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The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #10 – H by Hine

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 6, 2014

The Classic SAM_1370

The Classic

Hine is one of the oldest Cognac Houses in the commune of Jarnac, (within the Cognac appellation of France of course), and Hine has produced their Cognac since 1763. Their new H by Hine Fine Champagne Cognac (VSOP) is produced from a blend 20 Cognac spirits which in turn were each produced from grapes grown in 2 of the finest crus in the heart of France’s Cognac appellation, the Grande Champagne and the Petite Champagne. As this Cognac carries a VSOP designation, I should point out that the youngest eaux de vie in the H by Hine Fine Champagne Cognac blend must be a minimum of 4 years old.

Here is a link to my full review:

Review: H by Hine Fine Champagne Cognac (VSOP)

“… The breezes above the glass carried a nice blended aroma which represents a melding of oak and wood spice, some vibrant fresh fruit and light toffee scents. The spiciness of the oak is firm but not assertive which appeals to me as sometimes oak can dominate a spirit to the detriment of the other aromas and flavours. …”

While some people scoff at the notion of mixing Cognac into cocktails and bar drinks, the truth is that Brandy and Cognac are perhaps the original cocktail mixers. It was not until these spirits disappeared in the 1870’s (until the end of the 19th century because of the phylloxera), that other spirits such as whisky, rum and gin began to dominate the mixed drink category. At the conclusion of my review I share a recipe called The Classic which has is origins in those earlier times when Brandy and Cognac were kings of the cocktails.

Enjoy my review, and stay tuned for more of the 12 Cognacs of Christmas!

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Rum Howler #19 Canadian Whisky – Schenley OFC

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 6, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014Schenley OFC is currently produced at the Lethbridge, Alberta Distillery by Schenley Distilleries. The Distillery in Lethbridge Distillery usually referred to as the Black Velvet Distillery, as this is where Black Velvet Canadian Whisky is produced, and, as well, it is referred to as the Palliser Distillery, as it is also where brands such as Danfield’s Canadian Whisky (a Palliser Brand) is produced.

Alas, the Schenley OFC brand seems to have disappeared from the shelves of many liquor stores stateside, and I suspect that this is related to industry consolidation where for reasons beyond my understanding, solid money earning brands are dumped in favour of the economy of scales which are achieved by promoting fewer brands names across a portfolio.

Schenley OFC LabelThankfully, the Schenley OFC is still found on the shelves of many liquor stores here in Alberta. It is a whisky which I hold in high esteem, and one which I felt I ought to re-visit this year on my website.

This revisitation resulted in its placing at #19 on this year’s Rum Howler Canadian Whisky Countdown:

#19 Canadian Whisky – Schenley OFC

” … As you allow the glass to breathe, the air above the glass becomes enriched with dusty grain fields, sandalwood and oak spices, hints of cinnamon and clove, and a touch of almond-like marzipan. If you like a typical dry Canadian Whisky, you will like the nose very much …”

This is a very satisfying Canadian whisky. We have that light bourbon influence which has become all the rage in whisky today, but the makers did not forget that this is a Canadian whisky first. That nice rye flavour works well in combination with the vanilla and honey bourbon aftertaste.

It also makes a great Canadian Caribou cocktail!

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies of 2014

 

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Rum Howler 2014 #19 Rum – Pumpkin Face 23

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 6, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014Pumpkin Face Rum is a new brand of rum being distributed in Canada by Pure Global Imports. The rum inside the cool looking pumpkin shaped bottles is apparently a blend of selected rums from the Dominican Republic.

According to the brand owner (Itsko Imports Inc. of Beverly Hills, California), Pumpkin Face 23 is an ‘ultra premium’ Dominican rum which was produced in 1980. The rum was aged in oak for 23 years, however it was also at some point during the maturation process ‘rested’ in stainless steel vats for 10 years before being bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

Pumpkin 23This unusual rum in its very unusual bottle checks in as the 19th best of 2014!

