As wine & spirits writers I know we’re supposed to be equal opportunity drinkers, but just between us… Bourbon might just take the top spot. Which might also explain our unabashed ENTHUSIASM (!!) at hearing that not only is the Bulleit Bourbon team coming to the Bay Area this month, but they’re rollin’ in via the Bulleit Woody Tailgate Tour. Yes, it’s what you think it is- a totally outfitted Bulleit Woody Trailer, originally designed for the Neiman Marcus Fantasy Gift Guide. The trailer was created by iconic designer Brad Ford, and was cast from repurposed Bulleit barrels and features a fully stocked bar of Bulleit Bourbon, Rye and 10-Year. While in the Bay Area, the Bulliet Woody is stopping at The City’s most famous spots, and planning on throwing the ultimate tailgate before the SF Giants Game on Monday, Aug. 25th. But they’re asking for some help on where else they should stop while in our great city. Insider SF Bay Area Readers: Where is the most impressive, off-the-grid, SF-original stop that Woody should visit while in town? Your original idea could earn you an afternoon spent with a stocked Bulleit Woody… Send us your thoughts!
Every family has one… the kid that ran away to travel the world and find better things, only to come back on his own, this time more well-rounded and full of appreciation for his roots. In the Single Malt Scotch World, this phenomenon often results in an eagerly anticipated (and debated!) new expression. In the Laphroaig family, this blend of new and old resulted in Laphroaig Select, a new bottling that marries the classic styles that made Laphroaig the #1 Islay Malt Scotch – Quarter Cask, PX Cask, Triple Wood and Ten-Year Old Casks – with the novelty of American Oak casks. The result is a nuanced blend of peat, oak and sweetness that seems to both defy and adhere to tradition. Paying homage to Ian Hunter, the last family member to own Laphroaig, this enterprising family member was one of the first to combine American bourbon casks with traditional European casks. Laphroaig Select stays true to the heritage of Laphroaig but with a worldly twist. As John Campbell, Laphroaig Master Distiller explains it, “Laphroaig Select delivers a liquid with a unique marriage of our trademark ‘peat reek’ and a gentle sweetness, which we hope will both surprise and delight you.” Laphroaig (La-’froyg), which literally means “the beautiful hollow by the broad bay,” was born from the streams and blue peat smoke of Islay and maintains a distinct taste and story in every bottle.
Purity Vodka, a small Swedish brand, teamed up with comedian Joel McHale for a series of online videos, the first of which debuted last week. In what is becoming an engaging trend in spirits advertising, humorous (often self-deprecating) viral content is taking over the digital space. And we’re all for it. As Purity Vodka explains, small brands don’t want to compete in the traditional advertising route, so the brand decided instead to create content that is compelling and actively engaging. Purity Vodka confidently defines themselves in their quest to redefine voda, bringing back “character” to the spirit that has traditionally survived on image and style instead of substance. With such a strong MO, we’d hope their messaging had character as well. And it does… The first video, uploaded last week, features McHale packing for a road trip before stealing a $500,000 Icon truck. Are you engaged?
The newest addition to New Belgium Brewing Company‘s exploratory Lips of Faith series is a rare Polish style beer, brought back to life from the nearly dead. New Belgium teamed up with 3 Floyds, a small brewery in Munster, Indiana, with a big reputation, to create Lips of Faith Grätzer, a long-forgotten style of Polish ale. The beer features oak-smoked wheat which adds a unique chocolatey, bacon smokiness on the palate and Midnight Wheat malt, which provides a mild sweetness. But don’t let the pure black pour fool you, this light bodied, sessionable Grätzer is full of nuance and subtle, spicy notes from Polish Lublin Hops. This brooding, black beauty manages to be both refreshing and toasty, the tartness complements the smokiness and the whole drinking experience is harmonious. Seek out this limited offering in 22 oz bombers, now through through September 2014, or while supplies last. You’ll recognize it by the guts and gore label – zombies coming back from the dead, just like the nearly extinct Grätzer.
Patience is a virtue. Cameron Hughes definitely knows the truth to this adage. The Cameron Hughes Lot 500 Cabernet Sauvignon ($29), released this month, marks the 500th wine produced under the Cameron Hughes Lot Series. More impressively though, it marks a milestone- the Napa Valley milestone. For 10 years his sights were set on Napa Valley, but as a negociant whose MO was to find exceptional juice at an approachable price, Napa always eluded him. Unwilling to compromise quality or price point, he waited. Until now. The 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the heart of Oakville, home of the first 100 point wine. After a decade of patiently waiting for the opportunity to buy fruit from this famed vineyard, it’s only fitting it happened at Lot 500. A perfectly proportioned wine, with elegant tannin structure and tremendous depth, and at $29, glorious.
