Friday, August 31, 2012

Camus Extra Elegance

Now on to a most excellent Cognac, one that was instrumental in making me start this website. Along with Camus Vintage 1971, this Camus Extra Elegance is one of the most fantastic Cognacs I've ever tasted. But how did a beer guy get to try some of the most exclusive Cognacs available? Excellent question. I was on the same day that Camus' Alexandra Albu made her appearance. The rest, as they say, is history!

Alex was also nice enough to provide this sample for today's solo tasting too. Since the sample was not in its original beautiful glass bottle, a piece of artwork in itself, I don't have many new photos. But the ones I do have from my original tasting are pretty good. *Hint* Maybe when Alex empties another bottle, she'll pass it on to me, either the 700 mL 1.75 L bottle.

The bottle design is quite elegant, even winning industry awards and being copied by other brands. And the 1.75 L bottle in the cradle is very much a show piece! Retail is around $350 for the 700 mL bottle and $1200 for the big boy, both presented with excellent packaging as well.

Camus Extra Elegance is a blend of eaux de vie from Borderies, Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne regions of Cognac, aged for an average of 50 years! This Cognac has won Gold in the 2010 World Spirts Competition and Platinum in the 2007 Pentawards Luxury Category.

Fruity and perfumy aroma which hints a little bit of nuttiness. Soft yet fulfilling and worthy of lengthy smelling enjoyment. Dried violet flavors explode all over the mouth, first sip, with the alcohol really helping deliver that experience.

Just letting a little bit sit in your mouth is outstanding. Fresh baked goods followed by apple and peach and mango flavors, even with a touch of fruit preserves sweetness. A dose of spicy flavors adds complexity and balance.

Texture like silk. Fantastic luscious smoothness. The spirit that will make you switch? It was one of them, for me!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Appleton Estate Bartender Challenge 2012: Miami Semifinal

Last night I attended the Miami semifinal of the Appleton Estate Bartender Challenge that took place at The Blackbird Ordinary. The "Remixology" event was one of four nationally, with the winner going to the New York final in a few weeks. Five bartenders were challenged to take some musical inspiration to name and create a unique cocktail using Appleton Reserve Rum. Here is a list of their creations and some rationale as to why they chose a particular song.

My date for the night was Ed Roberts. When we arrived 20 minutes before the start, we just walked in and blended with everyone as they were setting up for showtime: cameramen, DJ, servers, bartenders, etc. I even bumped into my friend Becky who was working as one of the Appleton Girls. No one knew who we were and since we were not in the way, no one asked why we were there. Even the hostess never asked our names to compare to the guest list. We obviously fit in. LOL.

A little before it started, one of the servers showed up with his Parrot. I'm pretty sure it's not a parrot, so please correct me when you see the picture. But I got to hold it on my arm and it even talked to me. Very cool.

Once the event began, bartenders from Blackbird Ordinary started preparing the cocktails that the contestants were about to make for the competition. They were stationed around the bar in different locations. We started with Hot Buttered Buns and worked our way around, trying each throughout the evening.

Once everyone else arrived casually late, the competitors were introduced and the competition began. There were two rounds (so that's two drinks that each prepared for you mathematically challenged). The bartenders had costumes, props, support actors, a theme and of course the music that they were inspired by when creating their drink recipes.

Cricket Nelson shocked everyone by dropping panties in front of each of the judges before they even knew what was going on. I got hit with a pair of red ones when she tossed them into the crowd. Yeah, we had front row action! I think Ed is still explaining the whole thing to his wife since he took them home with him.

The panties theme was explained when Erykah Badu's Annie Don't Wear No Panties started playing. Then we watched Cricket prepare her Hot Buttered Buns. I mentioned it was the first we tried. The nutmeg on the top was very powerful smelling and tasting. It was a sweet, creamy dessert cocktail with a noticeable amount of rum flavor. One of my favorites of the evening.

Ben Clemons next created Big Woo, yes, named after that movie volcano. I don't remember much about the drink. I noted that it tasted a lot of vanilla and rum, not necessarily a bad thing. What I did remember was when Ben used the 151 Rum to blow fire from his mouth. Pretty good start, and we got a rum shower from it as well.