You may click the following link to read my full review:

#19 Rum – Pumpkin Face 23

“… The colour resembles a darkened penny, and the initial aroma is rich with smells of chocolate caramel and oak spices. I decided to allow the glass to breathe and was delighted at how the oak spices seemed to meld into the chocolate caramel as the rum decanted. Rich toffee and tobacco aromas evolved from the glass with hints of treacle, brown sugar, and baking spices straining to push through as well.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Rums of 2014 here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Rums of 2014

 

Posted in Awards, Extras, Rum, Rum Reviews | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Rum Howler #20 Canadian Whisky – Crown Royal Reserve

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 5, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014Crown Royal Canadian Whisky is currently produced in Gimli, Manitoba, at the Crown Royal Distillery. The distillery and the brand are owned by Diageo, and I think it is fair to say that Crown Royal is Diageo’s flagship Canadian whisky brand. In 1992, a premium version of Crown Royal was introduced as Crown Royal Special Reserve. This whisky was produced from specially selected casks which were tasted and monitored closely by the Crown Royal Master Blender. These ‘premium casks’ represented whiskies with special character, and they were allowed to age longer with the aim of producing a more premium whisky. In the fall of 2008, this more premium Crown Royal Special Reserve was relaunched as Crown Royal Reserve Canadian Whisky.

CRReserveI have to admit that I seem to have mixed reactions whenever I taste this particular whisky. When I originally scored it in 2010, I was underwhelmed; but, when I re-scored the spirit in January of 2013, my impression of the whisky had improved considerably.

As well, I have noticed that in blind tastings (when serving as juror for the Canadian Whisky Awards) I seem to have different reaction each time I sample a different bottle.

This time when doing my tastings for the Rum Howler Top 25 Whiskies of 2014, it seems to have improved just a little from its 2013 score, and the result is that the Crown Royal Reserve is the number 20 Canadian Whisky in this years countdown!

You may read my 2014 review here:

#20 Canadian Whisky – Crown Royal Reserve

“… Things begin with rich notes of oak and cedar mingling with rye grain and butterscotch. The punky corn accent so familiar in all Crown Royal whiskies is very apparent; but it is much more subdued in this expression … “

My Canadian Whisky Countdown has reached the top 20 with the Crown Royal Reserve. In my opinion, this is a whisky appears to vary from batch to batch. Fortunately though, those variations seem to be diminishing over time, and the Crown Royal Reserve seems to be finding out who she wants to be.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies of 2014

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Rum Howler 2014 #20 Rum – Dictador 20 Year Old Solera

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 5, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014We have reached into the top 20 rums of 2014, and Dictador is making its second appearance.

Dictador is produced in Colombia on the Caribbean coast at Cartagena de Indias City. Rather than being produced from molasses, the rum is produced from the virgin honey of sugar cane which has been distilled upon a stainless steel alembic, and aged using Dicatador’s unique take on the solera-style aging system. Although the rum is produced upon a stainless steel alembic, the inner workings of this still contain more than enough copper such that it functions in basically the same manner as a copper pot still.

Dictador 20 SAM_1387The Dictador 20 Year Old Rum, is a solera aged rum which is taken from the solera at the point where the age of the rum within that solera row is at least 20 years of age.  Some older rum is certainly within those barrels as well.) This rum is bottle at 40 % alcohol by volume.

You may read my newly revised review by clicking the following link:

#20 Rum – Dictador 20 Year Old Solera

” … I would suggest that oak and caramel dominate the rum, but in spite of the age of the rum, (which is apparent on the nose), the oak flavours do not attack you with sharp tannins and citrus zest. Instead, The oak flavours have melted into the caramel like flavours and appear to the palate as a yummy oak and caramel syrup that carries hints of other the flavours within it …”

The Dictador 20 year Old Solera Blend is extremely well crafted and balanced. I enjoyed how the differing flavours melted together with the caramel and oak. This is a suave, yet rich rum experience!

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Rums of 2014 here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Rums of 2014

 

Posted in Awards, Dark Rums, Extras, Rum, Rum Reviews | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #11 – Hennessy Privilege V.S.O.P.

