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Tasting Notes

All rights reserved
©2014 F. Paul Pacult
The following reviews of Rums, Genevers & Gins, Tequilas, Cachaças and Liqueurs originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of the Spirit Journal

New Gin, Genever, Tequila, Cachaça and Liqueur Reviews

RUM

Angostura 1919 Caribbean Rum
(Trinidad & Tobago; International Beverage Co., Dunwoody, GA); 40% abv, $38.
Last reviewed in 2002 and rated Four Stars. Lovely, bright amber color; very good clarity. The opening aroma is filled with notes of berries, flowers, toffee and tobacco; following another seven minutes of air contact, the bouquet expands to include subtle traces of cherry cobbler, honey wheat toast, toasted marshmallow, toffee and sautéed almonds. Entry is lean, off-dry and grassy; midpalate is a touch more bountiful than the entry, offering integrated flavors of fruit juice, cigar tobacco, parsley and oak. Aftertaste highlights the toffee and honey. A grown-up’s rum.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Highly Recommended



Editor’s note: Cruzan (St. Croix) flavors have led the flavored rum subcategory for at least a decade and these two hold true to their pedigree. For those imbibers who relish such playful, carefree spirits, these are excellent values to boot.

Cruzan Passion Fruit Rum
(St. Croix; Cruzan International Ltd., Deerfield, IL); 21% abv, $15.
Clear and clean as rainwater appearance. Wow, the ambrosial fragrance of ripe, fresh passion fruit is authentic and understated; the freshness carries through to the second nosing passes. Entry is juicy without being cloying or thick because there is more than ample acidity to keep the flavors on message; midpalate flavor profile follows through well and with suppleness. Energetic finish is ripe and true to the source.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Highly Recommended




Cruzan Key Lime Rum
(St. Croix; Cruzan International Ltd., Deerfield, IL); 21% abv, $15.
Transparent and colorless. What I get in the initial whiffs after the pour is key lime oil tanginess and tartness which work well together all through the second stage of inhalation; I love key limes and this bouquet is like having two or three real key limes in your hand. Entry is a touch sweeter than the bouquet but is fresh and zesty; midpalate offers even more zestiness and peel-generated oiliness than the entry. A flavored rum whose primary components, rum and key lime, have a natural affinity.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Highly Recommended




Editor’s note: Cruzan (St. Croix) Estate Diamond rums left the U.S. marketplace some time ago but they have recently been reintroduced. The Diamond Dark had been a favorite rum of mine in times past so I was elated to see its return.

Cruzan Estate Diamond Light Rum
A Blend of 5 Years & Older
(St. Croix; Cruzan International Ltd., Deerfield, IL); 40% abv, $20.
Pretty pewter/pale straw green/yellow color; superb purity. Upfront aromas include toasted bread, buttercream candy and marshmallow; molasses and cocoa bean aspects come alive in the second inhalations following further air contact. Entry is smooth as silk, sweet and spicy (nutmeg, clove); midpalate is beany, comfortably sweet, tangy and satiny textured. Finish carries with it a spicy twang that’s appealing. Classy, well crafted. Really good buy.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Highly Recommended




Cruzan Estate Diamond Dark Rum
A Blend of 5 Years & Older
(St. Croix; Cruzan International Ltd., Deerfield, IL); 40% abv, $20.
Old gold/light amber color; sediment free, flawless clarity.Owns a woody, toasty initial aroma that’s backed up by vanilla bean and allspice underpinning scents; the latter nosing offers enticing aromas of vanilla wafer cookies, Christmas cake and tobacco leaf. Entry is more channeled than the easy Diamond Light, in that, the taste profile is more clearly defined immediately as the resinous oak is apparent right from the start; midpalate is oaky, vanilla-accented and bacon fat-like. Lots of sophisticated things happening here that I like.Excellent value.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Highly Recommended



The Real McCoy Prohibition Tradition 5 Years Old Rum
(Barbados; Real McCoy Spirits, Stonington, CT); 40% abv, $29.
Attractive and luminous burnt orange/bronze color; unblemished purity. I note a pleasing spiciness in the first sniffs that are fruity and ripe more than woody or sugary; another seven minutes of air contact allow for nuances of spice to work their way through, mostly carob. Entry is toasty, rich, bacony and pastry-like; midpalate is long, toasty, brown sugar-like and creamy. Finishes vibrant and like dried fruits, especially pears and pineapple. A handsome rum of authentic depth.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Highly Recommended



