Categories
Press Releases

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye is the 2016 World Whisky of the Year

NORWALK, Conn., November 19, 2015 – Renowned whisky writer Jim Murray today announced Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye as the 2016 World Whisky of the Year, marking the first time a Canadian Whisky has received the honor. The recognition comes at a time when both the Canadian and Rye whisky categories continue to gain popularity amongst whisky aficionados and consumers alike.

“Crown Royal Northern Harvest pops up out of nowhere and changes the game,” said Murray of the whisky, which he awarded a record-tying 97.5 out of 100 points. “It certainly puts the rye into Canadian Rye. To say this is a masterpiece is barely doing it justice.”

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye was first released in the U.S. in early 2015. The variant showcases the distinctly Canadian rye whiskey featured in the traditional Crown Royal Deluxe Blend that consumers have grown to love throughout the last 75-plus years. The latest variant to be introduced by Crown Royal, Northern Harvest Rye (90 proof, 45% ABV) is the brand’s first ever blended, 90% rye whisky and embodies a smooth and spicy flavor profile that can be mixed into traditional rye cocktails or enjoyed neat or on the rocks.

“Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye showcases the rye whisky that has been such an integral component of the Crown Royal Deluxe blend since 1939. This is a testament to the unbelievable blending and distilling that’s been taking place in Gimli for over 75 years,” said Yvonne Briese, Vice President of Crown Royal. “We are thrilled that Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye has been named World Whisky of the Year!”

The recognition comes on the heels of the launch of Crown Royal’s new campaign titled “The One Made for a King.” The creative, which will run across TV, print, out of home, digital and social, was developed to share the 75-year-old brand’s royal origin story and liquid credentials with consumers. To view the TV spots, please visit www.YouTube.com/CrownRoyalBrand

In addition to being named 2016 World Whisky of the Year, Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye received a double gold medal at this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye is part of Crown Royal’s vast portfolio of variants for whisky lovers to enjoy, including Crown Royal Regal Apple, the #1 innovation launch across U.S. Spirits over the past 12 month period, according to Nielsen and NABCAand Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel, a double gold recipient and winner of “Best Canadian Whisky” in the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

Categories
Gin Reviews Reviews Taste Test

The Gin and Tonic Taste Test

Gin and Tonic Taste Test

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!

Best in Class     Fords Gin

Fords Gin (The 86 Co., $23)

The only gin in the competition to receive a perfect score, Fords was unanimously chosen as “best in class.”

double gold medal Double Gold Medal Recipients
The Botanist Islay Dry Gin (Remy Cointreau, $40)
Fords Gin (The 86 Co., $23)
Citadelle Réserve 2013 Gin (Cognac Ferrand, $35)
Tanqueray London Dry Gin (Diageo, $20)

gold medal Gold Medal Recipients
Beefeater London Dry Gin (Pernod Ricard, $19)
Bulldog London Dry Gin (Campari America, $26)
Citadelle Gin (Cognac Ferrand, $25)
Greenhook Ginsmiths American Dry Gin (Greenhook Ginsmiths, $34)
Hayman’s London Dry Gin (Hayman Distillers, $25)
Hayman’s Old Tom Gin (Hayman Distillers, $24)
Hayman’s Royal Dock Navy Strength Gin (Hayman Distillers, $26)
Junipero Gin (Anchor Distilling, $35 )
Tanqueray Rangpur Gin (Diageo, $20)
Ungava Canadian Premium Gin (Domaine Pinnacle, $33)
Van Gogh Gin (Van Gogh Vodka, $25)