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 4, 2014

Medusa Coil SAM_1382

The Medusa Coil Cocktail

Jas Hennessy & Co., is the largest Cognac producer in the world today with sales that exceed 45 million bottles per year. The company was founded in 1765 by Richard Hennessy who was an Irish Officer in the army of Louis XV.  Fifty two years later, in 1817, Hennessy Cognac was so highly regarded that the Prince of Wales, (who later would become King George IV of Great Britain) asked the Hennessy House to produce what was termed a “very superior old pale cognac“. This was apparently the genesis for the initials V.S.O.P (Very Superior Old Pale), and these initials have become a labeling standard used throughout the industry to this day.

The subject of this review is Hennessy’s Privilege VSOP Cognac. The spirit is produced from the fruity Ugni Blanc grapes which have been harvested from the four great crus of the Cognac region (Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies and Fins Bois). The grape wine produced is (of course) double distilled upon the Hennessy Distillery’s great copper pot stills and then selected eaux-de-vie is set down to age for at least 4 years in french oak casks which have constructed from old growth oak timbers.

Here is a link to my full review:

Review: Hennessy’s Privilege VSOP Cognac

“… The initial aroma displays a rich combination of oak spice and vanilla with leathery cedar accents. To some extent the oak dominates covering over the fruity scents of green grape and raisin. After a few minutes the breezes above the glass show me impressions of rich tobacco, dark baking spices, (vanilla, brown sugar, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon), sticky marmalade, apricot brandy and hints of maple …”

When I was contemplating a cocktail for the Hennessy Privilege VSOP, I wanted to put a modern spin on a traditional (or maybe the right word is ‘classic’) cocktail. I began with Leo Engels 1878 Brandy Crusta, and with a few additions and subtractions, I arrived at what I call the Medusa Coil.

Enjoy my review, and stay tuned for more of the 12 Cognacs of Christmas!

 

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Rum Howler #21 Canadian Whisky – Potters Special Old Rye Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 4, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014Potter’s Special Old Rye Whisky was originally produced by Potter’s Distilleries (founded by Ernie Potter in 1958). When Highwood Distillers finalized the purchase of Potter’s Distilleries in 2005, they brought all of the aging whisky stocks from the Potter’s warehouse facilities in Kelowna, British Colombia to their new warehouse facility in High River, Alberta and continued to let them age at their site in the foothills just east of the Rocky Mountains. From these aging whisky stocks Highwood has kept the Potter’s Whisky brands alive, incorporating them into their portfolio of whisky products.

Potter's Special OldPotter’s Special Old Rye Whisky is primarily a corn-based whisky which has been aged in charred American White Oak barrels for 4 – 5 years.

You may read my newly revised review by clicking the link below:

Review: Potter’s Special Old Rye Whisky

“… The rye is front and center on the nose with light vanilla following and hints of corn fields waving in the background. Fine wood spices and orange peel build in the air as the glass breathes and some light grassy tobacco scents gather as well. This smells like a good old-fashioned Canadian Whisky and in fact it reminds me of the style whisky I drank 25 years ago. … “

Potter’s Special Old is a really nice traditional Canadian Rye Whisky. Whether you want to enjoy it in a traditional rye cocktail, or if you want to slowly sip on a nice tonsil licking whisky, this one fits the bill. I have been impressed and delighted by what I have found.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies of 2014

Posted in Canadian Whisky, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Rum Howler 2014 #21 Rum – Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva 18 Rum

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 4, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014Ron Matusalem prides itself on being a Cuban style of rum with a history in Cuba they trace back to 1872 when two brothers, Benjamin and Eduardo Camp, together with a partner, Evaristo Álvarez opened a distillery in Santiago de Cuba. According to the information I found last April on the Matusalem website, the rum they were producing began to win acclaim by the first quarter of the 20th century. The distillery apparently operated until the 1960′s when due to the Cuban Revolution the Álvarez family was exiled, and the rum they made disappeared from the landscape.

Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva 18 is aged according to the Matusalem company’s own style of solera aging process. According to the Matusalem website the average age of the rums (not the minimum age) which make up this Solera Blender is 18 years.

