Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol Añejo
Sotol Añejo — Chihuahua, MexicoTastedRating: 13/23 E: Much (much!) lighter than Desert Door Aged. N: Interesting. This is more of mellow, light, standard tequila nose. But it smells good! I get a lot of the underlying spirit despite the substantial (2 year) age. It's sweet with some sort of rich (though not really full) caramel agave mixed with brined olives and sweet candied fruit (glace apricots, most prominently). The complexity is decent and in spite of the lightness, there is a delicate elegance that smells quite enticing. P: The palate is unfortunately not as sweet and delicious as the nose, though I do get the same flavors. What hits me first here is that the palate is lighter with a that usual sotol harsh spiciness along with bitter agave. As that starts to dissipate though, I get some light caramelized agave flavor bringing in some sweetness and then a little more richness and light, sweet apricot notes. There's a little bit of spearmint as well. It's a pretty good palate, but it doesn't strike me as anything amazing. F: The finish just kind of fades out to a greater extent than the Desert Door sotols did. The agave and apricot linger here though. The agave balances the light caramel and bitterness pretty well. The sotol's nose again deceived me and I'm left kind of disappointed by the palate and finish in comparison (though the finish does again come in to save the palate). I guess this is just how sotol is. I have to say that I kind of like this one. It's slightly interesting and has a bunch of good flavors. I'd like a lot more fullness and some more complexity, but it's a pretty decent sipper. I think I liked the aged Desert Doo'rs personality better, but this is certainly much more approachable. It actually reminds me a fair amount of Patron Anejo. It's good, but nothing amazing. I'm going to start this at a 13, but I have a bottle, so I'll rerate it later. And maybe I'll get a bottle of Desert Door Aged at some point.32.0 USD per Bottle
Desert Door Texas Sotol Oak Aged
Sotol Blanco — Texas, USATastedRating: 14/23 E: Surprisingly dark! Almost like a bourbon. N: Huh, this is very different from the unaged Desert Door Original's nose, and it isn't at all like what I expected. What hits me first is tons of turmeric, but it's still kind of sweet. Super dusty. With some vanilla. It opens up into more of a mellow tobacco (though not stale like in the unaged Desert Door). As I get through that, something bourbony with cinnamon and a creaminess comes out. There's a hint of the Garrison Brothers oversteeped-yet-sweet one-note woodiness. I even get a hint of fruit - maybe apples and bananas - if I dig hard enough. This is a unique and interesting nose, but it's not as challenging as the unaged Desert Door, which, frankly, I prefer in this case. P: Again, the palate is lighter with more more mineral and harshness than the nose, unfortunately. Quite thin. There's actually quite a bit going on here though and it coheres a lot better than the unaged Desert Door. Immediately, I'm not so impressed as the harsh spiciness hits. It carries some bitter wood that definitely tastes like chips left in the spirit for too long, but there's also some interesting spices. I get turmeric, vanilla, a bit of cinnamon, and maybe a dash of nutmeg. And there's a weird sweetness to the spices, sort of like the one that really threw me for a loop in Yuu Baal Pechuga. Eventually, the fruits actually open up. I do get some vegetable in here, but it's more on the dry, herbal side, not rotting at all. I certainly get banana, and I also get apple. There's even a faint hint of chocolate in Garrison Brothers. I can't say that I'm a big fan of most of this palate, but it mellows out as it goes on and (surprisingly) gets richer and more interesting too. F: This is maybe the high point. The richness of the sweet spices, vanilla, and bit of fruit lingers. Wafts of turmeric come through, but they certainly aren't overwhelming. There's some tobacco here and long into the finish it becomes kind of stale, but maybe that is just fitting? I'm not really sure to what extent this benefits from the higher proof than Desert Door Original. It's richer at times, but it isn't fuller and it's still pretty thin on the palate. The complexity is pretty solid though with an interesting profile that I generally like well enough and flavors that actually cohere. Desert Door Original is certainly more complex, but not in a way that is really good. This really benefits from that Texas bourbon character - very fitting! I think that the higher proof must be to compensate for some loss in impact from the aging though because I could not have told you that this was higher proof than the unaged Desert Door (bottled at 40%). Both could benefit from a higher bottling proof. I'm looking in the 12 to 15 range for this one, with 12 and 15 both being unlikely. I'm going with 14 because of the nice complexity and interesting flavor. I might buy this for the right price. If only it were a bit less harsh and thin.47.0 USD per Bottle
