Archive for the ‘Product Reviews’ Category

The Bourbon Trail

June 28, 2012

So this last thursday we embarked on the sacred bourbon trail roadtrip from Atlanta to Loiusville, I know you’re saying “what? that’s got nothing to do with Mexico”  and I would agree but if you’re in the southeast and/or a spirits enthusiast like myself, you have to spend at least a day on the trail. I did have some taco’s to make it legit…

My brother, author of the infamous Garry Owen Dining Facilty in Iraq review came along for the ride, as did two of our old roomates, one of which who led the NYC trip reviewed back in May. We had a pretty solid plan for the 4 days of our journey but also left some breathing room for side-trips and random “stop here’s”.

Our first distillery was Prichards in Kelso, Tn. It’s a smaller craft distiller with a fairly wide range of product from rums to whiskies and liqueurs. Outside of passing right by the facility due to practically no signage Prichards turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. We went along on a tour that was highly informative, personal and finished with a killer tasting…of everything. There were no stingy pours here, and everyone except our designated driver thoroughly enjoyed it. Highlights included their Double-Barreled Bourbon, Chocolate Bourbon, and their duo of aged rums; “Private Stock” and “Fine Aged Rum”. I see some of these bottles making it into my collection so eventually I’ll do a more in-depth review.

We stopped in Fayetteville, Tn for some lunch at Ken’s Fast Foods and got to try the local favorite; The Slawburger. Ken’s was a great “local flavor” stop that you just don’t find anywhere but small towns. Ken himself popped out to ask “I’ve never seen you boys ’round here, are you visiting?”

Our next stop brought us to Nashville, the time change to central gave us an hour to drive around and get stuck in traffic and mobs of people heading to the Country Music Award something or another. That wasn’t our bag so we headed over to our 3.30 tour at Corsair Artisan a bit early. Housed in the beautiful brick warehouse that used to hold the Marathon Motors company until 1918 we had high hopes which were dashed quickly. The tour was anemic at best and took literally 6 minutes. Our guide seemed more interested in getting back into the air-conditioned bar room than spending any time detailing their facilities. After getting the cliff-notes tour we pulled up a seat at their tasting room bar and proceeded to taste their 5 flavors; Vanilla Bean Vodka, Gin-Head style  Gin, Spiced Rum, Un-aged Rye and the Triple Smoke Whiskey. My brother is a certified Gin-aholic so they also sampled us some Barrel-aged Gin. After the sampling we had them make a few cocktails with their wares, a gin and tonic with a bit too much tonic and a grapefruit based cocktail featuring their triple smoke whiskey and agave. I found this to be an excellent cocktail similar to a paloma but with smoke and peat added to the mix. We ended up buying a bottle of Gin and getting on the road to Louisville. On the drive everyone mentioned the disappointment with the tour. This could have been that we had just finished up with Prichard’s fantastic tour but it was more than that. We felt like we were shuffled along and didn’t get any of the personality that a small craft distiller would give. I expected this out of a Jim Beam or Jack Daniels but not the little guys.

Driving through Bowling Green we stopped at Smokey Pig BBQ where we chowed a plate of pulled pork and a beer before getting back on the road to Louisville. The next stop was the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert which we almost missed due to the time change BACK to eastern time. Luckily we only missed the first song. As usual the Peppers killed the show, with Josh easily picking up where John Frusciante left off. While the big improv jam sessions weren’t as good, Josh nailed every song and added his unique style. A stop a Third Street Dive for some beers and pool rounded out the evening and we headed back to the hotel, but not before some White Castle.

