Paddy Devil’s Apple

Bottles of Paddy Devil’s Apple have been sitting at my local grocery store unbought for Paddy.PNGabout a year. They’ve been there so long that I started to feel bad for them, and bought one. It was such an unusual occurrence that the cashier even made a remark about how long they’d been there, and that he was glad to see one finally go out the door. Did I get myself in to something bad here? There’s only one way to find out…

Paddy Devil’s Apple is another flavored whiskey liqueur, like Honey B. Boots Buckwheat Honey. It doesn’t just contain the eponymous apple flavor though, but also has cinnamon flavoring as well. It’s light yellow in color, and comes in a pretty standard looking bottle.

Opening said bottle, it smells like artificial apple flavor. While it does smell pretty good, I’d be happy to eat candy that tasted like this whiskey smells, and the odor is appetizing in a way, I honestly expect flavored whiskey to have something of a more genuine scent. The fake apple overpowers any whiskey odors, and there’s not a hint of cinnamon to be smelled.

Upon tasting, nearly the exact opposite is true. It mostly tastes like cinnamon, and not the hot, overly piquant taste of cooked cinnamon, but the flavor of cinnamon its self, which is a pleasant surprise. It’s fairly smooth, with just a little nip to let you know that there’s some alcohol there, and no cinnamon burn until you swallow it. Upon swallowing, the cinnamon burn spread gently around my throat without becoming uncomfortable.

As for the artificial apple, it’s mostly in the background. This liqueur is not overly sugary, and is just barely sweet. Much like scent, there’s nothing to be found of any whiskey in the flavor. And this leads me to a question: Why drink whiskey if it doesn’t taste or smell like whiskey? I honestly think that some kind of cinnamon flavored apple pucker might be more useful than this particular liqueur, because I can hardly call it whiskey, and it’s too bland to use to flavor a cocktail.

With ice, the apple and cinnamon switch places again, with the apple becoming dominant and the cinnamon falling into the background. A new flavor emerges, but I’m honestly not sure where it comes from. It tastes kind of like a person’s breath (thankfully that would be a person that has good oral hygiene,) which is not something I associate with whiskey, cinnamon, or apple flavoring. The apple flavor also changes a bit, and starts to taste a little more natural, and makes it seem like there might actually be some real apple used to make this liqueur. Might…

In the end, I can’t recommend drinking this whiskey liqueur. While it has a couple things going for it (good cinnamon flavor, smoothness) it’s really just an indistinct, nondescript spirit. Maybe you could use it to spike some cider?

Bottle undress

Crown Royal

I’ve had a bottle of Kirkland Signature Blended Canadian Whiskey sitting on my liquor shelf for a while, and I’ve been looking forward to trying it. But, when I was about to open it one day, I realized that its royal purple label with gold accents was meant to resemble Crown Royal whiskey, what is probably the single biggest brand of Canadian blended whiskey in the US. Having never tried Crown Royal, I didn’t want to taste Kirkland’s take on the category until I knew what they were comparing themselves to.

Having more than a few bottles waiting to be tasted, written up, and photographed, it’s actually been a few months until I’ve had a spot in my budget, time to shop for, and an opportunity to taste the so called “legendary import” that is Crown Royal whiskey. Since I’ve really been looking forward to that Costco bottle though, I knew I couldn’t put off trying out Crown any longer.

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The simple exterior packaging of Crown Royal

Everything about Crown Royal tries to impress upon you that it is, in fact, royal. It comes in a royal purple box with gold and red accents. The box its self eschews any busyness, except an embossment of the gold trim to make it resemble a rope. There’s no cluttered text, no excess of logos, slogans, or other gimmicky advertising hoopla to be found. The manufacturer has kept the box just about as simple as possible, as if to try and keep the buyer from being distracted. Once the box is open though, things start changing.

SackHaving never had Crown Royal, I was a bit surprised to find in the box not a bottle, but a cloth bag cinched with a golden yarn. Like the box, the bag is royal purple, with gold stitching, and the Crown Royal logo stitched into one side. It’s made of soft cotton cloth, using a weave that looks like canvas but is much more supple and doesn’t seem as tough.

GlowIn the bag, the bottle is the exact opposite of the box. The labels have a splotchy background meant to look like yellowing parchment, and are completely packed with imagery and text. The front label has pictures of curtains with tassels, a crown on a pillow, a logo, calligraphic font slogans, and a scroll. The back is filled with all the various legal, corporate, and advertising texts you’d expect a liquor bottle to have, but the label its self is rather small, so it seems to be swimming with text. The bottle is sealed with a mostly clear plastic seal, but around the bottom a purple ring is adorned with golden crowns all the way around. The cap is a heavily molded plastic monstrosity meant to look something like a crown (but which doesn’t really succeed in doing so.) Even the glass of the bottle its self is almost completely covered in an angular filigree.

The whiskey its self is medium golden brown amber color. Poured into a brandy snifter, it somehow seems darker in the glass. The scent is rather indistinct; you can tell that the whiskey was aged for some period of time in wood, but there’s no indication of how long, what kind of wood it was, or any flavor that the wood may have imparted. There’s no discernible grain scent of any kind. The strongest odor is that of alcohol, but even that seems somewhat mellow.Glass and bottle.PNG

Taken neat, there’s not much more to the flavor than there is to the scent. There’s a nondescript wood flavor, but it’s not especially strong. There is the taste of alcohol, and it is thankfully not overpowering. Other than that, there’s not much. I don’t taste barley, wheat, or corn. There’s not fruitiness from a cask, nor are there flavors of nuts or spices or toffee. There is a sort of a toasty finish, but it is very, very mild, and on the occasional sip I’ll get a very very vague hint of another flavor, which I’d like to say it rye, but it’s so weak I can’t really be sure.

