Stolen Overproof Rum (Hampden)

Despite our greater proximity to the Caribbean, the US gets far less interesting rums from the region than does Europe. The rum revolution (well, sort of) that took portions of the single malt enthusiast market by storm in the last half decade was centered almost entirely on releases from European bottlers. Well, here finally is one that was released exclusively in the US. It’s got one of those silly names that makes you think Diageo might be involved but the word on the street is that this is a 6 yo Hampden. The bottles are 375 ml and still available and very reasonably priced (<$25/bottle in many markets). That means there’s a good chance this will be the best value of any booze I’ve reviewed this year: I’ve not had many Hampdens but all the ones I’ve had have been great. Hampden rum, with its dunder-fueled, high ester spirit, had also until recently been the funkiest spirit I’d willingly put in my mouth but that crown has since been passed to the two marcs I tried in the last month and a half (especially this Jacoulot). Will this seem tame now? Continue reading

Cartron 15, Marc de Bourgogne

I reviewed my first marc in June and here now, less than two months later, is my second. Soon I will be the #1 marc blogger in semi-rural southern Minnesota. Like the Jacoulot I reviewed last month, this is a marc from Burgundy but it’s twice the age. The Jacoulot was a bizarrely winning rotting garbage heap of a brandy. I’m curious to see what eight more years of age does with this strange profile.

Cartron 15, Marc de Bourgogne (43%; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: A more elegant heap of rotting garbage than the Jacoulot. Quite a bit of apple in here with some definite older calvados crossovers. A lot of aniseed and then a plastic-rubber-vinyl combine emerges strong. Softer and less garbagey and plasticky with water.

Palate: Hmm this is almost normal. Far less brutal than the Jacoulot with the apple and the aniseed the main event. The garbage and the synthetic notes are palpable in the background but are not very assertive. Nice texture and bite at 43%. On the second sip there’s some citrus (lime peel and bitter zest). Gets quite herbal with time (sage, dill, a touch of mint). Okay, let’s add water. Water emphasizes the herbs and pulls out some spice to go with it beyond just the aniseed (there’s some pepper, some clove). Continue reading

Villa Zarri 24, 1991, Italian Brandy


Here’s an Italian brandy. I have very little experience of Italian brandy—the few I’ve had have been grappas and I can’t say I’ve been the biggest fan of those. This, however, as far as I know, is an Italian brandy in the style of cognac, made by a producer in northern Italy. That is to say, distilled in a pot still and aged in Limousin oak. The grape I believe is Trebbiano, which is the same as the French Ugni Blanc commonly used for cognac. This particular release, a single cask, was a K&L exclusive in 2016. I think it went for $100. I don’t remember it from that time but $100 would have been a very good price in theory for a 20+ yo spirit even in 2016. Then again, K&L has a track record of bringing in great sounding deals which end up being great deals for the age but not so great in terms of what’s in the bottle. Was this another one of those or will I regret not having purchased a bottle of this when I could have?  Let’s see. Continue reading

Jacoulot 7, Marc de Bourgogne


Here’s a brandy review for a change and for a real change it’s a brandy that’s neither an armagnac, a cognac or a calvados. No, this is a marc. Marc is pomace brandy, which means it’s made from the leftover skins, stems etc. from winemaking. Not the most poetic origin story…or maybe it is? “They squeezed everything from the grapes, left them there to rot and just when it seemed like it was all over…” Where was I? Oh yes, this is a marc and I obviously know all about marcs and am not at all spinning my wheels here before getting to the review. Marc seems to be made in pretty much every winemaking region of France, which makes sense, I guess. This one is from the Jacoulot estate in Burgundy and is made from Burgundy’s most famous red wine grape: pinot noir. Despite these fancy associations, I’m guessing this is going to be funky as my understanding is that marcs are generally funky. Well, I’ve been known to be funky in my time too—okay, okay, so I haven’t. I do have a couple more samples of marcs on my shelf though and I’m hoping my first experience won’t put me off trying the others (which was roughly my reaction to the first grappa I had many years ago—and I never quite acquired the taste). Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Domaine de Pouchegu 27, 1986 (Armagnac)


