Tasting Notes

The following reviews appeared in the March 2017 issue of F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal.
© F. Paul Pacult

ratings

Recent Whiskey, Vodka & Gin Reviews

WHISKEY  — IRELAND

jameson-ccJameson Cooper’s Croze Non-Chill Filtered Irish Whiskey
43% abv, $70.
The appearance is highlighted by a golden wheat field color) I do see some widely dispersed sediment that is not a game-changer. The opening nose is gently sweet, grainy, delicately spicy (allspice), and floral; later whiffs detect soft spoken hints of dry breakfast cereal, malted milk balls, candied apple. Entry is fuller, more assertive than the dainty aroma promises and for that, I’m glad, since now Cooper’s Croze evolves into a serious whiskey with expansive flavors of toasted whole grain bread, grain kernel, oak-driven vanilla, maple; midpalate echoes the entry, adding just a light touch of salted caramel. Finish is moderately long as it pleasantly coats the palate and throat with medium-weighted viscosity.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars4Highly Recommended

WHISKEY — USA

Abraham Bowman Pioneer Spirit Gingerbread Cocoa Finished Bourbon
45% abv, $40.
Lovely burnt orange/copper color; excellent clarity. Upfront smells include dried cherry, gingerbread, cocoa bean, brown butter; with further aeration, the aroma fades a bit too much and too quickly as the bouquet turns grainy and fibrous. Entry is very tasty, mature yet youthfully zesty, peppery and piquant; midpalate turns on the gingerbread aspect to a higher volume as the corn-influenced whiskey cradles the gingerbread. Concludes nicely with bittersweet finish that’s tangy from the 90-proof, sap-like from the bourbon, and beany from the cocoa.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars3Recommended 

Barton 1792 High Rye Bourbon
47.15% abv, $36.
Very attractive sepia/chestnut brown color; impeccable purity. First nosing passes pick up muted scents of sand paper, dry soil, and vegetable cooking oil but not much more; more air contact fails to extract much more in the way of aromatic impressions, except for feathery fragrances of breakfast cereal, limestone, and poppy seed that barely register. Entry belies the flimsy bouquet as the initial flavor profile is heartily rich, honeyed, bakery shop sweet, and reminiscent of cinnamon buns; midpalate is zesty, spicy (peppery, clove-like), tree sap/maple-like, almost fudge-like, and generous. The animation enjoyed in the entry and midpalate continues in the aftertaste as the taste profile turns bittersweet and candied. Too many peaks and valleys for a higher score than three stars.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars3Recommended

Booker’s Bourbon “Off Your Rocker” Edition 2016-05
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
64.85% abv, $60.
Smashing henna/auburn color that’s richly burnt orange in the core; superb purity. Considering the elevated abv level, this opening aroma is sedate and understated as the fragrance showcases cornmeal and unbuttered corn-on-the-cob, first and foremost, then adds lead pencil, cement, shale, and dry earth; more aeration releases some of the spirit that’s now as warm as a smoldering campfire that’s toasting marshmallows and bacon; it’s in the later nosing passes that the aromatic power becomes apparent. Entry features the high-octane abv that singes the tongue then takes it on an amazing taste journey through levels of caramel corn sweetness, black peppercorn spiciness, and dense oakiness; the midpalate stage is ablaze with spirit-driven heat and vivid flavors, especially candied nuts (walnut) and fruit (pineapple, pear). Finishes with a furious intensity that’s emblematic of Booker’s. Like the man himself, this whiskey is uncompromising and not for beginners.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation

Booker’s Bourbon “Noe Hard Times” Edition 2016-06
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
63.9% abv, $60.
Deep bronze/auburn/burnt orange color; flawless purity. Owns the usual sweet corn, cornmeal, corn biscuit Booker’s opening aroma, which belies the lofty cask strength abv as the corn intensity is allowed to shine; after more aeration time, the spirit begins to surface in mild waves of dried flowers (carnations) and pear fruit and it’s at this point that the thumbprint the classic and elemental Booker’s bouquet, promoted by the congenial marriage of corn and oak, takes hold. Entry is every bit the extension of the bouquet, as the honeyed, nutty, roasted meat flavor profile mirrors the mesmerizing dance between the corn-dominated mash-bill and the resiny, spicy oak; midpalate is zesty, pruny, raisiny, creamed corn-like, and peppery. Finishes spectacularly long, tangy, breakfast cereal-like (Honey Nut Cheerios), and tobacco-like. Astonishingly supple, succulent, and luscious.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation
 

