros. That makes its lack of balance even less tolerable. There are dozens of other “craft” gins that manage to be dry without turning into the Mojave desert. Sipsmith London Dry Gin is not recommended.

Gin Head to Head: Kentucky Wild vs 269

KW= Kentucky Wildwp-1473976333900.jpg

269= 269

Makers

KW: New Riff, Newport, Kentucky, USA (The Party Source)

269: Round Barn, Baroda, Michigan, USA

Style

KW: Dry gin from rye spirit.

269: Dry gin from grape spirit.

ABV

KW: 47%

269: 40%

Price

KW: $16/375 ml ($30/750 ml)

269: $20/375 ml

Appearance: Clear (both).

Nose

KW: Varnish, roasted grain, then burn.

269: Plum eau de vie, varnish, alcohol.

Palate

KW: Identical to the nose.

269: Fruity gum, light burn, orange peel.

Finish

KW: Nail polish fumes, then burn.

269: Orange soda, then fades quickly.

Mixed

KW: Pretty good in all applications I tried: with tonic, dry Martini, Negroni, Princeton.

269: Pretty bad in all applications I tried except for the Negroni and Princeton in which it virtually disappeared. Fruity aroma clashed with the bitterness of the tonic and dry vermouth.

Parting words: New Riff is the distillery founded by The Party Source wine, beer, spirits, part supplies, etc superstore in the Cincinnati area. The distillery is a modern building located adjacent to the  TPS parking lot. They make Kentucky Wild, a barrel aged version of it, a rye and a bourbon, as well as bottling an MGPI sourced bourbon called OKI (Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana).

I wrote about Round Barn’s distilling program here. 269 uses the same base as their successful DiVine grape vodka. This gin tasted fine at the distillery, but when I had the chance to spend more time with it at home, I liked it less and less. It is little more than a lightly infused version of their vodka. The distillate is firmly in the drivers seat with the only other passenger being an orange peel.

I didn’t care much for either of these, frankly. KW was virtually undrinkable neat but was adequate in cocktails. 269 was better neat, but was a cocktail killer at a wimpy proof and high price. Kentucky Wild is mildly recommended for cocktails and 269 is not recommended for anything.

 

 

Freshwater Superior Single Barrel Rum

Maker: New Holland, Holland, Michigan, USAwp-1472334213166.jpg

Age: NAS (at least 1 y/o)

ABV: 52.5%

Michigan state minimum: $40

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Light molasses, vanilla cream, leather, alcohol.

Palate: Full bodied. Oak, then brown sugar, cassia, alcohol, vanilla bean.

Finish: Turbinado sugar, cognac, alcohol. Long lasting.

Parting words: New Holland’s Freshwater line is named in honor of three of the four great lakes that border Michigan. The line includes Huron White (hard to find, possibly discontinued), Michigan Amber and Superior Single Barrel. Superior is best and the most expensive of the line. It drinks dangerously easy for 52.5% ABV. I purchased it for a Michigan themed party and it went very fast. I even had guests come up to be and tell me how great it was and how could they get themselves a bottle!

I didn’t do much mixing with it because at $40 it falls into the sipping rum category for me.It does very well neat, on the rocks and/or with a squeeze of lime. It’s complex and balanced, sweet, spicy and vanilla-y. It’s everything you want in a micro-distilled sipping rum. Freshwater Superior Rum is highly recommended.

A Visit to Round Barn

Once a summer, our family has what we call Grandparent Camp. We send our daughter to Indianapolis for a week to spend time with the grandparents, all four of them. When we were thinking about what to do that week, returning to Lake Michigan Shore wine country was on the top of the list. The wrinkle was that we would have the baby with us, since he’s still too little for Grandparent Camp. As most parents can tell you, taking a baby along on trips is actually much easier than taking a toddler or an older child, though. The baby doesn’t complain about getting bored or knock over shelves or have temper tantrums. If the baby cries changing the diaper or feeding will usually do the trick.

Anyway, we wanted to visit some new places but also hit some old favorites in our limited two-night stay. On the way over, we stopped at Lawton Ridge in Kalamazoo for a tasty crepe supper and some wine tasting. The whites were good as was the service. Friendly, homey, neighborhood type place. The next day (Thursday) was our busy day. We started off with a visit to Fenn Valley in Fennville (north of the cluster of wineries around Baroda but worth the trip), got lunch at Crane’s Pie Pantry (good pie and cider but mediocre food otherwise) and then headed back south stopping at old favorites Domaine Berrien (great as always), neighboring Lemon Creek (cozy tasting room) and newbies Dablon with their beautiful hilltop tasting room.

I had wanted to do a “A Visit To…” profile on one of the LMS wineries and I thought Round

wp-1470317645093.jpg
The round barn

Barn would be the perfect choice. I had a nice conversation with winemaker Matt and then Brand Ambassador Bethany of Round Barn/Free Run Cellars at the Michigan Wine Showcase so I thought I’d send Bethany and email and ask if she’d be available to give us a tour for blogging purposes. A man named RJ replied that Bethany was no longer brand ambassador, but he was now and he’d be able to give us a tour. Unfortunately, he ended up having a conflict himself, and we got our tour from veteran tour guide Jessica.

