That woman at the bar searching for gems off the beaten path.

  1. St. Elder Natural Elderflower Liqueur

    Floral Liqueurs — USA

    3.75 out of 5 stars
    This review for St. Elder Natural Elderflower Liqueur follows my previous review for the original, St. Germain. Let’s see how it stacks up in comparison: Country of Origin: United States ABV: 20% Price: $16.99 Nose: Sweet, with a dulled brightness. This quite a bit lighter than St. Germain. Fruity and floral, but lacks depth, density, and the green, “leafy” note of the St. Germain. This has a sweetness reminiscent of a light agave syrup and leans more towards canned peaches and faint citrus. Palate: Sweet, bright, and fruity, with more muted floral notes. Where St. Germain feels silky and syrupy, this has a soft and velvety mouthfeel. I don’t know what the base spirit is, but I detect a bit of dull graininess. As with the nose, this has more agave-like character rather than honey. It’s not as dense nor layered as St. Germain – it’s a fairly one-note peachy-citrusy-floral affair. Finish: Short and sweet finish, with the faintest bit of citrusy bitterness as it trails off. Verdict: Not bad by any means but St. Elder doesn’t quite rise to the same level of greatness as St. Germain. I find myself missing the depth and richness of St. Germain as the St. Elder doesn’t have as many facets to display. I think this would make a fine stand-in for St. Germain as a mixer, and it would save you about $10 as well. That said, it’s really no contest between the two, particularly when tasting neat. 3.75 ~ Very Good
    17.0 USD per Bottle
  2. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

    Floral Liqueurs — France

    4.25 out of 5 stars
    Continuing with the French theme, I’ve moved on to another side-by-side tasting of liqueurs: St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and St. Elder Natural Elderflower Liqueur. It’s a little early in the year to be diving into summery spritzes, but it’s been unseasonably warm lately. First up is the St Germain: Country of Origin: France ABV: 20% Price: $22.99 Nose: Dense, sweet, and heady. Lots of syrupy canned lychee, honey, and some grape and orange leaves. Fruity, floral, and fragrant. Palate: Very light in mouthfeel but syrupy in texture (if you can imagine resolving those two). Intensely sweet, with more lychee, citrus, and floral notes. Very easy drinking given the low proof. Finish: Medium-short. It has a candy-like fruity sweetness, like this was made by macerating a bag of Original Skittles in eau-de-vie. Verdict: For starters (and this has nothing to do with the actual tasting which I try to avoid), but I will say the bottle design looks very classy on the shelf. So as far as presentation, right off the bat, the extra ~$8 gets you a big step up in appearance. Second, while this is excellent neat, it’s also excellent as a mixer – it’s the originator and makeover specialist of many a cocktail. Thirdly, it’s delicious – it handily fills the depth-of-flavor role and it’s easily drinkable when you don’t want to think about it much. 4.25 ~ Excellent
    23.0 USD per Bottle
  3. G.W. Goodwynn Co. Classic Gin

    London Dry Gin — France

    3.5 out of 5 stars
    This is the second of a side-by-side tasting of two French gins: Esmé, and the gin at hand, G.W. Goodwynn Co. Classic Gin (gotta be honest, that does not sound very French…). Which one will come out on top? Here’s a quick rundown of what I could find out about Goodwynn’s Classic Imported Gin: Style: London Dry Gin Country of Origin: France Disclosed Botanicals: juniper, citrus, coriander, cucumber ABV: 40% (100% neutral grain from unknown grains) Price: $22.99 Nose: Also very light. If my bottle of Empress 1908 is at volume 10, this is around a 4. Again, juniper is predominant but muted. There’s faint lemon zest and a floral quality. Suspiciously similar to the Esmé. Palate: Again, light bodied but the mouthfeel feels slightly less creamy. Lots of juniper, less lemon peel, bits of cucumber, and faint floral notes. Bright, fruity, and floral. Finish: Medium length with lots of juniper, a bit of ginger, and a floral note that becomes more rosy as it lingers. Verdict: This is very similar as far as taste and botanicals to the Esmé gin. It’s like someone took Esmé, turned the dials up a bit here, and down a bit there, and bottled it as Goodwyn. In fact, that maybe exactly what this is. The lemon comes across as less soapy in the this dram, but again, my personal preference is to not use lemon in gin-based cocktails so I’d be at a loss for what to use this with (I’m open to suggestions; I’m more of a grapefruit and/or orangey gal when it comes to gin). This isn’t much better than the Esmé, but at least it doesn’t suffer from all the soap. This falls into that “might be worth trying but wouldn’t buy a bottle” category. 3.5 ~Above Average (but not by much)
    23.0 USD per Bottle
  4. ESMÉ