Desert Door Texas Sotol Original
Sotol Blanco — Texas, USATastedRating: 10/23 N: It's quite rich and full. It's not sweet. I get a lot of vegetative funk mixed with aged tobacco and some minerals. There's something a bit tart in a slightly rancid (but not bad way). Briny olive, perhaps? There's something musty that I can't quite place but that reminds me of that vegetal funk in rhum agricole just a bit. A trace of old socks. Overall, it reminds me a bit of Fortaleza Blanco and also of mezcal. P: The palate has a lot more mineral to it than I'd expected. It's quite bitter too. It has the stale tobacco flavor like if you just licked an ashtray. I really don't like how there's this harsh and slightly numbing spiciness at the beginning, though I do get some cinnamon out of it. I get a hint of olive brine but not too much. I really don't like how the palate is so much lighter than the nose because of the increased minerality. After a few minutes, the palate becomes more floral and a more clear musty, moldy paper flavor comes out that reminds me a little bit of my bottle of Centenario Reposado. I can't say I like this palate, unfortunately. It may be an acquired taste, but I'm finding it to be very challenging. F: The stale tobacco and mineral flavors are at the fore, with the rhum agricole squash funkiness remaining as well. The olive brine is essentially (or maybe entirely) gone. I get some floral notes. There's some hint of tropical fruit (pineapple) deep into the finish. The moldy paper mustiness lingers for a long time. This is a really interesting experience. I can't say I really like it, but it was worth trying and it might be a good example of its category (honestly, I have no idea). The minerality lightens the palate in a way that is disappointing after the nose is so rich and full, really bringing down the experience. I'm sure glad I didn't buy a full bottle. There's a lot going on, but it's a cacophony. I think I'd appreciate this more if I had more and I bet I could find a decent cocktail for it. I was thinking 8 to 12 and I think I'm landing on 10.37.0 USD per Bottle
Balcones True Blue Tequila cask finish
Single Malt — Texas , USATastedRating: 19/23 What an interesting concept! Tequila and mezcal finishes are exceedingly rare for reasons that I don't really understand. This ups the ante on the tequila finish though by starting with a corn whiskey rather than a malt or bourbon. Oh, make that BLUE corn! So, it's a very bold concept and I'm deathly curious about how it's worked out. N: It's quite a sweet nose with the agave front and center. I get a somewhat musty and lightly dusty vegetation at the front with a big ol' dose of vanilla, lightly wrapped in a maple sweetness. The vegetation doesn't smell rancid or obtrusive in any way and brings in a nice bit of bitterness to balance the whole thing out. There is also, of course, a moderately amount of corn from the base distillate coming out of the dustiness and a definite ethanol presence - though less ethanol than one would expect for a cask strength offering that had barely been aged over a year. The nose as a whole makes me think of a combination of 4 spirits: Balcones Single Malt, Balcones Baby Blue, Clase Azul Reposado, and Don Julio 1942. Considering that, I'd say that Balcones absolutely nailed the marriage of blue corn, tequila, and the Balcones signature taste. The vegetal flavor combined with the general rich sweetness and moderate youth makes me think of the Clase Azul. The dust and big vanilla says Dun Julio. The light, yet slightly funky, dusty corn and mild ethanol represent the blue corn. The sweet maple that pervades Balcones Single Malt really ties it together as an aged Balcones offering. The balance is excellent and the profile is quite interesting. I wouldn't say it's an amazingly complex nose, but it's quite solid. I hope