Friday we decided to skip the distilleries we had planned (Jim Beam, Makers Mark, Heaven Hill) to see some non-alcoholic sights which included the beautiful Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville Slugger Museum and betting on the ponies at Churchill Downs. I finally got my mint julep, although it was a premixed Early Times poured over ice with a sprig of mint…sucked. Before the ponies we ate lunch at the New Albanian Brewery in New Albany just across the river in Indiana. We had a killer meal that included Duck Wings (yes I said Duck wings), pork taco’s, a killer burger and some of the best fries I’ve ever had. Oh yeah the beers were pretty good too. Their Elector Imperial Red was a standout as was Hellbock and Hoptimus. Before heading back to Kentucky we stopped at a local bar, you know the kind where you get blank stares walking in the door and have a fear of siting in one of the regulars stools. A $5 pitcher later we hit the road and stopped for a Cuban (sandwich) and adult beverage at Habana Blue’s. The sandwich was fantastic but the Mojito’s and Caipirinha’s were premixed and didn’t attack your pallet with any fresh mint or lime.

That evening we happened upon a Greek festival for a few more beers and a Gyro before heading to Fourth Street Live for the Makers Mark Bar. While these overtly corporate drinking/eating venues aren’t typically our bag, we made an exception for Wet Willies which was a Savannah favorite being that we all lived there. Every one we’ve visited since has sucked so one drink later we left to start our next day.

Saturday was our distillery day. Bright and early we started at Four Roses. Their production was shut down for the summer but we still toured and tasted. It was a great tour that was indicative of the size of the distillery, not too big, not too small. Their grounds were beautiful with plenty of roses bushes and freshly manicured lawns. The Spanish architecture while somewhat out of place was equally as striking.

Just down the road was Wild Turkey, this was the largest tour we did and our first few of all the processes happening live as well as the barrel warehouses. The scale of everything going on here was worth the visit whether you enjoy WT or not. They have 30 warehouses…30 warehouses. Each fermentation batch holds 30,000 gallons of mash and yeast, did I mention they have 23 fermentation vats? They produce more in one batch than everyone I know and all the people that will read this article will drink in our entire lives. Their still is 4 stories tall, Four Roses column wasn’t half that. We journeyed into their oldest warehouse “No. 1” and the smell was intoxicating. This is one experience everyone needs to have in their lifetime. The cool breeze wafting out the hundred year old door was laced with the sweetness of aged spirits and heartiness of oak. It was almost like catching a buzz. We also nabbed a taste of a barrel that was dripping which was a unique treat. It had a yeasty sweet flavor that I’ll probably never get again.

Our last tour was Woodford Reserve. They by far had the best presentation. Everything about their facilities was made for bringing visitors through it. At first I worried that the overabundance of rules and cleanliness made it reek of corporations and HOA’s but that was quickly erased when we walked into the fermentation room. The highlight was the 3 copper pot stills and raised wooden floors allowing you to walk right up to them. The barrel room was also a sight and that’s not mentioning the aromatics seeping from the oak barrels.

Although we missed the tours, we swung by Buffalo Trace for a short walk around the buildings and a tasting. As we walked scents of yeast and barrel sweetness clung to the air so we all got one last smell of the barrel warehouses by sticking our heads through the windows on the lower floors. One day I’m building an office or house INSIDE a barrel aging room.

That evening we did some bar hopping and had dinner at Doc Crows before bar hopping some more. Earlier in the day Woodford teased us with some Double Oak Bourbon that they were out of so I finished the night off with some hefty pours. We rolled out in the morning stopping by the Corvette museum in Bowling Green and then onto Atlanta.

 

If you’re within a days drive of the trail you owe it to yourself to make a go of it. Louisville and the surrounding area offers a lot to do for a long weekend. Highly recommended! Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Mexican Stone Ground Chocolates

November 4, 2011

A few weeks ago at the market I spotted these Dark Mexican Chocolates in 3 interesting flavors (Vanilla, Cinnamon, and Guajillo Chili) and had to pick them up. They’re stone ground, mexican-style, organic and direct trade from Taza Chocolate’s in Massachusetts. It’s not the real deal but I dare you to prove them wrong. They’re on the pricier side, about $5 per 2.7oz puck but you can eat them as is or melt them down into mexican drinking chocolate which if you haven’t had, you wont ever drink our hot-chocolate ever again. They’re all 50% dark cocoa and made with Oaxacan stone mills. Because of the style and differences in manufacturing to our run-of-the-mill chocolates it has a grainy texture that starts odd but you will quickly appreciate it. How’s it taste? the flavors are all very subtle. I expected the Guajillo chili to be hotter but at first bite you almost couldn’t taste it until this slight heat creeps up on the finish. Nicely done but it left me wanting a bit more chili flavor. Maybe those Habanero cookies ruined me. The cinnamon was great, this would be the one to melt down and drink. The flavors worked great together, like peas and carrots. The vanilla was the most enjoyable to eat as-is. It had this wonderful light sweetness combined with the dark chocolate that was really pleasing.

