Category Archives: Other Spirits

El Dorado Special Reserve 12 Year Old Rum

40% ABV/80 Proof
Available in the United States and Europe – $25 to $30

What the distillery says:

This fine aged Demerara Rum is produced by Demerara Distillers Ltd., master distillers since 1670. Matured for at least 12 years is oak casks, this rum is hand-blended to achieve it’s uniquely smooth, rich, award-winning character – straight or on the rocks.Honey in color.

What Matt says:

Nose: It has your typical rum notes (vanilla, caramelized sugar), but there are also some botanicals in there. It is almost like a craft gin married with a somewhat typical rum.
Palate: Vanilla, the sugar moves a little toward burnt from the nicely caramelized nose, there is also an oak component.
Finish: Here the sugar moves all the way to burnt with a long alcoholic burn.
Comments: Rum has never been my favorite alcoholic beverage. In my youth, I had too many encounters with inferior rums like Captain Morgan or Bacardi. I did not really appreciate rum until I spent some time in the Caribbean, where rum is a part of the culture. I discovered that rum can be really good. Indeed, rum is starting to become part of the craft distillation movement. This means that rum will be increasingly drinkable as a stand-alone. This rum lives up to those standards. This means that it holds up to being served neat. However, compared to other craft rums, this lacks a little nuance on the palate. The palate just does not deliver what the nose promised. This makes the rating a little difficult. By the standards of every rum on the market, I would say that it stands out, but compared to craft rums it is only average. In fact, I would recommend Appleton’s, a widely available macro-rum, above this one.
Rating: Average

What Richard says:

Nose: Burnt caramel, vanilla, candied apricots, honey-dipped oranges, a hint of mint, floral notes of lavender and…rose? Very, very sweet. You can almost taste the sugar cane through the nose.
Palate: All sugar and alcohol. As lovely as the nose was, the palate is very two dimensional.
Finish: Heavy on the alcohol. It kind of finishes like a strong cough syrup.
Comments: I am admittedly not the most well versed rum drinker. That said, this stands out against your baseline Bacardi and Captain Morgan. That palate and finish aren’t noteworthy but nose is exceptional. But we buy it to drink it not to smell it.
Rating: Average

Overall Rating: Average

Amaro Nonino

Amaro Nonino
Amaro Nonino

I was at a wine bar the other night (not my idea, but I didn’t put up too much of a fight). My wife and I went with a couple of friends. I’m only telling you about it, because I fell in love with a delightful liqueur that night.

We were at Veloce below Spring St. in Manhattan because one of our friends knows the sommelier. While we were waiting for our drinks and food, Nathan (another follower of the malt) and I noticed a squat little bottle filled with red-gold liquid. We were intrigued. Luckily, at the end of the night, my new friend Douglas (the bartender) introduced us to the golden-colored liqueur called Amaro Nonino.

Amaro Nonino is an herbal liqueur made with water, neutral spirits, brandy, herbs, and sugar and aged for 5 years in oak barrels. At first, the nose is like Red Hots candy with a trace of alcohol. As the liquer oxydizes, the cinnamon and sugar notes give way to smells remniscent of a Chinese herb shop. The palate was very cordial-like in texture (syrupy and chewy) and tasted like Red Hots. Cinnamon and sugar were the overwhelming flavors, but I immediately had an affection for this drink that extended beyond such simple flavors. I don’t want you to think that Amaro Nonino tastes like cinnamon schnapps, because it does not. There are notes of licorice and burnt orange buried beneath the cinnamon spice. The finish is long and satisfying.  It is dangerously drinkable and is equally good before or after dinner. Amaro Nonino is sold as a digestif and is around 35% ABV.  It will set you back $35-40.  I encourage the adventurous to go out and find it, if only for those few nights you don’t want whisk(e)y after dinner.