Continuing with review of things that are not whisky, here is a review of a brandy, more specifically of an Armagnac. And if you want to be even more specific, a review of an Armagnac from the Ténarèze region. I note this latter because the vast majority of Armagnacs I’ve had are from the dominant Bas-Armaganc region. Exceptions include a Pellehaut that I liked a lot and a couple of Grangeries that I had a more variable experience with (here and here). All those were brought in by K&L as is this one. It’s no secret that I find the K&L marketing style exhausting and often ridiculous but it must be said they have done more than any other store in the US in expanding brandy horizons here. Pouchegu is, or rather was, a micro-producer even by the rustic standards of Armagnac. In fact, as per the K&L notes, they never produced on a commercial scale or with a commercial market in mind. And with the passing of the proprietor, Pierre Laporte, there may not be any more Pouchegu being made. There is something melancholy about drinking a spirit with such a backstory but it’s also an opportunity to celebrate the skills of its maker. Well, if it’s good, I suppose; but as per the source of my sample—the outsider artist, Sku—it is very good. He does note “huge oak notes” though—Laporte believed in using new Limousin oak casks, apparenrly—and that’s rarely my speed. Let’s see. Continue reading

Caroni 15, 1997 (A.D. Rattray)


And now a break from bourbon cask whisky and indeed from all whisky. This is a rum—though as I think about it, it’s quite likely it too was matured in a bourbon cask. The distillery in question is Caroni, a very big name in the rum renaissance of the last decade. Caroni has been referred to by whisky geeks as the “Port Ellen of rum”, not least because it too has closed (in 2002). Now you might think that calling something “the Port Ellen of x” would mean that it was being sold at a king’s ransom but that was not true of this cask when it was bottled by A.D. Rattray in 2012. I believe it went for about $50. I’m sure it would be a very different story these days.

Caroni was located in Trinidad. I know nothing about the usual profile of Trinidadian rums—I don’t even know if there is a usual profile in Trinidadian rum—and so I will not be able to tell you if this cask of Caroni is representative or not of Trinidad rum. And as it may well be the first Caroni I’ve had I can’t even tell you how representative it is of Caroni’s own rum. Now that you know just how uninformative this review will be, let’s get to it! Continue reading

Delord 33, 1978 (Armagnac)


I reviewed a pretty old Armagnac last month, a 40+ yo Le Sablé a Lagrange 1974. That was from a very small producer and bottled by the respected indie outfit L’Encantada. Today’s armagnac is a bit younger, though not very much so at 33 years of age, and was also distilled in the 1970s. It is from an altogether larger producer, Delord, who have a fairly established presence in the US. I’ve previously reviewed their 25 yo, which I found to be just okay. Like that one this 33 yo is also bottled at 40%. As to whether that’s because they diluted a parcel of casks down to stretch the bottling or because they vatted some lower strength casks up past 40%, I have no idea. I do hope at any rate that this won’t taste too washed out. There is no reason, of course, that it should. I’ve had some older malts at similar strengths that were underpowered but I’ve also had others that were quite pleasurable anyway. Where will this fall? Only one way to tell. Continue reading

Copper & Kings Pear Brandy (for Kenwood Liquors)


Copper & Kings is the Kentucky-based upstart American brandy producer. They started out releasing brandy sourced from other producers that they had matured further in bourbon barrels at their own location—where I think loud rock and blues music is played to the casks or some such. I believe their own distillate is now online and presumably being used in their current releases. As I haven’t really been keeping up with spirits news for the last three or four years or so, I haven’t really been following what Copper & Kings has been up to. If you’d asked me before I got this sample (from Sku) what kind of brandy they make/release, I would have said grape (I’ve reviewed one of those: the Butchertown). I had no idea they also did pear brandy. That said, I don’t know if they still do pear brandy (or whether they distilled or sourced the pear brandy they released). The products list on their website makes no mention of pear brandy, though a couple of apple brandies are listed. This one was apparently a single cask released for Kenwood Liquors in Illinois. Was it a one-off? I’d assume it was also aged in a bourbon barrel with loud rock music played to it. Hopefully a more reliable source will chime in, and I won’t be surprised if it’s Joe Heron, the lively and enthusiastic proprietor of Copper & Kings. I was not a huge fan of the Butchertown; but I am very interested to see what this is like as I am very partial to the pear-heavy calvados produced in the Domfrontais region. Continue reading