Boondocks American Whiskey Aged 11 Years
47.5% abv, $40.
Jonquil/dusty yellow color; free of sedimentary particles. I like the opening fragrances that include sweet cereal grains, toffee, cinnamon, vanilla, and holiday fruitcake; with more aeration the aroma gets fuller and richer but also a little bit drier than the frontline scent as the wood influence becomes the dominant factor. Entry is pleasantly sweet, but almost a bit too syrupy and is like whiskey-soaked fruit in flavor; midpalate is spicy (nutmeg), spirity but not prickly or harsh, warming on the palate, and pruny. Finishes medium long, moderately deep in texture, with a dried fruit-like sweetness.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars3Recommended 

Boondocks American Whiskey Cask Strength Aged 11 Years
63.5% abv, $60.
18-carat gold color; impeccable clarity. Even though the abv is a lofty 63.5%, the alcohol doesn’t singe my nose as I thought it might in the opening sniffs after the pour and instead I pick up appealing scents of sweetened breakfast cereal and green tobacco leaf; later inhalations encounter light touches of baking spice (vanilla bean, clove) and newly tanned leather. Entry surges forward carried by the high-octane abv which now turns on its after-burners as it turns warming to the point of being fiery but there are pleasing tastes to identify, mostly a deep corniness which is like corn syrup as well as a candied banana flavor that seems out of place but is clearly present; midpalate mirrors the entry in terms of abv intensity and flavor profile but by this point the abv becomes an issue that begins to detract from the taste profile. Aftertaste is fierce, feral, toasty, sweet, corn-like.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars3Recommended

 Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey
46% abv, $40.
Seriously pretty brick/cinnamon color; flawless purity. The first inhalations pick up trace amounts of flaxseed, vegetable oil, grassy vegetation, grain kernels; after more time in the glass the aroma stays quite oily and kernel-like but adds a supporting aroma of buttermilk biscuit. Entry is heavily toasted, almost burnt, with BBQ flavors of seared brisket, maple, black peppercorn rub, and caramel corn; midpalate is richly textured, complex, more corn syrup sweet than either honeyed or sugary, and shows a large dose of oakiness, which comes off as vanilla bittersweet. Concludes with the same panache and force of character as at entry phase. Nicely done.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Clyde May’s Cask Strength Alabama Style Whiskey Aged 8 Years
58.5% abv, $60.
Similar ginger/cinnamon color to the Straight Bourbon but with a touch more henna/auburn; ideal clarity. I definitely identify the cask strength abv – would be hard to miss — but in fairness it is not the dominant asset to the first nosing pass — the primary aromatic is the dry as a bone graininess that’s like beeswax and textile fiber; later sniffs pick up tar, floor polish, candle wax, mild baking spice. Entry is warm, not fiery and intensely grainy, spicy, woody, resiny, bittersweet; midpalate features a hearty vanilla bean flavor that’s bittersweet, roasted, and akin to vanilla crème brûlée. The finish is smoldering campfire warm, spicy, a bit like fudge or treacle, robust, and generous. I like it a lot.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Cooperstown Distillery American Whiskey
45% abv, $50.
Deep bronze color; perfect purity. Starts out aromatically sound and semi-dry, with slightly sweet overtones of oatmeal, but really the fragrance emphasis is on the grain and grain kernel; with more time in the glass, the bouquet turns floral, woody, and meekly like snack crackers/Graham cracker; aroma is ho-hum and timid overall. By contrast, entry is bold, toasted, bready, sappy, maple-like and a complete turn-around from the lackluster bouquet; by the midpalate stage, the taste profile is smoldering like a campfire in the warmth department, suddenly sweet as toasted marshmallows, intensely caramel corn-like, and zesty. Aftertaste reflects all the findings of the midpalate phase. Had the bouquet shown more character it might have scored higher.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars-2Not Recommended 

