Cinco Sentidos, Pechuga de Mole Poblano


This has been a week not just of mezcal reviews but of reviews of unusual mezcals. Wednesday’s Weller cask-finished Chichicapa from Del Maguey followed on the heels of Monday’s Del Maguey release that saw the pechuga process tweaked with the use of Iberico ham. I liked that one a lot more than the bourbon finish. That might be good news for this one which is in the general style of the Iberico but ups the pechuga madness by featuring not ham or chicken or turkey breast in the final distillation but full on mole poblano. This is not a Del Maguey release but from an outfit named Cinco Sentidos. Their website indicates that they release mezcals made by small-scale producers. I have no idea if this mole poblano release is representative or a wild variation on their usual line-up. Well, I love a good mole poblano but I can’t say I’ve ever wished I could drink a mole poblano-flavoured spirit. But perhaps the mole won’t come through here as strongly as the Iberico did in the Del Maguey. Only one way to find out. But however it goes, for my next round of mezcal reviews—whenever those might end up being posted; I have no further mezcal samples on hand—I think I am going to go for more regulation releases. Recommendations for any such will be very welcome in the comments below. Continue reading

Del Maguey Chichicapa, Weller Cask Finish, Mezcal


Mezcal week rolls on with another Del Maguey release. Monday’s was an unusual take on pechuga maturation from Santa Catarina Minas and involved an Iberico ham. This one, which does not, as far as I know, involve any meat products in the distillation is from Chichicapa, the source of the first mezcal I reviewed and a very popular Del Maguey marque. Unlike the regular Chichicapa, however, this one is aged for a bit. As you might be able to tell from the tiny picture alongside, its colour is a pale urine yellow compared to the very well-hydrated clear of the other two mezcal samples behind it. This faint colour is due to a finish/brief maturation in bourbon casks. And not just any casks but casks that had previously held spirit that went into Old Rip Van Winkle 10. A cynical read of this situation is that it seems to have been designed precisely to separate bourbon drinkers with more money than sense—which these days appears to be a good description of almost all bourbon drinkers—from a good chunk of that money. Well, I don’t know how much this cost on release but it now goes for well above $200. But is it any good? Does anybody really want their mezcal to taste like bourbon? Let’s see. Continue reading

Del Maguey Iberico, Mezcal


Who better than someone who knows almost nothing about mezcals to do a week of reviews of mezcals? No one, that’s who. I’ve only reviewed one mezcal previously and have not tasted so very many more than that. The one I previously reviewed was bottled by Del Maguey, the brand that has probably more than any other raised the profile of mezcal in the US in the last decade, especially among whisky drinkers. They bottle single village mezcals made in traditional ways and have a sterling reputation. Well, this one—made  in the village of Santa Catarina Minas—is both traditional and not. Traditional in that it is generally in the pechuga style, which sees a final round of distillation with a chicken or turkey breast hanging over the clay still (plus various fruits etc.). Not traditional in that in this case the chicken/turkey breast was replaced by an Iberico ham. This was apparently suggested to the proprietors by a chef who also sent them the ham to use. Perhaps the fact that it was Iberico ham accounts for the nosebleed price of this mezcal. I’m not sure if it was a one-off or if it’s continued to be made in limited quantities but if you want to buy a bottle now you’ll have to be prepared to shell out $200 or more. I’m not going to be prepared to do this, no matter what, but I am curious to see what it’s like. Continue reading

Grander Rum 11, Islay Peat Finish


Okay, for the first full week of reviews in March let’s do a week of things that are not single malt whisky. I’ll start with a rum that has an unlikely whisky connection. As we all know, it’s not very unusual anymore to see whiskies that have been “finished” or double matured in rum casks. What I have for you today, however, is something that goes in the opposite direction: it’s rum that was finished in an Islay cask. The rum in question is from Panama, though I believe Grander is the brand name of an independent bottler rather than a distiller. This rum was matured for 10 years in an ex-bourbon cask—which is fairly par for the course for rum—but then finished for an additional year in an Islay cask (the rumour is that the cask in question was from Ardbeg). As to where the finishing happened—at the distillery in Panama or elsewhere, I’m not sure. It’s a bit embarrassing that I don’t know, considering I’m a member of the private group for which this was bottled. I will make it my life’s work to find this out sometime in the next 10 days to 10 years. In the meantime, here are my notes on this chimerical creature. (The bottle was opened a while ago; these notes are from my fourth or fifth pour.) Continue reading

Golden Devil Dark Overproof Rum


This week’s theme: things that aren’t single malt whiskies. First up, a rum.