GIN/GENEVER – INTERNATIONAL

Citadelle Reserve 2012 Vintage Barrel-Aged Gin
(France; W.J. Deutsch & Sons – Blue Division, White Plains, NY); 44% abv, $35.
Employs 22 botanicals in the blend, which is then matured in lightly toasted French oak casks for six months.Pale straw yellow color; good clarity. Piquant notes of white pepper, dried sage/thyme, and stone quarry minerals abound in the opening sniffs after the pour – it’s nicely herb garden-like and stony dry; to my delight, the juniper makes its move after further aeration, becoming a more dominant presence after the eight minute mark. Entry is neither fat nor plump, but does exhibit a measure of buttery viscosity that must come from the French oak; midpalate continues with the creamery butter aspect, but allows enough of the dried herbs and quarry minerals to make it memorably clean and dry. London Dry Gin traditionalists likely won’t respond to this intensely herbal, woodsy gin that through much of the evaluation doesn’t make a major splash of juniper, but I appreciate Citadelle Reserve from more of a top quality spirits category viewpoint. A gin that stands out alone.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Highest Recommendation




Diep 9 Young Genever
(Belgium; Flemish Lion LLC, Richmond, VT); 35% abv, $33.
Translucent and impeccably clean and clear. I like the opening nose quite a lot for its malty/grainy freshness, delicate dusty dryness and its elegant spiciness; later nosings detect subtle aromatic nuances of beans, allspice, parsley and wax paper. Entry mirrors the bouquet to a tee, offering squeaky clean and zesty flavors that are grain-driven and crisp; midpalate is stony and minerally, but also deeply malty and dusty dry. Finish is clean, smooth and delicately malty. This is what many producers of “white whiskeys” are trying to achieve but come up painfully short. Classy and very tasty.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Highly Recommended




Diep 9 Old Genever
(Belgium; Flemish Lion LLC, Richmond, VT); 35% abv, $39.
Very pretty golden yellow/brut champagne-like color; flawless clarity. Wow, the extra barrel aging (2 years) brings out all sorts of intriguing aromas, including steamed white rice, fennel, dried vegetation and egg yolk; further aeration after seven minutes brings out a buttery, eggy aroma that’s nearly fruity. Entry is silky in texture, smooth and intensely cereal-like; midpalate is dry to off-dry, mildly fruity, malty and breakfast cereal-like. Aftertaste is grainy/malty and unsalted snack cracker-like. Good but I prefer the Younger Genever.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Recommended



G & J Greenall’s London Dry Gin
(England; W.J. Deutsch & Sons – Blue Division, White Plains, NY); 43% abv, $17.
Translucent appearance; excellent purity level. Owns all the hallmarks of pleasant, crisp London Dry that favors juniper/pine needle and citrus peel in the first whiffs; additional time in glass adds only a slightly floral element that accents the juniper well. Entry is a touch low in acidity, but treats the juniper nicely by featuring its piny/sappy character; midpalate is medium long, dry, cedar-like and modestly herbal. Brief aftertaste is moderately sweet. A good standard London Dry that isn’t as lush as Tanqueray, Broker’s or Beefeater, but is most certainly recommendable for its attractive price/quality ratio.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Recommended




TOPO Piedmont Gin
Handcrafted from Organic Carolina Wheat
(USA; Top of the Hill Distillery, Chapel Hill, NC); 46% abv, $30.
Very faint pewter tint; very good purity. Opening aromas are curiously earthy, leafy, vegetal, slightly citrusy and viny, with only the scantest trace of juniper; secondary nosings after further aeration highlight the baked earth aspect as well as bringing out other botanicals, mostly anise, black pepper, tobacco leaf and cardamom; an intriguing, low juniper impact gin that has a vegetal charm. Entry taste flashes a note of cucumber, along with a deft touch of citrus oil and orange zest; midpalate is pleasantly fruity, oily and herbal. Looking for London Dry? Pass on this because it lives in a parallel universe. Hankering for a new twist on gin? Go for it. Me like.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Highly Recommended