Nick Nistico then came out to the Beastie Boys' Sabotage. He was dressed with a big bandana, long fake hair and a fake mustache (that wouldn't stay on). Oh yeah, and a giant gold chain around his neck. He made Flip The Script for the judges, which turned out to be another of my favorites. Sweet melon, really enhanced the rum and you could taste a lot of flavor from the quail egg in the drink. Not sure what the hell he was talking about, but he ended with, "Natty Ice. Game Over."

Richie Petronzi then made his version of an Old Fashioned called Die Die My Darling, inspired by Michael Buble's cover of Mack The Knife. This turned out to be the best drink of the night for me, and Ed also felt the same way. Great flavors, nice rum and refreshment.

Finally, Rob Ferrara made The Notorious P.U.N.C.H. The song inspiration name was Juicy (so I was told) by The Notorius B.I.G. (which I was also told). That's right. I'm not as cool as you think I am and didn't know the song. I did think the rationale for song and name was probably the best of the night. Biggie is part Jamaican, perfect for a Jamaican rum. He used orange juice to go with the Juicy name, and he said Biggie = Brooklyn, so he used Brooklyn Brown Ale in his recipe.

After a break, Round 2 began. The audience didn't get to try these drinks. But the theatrics were definitely still there. Lots of dancing, joke making, one dude handed out 40's of Olde English 800 to match his theme, one guy said "fuck" about 800 times in his post-cocktail-making presentation. It was all good.

In the end, Ben Clemons (yeah, I originally said Richie Petronzi; must have been the squirrel hat Ben was disguised in during Round 2 that threw me, LOL; anyway, I confirmed with the Appleton communications agency that Ben won) was declared the champion. He drank Appleton Reserve from a giant silver trophy bowl and made a speech. Ed and I dreamed Richie won since he created our favorite cocktail of the evening, but all of the competitors were awesome and worthy. Good luck in New York, Ben!

Everyone had an obvious good time. Over the course of the evening, I got my picture taken with a few of the contestants, bumped into the famous rum guy Robert Burr, and hung out with James and Annette from Soul of Miami. I'll be doing a shorter recap there in a little bit, but with more pictures, so check it out!

Thanks to Appleton Estate for the invitation, and I hope to be invited back next year or sooner.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Baileys Original Irish Cream

I managed to squeeze in a tasting of Baileys Original Irish Cream before my wife polished off the 1.75 L jug we have here at the house. I guess that's not quite fair. I've had my share too! Baileys is such a wonderful easy-drinking liqueur that I'm not sure who can resist its deliciousness.

So you probably guessed that Baileys is a product of Ireland right? Did you know that over 75% of the raw materials and packaging used to craft the final product are also sourced from Ireland? Those include the fresh cream, Irish Whiskey (including from Bushmills Distillery), sugar cane and a proprietary chocolate. That's pretty cool, and there are many other sales and product information facts published on their website.

Personally, I love to drink Baileys on the rocks. But you can enjoy it straight or mixed in numerous ways. My wife and I are happy to testify how well it works as a mixer with your coffee as well. That combination is so perfect, in fact, that the Baileys name has been licensed to non-alcoholic coffee creamers (which I also think are great).

The bottle is a dark brown/almost black color making it very hard to see how much you have left. The front label depicts a stream running through some lush green hills. Perhaps that is a scene in Ireland near where Baileys is made. I see the Diageo name on the bottle, so I guess it's in their portfolio. Imported by Paddington, LTD, Norwalk, CT. 17% alcohol (34 proof).

What a beautiful, luscious, creamy aroma! The way the chocolate and vanilla scents dance on top of that is spectacular too. Nice whiskey nuances at the fringe are to die for. I can't help but think of cookies while I'm smelling this.

Creamy and milky texture spectacularly coats the entire mouth right from the start. The chocolate flavors are so rich and beautifully sweet. Some vanilla flavors dodge in an out, and the whiskey really wakes up your taste buds and puts a little warmth in your throat. The whiskey also is a perfect opposite, really cutting through the sweetness.

I started drinking this at room temperature, but there's something about the coldness that a few rocks brings to Baileys. It's very soothing and seems to make the alcohol warmth stand out even more. As the cubes melt, it also thins out the really rich body, not a bad thing. I guess it's all about preference.

