EZdrinking

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary.

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary. EZdrinking is a drinks blog by Eric Zandona that focuses on distilled spirits, wine, craft beer and specialty coffee. Here you can find reviews of drinks, drink books, articles about current & historical trends, as well as how to make liqueurs, bitters, and other spirit based drinks at home.

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Review: Workhorse Rye Redhorse Whiskey

AT A GLANCE

  • Owned by: Workhorse Rye

  • Distilled at: Sutherland Distilling Co. in Livermore, CA

  • Still Type: Hybrid Still

  • Spirit Type: Whiskey distilled from Rye

  • Strength: 60% ABV

  • Price: ~$35 (200ml)

In 2011, Rob Easter founded Workhouse Rye to be a “progressive and sustainable” producer of whiskey and bitters. For the past eight years Easter has operated as an itinerant distiller, renting still time and space from distilleries to ferment, distill, and mature his whiskeys. From 2012-2014, Easter was able to refined his distilling chops at Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn, New York helping to develop their award winning Peated Bourbon. Since 2014, Easter has focused on sourcing most of his grains direct from farmer who are growing non-irrigated heirloom varieties of rye, wheat, corn and barley. Hybridized and GMO grains have been designed to maximize starch production and respond positively to modern farming techniques, (irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides), the consequence however is that these plants has lost a multitude of other compounds that added flavor and depth of character when made into bread or distilled into whiskey. For Easter, he has to use more than 1000 pounds of grain to make one barrel of whiskey, but he believes that despite the lower yield, these grains result in a better spirit that is also less taxing on the environment.

Each expression of Workhorse begins with the same mash bill of 70% west coast rye, 20% malted barley, and 10% malted wheat. The mash is fermented, pot distilled, and then filled in a variety of barrels. US labeling laws for rye whiskey require the spirit to be aged in charred new oak barrels, but because Redhorse matures in used wine barrels, it is just labeled whiskey. For this particular bottling, Easter aged the whiskey for two years in used Broc Cellers Syrah casks before being bottled at 60% ABV.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: On the nose there are fantastic aromas of a nutty Manzanilla sherry intermixed with notes of dried dates, raisins and prunes compote cooked with cinnamon sticks. As the whiskey breaths aromas of dark cherries and chocolate strawberries start to break through.

Palate: On the palate the whiskey is intense with big flavors of cinnamon spice, dried fruit and hazelnuts. With a little water the flavor broadens and opens with more oak notes from the barrel and a touch of milk chocolate.

Finish: The finish lingers with notes of roasted nuts, baked apples and a touch of orange blossom honey.

Conclusion: Redhorse Whiskey is an intense and decadent whiskey that should be sipped over a large ice cube or used to make a fantastic Manhattan. Drinkers who like nutty sherries should search this out and sip judiciously.

Review: Workhorse Rye Palehorse Whiskey

AT A GLANCE

  • Owned by: Workhorse Rye

  • Distilled at: Sutherland Distilling Co. in Livermore, CA

  • Still Type: Hybrid Still

  • Spirit Type: Whiskey distilled from Rye

  • Strength: 55% ABV

  • Price: ~$35 (200ml)

In 2011, Rob Easter founded Workhouse Rye to be a “progressive and sustainable” producer of whiskey and bitters. For the past eight years Easter has operated as an itinerant distiller, renting still time and space from distilleries to ferment, distill, and mature his whiskeys. From 2012-2014, Easter was able to refined his distilling chops at Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn, New York helping to develop their award winning Peated Bourbon. Since 2014, Easter has focused on sourcing most of his grains direct from farmer who are growing non-irrigated heirloom varieties of rye, wheat, corn and barley. Hybridized and GMO grains have been designed to maximize starch production and respond positively to modern farming techniques, (irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides), the consequence however is that these plants has lost a multitude of other compounds that added flavor and depth of character when made into bread or distilled into whiskey. For Easter, he has to use more than 1000 pounds of grain to make one barrel of whiskey, but he believes that despite the lower yield, these grains result in a better spirit that is also less taxing on the environment.