Cooperstown Distillery BeanBall Bourbon
45% abv, $50.
Pale amber color; ideal clarity. First whiffs pick up textile fiber/flax-like aromas that are dry yet buttery and there’s a touch of brown rice fragrance, as well; secondary sniffs pick up dense cornmeal aromas and cooking oil and dried flower fragrance. Entry is nicely oily, with brisk, gently sweet flavors of caramel corn, toasted marshmallow, toffee, fudge; midpalate offers pleasant, supple tastes of praline, nougat, almond butter, toasted honey wheat bread. Aftertaste is medium long, creamy, spicy, piquant from the 90-proof, and very nice overall.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars3Recommended
 

Copperworks American Single Malt Whiskey Release No. 002
53% abv, $60.
Beautiful new copper color; dazzling clarity. Upfront aromas right after the pour include pencil eraser, electric cables, matchbox, saltwater taffy, cocktail peanuts, candle wax, and salted butter; giving this whiskey a bit more time in the glass, I find that the salted peanut and wax aspects remain pronounced elements even as the cable/matchbox scents fade to the background. Entry is stylishly beer-like (in particular, India Pale Ale), doughy, and yeasty, even a touch hop-like as the dense maltiness blankets the palate; midpalate is pleasantly zesty, malty, totally dry, and deeply cereal-like. Finishes uncannily like an IPA in the too-fiery mouth. I like this domestic single malt enough to recommend it but if it were mine, I’d reduce the abv to 45% or 46% from the 53% to allow more of the grain/oak interplay to express itself. Look forward to reviewing Release No. 003.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars3Recommended 

michtersMichter’s Limited Release 20 Year Old
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
57.1% abv, $600.
If not the prettiest American whiskey I’ve seen in the past twelve months, certainly in the top three. The rusty ochre color is dazzling and mahogany-like; perfect purity. It’s the acute nutmeg- and mace-like spiciness of the opening aroma that’s so riveting and expressive; after more aeration, the aroma calms down on the spice front, which allows the richness of the bouquet to develop as the merging of grain-wood-alcohol-acid reaches its peak performance, aromatically speaking — at this juncture I’m pondering lighting a cigar. Entry is sublimely compact, dense, and complex; midpalate soars into the taste profile stratosphere as the integration of components is at the perfection point — tastes wonderfully of praline, nougat, candy bar, dark caramel, mincemeat, maple-smoked bacon, smoked ham. Aftertaste embellishes all the virtues found and deeply appreciated in the midpalate. Another magnificent whiskey released by the Michter’s band of magicians.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation 

Orphan Barrel Whoop & Holler
28 Year Old American Whiskey
42% abv, $175.
Produced at George Dickel Distillery in Tullahoma, TN. Pretty amber/topaz color; excellent clarity. Lovely, delicate aromas waft up from the sampling glass of peach cobbler, toasted almond, gum, grapefruit marmalade; more aeration stimulates deeper, more assertive scents of honeysuckle, butter brickle, peanut butter; this is a very nice bouquet that’s subtle yet commanding. Entry is sprightly in its spiritiness (seems higher than 42%), prickly even, but with melded, mature flavors of caramel and honey; midpalate shows a medium chewy texture and the taste profile suddenly turns drier than the entry, boasting the oak resins and acids more than the grain component. The wood intensity from 28 years eclipses the grains by too wide a margin. That said, there is enough quality here for a recommendation.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars3Recommended 