Wonderfully fresh, something that I believe makes it stand out against all the other "generic" Irish Creams. This is a special drink. I love it. No wonder it's a top 10 brand worldwide in numerous categories. Definitely the spirit that will make you switch!

Nutritional Values of Baileys (from their website, based on 100 mL serving): Energy (Kcal/100ml) 327 Energy (kJ/100ml) 1361 Read this for an explanation;  Protein 3g; Total Carbohydrate 25g; Total Fat 13g Of which is Saturated Fat 8g; Cholesterol 0.04g; Sodium 0.08g; Dietary Fiber Nil; Sucrose 20g

Monday, August 20, 2012

Knob Creek

Knob Creek is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey distilled by Jim Beam at their Knob Creek Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. Knob Creek is distilled in small batches and aged for nine years before being bottled at 100 proof (50% alcohol). Knob Creek is the same creek that passed Abraham Lincoln's boyhood home. Do you think that's a coincidence? The website says, "It's as simple as that."

Other Bourbons in Beam's Small Batch Collection include Basil Hayden's, Booker's and Baker's. The one I'm most familiar with is Booker's, which I sipped this past year on a ski vacation when there was no snow. Can't wait to try the others!

The bottle has a black wax cover over the cork, and the wax is stamped with little pieces of information about the bourbon: 100 proof, limited, bourbon, Knob Creek, etc. The label on the square flask-style 375 mL bottle is pretty simple, and a story on the side offers a little history. The 750 mL bottle will run you around $31.

Cherry and oak aroma to start. Sniff for a while to find the maple syrup, vanilla and bakery items in this glass. Wow, really terrific flavors to open. Honey and heat with an excellent sweetness that lasts throughout.

Smooth with a great body. An underlying fruitiness adds some wonderful complexities. Again, those dark cherries show through along with a bit of orange. Oak, maple, vanilla in nuances. And a spicy cinnamon flavor that really rides along with the heat and burn from the alcohol.

Loved this. The long aftertaste is an experience in itself. Try it yourself. It might be the spirit that will make you switch.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Glenmorangie The Quinta Ruban

The Quinta Ruban is the last Scotch of the Glenmorangie Sampler pack that I tried. I enjoyed The Original along with two other extra-matured presentations: The Lasanta and The Nectar D'Or. After its initial ten years of aging, The Quinta Ruban is aged for an additional two years in Port Casks to create this expression. 46% alcohol. Imported by Mo√ęt Hennessy in New York, NY.

Nice aroma. Can really smell chocolate, just amazing. Lots of fruits in this bouquet too. Oranges and cherries and grapes. Along with those scents, honey and a background spiciness intermingle.

The Port character is unmistakable from the beginning. I really liked the grape sweetness and spiciness that was imparted by the extra maturation. Quite a fruity Scotch, very juicy, with apples and oranges on top of the grapes. Honey soothed a good-sized burn before some spicy cinnamon flavors came through toward the end. Chocolate and almonds added nice intricacies and there was a bit of wood too. The finish was unexpectedly short, especially when comparing it to the other expressions.

Very nice, but I think I'm going to say the Sauternes-aged Nectar D'Or variation was my favorite so far. But this could easily be the spirit that will make you switch!

Monday, August 13, 2012

R.L. Seale's 10 Year Old Aged Rum

You guys remember when I was at that Total Wine Rum Class a few weeks ago, right? Great, well then you also remember that I walked out with my very own bottle of R.L. Seale's 10 Year Old Aged Rum. This rum is made and aged at the Foursquare Distillery in Barbados. Rum Examiner Robert Burr wrote that the aging is done in Bourbon barrels with additional aging done in Madeira and Brandy casks. Mmm.

So everyone has to make a comment about the bottle, right? Well, I'm going to as well. "Old crooked neck" looks like something a novice pottery maker might end up turning out. Like a really nice job with just a few imperfections, but definitely a keeper. Check out the bottle next to a straight lamp so you can see the bend. There is also a well-placed dent to help you grab the bottle when pouring. I'm 99% sure it was intentional, but like the commercial says, "If you don't know, you don't know!"