    Distilled Gin — France

    3.25 out of 5 stars
    I thought it would be interesting to compare two French gins with the same ABV, similar price point, and similar botanical make up – that screams side-by-side opportunity to me. I feel a little hoodwinked though because I thought they were both distilled gins; the Esmé is a distilled gin while apparently the G.W. Goodwynn is a London Dry Gin. So slightly less comparable, but it could still be informative to see which comes out on top. Here’s a quick rundown of what I could find out about Esmé: Style: Distilled Gin Country of Origin: France Disclosed Botanicals: juniper, citrus, spice (ok, so they’re not really disclosed); infusions of rose and cucumber ABV: 40% (100% neutral grain spirit from French winter wheat) Price: $22.99 Nose: Very light. So light I grabbed my bottle of Empress 1908 to check my sensitivity. If Empress 1908 is at volume 10, this is like 3. Juniper is predominant but very muted; there’s floral and citrus but it is buried in there. Palate: Oh, there it is! Light bodied and creamy mouthfeel. A quick succession of juniper, lemon peel, cucumber water, and rose petals. Crisp, fruity and floral, faint earth. Not getting much in the way of spice. Finish: Medium length with a bit of spice and a very prominent rose aftertaste that transitions to long lasting juniper. Verdict: I liked this at first, probably because I was surprised there was any flavor in the dram after the disappointing nose. Then, as I kept sipping, the lemon became more soapy. There may be no lemon peels in the mix whatsoever, but I am getting a lot of lemon dish soap now. Additionally, I think this is way too delicate to stand up to mixing. And I could be wrong, but I don’t know how well that lemon dish soap would play in cocktails. Probably best to try this neat if you’re looking for a lemon-forward sipping gin but I'd say look elsewhere for a mixer (unless you have ideas for this - if so, let me know below!). 3.25 ~ Average
    23.0 USD per Bottle
  5. Ron Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva Rum

    Aged Rum — Venezuela

    4.25 out of 5 stars
    When is the best time to try rum? Apparently after warming up with some cask strength Glen Moray - this Ron Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva Rum doesn’t seem overly sweet at all now. I’m only a dabbler in rum - rum probably takes fourth or fifth billing to whisk(e)y depending on my mood and which rum is at hand. But considering this bottle has been languishing a bit, it seemed like good time to revisit it. Nose: Dark, syrupy molasses, butterscotch, sage, and bitter orange peels. Funky fruit like baked bananas and roasted nuts. Little bit of clove and gingerbread. Palate: Rich and bold, but very sweet. Lots of nice qualities from the nose transferring over. Dark toffee and butterscotch, roasted sage and herbs, funky banana bread, oily vanilla, and a nice kick of ginger and spice. Hints of licorice, orange zest, and wood. Great mouthfeel, texture, and delivery. Finish: The only let down of an otherwise fairly impressive dram. It’s just a bit too short. Dominated by a funky sweetness trailing off into zesty fruit and baking spice. Verdict: Yeah it’s sweet and I’d love to see it with less added sugar. But everything else is excellent and it’s dangerously easy to drink. Best to serve this as an after dinner dram. Coming from someone who is used to shelling out for single malts, an easily obtainable 12 year rum for under $40 and at this level of quality and complexity is unbeatable. Recommended in the place of a dessert or digestif. 4.25 ~ Excellent
    38.0 USD per Bottle
  6. Oregon Spirit Bourbon