smooth-ambler7Smooth Ambler Old Scout American Whiskey
49.5% abv, $35.
Impeccably clean new copper color. I like the ripe, sweet rose, sweet red cherry-like, entirely atypical opening nose that’s friendly and inviting in its deeply fruit-like, almost ambrosial manner; more time in the glass urges a plum pudding-, mincemeat-like fragrance to take hold, making the later pastry-like stages pleasant. Entry mirrors the fruitiness of the aroma, adding woody, vanilla bean elements that enhance the cherry/berry components; midpalate is sound, solidly constructed, medium oily, drier than the fruity bouquet and seriously grainy. Finish highlights the grain density, spirit impact of the abv, and shift in flavor focus from fruit to oak and grain, making it a compelling ride from bottle opening to aftertaste.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Smooth Ambler Contradiction
A Blend of Straight Bourbon Whiskies
50% abv, $50.
Bright, shimmering bronze/ochre color; flawlessly clear of sediment. This opening aroma is subdued, a little flaxen-like, slightly beany; later inhalations pick up aridly dry notes of cotton fiber, burlap, and split pea. Entry is substantial on the palate, drier than I had anticipated, intensely woody/oaky/resiny; midpalate features more of the candy corn, caramel corn aspects that are true to the genre. Finishes in a flurry of oily texture, toasted corn-based, corn fritter, honey ham flavor.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Sonoma County Distilling Company
Black Truffle Rye Whiskey
50% abv, $80.
You got that right…this is rye whiskey flavored with black truffles…just go with it. Beautiful auburn/russet color is totally free of sediment. First nosing passes can’t help but pick up deeply earthy aromas of forest floor, moss, fungi, and, yes, black truffles that govern the frontline bouquet; later sniffs echo the opening findings, adding slim measures of brine, dill, black pepper, oak plank. Entry reflects the quintessential earthiness of the bouquet but the 50% abv pushes forward industrial flavors of truffle, wax, and cooking oil; midpalate reinforces the entry impressions that simply aren’t in the least savory or tasty, but rather raw, moldy, soil-like, and bitter. A bold experiment that didn’t work, period. So my parting thought is…don’t go with it.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstarNot Recommended

Sonoma County Distilling Company
Sonoma Rye Whiskey
48% abv, $55.
100% rye whiskey, comprised of unmalted Canadian rye and malted UK rye. Double distilled in pot stills. Deep topaz/sepia color; some very minor particle specks seen floating in the core. The opening aroma is a bit featureless and awkward as there is nothing of consequence to grip onto aromatically; secondary sniffs detect traces of black pepper, metals, lead pencil, carbon, burnt pineapple. Entry is pleasantly grainy and cereal-like, with soft hints of sweetness, baking spice (vanilla), and honey; midpalate echoes the entry, adding supplementary tastes of praline, almond paste/nougat. Aftertaste features a surprising bump in textural richness that nearly makes this rye recommendable. But there’s too much ground lost in the aromatic stages of the entry, for the midpalate and finish to recoup.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars-2Not Recommended 

Sonoma County Distilling Company
Cherrywood Rye Whiskey
47.8% abv, $55.
Creative mashbill is made up of unmalted Canadian rye, unmalted Canadian wheat, cherrywood smoked malted barley from Wyoming. Double distilled in pot stills. Lovely bronze/burnished orange color; pristine purity. Initially, I encounter mildly alluring scents of dried cherry/prune/black raisins that underscore a dry oakiness that’s almost roasted/toasted/charred; secondary whiffs encounter traces of seeds, grain kernel, old saddle leather, black peppercorn. Entry is fresh, acidic, dry to off-dry, raisiny, very cherrywood influenced; midpalate adds tasty flavors of sweetened cereal grain (Grapenuts especially), maple syrup, saltwater taffy, toasted marshmallow. Aftertaste is creamy, lush, bittersweet. Nice job with this one.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Sonoma County Distilling Company
2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey
47.1% abv, $55.
The mashbill contains unmalted Canadian wheat as the primary grain with malted rye from the UK. Double distilled in pot stills. Attractive 14-carat gold color; superb clarity. The opening flourish of aromas includes salted snack crackers, a bevy of dried herbs such as sage, parsley, cilantro, loose leaf tobacco, and Shredded Wheat cereal; secondary whiffs pick up an astringent dryness that’s akin to arid landscape/high desert. Entry mirrors the later stage nose as the acute astringency cleanses the palate first, then allows the biscuity, snack cracker flavor to dominate, with a slightly salty/saline twist that is supple, round, and creamy in texture; midpalate sees the 47.1% abv impact mostly in a warming of the palate that’s not searing or fiery but more smoldering-like and this gives the cereal graininess a chance to emit just a deft trace of sweetness as the midpalate transitions to the finish. A whiskey that gets better over the duration of the analysis.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars3Recommended
 

