Quiquiriqui Cacao Pechuga, Mezcal


Housekeeping note: I did not post the usual Thursday recipe yesterday. For a change, I didn’t have the post ready to go a week prior, and the days leading up to Thanksgiving got a bit too full for me to get around to it. I’ll post that recipe on Saturday instead. Here, on schedule, however, is this week’s third booze post: the final post in my mini-run of mezcal reviews.

The first two were both Del Maguey releases: the Tobala on Monday and the Wild Tepextate on Wednesday. I liked both but the Tobala more than the other. Today’s offering is not not from Del Maguey but from an outfit named Quiquiriqui. This is a brand based in the UK that apparently works directly with producers in Oaxaca—though looking at their website, it’s hard to tell if they work with separate producers or just one family. Their range includes a number of pechugas: one made with mole (a la the Cinco Sentidos I reviewed earlier this year), one made with coffee, and this one which deploys cacao. I’m not sure how exactly this is done: are cacao beans hung over the still during the third distillation a la the traditional chicken or turkey? Are the cacao beans in addition to chicken/turkey or a replacement? If you know one way or the other, please write in below. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Del Maguey, Wild Tepextate, Mezcal


I began this week of mezcal reviews with Del Maguey’s Tobala, which I rather liked. Here now is another of their releases: Wild Tepextate. As per the Mezcal Reviews site the producer is the same as that of the Tobala, which means it’s also from Santa Maria Albarradas. Tepextate is also a variety of agave found at high altitudes—you’ll never guess but it grows wild. That pretty much exhausts my knowledge about this mezcal. Well, I can tell you it also costs in the neighbourhood of $100 in most parts of the US and that it is currently available in Minnesota for a bit more than that. Okay, let’s get to it.

Del Maguey, Wild Tepextate (45%; Lot: TEP 181; from a bottle split)

Nose: More acidic than the Tobala, with more of a mineral note as well. Otherwise, similar notes of lime, green chiles and salt with mild passionfruit. Some charred pineapple in there too. More savoury as it sits with a bit of ham brine joining the party. With a couple of drops of water the “green” notes recede and the savoury notes expand. Continue reading

Del Maguey, Tobala, Mezcal


This month I’ve already done a week of reviews of a category I don’t know very much about: bourbon. I’m now pleased to do a week of reviews of a category I know even less about: mezcal. I’ll be reviewing two mezcals from Del Maguey, the brand that has in recent years raised the profile of mezcal among whisky drinkers, and another from Quiquiriqui, a brand I had not heard of until I acquired a sample of it. First up, Del Maguey’s Tobala. It is named for the variety of agave from which it is is distilled. The tobala agave is much smaller variety than most others used to make mezcal, grows at high elevations, takes a long time to reach maturity, and apparently its yields too are quite low. All of this means mezcals made from tobala are typically more expensive. This Del Maguey iteration—which is a single village/town expression from Santa Maria Albarradas—goes for over $100, if you can find it. I’ve never had a tobala mezcal before, and so will not be able to tell you if this is a representative example of the varietal, but I’m curious to try it. Continue reading

Hampden Great House, 2021 Release


Jamaican rum week began on Monday with a 15 yo Long Pond and continued on Wednesday with a 16 yo Worthy Park. Here now to close out the week is a Hampden, albeit one that does not bear an age statement. This is Hampden’s third annual release in their “Great House” series. I’ve previously reviewed the 2020 release, which I liked a lot. At the time of that review I’d made a mental note to try to find the 2021 release when it came out, but it’s not a mental note I remembered to read often. Then again, it probably wouldn’t have mattered. Very few interesting rums come to Minnesota and with inter-state shipping of spirits now as difficult as international shipping I probably wouldn’t have been able to buy a bottle even if I’d looked for one. (This is where someone will tell me it was available at my local Total Wine.) Anyway, I did get to it via a bottle split and that’s better than nothing. If I like it will I actually remember to look for the 2022 release? I don’t think it’s out yet. Continue reading

Worthy Park 16, 2005, Rum (Thompson Bros.)


Jamaican rum week continues. On Monday I reviewed a 15 yo Long Pond that I liked a lot and which I said reminded me of rum from Worthy Park. And today I have a 16 yo Worthy Park. Well, I don’t think it was bottled with that name on the label but that is the distillery in question. This was a single cask bottled by the Thompson brothers of Dornoch Castle fame for K&L in California. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a Worthy Park I didn’t like—I don’t mean to give the impression that I’ve tried so very many of them. Let’s hope this won’t be the first.

Worthy Park 16, 2005, Rum (54%; Thompson Bros.; from a sample split)

Nose: Oh yes, quite a bit more funk in this one with motor oil, diesel and just a whiff of ripe garbage heap. Quite a bit of aniseed on the second sniff. As it sits there’s more fruit—dried tangerine peel—along with cinnamon and clove and quite a bit of caramel. With a lot of time and air the caramel lightens a bit and picks up some toffee and some plum sauce. A few drops of water and it seems to get sort of…flat: the funk and the fruit recede and are replaced by brown sugar. Continue reading

Long Pond 15, 2005 (ImpEx Collection)


Now, Long Pong is not generally a misnomer for a Jamaican rum but that’s a typo on the sample label. The name of the distillery is Long Pond. It was once one of hundreds of Jamaican rum distilleries, its history—like those of all distilleries in the Caribbean—going back uneasily a few hundred years through the horrors of sugar plantation slavery and the triangular trade. If there’s a history of Caribbean rum that looks closely at its fundamental connections with the history of colonialism and slavery and their post/neo-colonial reverberations, I haven’t come across it. My sense is that the rum world is as quiet about this complicated history as the American bourbon industry is, but I may be wrong about that: if a book about this exists, I would be very interested to read it (please write in below). Anyway, almost all of those Jamaican distilleries are now gone. Long Pond itself—one of the last survivors—was closed in 2012 before being reopened in 2017. I gather it may now be producing again. The rum I am reviewing today, however, was distilled before that closure, in 2005. This cask was bottled in 2021 by the California-based importer ImpEx. It’s my first Long Pond and I am curious to see where it will fall on the funk spectrum between Hampden and Worthy Park, the two Jamaican distilleries I do have some experience of. Let’s get to it. Continue reading

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