I haven’t reviewed very many rums on the blog; rarely going over 1 review per year. And all the rums I have reviewed have been from single distilleries. This one’s the exception. It is a blend of Jamaican pot still and Guyanese column still rums. The age and identities of the constituent rums are unknown to me. This was bottled for K&L in California a few years ago and went for the low, low price of $20. I have a horrible feeling that I am going to deeply regret having waited more than three years since receiving this sample from Sku to review it.

Golden Devil Dark Overproof Rum (57%; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Molasses and (over-ripe) plantains and a slight rubbery note off the top and then the funk begins to come through bringing some diesel with it. Burnt caramel as it sits and a slight mossy note emerges as well. The funk recedes as it sits and it’s the plantains and caramel that dominate. A few drops of water push the funk back further and pull out some vanilla and aniseed. Continue reading

Foursquare Redoubtable (Rum)


To close out Rum Week here is another Foursquare (see here for the previous). I have to admit I am not really on top of Foursquare’s special releases. I know that in addition to the vintage releases they put out some others with names that probably make the marketing braintrust at Dalmore gnash their teeth in envy. This one here is one of those non-vintage releases from 2020. It’s made from a blend of pot still and column still distilled rum. All of it is 14 years old, apparently, but some was aged entirely in ex-madeira casks and some in ex-bourbon casks. Was it half and half? I’m not sure. Anyway, this might be my first wine-bothered rum. I hope I enjoy it more than I do most wine-bothered whiskies.

Foursquare Redoubtable (61%; ex-bourbon and madeira casks; from a bottle split)

Nose: Rich with a mix of rummy and winey notes. As it sits the wine seems to trump the rum and there’s more leather and spicy wood. Begins to soften as it sits and there’s toffee and caramel and the whole gets sweeter. Rummier with water; the caramel darkens a bit, the toffee expands and there’s a bit of maple syrup too. A bit more water and it gets a bit dusty but also develops some orange peel. Continue reading

Hampden Great House, Distillery Edition, 2020 (Rum)


At some point in the last few years Hampden, the great, idiosyncratic Jamaican rum distillery, got into the business of special annual releases. I believe this one, which came out in 2020, was the second. I’m not sure if one has yet been released in 2021. I believe this is a somewhat unusual Hampden in that it is a blend that contains mostly low-ester spirit. So less wild than usual? Let’s see.

Hampden Great House, Distillery Edition, 2020 (59%; from a bottle split)

Nose: Ah yes, this is a Hampden: assertive, leading with bright notes of over-ripe banana, pineapple and lemon; herbal notes bring up the rear. What’s missing here is the usual heap of garbage rotting in the sun; well, it’s not completely missing but it’s not very loud. As it sits it picks up some light caramel and some toffee and quite a bit of diesel. The caramel expands with time and the diesel retreats. Okay, let’s add water: richer now as the caramel and toffee expand and are joined by brown sugar and the bananas get baked into banana bread. More conventional rum notes now but it’s quite lovely. Continue reading

Foursquare 12, 2005 (Rum)


It’s been a while since my last review of a rum; a year in fact (this Worthy Park). And it’s been even longer since my last review of a rum from Foursquare, the Barbados distillery. That was of the 11 yo release of the 2004 vintage, a bottle I liked a lot—enough in fact to buy several more of after that first encounter. Today I have for you a review of the release of the 2005 vintage. It’ll be the first of three rum reviews this week. Like the 2004 it was bottled at 59% abv and made without any addition of sugar or other additives. And it’s also a blend of pot still and column distilled rums and matured in ex-bourbon casks. It is, however, a year older. Will that make for a big difference in the profile? Let’s see.

Foursquare 12, 2005 (59%; from a bottle split)

Nose: Comes in sweet with caramel and molasses; just a hint of aniseed in the back. Some toffee too on the second sniff and the aniseed expands and picks up some herbal backing (sage). Gets sweeter as it sits (ripe plantain). Brighter with a few drops of water and there’s a bit of milk chocolate now along with an almost smoky note. Continue reading

Domaine Labet 10, 2003, Marcs du Jura


I started the week with a review of a Taiwanese malt whisky and on Wednesday I had a review of an Irish whiskey. Might as well make it an all non-Scotch whisky week. In fact, no whisky at all today but a brandy. And not just any type of brandy but another of those wild and crazy marcs or French pomace brandies. I’ve had two before and like the second of those this sample came to me from Florin, Prince of Tyre.

