Fairbanks Ruby Port

Fairbanks Ruby Port
Origin: California
Alcohol: 18%

Sometimes you have to take one for the team and drink something that's borderline nasty and strictly bottom-shelf booze (ie. Olde English), if for no reason other than curiosity and for shits and giggles.  

This time, it's Fairbanks Ruby Port, port of course being a wine fortified to bring the alcohol up a notch.  This stuff is a lofty 18% alcohol.  Which doesn't sound all that impressive, but that's around 30% stronger than typical wine, which adds up after a couple drinks.  Trust me.  You'll be dancing on the table in no time.  

Now I've had some good port, but this isn't one of them.
I almost feel compelled to write about a real-life time I was drinking that involved elves, a Santa costume, and a donkey... but I don't know if this hooch deserves such funny stories.  So instead, we'll get right into the review:  Fairbanks Ruby Port pours a translucent, bright ruby red.  So far so good.  It has aromas of, I kid you not, fresh cherries and Swedish Fish.  You know, those artificially-flavored chewy, little, red candy fish?  Yeah, this stuff smells a lot like those disgusting things.  That's bad enough, but still not the worst part.  You take a sip and get straight-up cherry cough syrup. You read right, CHERRY COUGH SYRUP.  What the Hell?! !! $^$@!!  It tastes of fake, medicinal cherry and harsh alcohol.  It's only marginally better than drinking real cough syrup, except it won't help your cough.  The first glass is gross, but oddly enough if you can stomach it, the second glass doesn't seem all that bad. 

The guy at the liquor store recommended this saying, "Lots of people sure buy the Fairbanks port."  And yeah, those lots of people are probably homeless.  Maybe he was just playing a joke on me.  That bastard.  I kid you not, this stuff only costs $3 for a 750mL bottle.  That's certainly a pretty good cost-to-alcohol ratio.  I can't decide if it's better than MD 20/20 and Boone's Farm, but it certainly fits into the same category of gross, boozy sweetness.  At least this stuff is made from real wine.

Drink This: if you like nasty, fake cherry flavor and want to get your drink on... but only have $3.
Don't Drink This: if you have more than $3 to spend on booze.         

2007 Arnaldo-Caprai Montefalco Rosso

2007 Arnaldo-Caprai
Montefalco Rosso
Sangiovese Blend
Origin: Montefalco, Umbria, Italy
Alcohol: 14.5%

For those of you who don't realize it or are new to the wonderful world of wine, Sangiovese is the primary grape varietal used in Chianti.  There is no "Chianti" grape, rather they are a Sangiovese-based blend following the Italian guidelines needed to call a wine "Chianti."  That is not to say that every Sangiovese blend is a Chianti.  For example, this wine, the 2007 Arnaldo-Caprai Montefalco Rosso.  It is a Sangiovese blend comprised of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino, and 15% Merlot (this wine is below the 80% Sangiovese needed to be technically called a Chianti).  Being primarily Sangiovese, it shares a lot of similar characteristics with typical Chiantis, yet remains unique unto itself.  

Montefalco, Italy
The Sagrantino grapes in the Arnaldo-Caprai Montefalco Rosso are the main distinguishing factor in this wine.  Sagrantino is a grape variety local to the Umbria Region of Italy, especially in the town of Montefalco and surrounding area (hence the wine's name).  Sagrantino is a very earthy, dark grape which certainly lends something special to this wine even at only 15% of the total blend.

The 2007 Arnaldo-Caprai Montefalco Rosso pours a clean, ruby red.  It has lively, bright aromas of black cherry, vanilla, and a faint smokiness.  On the palette you get dark dry fruits and bittersweet chocolate, with an almost herbal finish.  The body is soft-to-medium, yet the tannins are fairly strong, lingering, and wonderfully mouthcoating.  This wine is surprisingly complex and rather impressive.  

I had it with homemade ragรน served over penne pasta alongside crusty French bread and it went... perfectly. Other pairings according to the winery include red and white meats, cold cuts and matured cheeses.  

Drink This: if you want an authentic taste of the town of Montefalco, Italy.  The Sagrantino grapes really give this wine some character.
Don't Drink This: if you don't like dry red wines.  But if you do, this wine is an excellent choice.              


William Larue Weller Bourbon 2011

William Larue Weller Bourbon
2011 Buffalo Trace
Antique Collection
66.75% Alcohol (133.5 Proof)

If you like bourbon or whiskey at all, I recommend trying anything from Buffalo Trace's Antique Collection.  Year after year in the Fall, Buffalo Trace releases a set of five different whiskeys as part of their Antique Collection.  This includes the William Larue Weller, Sazerac Rye 18, Eagle Rare 17, Thomas H. Handy Rye, and the infamous George T. Stagg.  The Stagg is by far the most popular and for good reason, it's simply one of the best bourbons made today (I reviewed the amazing 2010 George T. Stagg here).  And while the Stagg is the clear champion of the bunch, they're all great whiskeys.