    Bourbon — Bend, Oregon, USA

    2.75 out of 5 stars
    Oregon Spirit Straight American Bourbon is produced in Bend, Oregon by Oregon Spirit Distillers, a proud "grain to glass" craft operation that opened up in 2009. They source their grains locally and mash, ferment, distill, and age on-site in charred, new American oak barrels. I previously reviewed Oregon Spirit Wheat Whiskey - I ran into these guys while traveling through the Northwest over the holidays. Mash Bill: Undisclosed, but described as a four-grain bourbon with "100% locally sourced” corn, wheat, malt barley, and rye Age: 4 years ABV: 47% Price: $36.99 Nose: I am little surprised it took me this long to place the nose but when sampling spirits, setting is everything. Now that I’ve identified it, it’s unmistakable – this smells strongly of earth and juniper. If I didn’t know any better, I would suspect I might be smelling an aged gin. Skimming through other reviews, I see this bourbon described in polarizing ways – I suspect that the gin-like nose on this dram is unexpected and offputting to many. It’s woody, creamy, earthy, and strongly evergreen with the juniper. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever smelled in bourbon before. Palate: Sweet and silkily bodied. I know “smooth” as a descriptor is the bane of the whisky drinker’s world, but this is smooth, consistent, and lacks the waxing and waning of flavors many spirits have. Creamy juniper with some vaguely sweet corn and floral notes. No heat, no surprises. Finish: Softly sweet and junipery. Very mild oak char. Verdict: My goodness, how do I rate this? As an aged gin, it would probably stack up very well. I almost find that a laughable prospect considering no botanicals have been macerating in this. It’s just 4 grains, yeast, local water, and charred wood. As a classic bourbon, it is less successful in that role. Since I’ve tried their wheat whiskey and got notes of anise, fennel, and some earthy funk, I’m going to guess the juniper note is coming their local rye but I have no way of corroborating that since I haven’t tried their rye. In any case, as a very odd yet drinkable bourbon, I have to give it…. 2.75 ~ 74 ~ Below Average Now to find some gin-centric cocktails for this guy… 😜
    37.0 USD per Bottle
  7. Glen Moray 2002 Cask Strength 13 Year (Alexander Murray & Co.)

    Single Malt — Speyside, Scotland

    3.0 out of 5 stars
    I could be wrong, but I'm fairly certain I haven't reviewed any independent bottlings yet, which means I have my work cut out for me because I have a LOT of independent bottlings to work through. My overly generic quick take on independent bottlings is this: the distiller either has too much stock on hand (how often does that happen nowadays?), or the cask doesn't fit their typical profile and they are willing to offload. Up for review is Alexander Murray & Co.'s 2002 Glen Moray 13 Year Cask Strength.* It's bottled at 53.4% ABV, it says it’s aged in ex-bourbon casks, it looks to be the same hue as most other Alexander Murray & Co. E150a-drenched whiskies, and I'm going with chill-filtered due to the absence of substantial mist with the addition of water (I’ve pushed this one really far with various water ratios and got a very faint cloudiness at the far end of that spectrum). I've never tried Glen Moray's offerings before (sadly, the 12 year is nowhere to be found nearby) so I am not familiar with the distillery's preferred style. How did I end up with this bottle then? Well for $35/bottle, how could I not give this guy a try to see if it's worth stocking up on before it disappears? Nose: At full strength, it's restrained and very sweet. Almost white sugar sweet. Doughy white bread, but there's a sour note that comes across as a hybrid between white sandwich bread, and a bland sourdough. Dry grass. The bourbon cask influence is apparent, but because of the ABV, it comes across as a muted vanilla and creaminess. However, this next note took me a bit to unravel (and bear with me) - while it certainly has a faint orchard fruit scent to it, this note seems to pair up with the tart, soured cream note to give it a "burped up" milk odor. I know. It's strange. But that it what it smells like. It’s not a wildly offensive note, but then again you’re reading the thoughts of someone who thinks burning plastic, new bicycle tires, tennis balls, and ash can be appropriately pleasing notes when found in the right dram. With a splash, it’s still essentially sweet white bread with fruity and floral notes. The “burped up” milk odor separates a bit to reveal artificial white grape, overripe white peach, and miscellaneous semi-rotting stone fruits (white nectarines, white plums, etc.) with unsweetened, plain yogurt. Palate: Sweet, sour, and crisp as the nose suggests. Medium-bodied. Doughy white bread with lots of oak, but the oak is surprisingly well-integrated here and stays taunt and creamy rather than bitter, dry, or astringent. The sugary sweetness comes across as a blend of refined white and turbinado sugars. Overly sweet sugar cookies with a dusting of the aforementioned sugar blend on top. There is a wallop of heat. I have to try to look past the “burp up” note at full proof. With water, this softens up but it is still a sweet dram. More doughy white bread, plain yogurt, and a tart, overripe fruit salad note (like it sat in the heat too long). Finish: Without water, the finish is a sweet burn with creamy, charred oak. With a splash, the fruity and floral notes come out a bit and can linger. The oak is nicely balanced – that is probably the most pleasantly surprising and pleasing facet of this dram. Verdict: They say don’t judge a whisky by its neck pour. Well I didn’t – I waited until I got through a good chunk of the bottle. I may be rushing this review out the door a bit since I’m not halfway through the bottle but others might be wondering if it’s worth picking up or not. There were definitely some odd notes, but considering how well-integrated the oak was, I am curious if this might evolve into something special with some more time and oxygen. When I initially tried it, I don’t think it would have cracked 3 stars but it has improved with some limited time to oxidize. At this time, if you happen to see this on shelves for $35 or less, it might be worth grabbing a bottle to let it sit and oxidize. Maybe you will find something different. But I don’t think I will risk stocking up. I will update my review if it changes substantially over the next few months. 3.0 ~ Average *Also, I would like to point out that this is a 2002 vintage aged 13 years...by my count that probably means it was bottled in 2015 and has sat around in a warehouse for 5ish years. Maybe they were waiting for the market for average, competitively priced single malt to expand? Post-tariffs, this seems about right as I have only seen this pop up recently and the other 2 reviews here seem new as well. And, since we were talking corks the other day, I will say this has a natural cork which when I opened it, it was not as tight as something that would have been bottled more recently (it wasn’t loose, it just wasn’t especially snug). I let it rest on its side after discovering that and it filled out nicely.
    35.0 USD per Bottle
  8. Pendleton Midnight Canadian Whisky