that the palate and finish hold up to the high expectations the nose has set. P: Wow, this is quite something! The tequila flavors hit first with the sweet vanilla and vegetal agave front and center. For a moment, it just tastes like a less sweet Clase Azul Reposado. Then, the musty, dusty wood and grain come in. There's a brief segment where it mostly just burns and is light, but then the dustiness comes back and transitions rapidly from grain to a big cinnamon woodiness and the dram briefly tastes like nothing but a loud, cinnamony bourbon. As I move on to the second sip, the various parts harmonize together more and the journey is less of a roller coaster. There's a bit more bitterness to the vegetation and I'm detecting a really nice tangerine (more on the orange side than the apricot side) note. It took me a minute to identify what it made me think of, but I'm now pretty sure that it's a flavor that I most often get from Irish whiskey. It reminds me a little of the high proof and citric tartness of Redbreast 12 Cask Strength mixed with the sweet, juicy apricot that's in Yellow Spot or maybe even one of the older (16 or 21) Bushmill's. The high proof makes the tangerine quite assertive. It's mouth watering, but also a bit immature tasting as a result because the proof seems to make up a large component of the flavor. Oddly, it reminds me of when I tried Aberlour 12 side by side with Scallywag. The Aberlour had a smoother, but more subdued fruitiness, whereas the Scallywag was more lively, but its fruit was less fully flavored on its own (before including the alcohol bite). It took me a while to decide that I slightly preferred the Aberlour because both were quite tasty profiles. That's a long way of saying that this is the Scallywag and that isn't a bad thing. F: The finish is surprisingly dry. The main flavors here are that rich Clase Azul vegetation (without the sweetness) and a substantial bitter vanilla presence, a lot like if you licked the measuring spoon after pouring vanilla extract into your chocolate chip cookie dough. It's hard to stress enough just how much vanilla is in here, at least for a brief period. There's a big waft of ethanol that melds just a bit with the vanilla in a delightful way that kind of makes me think of a really nice vodka. Late in the finish, the vegetation and vanilla calm down enough for a mellow musty, dusty wood to emerge. This is an easy 17, but I think that a 20 is pushing it. It's tough to rate this because there isn't really anything else I can reasonably compare it with. The complexity here is very good and the balance works in a weird way that feels like a little push one way or the other could send it tumbling. In this expression at least though, the balance certainly works. It kind of takes some of the best elements of Clase Azul Reposado and Don Julio 1942 and stitches them onto a Balcones foundation. And somehow, this is mostly a great success. For that reason, I'm landing on a 19. In terms of pricing, this would be well worth grabbing at $100 or maybe $120, considering the proof. An intriguing and delightful dram!
Bitter Liqueurs — GreeceTastedAnother quick sip here. I'd never had ouzo before so I wanted to give this a try, but I didn't have much of an opportunity to contemplate. I was surprised by how sweet this was. It isn't overwhelmingly sweet, but it definitely tastes like it has sugar syrup. The body is quite viscous and flavors of anise (definitely more on the spicy, floral side rather than deeply bitter like black licorice), a bit of clove, something kind of rich, and lots of old, musty books. The flavor is very challenging, but not all bad. The biggest problem is that there's a wormwood presence (flavor-wise, this is fine) that numbs my palate. It's certainly not as numbing as absinthe, but it doesn't take a whole lot to dull my sense of taste substantially. Between the numbing and the excessive sweetness, I don't really like the sipping experience here. I'm tempted to also criticize the lack of complexity, though I suspect that I could get a lot more out given more time, though the numbing might prevent me. The musty book flavor is weird, but interesting and I kind of dig it. I'm skeptical of this as a sipper and I have no idea what to use it as a mixer in (suggestions appreciated!), but I'm open to changing my mind (mainly for the latter, not so much as a sipper given that it's numbing). Right now, this is somewhere in the thumbs down territory.