For now, I'm looking at the 2011 Release of the William Larue Weller bourbon.  It's a wheated bourbon, which as you may know, tend to be a bit smoother and mellower than unwheated bourbons (for reference, Makers Mark is a wheated bourbon).  This is essentially the amped-up version of the standard W. L. Weller Antique bourbon which is aged 7 years and bottled at 107 Proof.  And while yes, the standard is well-above average as far as bourbon goes and a truly great buy, the Antique Collection version is far superior.  The 2011 William Larue Weller is bottled at an impressive barrel-proof 66.75% Alcohol or 133.5 Proof.  It has not been watered down or filtered at all, tasting exactly how it would straight from the barrel, which I think is well, badass.  

William Larue Weller
This smells of potent, sweet vanilla, light maple, and some leather.  You take a sip and get more of the sweet vanilla, lots of cinnamon, a moderate amount of oak and smokiness, and some spiciness in the finish.  Had neat, the flavor is full-on, hardcore bourbon with a moderate amount of sweetness and an alcohol kick that hits you hard in the throat.  Served with a splash of water, the smooth wheat flavors become pronounced and you would never guess you're still drinking such a high-proof bourbon.  Either way, the sweet vanilla and cinnamon are in the forefront.  
Personally, I like this 2011 William Larue Weller better than the 2010 version.

Drink This: if you want a barrel-proof wheated bourbon.  Along with the George T. Stagg, this is generally one of my favorites every year from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.  This is smoother and mellower than the Stagg, but both are delicious.
Don't Drink This: if you're going to mix it with cola or something else.  This is too good to be served like that.  Have it neat or with a splash of water.  Plus, who the Hell mixes a $65 bourbon with cola?  Fools, that's who!  But, maybe I'm being pretentious.  I say, if you're going to mix bourbon with cola, stick with something cheap like Jim Beam.    

Stay tuned for the upcoming review of the 2011 George T. Stagg...       

2009 Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel

2009 Bogle Vineyards
Old Vine Zinfandel
Origin: California
Alcohol: 14.5%
Unlike much of the world which sticks to only a few regional varieties of wine, California seems to take on just about every style and varietal.  Many times, they wineries in California tend to make boozier cousins to their European counterparts, but hey, that's not necessarily a bad thing.  

Zinfandel is one such wine that is typically a little boozier than average, due to its high sugar content.  And yes, I know, many people prefer White Zinfandel (which is actually a rose') with its overt sweetness and girlish attitude.  White Zin actually sells six times as many bottles annually as standard Zinfandel.  Sad.  Very sad.  Especially considering how good the red Zinfandels can be.  

Bogle Vineyards make an Old Vine Zinfandel from cuttings reportedly brought to California over 100 years ago.  Does having old vineyards make for better wine?  I'm not so sure, but many people tend to think so, and hey, it's a good story if nothing else.  

The 2009 Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel pours a dark violet.  It has aromas of strawberries and dark, dry cherries.  On the palette, I get strong raspberries, an interesting herbal quality almost like parsley, a decent amount of oak, black pepper, and what I would call an almost stone, minerally, earthy taste, that was much better than it sounds.  The tannins are fairly chewy and drying.  This is a big wine to be sure, but not as over-the-top oaky as many Zinfandels.  The berry notes stand strong in the forefront here.  

Drink This: if you want a deep, complex Zinfandel that is more fruit-forward than the usual Zinfandel, with less oak than average.  Personally, I find this to be my preferred balance of fruit-to-oak in a Zinfandel, but hey that's just me.  It's still has quite a bit more oak than your average red wine.   
Don't Drink This: if you're expecting it to taste anything like White Zinfandel.  It does not.  Not at all.  And thank goodness.          


Seeyoulator Doppelbock

Seeyoulator Doppelbock
Cedar-Aged Double Bock
Boulevard Brewing Co.
Alcohol: 8.5%
IBU's: 35

It seems like many, if not most, aged drinks are aged in oak including bourbon, scotch, stouts, and several other beers and liquors.  This makes sense considering the inherent sweetness and maple notes that oak gives beverages, but what about other woods?  After all, people use oak, as well as many other woods for smoking meat?  Hickory, mesquite, cedar, apple, peach, pecan, etc.  So, why not beer?  

Well, Boulevard Brewing Company out of Missouri makes one such beer, a cedar-aged Double Bock (Doppelbock) called Seeyoulator.  Sure, it's a silly name, but traditionally Doppelbocks had names that ended in "ator."  Don't ask me why, because, well, I don't know.  And I'm not sure that I care.  But hey, now you have a better chance of winning on Jeopardy.  You're welcome.  