As I hope you don’t recall, the 7 yo Jacoulot—the first marc I ever tried—put me in mind of Hampden’s rums with its wild notes of rotting garbage and aniseed but—perhaps because I have been beaten down by Hampden—I liked it well enough anyway. And I liked the second one, a 15 yo Cartron, even more. Those were both marcs de Bourgogne. This one is from the Jura region and at 10 years of age is closer to the Jacoulot than the Cartron. Florin describes it as a wild marc and you might think that I would find it to be closer to the Jacoulot in character as well; but—as you will see—I actually find it to be quite refined. I don’t know what to make of that but here are my notes anyway. Continue reading

Pasquet Lot 62, Cask 2 for Serious Brandy (Cognac)


On Wednesday I had a review of the first of two casks of very old cognac bottled by Pasquet for the Facebook group, Serious Brandy. I liked that one a lot. Here now is the second cask. The word on the street is that it is fruitier than Cask 1, which is music to my ears. Let’s see how it goes.

Pasquet Lot 62, Cask 2 for Serious Brandy (40.3%; Petite-Champagne; from my own bottle)

Nose: Big sticky fruit notes from the get-go with apricot, marmalade, fig jam; some honey in there too along with butterscotch and pastry crust. Certainly not as much oak here as in the sibling cask. Water seems to push the fruit back and pulls out more of the oak-pine complex that develops on the palate. Continue reading

Pasquet Lot 62, Cask 1 for Serious Brandy (Cognac)


After Monday’s Old Crow, not-malt whisky week continues with the first of two cognacs that were bottled for the Facebook group, Serious Brandy. Serious Brandy was set up by Sku some years ago and has been his primary spirits focus since he regrettably shut down his blog in 2017. It’s a very good resource on brandy. Earlier this year Steve announced the group’s first exclusive pick. I should say picks, rather, as there were two of them: two casks of cognac sourced by the Pasquets (their own distillations are a bit younger). Not sure who the producer was but this is from the Petite-Champagne region and made from the ugni blanc grape. These are both casks that were filled in 1962 and bottled this year—making them 57 or 58 years old. At that age most malt whisky would long have turned into oak extract, but cognac takes to extreme aging a lot better. Cognac’s pricing for 58 year old spirit is also a lot better than whisky’s and so, despite having backed away from expensive whisky purchases a while ago, I decided to put my money down for a bottle of each of these. Orders were finally able to be placed in early August and after a few weeks of anxious waiting, the bottles were finally in hand last week. I’ve opened and tasted both a couple of times since arrival. Here now is my review of Cask 1. Continue reading

Worthy Park 10, 2005 (Habitation Velier)


After two 16 yo Caronis bottled by Duncan Taylor (here and here), let’s move over to Jamaica and a 10 yo Worthy Park bottled by Habitation Velier. Most of the excitement among whisky geeks for Jamaican rum seems concentrated in the wild and wacky rums of the Hampden distillery but Worthy Park has a strong reputation too. Indeed, I have a hundred percent record with Worthy Park. I’ve only had and reviewed two others—this 10 yo from 2007 and this 11 yo from 2005—and I had them both at 90 points. Will that streak continue with this 10 yo? I certainly hope so.

Worthy Park 10, 2005 (57.8%; Habitation Velier; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: A bright nose with lemon peel mixed in with plantains. Some vegetal funk behind the brighter notes. The lemon picks up with time and there’s a bit of butterscotch as well. With a few drops of water the softer notes expand—more butterscotch—and there’s sweeter fruit now too—apricot. Gets stickier as it goes. Continue reading

Caroni 16, 1997, Cask 115 (Duncan Taylor)


On Monday I reviewed a Caroni 16, 1997. That was cask 87. Today I have a review of another Caroni 16, 1997. This one is cask 115. As per the source of both samples (the prodigiously bearded Michael K.), both casks were filled and bottled on the same dates, differing only slightly in outturn (270 bottles for #87, 258 for #115) and even more slightly in abv (#87 was at 55.1%). As you may remember, I really liked cask 87. Will this be as good? I hope so.