The whiskey is very dry, with no sweetness to be found anywhere, but also nothing savory, sour, tangy, or bitter, either. There’s no smoke, no earthiness, no salt. The one good thing to be said about the mild mannered nature of this spirit is that it’s also very smooth; there’s just enough burn that you can feel it on the edges and back of the tongue, but just so. It certainly doesn’t reach the point of being unpleasant, but there’s also not enough there to really enjoy the sensation either.

After being open a while Crown Royal does come to life a bit, but all the new flavors are still just whispers of hints. Everything that developed as this whiskey oxidized has to be described with I think. I think I may have tasted corn at one point. I think I tasted some cinnamon. I think I tasted some oaky flavor one time. One of the only things that I know I tasted was the beginnings of nuttiness, which often comes from the heated surface of a whiskey still. That particular taste’s time in the spotlight was short lived though, as as the flavor evolved it developed the little that it did and then faded away. The same is true of a flavor of spices that waxed and then waned.

With all the guff one hears about blended whiskey from the cork sniffing peanut gallery among single malt fans, I think it may be safe to say that the mild nature of all the flavors in Crown Royal could be due to the fact that it is blended for consistency overall, and not to enhance any particular set of flavors within it. I am curious however about what I’ll find after my palate has developed and I come back to a new bottle (this last drops of this one are nicely filling a tumbler as I write this.)

Grappa del Piemonte

Poggio Basso Grappa del Piemonte

Grappa wasn’t at all on my mind when I went to the liquor store the other day. In fact, I Full Bottlewas hardly aware of the existence of grappa, having only heard of it while watching Mario Batali cook on one of his various shows. He added some to whatever it was he was cooking, and explained its origins. According to chef Batali, grappa come from the cast off grapes that nobles threw out after making wine. The peasants would take these waste solids and referment them into a strong concoction they called grappa. Grappa now is still made from grape skins, and is then distilled into a clear spirit.

This Grappa del Piemonte comes in simple but distinct bottle. While most liquors that come in a 375mL bottle are short and squat, this one comes in a tall thin bottle that’s as tall as most other spirits. It has a label that appears simple at first look, a plain rectangular two tone sticker with a logo and a name. Upon further inspection though, there’s the image of what looks like still, and the cap is a hollow glass bubble like you’d see on an inexpensive decanter. So while I wasn’t looking for grappa, this bottle caught my eye in the store. Once I’d read “Grappa” on the label, I knew I’d be buying some, as I’de never tried any before.

Poggio Basso’s grappa had me worried when I first opened it; pulling out the synthetic cork it smelled like something decomposing. I poured some into a glass and the scent didn’t change. My first sip didn’t make anything better, it burned my lips quite a bit. That, however, wasn’t the grappa’s fault. After taking a moment, I realized I’d become dehydrated during the day, and my lip was chapped. The burning wasn’t from the drink per se, but because I had a small wound and I’d put alcohol in it. Ouch.

My next sip was quite a different experience. Even at 40% alcohol by volume, this Grappa del Piemonte is very smooth, it leaves only a pleasant tingle on the tongue. Its flavor is also complex; it tastes like raisins, grape seeds, and grape stems. It also has a creamy taste that takes me back to my childhood. My mother used to sometimes give me these little whitish fruit flavored lozenges. They were semi-hard, but as they warmed up they would soften and become chewy, with a creamy texture to match their taste and color. One of strongest aspects of this drink’s flavor is just like those candies, and drinking it takes me right back to the feeling I had being a small child eating those sweet things.

I wouldn’t say that this liquor has an especially strong taste, it’s certainly not overpowering on its own, though it is definitely dominant. Every once in a while I’ll mix it with something else, it it almost always becomes the main flavor. Even Jägermeister, mixed with more Jäger than grappa, didn’t stand a chance when put up against this seemingly unassuming Italian brandy.

While mixing it I found that I usually prefer it on its own, but one exception is drinking it chilled with Master of Mixes cherry grenadine. It goes fantastically well with the fruit flavors in that grenadine, and takes to the sweetness well too. If you do chill it, you’ll find that it’s quite easy to float a layer of grappa on top of the grenadine. The rich red syrup with a crisp line separating it from the crystal clear grappa makes for quite an attractive layered shot.

The dry, fruity creamy flavor of this grappa goes quite well with sweet and fruity things or on its own, but after having had it for a while, now I’m curious what it would taste like if I cooked with it. I imagine it would go well with the tang of tomatoes, I think I may try adding it to some tomato sauce, or even better, put some into some home made salsa. Yum!

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Wheelhouse Gin

IMG_0858Wheelhouse Gin is one that I was really looking forward to, seeing as it’s the closest thing I have to a hometown spirit. Its maker, Gold River Distillery is located in Rancho Cordova, very near by The Ethanol Spirit’s home town. Everyone loves things from their home town, like restaurants, sports teams, radio stations, and celebrities (hi Smosh!). Craft brewing is having quite a boom these days, but it seems distilling is not, so I was quite excited to discover Gold River was making distilled liquor right next door.

Wheelhouse Gin has rather interesting packaging; the front label is mostly transparent, letting you see through to the back label, which has an artist’s rendition of the American River. The requisite background paragraph recalls the times of prohibition, when people would sail up and down the American River as bootleggers, providing bathtub gin to the people of the area.

One issue I had with Wheelhouse brand spirits is that there are currently two, a vodka and a gin. The gin I was able to find with no difficulty, it’s available at more than one major chain and it wasn’t at all hard to find, but the vodka has turned out to be quite elusive. I might have just taken a drive down to the distillery, except that at the time of writing they were currently not able to sell directly to the public. (That is no longer the case, but I do like to keep myself on something of a timetable where this blog is concerned.) I had wanted to write about the vodka and gin in one article, or at least release an article for each on the same day, but that wasn’t possible.

