Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Spirit: Campari
Distiller: David Campari-Milano SPA
Retail Price: $26.99

Go back, way back and you'll find that spirits were treated as medicine. They were the cure for what ails ya'. It didn't matter what was wrong with you, a couple of doses of fillintheblank would be sure to set you straight. The real trick was finding out which was best. That of course meant finding the most beautiful or unusual looking one. So, if you "medicine" was deep purple and your competition was muddy brown, it didn't really matter what the two tasted like side by side. This was a great example of fairly primitive marketing.

Having said this, Campari was not medicine. It came around in the 1860's, long after mankind had started drinking their "medicine" recreationally. The clever part is its color. The Europeans, particulary the Italians lover their bitters. The Germans have Jagermeister, the French have Amer and the Italians have phone directory of them. For the most part they are after dinner spirits. It's believed that after a large rich meal, the herbs in a bitter will ease the stomach and aide in digestion. I can't think of another example of Italian bitters or any bitters for that matter, that are deep and rich in color. In fact most look like motor oil, dense and dark. So here comes Campari, with his crimson bitter. Red was a sought after color at the time. Dyes for paints and clothing of this color weren't that easy to come by. So the Camparis put out this beatiful spirit and Italy goes nuts.


Justin's Notes

Color: crimson red, clear

Nose: Candied apple, orange(candied orange peel), aspirin, grapefruit peel, cough medicine, gentian

Palate: sweet, viscous, long bitter finsh, slight lemon

Rating: 6.5


Tom's Notes

Color: Redish-orange very clear

Nose: Industrial cleaner/degreaser, cough syrup

Palate: cough syrup, decent acidity/citrus, bitterness that sticks to top/back of palate, very long finish

Rating: 6.5


Ben's Notes

Color: lt. red to red, some sediment, medium oilyness

Nose: botanical, floral

Palate: sweet immediately, then bitter, medicinal. Viscous oily on tongue. Bitterness stays on back of throat.

Rating: 6.5

Friday, November 7, 2008

Del Maguey Minero Mezcal

Spirit: Del Maguey Minero Mezcal
Florencio Carlos Sarmiento of Santa Catarina Minas
Retail: $59.99

Back in March I had the great pleasure of trying my first Del Maguey product: Pechuga. It blew my mind not only in taste but in concept. The distilling methods of the Oaxacans stand for exactly what I believe spirits should be: a regional representation of a skilled craft. See, I appreciate spirits a little more than wine, in the sense that anyone, anywhere can make a spirit; however with wine, one is victim to climate, soil and altitude. All you need is some kind of sugar, still and a know how and you've got a spirit.

Back to Del Maguey. There is a product line of single village Oaxacan Mezcal that fall under the label Del Maguey. They are curated under the direction of Ron Cooper. Ron is an artist, who while travelling to Southern Mexico stumbled upon the distillers of these Mezcals. It was love at first sip. He did the paperwork(which was particularly tricky for the Pechuga, seeing as it has raw chicken involved in the distillation process) and established an importing company devoted to these single village Mezcals.

Justin's Notes

Color: Clear

Nose: Peppers(green), Smoke, Earth, Vegetal notes, black pepper

Pallette: oily, high ethanol, acidity, acidity, acidity, burn mid pallette, good cut

Rating: 7/10


Tom's Notes

Color: Just off clear, no sediment

Nose: mesquite BBQ, sweetness (vanilla), vegetal, earth

Palate: Burn mid palate and on gums, smoke, vanilla, acidity, earth, mid/long finish, ok cut, slightly oily.

Rating: 8


Ben's Notes

Color: Clear, no sediment, oily

Nose: funky, moldy, rubber, new car smell

Palate: Smoky, funky, rubber. High burn, around 100 proof, Slightly oily. Longer finish.

Rating: 7.5

Four Roses 120th Anniversary edition,15 year old Bourbon

Spirit: Four Roses 120th Anniversary edition, 15 year old Bourbon
Distiller: Four Roses Distillery
Price: Original retail $65, Ebay $90 - $200

Of all of the American whiskeys produced, Four Roses Yellow Label stands as my favorite. It's got tons of texture and depth especially for a spirit priced in the teens. The only problem with it is availability. Back in 2001, the Japanese purchased the distillery with export only intentions. Jim Rutledge, the master distiller, put a little caveat in the contract saying that the product had to be sold in a fifty mile radius of the distillery so that the people who made could still buy it. There is limited distribution in places like NY and Chicago but if you want it you're going to have to head to Kentucky.

Earlier this year, Rutledge decided to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the spirit by releasing a fifteen year old barrel strength bourbon. Again a great spirit, hard as hell to get. Tom and I scoured the internet and local resources to get our hands on few bottles.


Justin's Notes

Color: Honey, Medium Amber, Looks to be free of sediment. Looks to
have a great deal of body based on the streaking on the glass.

Nose: Etheral nose. Vegetal in the background. Baking spices down deep. Allspice, corriander. Pickles and pickling spices. Marshmallow. Everything lies underneath.