silver medal Silver Medal Recipients
Barr Hill Gin (Caledonia Spirits, $41)
Bluecoat American Dry Gin (Philadelphia Distilling, $28)
Bombay Sapphire East Gin (Bacardi, $26)
Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin (Bacardi, $26)
Boodles British Gin (Proximo, $24)
Broker’s London Dry Gin (Broker’s Distillery, $19)
Hendrick’s Gin (William Grant & Sons, $35)
Jensen’s Old Tom Gin (Bermondsey Distillery, $37)
London 40 London Dry Gin (Old St. Andrews, $25)
McKenzie Distiller’s Reserve Gin (Finger Lakes Distilling, $34)
No. 209 Gin (Distillery No. 209, $37)
No. 3 London Dry Gin (Berry Bros & Rudd, $40)
St. George Botanivore Gin (St. George Spirits, $35)
Sipsmith London Dry Gin (Sipsmith Distillery, $40)
Tanqueray No. 10 Gin (Diageo, $30)

bronze medal Bronze Medal Recipients
Aviation Gin (House Spirits, $30)
Big Gin (Captive Spirits, $33)
Bummer & Lazarus Gin (Raff Distillerie, $35)
Dorothy Parker American Gin (New York Distilling Company, $34)
Few American Gin (Few Spirits, $41)
Letherbee Gin (Letherbee Distillers, $31)
Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin (Black Forest Distillers, $90)
Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin (Nolet Distillery, $45)
Russell Henry London Dry Gin (Craft Distillers, $39)
St. George Terroir Gin (St. George Spirits, $35)

Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water

 

The Choice of Tonic Water

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.

The Preparation

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 Tasting

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.

Disclaimer

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.

Categories
Awards Whiskey

Whisky Bible’s 2014 World Whisky of the Year

Glenmorangie Ealanta ScotchOne of the highlights of the whisky year for people who love awards and rankings is when Jim Murray publishes his Whisky Bible. Murray tastes seemingly every whisky produced in the world, and gives it tasting notes and scores. He also provides his rankings of the world’s best whiskies.

Murray has just announced his 2014 pick for the best whisky in the world: Glenmorangie Ealanta 19 Year Old Single Malt Scotch. Not only does he say it’s the best, he gives it a score of 97.5 out of a possible 100. He said it has “one of the longest finishes of any Scotch this year…Borderline perfection.”

Should you care? Who knows. I find rankings like this interesting, although not necessarily useful. It’s like the Oscars — it calls attention to notable achievements, even if the idea of something being “the best in the world” is ultimately kind of silly. It gives us something to talk about, a jumping off point for discussion, and I think that’s always a good thing.

But here perhaps is the cool part about this particular selection. You can actually buy a bottle! So many of these highly rated, award-winning whiskies are impossible to find. This one, however, is currently available from Caskers.

Is it worth $120? I have no idea — I haven’t tried it. But if anyone has, please let us know.

Categories
Rum Rum Reviews Spirits Reviews Taste Test

Taste Test: Spiced Rum

Spiced rum

Spiced rum is a category of spirits that often gets no respect. And for good reason, too: it's usually pretty gross. But there are times when spiced rum can be useful. Mixing up a punch or grog, for example, or giving a little extra zing to a Rum and Coke. What should you do in those cases?

We sampled six popular spiced rums to find which ones you can safely use, and which you should avoid. Here are the results.

Coruba Spiced Rum
Score: two stars(Not recommended)
Price: $16 (750ml)

Jamaican rums are probably my favorite overall, so I was looking forward to this one. Sadly, it didn't match up to the quality and taste of Coruba's dark rum. It has the typical spiced rum flavor profile of vanilla, cinnamon and caramel. But that's about it. This isn't a bad rum, but it's slightly harsh and much lighter than regular Coruba. Nothing much to recommend it.

Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
Score: four stars(Highly Recommended)
Price: $17 (750ml)

This is by far the highest octane rum in the bunch, clocking in at a whopping 92 proof. You can smell the ethanol when you lift the glass to your mouth. This stuff doesn't mess around. It's also very strong tasting — this isn't a subtle spirit. But the flavor works very well. Lots of cherry and vanilla, cinnamon and cloves, maybe even a little almonds in there. It has just the right amount of sweetness, giving it a nice balance. My favorite of the bunch.