When I did finally buy a bottle of the gin, I waited for a while to open it, still thinking that it would be better to taste the vodka and gin side by side, and see if there are any common traits between one and the other. But, I was just too excited to see what my local gin was like, and decided I didn’t want to wait any more. Much as I would have liked to see what a Vesper made with both Wheelhouse liquors was like, the time has not yet come.

Opening the bottle, Wheelhouse Gin didn’t smell out of the ordinary. The prominent odor was the piney scent of juniper berries, and there was also a scent like black pepper. There’s also something rich about it, but almost too rich; if too deep a nosing is taken in, it can catch in the throat and nearly make you want to gag. There was a vague bitter note, also.

Taken neat, Wheelhouse Gin is still nothing out of the ordinary. It tastes like pine, though less so than other gins. The pepper is second to the juniper in taste just as it is in odor. Its notable that this gin tastes very much like it smells; nearly everything you find in nosing is represented in taste in equivalent proportion. That is, except the bitterness. The bitterness that I smelled isn’t quite as strong as the bitterness I tasted.

On the rock, the pepper recedes, and the richness moves into its place. The bitter taste becomes something insidious here though. The colder the gin gets, the the more bitter it becomes. As the ice melts, it dilutes the other flavors, but the bitter taste isn’t weakened at all. When nearing the end of a glass, all you’re left with is an overpoweringly bitter drink; it becomes more and more unpleasant until its almost undrinkable.

Wheelhouse Gin makes a martini that’s overly savory for my taste. I made a few to test out different proportions of gin to vermouth, and found myself really only enjoying the olive at the end. I made one Pink Martini (just add a dash of aromatic bitters and there you have a Pink Martini,) but that didn’t really add anything. The bitterness wasn’t as much as an issue with vermouth adding more flavors, but a Martini shouldn’t rest mostly on the quality of vermouth in it, and that bitterness shouldn’t have been an issue in the first place.

I ended up also making a few Gin & Tonics, and this was a good combination for IMG_0866Wheelhouse Gin. Refrigerated tonic with room temperature gin and no ice did quite well, but chilling it any more than that made the bitterness start to rear its ugly head again. The sweetness and flavor of the tonic kept the bitterness from being unbearable, but once again that bitterness shouldn’t even be there; A Gin & Tonic should not be held down by its gin. G&Ts are often garnished with a slice of lime, and squeezing the lime juice into an iced G&T did help a quite a bit. In the end, I liked a Wheelhouse Gin and Tonic heavy on the tonic and light on the gin.

I was a bit chagrined that I’d just run out of tonic when someone mentioned to me a warm Gin & Tonic, but seeing as the gin had tasted better the warmer it was, that didn’t stop me from trying out some warm G without the T. Warming a glass of Wheelhouse Gin in the microwave for about 15 seconds brought out the flavor that this gin should have had in the first place. The juniper came forward a little, as did the richness. The pepper subsided a little, and the bitterness was almost completely gone. Subtle (and I mean very subtly) mineral and fruit flavors developed, and the gin took on a long lasting lemony finish that I savored quite happily. Word to the wise: don’t try to make a warm Martini. The vermouth I used started to taste like the yolk of an overcooked hardboiled egg. Yuck.

I’m really quite disappointed that my hometown gin was such a letdown. Knowing that your local liquor isn’t up to snuff is like having a sports team that just keeps losing over and over (hi Kings!). But, at least now I know a good gin to reach for when I want to experiment with Hot Toddies. Cheers!

Pinnacle Whipped Vodka

Pinnacle WhippedI’m not really sure where Pinnacle came from. I’d never heard of it or seen it in stores, and then one day someone told me to make a screwdriver with one of their flavored varieties, and suddenly every store had several flavors of Pinnacle on hand. A few large stores even had close to a dozen different flavors; a brand I’d never heard anything about suddenly took up a lot of shelf space, and I’ve since wondered how they became such a major player in the vodka market and I never noticed.

I bought a bottle of Pinnacle Whipped Vodka in a deal at a local convenience store, and didn’t really plan to open it any time soon. I’ve had it before and know what it tastes like, so it didn’t really fit in with my whole “try new things” approach to picking out liquor. But, I bought of bottle of Blackmaker Root Beer Liqueur, and it came with some cocktail recipes that just happened to include Pinnacle Whipped, so I opened it to try them out. Since that coincidence left me with an open bottle of Pinnacle Whipped, I’ve got no reason not to try it again and write my experience down.

Taken straight at room temperature, there’s a lot going on with Pinnacle Whipped Vodka. It’s artificially flavored, but it certainly doesn’t taste like whipped cream. It’s got a nearly overwhelming butter taste that brings me to the verge of gagging unless I take the tiniest of sips. It’s got an interesting thick consistency and is slightly sweet, which makes me wonder if there is sugar in it. It puts a tingle on the tongue and leaves a pleasant hint of burn as it goes down. It leaves a buttery taste in the mouth that’s much less strong, and more remenicent of cream.

On the rock not much changes, though the butter taste comes down a step to a more reasonable intensity. While my opinion may not sound so positive at this point, I don’t want it to be misunderstood: I’m not down on Pinnacle Whipped. I know that when food scientists add artificial butter flavor, their thinking is “more is less.” They put enough in that it won’t be smothered out by other flavors, and I think that that is why the flavoring in this vodka is a bit overstrong; Pinnacle expects people to mix this vodka with other things. If the butter flavoring didn’t have some kick to it, you wouldn’t be able to taste it when you mixed it. And that leads me to that screwdriver I mentioned above.

