Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey

Summer is still upon us, so I don’t often feel like sitting down to sip a nice, warming glass of whiskey. But one recent night, after a long walk with my dog, it just seemed like the thing to do.

Knappogue Castle 12-year-old single malt Irish whiskey.

Knappogue Castle 12-year-old single malt Irish whiskey.

So I went to my liquor cabinet and there it was: Knappogue Castle 12-year-old single malt Irish whiskey. I had totally forgotten I even had this stuff because I hadn’t bought it. It was sent to me after I responded to a press release sent by the New York-based distiller. Let that serve as a disclaimer: I did not pay for the whiskey I am about to review.

Without further ado, let’s talk whiskey.

Taste

I think what I like best about this whiskey is how mellow it is. Before you even take a sip, you get a delightful whiff of alcohol. It almost burns your nostrils. But then you take a sip and it’s wonderfully smooth, though it does warm your esophagus as it goes down. The first thing you taste is vanilla and a hint of cinnamon, and it finishes with very smooth oak and ginger flavors. I’m a fan.

Profile

This clocks in at 40 percent ABV. According to the distiller’s website, “As a single malt Irish whiskey, it is crafted exclusively from unpeated, malted barley before being triple distilled through both pot and column stills. After distillation, it is aged for a minimum of 12 years in ex-bourbon casks before being bottled at 80 proof.”

How to drink it

That’s up to you. As I type this, I’m drinking it neat from a rocks glass. But if you prefer it cooled down a bit, you could serve it on the rocks or with a splash of water. Pick your poison. The only thing I would suggest is that you not mix it. This is really good, complex whiskey and mixing it would keep you from enjoying all the delicious and subtle flavors.

Value

Admittedly, this is pricey. You can buy a 750ml bottle directly from the distiller for $49.99 and Binny’s lists it for $39.99.

Metasip grade: A

This is a great sipping whiskey. It’s incredibly easy drinking and as sessionable (can you tell I’m usually a beer drinker?) as a whiskey can be. My only quibble is that it’s a little too pricey to be an everyday drink.

SIA Scotch Whisky

We write, we do videos. Choose either or both. We aim to please. As for this whisky…I guess it aims to please, too!

I remember the glee when I got the email from the SIA brand manager. “Can we send you a bottle to review?” Well, yee-ha! Of course, brand manager for SIA Scotch Whisky, you can send me a bottle to review, I’d be happy to review it! (This serves as one of many requisite disclosures that I received a bottle, at no cost to me, and that was what was reviewed.)

[BTW, if you’d rather just see the video, here it is:]

 

SIA Scotch WhiskyWhat they sent me wasn’t this flask (pictured, Left) – in fact, the thing they sent me (which you’ll see if you watch the video) is closer to something you might have used in Chemistry class. Just the right amount for me to sample.

Anyway, let’s find out if this is any good…to the review machine!

SIA Scotch Whisky Review

First thing I noticed in the marketing materials? “Winner: Double Gold, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2014.” So I’ll go out on a limb and say this stuff has to be pretty top-notch, right? And, really, why would they spend their time sending some to little ol’ me?

Let’s break it down, though, comparing their marketing notes to my own tasting:

Taste:

They said “The color of clover honey, SIA awakens the nose with citrus and spice and opens the palate with the smokey vanilla crunch of a creme brulee.” Me: I didn’t really get the citrus and spice on the nose, but the vanilla, caramel, creme brulee smell and taste were both there. I liked it – as I said in the video (and they also said in their materials) “not overpowering.”

Profile:

“An ultra-premium blend with a high malt to grain ratio (40/60%). Regional breakdown is Speyside (50%), Highlands (40%) and Islay (10%).”

ABV of 43% – it’s 86 Proof.

Value:

You can buy a 750ml bottle over at Ezra’s for $50. It’s a good value, we think – you’re not going to be knocking it back over a weekend, right?

Metasip Grade: A-

We tasted it in the video and graded it A-; we would have changed that, honestly, if the price was a lot higher. But at $50, that does sound like a value.

Mr. Katz Rock and Rye

Spirits Guy Bill Mayeroff returns! Check this particular combo out in his latest review.

Rye whiskey is an old school drink. According to Serious Eats, it was first brewed in colonial America in what became the eastern United States. George Washington even made rye at his Mount Vernon estate. [Editor’s Note: Not sure if there was a Mr. Katz in the White House and whether he was the one who brought the rock candy.]

