Gifts Press Releases Whiskey

Sazerac Says Go Canadian for Father’s Day

As I mentioned yesterday in our Father's Day Gift Guide, one of the perennial favorite gifts for Dad is Canadian whisky. A popular spirit with a mass-market following, Canadian whisky appeals to most tastes, and is an excellent idea for Dad's who enjoy a tipple. The Sazerac company recommends two of their own brands to give, both of which have racked up their share of awards.

Although it may be an American holiday, this Father’s Day, Sazerac is encouraging gift givers to go Canadian – Canadian whisky, that is.

A category that’s on the upswing, the Canadian whisky segment has seen strong growth in the past few years as younger consumers are discovering it and realizing the category has some merit. 

And Sazerac is helping that trend with its two premium Canadian whisky offerings, Caribou Crossing, the world’s first single barrel Canadian whisky, and Royal Canadian Small Batch Canadian whisky. 

Introduced in 2010, both brands have seen nice growth and distribution has expanded as a result.  “Although the Canadian whisky category as a whole remains flat, the premium and super premium category has really taken off,” said Kevin Richards, Canadian whisky brand manager at Sazerac,  

Since its introduction, Caribou Crossing has received a myriad of accolades, including most recently the Chairman’s Trophy and a “92” rating at the 2012 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, and a “93” rating from John Hansell at Whisky Advocate.  Two years ago the Single Barrel was named “2010 Canadian Whisky of the Year” by; it won a double gold medal at the 2010 San Francisco World Spirits Competition; a gold medal and “90” rating from (Beverage Testing Institute); a gold medal and “90” rating at the 2010 Ultimate Spirits Challenge; a silver medal and best in class at the 2010 International Wine and Spirits Competition; and a bronze medal at the 2010 Los Angeles International Wine and Spirits Competition. Whisky buffs can expect to taste radiantly-hued nectar with a nod to the tantalizing silky texture provided by the barrel. The rye grain cuts through the wood flavors making its spicy presence known without risking the creamy vanilla custard smoothness. The finish is oak with an orangey tang.

Royal Canadian Small Batch has its own set of hardware.  Its most recent win was a “90” rating in the 2012 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, in addition to its gold medal and “90” rating from (Beverage Testing Institute); a “90” rating from Wine Enthusiast; a silver medal in the 2011 Ultimate Spirits Challenge; and a bronze medal at the 2011 World Spirits Competition. Royal Canadian is sweet and smoky like a Memphis BBQ. The initial sip is velvety smooth with huge flavors. There is a nutty praline sweetness that slides through the creamy rich sensations. The finish is a bold reminder that this is whiskey and the citrus-spicy conclusion just leaves you with the desire for the next notable sip.

Both brands were created by native Canadian Drew Mayville, Sazerac’s master blender.   Mayville himself hand-selects the barrel used for Caribou Crossing, choosing the most mature and flavor-rich samples available and overseeing the bottling of each individual barrel. The Royal Canadian Small Batch undergoes a similar stringent selection process under Mayville’s watchful eye.  The barrels themselves are from Sazerac’s 270,000 plus Canadian whisky barrel inventory.  

The two Canadian whiskies make ideal gifts for Father’s Day, and are at price points for discriminating budgets. The Caribou Crossing retails for $49.99 for a 750 ml and the Royal Canadian Small Batch is $19.99 for a 750 ml.

The Caribou Crossing comes in an elegant gift box, taking care of the gift wrapping for you.


Gifts Spirits

Father’s Day Gift Guide – Give Your Dad the Good Stuff

Fathers_dayYou know what your Dad really wants for Father's Day: booze! He doesn't need another necktie or a pair of slippers or whichever 1950's cliche you choose to bestow. Liquor is the gift that is never turned down. Because even if it's not your brand, even if it's not your spirit, it's still alcohol.

Here are some suggestions for bottles to give, in each of the major categories.

