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Rum Rum Reviews Spirits Reviews

Rum Review: 10 Cane Rum

10cane10 Cane
Trinidadian Rum
Final Grade: C-
Price: $25 (750ml)

According to their website, 10 Cane rum is made from first press Trinidadian sugar cane juice. Technically this would make it a "rhum agricole," since it's distilled from the cane juice instead of the more common molasses. It's called "10 Cane" because it supposedly takes ten sugar cane stalks to make one bottle of the rum. They've branded it as "THE WORLD’S BEST RUM." It is not.

Right out of the bottle, 10 Cane had no aroma I could detect, other than a whiff of alcohol. After it had opened up for a few minutes, I could start to smell the sugar cane. It has a sweet, brown sugar aroma; subtle, but pleasant.

Drinking it neat — again, right out of the bottle — the rum didn't do anything for me. It had a strong alcohol bite, and that's it. No real flavors that I could discern, other than a generic taste of rum.

Trying it again after a few minutes it was definitely smoother, but I still didn't find much going on. A little sweetness, a little heat, but not much else. There is none of the typical rhum agricole flavor that one finds with such brands as Clément or Neisson.

The producers recommend mixing 10 Cane in a Cuba Libre, Mojito or Daiquiri, so I whipped up a Daiquiri. My standard recipe is 2 oz rum, 1/2 oz lime and 3/4 oz simple syrup. It tasted fine; reasonably pleasant, but nothing special. Again, the flavor of the rum just seemed to get lost. This could actually be an advantage to a lot of drinkers, but I prefer my rum to taste like, well, rum.

10 Cane is certainly not a bad product, but I think there are many better options at its price point. For $25 a bottle, I expect more than just okay. And this doesn't deliver it.

Report Card

Quality Grade: C
Value Grade: D+
Final Grade: C-

Categories
Drink Recipes Liqueur Reviews Spirits Reviews Whiskey Reviews

Liqueur/Whiskey Review: Evan Williams Cherry Reserve

Evanwilliams_cherryEvan Williams Cherry Reserve
Liqueur/Whiskey
Final Grade: B+
Price: $15 (750ml)

One of the most popular new sectors of the spirits business is a somewhat unusual one. Building on the popularity of the ubiquitous flavored vodkas, several distillers have started introducing flavored whiskeys.

According to the production information, Evan Williams Cherry Reserve combines aged bourbon with "natural cherry flavor." The distiller can't legally call this bourbon, so you won't find that word anywhere on the bottle. But that's what it is, albeit with the addition of cherry and some other stuff as well, like caramel coloring. Presumably sugar, too, considering how sweet it is.

On the nose, it's all sweet cherries. Very nice if you like cherries — and I love them. So I enjoyed the aroma very much. The cherries come across strong in the taste as well, along with a little nutty bitterness and a modest alcohol kick. There's a hint of almonds, which made me think of Amaretto.

It's nice stuff. Sweet — you'll notice I keep mentioning that — but with a pleasing flavor. The cherry is more authentic than you usually find in spirits like this. It thankfully avoids that cough syrup taste that plagues a lot of the competitors.

This liqueur is 35% alcohol, making it almost as strong as standard spirits, which are generally 40%. So be careful. Even with the high alcohol content (for a liqueur), it still goes down pretty easily and could sneak up on you.

After drinking it on the rocks, which I liked, I tried Cherry Reserve with Diet Coke. That was too sweet and cloying, however. (It would probably be really bad with regular Coke.) So I tried out one of the recipes on the Evan Williams website to see how the spirit would taste in a cocktail.

 

Cherry Cooler

1 1/2 oz Evan Williams Cherry Reserve
1/2 oz Dry White Rum
1/2 oz Triple Sec
2 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Orange Juice

Shake ingredients with ice. Strain into a Collins glass with ice.