Round Barn opened as a winery in 1992. It was founded by Rick Moersch, who was winemaker at nearby Tabor Hill at the time. He had owned vineyards since 1981, so he used them as the basis for his own winery which he named Heart of the Vineyard. In 1997 the round barn was purchased and moved from Rochester, Indiana to the property where it was reassembled by Amish builders. Rick intended it to serve as a home for a brandy distillery. In 2004 the winery was renamed after the remarkable building. The spirits and brewing program began then as well.

wp-1470882804092.jpg
Tasting bar

We arrived at Round Barn shortly after opening. The place has changed quite a bit since our first visit several years ago. When we last visited, the eponymous round barn was used for production and the tasting room was in the other barn. The round one has been beautifully remodeled and now serves as the tasting room. The bar runs in a circle around the interior with bottles on the wall opposite. The second level has another bar

wp-1470317794305.jpg
Bottles

and six compartments for small group tastings. The group tastings are a popular bachelorette party activity according to Jessica.

Our tasting was on ground level and went through the usual tasting procedure with a few add ons. The system has been in use since mid May. You can see the tasting menu and the format they use in the photo. The menu changes wp-1470317891964.jpgmonthly. Nothing we tasted was bad, but the standouts were Vineyard Tears (dry Riesling/Pinot Gris/Chardonnay blend), Albariño (American, but estate grown grapes are in the mix), estate Merlot (we had a lot of  Merlot on this trip!), Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (also estate). Farm Market Blueberry and the wine-based Black Walnut Crème were standouts in the dessert arena (also the name of my new gameshow). When I mentioned that I wanted to try the Farm Market Blueberry, Jessica and had a short discussion about fruit wines. We agreed that fruit wines are really their own category that shouldn’t be judged by the standards of wine grape wines.* As I put it, it would be silly to say that a Chardonnay was bad because it lacked hop character. It’s just as silly to dismiss fruit wines for tasting too much like fruit. That’s entirely the point.

According to another employee, Round Barn has eighteen acres of vines, plus an additional four used for Free Run cellars (see below). Another two acres are used for something else, but I forgot to write it down in my notes (fruit maybe?). The vineyards didn’t suffer much damage in the polar vortex, according to Jessica. The only losses were their black currants, which I thought were illegal in Michigan, but can be grown with a special license.

We also tasted their spirits. The rum and agave spirit (distilled from imported agave juice) are both unaged and of mixer quality (as you can see above, those spirits are offered in cocktail form in the tastings). The real standout was the bourbon which is a very pleasant surprise. It is of limited production and will be reviewed in the near future. They also produce an aged brandy and a “grappa” but those are under the Free Run label and not currently offered for sale at the Round Barn tasting room. They are available at the Public House (see below). According to Jessica, there are no plans to produce an aged rum or agave spirit. There is also a blended American Whiskey on the menu that is a blend of rye and bourbon, according to RJ. I did not taste it. An Applejack is in the works too, made using locally grown apples.

Round Barn’s best known spirit is DeVine Vodka, made from grapes. As I’ve ranted about on Twitter a few times, I don’t understand the desire to take perfectly good fruit like grapes or apples and turn them into a spirit that is by nature flavorless. It’s always seemed like a waste, but as the saying goes, you can’t argue with success and DeVine Vodka has been a success. They recently followed up the success of DeVine with 269 Gin, named after their area code. It’s a basket infused gin made using the grape spirit used for the vodka and will be reviewed in the future as well.

After touring the upstairs, Jessica led us through a beautiful courtyard to the not-

wp-1470343803649.jpg
Beer Menu

roundbarn (built in 1907 on the property), now christened the Round Barn. Upstairs is a smallish bar and gift shop with seven Round Barn beers on tap and all their spirits behind the bar. It’s a decent size space with a good sized deck attached. It seems like it would have a good flow of people between the two spaces when busy (and warm). We tried a sample of Vanilla ‘Stache, a vanilla porter, there. The vanilla comes through but in a subdued way. I liked it.

The next stop was the production facility. It’s a non-descript industrial building set several yards away from the barns. It houses the winemaking equipment, automated bottling line, still and oak barrels, (all French for the wine). Since 2014, all brewing has been located adjacent to the Round Barn Public House in downtown Baroda (such as it is). That was our next stop. RJ’s meeting was over so he was able to meet us there.

The Public House is a red building with a bar and a large seating area and a large covered patio. It once served as a tool and die shop, owned by RJ’s father, as a matter of fact. The food is limited but good. Sandwiches mostly. Our lunch (RJ comped us for this) was good. They exclusively serve their own beer and spirits. With my lunch (turkey Bahn Mi and a cup of chili) I ordered a pint of Escaped Goat, the Hef PA. It was good. I told RJ that I was a fan of wheats, so brought me a couple samples of their current wheats (Vacation wheat ale and Straw Beery Strawberry wheat ale, both good) plus a couple experiments. The first experiment was a Saison they had been working on. It was good, but was not as flavorful as I had hoped. The second was a dry, tannic cider with Balaton cherry juice added. It was really intriguing. The result was closer to a sour beer than a fruit cider. It was not ready for prime time, but it had a lot of potential that I hope is realized soon!

