Zeppelin Bend Straight Malt Whiskey

Maker: New Holland, Holland, Michigan, USA

Age: NAS

Proof: 90 (45% ABV)

Appearance: Burnt orange with long sticky legs.

Nose: Prunes, cardamom, ginger, mace, cocoa

On the Palate: Full-bodied and sweet upon first entrance. Heavily spiced mincemeat pie, and then red wine chocolate truffles dusted with Dutch process cocoa powder. Yes those exist.

Finish: Hot, but then a dry chocolaty sweetness that too quickly fades.

Mixed: A highball of Zeppelin Bend and club soda on the rocks is pretty good, even if it does taste a bit like a watered down Choc-Cola. Other classic Scotch cocktails work well, too. A rusty nail has a nice bitter, spicey note that balances out the honey liqueur nicely, and a Rob Roy is quite good, even if it’s not quite sure if it’s a Rob Roy or a Manhattan.

Parting Words: American straight malt whiskey is has not been very popular historically, and as a result has not been made much by American distillers. Like a rye or bourbon, American malt must be aged in new charred oak barrels and must have a mash bill of at least 51% of the grain in question, malted barley. But where Big Whiskey saw no reason to tread, a few micro distillers saw an opportunity. Stranahan’s in Colorado led the way, followed by (among others) Pritchard’s in Tennesee, and New Holland in Holland Michigan. Bourbon and rye still excite me more than any other American whiskeys, but of the American straight malts I’ve tried, Zeppelin Bend is the best. This is another case in which a micro is doing what a micro should be doing: offering interesting spirits that the big boys don’t.

Knickerbocker Gin

Maker: New Holland, Holland, Michigan, USA

ABV: 42.5%

Neat

Appearance: Crystal clear with pearl necklace-ing.

Nose: Sweet, a little rough. Citron, anise, a touch of horehound and eucalyptus, a hint of juniper.

On the palate: Full-bodied, but light in flavor. Water brings out the juniper in a big way. The sweet old-fashioned stick-candy flavors are there too: licorice, horehound and bitter lemon.

Finish: Herbal and floral neat, sweetness and candy with a splash of water.

Mixed

Tom Collins: Does very well. Adds depth to the drink without overwhelming it.

G & T: Does fine, but doesn’t particularly distinguish itself when mixed with good tonic. Ironically (or not) it seems to stand out more against supermarket brand tonic.

Bitter Lemon: Overwhelmed by the citrus flavors.

Dry Martini (w/Noilly Pratt): Adds a nice sweet note to balance the assertive herbaceousness of the vermouth. Brings a good amount of body too. As I reach The Olive Zone at the bottom of the glass, it stands up to the brine well. Knickerbocker would probably work even better in a perfect (½ dry vermouth, ½ sweet) martini, but unfortunately I didn’t think of that until the bottle was almost gone. I don’t remember this gin doing nearly this well in a martini the last time I bought it. If they tinkered with it in the recent past, they did a good job. Like Corair’s gin, this is a fine, if less ambitious, example of what micro-distillers can do well. Recommended.

Hatter Royale Hopquila

Maker: New Holland, Holland, Michigan, USA

Age: NAS (unaged)

ABV: 40%

Appearance: pale, hazy yellow with decent legs.

Nose: Raw spirit, maybe a hint of flowers.

On the palate: light, creamy taste, then just burn.

The finish: This is where the resemblance to tequila really blossoms, no pun intended. Citrus, spice, sweetness. Not complex, but interesting.

Mixed: Does very well in a “hopquila sunrise” with oj, ice, grenadine and orange bitters. OK in a “hoprita”, no worse than a standard mixto tequila. With an ice cube and a squeeze of lime, the sweetness and citrus notes come to the fore, almost turning it into lemonade.

Parting words: Hatter Royale is an unaged barley spirit  infused with centennial hops, giving it a tequila-esque floral aroma. I’m not sure if it will ever be anything other than a novelty, but it works on that level. It does best as an interesting alternative to a white or mixto tequila in summertime mixed drinks. It will never work as a substitute for a fine sipping tequila, but I don’t think it was intended to. Recommended for mixing.