Tag Archives: spirits

Tito’s Handmade Vodka

titos

With so many micro-distilleries popping up around the country I thought it would be nice to review a vodka from one of the early success stories from the micro-distilling movement. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is celebrating its 16th year in business. Tito’s was stared by a guy named Tito Beveridge (with a name like that how do you know go into the alcohol business) who started out making vodka infusions as gifts and somehow ended up founding the first legal distillery in Texas. Since winning a double gold medal in the World Spirits Competition they have come to be known as one of the go-to brands of vodka for people who are serious about cocktails but also aware of price. I have even heard of some up-scale bars and restaurants who are using Tito’s as their well vodka so that the taste of their carefully crafted cocktails don’t get ruined by sub-par vodka. This really is the path that every micro-distiller around the country is hoping to follow, although few of them look ready to compete at this point.

Despite having been aware of the brand for many years I had not actually gotten around to buying a bottle until now. Tito’s is a 100% corn vodka and it does have the characteristic sweet and creamy taste that most of the corn vodka’s I’ve tried also have. But the other corn vodka’s I’ve tried also have a lot more of a flavor to them. And when it comes to vodka that is not necessarily a good thing. Tito’s is incredibly smooth, with a creamy mouthfeel and just a hint of sweetness before you do taste the alcohol at the end. But it is not a burning alcohol and you can drink it without making cheap vodka face and coughing. One reason for the difference is that Tito’s microdistilled in an old-fashioned pot stills and so they have more control over the process than with column stills. I would say it is very similar in character and quality to Buckeye Vodka but is a few dollars cheaper per bottle and, in my opinion,  slightly better. Don’t be put off by the cheap looking bottle and plastic cap. Part of Tito’s mission statement is keeping their product as affordable as possible and they are clearly not investing too much in bottle. Instead they use quality ingredients, a careful distillation process, and then distill it just enough (six times) to get out the impurities and strong corn flavors but not so much that all that is left is the ethanol flavor. So there you have it. If you want to support local vodka at an affordable price go with Buckeye but if you want a bottom line better vodka for an even better price, go with Tito’s.

If you want to listen to a tasting and review of Tito’s you can hear it on this week’s episode of Bottom Up.

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Bottoms Up Podcast: Angel’s Envy Bourbon

bottoms up podcast

As some of you may know I do a weekly podcast called the Charlie Tonic Hour. My co-host Charlie and I like to describe it as an alcohol soaked culture podcast with a side of sexy but mostly it’s just Charlie and I discussing music, events, popular culture and whatever else crosses our mind. Every show has had a “bottoms up” segment where we discuss a drink of some kind. It’s always been my favorite part of the show, a chance to talk to local bartenders, try a new spirit, beer, or wine, or just practice mixing up a new cocktail to try. Well I liked it so much that I talked Charlie into starting a second podcast that was all alcohol. It’s called Bottoms Up with Ginny and Charlie and it goes live every Friday. At just about 15 minutes in length it’s a short shot of alcohol to kick off your weekend. Charlie and I will be heading out to local bars to talk to people, attending Cincinnati events, trying new things and making new drinks. If you like cocktails, spirits, beer, or just the local drinks scene I think you will enjoy the show. We started a few weeks ago with Angel’s Envy Bourbon and I thought I would go ahead and share it with the good people here at Queen City Drinks. If you like what you hear you can subscribe through iTunes or download it from the site. Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

FULL SHOW NOTES FOR THIS EPISODE
Run Time: 11 Minutes, 19 Seconds

Click to listen: bottomsup001.mp3
Subscribe to the show: bottomsup.libsyn.com/rss

Angels’s Envy
 From the official website (angelsenvy.com):

Created by Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson, Angel’s Envy is worth coveting. Aged up to 6 years in charred white oak barrels and finished in ruby port wine casks, Angel’s Envy is an artisan’s masterpiece unlike any other bourbon.

When Wine and Spirits Magazine calls you a “Living Legend,” it should mean one thing. You’ve still got work to do. Lincoln Henderson wasn’t content resting on his laurels. He’s always been a malcontent. You don’t spend 40 years defining the spirits industry and earn a spot in the Bourbon Hall of Fame without a few unconventional ideas.

Angel’s Envy is what happens when 200 years of tradition meet an independent master craftsman’s instinct to improve. It’s a total return to craft first, hand-blended batches of 8 to 12 barrels at a time. We start with the finest local ingredients distilled in micro-batches and aged in American oak. Lincoln personally tastes every barrel throughout each step of the process to ensure that the spirit meets his malcontent’s standards.

This would be enough for any other premium bourbon, but Lincoln had other ideas. That’s why we finish every batch in ruby port wine casks. There’s no set time for the process. It’s only Angel’s Envy when we say it is. The ruby port wine finish adds subtle nuance without ruining the integrity of the bourbon. The end result is a rich, exceptionally smooth and rare bourbon. Sin aside, we work every day to inspire envy, even if it takes a little longer.

