Brenda, from Blueprint Spirits, will be here with some great stuff for now and for the coming cooler months!
Doc's Draft Hard Pumpkin Cider ($6.99/22 oz bottle) Warwick, NY From the producer: "A seasonal cider made with roasted pumpkins, cinnamon, allspice, fresh ginger and nutmeg. (6% alcohol)"
From me: This cider is one of the first products made at Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery, which also makes Black Dirt Bourbon. The site is home to an orchard, and over time, the cider evolved into its current incarnation, Doc's. This is, quite simply, the best hard cider I've tasted, and by far the best pumpkin-flavored anything that I've had. The cider is fermented with Champagne yeast, which gives it a lightness and lift that others lack. It's a semi-dry cider with fresh pumpkin taste. This is the real deal.
Black Dirt Distillery Bourbon ($45.99) Warwick, New York From the producer: "The Black Dirt region of New York State, also known as the Drowned Lands, consists of the remains of a shallow lake that formed 12,000 years ago during the glacial period. The ebony soil is so rich and unique as to be an anomaly. In some areas the soil is comprised of up to 90 percent organic matter, considered by some to be “one great big compost heap,” from both the glacial lake and repeated flooding of the Wallkill River, and can go as deep as 30 feet. More mastodons have been unearthed here than anywhere else on Earth. BLACK DIRT takes its name from the dark, fertile soil left by an ancient glacial lake that once covered Thousands of acres of upstate New York. Perfectly suited for growing crops such as corn, this Black Dirt has never been used for Bourbon production – until now.
Batch #11 Released 6/22/17 Aged a minimum of 3 years, 4 months in new charred American Oak Char level 3 & 4 Distilled from: 80% Black Dirt grown corn 12% Malted Barley 8% Rye"
From me: A lot of New York Bourbons, though quite good, are young compared to those from Kentucky. This one has a solid 3 years on it, and the flavor profile shows the maturity. It is smooth, long on the palate, and has a depth of flavor that could be attributed to the addition of malted barley in the mash bill. I'm impressed with this effort from the first micro-distillery in New York.
Bloomery SweetShine Black Walnut Liqueur ($24.99) West Virginia From the producer: "Bravely Bold with a Double Gold! 2015 San Francisco World Spirit Winner
Like our Limoncello this is a traditional Italian digestivo, a straight from the bottle sipper after dinner finishing very smoothly. Unlike limoncello this is not as sweet and offers many spice flavors in the finish. The dark color is from all natural unripe or green black walnuts and a mix of spices creating a unique flavor for you to savor!
Black Manhattan The Manhattan has been a perennial favorite but we found a way to truly update this to something very special. Over ice start with 3 oz of bourbon or rye whiskey, add 1/2 oz of sweet vermouth, 1/2 oz of Black Walnut SweetShine and a dash of bitters. Garnish with a cherry. Big City in the name, big flavor in the glass, big smile on your face!"
From me: This is a delicious and unusual liqueur, in part because of the black walnuts, and in part because of the high alcohol content (73.4 proof!). West Virginians mean business when it comes to "shine!" The flavor is deep, dark, and smooth, and just sweet enough to be enjoyed on its own, but the Black Manhattan will knock your socks off.
Barr Hill Tom Cat Barrel Aged Gin ($48.99) Vermont From the producer: "Tom Cat Gin is an expedition into uncharted territories. Once distilled, we age the gin in new American oak barrels in search of a bolder expression. The robust character of the new oak barrel mingles with the coniferous quality of the juniper, yielding an enticing aroma. A touch of raw honey leaves this revolutionary spirit remarkably approachable, whether drinking neat or in a cocktail. When the world called for whiskey, we answered resolutely with gin."
From the distributor: "Barrel aged 4-6 months in new, charred American White Oak, Tom Cat is a completely unique gin with whiskey-like notes of oak, spice and a finish of juniper and raw honey. Tom Cat is the modern day adaption of 18th century England’s most revered spirit, Old Tom gin. After gin was outlawed by the Spirits Act of 1750, rebellious pub owners would hang a wooden plaque shaped like a black cat to inform the passerby of their defiance of the ban. Deposit a few pennies through the cat’s mouth and a bartender would pour a ration of Old Tom to be sipped through a tube between the cat’s paws."
From me: It seems as if everyone is making a barrel-aged gin these days, but Barr Hill was really at the front of that trend with a unique product that reflects Vermont's flora and fauna. The aging softens the spirit and makes it ideal for sipping as well as for cocktails. The touch of honey doesn't sweeten it, but gives it a roundness that you won't find in most other gins. A superior example of the style.
Black Button Bourbon Cream ($31.99) Rochester, NY From the producer: "Whiskey and cream seem to be such a natural fit together and this, the only farm fresh New York State bourbon cream around, combines our hand finished Bourbon and local cream for a drink that delights. Bourbon Cream is similar in concept to an Irish Cream but discloses a richer feel. The bolder vanilla and caramel flavors make this a unique spirit that can be used on its own, in a cup of coffee or in a cocktail. We recommend trying it in a Root Beer Float!"
From me: Drink this, not that! This stuff is incredible. It's sweet without being cloying or syrupy, and the creaminess is not overbearing. Black Button is a grain-to-glass distiller in Rochester that produces quality spirits. This contains a blend of their own bourbon, bourbon from another small distiller, and local NY cream. It will ruin you for other cream spirits!
1. Taste with as clean a palate as possible. Try to avoid smoking or chewing gum just beforehand. If you have just eaten, drink some water to clear the flavors of the meal.
2. Keep an open mind. Try new things! We all get into ruts when it comes to our palates, but the fun of a tasting is that you don't have to commit to the whole bottle. If you don't like what you've tasted, you can spit it out.
3. Spit or swallow--it's up to you! Just make sure you use the spittoon!
4. See, swirl, smell, sip, savor. Give attention to all aspects of the wine. Here are a couple of links that explain the process:
5. Have fun! Wine tasting has an air of elitism around it, but unnecessarily so. Your palate is your own-it's as individual as you are-and the most important part of appreciating good alcohol is knowing what you like and why you like it. You don't have to use fancy words or spend a lot of money on a bottle. As the kids say, you do you!