If you can find them, check them out.

The Dilemma…

October 10, 2011

I call this drink the Dilemma, you see fall is here and my favorite cocktail is decidedly a summer drink. Now take that lovely summer drink and heat it up with some smokey mezcal and we can talk. So yes, this is basically a Paloma using mezcal instead of tequila. It’s also a dilemma because I tossed some of my beloved Los Danzantes Reposado Mezcal in it. Which is so damn tasty and so damn hard to find.

Now the drink instantly takes on the mezcal’s smokiness and a bit of salt. At first sip, it’s on the weird side. When using tequila, the combo works so well together and it’s easy to fall in love with, but with mezcal it’s like having the same cocktail in some weird dream where your sitting in class mixing a cocktail, in your underwear, you know the dream right? After it sits for a few minutes and the ice melts a touch you get a wonderful blend that’ll keep you drinking this into November. My next experiment would be to try this with an un-aged mezcal, but unfortunately I don’t have any. Mezcal brands…hello?

2.5 oz. Mezcal
6 oz. Squirt, Mexican Market
1/2 Lime, juiced

over Ice with a twist or slice of lime.

Pure 100% Mexican Cocaina…I mean Coca-Cola

September 27, 2011

Like I mentioned previously with the Mexican Market Squirt, I also grabbed some Mexican Market Coca-Cola. This stuff has been pretty common since a bunch of gringo’s figured out it’s substitution of high fructose corn syrup with actual sugar was the real deal. Farmer’s Market style grocers and Costco have been carrying it for some time. I think it’s more than just the sugar though. It’s only available in glass bottles which adds to the nostalgia and allure. Just put this bottle and a can of Coca-Cola in front of anyone and they’ll immediately go for the bottle. Even those of us who grew up in a time where Coca-Cola was only available in plastic or aluminum. Somehow, whenever you get the off chance to get Coca-Cola in a glass bottle it always feels special, corn syrup or not.

I did a side by side with a U.S. bottle of coke to accurately see how different they are. You ought to feel special, glass bottles U.S. style aren’t easy to come by. Immediately after opening the Mexican bottle I stuck my nose in it and got such a fresh aroma from it. You can smell the caramel and a sort of mintiness. The nose almost smells like those gummy cola candies you used to see. It has a very clean taste that’s just different than the American bottle and it’s very crisp like there is more carbonation. It’s very enjoyable and actually more refreshing.

The American bottle…tasted exactly like you thought it would. Side by side it has a syrupy sweetness that’s almost offending to the Mexican market bottle. It also looses the fresh crisp taste the Mexican has. I also couldn’t pull out the citrus and cinnamon in the U.S. bottle. I will say though that the bottle is a definite improvement over the cans and plastic bottles we normally get. So if you cant get a Mexican coke, try to sub it with a glass U.S. bottle.

Although sweet, I’ve always had a thing for Rum and Coke. Easy to make, easy to drink and damn tasty. I might have had about 200 too many during college and had since sworn them off but every once and a while, now and again, I get a hankering for one. Although I’ve since changed my recipe to always include lime, ala Cuba Libre and often Coke Zero instead. My fat ass isn’t getting college thin anytime soon.

So with this Cola au natural, I had to try mixing up a Cuba Libre, I mean how could you not? Especially when you’ve got a bowl full of limes and some white rum. I’m not going to bother providing a recipe ’cause…I didn’t use one. A little of this, a little of that and bam! you’ve got a cocktail. What kind of alchy would I be if I needed a recipe to make a cocktail using only 2, maybe 3 ingredients? In the old days, this would have been a glass full of rum with a splash of coke for color and if I was feeling fancy, a garnish of lime but we’ve since graduated and we make proper cocktails. Hell look at the reviews of tequila’s. In college it would have been Montezuma, not even Cuervo in my bar. 100% agave, what the hell is that?