Captain Morgan Sherry Oak Finish Spiced Rum
Score: two stars(Not recommended)
Price: $20 (750ml) 

The ubiquitous privateer Captain Morgan makes a foray into the finished rum category with this new offering, which rests in Sherry casks after aging. It starts out well, with a sweet and fruity aroma that's appealing. The taste is also sweet and fruity, and the Sherry flavor is there — but so is a chemically aftertaste. I could have recommended this as a sweeter spiced rum if not for that odd, off-putting note.

Shellback Caribbean Spiced Rum
Score: two stars(Not recommended)
Price: $16 (750ml)

I had good things to say about Shellbacks Silver Rum when I reviewed it a while back. Unfortunately, their spiced rum doesn't earn the same praise. It has the same overpowering aroma of vanilla extract — which is not a deal breaker; this is spiced rum, after all — and the vanilla continues onto the palate. But that's all there was. Lots of sweet, artificial vanilla, with little other spice.

Bacardi Oakheart
Score: three stars(Recommended)
Price: $15 (750ml)

I'm not usually a fan of Bacardi's offerings — their mainstay rums are just too flavorless to be of any interest — but their spiced rum brings something nice to the table. Oakheart has a rich, fruity smell — lots of plum and vanilla. The taste is pleasantly spiced (cinnamon) and fruity, with some caramel-like sweetness. There's a little bit of oak, but not as much as the name would imply. A solid spiced rum and one of the two best overall.

Cruzan 9 Spiced Rum
Score: one star(Not recommended)
Price: $16 (750ml) 

I love Cruzan rums in general, but this was a bomb. It reeks of brine and medicine, and the taste is the same. An overload of spice with salt and pepper, allspice and juniper assaulting the senses. It ends up all running together and tasting pungent. A spiced rum shouldn't be sweet, necessarily, but it should have some sweetness. This was too dry. A disappointment.

The Bottom Line:

Sailor Jerry and Bacardi Oakheart were the best spiced rums of this batch. Both are recommended, but Sailor Jerry is better, and its higher proof means it will stand up in cocktails especially well.

Categories
Taste Test Whiskey Whiskey Reviews

Taste Test: Blended Irish Whiskey

St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner, which means many drinkers will be turning to Irish whiskey for their drink of choice. The Irish whiskey category is hotter than it's ever been, so there are more choices than ever before.

Here at Professor Cocktail we do the heavy lifting so that you don't have to. ("Heavy lifting" sounds better than "heavy drinking.") We sampled a variety of Irish whiskeys so that we could decide which to recommend to you.

For this taste, we focused on blended Irish whiskey. This is by far the most popular type of Irish whiskey available in the U.S., as well as the most widely available.

A blended whiskey is a combination of different whiskeys, including both single malt and neutral (or near-neutral) grain whiskey. Blending the whiskey gives it a lighter, less flavorful character that many drinkers find more pleasant. (It turns out that more flavor isn't always better.)

For our line-up we selected a variety of the most common blended Irish whiskeys, several submitted by the spirits companies themselves, and a few from our own stash. We also included one extra-aged whiskey for comparison. (All Irish whiskey is aged for at least three years — but often no longer than that.)

This group of whiskeys was defined more by their similarities than by their differences. As expected, all of them were fairly light in flavor and without a lot of complexity. The colors, tastes, and aromas didn't vary as widely as with many spirits. Even so, there were still some differences that allowed us to pick our favorites.

Irish whiskey
Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey ($24) — Straight-ahead blended Irish whiskey: a little sharp, a little sweet, with a malty flavor that reminds you of breakfast cereal. This is light and easy, and very drinkable.
three stars(Recommended)

Michael Collins Blended Irish Whiskey ($23) — The stand-out of the entry-level whiskeys. This spirit has a rich, honeyed flavor, with just a touch of smoke, that was very appealing. Vanilla notes contribute to the mild sweetness, but everything stays in balance. Overall, a very nice whiskey.
four stars(Highly Recommended)

Concannon Irish Whiskey ($25) — This whiskey, distilled by Cooley in Ireland, is aged in petite sirah casks at the Concannon Winery in Livermore, California. That gives it the expected "winey" notes, which aren't uncommon with Irish and Scotch whiskey. What was a surprise was the aroma and flavor of smoke. It was definitely the strongest char of the group, reminding us more of Scotch than the usual Irish. That could be an advantage for some drinkers, but the flavors didn't balance for us, making this one a disappointment. 
two stars(Not Recommended)