Sonoma County Distilling Company
West of Kentucky Bourbon No. 1
47.8% abv, $55.
Mashbill of unmalted yellow corn and unmalted Canadian rye, double distilled in pot stills. New copper color is deep and henna-like; flawless purity. There’s a definitive fruitiness to this opening aroma that’s similar to dried cherries or dried red plums and that makes for pleasing sniffing right from the start; later inhalations pick up oodles of baking spice, including allspice, clove, nutmeg in equal measure. Entry is dry at first and a touch inflammatory from the 47.8% abv, but the overall impression is of focused flavors of caramel corn, clove, rum ball candy, and baked cherry; midpalate stresses the baked fruit (cherry plus prune), sweet, spicy oak, and the orchestra of baking spices. Aftertaste is solid in structure, suddenly more bittersweet than dry, and just flat-out tasty.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Sonoma County Distilling Company
West of Kentucky Bourbon No. 2
47.5% abv, $55.
Mashbill of unmalted yellow corn and unmalted Canadian wheat, double distilled in pot stills. Palo cortado sherry-like auburn color is free of sedimentary particles and very attractive. First nosings detect dry to medium-dry aromas of parchment, beeswax, peanut, dry, unsweetened breakfast cereal; secondary inhalations find light touches of wood resins, sawdust, new leather, but little in the way of spice, candy, honey, or corn. Entry taste is such that I figure the wheat content to be sizeable on the mashbill as the initial taste reminds me of the 2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey and is atypical for a bourbon style; midpalate sips offer a bit more corn-based animation as the flavor profile gears up into a slightly sweeter mode that’s more fitting for bourbon. Aftertaste owns a harshness that affects the rating downward. I see good things coming in the next generation or two. Recommendable but could be better.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars3Recommended
 

Sonoma County Distilling Company
West of Kentucky Bourbon No. 3
46% abv, $55.
Mashbill of unmalted yellow corn and unmalted Canadian rye, double distilled in pot stills. Dark bronze color; I can see ribbons of oils floating in the core of this unblemished whiskey. I like the initial aromas of this whiskey as they are balanced between oakiness, graininess and spiciness in somewhat equal proportion; further aeration brings out leathery and tobacco leaf aspects that are earthy, substantial, and tending to dryness. Entry is decidedly sweeter and spikier than either No. 1 or No. 2, giving the front load flavor personality and intriguing depth of character; midpalate is round, buttery, slightly smoked, toasty, caramel-like, fudge-like, and keenly bittersweet. Finishes long, supple, spicy (cinnamon, allspice), biscuity, even a little bit honeyed.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars4Highly Recommended
 

St. George Single Malt Whiskey Lot# SMO16
43% abv, $90.
Wheat field/straw yellow color; excellent purity. The opening aroma is a dusty dry one-note song of malt-malt-malt, with little room left for anything else; secondary whiffs find a little more animation in the aromatic forms of baked potato, potato scone, old saddle leather, and chaff. Entry is nicely off-dry, cleansing, and biscuity, as the taste profile starts to fatten up becoming more shortbread (Walker’s especially) batter-like, buttery, and tangy/spicy; midpalate highlights the graininess and the overall effect is of a moderately sophisticated off-dry flavor that’s medium bodied, mildly oily, toasted, and cookie-like. Aftertaste features the shortbread aspect, which is pleasant and lithe.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars3Recommended 