    Canadian — Canada

    1.75 out of 5 stars
    Following my review for the standard Pendleton comes this review for Pendleton Midnight Canadian Whisky. It's mostly the same juice except a portion of the whisky was aged in brandy barrels. Let's see if it fairs any better. Nose: Like its predecessor, still too much of the sweet solvents, though not to the degree you might expect since the ABV is bumped up to 45% here. It's more fruity. Starfruit (never gotten that note in a whisk(e)y before) and musty bubblegum. Still too much alcohol burn. Palate: Light-bodied, with a slightly more classy variety of cloying, artificial sweetness. Non-descript fruitiness, vanilla, and spice. Finish: Short but once again, that familiar, unpleasant aftertaste lingers for too long. Bitter, vanilla-grape cough syrup with some green pepper. Verdict: This is another "no" from me. While slightly more tolerable than the standard issue, this is still not good and the aftertaste is really off-putting to me. 1.75 ~ Poor
    25.0 USD per Bottle
  9. Pendleton Blended Canadian Whisky

    Canadian — Canada

    1.5 out of 5 stars
    Around the holidays, folks at the office like to do a white elephant gift exchange. There's one gift in particular that has made an appearance every year for the past couple of years: a bottle of bubblegum-flavored vodka that some poor soul trudges home with every year, only to have to hang on to it for ~365 days for the opportunity to re-gift it to another unsuspecting soul the following year. This Pendleton Blended Canadian Whisky may give that bubblegum vodka a run for its money. Nose: Oh dear, does that odor bring me back to my days in the lab. Smells like a malfunctioning fume hood. Sweet, lab-grade ethanol with some diethyl ether mixed in. Sticky note adhesive. Vanilla extracted with acetone. Very dilute caramel and artificial maple syrup. For only being 40% ABV, I think I might get high from huffing this. Palate: Ouch. Light-bodied, cloying, artificially sweet, vanilla buttercream-flavored glue. Finish: Not mercifully short enough. The initial wave of artificial sweetness passes quickly, but an unpleasant aftertaste like vanilla-flavored cough syrup hangs around for much too long. Verdict: This is not good. Do not pass "Go", do not collect $200. I wouldn't recommend this as a mixer. I wouldn't wish this on someone as a white elephant "gift" - in fact, I think I may pour this out. 1.5 ~ Very Poor
    20.0 USD per Bottle
  10. Green Spot Single Pot Still