What else? In the center of the bottle label, a gold coin with a face on it says "Finest Aged Barbados Rum". A nod also goes to the West Indies heritage. 43% alcohol (86 proof). Imported by R.L Seale (USA) in Miami, Florida.

Nutty, buttery, sugar cookie kind of aroma. Soft maple and butterscotch, though not really sweet smelling. Quite pleasant.

Almonds and vanilla are the most noticeable initial flavors. Smooth, medium body. Nice warmth from the alcohol, a bit soothing. Butterscotch candy, though again, not sweet. I'd have actually liked to have been given slightly more sweetness.

Mellow and complex. Woody and dry finish. I think this would probably pair fantastically with some vanilla ice cream. The tag on the bottle refers to the rum having a butternut flavor. I totally taste the nuts and butter, though I can't say I've had a butternut before.

One more question. Does anyone know if the employees or visitors of the Foursquare Distillery check-in using Foursquare? LOL. That would be awesome! "At Foursquare. (4sq)" I asked Robert Burr on Twitter if perhaps he knows, and I will report any answer. (That's probably a good use of his time, right?) Anyway, nice rum, and for around $22 at Total Wine, you can find out if this is the spirit that will make you switch.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Blue Hen Vanilla Vodka

Perhaps some of you don't know that I have a beer blog as well. Craft beers have always been a passion of mine, though as you see with this website, I've cleared some room to include great spirits as well. Anyway, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery has been one of my favorite breweries over the years. Their beers are usually excellent, they embrace experimental ideas, they have some great label and brewery-themed art, and they are just nice people. Off-centered, too. LOL.

Dogfish Head also has a small distillery at their Rehoboth Beach, Delaware location where they produce a few rums, Jin, and more than a dozen fruit and spice-infused vodkas. Distribution is extremely limited, so do yourself a favor and stop by the Brewpub for a taste when in the area. And take a bottle home with you. That's exactly what happened for me. I borrowed this bottle of vanilla-infused vodka that Ed Roberts brought home from a vacation.

This bottle of Blue Hen Vanilla Vodka was made by AS on 06/03/2008, as you can see that hand-written on the label. Batch 208; Bottle Number 119. 40% alcohol. There is a vanilla pod in the bottle as well--interesting.

Now, I wasn't quite sure how to drink vodka. So I just opened the bottle and poured a little in the glass. The aroma was full of vanilla and butterscotch with some noticeable light apple. I tasted it too, buttery with vanilla, but something popped into my head that maybe I should be enjoying this cold.

That's when I came across this great article that suggested near freezing and neat was a good starting point for drinking vodka. So though I started to just drink this at room temperature, I stopped and put the bottle in the freezer over night.

The next day, I tried again. I felt the aroma was more muted but the vanilla aroma was certainly there. The flavors were a little less syrupy and more defined as well. Vanilla, orange and cake, with a bit of heat at the end. Some spicy cinnamon seemed to poke through as well. The advertised vanilla really took control of the stage, however. Nice experience. Could this be the spirit to make you switch?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Junipero Gin

It was not that long ago, sometime in January, that I was on, and we were speaking with Anchor Distilling President David King. Yes, this Anchor is the same Anchor as the famous craft brewery that helped get that whole movement started. Same dude too, Fritz Maytag. At that point in January, to me, gin was some crappy mixer that your grandma drank, something Snoop Dog liked, and the desperate choice your brother stole from the liquor cabinet (followed by bad consequences).

But in the early 1990's, Fritz started a craft distillery. Apparently the initial raw materials used in brewing lent themselves nicely to distilling as well, so things made sense. Except for the challenges of being first. No stills as no one who knew how to make something suitable, etc. Sounded like a real-life ups and downs rendition of Oh, The Places You'll Go!

David let us know that it's the botanicals that make a gin recipe special, 12 in the case of Junipero. He admitted to Juniper being added, the "duh" moment of the evening considering it's always added. He also mentioned orange rinds from Spain. But he zipped his lips after that, the other 10 remaining a mystery! The other craft factor is determining "The Middles", the safe and desirable part that comes in the distilling process.