These days, it doesn’t seem like we think about rye much. Sure, bars may have a bottle or two of Templeton’s on the shelf, but that’s about it. And we don’t drink it even if it’s there. Well, most don’t. I usually have a bottle of rye at home, but even I don’t drink it often.

So when I got a press release from the Brooklyn-based New York Distilling Company saying they had created a rock-and-rye – a mix of rye whiskey and rock candy sugar – I had to ask if they’d send me a bottle to review. I never thought for a second they’d do it, but lo and behold, a couple weeks later, a bottle appeared on my doorstep.

DISCLAIMER: I did not pay for the bottle of rock-and-rye I am about to review.

Mr. Katz Rock and Rye Review

Mr. Katz's Rock and Rye

Mr. Katz’s Rock and Rye

Though I’d had rye whiskey before, I’d never had rock-and-rye before trying Mr. Katz’s Rock and Rye. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I mean, come on. Rye whiskey with rock candy sugar? I don’t know. I’m not a fan of sweet booze. So I was worried that it would be too sweet.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about.

The first thing that I noticed about it was the gorgeous caramel color. It’s deeper and richer than most ryes; very pleasant to look at. Opening the bottle and pouring a bit into a rocks glass, you get a strong smell of alcohol and spice. It’s almost overwhelming. Almost.

Take a sip and you get a sugary sweetness that lingers on the tongue. It’s sweet, but not cloying. The alcohol scent and cinnamon spiciness cuts through and tempers the sweetness just enough. It goes down smooth with a slight burn at first, but as you drink more, that burn evens out into a very pleasant warmth in your throat and esophagus. It’s a good winter sipper when consumed straight, though it would do well in cocktails over ice no matter what time of year you drink it.

The description on the bottle says the spirit contains hints of citrus, sour cherry and cinnamon. You can definitely taste the cinnamon, but I didn’t notice any citrus and only a very slight cherry scent.

The biggest problem with Mr. Katz’s Rock and Rye? You can’t get it in Chicago. At least it doesn’t seem like it. The New York Distilling website lists shops in New York where you can get it and a few of them will even take online orders. But shipping booze across state lines is a legal mess and not many shops will do it.

The moral of this story is this: Get yourself some Mr. Katz’s Rock and Rye if you can. And if you do, tell me where you got it.

Metasip Grade: B+

Four Vodkas For Your Bloody Marys

You can bet one of these vodkas is called “Three Olives” – not only because that would be clever (because it’s a post about “four” vodkas, not three), but because it’s the vodka Clive Owen drinks.

Format be darned – we’re in the business of sharing usable content with you, gentle reader! Also, we like those “whipsaw” posts – you know, the ones where we say things like “gentle reader” then we use an exclamation point! It would make total sense, then, to keep this listicle to something digestible, like Four Vodkas for Your Bloody Marys as opposed to “You Wouldn’t Believe What 11 Magic Ingredients We Added to the Bloody Mary!” (then with a subtitle like “Number 7 Will Make You Question Humanity!”). Clickbait is not our thing, yo.

Four Vodkas For Your Bloody Marys

Before we dive in, a word to the wise: “Bloody Marys” as we wrote it is grammatically correct. Shut the front door if you disagree.

Also, we plan on having something for every budget here, or at least some sort of range for you to choose from. And, we should have done the clickbait thing because Number One Will Shock You!

Sobieski Vodka

1. Sobieski (Metasip Grade: A)

Scene: Middle of the summer, downtown, suburban USA. Family walks to a cafe for a weekend brunch-type meal. Parent orders Bloody Mary and is struck by the tastiness of the vodka. Inquires of the waitstaff and is informed…”well, I don’t know. Let me find out.”

So the random well vodka, it turns out, was this stuff. Sobieski. Boomski. We’ll take it.

Didn’t realize that the Beverage Testing Institute (a) was such a thing and (2) rated these vodkas. Why not the others, too? Where’s Tito’s, which seems to be EVERYONE’S FAVORITE VODKA???

We’ve since had people tell us this is their go-to. Big bottle (1.75L) is under $20, and it’s the premium vodka of Poland. Gets an A in our book. Go get some.

Behance Grey Goose Ad

From Behance.net

2. Grey Goose (Metasip Grade: B+)

Stuff’s expensive, so, since our grading scale takes into account Taste, Profile, and VALUE, all three must be perfectly aligned. Still, some of y’all swear by Grey Goose and we don’t blame you if you want to splurge. So, go ahead, splurge! Get the Bloody with everything! Ask for twelve olives, a complete half-ham mortadella, twice-cured salame and maybe even real Amana Bleu Cheese.