Mixed in with Tropicana Grovestand orange juice, the flavoring in Pinnacle Whipped takes on its intended character. The two mix together for a drink that tastes a quite a bit like an Orange Julius. The thick texture of the vodka even sort of simulates the texture of the milk or cream used to make one. It’s almost like Pinnacle Whipped was made for just this combination…

7 Stars

Metaxa 7 Star

Bottle.PNGOrange is something of an unusual color for a drink. Often when I put up my remarks about spirits, I’ll describe them as “amber,” something of a catch all description for several shades of yellow, orange and red that seem a little too similar to each other to be their own color. Even orange juice, by the time it gets to the supermarket from the grower, has usually lost its red tones and turned a light yellow color. Metaxa comes in a shiny orange box, which I expected to be some kind of marketing ploy; People tend to like things that have deep rich color, and often we’re told little lies through packaging about how impressive the product inside is. But Metaxa 7 Star brandy is really orange. Deep, dark rich orange. I tried to photograph it, and worked for many minutes to try to take a picture that showed its true color, but couldn’t quite capture it.

Metaxa 7 doesn’t have much of a smell however. It’s slightly fruity, and when I took deeper breaths to try and find lighter undertones, only found a waxy smell that I think comes not from the brandy, but from the packaging it’s in. In the glass, there’s a scent that reminds me of some kind of flavored cake, maybe a cake with berries or some other kind of fruit baked in.

Having such a light scent, I expected to also find only a small amount of flavor as well, but that was certainly not the case. Metaxa 7 Star is fruitiness embodied. It’s sweet and candy like, it rich and syrupy, it tastes like grape with a hint of orange, and reminds me somewhat of cough syrup. After a drink, when I move air around with my tongue to find the aftertastes, I get the flavor of fresh sweet pea pods.

Served in a snifter, after letting it warm up in the had for a little bit, its texture loses its syrupiness and its flavor loses that medicinal quality. I wouldn’t say that it’s more pleasant this way, it’s simply different. I’ve seen people with contraptions to hang a brandy snifter over a tea light, like some medieval liquor torture device, and I’m curious what it would taste like after being heated over such a small candle flame.

Letting Metaxa 7 Star warm in the hand might be the preferred method for some people Box.PNGto drink it, as when it’s left at room temperature some may find it a bit too sweet. The richness of the sugary taste may cloy in some people’s throats, and warming makes it go down just a little more easily.

The box and labels that Metaxa comes in talk up its smoothness, but at 40% ABV I expected this to be something of an overstatement, but it actually wasn’t. My first sip went down with no sensation that I had taken any alcohol until several moments later, when a comforting warmth spread through my chest throat and mouth.

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Portrait

Honey B. Boots Buckwheat Honey liqueur

Boots brand whiskeys do loo little to inspire confidence in their quality. They’ve got slick corporate looking labels for one thing; “corporate” and “whiskey” go together kind of like Mel Gibson and… Well, whiskey. For another thing, they commit the sin of having a plastic cap. Nothings says “this is cheap” like a plastic cap; the only thing worse is a

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Apparently Honey Boots was “a women”

plastic bottle. They’ve each got a cheesy mascot like character to go with their flavor, which seems like the manufacturer is trying to spend extra on advertising since they skimped on production. Each one of these characters gets a little biographical paragraph on the side of the bottle, and the manufacturer can’t even be bothered to make sure their aren’t typos in the text.

It may have been years (if ever) that I tried any of them, except that about a month ago I was standing in line behind a man in a store, and saw the price when the cashier rang up a bottle of Honey B. Boots Buckwheat Honey liqueur: less than $7. That alone didn’t get me thinking that I should get some, but with this blog in mind I did ask the man one question: “Is that stuff any good?” At less than $7, I wouldn’t be too upset if I bought it and it tasted like garbage, since I expected it to be bad anyway.

The truth is, that man couldn’t tell me if it was any good, he said it had been recommended to him by a friend of his; he liked Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, but his friend told him to try Honey B. Boots, saying it was cheaper and tasted better. For some reason, the fact that he couldn’t give me an outright endorsement had me more interested than if he’d just told me it was good; my curiosity had been aroused, and now I needed to try it.

I found a bottle that night, on clearance as stated for less than $7. When I talked to the cashier, I was told that the way it was priced meant it was being discontinued; what luck that I’d grabbed the last bottle the store had. Opening the bottle, I was a bit underwhelmed by the smell. Its very nondescript, not smelling like whiskey, honey, or smelling sweet. The scent is completely nondescript; it doesn’t even smell like it has alcohol in it. Pouring some into a glass, no new scent notes developed. Could this really stand up to brands like Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam?

Bottle.pngTaking a sip, I found the body of the spirit to be pleasantly viscous. It has a thick sugary texture, however it doesn’t have the consistency or feel that honey does. That wouldn’t be worth mentioning, except that it tastes just like honey. I was caught off guard by the flavor, because I’ve never had any mass produced product that’s supposed to taste like honey actually taste like honey. If you’ve been to a Popeye’s Chicken in the last few years, you’ve probably noticed that their honey tastes a little off, and if you look at the packets you’d see that it’s now “honey sauce” and that it contains corn syrup. In a world where even honey doesn’t taste like honey, the fact that cheap booze like Honey B. Boots does is kind of amazing.

What’s more interesting, is that Honey B. Boots Buckwheat Honey liqueur captures the flavor of honey without being overly sweet. If you were to mix this into a cocktail, you probably couldn’t use it as a sweetener. There’s just enough sweetness here to come out over the whiskey side of the liqueur. Speaking of the whiskey, you really won’t taste much of it. You get a sense that it’s there, but for the most part the honey flavor covers it up. There is, though, a very pleasant finish.

Building up over the course of sipping a glass of Honey B. Boots is a little lingering taste on the back of the tongue. At first you’re not even aware of it, but with each sip it gets a little stronger. It would be what is in a much nicer whiskey a nutty finish, but it’s immature and hasn’t reached that point yet. It’s simply a good savory note that slowly builds. By the end of a glass, it’s very present, it’s a finish that lingers for many minutes.