TEQUILA – MEXICO

Astral Blanco 100% de Agave Tequila
(Mexico: Sombra, Sausalito, CA); 46% abv, $40.
NOTE THE 92-PROOF STRENGTH. Colorless and pure. Oh baby, now this is what I call old-fashioned, real deal Blanco tequila that hasn’t been prettied up, primped, homogenized or pasteurized – I like the peppery (jalapeño), no-nonsense opening aromatic burst that yells out “Dill! Pickle brine! Salt! Limestone!”; secondary whiffs echo the findings of the initial nosing pass, adding earth notes of stone, sand and vegetation. Entry comes on strong after a second or two to make sure you know that this isn’t an 80-proof model but one with more octane; midpalate profile hinges upon the 92-proof strength but what is supported by that abv is all-agave, all-the-time in its keenly peppery, green veggie and dill-like flavor. Finishes long, spicy, lead pencil-like and suddenly agave nectar sweet. WHAT A RIDE!
Spirit Journal September 2013:
lHighest Recommendation
In Classic Margarita:
lHighest Recommendation



Editor’s Note: Not content to dazzle spirits lovers with the wide array of experimental American whiskeys, the wizards at Buffalo Trace Distillery/Sazerac/Gemini now offer five unique expressions of Corazon brand tequilas that have been matured in whiskey barrels.

Expresionesdel Corazon Artisanal Edition Blanco
100% de Agave Tequila
(
Mexico: Gemini Spirits & Wine, Chicago, IL); 40% abv, $60.
Spring water, colorless transparency with flawless clarity. Lovely, earthy, minerally, stony opening aroma highlights black pepper and hemp/rope fiber fragrances; the natural salinity of agave fiber comes alive after another six minutes of air contact, catapulting the bouquet forward with keenly intense vegetal and baked earth aromas. Entry reminds me of when I first started reviewing tequilas in the late 1980s when they were more in tune with the soil and agave and how much I loved those unpretentious, genuine and close-to-the-source tequilas – nice to find authenticity again; midpalate is highly vegetal, salty, lead pencil-like and (yippee!) a tad raw. Finish is chockfull of fibery, minerally real agave character. Yippee again!
Spirit Journal September 2013:
lHighest Recommendation



Expresionesdel Corazon Buffalo Trace Reposado
100% de Agave Tequila
(Mexico: Gemini Spirits & Wine, Chicago, IL); 40% abv, $70.
Tarnished silver/pale green hue with perfect purity. First nosings after the pour detect delicate aromatic streams of lead pencil, granite and black pepper, along with a comforting underpinning of ripe agave/agave syrup; secondary passes pick up mild and integrated scents of dried herbs, most prominently dill and sage, and cucumber. Wow, the entry is like satin texture-wise, with faint ribbons of agave syrup and mineral flavors; midpalate accentuates the deep mineral quality by introducing razor-edged acidity that maintains the freshness and structure with finesse. Aftertaste focuses primarily on the sweet agave rather than wood, which I wouldn’t have minded having more of.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Highly Recommended



Expresionesdel Corazon George T. Stagg Añejo
100% de Agave Tequila
(Mexico: Gemini Spirits & Wine, Chicago, IL); 40% abv, $80.
Attractive pale straw yellow/ecru color with crystalline clarity. An atypical aroma that offers nicely formed scents of butcher’s wax paper, cookie dough, dill and brine all in one appealing package; following another seven minutes of air contact, the bouquet opens up considerably, highlighting fragrances of light honey, unbuttered popcorn and a deft touch of vanilla. Entry is moderately thick, almost buttery, with extended flavors of vanilla wafer, saltine cracker and tofu; midpalate is sweeter than the entry as the bourbon barrel becomes more apparent in the mouth as the influence of the GTStagg takes charge. Finish is very sweet, too sweet to be frank, and that’s my main concern, in that, the tequila/agave becomes totally overshadowed by the potency of the GTStagg by the midpalate stage. When does it stop being tequila? Because of the overall quality and because I think serious bourbon drinkers will like this tequila, I’m giving it a third star but with a caveat.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Recommended



Expresionesdel Corazon Sazerac Rye Añejo
100% de Agave Tequila
(Mexico: Gemini Spirits & Wine, Chicago, IL); 40% abv, $80.
Pale lemon juice yellow/brut champagne pallor with sediment free purity. I encounter plenty of agave nectar, salinity and earthiness in the opening whiffs after the pour and me like that; latter sniffs after further aeration discover lead pencil, clay and iron-rich soil fragrances; elemental, straightforward bouquet that screams agave. Entry is delicately sweet, racy, full-weighted and biscuity; midpalate reflects and echoes much of the entry’s virtues and adds a subtle nuance of cocoa. Finishes long, viscous (more so than the Blanco, Reposado or GTStaggAñejo), gently bittersweet while not losing the agave/vegetal quality. This combination of 100% agave and rye whiskey barrel works.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Recommended