  • Rum: Appleton Estate Extra ($28) – One of the all-time great spirits, and one of my favorite rums. It's hard to go wrong with this one. It's good to sip on its own, and brilliant in cocktails. Every dad who enjoys a drink should have a bottle of this rum.
  • Bourbon Whiskey: Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon – There are so many great bourbons, this is a category where the choices are virtually endless. I'm recommending the Four Roses Small Batch because it's reasonably priced and of very high quality. If you'd rather go up a step, you can get the Four Roses Single Barrel ($40), which we reviewed recently. Or if you're trying to save a little, you can give the Four Roses Yellow Label ($17). They're all good.
  • Irish Whiskey: Bushmills Black Bush ($30) - The ultimate in blended Irish whiskey, Black Bush is a spirit for all seasons. Great flavor, great balance, great whiskey.
  • Rye Whiskey: Wild Turkey Rye 81 ($20) – There are several excellent brands of rye that I could recommend, but Wild Turkey is a straight-ahead, good-tasting rye whiskey that is easy to find. If you see the 101 Proof version, buy that instead. (The higher-proof version has gotten much harder to find.)
  • Canadian Whisky: Canadian Club Classic 12 Year ($16) – Canadian whisky is often gifted for Father's Day, and for good reason. It tastes good, there's nothing extreme or esoteric about it, and it's very affordable. The Canadian Club Classic is a perfect example of that.
  • Gin: Tanqueray ($17) – Gin is a beautiful spirit: classic, elegant and refined. There are many different brands on the market, a lot of which I like. But I keep coming back to Tanqueray –pure distilled magic in a bottle.
  • Vodka: Stolichnaya Elit ($50) – Maybe your Dad is a man of refined, but simple tastes. In that case, give him a bottle of one of the best vodkas in the world. Yes, it's expensive. If you don't want to spend that much, you could give Stolichnaya Gold ($30, 1L) instead. Even the basic Stolichnaya  ($17) label is top-notch stuff.
  • Tequila: Avión Silver ($39) – This is my favorite blanco tequila, as revealed in our tequila taste test a while back. It's one of the few silver tequilas that you can enthusiastically drink neat, and it also makes a killer Margarita.
  • Scotch: The Balvenie DoubleWood ($44) – A lot of people immediately think "single malt Scotch" when they're planning to give a gift. I try to steer people in other directions, since Scotch drinkers tend to be picky about their brands. However, if you're committed to giving Scotch, this is an excellent choice.
  • Brandy: Pierre Ferrand Ambre 10 Year Cognac ($39) – The Pierre Ferrand company has been making a lot of noise the last couple of years by introducing excellent new products to the market, and this is one of them. A fine brandy that's better than most of what you'll find from the better-known producers.
  • Liqueur: Cointreau ($35) – Perhaps the finest orange liqueur in the world, it's absolutely essential for making cocktails. A lot of people avoid buying it, though, because it's expensive. That makes it a perfect gift. The difference between Cointreau and cheap triple sec in a Margarita or Sidecar is akin to the difference between chicken salad and chicken…

Happy Father's Day!

Spirits Reviews Whiskey Whiskey Reviews

Whiskey Review: Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon

Four_roses_sbFour Roses Single Barrel
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Final Grade: A
Price: $39 (750ml)

The Four Roses distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky is one of the most acclaimed in the world. Their bourbons win gold medals regularly at all the major competitions, and their 2012 Limited Edition Single Barrel was recently named by F. Paul Pacult as the 3rd best spirit in the world.

The Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon is their highest end whiskey that is regularly available in the United States. Bottled at 100 proof, it's a bold bourbon that is loaded with flavor and enough kick to get you moving.

From the opening sip, it's an explosion on the palate, with many tastes circling around each other. There's vanilla and fruit (cherry maybe?), along with honey and a little spice. It's very well balanced, with the different flavors playing together nicely.

As mentioned above, it's a strong whiskey, and has a long finish to it. It's not overpowering, but it's a spirit you'll want to take your time with, so you can still taste and enjoy the various flavors. You might want to drink it with a little water or a couple ice cubes. I tasted it both straight and on the rocks, and with just a little dilution it goes down very easily.

Everything that Four Roses makes is good, and the Single Barrel is one of their best. It's big and bold, while still maintaining both nuance and even elegance. Distiller Jim Rutledge has once again shown why he's one of the best in the business.