Wyoming Whiskey Outryder
Bottled-in-Bond Straight American Whiskey
50% abv, $55.
Produced from Wyoming corn, rye, and malted barley; a marriage of two mashbills distilled in November 2011; all grains are non-GMO. Beautiful sepia/chestnut color; unblemished purity. Wow, I like this upfront, atypical aroma that’s a bit parchment-like, but is also grainy, oaky, stony/flinty, earthy and mushroomy; secondary whiffs pick up expanded scents of cedar plank, cigar box, pencils. Entry is delicately, yet compellingly spicy as the rye component really stands out in the early taste profile; midpalate flavor impact of the rye drops off as suddenly the stony/flinty aspect unearthed in the bouquet comes to dominate the flavor profile. Finishes breakfast cereal sweet and grainy once again. A bit of a rollercoaster ride and it’s that up-and-down feature that keeps it at Three Stars. That said, I see potential here.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars3Recommended
 

VODKA — INTERNATIONAL

 Doubleday Vodka (USA)
40% abv, $n/a.
Clean and clear as rainwater. Offers a pleasing grainy frontline nose that’s properly dry, snack cracker-like, and just a little bit peppery (black peppercorn); with more aeration the aroma gets serious as the highlights include wheat cracker, black pepper, toasted wheat bread. Entry is a bit sharp and edgy but is likewise pleasantly dry, acidic, and resiny/oily; midpalate features the arid, brittle, and flinty dryness found in the entry, along with a zestiness that’s spicy and tangy. Finishes long, desert dry, stony/flinty.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars3Recommended 

Effen Vodka (Holland)
40% abv, $30.
Reviewed last in 2003 and rated Four Stars. Flawless purity; colorless. First nosings encounter dry, deeply grainy/kernel-like aromas that are delicate and almost fruity; more time in the glass brings out a bit more of the beguiling citrus-like fruitiness. Entry is delightfully smooth, medium-bodied, slightly oily, tongue-on-stone dry, and a touch grainy; midpalate features the creamy texture that underpins the dry flavors of grain and snack crackers. Concludes long in the throat, complex, concentrated, and refined. Just as superb as it was in 2003. Buy.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars4Highly Recommended
 

Effen Blood Orange Vodka (Holland)
37.5% abv, $30.
Clear as spring water; colorless. First aromatic impressions are of light-fingered orange peel, orange pulp, with a smidgen of juiciness; later sniffs taken after more time in the glass offer bigger, rounder citrus/orange scent that’s nicely acidic yet ripe and juicy. Entry is citric acid sharp-edged, drying in the mouth, zesty and peel-like, authentic; midpalate highlights the orange zest aspect, making the taste profile significantly more bitter than that of the entry. Ends up acutely bitter, peel-like, piquant. I like this vodka a lot.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Effen Green Apple Vodka (Holland)
37.5% abv, $30.
Impeccable purity; void of color. Initial whiffs pick up very tart green apple skin aromas that are waxy and vinyl-like, with no hint at all of apple meat; following more aeration, the aroma turns a little more fruity while remaining pleasantly tart – hardly an apple sauce-like aroma but more akin to slightly under-ripe green apple. Entry is sweeter than the aroma suggests it would be and the texture is velvety and comforting in its thickness; midpalate highlights the tart, slightly bitter green apple flavor that’s supported by the now substantially oily texture. Concludes on a fruity, nearly juicy note of ripe green apple. Nice job here of maintaining the natural acidity of green apple while providing plenty of rich flavor.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

EFFEN-RaspberryEffen Raspberry Vodka (Holland)
37.5% abv, $30.
Unblemished clarity; no color whatsoever. My first inhalations detect a bramble-like/nettle aspect that’s as minty as it is vine-like, verdant, and wild; after a few more minutes of air contact, red raspberry fragrance emerges, supplying the olfactory sense with a pleasant berry perfume that’s true and genuine. Entry is richly textured, ripe, red raspberry-like to the nth degree yet pleasingly sour and acidic; midpalate keeps up with the intensity found in the entry, adding more powerful raspberry flavor that’s fresh, clean, and alluring deep into the fabulous finish.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation 