Seeyoulator pours a dark orange/amber color with a good, frothy head.  It smells of sweet toffee malts, raisins, with hints of wood and spice in the background.  You sip and get tastes of roasted nuts, sweet malts, cloves, wheat bread, and a strong cedar finish.  The mouthfeel is perfectly thick and creamy.  

Don't get me wrong, this is a good, solid beer, but perhaps I am too accustomed to oak-aging.  The cedar notes in the finish throw me off.  The rest of the palette is just how I like beers, strong, malty and flavorful, then I start to taste wood notes, expecting an oaky sweetness, but get a bitter, odd cedar finish instead.  Oh well, it's still worthy trying, if nothing else, at least to try a cedar-aged beer.  Personally, as far as Double Bocks go (and some may find this heresy), I'd rather have Samuel Adams' Doppelbock.

Drink This: if you want to try a cedar-aged Double Bock.  It's a solid brew, the finish just confuses me.  Perhaps I just need to drink more cedar-aged beers. 
Don't Drink This: if you don't like wood-aged brews.  And honestly, this isn't a good introduction to the world of wood-aged brews if you've never had one.  I say start with a standard oak-aged beer and go from there.  


Left Hand Milk Stout

Left Hand Milk Stout
Left Hand Brewing Company
Alcohol: 6.0%
When you think of stout-style beers, you rarely think of milk.  Milk and beer?  What the Hell, right?  Sounds like a trip to worship the Porcelain God waiting to happen, if you know what I mean.   

Well, believe it or not, there's a type of beer called a "Milk Stout" (a subtype of sweet stout).  Sweet stouts are beers that have unfermented sugars added to give the beer a different taste and body, and in this case, it's lactose.  Lactose, you know, the sugar that's in milk?  The one that most of the world's population (excluding many people of European decent) have a hard time digesting, causing stomach discomfort and gas.  Sounds like a party to me!  Hopefully those that are lactose-intolerant will see the word "Milk" on the label and avoid it.  But who is really going to think that beer has milk sugar in it?  

Got Milk Stout?
Anyway, Left Hand Brewing out of Colorado (who also make Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout, which has one of the coolest labels ever) make a Milk Stout.  It pours a deep, dark brown that verges on being coal black.  As you pour, there's a bit of that cool cascading of bubbles made famous by a well-known and admittedly boring Irish stout.  It has aromas of mild dark roasted barley, milk chocolate, and a touch of coffee.  You take a sip and get ...disappointed.  Okay, well that's not all you get, it smells good enough, but the taste is a let-down.  Sweet, roasty malts, and a bit of dark chocolate.  That's it.  It's very one-dimensional and has a short finish.  The mouthfeel was oddly thin, too.  I guess I was expecting a thicker, creamier texture from a milk stout.  But hey, not every beer can be super awesome.  This is a decent beer, yes, but nothing great.  So sad.

Drink This: if you want to try a mild, milk stout.  Like I said, it's decent, but actually fairly tame and boring.
Don't Drink This: if you're lactose-intolerant because you will not be a happy camper afterward.      


Disaronno Amaretto

Origin: Italy
28% Alcohol (56 Proof)

Amaretto is much like any liqueur, often too sweet and funky, rarely hitting that perfect balance between flavor, sweetness, and alcohol content.  It's a fine line to tow.  Unfortunately, the market is flooded with liqueurs that are cloyingly sweet and almost unbearable to drink unless heavily mixed and hidden.  Trust me, I've had many. Disaronno happens to be one exception (I've reviewed a few from Hiram Walker, as well, which are also above average).
Disaronno, which used to be called Amaretto di Saronno, is an Italian liqueur.  I find it odd that they don't even call it "amaretto," but simply "an Italian liqueur."  It is reportedly made from a recipe dating to 1525 which includes apricot kernel oil, burnt sugar, and "seventeen various herbs and fruits."  I don't know if all of that is accurate, especially the date of the recipe, but who cares.  It may just be a marketing gimmick, but what really matters is how it tastes.

Disaronno pours an dark amber, with hints of ruby.  It smells of fresh cherries, vanilla, and of course, sweet almonds.  You sip and get a deep, sweet almond extract, followed by what I can only describe as milk chocolate covered cherries, with hints of vanilla and fruit (coming from the apricot oil is my guess).  It finishes smooth and leaves a sweet, lingering cherry and nutty taste in your mouth.  