Genever — NetherlandsTastedI'd never tried genever before, so I wanted to try this. It was much more challenging than I'd expected. The smell and flavor strongly remind me of grappa, with some rhum agricole characteristics as well. I get musty juniper and a hint of apricot. It's actually quite complex and interesting to contemplate. I'm not sure how much I actually like the flavor though. But considering that I don't like grappa, this is perhaps a big success. Considering how interesting it is and contrasting that with its similarity to grappa, I give it a tentative thumbs up. Real tasting to come when I have a better chance to taste an analyze it.
Plymouth Gin — EnglandTastedI was curious to try this legendary gin, so I took a couple of sips. It's much sweeter than I'd expected and it's also fruitier. There's not a ton of juniper, but there is a surprisingly large prickly, spicy element. There's some clear minerality as well. I'd like to try this side-by-side with Ford's, which seems like the closest parallel I can think of. This isn't terribly strongly flavored and the flavors smoosh together a bit (but I've just been making some strongly flavored soup, so my palate could be way off). I like this, but I'll need to give it a proper tasting to make a call on whether I really like this. Well, at least if I like it enough to say it's worth the price. Based on this tasting, I give it a thumbs up, though not the most enthusiastic one.
Bitter Liqueurs — ItalyTastedQuick take on a couple of sips. It reminds me of a sweeter, fruitier (a bit of maraschino cherry especially), watered-down version of Campari. It seems like it would be good with some soda water (and wouldn't you know it, it recommends that on the back), but I'm skeptical that it will be a good substitute for Campari in a stronger cocktail that relies on fullness of flavor. It's not something that I would call either conclusively good or conclusively bad, but I'm leaning toward a thumbs down here. A spritzer may well change my mind though.
Coffee Liqueurs — MexicoTastedRating: 15/23 N: Sour, funky, rich, mature, complex, sweet. It's sort of like a deeply sherried (mainly PX) malt whiskey. I get this roasted coffee scent with dark (70%) chocolate. The fruits are dark cherries, plums, raisins, blackberries. I smell the tart rich alcohol. This isn't incredibly complex, but it is substantially more complex than regular, modern Kahlúa. It's very much on the hedonistic side. P: Sour, bitter, sweet, rich, old. Very interesting, there's a bit of a fermented flavor, sort of like kombucha, but also some really nice medium roast coffee with some amazing rich qualities. I get roasted coffee beans and 70% dark chocolate. The fruits cIt kind of makes me think of rich, well-aged scotch like Glenfarclas 25 but it's more like some of that Kavalan Soloist Port Cask richness with its sweetness and tartness that makes you need to drown it in water to avoid being consumed. It's surprisingly complex with a fascinating character that makes it great to sip slowly. The flavor isn't as heavy-handed as that of a fresh bottle of Kahlúa or Kahlúa Especial. It's much more complex and interesting. This is still very sweet, but less aggressively so and far more balanced. F: The bit of rough, chalky sugar does linger. The complexity isn't as great here, but there's still a nice balance of dark fruits and those chocolate and coffee flavors. The aged alcohol tartness that reminds me so much of Kavalan Soloist port is substantially reduced. As for the fruits, I get dark cherry primarily now and not really much else. It's still a pretty nice finish. This is more complex than Kahlúa Especial, with a higher quality rum flavor to its base and a nice sour coffee on the light side of a medium roast. I'd give it the edge over regular Kahlúa as well with its fascinating character, complexity, rich depth, restrained syrupiness, and lack of that overwhelming confectioner's sugar character. I'd say that this is a huge improvement and while it isn't amazing, it is fascinating to analyze and contemplate. It's tough to guess what the original flavor was since this has actually been opened for something like 30 years (probably more, actually), but it tastes good now and I have little hope of finding an unopened bottle, so I have to rate based on what I have. I'm thinking of starting around a 15. Maybe it doesn't quite deserve that, but maybe it's even better. I'm guessing it's a 14 to 17. 15 and 16 seem most likely.