The one aspect of Round Barn’s business that we didn’t get to see was Free Run Cellars. Free Run is a multifaceted project. The name comes from the juice produced from the initial pressing of the wine, called free run juice, but also from the Rick’s sons (Matt and Christian) being given “free run” in the Round Barn Cellars. All the wines under the Free Run label are from free run juice (appropriately), and are single vineyard, estate wines. Free Run also has its own facility (opening later this month) that will host four wine, four appetizer pairing tastings with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients.

Many businesses that try to do a lot of different things end up letting their ambition getting the best of them. They are mediocre at everything instead of being good at one or two things. Round Barn does not fall into this trap. Some products are better than others, obviously, and wine is what they do best, but their beers and spirits were good too, some of them very good. If anything maybe they to be more ambitious with their beers and spirits. An aged rum could be very good. Ramping up their production of brandy might be a good idea as well. Bourbon is hot right now, but rum is also popular and getting more so. Brandy is on the way up as well. Copper & Kings in Kentucky is getting a lot of attention for bottling and selling Michigan-made brandy. Michigan producers need to be getting that attention.

Beautiful grounds, well run facilities and delicious products. Round Barn does it all and does it well. A visit to Round Barn is highly recommended.

Note: I received a free lunch at the Public House and a 25% media discount on purchases on this visit.

*”Wine grape wines” may seem redundant but the phrasing is intentional. In my opinion, wine made from grapes like Concord, Niagara or table grape varieties belongs in the “fruit wine” category. While they are grapes, they are not grown for the express purpose of winemaking. The line gets fuzzy when it comes to some native North American grapes like Muscadine that are eaten as fruit but also have a long history of being made into wine. Maybe this discussion would make a good My Two Ounces post.

Three way head to head micro-rye tasting: Journeyman vs Few vs Union Horse

J= Journeyman Last Feather Rye, batch 17wp-1468093192015.jpg

F= FEW Rye, batch 15

UH= Union Horse Reunion Straight Rye, batch 1

Maker

J: Journeyman, Three Oaks, Michigan, USA

F: FEW, Evanston, Illinois, USA

UH: Union Horse, Lenexa, Kansas, USA

Age

J: NAS

F: “At least one year”*

UH: “Over two years”*

*Age statements like these are not in line with regulatory standards

Proof

J: 90 (45% ABV)

F: 93 (46.5% ABV)

UH: 93 (46.5% ABV)

Price

J: $50 (Michigan State Minimum)

F: $60 (Michigan State Minimum)

UH: $39 (MSRP)

Note: Received a complimentary bottle of UH from FleischmanHillard PR for review purposes.

Appearance

J: Medium copper.

F: A little lighter but still copper.

UH: Quite a bit darker. Shiny auburn.

Nose

J: Bananas, cherry bubble gum, alcohol, oak.

F: Christmas tree scented candle, orange peel.

UH: Cut grass, toasted grain. Similar to Canandian Club.

Palate

J: Banana, black licorice, alcohol.

F: Mild. Peppermint.

UH: Full bodied and sweet. Brown sugar, oak, alcohol.

Finish

J: Big licorice that lingers.

F: Spearmint gum.

UH: Grassy and sweet, then Grape-Nuts cereal.

Mixed: With ginger ale, in a Manhattan and a Sazerac

J: Brought big licorice to all three. Excelled in the manhattan.

F: Did fine in everything. Nothing offensive.

UH: Same as F above.

Parting words: This is one of those head to head tastings that ends up making me mad. The overall winner was Last Feather Rye, but with a couple concerns. I loved the licorice and banana flavors but those are flavors I don’t expect out of rye whiskey. Nothing wrong with that on its own, but those flavors combined with the absence of the word “straight” on the front label makes me wonder if Journeyman is flavoring its rye, a la Templeton. This is legal, but should be disclosed to consumers. If I had my act together, I would have emailed or called them to ask, but I didn’t think of that possibility until now. I’ll try to get that information in the near future. To be fair, FEW isn’t straight either, but with FEW there’s nothing in the glass outside of the typical range of flavors for American ryes.

FEW Rye was ok, but nothing too extraordinary. It drank like a less refined version of Bulleit rye. The mintiness does fine in cocktails but it was overwhelming neat. Reunion was a horse of a different color. Its profile was closer to a Canadian blended rye than any American rye I’ve had recently. It’s better balanced than FEW, but not as flavorful as Last Feather.

The elephant in the room with all of these is the price. Journeyman is $50, which is too high for a whiskey that isn’t a straight. FEW is $60, which is just plain dumb. Reunion is priced better and is a straight, but is still pushing it when it comes to price.

Journeyman is mildly recommended, FEW is not recommended and Reunion is recommended (at or near MRSP)

Union Horse Reserve Straight Bourbon

Maker: Union Horse, Lenexa, Kansas, USA.wp-1466818295612.jpg

Age: “Over two years old” (includes bourbon up to 5 y/o, according to marketing materials)

Batch 2

Proof: 92 (46% ABV)

MSRP: $36-$38 ($50 at Drink Up NY!)

Note: Complementary 750 ml bottle for review received via FleishmanHillard PR in Kansas City, Missouri.

Appearance: Bright copper.

Nose: Cut lumber, varnish, cayenne powder, vanilla.