Report Card

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

Spirits Reviews Whiskey Whiskey Reviews

Whiskey Review: Tullamore Dew

Tullamore-dewTullamore Dew
Blended Irish Whiskey
Final Grade: B
Price: $20 (750ml)

Tullamore Dew is an old brand of Irish whiskey, first distilled in Tullamore, Ireland in 1829. It's gone though many changes, owners and locations over the years, and is currently owned by spirits conglomerate William Grant & Sons, makers of Glenfiddich and The Balvenie scotches, amongst other brands. It is currently made at New Midleton Distillery in County Cork, although Grant & Sons recently announced plans to build a new distillery in the town of Tullamore.

Tullamore Dew, sometimes referred to as "Original," is the entry-level expression of the whiskey. (There are also 10-year and 12-year-old versions available.) It has a pale-gold color in the glass, accompanied by the sweet, honeyed aroma of cereal grain that fades quickly. So far it is about what you'd expect of a basic blended Irish whiskey — those familiar with Jameson or Bushmills will recognize it.

Those traditional characteristics continue on the palate, with a medium-sweet, honey flavor, with a fair bit of heat on the finish. Tullamore Dew isn't as smooth as most older whiskeys, or those containing a higher proportion of malt whiskey (like my favorite, Bushmills Black Bush), but the finish is quick, so it's not unpleasant to sip. From the taste, I assume this is made with a high percerntage of grain, rather than malt, whiskey.

There really isn't much about Tullamore Dew that is distinctive. The distiller clearly wasn't trying to break any new ground here. Rather it is a well-made, traditional Irish whiskey blended to a middle-of-the-road, but still pleasing, profile. It is a tasty, well-balanced spirit, good enough and affordable enough to drink every day and to mix in the cocktail of your choice.

Report Card

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

Whiskey Whiskey Reviews

Ten Suggestions For Bourbon Beginners

Chuck Cowdery is a bourbon expert and a member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. He writes for The Whisky Advocate, WHISKY Magazine and other places. So when the man talks bourbon, he's worth listening to.

Chuck has compiled a list of 10 bourbons for beginners, and I think it's the best list of its kind that I've seen. These are great recommendations.

I'm going to list his suggestions below, but make sure to click through to Chuck's website to read his commentary.

1.  Maker's Mark (Beam Inc.)
2.  Knob Creek (Beam Inc.)
3.  Woodford Reserve (Brown-Forman) 
4.  Eagle Rare Single Barrel (Sazerac) 
5.  Bulleit (Diageo) 
6.  Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage (Heaven Hill) 
7.  Russell's Reserve Bourbon (Campari America) 
8.  Ridgemont Reserve 1792 (Sazerac) 
9.  Four Roses (Kirin) 
10.  Weller 12-Year-Old (Sazerac)

I have not yet tried all of these whiskeys, but the ones I've had are excellent. Any of these would make a worth addition to your liquor cabinet.

The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home…


Rum Rum Reviews Spirits Reviews

Rum Review: Cockspur Fine Rum and Cockspur 12 Rum

Cockspur_rumCockspur Fine Rum
Bajan Rum
Final Grade: B+
Price: $18 (750ml)

Cockspur 12 Rum
Bajan Rum
Final Grade: C
Price: $30 (750ml)

Barbados is the original home of rum, and one of the better known Barbadian (or Bajan) producers of the spirit is Cockspur. They currently make two rum expressions that are distributed in the United States: Cockspur Fine Rum and Cockspur 12.

Both of these are gold or amber rums, distilled from fermented molasses. They are typical of the Bajan style: more dry than sweet, with a toasty, floral aroma.

Cockspur Fine Rum is the "entry-level" bottling. It is lighter in color than the Cockspur 12, and has a spicy, brown sugar smell. Its taste is smooth, with an initial burst of caramel, followed by a dryer flavor of oak. The finish lingers a bit on the tongue, with a nice, tingling presence, but not an overhwhelming amount of heat.

Although the Cockspur Fine is primarily intended as a mixing rum, it was still quite suitable for sipping neat. It would go well with a little Coke or ginger beer, if you'd like something on the sweet side. I mixed it in a Daiquiri and it was delicious. A very sold rum, especially for the price.

The Cockspur 12 Rum, however, did not accord itself so well. When compared to the Fine Rum, I found it lacking in most ways.