Ron Matusalem Rum Old fashioned

Ron Matusalem Old Fashioned

Here is a link to my recently written review which I wrote earlier this Year:

# 21 Rum – Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva 18

” … The initial aroma carries a nice mixed aroma of caramel, oakspice and vanilla. The rich scent is complimented by dabs of marmalade and banana. As the glass sits, the oak spices build in the air, and the rum scents in the air are enriched by added impression of maple toffee, hints of cinnamon and cloves, some pipe tobacco and perhaps a bit of roasted walnut as well …”

This is a relaxing rum with just enough nuance to keep the glass interesting as you sip, but restrained enough that the sipping experience never becomes demanding. It also makes a tremendous Rum Old Fashioned!

Cheers everyone, enjoy my countdown of the World’s Best Rums!

Posted in Rum, Rum Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Rum Howler # 22 Canadian Whisky – Masterson’s Straight Wheat Whiskey

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 3, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014Masterson’s Straight Wheat Whiskey is distilled and aged in Canada, for a California company located in Sonoma, called 35 Maple Street. As a straight whiskey, the spirit must be barreled and aged in new American Oak; however this Masterson’s whiskey also holds the distinction of being perhaps the only Canadian whiskey which is distilled on a copper pot still from a mash of 100 % wheat grain.

Mastersons_WheatIt is aged for 12 years, bottled at 50% alcohol by volume, and is apparently (like the rest of the Masterson’s line-up) named for the famous frontier lawman, William “Bat” Masterson.

You may read my review of Masterson’s Straight Wheat Whiskey by clicking the following link:

# 22 Canadian Whisky – Masterson’s 12-Year-Old Straight Wheat Whiskey

“… this 12-year-old straight wheat whiskey maintains its “Canadian Whisky” character with the smooth aromas of a rye-like wheat grain on full display. Mild butterscotch and toffee aromas mingle with the wood and spices, and subtle bits of dry fruit and orange peel drifting into the breezes for those who are patient enough to notice …”

By bottling this whiskey at a higher proof the guys at 35 Maple Street were able to capitalize on the smoothness of the wheat grain, while at the same time bringing more of this grain’s subtle flavours forward. The result is a very pleasant whisky indulgence; and in fact, the Straight Wheat Whisky is by far my favourite whisky expression in the Masterson’s family.

Posted in Canadian Whisky, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #12 (tie) – Courvoisier VSOP (Fine Champagne Cognac)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 3, 2014

Lime Sour SAM_1376

Courvoisier VSOP Lime Sour

We can trace the origins of Courvoisier Cognac to 1809 when Emmanuel Courvoisier began a small wine and spirits company with the Mayor of Bercy, Louis Gallois in the French suburb of Bercy (Paris, France). The company and its Cognac was soon to achieve fame as in 1811, Napoleon Bonaparte visited Bercy, and it is said that after visiting Bercy, Napoleon stated that he wanted to have available a ration of cognac for his artillery companies during the Napoleonic Wars. And in fact, later (in 1869) Napoleon’s heir, Napoleon III stated a preference for Courvoisier and also bestowed the honourable title of “Official Supplier to the Imperial Court” to the company, and this title remains on display at the Courvoisier Museum in Jarnac.

To produce their VSOP Fine Champagne Cognac, Courvoisier utilizes eaux-de-vie from only two of the crus in the Cognac appellation,the Grande Champagne,and Petite Champagne crus which are generally recognized at the two premier regions within the overall Cognac appellation. The grape juice from which the cognac is distilled is produced solely from white grapes which have been grown within these two appellations. The spirit is distilled twice upon a copper Charentes Still, and the resulting eaux de vie is aged in barrels handmade from 200-year old oak sourced from the Tronçais Forest in France.

Here is a link to my full review of the Courvoisier VSOP Fine Champagne Cognac:

Review: Courvoisier VSOP Fine Champagne Cognac

“… The initial aroma is somewhat restrained, but soon opens to reveal fine wood spices and sandalwood in front of some nice aromas of caramel and butterscotch melded into aromas of sugared green grapes and canned peaches …”

As I indicated two days ago, Cognac is a great mixing spirit, and the Courvoissier VSOP is no exception. I used my sample bottle to experiment a little and came up with a sour recipe I quite enjoyed, the Cognac Lime Sour.

Enjoy my review, and stay tuned for more of the 12 Cognacs of Christmas!

Posted in Brandy and Cognac, Cognac Review | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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