Palate: alcohol, vanilla custard, caramel apple, red pepper flakes.

Finish: Long and hot but with a strong underpinning of sweet vanilla.

Mixed: Did very well in an Old Fashioned, Holdfast, Boulevardier, with Benedictine, with Cola and with ginger ale. The sharp lumber aroma cut through the sweetness and other strong flavors nicely. Threw my Manhattan out of whack, though.

Parting words: Union Horse Distilling is a microdistillery in the greater Kansas City area that has been operating since 2010. It’s family owned, and the master distiller is co-founder Patrick Garcia. All spirits (bourbon, rye, white whiskey and vodka) are distilled and bottled in house. More information on their operation is here.

I had never heard of Union Horse before I received an email from a member of their PR firm asking if I was interested a bottle of this and their rye to review. As you know, dear readers, I don’t get a lot of samples and given my lukewarm review of the Old Hickory Blended Bourbon I wasn’t sure I would get any more. The first thing I did after opening it was mix myself a Manhattan.  Then I got scared. The sharp lumber aroma really overwhelmed everything else and I found myself wondering if I should email my contact back and tell her that I didn’t like it and wasn’t going to review it. I stuck it out though, and everything else I tried it in was better. Maybe the aroma settled down as the whiskey breathed or the brand of Vermouth I used clashed with it. I’m not sure what happened there.

When I tried it neat today, that lumber note was right up front and I got scared again. Thankfully, it’s counteracted by creamy vanilla and spice in the nose and it’s barely evident on the palate at all. The finish is hot but pleasant.

Union Horse is unrefined, but that’s to be expected from a distillery that’s less than a decade old. After six years in business they’re already making whiskey that is miles ahead of most distilleries their age. Unlike many of their peers, they seem to be committed to improving and holding back stock to produce good, mature whiskey. As a greater amount of older stock gets into the mix, hopefully the sharp wood will fade away and the delicious dessert flavors that lurk underneath will come into full view. As it is (at MSRP) Union Horse Straight Bourbon Whiskey is recommended.

Railroad Gin

Maker: Detroit City Distillery, Detroit, Michigan, USAwp-1466106559159.jpg

Style: London Dry

ABV: 44%

Michigan State Minimum: $35

Appearance: Crystal clear.

Nose: Juniper, iris root, citrus peel.

Palate: Full bodied. Alcohol and sweetness. Nothing else.

Finish: Juniper, orange, burn.

Mixed: Did fine in everything.

Parting words: There are two distilleries in the City of Detroit: Two James and Detroit City. The best way to describe the differences between the two (other than having different names, ownership and locations) is that Two James is a distillery with a bar and Detroit City is a bar with a distillery. The bar seems to be the driving force for DCD. All their spirits are meant to be mixed and are at their best when consumed that way. It’s a fun concept for a bar, but there’s little going on there to excite spirits enthusiasts.

There’s little going on in this gin to excite me either. There’s nothing wrong with it. It bears a resemblance to Beefeater and other big brand gins and performs as well as they do in cocktails. The problem is that this costs $35 and Beefeater costs $19. At $35 Railroad Gin is up against products like St. George’s gins or Hendrick’s. It can’t compete with either of those, even after adding a few extra bucks for the pleasure of supporting a local business. It’s not bad enough to slap with a “not recommended” so Railroad Gin is only mildly recommended.

New and interesting on the Michigan State Liquor List: May 1, 2016

My home state of Michigan, like sixteen other states, is what is called a “control state”. This means that the state government is directly involved with the sale of liquor in some way. Many of those states operate state-owned liquor stores as a result. Others, like Michigan, merely act as the wholesaler for the state. As a wholesaler, the state of Michigan maintains a list of all the spirits available for purchase from itself. The price book is issued by the state a few times each year. Supplemental lists (now called new items lists) are issued periodically listing items to be added to or deleted from the price book. These lists contain a variety of information but the most important to consumers is the minimum price at which the spirit must be sold at retail.

This post is a look at the new items for May 1, 2016. The LARA website with links to lists in the recent past is here. Caps retained out of laziness but with full names given where the state has abbreviated them. Proof (Michigan lists everything in terms of US proof which= 2 x %ABV), bottle size in ml and retail price are given for each one. I have added notes at the end of each if I think it necessary. Some items are not actually new, but fell off the list for some reason and have been added back or are new bottle sizes for items already on the list. Sometimes an item will be added and removed at the same time. I think this is a way to make corrections, but it’s still puzzling. For the sake of brevity, I have excluded apparent corrections from this post. Some new items are also gift pack versions of existing items. These are always the same price as the bottle alone.

Apologies for the lateness of the post. My wife had a baby.

American Blended Whiskey

DAVENPORT’S AMERICAN BLENDED 80, 750, $18.99 Blended whiskey from Davenport, Iowa’s Artisan Grain Distillery. Unclear if this product is sourced or partially sourced.

Bourbon

Pingree_statue,_Grad_Circus_Park,_Detroit
Statue of Pingree in Grand Circus Park, Detroit

MAYOR PINGREE 90, 750, $89.99

MAYOR PINGREE-10 YR 110, 750, $89.99 New line of bourbon from Valentine in Ferndale, Michigan. It’s named for former Detroit mayor and Michigan governor Hazen Pingree (1840-1901), a progressive Republican who is widely considered to be one of Detroit’s greatest mayors.

