Ron Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva Rum
Aged Rum — VenezuelaTastedRum has a reputation for sweetness. This isn't always deserved, in my opinion - while being distilled from sugarcane-derived substances always lends a certain character to the distillate, there are plenty of fine sipping rums that showcase a wide range of flavors, not all of which immediately smack of sweetness. This one, though...yeah, this is pretty damn sweet, and intentionally so. Fred Minnick, best know for his bourbon writing, is also a rum aficionado, and his recent book on the subject pans this particular offering for the intentional adding of lots of extra sugar during the aging or bottling process. For him, it's a distraction that diminishes the other facets of the rum. For me...I would take it less sweet, but as is, there's still plenty going on here past the sweetness. Banana. Ripe papaya. Dried fig. Demerara sugar. Toasted brioche. Marzipan de Toledo. Fire-roasted marshmallow. Cocoa powder. Buttery, rich texture. Remarkable smoothness with only the most pleasant hint of heat. Cinnamon stick that's been infusing in aguapanela (a hot Colombian drink made of unrefined cane sugar and water). So, yeah...it's sweet, and maybe they could dial that down a bit, but I've got nothing but respect for any distilled spirit that can manage this level of complexity and sensual appeal.37.0 USD per Bottle
Rhum Barbancourt 5 Star 8 Year
Rhum Agricole Vieux — HaitiTastedYears ago, this was the first sipping rum I ever tried courtesy of a friend (and seminary roommate). His sister was involved with a healthcare initiative in Haiti; they were literally selling bottles of this on the tarmac in Port-au-Prince to passengers boarding departing flights...so she picked up a bottle for everyone in the family, and her brother was generous enough to share. That was almost a decade ago, though, and back in the days when standard bottling Maker's Mark was "the good stuff" for me...so how does it stack up now? Pretty good, as it turns out. This is a slightly more lean and austere style of rum - if you're a wine drinker, this is a Chablis (a real one from France), not an oaky California chardonnay. The nose features sea salt, gasoline (in a good kind of way), and wet slate, plus grassy sugar cane (like a rhum agricole), caramel, and barrel char. The palate is medium bodied, with an initial attack of sugar cane (again, like rhum agricole), green grassiness, with a hint of grilled pineapple; the mineral notes roll in toward the finish with just a little bit of alcohol warmth. For a $30-ish bottle of rum, there's a lot to enjoy here, and it's memorably unique. This wouldn't be a bad entry point into rum for a whiskey drinker looking to branch out, especially for a fan of maritime-influenced single malts.30.0 USD per Bottle
Red River Texas Bourbon Whiskey
Bourbon — Texas, USATastedI know very little about this dram, other than that it exceeded expectations. A Texas bourbon finished in Pinot Noir casks, and I assume fairly young yet, it is nonetheless a nicely integrated, if straightforward, pour. Creamy vanilla, peaches, biscuity crust (like a cobbler), and a pleasant hint of red berries from the wine casks finish. Medium body, medium length finish with a drying sense of oak tannins. Waiting for a flight could be a whole lot worse.
Balcones Baby Blue
Corn — Texas, USATastedKilling some time at IAH with this one. Since I apparently can only compare whiskies to dessert items nowadays, this is banana pudding. Banana, vanilla cream, biscuity cookie, and a little hint of caramelized sugar. Rich, round mouthfeel and a sweet, lingering finish. No complaints here.
Four Roses Small Batch Select Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATastedManaged to snag a bottle of this in Houston while down for a family funeral. This is a spice bomb - BIG cinnamon and nutmeg shaved over vanilla heavy creme brûlée dusted with dark chocolate. Rich, substantial mouthfeel with a long, spicy finish. Good stuff; not sure it’s quite a $50+ bourbon, but I have no regrets about trying it out.
