Don’t Be Afraid of Dark Corner Distillery Moonshine
- Published on Friday, 13 July 2012 10:44
- Geoffrey Kleinman
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You’d think a Moonshine from a place called Dark Corner Distillery would be some sort of fiery cauldron of a spirit that puts hair on your chest and separates the men from the boys. It isn’t. There are a lot of misconceptions around moonshine, a distinctively American spirit whose roots lie more in early settlers’ farmhouse stills and corn whiskey than the backwoods outlaws who helped give the spirit its bad boy mystique.
Traditionally, moonshine referred to any spirit that was manufactured illegally – many of these spirits were corn or sugar based, and often based on a family recipe passed down from generation to generation. With the boom of micro-distillers, moonshine has come out of the proverbial dark corner and into legally produced bottles on store shelves.
Much of the moonshine on the market is unaged corn whiskey, very similar to the raw spirit which is put into barrels, aged, and transformed into American whiskey like Maker’s Mark and Jack Daniels. Unaged corn whiskey is focused more on the true corn flavors and doesn’t have the cinnamon, caramel, and spice notes that you get in aged whiskey that has been in a barrel.
You can tell from the first whiff that Dark Corner Distillery Moonshine corn whiskey is made from corn. The nose smells like fresh baked cornbread and has a note reminiscent of the smell of taking husks off a corn cob. What’s so amazing about Dark Corner Distillery Moonshine is just how soft and easy it is to drink. You’d think a 100 proof whiskey would pack a hard punch, but Dark Corner Moonshine is soft, smooth, and easy. As with the nose, there are distinct corn notes in the taste along with soft vanilla and light black pepper that gives it a little kick.
Dark Corner Distillery makes their Moonshine corn whiskey in small batches using traditional copper pots with great care and craftsmanship. This care is apparent in the glass, with one of the most affable and easy drinking moonshines on the market.
Corn whiskey is an ideal summer spirit that is easy to drink and doesn’t need a lot of mixing to shine. The best way to enjoy it is to pack a big glass with ice and and then add your whiskey.
Clase Azul – Ultra Premium Tequila
- Published on Friday, 06 July 2012 10:58
- Geoffrey Kleinman
- 1 Comment
When a spirits company labels something as ultra-premium, odds are what they really mean is “expensive”. There is no real standard on what can be labeled ultra-premium, and not all ultra-premium spirits are good. In the tequila space, there’s also a category of products whose bottle design and packaging are more of a selling point than what’s in the bottle. Some of the prettiest bottles of tequila are also some of the most unpalatable.
It would be easy then to dismiss Clase Azul as another fancy bottle of expensive tequila chasing after the almighty dollar. But if you did, you’d be missing out on one of the few ultra-premium tequilas that actually delivers.
The Clase Azul Blanco tequila has a very soft and sweet nose with just a hint of pepper. The sweetness of the nose and the undercurrent of spice come together into a nose that is downright seductive. The nose has no bite or vapor whatsoever. The entry for the Clase Azul Blanco matches the nose perfectly. Lightly sweet, fresh agave leads right into a pepper spice which builds to a moderate level, peaks, and then finishes all without losing a step. The balance between sweet and spice here is sublime, and the finish leaves both the sweet agave and pepper spice in a clear invitation for another sip. Priced at $70 a bottle, the Clase Azul Blanco is considerably more expensive than some of our go-to tequilas (Tequila Avion, El Tesoro, and 123 Tequila), but we feel that we’re actually getting what we pay for. If you have a sweet tooth and want a tequila that captures the essence of fresh agave and balances it out with a nice soft pepper, this is the tequila for you.
The Clase Azul Reposado has an equally soft and inviting nose as the blanco. In addition to the sweet, fresh agave and pepper, we get a nice soft oak note as well as subtle caramel in the nose. The entry is soft and sweet with the oak, pepper, caramel, and fresh agave all coming together along with a nice vegetal green pepper note. Things ramp up a little in the midpalate where the black pepper, green pepper, and oak spice all come together. The finish is long and delicious and equally as entrancing as the blanco. At around $80, Clase Azul Reposado doesn’t come cheap, but it is delicious with a packaging that shows great love and care for the spirit inside the bottle.
A great spirit in a great package is a rare combination, but Clase Azul manages to deliver something really special, and for the tequila connoisseur, something to seek out.
Denizen Rum – The Fun Guy at the Party
- Published on Monday, 02 July 2012 11:30
- Geoffrey Kleinman
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A great party often has someone who seems to get along with everyone, has fun, and helps really set the tone for the evening. Denizen is that in a rum. Made from a blend of charcoal filtered aged rum from Trinidad and funky pot still distilled rum from Jamaica, Denizen Rum is flavorful and affable with superb character.
Jamaican rum is prized for its intense flavor and deep charred sugar notes. In the Denizen Rum blend, the essence of these flavors is captured but made much more accessible with the easy going and light rum from Trinidad. Denizen is blended in Amsterdam, which is a key locale for the rum trade and is home to some legendary rum blenders.