GIN INTERNATIONAL

 A. Smith Bowman Rye Expectations Gin (USA)
45% abv, $35/375 ml
Silvery clear and colorless. This curiously grainy, rye bread-like opening aroma is compelling, assertive, and smells of newly woven canvas, chickpea, and herbal ointment; the aromatic surprises continue after more aeration as the fragrance turns more in the direction of beans/legumes never once offering evidence of juniper. Entry features some juniper berry quality along with a fine-tuned citric acid thrust that underpins the canvas-like element; midpalate offers the most gin-like arguments of the evaluation as the juniper at last does emerge as a major player, eclipsing the rye grain/rye bread flavors that by this point have been dialed back. Finishes medium long, satiny and full in texture, with an orange zest finale that’s pleasing and satisfying. Totally different and captivating entry into the gin marathon race that’s growing by the minute.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Eden Mill Love Gin (Scotland)
42% abv, $40.
Owns a touch of pewter/tarnished silver shading; superb clarity. There’s an unequivocal aroma of grain spirit upfront and this bread-like/doughy fragrance is supported by more subtle scents of juniper, black peppercorn, poppy seed, anise, sage, and thyme; later inhalations after more air contact round out the bouquet with nuances of margarine, cooking oil, pecans. Entry is toasty, more spicy than herbal, piquant and the spirit level seems higher than 42% and that’s a plus; midpalate stage offers a taste profile that’s more dry than bitter or sweet, plus it’s toasty/roasted, keenly juniper-like and piney, with a background flash of citric acid. What occurs at midpalate carries over into the highly peasant finish. A gin with personality.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars4Highly Recommended 

Eden Mill Hop Gin (Scotland)
46% abv, $40.
Sports a flinty, greenish, straw yellow color; flawless purity. Wow, I like this deeply grainy, complex opening aroma, rife with flowery/orange blossom/muscat grape notes that are almost sweet and honeyed but not quite that far on the dryness/sweetness scale; following more aeration the bouquet unfolds even more spring garden-like perfume, especially honeysuckle and roses, as the juniper/pine aspect emerges with a burst of cedar forest presence. Entry is sap-like, intense, oily, piney, tree bark-like; midpalate goes peppermint bark-like, deeply herbaceous and botanical, but in a measured manner that allows all the elements to shine. Aftertaste is long, deliciously oily, supple, and memorable. Love it.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars-5Highest Recommendation 

Pine Barrens Barrel Reserve Finished Botanical Dry Gin (USA)
47% abv, $40.
Pale harvest corn yellow color from barrel aging; sediment-free purity. First nosings pick up piney, woody/resiny, foresty, bark-like aromas that are all over the gin map in terms of possibilities, with scant evidence of juniper as the sheer amount of botanicals used (28 according to the label) masks the main ingredient; secondary whiffs find the same situation, with the juniper buried beneath the weight of so many other aromas. Entry is a bit more juniper forward as the taste profile though crowded appears to be a bit more focused than the bouquet; midpalate features a pleasant compromise between the juniper and the other botanicals as the flavor reaches a plateau, pushed forward by the 47% abv, which in my mind saves the day for this gin. Concludes deeply, densely herbal, dry, earthy, woodsy, crowded.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars3Recommended 

Stirk’s Gin (The Exclusive Malts) (Scotland)
46% abv, $40.
Flax/golden hay yellow/gold color; very good, sediment free clarity. The subtlety of the first aromas is accentuated by the charming hint of pine forest — what it really reminds me of is Christmas morning and the first whiff of the tree; later inhalations detect more in the way of tree sap, delicate oak resins (this gin was cask matured in barrels that formerly held Speyside malt whisky). Entry does have a buttery texture that I’m certain comes from the oak barrel, but that’s not to say that the cedar aspect of the juniper is drowned out by it because it’s not; midpalate is creamy in the mouth, zesty, slightly acidic and therefore fresh, a bit toasty and egg cream-like while still herbal. Finishes long, supple, piquant, peppery. Nicely done and one of the better barrel-aged gins around.
Spirit Journal March 2017:
redstars4Highly Recommended

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