After trying it neat, I let my bottle sit in the freezer to chill for a few days. Honestly, you don’t need to bother with it cold. The honey flavor recedes into almost nothing, and is replaced by only the worst parts of the whiskey. That nice lingering finish is nowhere to be found, and to top it all off the drink doesn’t even thicken up that much. This is really one to just take straight and not mess around with too much. Surprisingly, after I took it out of the freezer, the condensation didn’t cause any water damage to the bottle’s label. It seems that that slick corporate sticker does more than just show off how much money the manufacturer can spend on it.

My experience having Honey B. Boots Buckwheat Honey liqueur on the rock was similar to drinking it chilled. The honey flavor mostly went away (especially when the ice started to melt) and the pleasant aspects of the whiskey were not enhanced at all.

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What is apparently an eponymous boot. And bees.

So you may now be saying to yourself “this Ethanol Spirit guy (wait, is the Ethanol Spirit a guy even? But this is no time to digress-) probably doesn’t even know what he’s talking about. Who is he (or she) to tell me that this brand that I’ve never heard of is worth tracking down and spending my money on?” And now you’re thinking “holy cow, is this guy (or girl) reading my mind? How’d he know what I was thinking?” I know, I know, it’s a gift I have. But back to that first question. You could take my word for it, and blindly believe that Honey B. Boots Buckwheat Honey liqueur is good, or you could go out and find a bottle and put it to the test, but drinking some and finding out how good it tastes. But if neither of those options appeals to you, you can check out Goo Wak Jai‘s write up on the same spirit, under the slightly less wieldy title “Honey B Boots is Better Than Jim Beam’s Honey Whiskey.”

 

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Sauza Silver Tequila

It is with some trepidation that I look towards this bottle of tequila to drink. I’ve only had tequila once before, and it wasn’t the best experience I’ve ever had. It went straight to my Bottle.pnghead, and lingered for a long, long time. I had it at a bar, and when out in public I make it a point to drink more water than I do alcohol. I usually stop after two, but decided on a third, and it was a margarita. I drank it and fell into a stupor, and ended up just sitting like a lump with my head down on the bar. The bar tender, whom I know, got worried because she’d never seen me in such a state before.

I sat at the bar for another hour or so, drinking more water the whole time, and had some food as well. I got up to leave, and was outside with my keys in my hand when I realized I was still drunk. The tequila hadn’t worn off, and it was another 30 minutes before my head cleared. It’s no mystery why there’s a little ditty that goes “One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor!,” or tequila is sometimes call “t’kill ya.” So that’s the baggage I carry while I look at a glass full of Sauza Silver Tequila.

I will say that Sauza come in a handsome bottle: It’s very square, with coat of arms embossed on the back. I also like the shiny blue rooster under the label. But, I dwell on these to delay drinking, because I’m not really sure what will happen. Opening the bottle, the stuff smells rank. It has the smell of something rotting, which, I guess is how you get alcohol in the first place, but other drinks don’t smell like this. It seems almost like it’s started to turn to vinegar.

Its flavor is not much like the way it smells. It definitely tastes like a plant. If you’ve ever been to a farmers market and seen someone selling agave, the smell of that plant is what this tastes like, which I like. Tasting it, it almost makes me feel like I’m out on a farm among the agave. It seems like this drink carries with it the history of its making, the story of its origin. While I wouldn’t say it’s sweet, it definitely has the flavor of the plant’s sugars as well. There’s an earthiness here, and a pepperiness as well.

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A blue rooster adorns the front of the bottle

Going down its a little different from other drinks I’ve experienced. You definitely feel the alcohol, there’s a little bit of burn, but its also smooth at the same time. There’s no rough edge to the burn, it just lets you know it’s there and then fades. It’s unusual, and I like this as well.

On the rock, its character is totally different. Iced down, Sauza Silver becomes a ghost. Its flavors fade until they’re just barely perceptible, even the flavor of the ethanol is almost untastable; the pepperiness is gone. There’s no burn, no warmth, almost no sign physical sign of the alcohol at all, except a mild tingle in the chest and the feeling of the alcohol drawing hydration out of the lips and tongue. If you like the taste, you’ll have to breath out from the throat after a large sip.

I also mixed some of this tequila into a cocktail that I’m dubbing the “Güero.” It was inspired by an old style White Russian, made from three parts Sauza tequila, two parts whole milk, and one part crème de cacao, combined and shaken over ice. The flavors of the ingredients sat evenly with their proportions in the drink. The strongest taste was the sharper part of the plant flavor of the tequila, the the creaminess of the milk, with the chocolate flavor of the crème sitting subtly underneath. Drinking this, I did come to understand why White Russians have come to be made with coffee liqueur instead of chocolate, but I would add some in instead of making a substitution with this drink. As for using milk instead of cream, I’m not sure whether cream would be better or not, so in the future I’ll certainly be trying it that way, and may even try out both. Maybe I’ll give an update once I have.

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An impression in the glass, on the side of the bottle

Just as a beverage, Sauza Silver Tequila put my worries about past experiences with other tequila to rest. It soothed my trepidation and won me over with its rugged goodness. As to the qualities of its intoxicating effect, it didn’t leave me in a sludgy drunkenness like other tequila. It imparted feeling of lightness with its buzz, and left me feeling relatively clear headed.

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Zaya Gran Reserva

Ethanol

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A bottle of Zaya Gran Reserva rum has sat unopened, staring at me, beckoning me for about three days. Today, I finally opened it. It’s sealBottle.PNGed with a black painted aluminum foil, and when I tore out the pull tab I was pleased to see a cork inside. It pulled out quite easily, and turned out to be a synthetic rubber cork, but still made that satisfying “pop” sound.