Caroni 16, 1997, Cask 115 (55.4%; Duncan Taylor; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Brighter off the bat than cask 87 with less caramel and more citrus (orange peel, lemon). On the second sniff the citrus moves in the direction of marmalade and there are some notes of toffee and butterscotch as well; a faintly smoky note as well. Less oak here as well than in cask 87 and it’s less herbal—at least at the start. With more air and time the citrus is still here but it ‘s now hard candy rather than marmalade it calls to mind. A few drops of water make it sweeter and push the herbal notes back further. Continue reading

Caroni 16, 1997, Cask 87 (Duncan Taylor)


After a week of brandy let’s do a week of rum.

First up is the first of two casks of Caroni 16, 1987 bottled by Duncan Taylor in 2014. Caroni is the highly-regarded distillery on Trinidad (now deceased) whose rums now fetch kings’ ransoms. These casks, however, were bottled for the US market and because the rum revolution among whisky drinkers hadn’t manifested itself yet in the US in 2014 they apparently hung around for a few years at fairly reasonable prices (sub-$100, I believe). I was among the whisky drinkers who wasn’t paying attention to rum then and so I had no idea. Luckily for me, Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls purchased bottles of both and recently sent me samples. He hasn’t reviewed them himself so I can’t pilfer his notes and change a few words as I usually do. I’ve previously reviewed a 15 yo which I liked but did not think was amazing. Let’s see if I like this one better. Continue reading

Copper & Kings Brandy, “A Song for You”


Let’s round out brandy week with yet another sample from Sku, who appears to be trolling me with yet another rather sober sample bottle label. Unlike Monday’s Lous Pibous and Wednesday’s Dartigalongue, however, this is not an armagnac but an American brandy. This is from the upstart Copper & Kings distillery in Kentucky. It was bottled last year to mark their fifth anniversary. I’m not sure if it has any of their own distillate in it but I believe the vatting contains some of the very first sourced brandy they released. As with a number of their releases this has the name of a song slapped on it; in this case, “A Song for You”—whether the Leon Russell or the Donny Hathaway version, I’m not sure (or it could be the Carpenters or Cher or Willie Nelson too, I suppose). I have to say I’ve not been terribly convinced by the few Copper & Kings brandies I’ve had so far (see here for my review of the Butchertown Brandy and here for my review of their pear brandy). Maybe I’ll like this one more. I hope so. Continue reading

Dartigalongue 23, 1996


Let’s keep brandy week going with another armagnac and another sample from Sku (who seems to have entered a very conventional period in his label making career). If Monday’s review was of a bottling by an upstart indie of an armagnac from an obscure domaine, today’s is of a release from a very established name: Dartigalongue. The business was established in the 19th century and has remained in the founding family ever since. Like Delord—another established name—Dartigalongue has long been available in the US as well. I remember being intrigued by some old releases at very reasonable seeming prices (compared to single malt) at a Binny’s store in Chicago some years ago. But brandy mavens didn’t seem very high on them and I resisted pulling the trigger: old spirits at reasonable prices are only good values if what’s in the bottle is also actually good. (The same was true of Delord, by the way, and as it turns out, I’ve been very underwhelmed by the Delords I’ve tried.) This release was a special selection by Seelbach’s, an online store that focuses on craft producers. I’m not entirely sure if Dartigalongue quite qualify as a craft producer anymore but it’s also not a point I want to litigate. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Lous Pibous 22, 1996 (L’Encantada)


Okay, it’s not clear if more than three people are still reading my whisky reviews so let’s do a week of brandy. First up, a Lous Pibous from armagnac indie darlings, L’Encantada. I’m no armagnac maven—and nor do I follow these releases closely—but Lous Pibous seems to be the big name among actual armagnac mavens. A number of casks of Pibous have made it to the US in recent years, showing up as exclusives at various stores around the country. And since they’re all (?) single casks they inspire the kind of devotional comparative assessment that you can only expect from whisky geeks—which is basically what all the new brandy mavens in the US started out as. What’s the point of drinking something, they seem to say, if you can’t do a line-up of 12 sibling casks and rank them vis a vis one another? This particular single cask was not bottled by a store but was a personal selection by a member of a brandy club, I think. Or at least so Sku—who is the source of the sample with an uncharacteristically legible label—told me. I believe it has a very strong reputation. I’ve previously reviewed a few other L’Encantada Pibous—including two more 1996s (here and here)—and if this is as good as those I’ll be pleased. Let’s see if it is. Continue reading

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