When contacted on social media, Valentine’s Justin Aden wrote the following: “The two new listings are for two new age-stated straight bourbon sku’s we’ll be releasing this summer. One is for cask strength, [non chill-filtered] straight bourbon single barrels and the other is a limited edition age-stated ‘small-batch’ blend by yours truly.” When asked if the bourbon was sourced or their own distillate, Justin replied, “A bit of both, depending on the release. We’ve got several label variations of the Mayor Pingree line. We’ve been laying it down since 2007 but we also have some excellent sourced 10yr stock to share as well. We’ll keep you posted!”

WILD TURKEY 81 81, 200, $3.48 This is just about the maximum amount of WT 81 I would want to drink in the span of a lifetime.

RHETORIC-22 YR 90.4, 750, $99.99 How can we miss you if you won’t go away?

Rye Whiskey

YIPPEE KI YAY 92, 750, $64.99 Yippee ki yay, mother lovers, this new blend of straight rye whiskeys from High West was available just in time for mom’s special day. The proportions of the blend are kept secret (didn’t think this was allowed but whatever) but the two ryes in question are from MGPI of Lawrenceburg, Indiana and Barton-1792 of Bardstown, Kentucky.

Scotch

GLENMORANGIE ORIGINAL 86, 1750, $89.99 Newly available family size is great for VBS picnics.

Brandy

CAMPAGNERE COGNAC XO 80, 750, $169.98 The XO joins last month’s arrivals the VS and VSOP. It’s the oldest and by far the most expensive of the three.

Tequila

AZUNIA ANEJO 80.0 750 6 39.28 37.31 43.99

AZUNIA BLANCO 80.0 750 6 31.68 30.10 35.49

AZUNIA REPOSADO 80.0 750 6 35.70 33.92 39.99 Azunia Black was on this list last month.

azunia_billwalton_2sm
Walton relaxing after some Azunia.

The rest of the line arrives this month. As noted previously, the blanco and reposado are made from organically grown agave. Distilled at Agaveros Unidos de Amatitán, 50 miles or so northeast of Guadalajara. They are also partnering with basketball great Bill Walton for some reason.

 

UPDATES

I received a polite email a few days ago from Mychal Diaz of Southern Champion company, makers of Buzzballz premade cocktails, encouraging me to take a look at their new website and get some more accurate information into your hands, dear readers, regarding their products that were on the New Items list back in February.

Their company is a relatively new one, founded in 2010 by inventor Merrilee Kick of Carrolton, Texas. The company was founded around Kick’s concept for BuzzBallz was for an unbreakable, unspillable quality, full strength premade cocktail for camping, picnics, tailgating, etc. She invented the what the website claims is the first plastic beverage can for this purpose.

Andrew_Johns_Gin_Media_Deck-970x1024Recently they have expanded into spirits with XII Kings Vodka, Andrew Johns Gin (both domestically sourced, filtered, proprietarily processed then cut with Texas water), Pelican Bay Rums (a blend of rums from around the Caribbean) and Crooked Fox blended bourbon (sourced from Kentucky and Tennessee). They are NOT the same spirits used in BuzzBallz. There is also have a wine listed on the website, Closet Freak California Muscat. I asked about additives in their spirits as well but there was no response to that question. They will start rolling out nationwide this summer.

 

Image Credits

Pingree statue: I, Mikerussell [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Walton Photo: Press release here.

Andrew John’s Gin: Southern Champion spirits. Used by permission.

New and interesting on the Michigan State Liquor List: April 3, 2016

My home state of Michigan, like sixteen other states, is what is called a “control state”. This means that the state government is directly involved with the sale of liquor in some way. Many of those states operate state-owned liquor stores as a result. Others, like Michigan, merely act as the wholesaler for the state. As a wholesaler, the state of Michigan maintains a list of all the spirits available for purchase from itself. The price book is issued by the state a few times each year. Supplemental lists (now called new items lists) are issued periodically listing items to be added to or deleted from the price book. These lists contain a variety of information but the most important to consumers is the minimum price at which the spirit must be sold at retail.

This post is a look at the new items for April 3, 2016. The LARA website with links to lists in the recent past is here. Caps retained out of laziness but with full names given where the state has abbreviated them. Proof (Michigan lists everything in terms of US proof which= 2 x %ABV), bottle size in ml and retail price are given for each one. I have added notes at the end of each if I think it necessary. Some items are not actually new, but fell off the list for some reason and have been added back or are new bottle sizes for items already on the list. Sometimes an item will be added and removed at the same time. I think this is a way to make corrections, but it’s still puzzling. For the sake of brevity, I have excluded apparent corrections from this post. Some new items are also gift pack versions of existing items. These are always the same price as the bottle alone.

American Blended Whiskey

HENDERSON WHISKEY 80, 1750, $41.98

HENDERSON WHISKEY 80, 750, $23.99 American blend best known for its deceptive labeling practices. Nothing to do with Lincoln or Wesley Henderson of Angel’s Envy.

Bourbon

CLEVELAND UNDERGROUND APPLE (etc) 90, 750, $43.99 The new experimental line from the sadists at Cleveland Whiskey Co. includes this and black cherry, hickory and honey flavors. Hey it couldn’t get any worse, right?

