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.

Filtering by Tag: Craft Distillery

Review: Wintersun Aquavit

Photo from Bluewater Distilling

AT A GLANCE

  • Distilled & Owned by: Bluewater Distilling in Everett, WA

  • Still Type: Pot Still

  • Spirit Type: Aquavit

  • Strength: 40% ABV

  • Price: $37

Founded by John Lundin in 2008, Bluewater Distilling is located in Everett, WA about 30 minutes drive north of Seattle. In October 2018, Lundin released Wntersun Aquavit, the newest addition to the Bluewater line of spirits. Aquavit is a traditional botanical spirit from Scandinavia which is primarily flavored with caraway and or dill.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: Very pleasant nose of caraway, supported with light notes of anis and orange zest.

Palate: On the palate, the aquavit is very soft and smooth as it coats your tongue. The flavor starts with a burst of caraway followed by a round anis note and a hint of bright citrus.

Finish: The finish is long and subttle with sweet star anis and orang peal.

Conclusion: Wintersun is a subtle and well balanced aquavit that would be a good introduction for anyone unfamiliar with the category. Wintersun works well with dry vermouth as a substitute in a vodka martini, and could appeal as a botanical spirit for those not fond of juniper. While my personal preference gravitates towards aquavits with a more intense caraway character with no anis, Wintersun does a great job of creating a balanced spirit that stays true to the the category.

Review: Astral Pacific Gin

Photo by The Spirit Guild

AT A GLANCE

  • Distilled & Owned by: The Spirit Guild in Los Angeles, CA

  • Still Type: Pot Still

  • Spirit Type: Contemporary Gin

  • Strength: 43% ABV

  • Price: $35

Founded in 2012 by Miller Duvall and Morgan McLachlan, The Spirit Guild is a beautiful fruit to glass distillery in LA’s Arts District. Duvall’s family has been farming in California for six generations which partially inspired their decision to use state grown agriculture to distill into spirits. The base of their gin starts off as whole clementines which are fermented and distilled into a neutral brandy. The neutral brandy is then redistilled with juniper, coriander, angelica, cinnamon, grapefruit peel, clementine peel, orange tree leaves, pink peppercorn, pistachio nuts, sage, and orris root. After distillation, the gin is proofed to bring the alcohol content down to 43% ABV before bottling.

If you happen to be in the vicinity of downtown LA, definitely put The Spirit Guild on your list of places to visit. Their tasting room, in the front of the distillery, is an incredibly beautiful space with west facing stain glass windows that allow the bright Southern California sunshine to pour through and bathe the space in warmth and color.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: The gin has a fragrant aroma of pine trees and fresh orange juice followed by an herbaceous note of oregano and a bright hit of clementine.

Palate: On the palate the gin is medium bodied and a little hot on the tongue. The flavors start with spicy notes of of juniper and black pepper which is balanced with a light orange sweetness.

Finish: On the finish the citrus character carries through with lingering flavor of grapefruit peal and a light bitter pith sensation.

Conclusion: Astral Pacific Gin is an interesting combination of juniper and multiple layers of citrus. As a contemporary gin that puts less emphasis on the juniper and more other other botanical, using a citrus brandy as the base is a unique and smart way to add layers of complexity. Overall, Astral Pacific is an interesting gin that lends itself to mixing in spirit forward cocktails and would be appreciated most by those that like citrus forward gins.

Review: Gin Farallon

At a Glance

  • Distilled & Owned by: Coastal Spirits in San Carlos, CA

  • Still Type: Pot Still

  • Spirit Type: Contemporary Gin

  • Strength: 43% ABV

  • Price: $35

Gin Farallon is the brainchild of Brad Plummer, the owner and operator of Coastal Spirits. Tucked into a small business park in San Carlos, CA, Plummer has been making gin, vodka and a number of liqueurs for the past few years. Gin Farallon starts with a neutral corn spirits which he redistills to remove some of the harsher elements. Plummer fills the still with his re-distilled neutral spirit and botanicals, some of which he macerates before distillation. After the gin is distilled,  Plummer proofs the spirit with water he has infused with cucumber. In 2017, Plummer's passion and work was rewarded when Gin Farallon earned a gold medal from the Judging of Craft Spirits.