Le Sablé a Lagrange 1974 (L’Encantada)


It’s been a while since my last armagnac review. That was a 23 yo Lous Pibous. This one is almost twice that age: it was distilled in 1974 and bottled a few years ago. Like the previous this was also bottled by L’Encantada, the French independent bottler who’re more responsible probably than anyone else for raising the profile of armagnac among whisky drinkers, at least in the US. This particular armagnac is from a small producer that is no longer around. As per the L’Encantada website, there were only three distillations, in 1973, 1974 and 1976 and all the brandy was aged for 40 years or more. Presumably this was never meant for commercial release. My understanding is that the L’Encantada team wanders the countryside on the weekends in their jalopies, raiding the cellars of old country houses. Did they find a good one here? I was not super impressed by the last similarly aged armagnac I reviewed (a 50 yo Chateau de la Grangerie) but perhaps this one will be better. Let’s see. Continue reading

Park Lot 18, Borderies (Cognac)


A cognac to start the month. This is also a K&L exclusive but is not, I think, a very recent release. Based on when I got the sample—from Florin, the Man with 10,000 Faces—I would guess it was released in 2016 or 2017. Perhaps this means that if I don’t like it very much K&L staff will not take it very personally. As you know, if you’ve followed my brandy reviews, I know even less about cognac production than I do about whisky. As such, I have no idea about the reputation of this producer. I do know that the Borderies is the smallest of the Cognac regions and I’ve read that cognac made here is reputed to be at its best at younger ages than those made in Grande and Petit Champagne. And this one is not a super old cognac. Some producers use the “Lot” nomenclature to signal year of distillation—for example, Vallein Tercinier’s Lot 70 or Lot 90. I assume in this case “Lot 18” refers to the age of the cognac. I guess the French don’t care very much about the looseness of the use of these kinds of designations. Continue reading

Lheraud Grande Champagne 1976 (Cognac)


Here is the last of my reviews of Lheraud cognacs from the 1970s. The tally between the excellent and the merely very good currently sits at 2:2. I really liked the Fins Bois and the Bons Bois but was not as enthused by the Petite Champagne or the Borderies. Which way will this Grande Champagne take the score? On the one hand, Grande Champagne is said to be the top cru of cognac. On the other hand, even at 25-26 years of age I think this is the youngest of the five bottles and my understanding is that the fruity notes that I prize arise more predictably in cognac with even greater age. That said, the Bons Bois was younger than both the Petite Champagne and the Borderies. And speaking of qualities I prize, please don’t forget that all my brandy reviews are from the perspective of a single malt whisky drinker and particularly a single malt drinker who loves notes of tropical fruit. Other subtleties that may appeal to cognac aficionados may be either lost or wasted on me. With that caveat registered let’s get to it. Continue reading

Lheraud Bons Bois 1976-2004 (Cognac)


On Monday I reviewed an American brandy (the Butchertown from Copper & Kings). Today I have a French brandy, to be specific a cognac. To be even more specific, this is a cognac made by the house of Lheraud in 1976 and bottled in 2004. I’ve previously reviewed a few other Lherauds from 1970s, a Fins Bois 1970, a Petite Champagne 1973 and a Borderies 1975. I thought the Fins Bois was dynamite but was not quite as impressed by the other two. I’m hoping this one from the Bons Bois region will move my Lheraud experience back in an upward trajectory. Let’s get right to it.