I think the ad above is from a contest to design an ad for Grey Goose. An interesting formula for an ad, don’t ya think? Attractive woman, bottle of liquor, cold beverage. No wonder the ad industry is so successful.

BTW, by expensive, we mean $45-plus for a big bottle.

Kirkland Vodka

Official Vodka of Euchre

3. Kirkland Signature Vodka (Metasip Grade: A)

Our most popular post ever here at Metasip HQ was this one: Costco Alcohol Shopping or some such, I forgot the title. In it, we discussed a not-very-well-kept secret: that Kirkland Signature Vodka – the one that’s “Five-Times Distilled” (like Grey Goose) and “Imported from France” (like Grey Goose) might actually be…well…Grey Goose.

Also works well in the Vodka Tonic.

$30 for the bottle. THIRTY. DOLLARS.

Clive Owen for Three Olives

Thanks, 2luxury2.com

4. Three Olives Vodka (Metasip Grade: A-)

If you wake up in the morning and ask yourself “What vodka would Clive Owen drink?,” then your answer should be “Three Olives.” Your next step should be trying to figure out where Clive Owen has been lately; a quick jaunt over to IMDB tells us that he’s in a show called “The Knick” and that he recently turned 50. That last bit is a surprise.

His vodka is not a surprise – like him, I guess, in that it does the job, doesn’t muck things up, might amaze from time to time, but is really what you need in the Bloody Mary. You don’t want the vodka to say “Give me back my son!” or “I’ll be back!” or “Yippee Cayenne Muppet Trucker” or some other catch phrase. You just want it to add the little bit of vodkicity to the Bloody Mary and then go back into the freezer – or, in Clive’s case, back to Cinemax for another season. (Or was it Starz? NO, it was, definitely, Skinamax.)

We believe we paid around $20 for a 1L bottle back in the day – a year ago; it was the one we used up before buying the Kirkland. For THIRTY BUCKS.

What good would a Bloody Mary post be without a recipe?

Good question: we normally just go with a mix – srsly, what’s wrong with pulling mix out of a bottle and rolling with it? Well, in these days of craft cocktails and whatnot, you might want to take just a little extra time an go with this one – from people we plan on becoming friends with over at Liquor.com – because we have found (being fans of the classic Chicago hot dog) that celery salt makes everything better.

Four Vodkas for Your Bloody Marys…

There are more – this is not meant to be a definitive list, of course, since you could drive yourself nutso at the vodka aisle of the Walmart. But here are four to take a look at.

Drink up!

Quick Take: Mora’s Savvy Spirits Whiskey Club

Another Quick Take: and sorry if you whiskey lovers feel ignored. You shouldn’t be.

Ah, whiskey. Or whisky. Either way you spell it – well, Mora’s Savvy Spirits has a Whiskey Club to check out. NOTE: all the links below are affiliate links, so we’ll be compensated if you sign up.

Here goes…

Bourbon Club $72/month

Quick Take: Mora’s Savvy Spirits Whiskey Club

So we have a really hard time trying to keep track – Mora’s website has a crazy number of things on its website – all sorts of clubs to take advantage of, and here’s an affiliate link to the main site: Mora’s Fine Wine & Spirits. (Tequila club? Not for me…yet. But I’m starting to head down that road. One of these days…)

We’ll admit that our whiskey skills on the site – and Dave’s own whiskey sampling – remain to be, uh, refined. But we’re getting there – and some of these reviews from our Metasip community might help us along:

Bulleit Rye Whiskey

Auchtenoshan American Oak

Granted, we don’t know if these end up in the monthly club at Mora’s – but given their track record with these clubs, the staff knows what they’re doing there.

Take a spin through the site and, of course, if you order something, let us know how it is!

 

George Dickel Rye Whiskey

George Dickel Rye

Our resident Whiskey Guy is “Tampa Jim,” Jim Alexander, who tells me he can’t drink beer. Since Dave can’t drink whiskey (that often, at least), here’s Jim’s take on…George Dickel Rye Whiskey.

I have a big soft spot, going back a good 35+ years, for the products from the George Dickel distillery. Their #8 was, along with Jack Daniel’s Old Number 7 Black Label, seminal in my introduction to whiskeys as a young man. This rye whiskey is produced for George Dickel by MGPI in Indiana then sent back to Dickel to be run through their Lincoln County Process. This one is George Dickel Rye Whiskey, and let’s drink up!