Expresionesdel Corazon Old Rip Van Winkle Añejo
100% de Agave Tequila
(Mexico: Gemini Spirits & Wine, Chicago, IL); 40% abv, $80.
Pale greenish/manzanilla sherry-like color with ideal clarity. Of this Corazon line of specialty tequilas, this aroma is the most nondescript, offering meager aromas of pickle brine, dill and dusty, dry earth in the initial inhalations; except for limestone, secondary nosings yield little more so I move on. Entry is subtle, delicately spicy and herbal (sage), with a barely perceptible trace of egg white; midpalate features lots of green vegetable agave splendor which is nicely balanced with the low degree, supplemental Bourbon impact. In short, this is terrifically yummy from start to finish because the ORVW Bourbon contribution is purely as a support player to the natural agave freshness.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
lHighest Recommendation



Malinalli Platinum 100% de Agave Tequila
(Mexico: Park Street Imports, Miami, FL); 40% abv, $65.
Appearance is pristine, clear and sediment free. I encounter masses of inviting dill, black pepper and asparagus notes in the opening whiffs that are neatly underpinned by a deep-seeded salinity; following seven more minutes of air contact, the bouquet accelerates its agave/herbal, salty thrust, providing an invigorating nosing experience. Entry is smoky, herbal (sage) and mildly fruity; midpalate adds tobacco leaf to the flavor mix as the acidity remains a constant palate refresher. Finishes medium long, dusty dry, earthy and minerally.Sturdy, well-made blanco that offers more than ample character and elegance.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Highly Recommended



Malinalli Extra Añejo 100% de Agave Tequila
(Mexico: Park Street Imports, Miami. FL); 40% abv, $105.

Bright straw yellow/gold color; flawlessly clear. Upfront, the nose is pleasantly vegetal and herbal (thyme, sage), with medium grade salinity and a light dose of steamed asparagus; after further time in the glass, the aroma displays a bit of oakiness plus vanilla bean. Entry balance is met by oak-influenced vanilla bean-like and green vegetable tastes, as the salt factor fades; midpalate features a vanilla custard taste accented by jalapeño pepper. Concludes rich in texture, herbaceous and smoky, with a hint of cigar box. Elegant, rich, properly zesty, salty and herbaceous and the oak doesn’t eclipse the natural agave charm.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Highly Recommended



Tapatio 110 Blanco 100% de Agave Tequila
(Mexico: Charbay Distillery & Winery, St. Helena, CA); 55% abv, $48.
NOTE THE 110-PROOF OF THIS ARANDAS BLANCO. Clean and clear as rainwater. The saline agave explosion in the first whiff staggers my olfactory bulb for a moment, but interestingly the high proof isn’t as large a presence as the foundational agave fragrance and to that I say, “Hallelujah!”; secondary nosing passes after another eight minutes discover a whole other layer of aromatics, including wet stone, grain, textile fiber/hemp, rubber pencil eraser and dried thyme. Entry is richly textured, creamy and buttery, with reined-in bacon fat/pork rind and BBQ flavors; midpalate offers expansive tastes that include tobacco leaf, tar, salt and agave nectar. Aftertaste is as majestic, yet controlled as the entry and midpalate. Another Tapatio triumph.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
lHighest Recommendation


CACHAÇA – BRAZIL

AvuáPrataCachaça
(Brazil; MHW, Ltd., Manhasset, NY); 42% abv, $35.
Unaged. Crystalline appearance that is impeccably clean. First whiffs detect grassy, vegetal (asparagus, Brussels sprouts) aromas that are stone dry and earthy in a vegetable garden way; after another seven minutes of aeration, an agave-like saltiness develops that is delightful and clean and is almost akin to soup stock. Entry is surprisingly sweet yet is agile enough due to acidity that the taste profile is fresh and compelling; sweetness dries out in the midpalate as the flavor turns more biscuity/doughy and is accented by spice, especially coriander. Aftertaste is dry, acidic/astringent, vegetal and very savory. A welcome addition to the slowly growing cachaça category in the U.S. marketplace. Prime caipirinha cocktail base.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Highly Recommended