Each expression of Workhorse begins with the same mash bill of 70% west coast rye, 20% malted barley, and 10% malted wheat. The mash is fermented, pot distilled, and then filled in a variety of barrels. US labeling laws for rye whiskey require the spirit to be aged in charred new oak barrels, but because Palehorse matures for a year in used whiskey barrels, it is just labeled whiskey. The used barrels and shorter maturation period also explains why Palehorse has a nice light straw color.

In 2019, Palehorse Whiskey earned a bronze medal from the American Distilling Institute’s Judging of Craft Spirits.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: The aroma is round and inviting like freshly baked bread with a touch of yeastiness and salty air.

Palate: A little heat from the higher ABV but there is an immediate sweetness like biting into a ripe plum that still has a little bit of tannins in the skins.

Finish: The finish lingers with note of malted chocolate, plum skins, stone fruit and a touch buckwheat which slowly evolves and fades into soft notes of oak.

Conclusion: Palehorse Whiskey is very good however, those looking for a powerful rye whiskey like those coming out of Kentucky or Indiana will be disappointed. Palehorse is a delicious dram that should be tried by those who like soft grain forward whiskies like those from the lowlands of Scotland or Japan. Other than drinking neat or with a little water, I would pick delicate cocktails like a short whiskey soda or whiskey sour with fresh lemon juice. Overall, this a very beautiful whiskey.

Review: Spirit Works Old Tom Gin

AT A GLANCE

  • Distilled & Owned by: Spirit Works Distillery in Sebastopol, California

  • Still Type: Hybrid Still

  • Spirit Type: Old Tom Gin

  • Strength: 44.9% ABV

  • Price: $32 (375ml)

Founded by Timo and Ashby Marshall, Spirit Works Distillery is a grain-to-glass distillery situated in downtown Sebastopol, California that specializes in a variety of whiskeys and gins. For more than five years, Timo and Ashby have been leading a dedicated team producing some of the best spirits in the state.

Their new distillery exclusive is Old Tom Gin. According to gin expert David T. Smith, in his Forgotten Spirits & Long Lost Liqueurs, old tom gins were invented during England’s 18th century “Gin Craze” as a means to hide the poor quality of the base spirit with sugar or with more intense botanicals. Today, quality neutral spirit to make gin is not an issue, but old tom gin has made a resurgence in part because it works very well in a number of classic cocktails.

Spirit Works’ Old Tom began as the brain child of Timo and starts with the classic gin botanicals of juniper, coriander, angelica root, cardamom, lemon and orange zest, rounded out with the addition of orris and licorice root. After distillation, the gin is rested for a three months in used wheat whiskey barrels and then sweetened with a little bit of local organic honey. This rest period gives the gin a light amber color and with the honey creates a nice round mouthfeel.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: The nose is lovely and inviting with notes of lemon and juniper followed with just a touch of honey and vanilla. Underneath the top aromas there is an interesting earthy aroma like toasted bread and a hint of spice that is reminiscent of citrus, juniper and rye.

Palate: On the palate the gin starts with a little heat but that quickly subsides into welcoming flavors of juniper, honey, and citrus that are slightly mellowed with a little woodiness. The honey gives the gin a very subtle sweetness, but it is balanced just perfectly, with no cloying sugar coating the palate, just nice and clean.

Finish: The finish is long with light notes of honey followed by warm oak character and just a touch of bitterness from the juniper.

Conclusion: Spirit Works Old Tom is a delicious example of the category and it is extremely versatile. Despite its near 90 proof bottling strength, the gin is easy to sip neat, and works well stirred on ice and served up with a twist. This old tom also work extremely well in classic gin cocktails like the Martinez and the Negroni. With this distillery exclusive, Spirit Works has once again demonstrated their incredible skill, and gives gin fan yet another reason to make the trek to Sebastopol and stock up on this fantastic spirit.