Jameson The Distiller's Safe
Blended — IrelandTastedI've had this bottle for a while now, and several times have meant to leave a note here...but the words wouldn't come. This evening, though, something struck me. The semester of college I spent in Ghana was...hot. Ghana is really damn hot. Most afternoons, I would get a bottle of ice cold Pepsi from the little shop in the international student hostel to cool off, plus a snack. My usual go-tos were Snappy Snacks (kind of like Japanese peanuts) and Fan Ice (a frozen treat that tasted like a cross between ice cream and cake frosting), but occasionally, I'd get an Akuafo Bar. Ghanaian chocolate with candied lemon peel...it was a good chocolate bar when the mood struck. This dram noses like snack time in Ghana minus the Pepsi. Milk chocolate, candied lemon, sweet vanilla (like frosting), a whiff of crunchy grain, and a funky floral note in the background. The palate is summery and light, beginning and ending with vanilla and wildflowers, with chocolate, lemon peel, and toasted grain in the mid-palate. The finish isn't overly long, but does linger. It's a good drop of whiskey, and lovely in the summer, but...this is not a $65 bottle. Personally, I think this is the weakest link in the series - the brightness of Cooper's Croze excels, for me, far beyond this or the Blender's Dog. I'm not sure any of them is really worth more than $60. Is this good? I have no complaints. Does it compete with, say, Powers John's Lane or Redbreast? Not for my money. Granted, it's trying to be something rather different (light and bright as opposed to rich and rounded), but an airy Irish NAS blend like this, which is tasty but not particularly complex, is...not worth $65 a bottle.65.0 USD per Bottle
Dictador 100 Cafe
Flavored Rum — ColombiaTastedThere's a joke, among Lutherans, that coffee is the third sacrament (after baptism and communion, of course). There are even more jokes about how much coffee clergy, especially Lutheran clergy, drink - the big crisis at our annual assembly in Madison was the coffee running out way too early in the day. There are also additional jokes about how much Lutheran clergy drink things that are...stronger than coffee. These jokes all have their grounding in some reality; I didn't end up on this site for nothing, and...well, where there are four Lutheran pastors, there will be a fifth. If you know what I mean. At least once in seminary, there were two Lutheran pastors-in-training, a fifth of Jack Daniel's Black, a sneaking out from a Catholic-nun-run retreat center, and an illicit campfire down by a river. They still ordained me, so here we are. So, blah blah blah, Lutheran clergy love their booze and their coffee. But...do we love them together? This little experience in the world of flavored rum suggests that I could be persuaded that they belong together, at least sometimes. Dictador's baseline rum here is brown sugar forward without much nuance, but then again, it's also got a pronounced influence from the coffee. It's brown sugary, lightly sweet rum with a big hit of coffee bean - and clearly coffee beans pre-brewing, almost like chocolate covered espresso beans. Those things will light you up, too - I ate 40-50 of them in a sitting one day in college before my 1pm class, and by the end of my back-to-back lectures at 3:45, the room was moving before my eyes like I was on a ship, I couldn't sit still, and I was talking at about three times my normal speed. Anyhow, I'm not going to reach for this all of the time, but as a late evening dessert dram, it's not bad at all. The cocktail possibilities are extensive, too. I appreciate, too, the care by which this was infused and aged - this is not a bottom shelf, dump some coffee flavored syrup in it and call it a day kind of affair. It's still quality rum allowed to infuse with some quality coffee beans. Again, not my daily go-to, but plenty enjoyable on its own terms.
State Line Distillery Gin
Modern Gin — Wisconsin, USATastedAnother warm day in Wisconsin, another locally sourced Wisconsin gin. This one, made just 60-some miles away in Madison, takes a hybrid approach between the "everything must be incredibly local" ethos of many modern gins produced here and the also popular "who cares if it's local as long as it's good" ethos. The grain-based spirit (corn and wheat, sourced regionally) provide a definite connection to the local terroir, but the botanicals are a bit more open-minded, choosing to highlight juniper (could be local), sage (could also be local, if not a flavor that screams "Wisconsin"), and lemon (definitely not local). The good news here is that it all works. The base spirit is roughly the equivalent to 68*F/20*C and sunny weather - it's so pleasant that you hardly notice it, other than that it's nice. Not too heavy, but not insubstantial, smooth and easygoing. I don't mind a base spirit with a little more oomph to it, but it's hard to complain about perfect balance. The botanicals are similarly in excellent balance - the evergreen of the juniper, citrus brightness, and savory, earthy sage are all clearly identifiable (and in roughly that order from initial attack to finish), but nothing clobbers anything else. If you've had St George's Terroir Gin and felt like you'd just been attacked by a plate of Jimmy Dean breakfast sausages, this gin will do wonders to convince you that, with a more delicate hand at the wheel, sage can be used as a gin botanical in ways that won't scare off all but the biggest sage-lovers. I can imagine a variety of cocktail applications, but this evening, a gin and tonic with Fever Tree's Mediterranean Tonic Water (which is bright with citrus and herbal overtones) is getting the job done quite nicely.30.0 USD per Bottle
Ameireaganach Huddled Mashes No. 1
American Single Malt — USATastedI received a bottle of this as part of a whiskey exchange with folks from around the US. I was matched up with someone in Georgia, and this lovely bottle showed up....and I do say lovely intentionally, as this is an enjoyable dram with a lot of promise. The bad news first - this is pretty young. There's that jagged-edged mouthfeel and a certain lack of integration; a few more years to age would likely do wonders, but as it is, we get something young, brash, and a bit unbalanced. But, the good news is that what's here is pretty tasty. The kinds of flavors I would expect from an American single malt aged in new oak are all here - chocolate, HUGE coconut (quite creamy), vanilla, juicy dark fruit, spices. It's hard not to enjoy the combination. The mouthfeel, while about rough around the edges, is pleasantly full and lightly oily without being heavy. All in all, it's a fine whiskey that just needs a bit more time to grow into its potential...but once it does, it could well end up in the same camp as Stranahan's and Westland.