The nose on Denizen Rum is light and clean, with soft sugar cane notes along with hints of tropical fruit including banana. There are no vapors in the nose and it’s sly in its subtlety. The entry is packed with flavor including pineapple, banana, fresh sugar cane, and toasted marshmallow. The flavors here are well stated without being too intense and are fairly consistent throughout the palate. The finish is long with a light tropical passion fruit adding to the mix along with a subtle oak spice and sweet soft powdered sugar. Ultimately Denizen Rum cleans up with a light, cool feeling on the palate, leaving you wanting more.
As delightful as the Denizen Rum is neat, the real magic of the rum is just how mixable it is. Denizen makes a pitch perfect classic daiquiri, works exceptionally well in a mai tai, and gets along with Coke beautifully. There seems no end to Denizen’s mixability.
What’s amazing is that Denizen gives you so much and yet it’s priced ridiculously low at $15.99 a bottle. It’s mind boggling how such a great rum could also be so affordable. Denizen isn’t just great rum, it’s a must have bottle for anyone even remotely interested in making cocktails at home.
Belvedere Lemon Tea – A Spirited Arnold Palmer
- Published on Monday, 25 June 2012 12:30
- Geoffrey Kleinman
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Legendary golfer Arnold Palmer is as much known for his amazing golf game as what he drank at the clubhouse after a round of golf. His preference for a drink made from half lemonade and half unsweetened tea was so well known that the drink ultimately bore his name. The “Arnold Palmer” is one of the more popular non-alcoholic cocktail alternatives served today and its popularity continues to rise. It was probably only a matter of time until a liquor company figured out that the flavors from lemon and tea also work well with vodka.
Belvedere Vodka, well known for producing a high quality rye vodka, has put the pieces together with a vodka that’s clearly inspired by the flavors of the legendary Arnold Palmer. While there are many great lemon and citrus vodkas on the market, there are very few good tea ones. Tea is a tricky flavor to work with as it can be easily oversteeped and create a bitter, tannic taste. Rather than just combining tea and lemon, Belvedere has put together a nice grouping of flavors for their Lemon Tea Vodka, including both black and green tea, ginger, chamomile, lemongrass, honey, and lemon. These flavors complement Belvedere’s natural rye spice and help pull together a wonderfully integrated and complex vodka.
Belvedere uses a maceration process to steep their flavors into the vodka and doesn’t add any additional sugars or artificial additives. The result is clear, natural, and true flavors that come together beautifully. Belvedere Lemon Tea Vodka is much more tea forward than lemon. The black and green teas read very clearly on the entry with the lemongrass and chamomile bridging to the citrus in the mid palate. The ginger and rye spice lead out the finish with a nice crisp spice.
One of the really nice things about Belvedere Lemon Tea is that it isn’t too sweet. Belvedere has nailed the most difficult element in a tea spirit, and that’s the tea, leaving room for you to sweeten it with simple syrup and boost the level of citrus with lemon. Belvedere Lemon Tea makes an interesting variation on the Lemon Drop, but it really shines in a spirited tribute to the Arnold Palmer called the Lemon Tea Half & Half, created by mixologist Claire Smith.
Lemon Tea Half & Half
1.5 oz Belvedere Lemon Tea
3 oz black tea
3 oz lemonade
Build over ice and garnish with a lemon wedge. Serve in a highball.
Brugal Extra Dry – An Alternative to Vodka
- Published on Monday, 18 June 2012 09:59
- Geoffrey Kleinman
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There’s no secret why vodka is one of the top selling spirits in the world: it’s crisp, clean, and easy to drink. Throw vodka into a glass of ice, add some soda, and you’ve got a quick drink that you don’t have to think about. Vodka by design is meant to be neutral, affable, and generally inconspicuous in drinks. The problem with some vodka is that, by design, they can lack character.
Brugal Rum has just introduced a compelling alternative for vodka drinkers who want the light, easy nature of a more neutral spirit but with a little more character. Brugal Extra Dry Rum is a crisp, clean rum with a light and enjoyable flavor. Like many great rums, Brugal Extra Dry is made from molasses, a byproduct of turning sugar cane into crystallized sugar. Molasses helps impart a nice toasted marshmallow flavor along with vanilla, a hint dark chocolate, and cream. None of the flavors are bold or overly assertive, and the rum lives up to its “extra dry” name with a clean, dry finish that only has hints of sweetness and the suggestion of peppery spice.
Although it’s a white rum, Brugal’s Especial Extra Dry Rum is actually a blend of aged rums aged an average of 2 years. The aged rums are blended specifically to enhance the light and easy characteristics, and then run through a special carbon filtration system three times to strip out the color and refine its clean, dry characteristics.
Brugal Extra Dry is an easy stand-in for the traditional ‘vodka & soda’, but it also goes well in a mojito, daiquiri, and of course in Coke. Brugal Extra Dry is 80 proof (40%) alcohol and is available in select markets including NY, SF, and LA for around $20 a bottle.
Here’s a signature cocktail that shows off Brugal’s easy demeanor:
2 oz. Brugal Extra Dry
½ oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
3 dashes Angostura Bitters
5 Mint Leaves
Directions: Combine all ingredients, except bitters and shake with ice. Pour into a Collins glass, top with Club Soda and float 3 dashes of bitters. Garnish with a mint sprig.
Get a complete behind the scenes look at Brugal here.