Taking a sniff, I was genuinely surprised at what I sensed. Zaya’s scent is tangy, spicy, sweet, and a little fruity. Its smell is simply amazing. It is very dark in color, certainly a black rum, and when held up to a light only lets a bit of reddish brown through. In the glass it quite a bit lighter, but is still a darkish red brown.

Its taste is very very mild. There are just hints of spice, and a little bit of fruitiness, but the way I’d describe it primarily would me delicate. There’s a little bit of burn going down, but its smoother than many other spirits.

One the rock it takes on a smokey bouquet. I’ll call it mapley, because it smells like sugaryOn the Rock wood smoke. However, iced down the flavor recedes. Given the choice of iced or neat, I’d take it neat for sure.

Mixed with Coca-Cola it sinks into the background. The Coke definitely tastes different, but if I hadn’t mixed this rum in my self I might not know what was in it. This rum’s laid back personality has me intrigued about how it would taste in other cocktails. Since it’s not so in your face like other rums, I would think it would allow new character to come through in otherwise familiar combinations.

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A little while after I wrote my original draft of this article, I was experimenting with different rums, and realized that I tend to make my Rum & Cokes a little light on the rum. I usually put some ice in a glass, pour about the equivalent of a shot of rum in, and then fill it with Coke. But, I decided to change up the ratio a bit, and found that when mixed at about 1:1, Zaya Gran Reserva really comes alive.

In an unchilled glass I mixed room temperature Zaya with cold Coke with no ice. After a few minutes to let the flavors mingle and the temperature equalize, Coke really brought the fruitiness of Zaya out. It was no longer just a vague smell and taste, but recognizable flavors. A strong Zaya & Coke takes on strong notes of strawberry and mango, with peach in the background. It was almost like I was drinking a cocktail with muddled fruit in it. It was surprising, to say the least.

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Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera Reserve

Glenfiddich’s 15 year old variety (or expression, as whiskey makers call it) comes in a niceBottle.PNG looking reddish brown tube with a cream colored band around the bottom, standing out from the cooler toned green and newer blue of it’s 12 and 14 year old little brothers. Inside, a clear bottle holds a deep, rich brown liquor, that turns reddish when viewed in front of a dark background, and when held up to a light doesn’t yield to yellowness like so many other whiskeys.

Pulling out its cork, Glenfiddich’s Solera Reserve lets out a chorus of fruity odors, including grapes and raisins, with a strong presence of pear. It smells so good that, to tell the truth, I didn’t pour a glass for many minutes, and instead just kept bringing the bottle back to my nose to smell an smell again.

On first opening, it was very very smooth, but didn’t have much flavor. There was a little bit of grain taste, but overall it was very mellow. I added a few drops of water, but that didn’t really bring out any new flavors. After several minutes new smells developed though; bringing my glass up for a sip, I’d find my nose filled with the smell of red berries, and so a new round of sniffing began.

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Glenfiddich’s familiar Stag

Whiskey does change a bit after it’s been exposed to air though, so on the second day I had another glass. The flavor was stronger, more grain, and a flavor that I associate with any drink coming from Glenfiddich. The finish had developed into a longlasting almost nutty taste, and if I let the whiskey sit on the back of my tongue I’d pick up the flavor of ethanol. Day two also came with gentle burn on the tongue and lower throat that was just present enough to enjoyed, but nowhere near strong enough to be unpleasant.

The 15 Year Old Solera Reserve is another satisfying single malt from Glenfiddich, and will certainly be a bottle I reach for when I just want to sit down with drink that I intend to enjoy for its own sake.

Solera
An explanation of the Solera Vat aging process

Kirkland Signature Spiced Rum

Rum bottle.pngIt is a bit surprising to walk through a Costco and find the company’s own store brand, Kirkland Signature, adorning bottles of liquor. Named after the town where the corporation was formerly headquartered, Kirkland Signature brand typically adorns well made products, but it’s still hard to let go of the stigma associated with generic products in general, and especially store brands, when buying liquor. But, I’m still very dedicated to trying out anything unfamiliar to myself for this blog, so when I saw the Kirkland logo on bottles of rum I decided to take the plunge.

At around $14 for 1.75 liters, Costco is charging for a half gallon less than many brands charge for a fifth. It felt like a gamble, but at such an inexpensive price it isn’t really much of a risk.

The packaging is very simple, but gives off something of a classy vibe. The bottle is almost rectangular, but has a curved taper like a perfume bottle and is narrower at the bottom than the top. Under the label the bottle is silkscreened with a sketch of sailing ship. Instead of a foil seal, the bottle has a less expensive plastic one. Underneath that is a wooden cap fastened to a synthetic cork.

Opening the bottle, the scent is really magnificent. It’s very complex, and hard to pick out any individual scents, but it’s a rich and tangy smell. The first sip had a surprisingly potent piquant spice burn, but not any alcohol burn. The spices themselves are tasty, but underneath the rum has a flavor that’s rich in a different way from the scent. Leaving a glass out for several hours to mellow, the taste of the spices recedes and leaves just that rich, almost creamy flavor.

Mixed with Coca-Cola, the potent spices in Costco’s rum interact with the sugar in the soda to cancel each other out. The same is true of the base rum and the cola; the flavors of the rum and the Coke work against each other and the result is a very mildly flavored drink. It doesn’t taste bad by any means, but is almost completely bland. I think I’ll try a stronger mix later with more rum in it; after the ice had melted a little the rum came through again, and there was some of that familiar Rum & Coke synergy to the taste.

In a rum float [check “The Silver Book of Cocktails” under “Chilly Rum Soda,” pg.596] the addition of vanilla ice cream to the Rum & Coke somehow makes it all taste bitter, which I did not expect at all. In the future I would probably skip the ice cream and only add whipped cream on top, since the home made whipped cream I added brought out the flavor of the rum and went very well over all.

