Torrontés is not a wine varietal that a lot of people know, but they should. Grown exclusively in Argentina, this hybrid of muscat and criolla (aka mission) makes a floral and delicious white wine that I love drinking in summer. (And, to be honest, the rest of the year as well.)
The better Torrontés wines I’ve tried are aromatic and fruity (especially tropical fruits) with a nice amount of crisp acidity. They tend to be dry, but can range from light to more medium-bodied. It works very well as an aperitif, but also goes with a wide variety of foods, including spicy stuff and beef (it is from Argentina, after all).
The Terrazas de los Andes winery is located at the foot of the Andes mountains in the Salta region, where many of the best Torrontés wines come from. The grapes themselves are grown at altitude, over a mile high in the Andes. (Does that make a difference? Who knows! But it sounds cool.)
The 2012 Reserva Torrontés has an intense floral aroma and just explodes with tropical fruit and citrus flavors on the palate. I tasted a lot of delicious passion fruit, with just a little spice. It has enough acidity that it’s definitely not sweet, but it’s still bursting with fruit flavor.
I could drink this all day long. A very pleasing and tasty wine that I’d happily serve to guests, especially those who are bored with Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio. Drink it while it’s young and fresh.
Dewar’s is one of the most popular brands of blended Scotch whisky in the world. And the whisky that forms the heart of those blends is made in the town of Aberfeldy in the Scottish Highlands.
The Aberfeldy distillery was opened in 1898 by the Dewar family and has been producing whisky pretty much ever since. (It closed briefly during the two world wars.)
Their most popular expression is the Aberfeldy 12-year-old single malt. It’s a very pleasant, easygoing whisky, but still full of flavor. It shows great balance, with honeyed sweetness matched with dry oak, and fruitiness contrasted with just a touch of smoke.
The Aberfeldy 12 is a mild-mannered whisky, not a Scotch that grabs you by the lapels. Still, it demands attention for its lip-smacking flavor.
This would make a wonderful introduction for those who are looking to explore the world of single malt whisky. But even those who are dyed-in-the-wool Scotch drinkers will find much here to enjoy.
The Jamaican style of rum — heavy on the “hogo” (funky esters and lush tropical flavors) — is one of my favorites. So it’s always a pleasure to see a new rum from the island appear on the U.S. market.
Mezan bills itself as “the untouched rum,” meaning it’s unsweetened, uncolored, and only lightly filtered. This puts it in contrast to many other rums, which are often heavily doctored before bottling to achieve a certain flavor profile or color. (Dark Jamaican rums are particularly notorious for their heavy use of caramel coloring.)
The XO is Mezan’s introductory expression. They apparently produce several more, only a couple of which are available in the States. Mezan is a British company that buys rum stocks from the distilleries and then blends and ages them into their own style.
The Mezan XO reminds me somewhat of Smith & Cross, another full-flavored and funky Jamaican rum. This is a bit lighter, which probably means it will have more appeal to a lot of drinkers. (The Smith & Cross can be a little rough for the uninitiated.)
It smells of dunder, bananas, and other fruit. A nice, sweet aroma that promises good things to come. And the taste doesn’t disappoint. The fruit continues, with a good amount of Jamaican hogo. It doesn’t hit you over the head, but it’s right there, front and center. You can also taste the molasses, but it’s not especially sweet.
It’s slightly spicy and has a definite note of something I couldn’t identify. (The label promises tobacco, but it wasn’t that. Tea, maybe?) It’s a little bitter on the finish (barrel tannins, presumably) with some heat, but not too much.
Mezan XO is a very flavorful Jamaican rum that you can enjoy neat or use to funk up your Mai Tais, Planters Punches, and other cocktails.
Coming in at 84-proof, Peligroso Silver Tequila may not exactly be “dangerous,” but it definitely has some heat to it. You can whiff the alcohol right from the glass — I’d have guessed it had an even higher octane than it does. You also get the agave aroma you’d expect from a 100% agave tequila. (And, as you know, the Professor doesn’t drink any other kind.)
The alcohol comes over on the palate as well, especially on the finish. It gives that lingering burn to the throat, in case you like that kind of thing. I found it a little harsher than I prefer. The flavor was also a little one-dimensional. There’s an earthy agave taste leading to some peppery bitterness and a hint of tobacco. Not really a well-rounded flavor like I was hoping for.
Not bad by any means, but not a stand-out in the category.
While we celebrate Halloween in the United States, Mexico is busy observing Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. It’s a more serious holiday than Halloween, a time to remember family and those who have gone before us. But it’s also a joyous one, with celebrations featuring plenty of good food and drink.
And that’s why today we’re discussing tequila. I’ve talked before about some of the tequilas I like to drink, and one of the mainstays on the list is Don Julio Blanco. Most of the big spirits companies don’t do a great job with tequila. Their products are too artificial, too manipulated, too manufactured. But Don Julio tequila is a spirit I don’t hesitate to recommend.