Lheraud Bons Bois 1976-2004 (46%; Cognac; from a bottle split)

Nose: A lovely fruity nose with mango, passionfruit and guava plus some polished oak forming a nice frame behind the fruit. On the second and third sniff the oak expands a bit but it’s all still in very nice balance. Water pushes the oak back a bit and makes the fruit richer/darker (think mango leather rather than mango). Continue reading

Copper & Kings, Butchertown Brandy


About four years ago, Sku sent me a sample of an American brandy named Butchertown by a new Kentucky-based craft outfit named Copper & Kings. The distillery was being hyped at the time by David Driscoll at the K&L blog (remember him? I wonder if he’s helped cure cancer yet) and that was good enough reason for many to be skeptical. Then Sku gave it a very strong review, which led me to open and taste my sample. I remember finding it interesting but nothing so very special but as I was not reviewing brandy at the time, I didn’t bother taking notes. I did, however, mention in the comments on Sku’s blog that I had found a strong anise note in the brandy and this led to the proprietor of Copper & Kings becoming very excited. Not very surprising behaviour perhaps from one who apparently plays loud rock music to his casks. Speaking of “his casks”, Butchertown is sourced brandy, not distilled by Copper & Kings. They only started distilling their own brandy in 2014—I assume some of it will come online soon. Continue reading

Lheraud Borderies 1975-2005 (Cognac)


Back to brandy, back to cognac, back to Lheraud. I have to date reviewed two releases of 1970s vintages from the renowned cognac house. I really liked the 1970 Fins Bois and was a little less enthused by the 1973 Petite Champagne (though I did like it). Today’s Lheraud was distilled in 1975 and is made from grapes from the Borderies region. Where will it fall in comparison to the other two. Let’s see.

Lheraud Borderies 1975-2005 (47%; Cognac; Borderies; from a bottle split)

Nose: A mix of caramel, dried orange peel, apricot jam and honey. Gets brighter as it sits with sweeter notes coming to the top (berries of some kind); a bit of cola too. Water seems to mute all of the above though it doesn’t do too much damage. Continue reading

Lheraud Petite Champagne 1973-2003 (Cognac)


On Wednesday I reviewed a Lheraud distilled in 1970 and bottled in 2007. I really liked that one. Today I have another Lheraud from the 1970s but it’s a bit younger. However, while the 1970 was from the Fins Bois cru, this one is from Petite Champagne, which is, along with Grande Champagne, one of the premier crus of Cognac. Apparently, the brandy made from Petite Champagne grapes can be particularly fruity. All of this bodes well in theory. Let’s see how it works out in practice.

Lheraud Petite Champagne 1973-2003 (48%; Cognac; Petite Champagne; from a bottle split)

Nose: Richer than the Fins Bois 1970 with prunes, dark maple syrup, apricot jam, dried orange peel and tobacco. Thins out as it sits. Let’s see if water unlocks any more richness. Hmm there’s an herbal thing that happens and maybe there’s a bit of plum but nothing more of interest. Continue reading

Lheraud Fins Bois 1970-2007 (Cognac)


Monday I had a review of an armagnac; today I have a review of a cognac. Lheraud is a family business with a long history. I don’t know very much about them and am not going to try to give you the impression that I do. I can tell you that it is a house with a very fine reputation and prices to match. Lherauds of similar older vintages as Vallein-Tercinier etc. are available but they cost quite a lot more. Meanwhile, a number of cognac aficionados rave about them. The gents at Plebyak have made the comparison to 1960s Bowmore both in terms of profile (heavily fruity) and quality. That is a heady comparison indeed. But on account of the aforementioned high prices of Lherauds it was not enough to convince me to take a flyer on a bottle. However, when a chance recently arose to participate in a bottle split of a quintet of Lherauds I leapt at it. As a bonus, the quintet covers five of the six crus of Cognac. First up, a Fins Bois which also happens to be the oldest vintage in the set. Continue reading

Lous Pibous 23, 1993


Let’s keep rolling with the themes and do a week of brandy reviews. First up, another Lous Pibous armagnac bottled by L’Encantada. I have previously reviewed casks 187 and 188, both distilled in 1996. Here now is cask 124, distilled in 1993 and three years older than the other two. You only need to take one glance at the label on the bottle alongside to know who my sample came from. Yes, it is he. Well, I liked those 1996 casks a fair bit, and I think this one is supposed to be even better. Let’s see if that’s how it works out for me.

Lous Pibous 23, 1993 (52.5%; L’Encantada; cask 124; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Rich, notes of dried orange peel, dark marmalade, apricots, leather. On the second sniff there’s some cinnamon and oak. As it sits the apricot comes to the fore. With a few drops of water there’s more of the orange peel. Continue reading