LARCENY 92, 750, $28.96

2016-04-05-19.01.15.jpg.jpeg
Grand Larceny

LARCENY 92, 1000, $36.99

LARCENY 92, 1750, $54.99

LARCENY 92, 50, $1.99 Heaven Hill’s successful “small batch” extension to their Old Fitzgerald line of wheated bourbons finally arrives in Michigan and at a dollar less than Maker’s Mark! Great taste, great bottle design, great price. Nothing not to love.

TRAIL’S END BOURBON WHISKEY 90, 750, $44.97 Kentucky bourbon finished with Oregon oak staves. From Hood River Distillers (sic), the importers of Pendleton Canadian Whisky and distributors of McCarthy Single Malt.

VALENTINE SINGLE BARREL-7 YR 100, 750, $89.99 Ferndale Michigan’s Valentine microdistillery releases a fully aged, 100 proof straight bourbon. I tasted some barrel proof bourbon of theirs a few years ago and it was really good. Yes, the price is high, but I’m still excited about this.

WILD TURKEY MASTER KEEP DECADES 104, 750, $149.99 The second Master’s Keep in what is now a series, I guess. I whined to high heaven about the last one, but this one seems to be an improvement, at least as far as the proof goes. The decades refer to the fact that it’s 10 & 20 y/o bourbons mingled together. They may be in violation of federal law for not listing percentages, though.

COLONEL EH TAYLOR SEASONED WOOD 100, 750, $69.99 The latest in the CEHT specialty range, this one has been out for a while in other parts of the country and is already a hot item on the collector’s black market. From Buffalo Trace.

GENTRY CHARLESTON LOWLAND 90, 750, $44.99 The first bourbon made using Terressentia’s TerrePure process to be available in Michigan, it is named after a horse/hotel in Charleston, SC. TerrePure was invented by a man named Ty Tyler, best known for creating a coating for aluminum cans so that soft drinks wouldn’t pick up a metallic flavor. He claims that his process can create the flavors of a fully aged bourbon in a day or so. Many have gone down that road before. All have failed miserably.

MAKER’S MARK AMERICAN PHARAOH 90, 1000, $74.99 Maker’s Mark with a picture of a famous horse on the bottle.

Straight Rye

TEMPLETON RYE-6 YR 80, 750, $44.99 This appears to be a 6 y/o aged stated version of the infamous Templeton Rye. I don’t have any other information on it as of yet. Watch the Twitter feed for some as soon as I get it.

CANADIAN CLUB 100% RYE 80, 750, $19.99 CC’s Chairman’s Select is finally stateside! Woo! Canadian Club released this 100% rye whisky in 2014 to abundant praise. I’ve been planning a trip across the Detroit river to pick some up, but now it looks like all I’ll have to do is annoy some local liquor store owners. That’s much more fun than crossing the border. Canadian Club is owned by Beam Suntory and this product is made at Alberta Distillers in Calgary (the other CCs are made in Windsor, Ontario).

KNOB CREEK RYE 100, 1000, $44.99 One of my favorite Kentucky ryes is now available in liters.

Canadian

PENDLETON MIDNIGHT 90, 750, $32.95 Pendleton bottled at 90 proof and partially aged in American brandy barrels. Imported by Hood River Distillers and distilled by an undisclosed source (Alberta?).

Scotch

AUCHNAGIE 86, 750, $62.99

AUCHNAGIE VINTAGE 92, 750, $274.99

GERSTON 86, 750, $62.99

GERSTON VINTAGE 92, 750, $274.99

STRATHEDEN 86.0 750, $62.99

STRATHEDEN VINTAGE 92, 750, $274.99

LOSSIT 86, 750, $43.01

TOWIEMORE 86, 750, $43.01

Auchnagie, Gerston, Stratheden, Lossit and Towiemore are all releases from the Lost Distillery Company. LDC produces recreations of whiskies from long closed distilleries. They do this via historical research. There is no library of nineteenth century malt whisky samples in cabinet at Lost Distillery Co. HQ that is being consulted to make these, only period sources. Seems like an interesting project.

BENNACHIE 86, 750, $43.01 Bennachie is an old blended malt brand that is still obscure in the US. It’s Speyside-centric and generally well-regarded online from what I can tell. More blended malts on Michigan shelves is a good thing. This is probably the 10 y/o, but 17 and 21 y/o editions are also bottled.

JOHN BARR RESERVE 86, 1000, $29.99

JOHN BARR RESERVE 86, 750, $24.99 The world famous blended whisky in the squarish bottle with a red label and John in the name is now available in The Mitten. John Barr of course! From Whyte & McKay, makers of the Isle of Jura and Dalmore Single Malts.

ROCK OYSTER 93.6, 750, $59.95 Island-centric blended malt from Douglas Laing & Co., makers of Big Peat and other blended malts including Scallywag and Timorous Beastie below.

SCALLYWAG 92, 750, $69.99 Spey-centric blended malt from Laing.

TIMOROUS BEASTIE 93.6, 750, $59.95 Highland-centric blended malt from Laing.