All I can say is…damn, that’s a mighty fine cocktail.

Ohhh Mezcal, where art thou worm?

September 16, 2011


“Mezcal, meet John”

“John, meet Mezcal”

“Hi Mezcal, you could be the greatest thing on the face of the earth or a vile torridness that haunts me forever”

So, Mezcal. I don’t know if you’ve heard about mezcal but it’s got quite the reputation. In fact, a lot of tequila’s bad rap comes from mezcal. That worm? That was started by the producers of mezcal as a marketing gimmick to get college kids and party animals (yours truly) to buy it. Now I’ve never had the worm, never cared to and don’t plan on it. Thankfully this juice we have right here is devoid of all things insect.

Now, all tequila is mezcal but not all mezcal is tequila. Confusing? Mezcal can be made anywhere in Mexico and with almost any agave plant. Tequila on the other hand needs to be made in the region of tequila and only with Blue Weber Agave’s while Mezcal is typically made in Oaxaca. Another difference between it’s tequila brethren is the agave’s used in mezcal production are cooked in fire pits underground as opposed to clay or stone ovens. Neat huh? So this underground fire pit creates smoke, and smoke is one of the overwhelming flavors of mezcal. Lot’s of tequila drinkers have been completely turned off of mezcal because of it’s smokiness. It’s characteristic smokiness often draws parallels to Islay scotches known for their peaty, smokey goodness. It’s a good thing I enjoy a glass of Lagavulin every now and again.

This bottle is a reposado, so it’s an aged mezcal not a Joven (unaged) which translates to, Young. The mezcal lexicon is slightly different from tequila’s but there are plenty of crossovers. The brand is Los Danzantes, and like most mezcals, can be pretty hard to find, at least east of California. Anyway, I picked this bottle up for just under $40 bucks from Holiday Package on Buford Hwy in Chamblee, Ga. I’ve only seen this brand at 2 other stores around Atlanta and they were both kissing the $70 mark. That’s the other problem with mezcal, the price. See most mezcal’s aren’t mass-produced like tequila’s. Most are made single-village style and thus each have their own distinct flavor profile. You’ll see brands market by the name of the village. Del Maguey is perhaps the most famous mezcal, and known for this technique, but we’re drinking Los Danzantes, which is made with the Espadin Agave.

Now this bottle is neat, it’s got a ceramic stopper on top of a neat medicinal style bottle covered in inverted dimples. It’s label is small and minimalist without being overly modern. My bottle is Lot no. 001 and bottle 1308. I don’t know they do their bottling but this seems pretty early in the production run. Those other bottles on the shelf were all lot 001 as well, just saying.

Immediately opening the bottle I got lots of smoke and agave. It promptly brought my senses back to a backyard barbaque with wafts of smoke and something swine being slow cooked at a low temperature. After letting it breath some sweetness started to come out, dark honey and caramelized agave maybe? On the pallet I was greeted with a crisp bite quickly followed by a creaminess laced with smoke that was among the most interesting alcoholic tastings I’ve ever had outside of my first foray into Islay scotches. My worries are over. I was thinking the 42% alcohol would be too much as would the infamous smoke.

Needless to say, I’m hooked. If more bottles of mezcal were available in the southeast I’d try them but from here on out it looks to be mail order or barstock only. If I had more, I’d love to try some cocktails with this. The smoke would add a depth to some Paloma’s the world has never seen. Now the Holiday Package had 2 bottles left when I grabbed this, if you buy the remaining stock before I get my hands on that other bottle…you die…it’s that good. 4.5 outta 5

