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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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