George Dickel Rye Whiskey Review

Taste

As with many self respecting ryes, George Dickel Rye Whiskey starts off with a nice spicy nose.  What follows though gets a bit muddled. There’s some maple but the heavy oak makes this rye pass across the tongue in rougher fashion (a tad thin I would add) than is desired but, it still manages to finish reasonably well. Something of a conundrum.

Profile

45%ABV, 90 Proof

Value

$26.95,  750ml

Metasip Grade: B

George Dickel Rye is a respectable whiskey and a heck of a good bargain. It is, for my tastes, better suited for use in cocktails than it is for the sittin’ and sippin’. Pretty good for daily spillage.

Auchentoshan American Oak

Auchentoshan American Oak“American Oak.” How boldly non-European for this single malt scotch whisky. This Auchentoshan (with no specified age) has been matured in first fill American oak bourbon barrels and triple distilled. This triple distillation is something Auchentoshan insists on for all its whiskies which results in a higher ABV and usually a lighter nose and taste. Their American Oak is a great intro to the modern Auchentoshan.

So: real talk here. I usually check Master of Malt to learn more about scotch that I’m interested in—usually before I buy them, but sometimes afterwards. This was an afterwards: and they don’t even have it yet. That’s how new this release is.

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American Oak was produced under the purview of the woman that’s been called “The First Lady of Scotch,” Rachel Barrie, who holds the title of Master Blender for not only Auchentoshan, but also Bowmore and Glen Garioch, having moved to this post after serving as Master Blender for Glenmorangie and Ardbeg for 16 years. A chemist and research scientist by training, she treats her profession as a blend of science and art. “Usually I look for a sense of place,” she says.

Nose:

Vanillin, touch of citrus zest, caramel. Terrifically rich to the nose.

Taste:

The vanilla and caramel from the nose carry through to the tongue, joined by oakiness and a touch of spice. That oak? Like a fresh wood floor. Incredibly oaky, which becomes one note, held. Especially when contrasted with their Three Wood, which is one of my favorites and wonderfully well-rounded. The American Oak has a relatively crisp finish, though the usual scotch warming tingle takes place just afterwards, especially after the first sip. Smooth but not super easy drinking, by scotch standards.

No leather, no peat, and little smoke—and what little of it there is hovers near the finish—for those who don’t like those characteristics of scotch. This would be a good step number two for people just getting into scotch.

Profile:

40% ABV

Value:

List is $39.99 for 750 ml. If you’re Chicagoland-local, Binny’s has been putting American Oak on sale (as long as you have a free membership card) for five bucks less than list, at $34.99, but has been running out of stock regularly.

This is just a smidge more expensive than Auchentoshan’s Classic ($29.99), which it may be destined to replace, but less expensive than the other Auchentoshans, the Three Wood being the standard-bearer ($64.99).

Metasip Grade: B+

Excellent for its price point, but a little too one-note for an A-level grade. While normally I’m loath to use single malts in cocktails, this one from Auchentoshan’s site strikes me as particularly spritely for summer: Whisky-a-Lolo.

Prichard’s Tennessee Whiskey

Guess what? We decided we needed to review more whiskey. So we did. Read on…

Prichards Tennessee Whiskey at Metasip

Prichards Tennessee Whiskey

We know we have a small sample size here: first a Moonshine, then Bulleit Rye. So we thought we’d take a look at something from a brand called Prichard’s. Here goes:

Prichard’s Tennessee Whiskey Review

Prichard’s is a relative newcomer in the Tennessee whiskey field, third behind the rather bigger dogs Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel. The distillery styles itself as a small pot, craft producer.

Taste

Pop the cork and Prichard’s Tennessee whiskey has decent nose. On the tongue you get what you’d expect out of a Tennessee whiskey (caramel, oak, vanilla) plus a little more corn than usual. It also has some pleasant fruit notes. Smooth going in, stays on the back of the throat on the way down.

Profile

40% ABV, 80 Proof

Value

$39.95 Retail, 750 ml

Metasip Grade: C

For all the world I could not differentiate this whiskey, sufficiently, from any number of its more well known competitors. It comes off tasting an awful lot like George Dickel #8, all caramel and oak with a smattering of otherwise basic accents. It is smooth, goes down easy and is quite inoffensive but, not remarkable in any sense. It simply does not stand out.