Bushmills Blended Irish Whiskey ($24) — A raw, grainy flavor on first sip gives this whiskey plenty of bite. It mellows out after that, though, and ends up more astringent and spicier than most of the others. Reactions were mixed, but the floral/vegetal accents were popular with some.
three stars(Recommended)

Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old Special Reserve ($38) — The only whiskey in the tasting with an age statement, this is a blend of whiskeys from 12 to 15 years old. The extra time in the barrel gives this whiskey the darkest color or any in the sample. It also gives it the most complex flavor. Less sweet than the others, it has a tart, fruity taste with elements of caramel and spice. Although one taster found it bitter, overall this got high marks.
four stars(Highly Recommended)

Jameson Blended Irish Whiskey ($25) — The expected grainy, sweet character, but little else to distinguish it flavor-wise. This whiskey seemed hotter than the rest, and consequently seemed even lighter in taste. (You can taste the alcohol, but the malt flavor is overmatched.) I prefer Jameson in cocktails, but if you're searching for that Irish whiskey "kick," this is the way to go. If you're looking for a subtle sipper, look elsewhere.
three stars(Recommended)

Tullamore Dew Blended Irish Whiskey ($21) — A typical Irish whiskey, produced at an untypically fine level. Medium sweet, slightly honeyed, slightly malty. This made us think of breakfast: cereal and toast. An excellent everyday whiskey and a nice finish to the tasting.
four stars(Highly Recommended)

Categories
Awards Press Releases Whiskey

Whiskeys from Buffalo Trace Distillery Named Best in the World

Awards should always be taken with a grain of salt. Is the film that wins the Academy Award really the best picture of the year? Was Shakespeare in Love really better than Saving Private Ryan?

Although the most prestigious awards do lend some measure of objective credibility to the winners, ultimately it's still a subjective process. This is especially true when the decision makers (aka "the voters") are limited in number. And when the decider is just one person…Well, you'd better hope that his preferences are the same as yours.

That being said, awards can still be interesting and informative. Awards give us something to think, talk, and argue about. They can give us inspiration to seek out the winners, even if it's only to see if we agree or not. Awards give us a starting point to begin our investigation and discussion.

Just because something wins an award that doesn't mean it's the best. But if it's a reputable award, it does give us some indication that the subject in question is worthy of merit.

So, without further ado, the envelope, please!

Thomas handy ryeBuffalo Trace Distillery has made history in the whiskey industry with not one, but two Whiskey of the Year Awards from esteemed whiskey reviewer Jim Murray. In the newly published 2013 Jim Murray’s Whiskey Biblethe Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye was named “2013 World Whiskey of the Year” and the William Larue Weller was named “Second Finest Whiskey in the World.”

The coveted number one and two spots were the result of Jim Murray tasting over 4,500 whiskies, in route to publishing his annual Whisky Bible.  It is the first time in the book’s ten year history that both the number one and two whiskies in the world have come from the United States, much less the same distillery. 

About the Thomas H. Handy, Murray says, “This is enormous….Once off the ground it just doesn’t stop traveling. Superb!”  A 97.5 (out of 100) rating. 

The praise doesn’t stop there; for the second place William Larue Weller, Murray says, “WOW! This is becoming a must experience whiskey for hardcore bourbon lovers. Well, whisk(e)y lovers period, really!  Majestic!  Or, as it’s American, perhaps I should say: Presidential.”  Also a 97.5 (out of 100) rating.

In regards to deciding between the first and second place, with both whiskies earning the same score, Murray says, “This was a very tough call to make on which of the two deserved top billing. Although from the same distillery they are very different animals. The enormity of the Weller was so apparent…I knew from the very first taste that it stood every chance of being World Whisky of the Year.