Ginny Tonic’s April 2012 Article on Angel’s Envy
Angel’s Envy Makes The Angels Beg

Charlie Tonic Hour #14 Where We Originally Discuss Angel’s Envy
Angels Envy, Powerful Females and the Road to Gem City

Photos from Our Tasting
  
The Music You Hear Throughout the Episode

thefordtheatrereunion.com

Photo by Cara Suppa at MOTR in January, 2013
Brought To You By the Same People Who Created
The Charlie Tonic Hour | Tonic Tours

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A Tale of Two Bourbons: Buffalo Trace Hot Box Toasted Barrel and #7 Heavy Char

Buffalo Trace Experimental

When it comes to bourbon (and pretty much all spirits), the treatment of the distilled liquids are just as important as how and with what the spirit is made up of in the first place. Buffalo Trace has been on the forefront of bourbon tinkering with their Experimental Collection. Since 2006 they’ve been releasing bottles with either various non-traditional mashes (rice, for instance) or strange treatments of reasonably normal mashes. The scale of this experimental work is huge.

In 1987 Buffalo Trace Distillery began experimenting. Since then Buffalo Trace has produced over 1,500 experimental barrels of whiskey now aging in its warehouses. Each of the barrels has unique characteristics making each one different from all others. Some examples of these experiments include unique mash bills, types of wood, barrel toasts, and more.

Buffalo Trace periodically bottles a few of these experimental barrels and makes them available to consumers. Each experiment that is released is very limited and rare.

The two newest of these releases for 2013 utilize their Rye Bourbon Mash #2, found in Elmer T. Lee and Blanton’s. They take this same base and then give it two different, almost opposite, treatments. Continue reading

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1792 Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon Review

1792 Bourbon with Glass

This week I finally got around to reviewing the bottle of 1792 Ridgemont Reserve bourbon that was given to Charlie and I over Christmas. Of course that doesn’t mean the bottle hadn’t been opened, just that I hadn’t actual sat down with it to really savor and contemplate the flavors. It is a good problem to have when your liquor cabinet is so full that you are spoilt for choice when it comes to what to write about.

1792 is a small batch bourbon put out by Barton Brands Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky which also puts out Very Old Barton and Kentucky Tavern. The 1792 is 93.7 proof and aged for eight years. It also happens to be the official toasting bourbon of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. The retail price is usually in the $22-26 range which puts it cheaper than Woodford Reserve and in a similar range to Knob Creek. The 1792 is commonly available at most liquor stores in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.

This is a very nice choice for a sipping bourbon, especially if you like a high rye content to your whiskey. I was drinking it neat as I reviewed it and found it enjoyable. The nose has fruity notes and I got the smell of bananas and vanilla in addition to a nice spicy prickle of grain. The alcohol content is high enough to give a satisfying burn on the finish but mellow enough to allow you to really savor the drink before swallowing.

The 1792 doesn’t have the strong sweet taste on the front like some other premium bourbons do. The rye really came through with its trademark spiciness and buzz to the tongue. This made it more difficult for the sweeter side of the bourbon to come through but I did get the softer flavors of apple and vanilla. The finish had a strong oak kick with a little bit of cloves and coffee. I found this bourbon to be different enough to be engaging but perhaps heavier on the rye than I personally enjoy. You won’t find the dramatic highs and lows of something like Booker’s but then I wouldn’t expect that of a bourbon at this age and price. On the other hand it is a more complex flavor experience than something like Town Branch which is actually more expensive than The 1792. Basically it all comes down to what you enjoy. If you like ryes and have less of a sweet tooth than other bourbon drinkers this is going to be an excellent match for you. If you really go for sweetness or a mellow gentleness from your bourbon this might not win you over as quickly. Either way I can objectively say that this is a well-crafted bourbon for the price and something I would consider giving as a gift myself.

You can hear the tasting that inspired the review on Episode 62 of The Charlie Tonic Hour.

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Review: New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon

IMAG0455

Well, that’s a novel concept. I love me some barrel-aged beer. That’s largely because I love bourbon (the primary spirit barrels used for aging beer) and I love what a good bourbon barrel treatment will do for a beer. Oak, caramel, coconut and, of course, bourbon meld together with the base beer to make something special when it’s done right. When it’s not done well, it makes a boozy, bad beer, but that’s no different than making a subpar base beer in the first place. One such bourbon barrel-aged beer is New Holland Dragon’s Milk, a very readily-available (in both 12oz and 22oz formats) imperial stout made in our neighbor to the north (Michigan, for those of you geographically-challenged). I’m not the hugest fan of it, but it’s wide availability, small bottle format, and price point make it a good option for getting into barrel-aged stouts or for picking up when you don’t want to drop the dime or time to find something superior.