 

A tasty, pseudo-Tiki cocktail. Sweet for sure, but I liked it. (If I were to make it again, I'd probably eliminate the OJ and replace it with 1/2 oz of Lime Juice to see if that balances it out a little better.) If you like fruity drinks, it's worth giving a try. Just don't have more than one, or the sugar will kill you.

Evan Williams Cherry Reserve is a spirit that will find most of its audience among younger drinkers, and others who enjoy things on the sweet side. It is not a sophisticated spirit, so those looking for complexity should look elsewhere.

It does, however, present a nice opportunity to introduce bourbon (in an "enhanced" form, of course) to those drinkers who aren't yet fans of whiskey's charms. I have not yet had the opportunity to taste Evan Williams' regular bourbon, but I look forward to doing so.

Report Card

Quality Grade: B
Value Grade: A
Final Grade: B+

Categories
Liqueur Reviews Liqueurs Spirits Reviews

Liqueur Review: Trader Vic’s Macadamia Nut Liqueur

Tradervic_macadamiTrader Vic's Macadamia Nut Liqueur
Liqueur
Final Grade: A-
Price: $18 (750ml)

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I have a bit of a sweet tooth. So when I picked up a bottle of Trader Vic's Macadamia Nut Liqueur, I was looking forward to sampling it right away.

Trader Vic, of course, was the nom de guerre of Victor Bergeron, founder of the Trader Vic's chain of restaurants and one of the pioneers of the Tiki craze. (I mentioned him in my essay on the Mai Tai.) Bergeron died in 1984, but his name lives on, branding both the restaurants and a variety of products.

The first thing you notice about this spirit is the bottle. It's a heavy glass decanter-style bottle with a sturdy stopper. A very nice presentation. I know that I'm going to keep the bottle once the contents are gone, even though I have no idea what I'm going to use it for.

Upon opening, the scent of toasted nuts is immediately apparent. It's a very pleasant aroma, like roasting chestnuts at Christmas time. I like this.

Taking a taste, it's exactly what I hoped for. Very smooth and buttery, with a prominent flavor of sweet nuts and a hint of vanilla. It has a silky texture that makes it go down very easily, despite an alcohol content of 26.5% (53 proof).

After enjoying it straight, I tried some on the rocks, mixed with a little rum and milk. It made for a very nice dessert drink. I don't drink coffee, but I can imagine a shot of this going very nicely in a cup of joe.

Some of the Trader Vic's brand products — specifically the mixers — aren't of the highest quality. It's hard to imagine Vic ever using them himself. But this liqueur is excellent and well deserving of the Trader Vic's name.

Obviously this is not going to be to everyone's taste. But it's an excellent version of what it sets out to be: sweet, nutty and delicious.

Report Card

Quality Grade: A-
Value Grade: A-
Final Grade: A-

Categories
Liqueur Reviews Liqueurs Spirits Reviews

Liqueur Review: Pallini Limoncello

Pallini LimoncelloPallini
Liqueur
Final Grade: B+
Price: $26 (750ml)

Summer may be over, but who says that means you have to stop drinking summery drinks? Certainly not me. It could be the coldest day of winter and I'll still drink a well mixed Daiquiri or Gin and Tonic.

I realize this is a contrarian position, but cold drinks during the cold season put me in mind of warm summer days, lounging by the pool or enjoying the beach. (Granted, I don't actually do those things. But still.)

The classic summertime Italian liqueur is the Limoncello, a simple but delicious combination of grain alcohol (basically vodka), sugar and lemons. Sounds delicious, right? It is, assuming it's blended right. If not, it can taste like Lemonheads soaked in turpentine.

One of the brands that does it right is Pallini. This imported Limoncello is made from lemons grown on Italy's Amalfi coast. That right there makes me think of warm breezes, beautiful sunsets, and the smell of fresh citrus in the air.

It has a lovely bouquet of lemons — just smelling it puts you in mind of summertime, even if the weatherman says otherwise. The scent of lemons is one of my favorite aromas and the Pallini is wonderful.

