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?

Advertisements

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.

Box Logo
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.)

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

Biography.png
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.

Boot.png
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.”

 

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.

Lid
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

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

Bottle.PNG

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.

IMG_0520.png

 

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.

 

Jim Beam

IMG_0410 - CopyTouting its self as “The world’s No. 1 Bourbon,” Jim Beam is certainly ubiquitous in the U.S.
In the bottle, it’s a light reddish brown, and in the glass it’s light yellow. Its scent is mellow and slightly sweet, and its flavor is also mild. It’s not the smoothest liquor, but it also doesn’t burn like a fire. All in all, I think it gives a pretty good idea of what bourbon is about, without any extra flash.

It does leave a bit of a bitter taste on the back of IMG_0413 - Copythe tongue, but it’s not an overpowering flavor that will make you twist your face. After the bitterness fades aways, it leaves a pleasant planty taste, almost like fresh grass. That fades too, and leaves the flavor of the drink’s sweet scent.

On the rock, nothing changes. So if you like it cold, put an ice cube in. If you like it neat, pour it and drink it right away.

JB rock - Copy

Dropped into a glass of Red Stripe for a boilermaker, Jim Beam doesn’t overpower the beer like some other whiskeys do. Its laid back nature allows more of the beer’s flavor to come out, instead of covering it up. The mingled flavor of Jim Beam and beer is complex and interesting, and I think this is how I’ll be drinking mine from now on.

Glenfiddich Bourbon Barrel Reserve

TubeI started this blog to share my experiences trying out new kinds of liquor. I wanted to make sure I was trying new things, and really get the most out of them by really paying attention to their scents and flavors. The accountability needed to write about what I drink is something I’m using to make sure I do that. Every once in a while though, something comes along that grabs one’s attention all on its own, and doesn’t need any special encouragement.

I am a fan of Glenfiddich, I typically drink the 12 year old variety, but I was excited to see something new on the shelf in the scotch section. In a blue tube with it’s other siblings is a 14 year old single malt that Glenfiddich calls their Bourbon Barrel Reserve. They say its their take on American whiskey, and it’s available only in the U.S., which is a loss for scotch fans everywhere else.

If I were to describe this whiskey in one word, it would be delicious. And that’s not “delicious” with an asterisk next to it, to be disclaimed by saying that I mean for something that contains alcohol. This stuff tastes plain damn good. It’s dry, smooth, and savory.

I try to be objective through analysis when I write about spirits, but the truth is I’m not going to try here. Too much analysis can make it harder to just enjoy something for its self. Like having a someone explain a joke to you, being told what to expect from this drink in cork sniffing terms wouldn’t add anything to your experience, and might take away from it. Some times, you need to find out for your self why and how something is good, and this is one of those times.

So, I’ll say only this: You should drink Glenfiddich Bourbon Barrel Reserve. If you’ve seen it in the store and were on the fence, get off and buy some. If you haven’t heard of it and this is all news to you, don’t think too much. Go out and find a bottle at your nearest purveyor of fine spirits. I’ll vouch that you won’t regret it.

Lid