The Tequila Whisperer

September 14, 2011

Would you take tequila recommendations for that guy? I sure as hell do. In fact, he’s guided my pallet to some stellar juice. I’ve been watching Lippy the Tequila Whisperer for about a year now and realized outside of mentioning him a few times throughout some tequila reviews here, I haven’t really given him his due. He’s incredibly knowledgeable about all things agave and has some of the most entertaining reviews, well ever. Each show is a great mix of music, pop culture, tequila, and chat that goes every direction you can imagine. His site is filled with archives that let you look at older shows but the real gold is in the live shows where you can log in and chat along with the Lip while he tastes this weeks victims. He answers all the fan questions and it allows the show to flow into new and exciting places. On top of all that he’s answered and guided a ton of my questions on purchases, tequila history, NOMs, etc. He really wants you to know and enjoy tequila as much as he does. Check it out, you wont be sorry. Live shows are Thursdays at 7pm pacific. See you in the chat.

Downtown Raleigh City Fest and Jiberra Tequila Bar

September 11, 2011


Last night we decided to run down to Raleigh for their CityFest series, Sebastian Bach was playing along with a couple of other bands. It was $5 bucks, how could you not go? It was a fun time, the shows were a blast and the music was wide ranging, from the styling of Bach’s hair metal and the beach music/70’s rock-pop of Nantucket to the opening bands nu-metal vibe and House of Fools jam band/folksy sound . Although nothing I listen to, a five dollar concert is a five dollar concert, I don’t care who’s playing.

 

 

As usual, the topic of drinking…and eating…and drinking some more came up. So afterwards we decided to talk the short walk to Jibarra, a tequila lounge. By the time we had gotten there, around 11pm it was all bar, dj, and dancing so we didn’t eat and didn’t drink…a lot. I had an hour ride home so I stuck with a single glass of Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia. This is a bottle I’ve heard such a wide range of opinions on and this was the first place that didn’t have it listed for $20+. Thankfully they served it properly in a large snifter with not a hint of lime or salt. At first I was just getting a ton of alcohol and caramel out of it but after letting it sit for about ten minutes it started to open up into a complex bloom of agave, caramel, oak and citrus. It had some great pearls and legs and had a nice entry with a touch of that alcohol bite and numbing. At first maybe a bit too much but it softened over time. I enjoyed it’s caramel and vanilla sweetness as well as it’s retention of agave without an overpowering oakiness. I believe these are aged in bourbon barrels as I was picking up a bit of bourbon but I’ll have to look into that further as a quick search didn’t bring the info I was looking for. It is rounded out by a slightly heated finish that has staying power and was quite enjoyable, as was the overall experience of drinking this.

The entire time I wasn’t sold on this being a $90+ bottle, in fact the prices for it are all over the place. I’ve seen as low as $75 and as high as $150. I can easily say you would be overpaying at anywhere in that range. If this was $45-55 I would purchase it no questions asked but frankly there are anejo’s that are far better for way less green. 3 outta 5

Jibarra was a nice place but I couldn’t really get a vibe from it as a tequila bar or restaurant as it was club time when we walked in. They had a DJ spinning with disco lights and so forth which is why my pics came out like crap. Next time we’ll head back during the day for a proper review and go back for dancing at night.

-Another Raleigh sidenote, it looks like another tequila bar is headed your way shortly. Calavera, a tequila bar that is claiming to be serving “Killer Empanada’s” is set to open any day now. We drove by the location and I immediately jotted it down to memory for a later date. Greensboro’s not so hot on the tequila as Raleigh and Charlotte so I have a feeling we’ll be visiting these two towns frequently.

 

 

 

 

The “Real” Paloma

September 9, 2011


I was at the Super G mart, that gigantic Asian market off New Garden last weekend and I came across some Mexican Squirt. Now I’ve seen Mexican market Coca-Cola, but I’ve NEVER seen Squirt. If your not familiar with Mexican market soft drinks, Coke is the most well known and desired. In the U.S. the soft drink manufacturers, mainly Coca-Cola use High fructose corn syrup to sweeten their cola’s and soft drinks. In Mexico, for whatever reason Coca-Cola and other soft drinks are made with real sugar. Well a couple of gringo’s caught on to this and there’s been this small black market for the stuff. Then it got big, like BIG, and Costco and other retailers started carrying it and you bet they marked the stuff up too. I’ve seen it for upwards of $2 a bottle, and speaking of that bottle, you guessed right, it’s glass. So now you can add this whole nostalgia to it. Glass + real sugar + Coke nerds = the same people getting fatter off Coke, it’s just done with sugar as opposed to high fructose corn syrup.