Limoncello should be drunk very cold — either neat out of the freezer or on the rocks. The first sip is delicious. There's the taste of lemon candy, the sweetness combined with just the right amount of tart, and also a creamy sensation. It has a smooth, velvety mouthfeel that is quite pleasant. Unlike some limoncellos (limoncelli?), this one doesn't have that cloying sweetness that becomes unbearable after one sip.

There's no alcohol bite to Pallini Limoncello, but you can feel the warmth spread through your chest as you drink it. (This mild character is reflected in the relatively low alcohol volume; just 26%.) The flavor is strong, authentic lemon — the distillers have really done an excellent job of capturing the essence of the fruit in this liqueur.

I didn't try mixing it in any cocktails, although there are some recipes on the Pallini website. I'm sure there are some delicious combinations in which it could be used.

For now, though, I'm just enjoying it on its own. Given the sugar content, Pallini Limoncello isn't something you'd want to drink every day. But for those times when you're craving a little taste of summer, this is an excellent choice.

Report Card

Quality Grade: A-
Value Grade: B-
Final Grade: B+

Categories
Spirits Reviews Whiskey Whiskey Reviews

Whiskey Review: Redemption Rye Whiskey

RedemptionryeRedemption Rye
Straight American Rye Whiskey
Final Grade: B+
Price: $27 (750ml)

Reviewed by Bob Montgomery 

No category of spirit has benefitted more from the cocktail revolution than rye. This whiskey, which formed the backbone of pre-Prohibition drinking, had become nearly extinct by the 1980s. Today rye is to be found in every bar worthy of the name, and no fewer than 40 different ryes are now being distilled in the US. It is almost indispensible in the Manhattan, my favorite cocktail.

Redemption Rye is a recent entrant in this growing market. Sporting a distinctive bottle and a generous 92 proof, Redemption is made from 95% premium rye and aged at least two years in new charred oak barrels. It's distilled in Indiana and bottled in Bardstown, Kentucky, where Redemption also produces a High-Rye Bourbon.

Two years is on the young end for any whiskey, although rye tends to be bottled younger than Scotch, for example. Some of that brash character is evident in Redemption, but there are also some signs of a developing maturity as well. It would be very interesting to see what would happen with a few more years in the barrel.

What we have today is still quite smooth, a bit sweet on the palate with some spice notes (think Christmas spices like ginger or clove.) As a sipping whiskey, it is a little hot at 92 proof and benefits from a splash of water or a few cubes of ice. I think its true potential is best realized as a mixing whiskey — it makes a fine Manhattan. At around $27 a bottle, it’s a very good value and well worth adding to your whiskey arsenal.

Report Card

Quality Grade: B+
Value Grade: B+
Final Grade: B+

Bob Montgomery is the older, occasionally wiser brother of the Professor. He's a gifted cook and an old hand when it comes to whiskeys.

Categories
Spirits Reviews Vodka Vodka Reviews

Vodka Review: Sobieski Vodka

SobieskiSobieski
Polish Vodka
Final Grade: A-
Price: $11 (750ml)

Reviewing vodka can be a challenging task. How does one praise a vodka? "This tastes even less than the last one I tried!" But while vodka is often described as being tasteless, odorless, colorless, etc. — rather like the perfect poison gas, now that I think about it — it's not true. To put the lie to this old saw, just place a glass of vodka next to a glass of water and see if you can't tell the difference.

Even beyond that, there are differences amongst different brands of vodka. The differences are not as profound as with other spirits, but they do exist. Vodka is a challenging spirit, though, even more so than with most of the liquor industry, because vodka is 75% marketing and hype. (Witness Grey Goose, a rather ordinary vodka that sells for $30 a bottle.)

So while it's easy to overpay for vodka, in essence making a charitable donation to the company's marketing budget, you don't want to underpay either. If you do, you'll end up with something like Popov that's better suited to stripping paint or polishing silverware than actual human consumption. What you're looking for is something in the middle, the sweet spot where drinkability and price are maximized.