“But it was eclipsed by the Thomas Handy Rye, even though they both scored the same number of points. The Rye edged it, by the smallest of fractions, simply because of its extraordinary life and balance on the palate and its uncanny ability to just keep working on full alert for the longest imaginable time. It took a couple of days to decide between the two, but the Handy could not be denied.”

In addition to the number one and number two finest whiskies in the world, Buffalo Trace Distillery also earned an astounding 35 additional awards from Jim Murray, including Bourbon of the Year for its William Larue Weller; Rye of the Year for its Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye; Rye 11 Years or Older for its Sazerac 18 Years Old, and a host of Liquid Gold Awards, which are given only to those whiskies which score a “94” or higher, which is considered, “superstar whiskies that give us all a reason to live,” according to Jim Murray. 

Amongst those whiskies from Buffalo Trace Distillery that received Liquid Gold Awards were George T. Stagg; Buffalo Trace Bourbon; Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15 Years Old; Old Weller Antique 107 and Single Oak Project Barrels 63, 14, 132, 33, 61, 164, 191, 81 and 167.  

“We were blown away when we heard the results from Jim,” said Harlen Wheatley, master distiller, “To have one ‘Best Whiskey in the World’ is wonderful.  To have the number one and the number two spots is just amazing; we’re very proud of our team here at Buffalo Trace.”

The 2013 Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible can be purchased at the Buffalo Trace Distillery gift shop, among other places, or online at www.whiskybible.com.

Categories
Spirits Reviews Taste Test Whiskey Whiskey Reviews

Taste Test: Bourbons from $25 to $50

We conducted the second round of our bourbon taste test last weekend. The whiskeys this time all had a suggested retail price of between $25 and $50. (Our first Bourbon Taste Test featured bourbons under $25.) As was the case last time, some of the samples were provided by the distilleries and some were from my own cabinet.

The whiskeys were all tasted blind, so the participants didn't know which bourbon they were drinking. (I poured the glasses, so I had a vague idea of which order a couple of them were in, but I was very close to unaware.)

We tasted eight whiskeys, all Kentucky straight bourbons, ranging in proof from 80 to 120. The prices ranged from $29 to $40. The whiskeys were all drunk neat. With the exception of one, all of them were better than average, and the overall quality was higher than in the first tasting.

You can see the line-up in the photo below.

Bourbons
The bourbons were split into two groups of four, with a short break in between the two groups. Each whiskey was tasted in a 1/2 ounce serving, and then notes were made. We discussed each of the bourbons as we drank, and then discussed them all together once we were finished.

Here they are in the order tasted, with the grades we gave them and selected notes. The grades are based on quality alone, without regard to price.

Basil Hayden's 8 Year-Old
Price: $37
80 Proof
Final Grade: B-
The "sweet smell of vanilla" and toffee isn't matched by the flavor, which is "oaky" and rather plain. Starts off "sharp," but "fades quickly." It has some complexity and some spicy notes, but more would have been welcome. A decent bourbon, but nobody's favorite.

Jefferson's 8 Year-Old Very Small Batch
Price: $30
83 Proof
Final Grade: B-
A faint "slightly fruity" aroma leads to a smooth taste that "uncurls in your mouth." The flavor ends up woody and oily, more reminiscent of Scotch than bourbon. Better than average, but a little too one-note.

Four Roses Small Batch
Price: $29
90 Proof
Final Grade: C
A strong, "antiseptic" smell is followed by a dry, "bitter" flavor. More wood taste than anyone on the panel cared for. Complex and "assertive," but too rancio-like for our tastes. [This was a disappointment, as I've drunk this bourbon in cocktails before and enjoyed it. I suppose it's possible we got a bad bottle this time.]

Eagle Rare 10-Year Old Single Barrel
Price: $30
90 Proof
Final Grade: A-
Now we're talking! A delicious aroma of toffee leads to a sweet and spicy flavor. It's "nutty" and "warm" with a sensuous finish. A near-perfect balance of sweet and spice. This was the stand-out of the first round of four. A delicious bourbon. I could drink this every day.