    Single Pot Still — Ireland

    4.25 out of 5 stars
    There are lots of things that I should be doing tonight instead of sipping whiskey and writing an entry in my whisk(e)y journal. But, it’s been a slog at work this week, there have been construction crews excavating some sort of pit outside my home into the wee hours of the morning (my God, the noise pollution!), and I’ve decided I deserve something proven to be delicious for a change of pace. I’ve been a member of Distiller for many months now, but it has come to my attention this evening that while I loyally love Irish whiskey, I have yet to post any reviews of one of my beloved Irish drams. We all have stories and explanations for why we love distilled spirits the way that we do. So I guess since I’m procrastinating tonight, I will elaborate a bit on mine. (Feel free to skip to the part of this post where I actually review some whiskey.) What would eventually become my love of Irish whiskey (and later Scotch) evolved out of a love for artisan root beer as a minor many, many years ago. I was a root beer snob growing up, always picking apart their characteristics and searching for something new to try. But, as I outgrew the all too frequent sweetness of root beer and acquired an obsession with spice, I morphed into a ginger beer snob. Later, when I was of legal drinking age and everyone else was chugging various (disgusting) forms of vodka cranberry, vodka juice, vodka yuck, etc., it was suggested to me that I try a Moscow Mule. Needless to say, I’m not a big fan of Moscow Mules (nor vodka). But, in trying to find other mixed drinks that would work with my love of ginger beer, I came across Irish Mules. What began with naive experimentation with Jameson and ginger beer evolved into a hunt for better quality Irish mixers and eventually landed me in the esteemed (or elitist?) paradise of Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey. Which all these years later brings me to this delicious bottle of triple distilled, Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey. I think everyone is familiar with the story of the Mitchell family and how they added daubs of colored paint on the casks to mark the various ages of whiskey inside, so I will spare you all a recitation of that. Let’s get on with some review details! Age: NAS (but reportedly 7-10 years) Cask Type: A blend of ex-bourbon (first-fill and refill casks) and some ex-sherry ABV: 40% Price: $49.99 Nose: Creamy, sweet, and fruity. Rich, decadent French pastries (croissants, brioche, etc.). Buttery toffee, cream cheese, peach-apricot jam, and orange marmalade. D’Anjou pears, apple pie, and neroli oil. Hints of strawberry, Ceylon cinnamon, lemon zest, and raw walnuts. Given the ABV and triple-distillation, it is on the lighter side, but there are plenty of layers to uncover if you’re willing to go diving. Palate: Light-bodied yet rich. The nose transfers but is slightly more muted by comparison. Oily butter, breakfast cereal, honey, and dainty vanilla essence. There’s some green banana on the palate which I do not get on the nose, but I will say that I get loads of this with the Yellow Spot. Raisins, orchard fruit, and a mild, zesty spice (cinnamon and ginger). Faint sherry influence. Finish: Medium length and sweet. Honey, buttered cereal, and fruit basket. Slightly drying with vanilla to close. Verdict: Deceptively simple, easy to drink, and delicious. While I’ve had all three of the Spots (Green, Yellow, and Red), I have yet to do a side-by-side tasting of them to see how they truly compare to one another. I’m fairly confident Red Spot is my favorite, as the green banana notes completely dominate the Yellow Spot for me. But I’m less certain of how Green and Yellow Spot compare. In any case, Green Spot is delightful (if a little light on ABV - trying this at >40% would be so appreciated). While it’s typically a little more expensive and harder to find, I’d like to always be able to keep this and Redbreast 12 on my shelf as daily drinkers. Highly recommended (alongside Redbreast 12, which I also need to review) for those looking to explore the world of Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey. This falls in between a 4.0 and 4.25 but I’m going with 4.25 so I can give this a 90. 4.25 ~ 90 ~ Excellent
    50.0 USD per Bottle
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