Monday, February 22, 2010

Schooled Spirit

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Another reason it rocks to be in the alcoholic beverage industry is the exposure to tastings like the one I attended last Monday. Prominent wine & spirits distributor Winebow (who often feature their wines at our in-store tastings) held its first all-spirits tasting at the Ace Hotel in lower Manhattan. One never would have guessed just how many spirits actually existed in their portfolio, and this extensive sampling proved that it is not possible to try them all in one afternoon. But an abundance of spit buckets allowed for the optimum opportunity.

So, the standouts….well, my spirit preferences are, as you might suspect, as geeky as my wine preferences. The unconventional prevails in my case, and if you want to explore much deeper than vodka and rum, ask me to order for you any of these little numbers, if available:

St George Absinthe Verte $75
With a splash of water, the intensity mellows a bit in this anise/Asian Spice/French herb-inflected Absinthe. A slow sipper.

Hirsch Selection Kentucky Straight Corn Whiskey $35
Impressive if not unorthodox American whiskey, this 4-year-old is sweet, complex and complete. Long on aroma and flavor, short on heat.

Genevieve Gin $35
For the gin lover who has tried ‘em all, this goes outside the box. Smells more of an Eau de Vie than a typical gin. Botanicals emerge from underneath a seemingly-casky, dessert-like number.

Chinaco Tequila Añejo $55
Where has this brand been hiding? All were terrific, but the añejo is a knockout! Wreaking of agave and resin rather than oak. Long and delicious.

Del Maguey Mezcal Tobala Wild Mountain $120
High-altitude Mezcal with intensity and focus. Smokey, herbal, earthy and fruity at once, this is harmonious, refined and totally wild. If you’ve never had Mezcal, start with any from this maker.

Germain-Robin Rose Liquor N/A
What more can I say than…..unique! Distilled rose petals, and smelling/tasting beautifully so. This may be an interesting cooking ingredient.

St George Foie Gras-Flavored Vodka N/A
I used to knock flavored vodkas. But this is just devilish! It must cost some bucks to infuse foie-gras into a grain distillate, but this was done in good taste. Worth it for the aroma alone.

Bruichladdich 16-Year-Old Single-Malt First-Growth Series Chateau Margaux Barrels N/A
I had heard that B-laddie was using Gaja Barbaresco barrels and thought it was a gimmick. But this Margaux-finished Islay malt is one of the most impressive bottling I’ve ever sampled. Expensive, if you can find some.

-Michael Koehler
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