Elijah Craig 18-Year Old Single Barrel
Price: $36
90 Proof
Final Grade: A
Wow! Eighteen years in the barrel have worked magic on this whiskey. It begins with a fruity, spicy smell and then gets even better on the tongue. The flavor is a mix of sweet caramel and vanilla, with enough oak — but not too much — to give it complexity. It closes with a finish that is warm and succulent. This bourbon is so good it's practically decadent.


Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select

Price: $33
90.4 Proof
Final Grade: B+
Opens up to a gorgeous, sweet, "fruity" aroma — this is a wonderful smelling bourbon. The taste is "oaky" and "nutty," well rounded and dry rather than sweet. It starts off smooth, but then kicks in with a long, spicy finish. A very interesting bourbon. Definitely worth exploring further.

Baker's 7 Year-Old
Price: $37
107 Proof
Final Grade: B+
"Earthy" and "nutty" (peanut brittle and toffee?) on the nose. The taste is likewise nutty and spicy, with enough heat to make you wake up and pay attention. There's some vanilla sweetness in there, but mostly dry overall. A complex, distinctive bourbon that demands to be sampled again.

Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve
Price: $40
120 Proof
Final Grade: B
Whoa! This is powerful stuff. A sweet, "candied" smell paves the way for a sweet and "bold" taste. (Did I mention this is strong?) It "dances around your mouth" with flavors of grain and fruit, and has a robust, spicy finish. [Editor's note: If I were to taste this again, I would dilute it so that more of the flavor would be revealed. I think it would score higher than.]

The Four Roses Small Batch didn't find favor with the panel, but all of the rest of the bourbons were greeted with open arms. The two that ranked the highest — Elijah Craig 18 Year-Old and Eagle Rare 10 Year-Old — were superb. But the bourbons that scored just under those were likewise outstanding.

This collection of whiskeys shows more than anything else how skilled and sophisticated the experts at the country's major bourbon distilleries are. Their mastery of crafting fine spirits is nothing short of outstanding. Bravo!

Categories
Awards Brandy Press Releases

Pierre Ferrand Cognac Wins Best New Product at Tales of the Cocktail

Congratulations to Pierre Ferrand Cognac, a brand that has been making a lot of noise in recent years.

Image010Cognac Ferrand is honored to announce that Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac® has won Best New Product at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail® Spirited Awards. Pierre Ferrand 1840 was launched last year at the same cocktail festival to great fanfare and has since become the darling and go-to Cognac for bartenders across the world. At a time when outstanding bartenders are creating cocktails in the same manner that master chefs create great dishes, this win for a Cognac heralds the resurgence of Cognac and Cognac cocktails and puts this versatile spirit back where it once was a mainstay – behind the bar!

Created by Cognac Ferrand owner Alexandre Gabriel with help from cocktail historian  David Wondrich to recapture the spirit of the quintessential cocktail days of the 1800s, Pierre Ferrand Cognac 1840 Original Formula is a revival of the classic three-star Cognac. Back in the nineteenth century, when the art of the cocktail as we know it first came together, barkeepers knew that nothing made for a better mixed drink than a good “three-star” Cognac.  Pierre Ferrand 1840 is bottled at 90 proof, higher than most Cognacs, making it exceptionally mixable in cocktails like Crustas, Juleps and Punches.  For more info, cocktail recipes/images, click here.

Alexandre Gabriel says, “Winning this recognition from my peers is both hugely gratifying and humbling. We are a small producer in the middle of the Cognac vineyards. At Cognac Ferrand we are a team of passionate characters doing what we love to do – make great spirits. Cognac deserves to be back behind the bar in a place of honor where it enjoyed decades of prominence as THE spirit for cocktails. We created Pierre Ferrand 1840 to be that kind of Cognac and to receive this honor shows that we did the right thing. We are very happy.”

The Spirited Awards are the highlight of Tales of the Cocktail, the annual five-day cocktail festival in New Orleans created by Ann and Paul Tuennerman that this year celebrates its 10th Anniversary. Each July, Tales attracts more than 22,000 people who are passionate about all things spirits-related. This year, 17 illustrious international judges – including world-class bartenders, bar owners, brand ambassadors and spirits/cocktail historians, experts and authors – voted in the Best New Product category and deemed Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula the winner.  It is the first Cognac to win this prestigious award. For a list of judges, click here.