Now, the name of this gin is Junipero, which the distillery purposefully allows confusion to go on about its origin. Was it A. named after Junipero Serra, founder of San Francisco, where Anchor Distilling is located? or B. named after the Spanish word for Juniper, Junipero? Since some of Anchor's other spirits are based on local San Francisco themes, I think I'd vote for A. But David didn't give an answer. I think he said to ask the marketing team, which I'm sure would play more games.

Crystal clear. Wonderful aroma, another sniffer. Orange and juniper are the most prominent. Very clean, floral, citrusy rind is bitter and sweet. Oh, and some licorice is there after sniffing for a while, and then never goes away.

Sweet orange flavors, almost candied. Great heat from the 49.3% alcohol. Very smooth. NOT your grandma's tonic mix! Juniper berries, no doubt, but citrus is number one. Spicy and peppery. Some clean spirits "oof!" And yeah, I love the licorice nips that come after drinking a little bit of this gem.

Sharp and smooth simultaneously. Hot and soothing at the same time. Ravishing and delightful. Definitely the spirit that will make you switch.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Camus VS Elegance

Some may consider stepping from top of the line Cognacs like Camus Borderies XO and Rarissimes Vintage  1971 back to Camus VS Elegance a little peculiar. In fact, though, I've never been known to do things like everyone else. Perhaps you've noticed that. The fact is, however, that I just never took the opportunity. I'm fairly new to Cognacs in general, and my first big splash was with those awesome products not so long ago on a ByTheGlassShow appearance with Camus' Alexandra Albu. In fact, Alex was nice enough to give me this and a few other samples for this website.

Cognac-making is super regulated by the French government. Wanna sneeze in Cognac? Get some sort of permit and verification. Seriously, though, the regulations serve a purpose and guarantee that each Cognac is exactly what the producer claims. VS Cognacs must be aged for a minimum of two years, though there could  be cognacs in the blend that are far older (even all of them may be older). Because of this minimal age requirement, this is usually the lowest cost Cognac designation that you can buy, of course depending on the House that made it.

If you are going to use Cognac in a cocktail, the VS (Very Special) and VSOP (Very Special Old Pale) are your best bets. While they are fine for drinking neat, they are affordable enough for mixing as well. (You can walk into Total Wine and buy a 750 mL bottle of this for $24.) 40% alcohol. Imported by CIL Amerique, Mahhasset, NY.

Alex gave me several informational handouts, many of which include cocktail recipes. There are some listed on their website, but I'll list the other unique ones for you at the bottom. Also, a few just say "cognac" but you should probably stick to VS and VSOP unless you're rich. (And YOU (rich people) should have me over for drinks.) There are also a few that contradict the cards with recipe measurements, but don't let that bother you. Basically, use these for ideas and mix to taste.

So let's taste this VS Elegance. Nice aroma. Soft and fruity apples meet floral lilacs in a dream where the florist spills a little of this on herself, only to find that the perfumey scent brings much positive attention.  (BTW, I just started drinking, so you know this commentary gets much better. Come hang out with me some time!)

Frisky start, really waking up the taste buds. Fruity apples and grapes completely coat the palate. Some alcohol warmth comes next only to be matched by nice sweet honey flavors. Spicy cinnamon gives a little more zing before a woody oak and vanilla finish. A little more heat in the chest rounds out the experience.

Next time, I will try mixing a cocktail with this one, though I'm going to need to go buy some ingredients. Here are some additional ideas for mixing. And assume I mean Camus Cognac for all of these, OK? One of these could be the spirit that makes you switch.


2 oz VS/VSOP
1 oz Triple Sec
1 oz Sweet and Sour Mix
1 oz Orange Juice

Combine all ingredients in shaker with ice. Shake and pour into rocks glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Camus Wildflower

2 oz VS/VSOP
0.75 oz Maple Syrup
1 oz Lime Juice
1 oz Orange Juice

Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled glass. Top with grated cinnamon.

Camus Pink Love

1 oz VS/VSOP
0.25 oz Raspberry Liqueur

Combine Cognac and raspberry liqueur in a champagne flute. Top with Champagne and garnish with raspberry.

Camus and Tonic

2 oz VS/VSOP
2 oz Superior Tonic Water

Pour Cognac into rocks glass, then tonic water. Stir lightly and garnish with lime wedge.