This bourbon from the same New Holland takes the concept and flips it on its head. You acquire barrels that once held bourbon and fill them with imperial stout to make Dragon’s Milk. Once you’ve filled those barrels enough times with beer (not sure if New Holland reuses barrels), then what? Break them up? Reuse the barrels for planters or decoration? Toss them? In what seems to be, at the very least, a product concept and profit maximizing burst of brilliance, they went another route. Why not – wait for it – put bourbon back into the barrels? At worst, you end up with a bourbon that isn’t affected by the prior beer in it at all and just tastes like bourbon. At best, you somehow get to impart the spirit with some characteristics of the beer and create something really unique. Either way, you get to sell it for $30.00 or so and the concept is cool enough that people will buy it (case in point: Me).

Concept aside, two important questions: how does it taste and is the beer factor identifiable? To begin with, at 80 proof, this is not a bruiser of a bourbon. My sweet spot is somewhere between 86 and 100 proof, with everything approaching and exceeding 100 to be too “hot” to enjoy straight and most things below 86 seeming too watery and dulled. This is most definitely a mellow bourbon, with no harshness or tannins from the oak present at all. You get a lot of caramel, a little corn, a little oak, a fair amount of sweetness, and some chocolate. It’s not the most complicated bourbon in the world, but it’s fun to try to pick out the impact of the beer. I’m certain that the hint of chocolate is picked up from it and I’m about 50/50 on whether the rounded edges and mellowness is due to the additional aging in the beer barrels or the fact that it’s only 80 proof. It’s definitely an easy drinker, even straight.

So, at $32.99 (Party Source), is it worth it to pick up a bottle? I’d say this: if you see it at a bar, try a pour first. If you really like it, go for it. I’m just hesitant to pay $33 for a neat concept when I live so close to Kentucky and all the variety of bourbon that entails. For that price you can buy a handful of very good single barrel bottles, including a few of Party Source’s Private Barrel Selection. I think that is a better use of money, but hey, if you have $33 bucks burning a hole in your pocket and want to give it a try, I wouldn’t argue hard against you not buying a bottle.

Footnote: In related news, Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar has an event next Thursday  featuring a cask of Dragon’s Milk and the Beer Barrel Bourbon. The folks from New Holland who brainstormed the concept and made it a reality will be available for answer questions.

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Bourbon Trail Roadmap

Similar to Josh, I have recently become more intrigued by bourbon.  When the chance came up to participate in the bourbon trail with some friends, I jumped at the opportunity.  Below is a rundown of the tour we took.  I recommend a similar path to anyone thinking about the bourbon trail themselves

Friday – Lexington, KY

Stop 1 – Four Roses

It was a good thing Four Roses was the first stop on the tour because we would have been extremely underwhelmed had it in been at any other time.  The tour consisted of a 15 minute video, and then the same information on the video was regurgitated on a 15 minute walking tour of the facility.  The facility was by far the smallest of the distilleries, and it was also shut down for the summer (it does not produce bourbon in the summer because of the heat).

On a brighter note, the bourbon here was phenomenal.  There were 3 tastings offered: the standard yellow label, the small batch, and the single barrel.  The small batch at Four Roses may have been my favorite bourbon of the trip.

Best Part Of Four Roses

Stop 2 – Wild Turkey

We didn’t actually take a tour here, but from the looks of the gift shop and building, I don’t regret this.  The set up was by far the most “gimmicky” of all the stops.  I’d love to hear someone who has been on the tour chime in, but it seemed like a good place to get a quick sample and move on.

Stop 3 – Woodford Reserve

One of the funniest things I noticed on the tour is that the customers at each distillery matched the brands persona to a T.  This was particularly the case with Woodford Reserve, where the average patron had on khaki pants and a sport coat.

The grounds that Woodford is on are absolutely gorgeous.  The tour was also a very good and comprehensive one.  You got to see the end to end bourbon making process from start to finish, as well as see a barrel aging room and the bottling line.  This was the only tour that charged for attending ($5), and the sampling was the most underwhelming of any distillery – a single serving of Woodford Reserve served in a plastic shot glass.  Our tour guide was also a bit of a stick in the mud, and I could see the tour being even better with a different guide.

Don’t Forget Your Khakis and Polos When Visiting Woodford!

Stop 4 – Buffalo Trace

We did the “Hard Hat Tour” at Buffalo Trace which requires advance reservations.  If you do the bourbon trail, this is the number one must stop on the trail and I cannot recommend this tour enough.  It was the most comprehensive, real view of the distilleries we saw all weekend.  Plus, Buffalo Trace just looks like the type of place bourbon should be made at.  Many of the buildings are from the 1800’s, and the facility itself is a bit of a multi-story maze that seems like the bourbon equivalent of Willy Wonka’s factory.  We got to taste fermenting wort at several stages of fermentation, as well as uncut bourbon before it went into the barrel.  Our tour guide was also hilarious and a straight shooter, at one point telling us he didn’t understand all the fuss over Pappy Van Winkle and saying there was not a single experimental batch of Buffalo Trace that he cared for much.