Anyway, I scored some Coke and Squirt for that matter at the Super G mart. It was around $1.50 a bottle and while I’ll be reviewing the Coke later, with and without rum. Today we’re looking at the Paloma. Now I used the same recipe as previously posted here but with this fancy new Squirt, not that Italian crap I got from Whole Foods. Dont worry, if you cant find Mexican Squirt that crap from Whole Foods makes a damn fine cocktail. It’s just pink…and comes from Whole Foods…hippie.

The Paloma
3 oz. Reposado Tequila
6 oz. Mexican Squirt
1/2 Lime, juiced

Mix the above ingredients and pour over ice, garnish with a lime.

How’s it taste? Fantastic. I don’t know if it was the different tequila used or the Squirt but this is just groovy. Last time I used Muchote Reposado Tequila, which is a killer brand if you haven’t had it. Lately I’ve been using El Charro repo and it just falls flat in the cocktail. It was $12 bucks, what did you expect? Tonight I dropped some Don Agustin repo (look down 3 posts for the review) in there and it shined. Bringing the highball up to my nose immediately brought out the agave and vanilla. It’s like the Squirt supercharged the tequila’s characteristics and made me keep drinking it, all the way until the damn thing was gone! So I made another…and another, and had to finish this post in the morning…with coffee, sans tequila. A great tasting note on the Squirt is that it starts with a crispness not found in American market soda. It then follows with a soft, sweet creaminess that’s delightful. I never thought I like Squirt…until I had this. I’ve been drinking off the leftover contents in the bottle and could easily see picking this up every once and a while. Unlike the 2 times I’ve had regular Squirt. Either way, go find some of this Squirt. I’ve heard that some online retailers and selling it if you cant find it locally and go whip up some Paloma’s

 

 

Herradura Reposado

July 13, 2011

Ah Herradura repo, this brands been talking to my wife since we first had it back in February. Shortly thereafter I purchased her a bottle of their Anejo. Its pretty damn good and its reviewed here, if your into hints of oak, bourbon and banana in your tequila you would love it. Fortunately, the repo is closely related.

Upon pouring and getting a breath of that oak-filled nose with huge hits of that same banana from the Anejo. Its more like a sweetened banana, like runts. You can tell that they age it in previously aged bourbon barrels. Already it sounds like I’m describing the Anejo and thats how close these two are. The repo seems to have a bit more of that agave sweetness on the nose and some defined caramel notes. I’m also picking up a bit of carbonated root beer, some underlying floral notes and a hint of licorice.

For the mid-30’s price that this bottle typically goes for its a good deal but watch out as this bottle can go for upwards of $40+ and for that price there are simply superior tequila’s. So unless you’ve got a hankering for Herradura I would normally pull out an extra finski and go for something in the $40 range that I know I’ll trade my firstborn for. Its a tasty sipper and will make some great cocktails where your looking for that sweet yet oaky finish. 3 outta 5  

 

 

 

The Ginger Margarita

July 10, 2011

I’ve been eyeballing this bottle Ginger Liqueur at the Liquor store. You might have seen it, the bottle is shaped similarly to a piece of bamboo in a tall frosted bottle. Domaine de Canton is the brand. Anyway I thought it would make a great mixer but at $30 a bottle I wanted to sample it first. Turns out my local hole had some airplane bottles for $4 bucks so it was mixing time. After playing with a few bottles I came about this.

The Ginger Marq

2oz. Blanco Tequila
1oz. Canton Ginger Liqueur
1/2 Lime, juiced
Splash of Club Soda

Its one damn tasty cocktail with a little bite from the ginger. The tequila was El Charro which is available for under $15 bucks, its a decent sipper and a great 100% agave mixer without breaking the bank.