"Cognac has always been a well-respected spirit, but without a lot of visibility in modern cocktails,” says Ann Tuennerman, founder of Tales of the Cocktail. “Pierre Ferrand 1840, by winning Best New Product at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail, has shown that Cognac is also able to get the respect of bartenders, with a product that has the rich and sophisticated flavor for sipping as well as the depth and complexity necessary to let it shine in a cocktail."

Upon receiving the award, Gabriel dedicated part of his acceptance speech to the bartenders of the world. “Our job is to build fine instruments but it’s for you to play them,” he said. “It’s for you to make the music.” 

Joaquin Simo, the 2012 Spirited Award winner for American Bartender of the Year, is one of the 1840 music makers, and says: “Cognac is a historically significant cocktail ingredient whose release from its imprisonment in a snifter is long overdue.  Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac fills an important niche for cocktail bartenders, providing us with a delicious and high-proof spirit designed for mixing in both classic cocktails and modern interpretations.  Fruity and floral notes provide a highly versatile base while the higher alcohol percentage boosts flavors and ensures the traditional character of Cognac remains front and center.  Its combination of high quality and mixable price point ensure it will be found on the back bars and speed rails of great bars around the world.” 

Mr. Simo was recently a bartender at acclaimed Death & Co. (2010 Spirited Award winner, Best American Bar) and will be owner/operator of Pouring Ribbons, a bar opening soon in NYC’s East Village where Pierre Ferrand 1840 will be available.

Categories
Spirits Reviews Tequila Tequila/Mezcal Reviews

Tequila Review: Z Tequila (Blanco, Reposado and Añejo)

TequillaI first became aware of Z Tequila when they won two Double Gold medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition earlier this year — an impressive feat for a small distillery with very limited distribution (currently only in Texas and California). This was a tequila I had to find out more about.

Z Tequila is produced in the lowlands of Jalisco, Mexico under the direction of Master Distiller Pepe Zevada, a veteran of the spirits business for four decades.

In the past, Zevada developed and nurtured brands for several of the big companies, including introducing Tequila Espolon to the American market. When he was offered the opportunity to create his own craft tequila, he jumped at the chance.

All three tequilas are made from seven to nine year-old Blue Agave plants — older than the norm — and are bottled at 80 proof. The Reposado and Añejo are both aged in Canadian white oak barrels rather than the more typical ex-bourbon barrels. Zevada is trying some unique things with his tequilas, a refreshing alternative to the mass-market brands.

Z Blanco Tequila ($30) – I started with the crystal clear silver tequila, a spirit bottled straight from the still. A lively, vegetal smell is followed by a burst of flavor and heat on the tongue. This blanco has a lot of rich, tequila taste, but not a lot of subtlety. It was a little too much for me to enjoy on its own, but it was smoother with a little dilution, and mixed up very nicely in a Margarita. (Some people say you shouldn't make cocktails with tequila like this. To them, I say: it was delicious!) Final Grade: B

Z Reposado Tequila ($33) – The Reposado has a more welcoming presence. The color of light straw, this expression spends at least nine months resting in barrels. The aging has smoothed out some of the rougher edges, lending it a crisp, woody and dry taste. It has the floral aroma of agave, with a nice, spicy presence on the palate. A fine sipping tequila. Final Grade: B+

Z Añejo Tequila ($35) – The Añejo was my favorite of all. A lovely golden hue, this tequila is aged for nearly two years in oak, and it's all the better for it. All of the harshness that I found in the blanco is gone. Simultaneously more flavorful and yet subtler as well, the Añejo demonstrates the mastery of Zevada. It has a lovely balance between spicy and sweet, and a finish that keeps you thinking of this tequila for a long time. Very well done. Final Grade: A

My only complaint with these tequilas is a small one. I found the bottle tops to be annoying. They look like wood stoppers, but are really just decorated screw caps. The Anejo top broke off in my hand when I opened it, and the Reposado has a frustrating pour restrictor on it, causing the spirit to dribble into the glass. Not a big deal, but such fine tequilas deserve better.