AvuáAmburanaCachaça
(Brazil; MHW, Ltd., Manhasset, NY); 40% abv, $45.
Matured for up to 2 years in indigenous amburana wood barrels.Pretty pale green tint; unblemished purity. Initial inhalations are startlingly and pleasingly herbaceous and almost like a grocery store since I detect hints of mint, marzipan, dried flowers, malted milk and chili peppers that, while disparate, magically work together; second passes heighten the malted milk and mint-like vegetation. Entry is unusual, herbal (dried thyme), grassy, vegetal and viny/woodsy/forest-like; midpalate is grassier to me than anything else but the grassiness is accentuated by the nuances of delicate sweetness that must be from the sugarcane. Finishes intensely herbal, off-dry, sappy and slightly minerally. The taste obviously reflects the indigenous wood.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Highly Recommended


LIQUEURS – INTERNATIONAL

1889 by GeijerGlogg Liqueur
(USA; St. George Spirits, Alameda, CA); 20% abv, $32.
Amber color; clean and pure. Wow, me like the ginger root powder and tuber notes that are pungent and accented by supplemental aromas of brown rice, nutmeg and clove; secondary passes after eight minutes of further aeration encounter more vigorous ginger root powder presence as well as cardamom. Entry is (thankfully) moderately sweet, delectably herbal and lightly spiced; midpalate is fresh, deeply herbal and zesty/tangy more in a spice manner than a citrusy way. Ends on an off-dry note, herbaceous and supple. Well done. Traditionally served warm.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Highly Recommended




Editor’s note: GM Titanium is a new expression of legendary and venerable Grand Marnier, which includes, according to Grand Marnier, a unique combination of “wild tropical orange essence” and “Asian Calamansi citrus with a dash of spices” with their fine cognac. Asian calamansi is native to Southeast Asia and is a hybrid cross of mandarin orange and kumquat.

GM Titanium Liqueur
(France: Marnier-Lapostolle Co., New York, NY); 40% abv, $45.
Pretty amber color; flawless purity. I like the first scents of orange zest, lemon peel and baking spice (vanilla, cinnamon, allspice) that waft gently out of the evaluation glass; additional time in the glass encourages more of the cognac to emerge, adding a lovely substance to the bouquet. Entry is semisweet, amazingly citrusy and therefore clean and lithe and once again I’m aware of the cognac foundation for which I’m very happy; midpalate is silky smooth, spirity, citrusy and more bittersweet than sweet, which to me is a huge plus in maintaining the flavor focus of citrus/cognac. A delicious new expression that accentuates the fabled portfolio.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Highly Recommended



Grand Marnier Signature Collection No. 2 Liqueur
Raspberry Peach
(France: Marnier-Lapostolle Co., New York, NY); 40% abv, $40.
Lovely rubious, rose/gold/brut rosé champagne-like color; impeccable clarity. Wow, the opening aroma is ambrosial, ripe and tantalizingly berry- and peach-like; another six minutes of air contact stimulate deeper aromas, in particular the white peach aspect. Entry is ripe and sweet, but neither cloying nor lumpy because the acidity level remains high, maintaining the freshness; midpalate accentuates the strawberry initially, then the peach element reemerges as the taste stage heads into the fruit salad/fruit compote finish, which nicely closes the circle. In a word, luscious.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Highly Recommended



Grand Marnier Cuvée 1880 Liqueur
(France: Marnier-Lapostolle Co., New York, NY); 40% abv, $350.
Made from XO Grande Champagne cognac.Attractive bronze/henna color; perfect purity. The orange zest takes a back seat to the cognac essence in the opening nosing phase after the pour; after another eight minutes of time in the glass, the bouquet rounds out to a deeply complex, sweet/sour, orangey mélange of aromas. Entry is perfectly balanced between the orange peel, sweetness factor, acidity and cognac; midpalate provides an awesome flavor experience of the first rank, one in which all the tastes elements are in ideal precision. If we gave six rating stars, GM Cuvée 1880 Liqueur would be so rated. Timeless elegance.Worthy of the name Grand Marnier.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Highest Recommendation



IRIS Liqueur
(USA; Elixir, Eugene, OR); 35% abv, $48.
Pretty yellow/green appearance,; superb clarity. Starts out aromatically herbal/herb garden-like and engagingly floral, with a solid presence of moderately spicy sweetness; following another eight minutes of air contact, little changes in the aromatic profile. Entry is unabashedly sweet, but is spicy and floral enough to balance the sugary aspect; midpalate showcases more of the iris/floral show element, after which it is named, and turns concentrated and, for me, a bit too sugar-intense in the finish.
Spirit Journal September 2013:
Recommended

© F. Paul Pacult
All rights reserved.

 

 
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