I have to say, this is clearly the best amaretto liqueur I've ever had.  It's popular for good reason, definitely.  Just ask my wife.  She rarely drinks, as in pretty much never.  I've tried to find things she enjoys (Smirnoff Melon Vodka for example), but almost all attempts have failed horribly, leaving a bottle of nasty shit in my liquor cabinet that I have to drink. (I can't throw it away, that's a waste of alcohol!)  Disaronno, however, has changed that fate.  Now at least she will have a drink at least every week or two.  I'm not saying I want her to get drunk, but hey, loosen up.  I don't want to always be drinking by myself.  Plus, moderate drinking is good for you.  So there, drink up, wifey!  Have a few! Get wild!  ...Okay, so drinking to the point that you get buck wild probably isn't good for you, but that's beside the point.  Anyway, so Disaronno it is.  My wife enjoys it on the rocks with some Coke or Pepsi, which actually tastes pretty damn good honestly.  If I'm mixing something with cola, I generally prefer a spiced rum like the Kraken or Captain Morgan, but this clearly works.  It's just a shame that it's only 56 proof.  I'm not saying I want another Bacardi 151, but c'mon!  At least give me a solid 80 proof like most spirits.  Oh well, it still works, and I will still keep finishing my wife's Disaronno and Cola when she says she's "full," while enjoying it.  

Drink This: if you want one of the best amaretto liqueurs around.  Drink it on the rocks or mixed with cola, I'm telling you!  Delicious.
Don't Drink This: if you are looking for something high-proof to have neat.  This could be had neat, certainly, but the sweetness will turn off many whisky drinkers.  

If they someday make a Disaronno that's 100 proof, consider me there waiting in line at the liquor store for a bottle.                


Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout

Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout
Tadcaster, North Yorkshire,
England (UK)
Alcohol: 7%
IBU's: 35
Calories: Who Cares?

Samuel Smith's is kind of a legend in the Imperial Stout beer world.  They were one of the first breweries several decades ago to bring the Imperial Stout category back to life... and thank goodness.  As I've said before, I freaking love Imperial Stouts
And Imperial Porters.  
And Imperial Whites.
And Barley Wine. 
Okay, apparently I just like high-proof beers.  Granted, Imperial Stouts do tend to be my favorite of the high-proof bunch.  

Samuel Smith's is a brewery out of Tadcaster, England.  Don't confuse them with Samuel Adams, or Samuel L. Jackson, or Samuel Clemens (*brownie points if you remember his other name).  Although, I bet those last two guys would probably drink this stuff, and the first already make their own version.  Being that Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout is a staple for the genre, my hopes were set high.  So, does it deliver?

Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout pours black as sin and just as good, if you know what I mean.  It has a super thick, creamy head.  For the light beer drinker, I bet this appears quite daunting.  The aromas are as expected, cocoa, espresso, dark fruity sweetness.  You take a swig and are greeted with a luscious, creamy mouthfeel with dark roasted malty goodness, maple, milk chocolate, and an earthy bit of hops in the finish.  The 7% alcohol is completely hidden beneath the creamy roastiness. 

Drink This: if you want a classic, extremely tasty Imperial Stout.  It's almost comparable to drinking a chocolate covered coffee bean, but creamier and well, liquid of course.  Samuel Smith's blows that pansy Guinness out of the water.  This is honestly one of the best, most well-balanced Imperial Stouts.  It's a classic for a reason.
Don't Drink This: if you don't like dark beers... obviously.  


Tequila Partida Anejo

Tequila Partida Anejo
100% Blue Agave
40% Alcohol (80 Proof)
I've said it before and I will say it again and again... Partida makes some great tequila.  Not just regular old tequila for shots, but smooth tequila for sipping slowly.  

I've already looked at their Blanco and their Reposado tequilas, both of which are good in their own right and for what they are.  Go check out those reviews to get some background information on the Partida distillery and its history and methods, as well as for some basics about tequila.  It's interesting and well worth checking out.  But for now, all that really matters is this drink right here, Partida's Tequila Anejo.

In the world of tequilas, blancos are like a toddler, rowdy, untamed, and full of life.  Reposados are like a teenager, full of promise for things yet to come, with hints of maturity, yet still sharing much of that untamed luster right below the surface (or blatantly in many cases).  Anejos, on the other hand, are like a wise old soul.  The youth has been replaced with a sense of a life well-lived and full of contentment.  Well... at least that's the kind of metaphor I see for the types of tequila.  
But perhaps that's just the tequila talking.

Regardless, Partida's Anejo tequila is aged for a full 18 months.  While that may not sound like much time, especially for a scotch or bourbon drinker, that's certainly a long time compared to most tequilas.  This time difference compared to the Blanco and Reposado really shows how much aging spirits in wood can add a complexity and smoothness, even with something like Partida that starts out very, very delicious.  