The Cockspur 12 starts off well. It is beautiful in the glass, a gorgeous dark amber color with medium body. Its smell is close to the Fine Rum: brown sugar and alcohol with a little oak. Once I took a sip, however, the disappointment set in.

This rum was very hot and rough for a blend of spirits aged so long. (Cockspur 12 is made from the oldest rums in the distillery. It is not technically a 12-year-old spirit, but some of the rums in it are that old.) The flavor is dry and oaky, with a touch of vanilla. There is almost no sweetness to this rum. It has a bitter, almost leathery flavor that I didn't care for.

Even after some time in the glass, I found it less than ideal for sipping. I did try mixing it in a cocktail — a Daiquiri, naturally — and it was very tasty like that. However, a rum like this has to rise or fall when drunk on its own.

The Cockspur 12 does have some things to recommend it. It has a lot of complexity to its flavor profile — there's a lot going on here — and a long finish. If you're used to drinking single malt Scotch, this is a rum you might like to try. For my taste, however, I'll be reaching for a different bottle.

Report Card: Cockspur Fine Rum

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

Report Card: Cockspur 12 Rum

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

Aquavit Aquavit Reviews Drink Recipes Spirits Reviews Tiki

Aquavit Review: Krogstad Aquavit

Krogstad AquavitKrogstad Aquavit
Final Grade: A
Price: $26 (750ml)

Aquavit (or Akvavit) is a traditional Scandinavian distilled spirit. It begins life as a neutral grain (or potato) spirit, just as vodka and gin do. It is then infused with various herbs and spices, notably star anise and caraway seeds. In that sense, it's similar to a Danish/Swedish/Norwegian version of gin.

Krogstad Aquavit, however, is made in the United States, by the distilling wizards at Oregon's House Spirits. They have crafted their aquavit based on a traditional Scandinavian recipe, and distilled it to perfection, recently winning a double gold medal and being named "Best of Class" at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

It's easy to see why Krogstad Aquavit has won such acclaim. It's a beautifully pure and viscous spirit; very interesting just swirling in the glass. It has a wonderful aroma of licorice (anise), with dill lurking underneath it.

The flavor matches the smell — mostly sweet licorice, but not cloyingly so. There's a little dill in there as well, and some spice. (I assume that's from the caraway seeds.) Although it's 80 proof, it's not overly hot. It has a long, spicy finish that really dances around your tongue, without being overpowering.

Aquavit is an unfamiliar spirit to most Americans, but it's one that's well worth exploring — and Krogstad makes a perfect place to start. It's tasty and well balanced, with flavors that are familiar, yet presented in a new way.

With the exciting work being done by various craft bartenders around the country, it should come as no surprise that aquavit is finding its way into the mixing tins of inventive mixologists. Naturally, I wanted to try it in a cocktail.

I didn't feel creative enough to create one out of whole cloth, so I turned to the expertise of Martin Cate, owner and bartender at Smuggler's Cove, San Francisco's acclaimed rum bar. Martin mixes up an aquavit cocktail called the Norwegian Paralysis, based on an old drink called the Polynesian Paralysis. Here is my version, a minor variation of Martin's.


Norwegian_paralysisNorwegian Paralysis

1 oz Aquavit
1 oz Rum
1 1/2 oz Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Orange Juice
1/4 oz Orgeat
1/4 oz Simple Syrup

Shake with ice, then strain into an ice-filled collins glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.


Report Card

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

Spirits Reviews Whiskey Whiskey Reviews

Whiskey Review: Bushmills Black Bush

Black_bushBushmills Black Bush
Blended Irish Whiskey
Final Grade: A-
Price: $32 (750ml)

Like many Americans (and maybe even a few Irishmen, although I'm more skeptical of that), I spent St. Patrick's Day drinking Irish whiskey. Unlike most of them, I did so with pen and pad in hand, scribbling notes as I enjoyed a glass of Bushmills Black Bush.

Black Bush is the premium blended Irish whiskey produced by Bushmills Distillery. It's a blend of malt whiskey and batch-distilled grain whiskey that is aged in Oloroso sherry-seasoned casks.