Bulleit 95 Rye Whiskey

Bulleit 95 Rye Whiskey

Bulleit 95 Rye Whiskey

Bulleit Bourbon is known for their, well….. bourbon. They ventured into the rye whiskey field in 2011 shortly after they were added to the Diageo portfolio of distilled spirits. So,we have  a small batch (read: craft) spirit produced by a consumer goods juggernaut who promised to be hands off in the distilling decision making.  Here we go again…. or not?

Taste

First thing’s first. Out of the gate you get a pronounced, and spicy, rye punch. There is no mistaking this rye for anything else. The punch is short lived and mellows surprisingly fast and well. Bulleit 95 Rye Whiskey comes with no alcohol burn. None at all. It is one smooth whiskey that finishes very clean. None of the lingering back of the throat bouquet you find in its bourbon brother.

Profile

45% ABV, 90 Proof – No kidding. This is your father’s whiskey.

Value

$27.95 Retail, 750 ml

Metasip Grade: A

Seems Diageo was good for their word, leaving the product up to the distiller. At under $30 a bottle, Bulleit 95 Rye Whiskey is a steal. It compares favorably to rye whiskeys with better pedigree and costing significantly more money. I keep this one in my cabinet at all times.

BTW, I liked it so much, I created my own recipe. Here goes:

Old Jim Fashioned

  • 2-3 fingers Bulleit 95 Rye
  • Lime Peel
  • Ginger Ale
  • Peychaud’s Bitters

Pour the Bulleit over ice, zest the lime peel into the glass (put the peel in for good measure), give a few good splashes of bitters and top with your desired amount of ginger ale.

Midnight Moon Moonshine

Editor’s Note: We enlisted the help of world traveler and sometimes moonshine shopper Sondra Morin for this review.

Midnight Moon Moonshine

Midnight Moon Moonshine – Photo by Sondra Morin

Driving north on I-95 from Massachusetts to Maine, the highway winds through a small patch of tax-free New Hampshire. Located on either side of the highway is the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlet, a must-stop for any traveler seeking tax-free spirits. Of course, there are two types of consumers who enter the store:

  1. The consumer who stops by just to see what’s on the shelves and if it might be worth it to buy a tax-free bottle of whiskey, and
  2. The consumer who plans to stockpile a grocery basket with as much tax-free wine, beer, and liquor as possible.

I happen to be the first type of consumer, so I went straight to the whiskey.

Moments before walking away with a bottle of Knob Creek, I noticed rows of fancy black-and-white-labeled Mason jars on the lower shelf that read “Midnight Moon.”

Moonshine! I put the Knob Creek back and inspected the jars. Cherry moonshine caught my eye first, then I noticed that there were jars of straight moonshine, blueberry moonshine, and blackberry moonshine. Blackberries being my favorite New England berry, I opted for that jar. $18.99. Blackberries soaked and floating at the bottom. Tax-free.

Midnight Moon Moonshine Review

The company behind this exotic elixir is Junior Johnson, specifically “Junior Johnson’s Family Recipe.” Midnight Moon Moonshine: Distilled from Corn is an excellent way to brighten up a party, but be sure shots are taken lightly or not at all.

Taste:

Sipping it straight or on the rocks is not recommended – even with blackberries, it tastes like cough medicine and torch ignition. You could blow fire with this stuff. One berry is about the equivalent of a whole shot, so eat one slowly. Though quaint, a jar is not ideal for pouring any alcoholic liquid. Use a small ladle, tablespoon, or melon spoon to serve the liquid – pouring straight from the jar causes spillage.

Profile:

It’s Moonshine. 50% ABV. 100 Proof. Whoa!

For me, I figured the best way to put this through its paces was by making a recipe of my own.

The recipe I concocted for the elixir is a Moonshine Spritzer:

2  Ice cubes

2  Tbs Blackberry Midnight Moon Moonshine
1  Fermented berry from the bottom of the jar
6-8oz  Lime Seltzer

Slice of lime (for garnish and to squeeze in the juice)

For more sophisticated recipes, Junior’s Midnight Moon has a list of fancy drinks on the website, including a Strawberry Shortcake Martini.

Value:

$18.99 – but tax-free. So if you’re in a tax-heavy state (I’m looking at you, Illinois), jack that up by $2 or more a jar. And, if you use it in recipes like the one above, or you take your time sipping it straight (RECOMMENDED!) then, you’ll get a lot out of one jar.

Metasip Grade: B.

It wins in character, but loses for practicality.