Review: Ketel One Vodka

AT A GLANCE

  • Brand Owner: Diageo

  • Distilled by: Nolet Distillery in Schiedam, the Netherlands

  • Still Type: Column & Pot Stills

  • Spirit Type: Vodka - Neutral Character

  • Strength: 40% ABV

  • Price: $23

Made at the Nolet Distillery Schiedam, the Netherlands, Ketel One Vodka was first sold in 1984. The Nolet family has been making spirits in the Netherlands since 1691, when Joanness Nolet built his distillery out side Rotterdam. In 1902, the Nolet family built a second distillery in Baltimore, Maryland however, their American expansion was short lived when the distillery was forced to close due to US Prohibition. In the early 1980s, Carolus Nolet explored the US cocktail scene and witness vodka's dominance first hand. Believing his family could make a superior product, Carolus returned to the Netherlands and formulated Ketal One. The Vodka starts with a fermented mash 100% European-grown Winter Wheat, which is then column distilled to 96% ABV. Then a portion of this high proof wheat spirit is re-distilled in ten pot stills, and the center heats cuts are individually filtered and blended together. Then a portion of the column distillate and the pot still distillates are blended together and proofed to create Ketel One Vodka.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: The nose has a nice round and clean aroma of slate and wet stone with just a hint of alcohol at the back.

Palate: The palate has a very round and smooth body that simultaneously gives the impression of sweetness and spice like cinnamon or rye bread.

Finish: The finish is slightly warm and clean. Flavors of slate with just a hint of lime zest linger on the palate and then ends with a slightly fruity note reminiscent of green table grapes.

Conclusion: While I am not a frequent vodka drinker, this is a good example of a well made large volume vodka that has a good body and clarity. It’s slight sweetness and spice will work well with a variety of mixers and will please drinkers out of the freezer or if you are using in cocktails like the Bloody Mary or vodka soda.

Review: Santo Cuviso Bacanora Anis

AT A GLANCE

  • Owned by: Casa TresAmigos

  • Distilled by: Manuel “El Toro” Chacón in Bacanora, Sonora

  • Agave: Angustifolia

  • Cooking: Horno (earthen pit oven)

  • Crush: Mechanical Mill

  • Fermentation: Natural fermentation

  • Still Type: Copper Pot

  • Flavored: Whole Star Anise Pods

  • Spirit Type: Flavored Bacanora

  • Strength: 40%

  • Price: $90+/-

The agave spirit known as bacanora is named after the town of Bacanora in the northern Mexican state of Sonora. Like many other spirits indigenous to Mexico, bacanora went though a period of prohibition. But, even after prohibition ended, bacanora was almost exclusively consumed locally. However in 2000, the Mexican government gave bacanora its own denomination of origin to protect its production as they did with tequila and mezcal.

Santo Cuviso is made in the town of Bacanora by maestro Manuel “El Toro” Chacón, a third generation bacanoro. El Toro, harvest mature cultivated agave angustifolia, also know as espadin in Oaxaca, and cooks them in a conical earthen pit oven. Once the agaves are cooked, they are milled and ferment naturally by wild yeast for up to 12 days. After fermentation, the must is double distilled in copper pot stills. Post-distillation, some of the blanco bacanora is mixed with a concentrated infusion of star anise and then it is allowed to rest in 5 liter glass jugs between 10 and 14 days. This rest period allows the spirit to settle which is a well know practice for making spirits more refined. After the rest period the spirit is bottled at 40% ABV.

In April 2019, Santo Cuvios Bacanora Anis earned a Double Gold medal and named Best Flavored Bacanora from the American Distilling Institute’s Judging of Craft Spirits.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: Like with the other Santo Cuvios bacanoras, the aroma on the anis is really fantastic, full of earth and fruit, layered with notes of smoke and aromatic aromas of anise and fresh fennel. The aroma is light and herbaceous without the overpowering black licorice smell that can be off putting to some drinkers.

Palate: On the palate the body is rich and luscious, with an elegant medicinal character pairs really well with the underlying agave flavor.

Finish: The finish is long with a strong earthiness and light notes of anise that linger on the tongue.

Conclusion: Santo Cuviso Anis is a fantastic spirit that is delicious and shines in a number of settings. The herbaceous character of the anis lends itself to being an excellent digestive after a large meal. It also shows well in a hot toddy as the weather starts to turn cold. The anis can also be used as a absinthe substitute in a Sazerac or an number of classic cocktails adding a slight smoky character. The nice thing about this spirit is that it has enough agave character to please fans of bacanora and artisanal mezcal, but at the same time, drinkers unfamiliar with those spirits will find this very approachable and enjoy its beauty.

Santo Cuviso Bacanora Anis Review | Tequila Aficionado Sipping off the Cuff