As a loyal Drink Me reader, you might be starting to sense our affection & admiration for small batch Gin. Maybe it’s the fresh summery season, or the intrigue of such a misunderstood spirit? Or maybe it’s the undeniable sense of place denoted by each producer’s secret blend of botanicals?… or quite possibly, all of the above? What we do know, is that Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin belongs on this list. Batch distilled, this handcrafted, quirky, dry gin skillfully unites British traditions, the exoticism of India and the purity and nativeness of the Black Forest. Originally created by a WWII Royal Air Force pilot who settled in the Black Forest after the war, our gin hero was unwilling to give up his appreciation for gin and used regional ingredients such as lingonberries paired with exotic Asian botanicals inspired by his upbringing in India. The gin wasn’t commercialized, but its recipe was meticulously documented… and then lost. That recipe- plus dusty, intact samples- were recently discovered, nearly 50 years after Monkey 47′s creator vanished. And now, this mysterious German gin is being commercially produced and finally, finally making its way to the U.S. It can be yours, if you can track it down…
While the words ‘Uisce Beatha’ might not immediately form an association with whiskey in your head, it is actually ancient Gaelic for ‘water of life’ and how the world ended up with the word whiskey. First distilled by Irish monks more than 1,000 years ago, ‘uisce’ (pronounced ‘ish-ka) became Anglicized as ‘whiskey’. Respecting this rich heritage, Uisce Beatha Real Irish Whiskey was launched as a blend of Irish single malt and grain whiskies. Matured for at least 4 years in oak casks, the whiskey delivers a soft, subtle and delicately sweet flavour with a long, malty finish. Although quite dry, there is a sense of sweetness from having spent time in Bourbon casks and an underlying nutty complexity which derives from a small proportion of sherry wood. Void of any hard edges or fire water burn, its smooth but intense character embodies all the elements that make Irish whiskey so accessible. But don’t take just anyone’s word, Uisce Beatha Real Irish Whiskey has just been awarded a Gold Medal at the prestigious International Craft Spirits Competition held in Los Angeles this past month… the real booze authorities.
A couple months ago we were intrigued by the announcement of the Orphan Barrel Whiskey Project, a project that locates and rescues long forgotten barrels of rare whiskey then bottles and shares them with the rest of us. At the time, the Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Company had released two variants – Barterhouse (20 year old) and Old Blowhard (26 year old), and this month adds a third discovery: Orphan Barrel Rhetoric 20 Year Old Whiskey. The newest addition is a highly limited craft bourbon that will be progressively aged and released over the coming years – the 20-year-old variant will be released this June, the 21-year-old will be released in 2015, and so on. This approach will grant whiskey enthusiasts the chance to compare these exclusive offerings as they mature and collect as a series. Rhetoric stocks were discovered in warehouses at the Stitzel-Weller facility in Louisville, Ky., and distilled in both the New and Old Bernheim distilleries in Louisville. Expect to see the handsome bottle on select shelves throughout the U.S. in June under strict allocation due to limited supply. And if the first two releases are any indication, prepare to witness a frenzy of desperate searches for the new release. Fans of American Whiskey seem to be prepared to throw down some cash (and elbows) to acquire these wise old gentlemen.
The surge of small batch, hand-crafted, farm to bottle spirits has put true meaning back on provenance. The uniqueness of where a spirit hails from should make it impossible to produce anywhere else- just think of your favorite Single Malt Scotch. Long known for its wind-whipped, peat-producing countryside, Speyside, Scotland has a new calling: gin. Made at the Balmenach distillery in Speyside, Caorunn (pronounced ka-roon) is a small batch Scottish gin made with a traditional combination of handpicked botanicals native to the surrounding fields. The pride for place is immediately evident via the embossed Caorunn Asterisk, a symbol for five, representing the five Celtic botanicals and a nod to traditional influences. The very soul of Caorunn is formed by Rowan Berry, a piquant red berry that has inspired Celtic medicines and recipes for generations. Fragrant Bog Myrtle conjures up images of Highland walks and infuses a soft, sweet resinous aroma while Heather, an integral part of the Highland landscape, adds subtle perfumed undertones with a nuance of honey. Coul Blush Apple is a Celtic variety native Scotland, its clean, sweet, aromatic taste forms perfectly balanced complexity and the ancient use of Dandelion Greens lends just a hint of sharpness. Can’t get to Scotland this summer? This should get you pretty close. The natural awe of Scotland’s countryside shouldn’t be confined just to Scotch, don’t you agree?
On the anniversary of its 25th year in business, Gordon Biersch Brewing Company is bringing back its first success: Gordon Biersch Dunkles. Dunkles was the first beer ever brewed at the original Palo Alto, California, brewery back in July 1988. The Munich-style dunkle is a dark lager made from dark roasted Munich malt. The rich, bready sweetness of Munich malt distinguishes dunkels—so much in fact, that some unfiltered versions taste like liquid loaves of German brown bread. Doesn’t get more Munich than that! The beer’s aromas are 100% malt, with hints of chocolate, nuts, caramel and toffee which add complexity to the sweetness. Look for a hop bitterness lingering, but with a true dunkles, never overshadowing the malt. Gordon Biersch is brewing and bottling the limited release Dunkles in their 750 ml traditional swing top bottle at the brewery and will be available in select retailers. What started as a simple vision to produce the most authentic German-style lagers outside of Germany 25 years ago, has grown into one of California’s quintessential craft beer success stories. Here’s to another happy 25 years of bringing a little bit of Munich to all of us. Prost!
Following the posh red carpet launch of their VSOP Cognac, which helped to reinvigorate and shake up the Cognac category, D’USSE announces its newest expression: D’USSE XO. With an almost immediate VIP status, D’USSE XO has garnered significant buzz amongst high-profile tastemakers after earning its place as a new favorite among spirits industry elite as a finalist in F. Paul Pacult’s Ultimate Spirits Challenge and a gold medal at The San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Masterfully crafted in the cellars of the Chateau de Cognac – a home with a 200-year legacy of creating some of the world’s finest Cognacs – D’USSE XO is a unique blend of hand-selected eaux-de-vie, aged ten years or more. If you’re not familiar with the complexity of Cognac, imagine ripe blackberry and apricot, layered with hints of dark chocolate and walnut, culminating in a soft, silky finish. The bottle bears the Cross of Lorraine – a symbol of honor, courage and perseverance used by the French resistance during World War II – a statement wherever it rests. D’USSE XO is an ultra-premium spirit made from only the finest eaux-de-vie and is therefore available in very limited quantities. In no other spirit does tradition and innovation equally impress your palate to this degree.