Hendrick’s Gin

For this week’s “Taste of” we’re doing something a little different.  In an effort to expand both our horizons and yours, Matt and I are going to review a non-whiskey product.  “Gasp!” you say?  Don’t worry.  We’re still whiskey apostles at heart but it’s good to try new things.  We’ll try to do this about once a month or so.  First up will be a gin.  You can’t get much more different from whiskey than that.  Except for the fact that this particular gin is made by William Grant & Sons.  You may know William Grant & Sons as the makers of Glenfiddich and Balvenie.  Enjoy.

Hendrick’s Gin
44% ABV/88 Proof
Available worldwide for $25 to $35 per bottle

What the distillery says:
This handcrafted gin is distilled for a proprietary recipe which includes traditional botanicals such as juniper, coriander, and citrus peel.  The “unexpected” infusion of cucumber and rose petals results in a most iconoclastic gin.  It is not for everyone.

What Richard says:
Nose: Floral and herbal as you’d expect from gin but almost more so.  It lays out like a well crafted gentleman’s cologne.  When opened up with a little water I find jasmine and lavender with a hint of fresh autumn leaves.
Palate: The palate is very surprising.  It tastes of orange zest in lavender water, more specifically Cara Cara oranges. (If you’ve never had the pleasure I highly recommend them.)  More citrus notes that the average gin.  It’s very pleasant.  It kind of reminds me of Compass Box’s Orangerie aperitif.  Tonic water lends it a sharper more defined flavor well beyond the “alcoholic Sprite” of a lot of gin and tonics.
Finish: Crisp and clean.  It leaves the orange zest in your mouth as the botanicals pass through.
Comments: I’m not really a gin fan but this is a spirit I can truly respect.  And not just because it’s made by William Grant & Sons.  It doesn’t stand out because they turned gin on its head, more likely they pushed gin to its true potential.  Whether a casual gin drinker or a serious connoisseur, I would definitely recommend this.
Rating:  Must Try.

What Matt says:
Nose: Above all this gin smells like it elements.  There are clear notes of juniper, but it’s the coriander and citrus zest that stand out on the nose.  The rose petals and cucumber hang back a little and wait to assert themselves on the palate.
Palate: This is not your average gin.  Richard hit the nail on the head with the Cara Cara orange reference.  The cucumber comes through with a very clean flavor and the rose petals come out just enough to be known.  The coriander and juniper take a back seat to these stronger flavors, but really make the flavor profile dance.  Adding tonic really kicks the cucumber into overdrive (the makers of Hendrick’s suggest garnishing their gin and tonic with a slice of cucumber instead of the traditional lime).  There is a high citrus element, but it is more of a Cara Cara or blood orange citrus than lime like other gins.
Finish: Rose water and orange zest
Comments: I’m an old fashioned kind of guy.  I believe that a gentleman should be drink his martinis with gin and his whisk(e)y neat.  If you are like me and Teddy Roosevelt (or was it FDR?), you’re idea of a martini is a generous pour of gin next to an open bottle of vermouth.  To do this, you must have good gin (you’re drinking it straight after all).  Hendrick’s fits the bill on this one.  I love a good gin and tonic as well and this makes a great one.  This is my very favorite gin.
Rating:  Must Buy.

Overall Rating:
From the moment you see it on the shelf, you know that Hendrick’s is different.  It’s strangley shaped dark colored bottle and artfully rendered label look more at home on the shelf of Victorian apothecary than a liquor store.  As you investigate, you find that even the distillery claims that this gin “is not for everyone.”  Today, you are in an adventurous mood so you decide to pick up a bottle.  You are greeted with flavors you have never tasted in a gin.  You are not quite sure what to think.  Then, as the gin swirls around your mouth and your nose is filled with rich botanicals, you become enthralled.  There is a reason that the Wall Street Journal voted this the “Best Gin in the World” in 2003.  More and more, I’m seeing Hendrick’s offered in bars (they don’t usually have a slice of cucumber though), right next to the Tanqueray Ten and Bombay Sapphire.  The word is spreading.
Must Try.