Black Bush has a welcome aroma of spice and malt, reminiscent of toasted cereal grains. (This is not surprising, given that Black Bush is reportedly made with 85% malt whiskey, a higher ratio than the usual blended Irish whiskey.) After some time in the glass, the scent of caramel starts to come through as well. It's a very inviting aroma that promises good things to come.

The taste confirms that promise. The flavor of caramel and malt continues on the palate, along with the essence of oak and sherry. The time spent maturing in former sherry casks definitely gives this whiskey an additional something special.

Black Bush is a remarkably balanced whiskey, achieving harmony between sweetness and spice, and smoothness and fire. (Is "smoothness" a word? If not, it should be.) Is has just the right amount of heat to it, giving it a nice kick without making it hard to drink.

All in all, a marvelous Irish whiskey that can be enjoyed any time.

Report Card

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

Awards Whiskey

2012 World Whisky Awards Winners

Whisky Magazine has announced the winners of the 2012 World Whisky Awards. More than 300 whiskies took part in this prestigious competition, representing a variety of different types of whiskey from around the world.

The judges were drawn from the best spirits writers and retailers across the globe, with industry representatives made up of master blenders, distillers and brand ambassadors in the final round.

Here is a selection of the winners:

World’s Best North American Whiskey

Eagle Rare 17 Years Old

Eagle Rare 17 Years Old

World’s Best Single Malt Whisky

Yamazaki 25 Years Old

Yamazaki 25 Years Old

World’s Best Whisky Liqueur

Dunkeld Atholl Brose

World’s Best Blended Whisky

Three Ships 5 Years Old

Three Ships 5 Years Old

Elmer_T_LeeAlso honored was Buffalo Trace's Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee, who was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award and inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Elmer began working at the George T. Stagg (now Buffalo Trace) Distillery in Frankfort in 1949. He retired in 1985, but continues to serve as ambassador for Buffalo Trace, educating others on the unique qualities of Kentucky's bourbon whiskey.

In 1984, Elmer introduced the single-barrel bourbon concept to the world with Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon, named in honor of Col. Albert B. Blanton, another longtime veteran of the distillery.

Elmer is one of only three living master distillers who have a Bourbon whiskey named after them.

Congratulations to all the winners, and especially to Mr. Lee!

Awards Spirits

Winners of the 2012 Ultimate Spirits Challenge

UbcA distinguished line-up of experts, including such luminaries such as F. Paul Pacult, David Wondrich, Dale DeGroff and Jim Meehan, came together recently under the auspices of the Ultimate Spirits Challenge in order to judge the finest spirits in the world.

A stunning 650 spirits were entered in more than 30 categories. All of the entrants that scored at least 80 points (on a 100-point scale) — basically those that are recommended — are included in the results.

There were also 31 Chairman's Trophies awarded, representing the "best of the best." I'm listing those below.

Vodka – Unflavored
"Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium

Vodka – Flavored
BAK’s Bison Grass Zubrowka


Bols Barrel Aged

Tequila – 100% Agave
Blanco: Milagro Select Barrel Reserve Silver
Reposado: Ambhar
Anejo: Siete Leguas
Extra Anejo: Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia

Del Maguey Vida Single Village

Appleton Estate Reserve

Rhum Agricole
Rhum J.M. White

INOX Original

Whisk(E)Y – North America
American Whiskey: Balcones “1” Texas Single Malt
Bourbon: Blanton’s Single Barrel
Rye: Masterson’s
Tennessee Whiskey: George Dickel Barrel Select

Whiskey – Ireland
Blended: Midleton Barry Crockett
Irish Pot Still Whiskey: Redbreast Cask Strength 12 Years Old
Single Malt: Bushmills 16 Years Old

Whisky – Scotland
Blended Malt: Johnnie Walker Green Label
Blended: Buchanan’s Special Reserve 18 Years Old
Single Malt: Caol Ila 12 Years Old

Whisky – Canada
Caribou Crossing Single Barrel

Whisky – World
Japan: Yamazaki Single Malt 18 Years Old

Armagnac: Delord 1978
Calvados: Calvados Drouin 25 Years Old
Cognac: Frapin Château Fontpinot XO
Grappa: Jacopo Poli Sarpa Barrique
Pisco: Pisco Porton

Green Chartreuse

Lise Baccara Troussepinete Red

Congratulations to all the winners!