ARDBEG DARK COVE SINGLE MALT 110, 750, $109.99 The “committee edition” of Dark Cove. NAS Ardbeg aged in bourbon and “dark” sherry casks. $110 but also 110 proof. I may actually try and buy this one.

JOHNNIE WALKER BLACK/GOLF DIVOT 80, 750, $39.99 Divot tools are the hot new item to pair with liquor, apparently. I never had any use for them. The PuttPutt people tend to frown on them anyway.

WOLFBURN SINGLE MALT 92, 750, $63.79 New (2013) Highland distillery with the name of an old one. Unless they’re sourcing from somewhere else for the time being, this is going to be a very young single malt.

Irish Whiskey

BLACK BUSH (IRISH) 80, 1750, $53.99

BLACK BUSH (IRISH) 80, 375, $19.99 Like Black Bush in the park? Have a large family that enjoys Black Bush? Bushmills has you covered with new 1.75 ltr and 375 ml sizes! Bushmills is owned by Jose Cuervo.

THE IRISHMAN-12 YR 86, 750, $73.92 12 y/o Irish Single Malt joins its younger sibling, Irishman Original Clan (soon to be rebranded as Founder’s Reserve). I hear good things about this one but I wish the proof was higher.

Other Whiskey

LOCAL CHOICE BLACK CHERRY 90, 750, $29.99 TerrePure flavored whiskey. See also THX gin & rum below.

MAMMOTH WHISKEY 80, 750, $44.00 5 y/o Kentucky-distilled whiskey finished in Michigan Merlot barrels from Bonobo winery on Old Mission Peninsula. Mammoth is located in Central Lake, Michigan. That’s east of Torch Lake, and north of Bellaire (home of Shorts Brewery) or between Petoskey and Traverse City if you prefer.

RED CEDAR CORN WHISKEY BARREL AGED 80, 750, $27.55 Aged corn whiskey from Red Cedar distillery in East Lansing, affiliated with the Michigan State University distilling program.

Gin

GREENHOUSE GIN 80, 750, $22.99 “Artisan” gin from Dynasty Spirits, best known for Nue Vodka and being involved in a convoluted fraud case last year. Acai and cucumber are used to flavor the spirit in addition to the usual aromatics.

WATER HILL GIN 90, 750, $34.19 From Ann Arbor Distilling in Ann Arbor, Michigan (what are the odds?). They also make a vodka, coffee liqueur and unaged rum (see below). Website: http://www.annarbordistilling.com/

THX GIN 92, 750, $19.99 TerrePure gin from Local Spirits. A THX rum is also produced. See below.

NEW HOLLAND BLUE HAVEN 80, 750, $29.99 Blueberry-infused gin from the makers of the excellent Knickerbocker Gin and Beer Barrel Bourbon. They brew beer too, of course.

Brandy, Foreign

BELA OSA 80, 750, $30.80 Serbian Slivovitz (Damson plum brandy). Name translates to “white wasp”. I know nothing else about this.

KRALJICA 84, 750, $30.80 Name translates to “queen”. This is a protected geographical name for Serbian Slivovitz. From the Zarić distillery in Kosjerić, Western Serbia.

NIRVANA 80, 750, $30.80 Pear brandy from Zarić.

RUBINOV VINJAK VS 80, 1000, $25.25 Grape brandy from the Rubin distillery in Kruševac, in central Serbia.

TROYANSKA SLIVOVITZ PLUM-4 YR 80, 750, $24.99

TROYANSKA SLIVOVITZ-7 YR 80, 750, $29.00 Two age stated Sliovitzes from the Troyan monastery (aka The Monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God) near Oreshak in central Bulgaria.

800px-Troyan-monastery-imagesfrombulgaria
The Troyan Monastery

Cognac

CAMPAGNERE COGNAC VS 80, 200, $9.99

CAMPAGNERE COGNAC VS 80, 375, $16.99

CAMPAGNERE COGNAC VS 80, 750, $36.99

CAMPAGNERE COGNAC VSOP 80, 200, $15.99

CAMPAGNERE COGNAC VSOP 80, 750, $49.96

CAMPAGNERE COGNAC VSOP 80, 375, $23.99 Campagnere is a Champagne Cognac produced by Tessendier & Fils in Cognac. What makes Campagnere different from other Champagne Cognac? you may ask. From the website: “From the great variety of eaux-de-vie produced, Jérôme and Lilian subtly blend with feelings and emotions, step by step, up to three hundred eaux-de-vie each year to create one outstanding Cognac, whose rarity is only exceeded by its distinctive originality.” Campagnere is the Cognac with feelings and emotions. Besides the VS & VSOP, they also produce Belle Epoque Single Cask, Prestige (for blending apparently) and an XO. None of those are available in Michigan yet.

Rum

SIX SAINTS 83.4, 750, $24.98 Rum from Grenada named for the six Catholic parishes on the island. The brand is owned by Craft Spirits, Ltd, based in Glasgow. I was unable to find any other information on the company.

SOUL PREMIUM CACHACA 80, 750, $25.99

SOUL PREMIUM CACHACA 80, 1000, $32.99 Cachaça is a Brazilian style of unaged rum. It’s gradually become more available in the US over the past few years. It’s unclear where in Brazil Soul Premium is distilled, but it is imported by Bibo International of Newport, Rhode Island.