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While not the tastiest cocktail, is certainly did look nice
Baner

Ty-Ku Soju

CorkTy-Ku is a name that I’ve often seen in the sake section of stores, and I was surprised to see its distinct triangular bottle near the vodka. Decked out in blue and chrome with English on one side and Kanji on the other two, Ty-Ku soju compares its self to vodka directly, touting that it has half the calories of a typical vodka.

I expected the unique cap on the bottle to be a screw off, but it is Full Bottleconnected to a synthetic cork. Opening it up, it smells fruity and slightly sweet, and reminds me less of vodka and more of wine. This is one of the few spirits that tastes almost exactly like it smells; it has the same delicate fruitiness and is just barely sweet. In taste as well I’m reminded more of wine than vodka, but it’s certainly not either of those. It’s more similar to sake than anything else, thought it is also no that.

In the mouth it feels soft and is very smooth. It’s pleasant to drink and would be good to sip over the course of a night. If you mixed it with anything you probably wouldn’t taste it at all, so it would make a good base for cocktails that emphasize other flavors. Its alcohol content is low though, so if you wanted a strong drink you’d have to enrich it with something else.

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On the rock, its scent goes missing and its flavor all but disappears. With ice it does actually taste a quite a bit like vodka, but with with a bit more flavor than many. As an added bonus, it has none of the rubbing alcohol taste you get from lesser vodkas. Its still very smooth, and still causes that pleasing soft sensation.

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The Macallan 12 Year Old

The Macallan comes in packaging that seems to be aimed at the task of being difficult to reproduce. The bottle is boxed in a foiled carton that is a distinct dark, purplish red. Inside, the bottle its self is not quite round, but is more and more ovoid closer to the top (this feels odd in the hand at first, but once you’re used to it, it’s quite comfortable.) The makers of the Macallan even

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put a seal on the foil over the cork, a holographic sticker like you’d see on officially licensed sportswear or a Microsoft software disk.

In the bottle, The Macallan is distinctly dark brown, and in the glass it’s a medium dark amber. There’s not much to the scent of it when uncorked, and pouring it into a glass doesn’t change that much. It smells not like something aged in casks, but like something that was distilled and bottled right away. I’m not one to spend a lot of time nosing, but even I found my self with my schnoz deep in a tumbler, inhaling slowly and deeply trying to find the scent, like a hound dog being set to the chase.

On first taste, there wasn’t much to find either. There was the flavor of alcohol, and a very subtle taste that was so faint I hesitate to say that I think it’s the wood from a cask. It is very smooth, giving some tingling on the lips, the edges of the tongue, and the top of the throat, with hints of a little burning. But even smoothness doesn’t seem like a much; it just helps to reinforce the feeling that I get that this is less a spirit and more a ghost, with not a lot of substance where you look to find it.

Having finished a glass with not much of an impression, I poured another and dropped an ice sphere in. The cold enhanced the odor and flavor a little, making it smell and taste a bit like whiskey, but not really bringing it to life. It also wasn’t as smooth cold, being chilled ads a little bite, but nothing excessive.

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As my ice melted, more flavors started to come out. It became slightly sweet, with a fruity scent and flavor. It developed a smokey taste as well, but in the end still remained very mild. After two glasses, I found my self a quite a bit more intoxicated than I expected to be.

 

There was no buzz and very little sensation of intoxication in the head, but my body became very relaxed, and as I continued to digest the alcohol began to feel heavy and slack. I do prefer to feel alcohol as a relaxation of muscles rather than an a feeling of drunkenness in the brain, but this whiskey is quite strong, so I think in the future I’ll be keeping it down to one glass to keep from going limp.

Now, I’ve never been one to water whiskey. It seems a little odd to me to put H₂O directly into a spirit, since I usually have a glass of it on hand to sip side by side, to keep hydrated and cleanse my palate. But, since The Macallan seemed to take more to being watered than being chilled, the next day I poured another glass and added a few drops of water directly.

Label.pngWith water, The Macallan’s aroma bloomed, once again becoming sweet and fruity. It tasted sweet too, even sweeter than with ice, but didn’t taste as fruity as before. It took on the maply taste of wood sugar, and while with ice it had tasted smokey, with water tasted almost earthy. After a few minutes, the water also brought out a nutty flavor, and a little later some toastiness as well. Again as with ice, it wasn’t as smooth with water added, but it won’t give you cause to complain.

As someone that enjoys strong, bold flavors, The Macallan’s 12 Year Old single malt was at first a little underwhelming, being as it is on the subtle, meeker side of the flavor spectrum. But, having spent time and made an effort to find the flavors hidden away inside of it, I’ve found I quite enjoy it. Sometimes, having to work for something makes it that much more satisfying.

 

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Blackmaker Root Beer Liqueur

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You may remember my introduction to Blackmaker Root Beer a little while ago, where I noted its deep, dark color and wonderful smell. Once it was time to taste it, I poured a little into a shot glass with great anticipation. The taste was spicy, and tasted just like certain varieties of rootbeer. If you’ve ever had a piece of rootbeer barrel candy, you know about what it tastes like, but it’s a bit better than that.

It has a very syrupy consistency, though as a liqueur based on a soda that should come as

Herbs
Blackmaker’s herbal ingredients

no surprise. Taken neat it’s not very smooth at all; there’s a noticeable burn right away. But, when you consider the bit of burn you get from an over carbonated soda, it’s not out of place. It also didn’t stop me from enjoying the liqueur, either. On the rock, it’s a quite a bit smoother, especially if the ice has melted a bit. With that in mind, I’ll be keeping mine chilled in the freezer from now on.