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Spirits Reviews Taste Test Whiskey Whiskey Reviews

Taste Test: Bourbons Under $25

We had three friends over last weekend to taste some bourbons. For this first group, the theme was "bourbons under $25." A few of the bottles were submitted by the distilleries, and the rest were from my own cabinet.

We conducted the tasting blind, so the participants didn't know which bourbon they were drinking. (I poured the glasses, so I had a vague idea of which order they were in, but I wasn't sure exactly which was which when we were tasting them.)

The results were surprising in some cases, and expected in others. All of the bourbons were judged to be at least okay — even the lowest scoring spirits were still okay.

We tasted eight whiskeys, all Kentucky straight bourbons, ranging in proof from 80 to 100. The prices ranged from $12 to $25, although most of them can be had for less if you shop around. You can see the line-up in the photo below.

  Bourbons

The bourbons were split into two groups of four, with a short break in between the two groups. Each whiskey was tasted in a 1/2 ounce serving, and then notes were made. We discussed each of the bourbons as we drank, and then discussed them all together once we were finished.

Here they are, in the order tasted, with the grades we gave them, along with selected notes. The grades are based on quality alone, without regard to price.

McAfee's Benchmark Old No. 8
Price: $12
80 Proof
Final Grade: B+
A pleasing vanilla aroma, followed by the taste of caramel. "Medium smooth" and "not sweet." "Middle of the road," but with a nice flavor. A very solid bourbon.

Zackariah Harris
Price: $12
80 Proof
Final Grade: B-
Slightly "bitter" and "oaky," but otherwise not a lot of flavor. A very brief finish. With slight dilution it all but disappeared.

Four Roses Yellow Label
Price: $18
80 Proof
Final Grade: B-
Divergent scores, but some found it "harsh" and without a lot of flavor. Everyone thought it smelled of vanilla, but no one could taste it. A long finish, but "not complex."

Wild Turkey 81
Price: $20
81 Proof
Final Grade: B
"Tangy" and "sour" and even "tastes like apple." Spicy and fruity with a medium finish, this was well-liked by most.

Maker's Mark
Price: $25
90 Proof
Final Grade: A-
"Complex" and with a "lot of flavor," this was the highest-scoring bourbon of the night. Several of us noted how the flavor "blossomed" on the tongue, "full of corn," with a long, enjoyable finish. Ranked #1 by three tasters, and #2 by the other.

Buffalo Trace
Price: $25
90 Proof
Final Grade: B
Sweet on the nose, but spicy on the palate. "Smooth" yet "bold," this was a crowd pleaser, but not a standout for anyone. The brief, spicy finish was noted by almost everyone.

Elijah Craig 12 Year
Price: $21
94 Proof
Final Grade: B-
A surprise last-place finish for a bourbon I've enjoyed on many occasions. A "sweet aroma" of toffee was followed by a "harsh bite" on the tongue. Warm and spicy, this one didn't earn much praise from anyone.

Old Forester Signature
Price: $20
100 Proof
Final Grade: B+
"Spicy," "fruity" flavors of corn, peach and oak combined with a smooth taste and a medium-long finish to make this one a popular choice. The strongest whiskey and the last of the night, it was our second favorite overall.

The most surprising result was Maker's Mark, which was the clear favorite of the night. A lot of people expect Maker's to be uncomplicated and even boring, but nobody felt that way. Maybe it was the extended time to open up, maybe it was that it was different from everything else — or maybe it's just damn good bourbon.

The best value choice was definitely Benchmark Old No. 8. I'd never even heard of this bourbon before, but it impressed everyone. Any bourbon you can buy on sale for under $10 that tastes this good gets the Professor Cocktail Seal of Approval.

Stay tuned for our next whiskey taste test: bourbons from $25 to $50. That should be coming next month.