WATER HILL RUM 89, 750, $37.57 An unaged Rum from Ann Arbor Distillery. See Water Hill Gin above.

THX RUM 80, 750, $19.99 TerrePure rum. See THX Gin and Gentry bourbon above.

Tequila

AZUNIA BLACK-2 YR 80, 750, $109.99 This is the first Azunia offering available in Michigan. Azunia black sits at the top of their range of traditional process tequilas. Each bottle is signed by master distiller Salvador Rivera Cardona. They also have the standard blanco, reposado and añejo expressions. The first two of those are made with organically grown agave. Hopefully we’ll see the other three expressions here soon.

CASAMIGOS ANEJO 80, 375, $28.96

CASAMIGOS REPOSADO 80, 375, $26.99 Casamigos añejo & reposado now come in half bottles to make them easier to take to a friend’s house.

TEQUILA CHAMUCOS BLANCO 80, 750, $44.98 See below. The blanco is distilled by
Feliciano Vivanco y Asociados, makers of ArteNom and Don Weber.

CHAMUCOS TEQUILA ANEJO 80, 750, $59.74 This gimmicky-looking tequila is a product of the Premium de Jalisco distillery, which also makes Trader Joe’s silver tequila. It was created by unnamed celebrities and places a lot of emphasis on the creativity of the label. How creative to put a picture of a devil on a tequila with the Spanish word for devil as its name!

LUNAZUL BLANCO W/DIVOT TOOL 80, 750, $17.98 Divot tools: Not just for Scotch anymore!

AVION SILVER 80, 1750, $89.99 As seen on the TV show Entourage, this product of
Productos Finos de Agave distillery (maker of Casamigos, amongst others), is now available in family size bottles.

OLMECA ALTOS PLATA 80, 1000, $26.99 Plata= silver. See below.

OLMECA ALTOS REPOSDAO 80, 1000, $26.99 These two Pernod-Ricard tequilas are made using tahona wheel-pressed agave juice are now available in liter sizes.

1800 MILENIO 80, 750, $225.00 A limited edition and downright ancient extra añejo from Cuervo. The first edition was released in 2000, then rereleased in 2014 but it’s now back with an even higher price than the last time. As before, it’s aged for five years in used bourbon barrels, then finished in former Cognac barrels. Reviews put previous editions firmly in the “beaver tequila” category.

Liqueurs

DI SARONNO W/JAR & SQUEEZER 56, 750, $26.99 Make your own fresh-squeezed amaretto sour. Lemons, sugar and egg whites not included.

BRAULIO AMARO ALPINO 42, 1000, 42.96 A minty Alpine Amaro made in Bormio, Lombardy, Italy, on the edge of Stelvio National Park near the Swiss border.

COMBIER PAMPLEMOUSSE ROSE 32, 750, $30.80 Grapefruit liqueur from French artisanal liqueur maker Combier, located in Saumur in the Loire valley.

MONTMORENCY CHERRY LIQUEUR 50, 750, $18.48 A Herzegovinian cherry liqueur. Manufactured by Nero in Mostar.

20160405_200235.jpg
Baiju, I think

JELINEK FERNET 76, 750, $22.00 The famous Moravian Amaro brand is now available for your sipping and mixing pleasure. Made in Luhačovice, Czech Republic, famous for its spa.

LONG ROAD AQUAVIT 90, 750, $34.99 Long Road distillery in Grand Rapids’s take on this caraway flavored spirit.

FEW ANGUISH & REGRET 80, 750, $29.28 As a tribute to their Chicago home base, Few made a Malort. The name says it all.

JIN LIU FU 104, 375, $16.69 I’m not sure what this is. Baiju maybe?

RED STAR ER GUO TOU JIU 112, 375, $8.87 Red Star is the best known brand of erguotou, a style of baiju. Baiju is a Chinese sorghum spirit.

Photo credits

  1. Me
  2. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Troyan-monastery-imagesfrombulgaria.JPG
  3. Me

Liberator Barrel Rested Old Tom Gin

Maker: Valentine, Ferndale, Michigan, USA2016-03-10-16.36.44.jpg.jpeg

Batch 2

ABV: 45.2%

Michigan State Minimum: $49

Appearance: Bright copper.

Nose: Lime zest, orange peel, juniper, earthy red wine.

Palate: Full bodied and semi-dry. Hot. Like eating lemonheads under a pine tree.

Finish: Raw ginger, fresh cut pine.

Mixed: Surprisingly good in Tom Collins and with tonic. Adds a pleasant gingery bite. Does as well as expected in a Negroni, Princeton, Aviation, Bronx and a perfect martini. Much better than expected in a dry martini. This gin was great every way I tried mixing it.

Parting words: I’ve had this gin in my liquor cabinet for quite some time now. I didn’t drink it much because I view barrel rested gins as good for Negronis, perfect martinis and not much else. I was wrong in this case. Liberator barrel rested gin is good for anything you want to do with it.

Like its unrested sibling, Valentine’s rested Old Tom gin is aggressive but still elegantly blanced. It’s like a tall, attractive exchange student who grinds on you at your senior prom. Yes, it may cost you a lot of money, but it’s well worth the experience. Liberator Barrel Rested Old Tom Gin is highly recommended.