Partida's Tequila Anejo pours a golden hue, resembling many whiskeys.  It has aromas of the crisp, clean agave seen in all of Partida's tequilas, but with a sweet oakiness, vanilla, and hints of fruity sweetness.  On the palette it shows crisp agave, sweet vanilla, honey, a touch of smokey oak, a limey citrus, and some spices in the finish.  The mouthfeel is smooth and clean.  This is all of the things I enjoyed about Partida's Blanco and Reposado combined, with the addition of more oak/vanilla notes and a toned down sense of agave.  As expected, the finish is smoother than the other two, as well.  This tequila is for sipping, no question about it.  Tasty stuff.

Drink This: if you want a great, premium anejo tequila for drinking neat, with a splash of water, or a couple of ice cubes.  It's well worth the money.
Don't Drink This: if you are looking for a tequila for shots.


2010 Boutari Santorini

2010 Boutari
Santorini (Thira)
Origin: Greece
Alcohol: 13.5%

When most people think of wine, they don't often think of Greece.  Many other European countries, sure.  But Greece?  Not usually... well at least if you're a wine newbie.  But, this isn't to say there aren't good quality wines made in Greece.  Afterall, it's pretty close to many other famous wine making areas of the world, so why not?  

One particular wine region in Greece is an island in the Aegean Sea, Santorini (also called Thira), which lies a little over 100 miles from Greece's mainland.  The area is full of volcanic aftermath, making the soil and conditions less than ideal for wine making (reportedly only 10-20% the yield of Italian and French vineyards).  This is likely a good reason why their wine production is rather limited.  Although for the wines that are produced there, they tend to share a unique flavor profile due to the special conditions.             

Greece has a few of its own distinctive grape varieties including Asyrtiko, Aidani Aspro, and Athiri, among others.  Blending all three varieties makes Santorini's "Dry White Appellation," which is a protected blend.  One such blend that follows these guidelines is the 2010 vintage Boutari Santorini, from the Boutari vineyard that was founded in 1879.  If you haven't heard of Boutari, they won the International Winery of the Year for 2010 in addition to several other accolades.

The 2010 Boutari Santorini is a clear, very pale yellow.  It smells of dry lemons, grapefruit, and hints of tart apple.  On the palette it shows dry citrus, crisp melon, mineral water, and a distinct lingering earthiness that is atypical of many white wines (from the volcanic soil?).  The mouthfeel is really surprisingly creamy and heavy, almost like a Chardonnay, but with a balancing acidity.  In the world of white wines, this is rather unique in its minerally earthiness.  I've had several similar blends from other regions, but this one seemed to grow on me more.

Drink This: if you want a dry white wine that is rather unique in its flavor profile.  There is something about the mineral and earth notes that is puzzling and hard to place, yet it makes you want to keep sipping it so you can taste it again.
Don't Drink This: if you are looking for a sweet white wine.  This wine is dry, dry, dry.


Olde English 800

 Olde English "800"
40 Ounces
Alcohol: 7.7%
Even though I drink a lot of great drinks, I'm not above drinking some less than desirable or downright nasty, bottom shelf stuff (Bud Light Lime and Monte Alban Mezcal for example).  Typically this only happens when A) it's the only drink available or B) I'm already mostly drunk and start making poor decisions.

For my review of Olde English "800" the 40 ounce beast (also passionately called OE40 or OE800, if you're into that sort of thing), I didn't even bother pouring it into a glass.  Instead I put on a white tank top and jean shorts, laid on a park bench, and drank it straight from the bottle which was still in the brown bag.  Okay, not really.  
But I wanted to.  

Olde English "800" is a 40 ounce bottle of malt liquor that I guess is trying to imitate beer.  What that means is this liquid is ridiculously disgusting.  It smells of stale dank malts with hints of lemon floor cleaner.  You take a sip and are greeted by a flat, minerally rice flavor, an oddly lingering moldy sweetness and musk, with a very forward grain alcohol bite.  The first couple of sips make you try not to gag.  Then the rest of the bottle makes you question why you're drinking this vile stuff when you have a liquor cabinet full of quality beverages, but magically you get weird cravings to put your car on cinder blocks and watch monster trucks which suddenly doesn't seem all that unpleasant.  You finally finish the bottle and go into a full-blown existential crisis, questioning your life and the meaning of it all.  Why am I here? What's my purpose? Why did I just drink that?  Fortunately, this is short-lived as your stomach is soon trying to force this liquid back out your dirty pie hole.

Once upon a time, my younger brother told me about a drinking game his college buddies did called "Edward 40 Hands," referencing of course, the wonderful Tim Burton movie.  This is where several people duct tape a 40 of Olde English to each of their hands, making them unable to do anything but drink down two bottles of this gloriously disgusting malt liquor.  The rules are you cannot go the bathroom until both bottles are finished and if you puke, you lose.  Simple enough.  