Coffee Liqueurs — MexicoTastedRating: 10/23 I didn't expect to be writing more about this so soon, but I'm really trying to nail down ratings for Kahlúa Especial and the ~30 year old bottle of Kahlúa that I found at my parents' house. N: Sweet, roasted, spicy. There's a little bit of rum toffee and funk as well. The roasted spices are actually really nice though, like smelling some nicely roasted arabica coffee beans. P: It's a chocolatey coffee flavor that is quite sweet, has hints of rum, and is plagued by this rough, confectioner's sugar chalkiness. It actually tastes OK, but that chalkiness is pretty unpleasant. F: There's definitely some of that chalky, rough sweetness sticking around. There's some spiciness left and a tad of roasted flavor, along with a hint of rum, but mostly it's just sweet chalkiness. This would be a lot better if they'd just cut back the sugar and cranked up the coffee a bit. It's actually pretty good mixed with Appleton Estate 12 in a 1:1 ratio because the mature, bitter rum flavor is very well balanced with the coffee, chocolate, and sweetness. Adding more alcohol helps to hide the chalkiness and makes this a lot more drinkable. Using vodka instead, the coffee shows through more, but it does taste watered down. Still, the chalkiness is diminished substantially at a 1:1 ratio and is even less apparent at 1:2. If just a dash of coffee liqueur is needed, I wouldn't worry about using this because of the confectioner's sugar element, but I would be hesitant because of its general sweetness. For something like a tiramisu, this should be totally fine. Although this has issues with its sugar, it at least generally tastes like sweetened dark roast coffee. That isn't true of Kahlúa Especial. The allegedly more premium line of Kahlúa trades a huge reduction in the rough sugar for a big increase in rum flavor. I could see why this might be considered an improvement if the rum were good, but unfortunately, it isn't. The rum has the rough youthfulness of Plantation Xaymaca without the intriguing complexity - and it's a poor match for a coffee liqueur either way. Whereas regular Kahlúa tastes like coffee augmented with rum (and way too much sugar for sipping), Kahlúa Especial tastes like (bad) rum augmented with coffee liqueur. In comparing the two, what it comes down to for me is that one tastes enough like coffee that I can fairly easily use it as a coffee liqueur, whereas the other tastes more like cheap, young rum. For this reason, I have to rate regular Kahlúa above Kahlúa Especial. Neither, however, is at all on the same level as that ancient bottle I unearthed at my parents' house. That bottle is more complex and less aggressively sweet than a modern bottle of regular Kahlúa (due to a combination of age and a higher ABV, I imagine). It still has some of that rough chalkiness, but it isn't nearly as bad as in regular Kahlúa and I can forgive it to a fair extent because of its better flavor. The old Kahlúa tastes more like light or medium roast coffee and it has this syrupy richness that is sweet, astringent, and bitter in a way that reminds me of Kavalan Soloist Port. I wouldn't call it a really excellent bottle and it doesn't really taste as much like coffee as regular Kahlúa does, but it's the only Kahlúa that I feel like I could sip on a cool winter evening. OK, so the summary here is this: ~ 30 year old Kahlúa >> regular Kahlúa > Kahlúa Especial I think I'll be going with a 10 for this, but I can imagine dropping it to a 9 or raising it to an 11. That chalkiness is a real problem, so it won't be getting a 12, but it is still sweet enough to use in certain applications, but I have to imagine that I can buy better coffee liqueur from another producer. Kahlúa Especial is at least a point behind it because it is harder to find an application for since the low quality rum flavor shows through so strongly. It could be 2 points behind, so expect a 7 to 9 for that one. The excavated bottle is more like a 16, though it might be less generally useful as a coffee liqueur given its strange flavor and subtlety.12.0 USD per Bottle