The tasting here consisted of Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, White Dog, Rain Vodka, and a bourbon cream.  I preferred the standard Buffalo Trace to Eagle Rare.  They also had tasting glasses signed by Pappy Van Winkle’s grandson who runs the company now, which was a cool surprise.  Also, technically Buffalo Trace is not part of the official “bourbon trail” anymore, but that is just semantics.

The Buffalo Trace Factory

Distillation Room At Buffalo Trace

The Experimental Batches Are Made On This Micro Still

Stop 1 – Maker’s Mark

Maker’s Mark was my second favorite tour of the weekend, but I must warn you that it is an absolute haul to get to.  It is at least 40 minutes further than any other distillery on the trail and a solid hour and a half from Louisville.  However, it is still worth seeing.  The tasting here consisted of Maker’s Mark and Maker’s Mark 46, and they probably have the coolest gift shop of any stop on the bourbon trail.  You can also dip your own bottle of Maker’s Mark in the gift shop.

Stick Your Finger In The Fermentation Tank!

Stop 2 – Heaven Hill

There are three tours offered here; a 30 minute one, a 60 minute one, and an hour and a half one.  They don’t distill the bourbon on site here, so the more comprehensive tours just consist of videos and seeing the aging rooms.  We opted for the 30 minute tour and were glad that we did.  This was probably the most boring stop on the trail, but the bourbon was fairly good.  We got to taste Evan Williams Single Barrel.

Stop 3 – Jim Beam

This was the 7th stop in two days, and since our entire group was hung over from the night before still, I was at the point of ready to be done by this stop.  However, the tour was surprisingly very cool, and we got to see their barrel house and learn about their blending program.  The tasting here was for Booker’s Single Barrel (135 proof) and Honey Tea Red Stag. The Booker’s was extremely tasty for how strong it was.

Ever been on the tour?  Let me know if you agree or disagree!  If you haven’t, it makes for a very fun weekend.  And make sure to check out the Holy Grale when in Louisville!

Steve

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Molly Wellmann’s Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar opening May 5!

(Credit for picture to Matthew Robinson)

For those bourbon enthusiasts out there: Molly Wellmann’s new venture, Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar, will be opening on Mainstrasse in Covington (629 Main Street) on May 5 at 4:00PM! Here’s to another success, this one on the other side of the river, by Cincinnati’s best (and most lovable) bartender! – Source (Facebook)

Here’s more details concerning the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar from Polly Campbell at the Enquirer:

http://cincinnati.com/blogs/dining/2012/02/01/the-old-kentucky-bourbon-bar-to-open-in-mainstrasse/

(This post will be updated when more information is available.)

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Boozing on a Budget: Evan Williams 1783

Boozing on a Budget: Evan Williams 1783

I don’t always drink spirits, but when I do, I prefer bourbon. Not that I’m the Most Interesting Man in the World (or probably even part of the top quintile of the Most Interesting) or anything. 

In addition to being not-overly-interesting, I happen to be not-overly-cash-endowed. Because of this, I like bargains. And in the world of bourbon, there is not better deal than Evan Williams 1783. At $11 or so a bottle, this, in many people’s minds, would dip into the infamous “Bottom Shelf” designation. Luckily for you and your wallet (or purse, of course), this price has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of 1783, which drinks like something twice it’s price.

I’m not a bourbon connoisseur, but I’ve got to the point where I can appreciate a bourbon that can be enjoyed without a mixer – or even without much more than an ice cube or a splash of water. Evan Williams, a ten year old small batch offering, drinks smooth as silk (perhaps even a tad too smooth, entering “soft” territory) without the need for any ice or even a drop of water. It’s not the most complex bourbon out there, but it has a pleasant caramel sweetness, a hint of citrus, and a decent amount of oakiness. The best part about it is that it lacks the characteristic harshness and burn of most cheap, young spirits.

Is Evan Williams the best bourbon I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking? Obviously not. I wouldn’t expect that from a $10, or even $20, bottle. It is however, in my modest opinion, better than pretty much anything in it’s price range and is more than acceptable for everyday drinking – whether you like yours neat or cocktailed up. This is definitely will be in constant rotation at my house. Two thumbs up for Evan Williams 1783 from this moderately interesting guy.

For much more thorough and informed reviews than the one above, check out Evan Williams 1783’s Bourbon Enthusiast review page.

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by | March 5, 2012 · 10:43 am