After hearing about this drinking game, since I'm a smart, educated, college-graduate, I said, "Hell yes, bro, let's do this!"  Or something equally stupid and overly-enthusiastic.  The thing you have to realize is, I'm always up for a challenge, to the point of stupidity.  Fortunately... he declined.  Instead, after some negotiation, we decided to just see who could chug a 40 of Olde English the quickest.  I figured since he was still in the peak of his college drinking prime and I was a guy with a wife and kids, I had no chance, but damn if I wasn't going to try. 

We started drinking and things were neck and neck for the first half of our bottles, both of us chugging it down.  Then I started to get ahead, but was stopped when I had to take a breather.  I'm pretty much an old man compared to him, after all.  My brother took this opportunity to try to pass me and chugged even faster.  Then... he stopped.  He paces around my living room, Olde English in hand, looking a bit worried... when all of sudden, he runs to the back door, opens it, and pukes yellow grossness on my back steps.  I don't know what the hell he ate, but seriously, that's not cool.  So, I stop drinking, declaring myself the victor!  After all, he spewed chowder.  He, of course, says that he drank more than me so he won, which is lame since he puked.  Instant disqualification in my mind.  That was the end of my drinking that night, but in true college drinking spirit, my brother was drinking Keystone (or some other pale yellow, watery beer) within a half hour.  What a trooper... or something.

Drink This: if you want a cheap buzz and have a hardcore, strong stomach.
Don't Drink This: if you have any sense in your head or if you access to any other form of alcohol.  Or perhaps you should stick to drinking water instead.  That's probably a smarter decision.  But can somebody tell me why they put an "e" in the word Olde?  Are they trying to trick you into thinking this stuff is fancy and British?  Because it's not.  It's gross.  

2007 Wyndham Estate George Wyndham Founder's Reserve Langhorne Creek Shiraz

2007 Wyndham Estate
George Wyndham
Founder's Reserve
Langhorne Creek
Origin: Australia
Alcohol: 14%

Well, we have a new winner for the longest wine name to be reviewed here!  The 2007 Wyndham Estate George Wyndham Founder's Reserve Langhorne Creek Shiraz!  Wooo, that takes awhile to say (and type).

Shiraz/Syrah Grapes
A quick refresher for the wine newbies.  Shiraz is the exact same grape as Syrah.  I know, it sounds crazy, but it's true.  The difference in name comes mainly from where they are grown.  Shiraz is Australian grown, whereas Syrah is French grown (although this grape varietal is now being grown in California and other places).  Even though they're the same grape, the flavors do vary greatly due to growing location (imagine that).  Shiraz tends to be heavier, full-bodied jammy wines, while Syrah is typically lighter, peppery, and more acidic.  Same grape, different taste.  Understanding the difference in flavor profiles due to growing location, you can then figure out what to expect from bottles of Shiraz and Syrah grown in California and elsewhere.  

Anyway, back to this bottle of wine.  Wynham Estate was the first commercial Shiraz vineyard in Australia, and it shows in the quality of their wine.  This bottle uses grapes from the Langhorne Creek vineyards which were aged in French and American oak barrels for 15 months. 

The 2007 Wyndham Estate George Wyndham Founder's Reserve Langhorne Creek Shiraz pours a deep, black cherry color that verges on becoming purple.  It smells of ripe plums, red currants, and has a strong mint presence.  On the palate, I get jammy black cherries, plums, and blackberries, powerful notes of menthol, with hints of chocolate, vanilla, and bits of spice in the finish.  The tannins are moderately strong and chewy, very fitting for the style.  While the overt minty quality of this Shiraz may turn off some people, I find it to play into the wine's complexity making it extremely interesting sip after sip.  

The Chief Winemaker, Nigel Dolan recommends having this alongside "scotch fillet with herb butter, succulent slow-roasted lamb shanks and braised beef cheek with seasonal vegetables."  Personally, I say have it with any hunk of delicious lamb or beef you can find.  A very tasty, complex wine.

Drink This: if you're looking for a mint-forward, deliciously dark, jammy Shiraz.
Don't Drink This: if you don't like minty notes in your red wine, because that's upfront and center here.                


Martin Miller's Westbourne Stength Gin

Martin Miller's 
Westbourne Strength
Distilled in England
Blended in Iceland
45.2% Alcohol (90.4 Proof)

I'm going to start out this review by saying something profound: Martin Miller makes some amazing gin.  And I'm not just saying that to be saying that, they really do.  A few days back, I reviewed Martin Miller's standard 80 Proof Gin, which is easily one of the best gins I've ever had.  I compared it head-on with Bombay Sapphire, which many consider to be a top-of-the-line gin... and Martin Miller's was better.  So now, I'm looking at Martin Miller's Westbourne Strength Gin, a slightly higher proof gin that seems to have a modified mix of botanicals.  Is it as good as the 80 proof?  Is it better? We will see!