That sweet spot is inhabited by Sobieski. There are others in the neighborhood that I've enjoyed as well. (Svedka and Burnett's come to mind.) But the best one I've found yet is Sobieski.

Sobieski is a Polish vodka distilled from rye. Nothing fancy or unusual, just a typical grain and a typical distillation process. The result is a smooth spirit that still has a nice bite to it.

Angus Winchester told me recently that, "We [Americans and Brits] don't drink vodka properly." He made the point that it's best consumed in the manner that the Russians do: very cold, neat, and in relatively small quantities at a time. (The Russians drink a lot, but they do so in small shots each time.) They also accompany their vodka with food, often lots of it.

So for this tasting I sampled Sobieski à la Russe. I put the bottle in the freezer for a couple hours to get it nice and cold, and poured myself a shot (about an ounce and a half in a tall shot glass).

The aroma is pure alcohol, understated and pleasant. It doesn't smell like something you'd use to clean out a cut.

The taste — well, it tastes like vodka. Like vodka's supposed to taste, I should say. Clean, slightly viscous, with a hint of grain. It has just enough burn going down to let you know you're drinking alcohol, but not enough to be unpleasant. The finish lingers on the tongue in a pleasant way. Simple, smooth and elegant.

As you'd expect, this vodka also works well in all the usual cocktails. I particularly like it with just a splash of cranberry juice. Again: simple.

Sobieski doesn't rank as highly for me as Stolichnaya – probably my favorite vodka — but it's loads better than Absolut. And much cheaper than both.

I'm always on the lookout for spirits that are inexpensive, yet demonstrate real quality. Sobieski definitely falls into that category.

Report Card

Quality Grade: B+
Value Grade: A
Final Grade: A-

Categories
Rum Rum Reviews Spirits Reviews

Rum Review: Appleton Estate V/X Rum

AppletonAppleton Estate V/X
Jamaican Rum
Final Grade: B+
Price: $18 (750ml)

For my first spirits review I've chosen one of my old stand-by rums. The entry-level product from Appleton Estate, the V/X bottling is a full-bodied Jamaican rum, golden both in color and in taste. I've singled it out because it's one of the best mixing rums I've found, and also one of the most affordable.

Jamaican rums are distilled from molasses and are known for their dark, rich taste, with elements of caramel and spice. Two of the best known brands of Jamaican rum are Myer's and Coruba, but I prefer the various Appleton Estate bottlings.

Appleton Estate V/X is a blend of 15 different rums that have been aged in oak barrels (reportedly ones that were previously used to hold Jack Daniels whiskey). In this sense, it is similar to a blended Scotch, like Johnnie Walker.

The rum has a mild, sweet aroma with whiffs of brown sugar and vanilla. The brown sugar comes through in the flavor as well, along with a fairly strong alcohol bite. There's maybe a hint of orange in there, too.*

This isn't a rum you're probably going to want to sip. The alcohol is a little too hot for that. For drinking neat, you'd be better off with one of the more expensive Appleton rums, like the Extra (12 Year Old). It does, however, mix beautifully.

The V/X works very well in a Mai Tai, along with other classic cocktails such as a Rum and Coke (Cuba Libre) or Pina Colada. You probably don't want to use this in a Daiquiri because of the amber color. You might mix it in an El President, though.

Considering how reasonably priced Appleton Estate V/X is, this makes a solid choice as a go-to rum for most occasions. My liquor cabinet is never without it.

Report Card

Quality Grade: B
Value Grade: A
Final Grade: B+

*I'll let you know upfront that I don't have a very sophisticated palate when it comes to picking out individual flavors from the complicated taste of spirits. My goal with these reviews is to give more of an overall sense of the spirit, not to deconstruct it as some critics are able to do. I admire their ability — I just don't have it.