Pallette: High alcohol. Charcoal, banana, some confectionary notes. A little oily(good body). Long Finish. Tannins(good grip). Soft entering mouth. Backs it up with corn and oak. Good balance of both. At first I was concerned about the cut, but after a second taste I'm assured it's good. Marshmallow.

Rating(out of 10): 9


Tom's Notes

Color: Light Amber, Honey color. No sediment, pure clean. Clings to the glass very well.

Nose: Dill. Banana. Coconut.

Pallette: Acidity on sides of tongue. Apricot. Thick body. Medium to long finish. Caraway. Good cut. Hot on entry, calms down quickly.

Rating(out of 10): 8.75

Now back to your regularlarly scheduled programming...

Sorry about the delay, not that anyone is looking.

We've brought on a new reviewer: Ben Long. Ben is a bartender here in D.C. and partner of Julep Consulting. We figure with three of us reviewing at least one of us has to be right.

So let it begin...again.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Van Winkle 12 Year Lot "B" Bourbon

Spirit: Van Winkle 12 Year Lot "B"Bourbon
Distiller: Van Winkle
Retail: $49.99

Van Winkle has a reputation among Bourbon/American whiskey as being one of the premiere labels. I(J) disagree, in my opinion Van Winkle has managed to attach to some kind of identity hearkening back to Southern gentlemen sitting on the veranda drinking juleps. In reality the Van Winkle family is following in the footsteps of their wine counterparts Silver Oak and Opus One, producing over-aged, over-oaked and overpriced product...generally. With the exception of the 13yr Rye and the Lot "B", I tend to think that the Winkles are not doing justice to this spirit. In fact they're convincing a whole new generation of bourbon drinkers that this is what's "good".

I'm losing track here.

The Van Winkle Lot "B" seems to be the best expression the family has to offer. Twelve years seems like an optimal aging time for this spirit, creating the right balance of corn and oak. Not only that but the 15, 20 and 23 year labels can set you back, this seems right on the mark for the price point.

If you're going to buy into the Van Winkle thing, buy the 12 year.



Color: Pale Honey, Mostly Clear with some sediment

Nose: Sawdust, Vegetal, Banana, Apple, charcoal

Palate: Banana on the mouth, oak is balanced(tannic grip on top of tounge), acidity on sides, medium finish, finish hits the back of the throat. Good cut on this one,
ethanol never plays a part. Easy on the mouth.

Rating(out of 10): 8



Color: Dark amber, Fair amount of sediment present

Nose: Sawdust, Sweet Red Apple, Cinnamon.

Palate: High ethanol, dry, somewhat tannic. Long finish. Finish hits back of palate. Oak. Rye or pumpernickel bread. No confectionery notes. Tobacco.

Rating(out of 10): 6.5

Monday, July 7, 2008

Wild Turkey American Spirit

Spirit: Wild Turkey "American Spirit" 15 year Bourbon
Distiller: Wild Turkey
Price(retail): $99.00

A little while back Wild Turkey released "Freedom", a single release only available in Duty-Free stores. Because of the limited production and exclusivity of the product Wild Turkey had an instant hit on their hands. If you're lucky, you can track one of these down on Ebay for around six or seven hundred dollars. Based on that success Jimmy Russell(master distiller of Wild Turkey) thought it would be good to do another single release and I unwittingly thought it would be a good idea to get behind it.

You see, after hearing stories about Freedom's success and being part of the mad dash to get the Four Roses 120th Anniversary edition, I thought it would be good to invest in some American Spirit. I tracked down a few bottles on the internet and started buying. Once I had secured three bottles, one to store, one to sell(down the road, if it took off) and one to drink; I decided to give it a run. In fact this bourbon is why I decided to start this blog, I thought anyone can write about spirits but can anyone really take a stab at something that's supposed to be this great. I can and will.

First let me say that I love Turkey 80 & 101 and Russel's Rye is one of the best I've ever tasted; however they really dropped the ball on American Spirit. I tasted this with Tom(who will have a great deal of input on this blog later) and here are our tasting notes:


Color: Golden, amber. Mostly clear with some sediment floating around.

Nose: Sawdust, banana, cinnamon, green pear, coconut and tropical fruit: passion or papaya.

Palate: Hit me in the nose, mouth and gullet with high ethanol, chocolate and confectionary notes(I thought this was unusual for bourbon. Gave me some acidity on the sides, medium finish in the mouth, left a burning on my gums for a entire minute after taste. Vegetal finish, almost like Tequila.

Rating(out of 10): 7
Tom's Notes

Color: Honey, very clear, trace elements of sediment.

Nose: Sawdust, vanilla and coconut.

Palate: More vanilla, acidity(mouth watering). Tom pointed out the high ethanol in the nose and mouth. Felt it on the tip of his tounge and gums for a full minute.

Rating(out of 10): 7

What's important to note here is that we did our tastings seperately and had no impact on eathother's notes or ratings. We both agreed that this distillate could have been better, particulary from this producer and for this price.