Go check out my review of Martin Miller's 80 Proof for more of the company and founder's (Martin Miller, of course) backstory.  It's quite the story.  In brief, Martin Miller's Gin is distilled in England then shipped to Iceland where it is blended with the smooth Icelandic water, which seems to make a difference, actually.

Martin Miller's Westbourne Strength Gin, like most gin, pours crystal clear like water.  It smells really quite floral, yet refreshing, with a good dose of cucumber aroma.  Most of the citrus notes of the 80 Proof seem to be replaced by the floral aromas, which is an interesting change.  You take a sip and get slightly sweet cucumber, juniper, some background lime, and an impressive black pepper finish.  The black pepper notes in the finish is most evident when comparing it side-by-side with the 80 Proof.  It almost catches you off guard if you just had a sip of a milder gin or aren't expecting it.  This stuff has flavor.  Lots of flavor.

Anyway, go check Martin Miller Gin out on Facebook or Twitter, they're having a COMPETITION.  For their Trading Up Competition, all you have to do is come up with a new version of an oldschool cocktail using Martin Miller's 80 Proof or Westbourne Strength gins.  Easy breezy.  
Go visit them.  
Enter your cocktail recipe.  
Tell 'em Bob sent ya'!

Drink This: if you want a very good gin packed full of flavor.  I bet this would go well with a bit of lime.
Don't Drink This: if you like weak, bordering on flavorless gins.  The Westbourne Strength has lots and lots of flavor.  Also, the spicy, peppery juniper finish is a change of pace from lesser gins and could catch you off guard.  But, it grows on you, I'm telling ya'.  


Hiram Walker Butterscotch

Hiram Walker Butterscotch
15% Alcohol (30 Proof)
Now that we are officially into Fall, it's time to start warming up for the cool months ahead!  Get out your sweaters and scarves, make a pumpkin pie, and make yourselves a nice, toasty drink.

Not too long ago, I reviewed a couple Hiram Walker liqueurs perfect for the Fall season, their Original Cinn and the new Caramel Apple, both surprisingly great and very well-priced!  Now, I'm looking at other of their liqueurs that seems perfect for this time of year, their Butterscotch Schnapps.

Hiram Walker's Butterscotch Schnapps is a golden honey color, fitting for butterscotch.  It smells toasty and buttery, as expected.  You take a sip (if you're trying it neat) and get silky, salted butter and rich authentic butterscotch notes that are only mildly sweet.  To me, this tastes exactly like butterscotch candies.  You know, these ones:
It's as if those little candies have been melted down and put into a bottle.  With a bit of alcohol, of course.  I'm actually surprised how much this tastes like the real thing... in liquid form.  Like I said, the sweetness is actually pretty mild, making it easy to mix, which is one of the best parts about Hiram Walker's line of schnapps.

Speaking of cocktails, go check out Hiram Walker's Fall cocktail contest at their Facebook page for a chance to win an iPad.  All you have to do is come up with a Fall-themed cocktail using some of the Fall-type Hiram Walker schnapps, which includes the Butterscotch, Caramel Apple, and Original Cinn!
So, go check it out.  Tell 'em I sent ya.  And good luck!

Drink This: if you want an authentic, Butterscotch schnapps that tastes just as it should.
Don't Drink This: if you are looking for something to drink neat.  This is definitely a mixer, but a tasty one.  


Martin Miller's Gin

Martin Miller's Gin
Distilled in England
Blended in Iceland
40% Alcohol (80 Proof)

I don't know if many people realize how many ingredients really go into making gin.  You always hear people talking about how it has juniper in it, and yes, this is true.  BUT, there are so many other herbs and botanicals that are commonly found in gin.  For example, Martin Miller's Gin (also on Twitter) contains juniper, florentine iris, cassia bark, liquorice root, coriander, angelica, and lime peel, among other things.  That's a whole lot of flavors going into one drink!

Martin Miller's Gin is interesting in that it is distilled in England.  The raw spirit is then shipped to Iceland to be blended with spring water to bottling proof.  
From here...
To here...
  Martin Miller, himself, is a an English entrepreneur and admitted eccentric.  He wrote an etiquette guide called Success with the Fairer Sex, followed by jaunts in photography, concert organization, and writing Miller's Antique Price Guides.  He then ventured into real-estate and now owns several boutique hotels and an arts and science lecture venue (Miller's Academy).  He did all of this before deciding to try his hand at making a gin up to his quality standards.  Apparently, this guy just about does it all.