When you hold up a glass of this tequila, you see the crystalline purity, while the aroma bursts forth: bright, saline, and herbaceous. Such a lush and appealing scent. You can tell that a great deal of the agave’s essence has been transformed into the spirit — exactly what you’re looking for in a good blanco tequila.
The agave is also up-front-and-center on the palate. It’s a little sweet at first, changing to salty and spicy after a moment. The delicious, vegetal flavor is just as lush as the smell. It also has a nice, viscous mouthfeel, with a brief, slightly bitter finish without too much heat. Don Julio made be owned by Diageo, the largest drinks company in the world, but the people making this tequila know what they’re doing.
Don Julio Blanco tequila is too good to shoot. It should be sipped and savored. Or, naturally, you can enjoy it in a fine cocktail like a Margarita or Paloma. Lately I’ve been enjoying it in a simpler preparation. Add a healthy measure of Don Julio to a glass with ice, throw in a squeeze of lime and a splash of agave nectar or simple syrup. Simple, but elegant and delicious.
Auchentoshan Lowland Scotch Whisky has released a new single malt that is designed to appeal to bourbon drinkers. The new American Oak Single Malt Scotch is aged in first fill ex-bourbon casks, the first Auchentoshan to be matured in this way.
It’s still a single malt Scotch, triple-distilled from 100% malted barley, but by aging it in barrels that were first used to mature bourbon, the idea is that the American whiskey will lend something of its character to the Scotch.
The aroma of Auchentoshan American Oak is light and slightly grainy. There are toasted malt and wood notes, but overall nothing really jumps out.
Sipping neat, this whisky is dry and slightly woody. The cereal malt is more pronounced in the taste, along with some of the flavors you’d expect from bourbon, such a vanilla and light spice. I don’t know that I would have made the connection to American whiskey on my own, however. The flavor is definitely Scotch all the way.
Auchentoshan American Oak is a straight-forward single malt, without much nuance or complexity. It doesn’t have an age statement, so we can assume it’s fairly young. The attractive price — relatively cheap these days for whisky — makes it appealing as both a whisky to drink straight, or to use in cocktails and highballs.
If you’re not usually a Scotch drinker and you’d like to give one a try, this is an affordable, pleasing option.
Study a bottle of Absolut Vodka. Sleek and elegant, its shape is now iconic, but was once revelatory. Study the contents and you’ll immediately note that the liquid inside is impeccably pure and clear.
None of this happened by accident, but rather is the product of meticulous Swedish craftsmanship and design. Absolut may be a multinational company producing millions of bottles of vodka to be enjoyed all around the world. But they’re still doing things the right way.
In the town of Ähus, Sweden, a 400-year-old village with cobblestone streets, they’ve been making vodka for the better half of a millennium. This is where Absolut vodka is made. All of the Absolut vodka. Each and every one of the 650,000 bottles produced every day is made in this community.
Absolut is made exclusively from winter wheat grown in the Skane region of Sweden. The vodka used is from the local aquifers, which are noted for their clarity. Even so, the distillers take the extra step of filtering the water to ensure that it is as pure as possible
All of this allows the company to produce a product that is of consistently and reliably high quality. No matter where you purchase a bottle of Absolut vodka, you can be sure that you’re going to get what you expect.
In the glass, Absolut is transparent, with no color or sediment obscuring it. It looks like the purest glass of water you’ve ever seen. Its aroma is one of cereal grains and faint ethanol, with none of the whiffs of acetone that mar poor quality vodka.
In the mouth, it has a slight sweetness to start, with little fire to announce its arrival. There is again the hint of cereal grains and vanilla, but the flavor is subtle. Spirits reviewers hate the term “smooth” because it’s so nebulous. But it is the word I keep thinking of. As the vodka moves around your mouth, it gradually heats up and dries out, leaving a slight bitterness and pleasant tingling on the tongue.
At the risk of sounding like a cliché, the proof is in the bottle. Some in the spirits world look down their noses at vodka, as if it doesn’t take a craftsman’s skill to make a spirit this fine. But it does, and the distillers at Absolut have that skill.
Absolut Vodka paid a fee for this post’s inclusion here on Professor Cocktail, but in no way did they dictate or control the content. The thoughts expressed here, and the words chosen to express them, are strictly and completely our own.
The classic Gin and Tonic is one of the world’s most elegant drinks. Full of flavor and with a bracing kick, it’s the perfect balance of bitter, spicy, tart, and sweet. Although the G&T is thought of by some as primarily a summertime beverage, it’s far too fine to confine to only one season of the year.
And the good news is, you don’t have to! Although the Gin and Tonic is the ideal accompaniment to a warm summer day, it can also be a very welcome quaff for the fall and beyond.
