Story by Manos Angelakis
Photos courtesy of the producers and/or importers.
Holiday Spirits Suggestions
Every year, we feature a number of bottles of spirits and liquors that we found interesting and attractive enough to be considered mostly as sipping beverages, but also having enough body and aroma to be used as bases for interesting cocktails.
This year we thought that the below products should be part of any well stocked bar of every person that takes their holiday spirits seriously.
“The Bad Stuff Tequila” is, in our opinion, a rather unfortunate name for an exceptional Reserva Especial Extra A˝ejo Tequila, aged for a least 3 years in French oak. It’s meant for sipping neat or on the rocks. It’s not unlike a very good brandy or single malt whisky. It comes in numbered bottles (ours was #5070 out of 5814).
Made in Jalisco, Mexico, this elegant aged tequila is meticulously crafted, harvested from the finest estate-grown weber azul agave. It has intense aromas of nutmeg, allspice, caramelized agave, vanilla ant cigar box. The smooth palate has balanced notes of pepper, smoke, wood, and tobacco. A crisp and magnificent finish has earthy hints. This rich agave nectar is fermented, then double distilled first in stainless steel alembics with a final distillation in a traditional copper alembic. It is then transferred into first-use, medium-charred, French Oak barrels and allowed to rest for a minimum of three years. An exceptional spirit, it is 80 proof (40% ABV).
Another interesting beverage, also with a rather unfortunate name, is the “Hard Truth” Maple Bourbon Cream. They were kind enough to send us a sample bottle. It is part of a range of smooth, premium craft spirits that are nuanced enough to be enjoyed sipped or on the rocks or as part of cocktails. This particular bootle is a blend of Brown County Indiana straight bourbon whiskey, fresh dairy cream, and maple syrup. It begins with hand-selected barrels of aged whiskey transferred to rest in new, custom hand-crafted barrels that have been toasted, charred, and hardwood smoked. This finishing technique from Hard Truth Distilling Co. adds new dimension to these premium whiskies, enhancing the original flavors and adding further depth while creating a complex and balanced finish.
It has a nose of maple candy, cream and oak and a palate of cream, sweet maple, bold bourbon, brown sugar, marshmallow, and toasted pecan. A rich and creamy finish with notes of toffee and nougat and warm, lingering bourbon and maple.
As previously stated it is perfect as a sipping drink, however, at a restaurant near us with an inventive mixologist, we had a cocktail made as follows:
In an ice-filled rocks glass:
2 oz. Hard Truth Maple Bourbon Cream
1 1/2 oz. Apple cider
Ż oz. Spiced pear liqueur
Ż oz. Maple syrup
4 dashes Orange bitters or Angostura Bitters
(we had the cocktail with both kind of bitters and it was both times good and refreshing)
Also, a new flagship Bourbon tasting sample was received at our office.
It’s a blend of six 90+ point WoodCraft finished bourbons. The taste and aroma is of 200 year European Oak, American Oak, Cherry Wood, Maple Wood and Smoked Oak and is named in honor of the legendary barrel blender Edmund Dexter, as he would have crafted it in 1862. We enjoyed it neat with just a splash of cold water as I thought that this bourbon would be wasted if used in a cocktail. It was a monument to incredible smoothness, and fresh, bright flavor. Mr. Dexter, used to purchase barrels of raw whiskey from Ohio and Kentucky, blended them on the premises, put it into kegs or jugs and supplied saloons, restaurants, grocery stores, and other local places selling liquor.
It’s well understood that most of the flavor and 100% of the smoothness of bourbon and all whiskies comes from the interaction of whiskey and the wood the whiskey is aged in. The Brain Brew Distillery of Newtown, Ohio, returned to its bourbon roots, when bourbon was crafted by distillers and master barrel blenders and customized for customers, so that everyone had a whiskey crafted to their own, individual, taste. Many American whiskeys compare very favourably to Scotch whisky and most are produced to an exceptionally high standard.
The Johny Bootlegger story started during the American experiment in abstinence from liquor known as “The Prohibition”.
The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – which banned the manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors – officially went into effect on January 17, 1920, with the passage of the Volstead Act. The increase of the illegal production and sale of liquor known as “bootlegging,” the proliferation of illegal drinking spots known as “speakeasies” and the rise in gang violence, murders, bribing of officials and other crimes led to waning support for Prohibition, as time passed by. In early 1933, Congress adopted a resolution proposing the 21st Amendment to the Constitution that repealed the 18th. The 21st Amendment was ratified on December 5, 1933, ending Prohibition. But the damage had already been done especially in the country’s large urban centers where respect for the law, the police and the judicial system had plummeted.
Johny was, supposedly, an “entrepreneur” who was doing a stretch in Sing Sing when he had the idea for creating speakeasies i.e. private drinking clubs where people could go, socialize, dance, flirt and imbibe! A few of the most famous eateries and clubs in Manhattan became legendary speakeasies during that time.
In our office came a box with three fruity liquors that can be excellent bases for cocktails or can be sipped as after dinner drinks. Included in the box was also a metal flask, just like the ones the fellers used to carry in their hip-pockets and dames used to tuck in their garters during Prohibition.
We received Alcatraz Sour Apple, Sing Sing Sour Grape and Syndicate City Sour Peach. Those and many other fruity tipples in the Bootlegger line have been inspired by the legendary Johny and can be bought (not stolen please) from your local liquor store or ordered in-non-dry-areas on-line from the Geloso Beverage Group of Rochester, NY. The link is https://johnybootlegger.com/
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