Martin Miller now makes two separate gins, their standard 80 Proof and a 90.4 Proof "Westbourne Strength" gin.  Both of which are similar, yet rather different gins.

Martin Miller's 80 Proof gin smells fresh and crisp, like citrus, dew, and cucumber.  You take a sip and get cool, crisp lemon, hints of juniper, ginger, some pepper, and a host of other subtleties that all blend together very well.  

I tried this side-by-side with Bombay Sapphire to get a good comparison against what I consider a standard gin... and it was much, much better.  Martin Miller's Gin is more crisp, more refreshing, and more flavorful than Bombay Sapphire.  Definitely a winner.  Apparently Martin Miller's quest to make a better gin has been a success.  Wine Enthusiast Magazine gave this a 93, so my tastes must not be too far off...

Drink This: if you want a really great, refreshing gin, especially without breaking the bank ($25-35 depending on location).
Don't Drink This: if you don't like gin.  I guess that's really the only reason not to.  Martin Miller's gin is good enough to drink neat, on the rocks, in a martini, or in any sort of cocktail.  It does it all, and does it well.  Go check them out on Facebook and Twitter... then buy a bottle, or 3.  Really great stuff...  


2009 Jacob's Creek Reserve Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir

2009 Jacob's Creek Reserve
Adelaide Hills
Pinot Noir
Origin: South Australia
Alcohol: 13.5%
Pinot Noir is an interesting grape variety.  It is extremely difficult to grow and tricky to get consistent results from.  Its flavors can vary greatly, giving many Pinot Noir wines a whole host of flavors and nuances that other wines just don't exhibit, including everything from a sublime elegant fruitiness, to a barnyard funk in others.  
Jacob's Creek out of Australia makes a host of different wines.  I was fortunate enough to try their 2009 Vintage Reserve Pinot Noir from the Adelaide Hills region. 

It pours a dark garnet and has aromas of strawberry jam and subdued cranberries.  It had a light-to-medium body, typically of Pinot Noir.  On the palette, I get dry plum, black cherry, hints of spice, a touch of oak, and a savory, earthy finish.  The tannins are present, but fairly light. 

This is a solid, savory and earthy Pinot Noir which would fit well with duck or some lighter game dishes.

Drink This: if you want a quality Pinot Noir on the savory, earthy side of things.  It's only around $13, making it a great value and perfect for when the mood strikes for a dry, savory red.
Don't Drink This: if you are looking for a sweeter, red wine. 


Fighting Cock Bourbon

Fighting Cock
6 Years Old
Heaven Hill Distilleries
51.5% Alcohol (103 Proof)
I'm a sucker for cheesy names.  If I hear about something with a funny/silly name, I instantly MUST have it.  So not long after hearing about Fighting Cock bourbon, I went to the local liquor store to see if they had it in stock.  I didn't see it on the shelf so I asked the clerk if they had any:

Me: "Hey, do you guys have any Fighting Cock bourbon? Or could you order me in a bottle?"
Her: *Surprised look* *Glaring at me like I'm a creep* *Doesn't say a word*
Me: "No seriously, there's a bourbon called Fighting Cock."
Her: "Haven't heard of it" *Then she just stands there*
Me: *Walks out*

Fortunately, I went to a different liquor store a few miles away and they had a couple bottles on the shelf.  Now, with a name like Fighting Cock, you might expect something harsh and crazy strong, and well, you'd be only partially right.  It is crazy strong at 103 Proof, which for a lot of people is too much.  Personally, I prefer high-proof or barrel-proof bourbons (ie. Knob Creek Single Barrel, George Stagg, Wild Turkey Rare Breed, Bookers, ...) so this was right up my alley.  

Fighting Cock is a medium caramel color and has decent legs in the glass.  It smells obviously of corn, rye spice, and some faint leather with a good amount of charred oak.  You take a sip (or shot) and get a rich, corn sweetness, caramel, oak, a hint of honey, pepper, the rye spiciness, and a good kick of lingering hot alcohol in the finish.  

This is a bourbon that lets you know you're drinking bourbon.  This is NOT a wheated, soft bourbon, this is a full-throttle, full-flavored spicy bourbon.  To me, it tastes a lot like Wild Turkey 101.  Like almost identical, but with perhaps a bit more kick you in the sack, if you know what I mean.  In a good way, of course. 

 Drink This: if you want a bourbon that is likely intended as a shooter, but is flavorful enough to drink on the rocks OR with a splash of water if you're hardcore like me.
Don't Drink This: if you're going to be drinking too much of it.  You may end up getting into a fight, getting arrested, or getting someone pregnant.  Or any combination of those.  Trust me, drink it in moderation and admire its strength and tasty, strong flavor. 

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