On the back of the bottle, there’s a recipe for a drink the manufacturer calls a “Whipmaker.” It’s simple, 1 part Blackmaker Root Beer Liqueur, 1 part Pinnacle Whipped vodka. Shake with ice and serve. I don’t have a drink shaker (something I’ll have to acquire soon,) so I just mixed it and iced it. I took a sip before icing it, and it was not good. Warm, the Whipmaker tastes more like the artificial cream flavor in the vodka. It’s a buttery flavor that’s overly rich, almost to the point of causing gagging. You definitely want it chilled, with the little bit of water that shaking adds. Served as directed it tastes pretty good, though personally I like the Blackmaker better on its own.

Frosted CrestOn the card is another recipe called a Root Beer Float, which is the same as the Whipmaker, but with 2 parts club soda added, and I made one with Schweppes club soda. It tastes like the Whipmaker, but carbonated. I didn’t really feel like the carbonation added anything, so again I’d say I prefer the Blackmaker on its own.

Another recipe, called the “Rootini” is one part Blackmaker and one part plain vodka, shaken with ice. I used Ketel One (it called for Pinnacle, but I honestly don’t think it’s going to make that much difference, and Ketel One is good, as you’ll remember from my post about it.) I’ve had issues with Ketel Once being a little bitter when cold or when mixed with sweet things. The Blackmaker Root Beer has enough flavor that the bitterness doesn’t come through, so they mix well. The thickish texture of the cold Ketel One mixes with the syrupiness of the Blackmaker to create a creamy texture that’s quite nice. It tastes just about like the Blackmaker on its own, just a little diluted. For flavor I don’t see any reason to make this drink, but if you’re in it for the texture I’d say it’s quite good. Or, if you like martinis and want some variety, it’s a good choice.

One more recipe, called the “Cough Remedy,” was also listed, but it called for Pinnacle Cherry, which I couldn’t find. I couldn’t find any other cherry flavored vodka either and, to be honest, I don’t really have any interest in a cocktail that tastes like cough syrup. I’ll be passing on that one, but if anyone reading wants to make one and tell me about it in a comment, I’d like to see what you think.

In an effort to sell more liquor, the makers of this drink have come up with a recipe for a simulated rootbeer float, but why settle for an imitation? I made a rootbeer float with Blackmaker, some Schweppes club soda, and a scoop of Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream. Making this float, I realized that I’ve never had Häagen-Dazs before. While making the float I took a taste, and it’s really good ice cream. I’ve always balked at the idea of paying so much for a pint of ice cream, but I think I’ve been convinced. That said, this wasn’t the best rootbeer float I’ve ever had. The flavor of the Blackmaker doesn’t meld with the cream flavor of the ice cream the way I expect; the two tastes remain sort of parallel to each other. But, if your goal is to have a rootbeer float that is also an adult beverage, this will do in a pinch.Rootbeer Float
The qualities of the intoxication of this liqueur are pleasant. For feelings in the head, it isn’t the most clearheaded feeling, but it isn’t overwhelming. In the body it acts mostly as a depressant, causing the muscles to relax. That relaxation of the muscles is what I look for in alcohol, so I think that combined with its nice smell and good flavor, Blackmaker will become a go to drink or ingredient for me. Effects on the extremities came a little more quickly than I like though. My fingertips and lips started to lose sensation quickly, though after four drinks over the course of a few hours it hadn’t advanced to the tingling numbness that too much drinking can bring on.

Prairie Gin

Realizing I hadn’t yet tried any gin for this blog, I took a look at the gin my local grocery store had to offer. I stood for a moment trying to decide which of several well know brands to taste, when something new caught my eye. A light green label with the words “certified organic” jumped out at me, introducing me for the first time to PrairieFull bottle Gin.

Prairie Gin comes in a simple bottle. Its tall slender design with a flower filigreed label looks like an elegant lady. Opening the bottle, its scent is that familiar crushed pine needle odor that gin has, though it’s gentler than others. The aroma also has what I’d call a clean quality to it that makes it a bit more enticing than others.

I’d call its flavor bombastic, except that it isn’t very strong. Its piney taste is gentle, just like its odor. It has a rich taste, and powerful pepper note. It’s not the smoothest liquor, it burns wherever it touches, but it’s not uncomfortable to drink. It leaves very subtle, pleasant bitter taste on the back of the tongue, and a hint of ethanol in the throat. This is an interesting drink indeed.

Emblem detail
Ed Phillips & Sons’ emblem

When iced, the pepper comes forward and the pine recedes. The bitterness that was an aftertaste before now has some presence while drinking, but is not intrusive. It still tastes good, but I liked it better neat.

Finding myself without any tonic on hand, I decided to mix some Prairie Gin with orange juice. The two mostly seem to neutralize each other; the gin takes sweetness away from the orange juice, the juice covers up the flavor of the gin. The bitter finish is still present, but in this combination it just makes it seem like I’m drinking cheap orange juice.

Having been underwhelmed by Prairie Gin and orange juice, I decided to see what else I had on hand that I could put it in to. I found a bottle of Vanilla Coke in my refrigerator, and decided to take a gamble. I’m a little surprised to say that these two taste good together.

I found that tasting this combination has something of a cycle. The first sip will taste like Vanilla Coke, the second mostly like gin. The third sip with taste like a combination of the two, and this is the best one. The vanilla and the gin combine together and taste great, while the Coca-Cola flavor sits underneath them. If I wait a long enough for my palate to clear, the cycle starts again. Or, taking a larger sip skips right to the end, where the flavors are combined.

Hand crafted

As to intoxication, I found Prairie Gin going to my head after some minutes of delay, but it seemed to skip getting me buzzed and take me straight to tipsy. So, if you’re like me and enjoy the first stages of intoxication the most, you may want to drink Prairie Gin more slowly than other spirits.