Professor Cocktail and Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water recommend you enjoy your Gin and Tonic all year long. To assist you in your enjoyment, the Professor Cocktail panel tasted 40 different gins to find the best to mix in your drink.
For more details about how the taste test was conducted, please see the supplemental information after the results. But now, let’s unveil the winners!
Unlike the dark days of the past, when high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors ruled the land, we are fortunate today to have several great options for tonic waters and syrups available. For the purposes of this test, we chose to use Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water, which we consider to be the gold standard of tonics and the perfect accompaniment to gin.
Each drink was made with a ratio of 2:1, tonic water to gin. The samples were prepared with 1 ounce of gin, 2 ounces of chilled tonic, and 1 one-ounce ice cube. Due to possible variations in garnish, the drinks were tasted unaccompanied by lime or lemon.
The gins were tasted over the course of two days, with 20 gins tasted at each session. The samples were randomized so that our panel could taste the drinks blind, without regard to brand or other details.
A Quick Word About Gin
Gin is a spirit of both variety and complexity. The only important technical requirement for making gin is that the spirit must be flavored with juniper berries. Beyond that, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the botanical flavors that may be added. Everything from citrus to coriander, cardamom, berries, anise, flowers — you name it.
Despite the ubiquity of the Gin and Tonic as the most popular way to consume the spirit, not all gins lend themselves equally well to this preparation. Therefore, we urge that caution be used when attempting to extrapolate from our results to how the gin would perform when enjoyed on its own or, say, in a Martini.
The fine folks at Fever-Tree supplied the tonic water used in this tasting. Several distilleries, importers, and PR companies kindly provided samples of some of the gins we tasted. Others were taken from Professor Cocktail’s own spirits library. Whether or not a sample of a spirit was provided or we purchased it ourselves had no bearing on the results. The judgments rendered were solely our own.
All prices listed are for a 750ml bottle, extrapolated if necessary. Please enjoy your gin responsibly.
Johnnie Walker is the most popular whisky in the world, known and respected almost anywhere you go. It’s a blended Scotch whisky, meaning it is a mixture of malt whiskeys from different distilleries, along with some more neutral grain whiskey.
The company does not reveal all the names of the distilleries whose whisky they use. But they have said this blend is build around Clynelish. Other oft-mentioned suspects are Cardu and Talisker.
The Gold Label Reserve contains no age statement, so we don’t know how long it spent int he barrel. (This is in contrast to the Gold Label 18 year, the whisky it replaced in Johnnie Walker’s lineup.)
This special edition version comes in a bright, shiny gold bottle; a rather striking appearance, if a little gaudy. If you like the looks of it, you might want to buy one now, as it’s supposed to be a limited edition. If you don’t, you can buy the regular, less ostentatious, version instead.
Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve has a light aroma overall, with honey and fruit dominating, and just a touch of smoke underneath. There is also a faint grapey/wine aroma as well.
Similarly, it is light on the palate — a common characteristic of blended whiskeys — both in flavor and intensity. It starts out with toasted malt and honeyed oak, before changing over to light smoke. It has a short, very dry finish, with an astringency from either the smoke or the wood or both.
This is a refined and balanced whiskey, but it is not exactly bursting with flavor. It is certainly pleasant to drink, and would likely be welcomed by those who aren’t fans of heavier whiskeys or who are just being introduced to Scotch. However, drinkers who are looking for the more assertive flavor of a good single malt are probably better off looking elsewhere.
Ron Zacapa Centernario 23 is a favorite among many rum drinkers, especially those who like their tipple on the sweeter side. It is made in Guatemala from “sugar cane honey,” the first press of the cane that is then boiled down to make it thick and syrupy.
After distillation, the rum is aged in a facility high in the Guatemalan mountains, at a place they call the “house above the clouds” — appropriate, given that it’s located 7000 feet above sea level. The rum is aged through the solera process, including rums aged six through twenty-three years. (I explain more about the solera process in my review of Papa’s Pilar Dark Rum.)
Ron Zacapa 23 is a dark mahogany in the glass, with a lush aroma of brown sugar and Christmas spice. Very warm and welcoming, it has a sweet taste of caramel balanced with cinnamon and dried fruit. There is more than a hint of oak as well, before dark chocolate takes over on the long finish. The addition of a little water brings out even more sweetness.
This rum has a very rich and robust flavor that is ideal for sipping. It would make a good introduction for those who are interested in trying spirits neat but don’t have much experience with doing so. A few might find it overly sweet, but I found it all worked together quite nicely.
Depending on how you feel about mixing cocktails with expensive spirits — I’m a firm proponent of it myself — Ron Zacapa 23 is highly recommended for a variety of drinks, especially those of the Tiki variety. I can report it makes a mighty fine Mai Tai.