Tasting Notes

Nose: The nose opens with aromas of cardamom, and dried orange peal. As it breathes, notes of angelica, orris root and bright pine begin to come forward. 

Palate: On the palate the gin has a very full body that shows lots of spice character from the cardamom and orris root and a slight green character perhaps from coriander.

Finish: The finish had a nice warmth that isn't harsh. Immediately after drinking, warm citrus notes dance on the tongue followed by earthy cucumber and floral notes supported be a lightly resinous flavor from the juniper. 

Conclusion: Gin Farallon is a very lovely contemporary gin that shows complexity in the botanicals though no one is overwhelming. True to the commentary style, the juniper plays a supporting role and is key to its overall balance. If you enjoy gin without an intense juniper character, check out Gin Farallon and use it to make a great Negroni, a floral gin and tonic, or even an aviation.

Review: Henry DuYore's Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Distilled by Ransom Spirits, Henry DuYore's Straight Bourbon Whiskey is bottled at 45.65% ABV

Price: $30-44

Ransom Spirits was founded by Tad Seestedt in 1997 and in 2008, the distillery moved to its current home on a forty-acre farm in Sheridan, Oregon. While Seestedt distills a variety of spirits, his Old Tom Gin is probably his most successful and widely distributed product. Henry DuYore's was first released in 2012 and has a mash bill of 56% Corn, 31% Rye and 13% malted barley. The whiskey was made using a hand-hammered, direct-fired French alembic pot still. Henry DuYore was aged a minimum of four years in new American oak bourbon barrels, with some percentage finished in French oak barrels. I am using the past tense here because Seestedt recently told me that he doesn't plan to keep making this bourbon. However, he told me that he still has a few barrels of it quietly maturing which he will eventually release as a special extra-aged edition.

When I organized a blind tasting of bourbons under $50 Henry DuYore was the only craft spirit in the group and the only bourbon not from Kentucky. Despite being the odd man out Henry DuYore got a lot of positive marks and it was was the second highest ranked bourbon among all of the tasters.

So why didn't it catch on? While I don't know for certain, I suspect there are a couple of reasons. First, it ain't your pappy's Kentucky bourbon. In the last few years the conversation about bourbon has largely been dominated by those coming out of Kentucky. This makes some sense since 96% of all bourbon is made in the Bluegrass State. And, even though not all Kentucky bourbon's taste alike their version of a high rye mash bill is something around 20% +/- not 31%.  Nor are any of the Kentucky bourbons made using a direct fire alembic still. All this to say, Henry DuYore is a bourbon, and it doesn't taste like anything coming out of Kentucky. While this isn't a bad thing, I suspect that those who bought and drank Seestedt's bourbon, didn't exactly get what they were expecting even thought he bourbon in the bottle is very good.

The second reason I think Henry DuYore might not have caught on with drinkers is its label. One of the strongest marketing tools whiskey makers use to sell their products are stories and often those stories or some portion of them are on the label. The Henry DuYore label is an odd mixture. The central image is of a faceless man, presumably from Virginia, the label says the spirit is distilled by Joad Spirits not Ransom and the side text starts off by telling the reader that the person who made the whiskey isn't named Henry DuYore. The story this label weaves is of a faceless man with a fake name is selling you bourbon by a distillery you've never heard of before. This combined with a non traditional tasting bourbon profile might partially explain why Henry DuYore failed to find an audience. 

Tasting Notes

Nose: The nose is very pleasant with strong notes of vanilla, leather and oak undergirded by aromas of malt and caramel.

Palate: On the palate the flavors are complex and well balanced. The bourbon is both sweet and earthy with a subtle spice kick on the back of the tongue from the rye. The oak character has a slightly resinous quality to it which evokes an image of being in a slightly damp coastal forest.

Finish: After swallowing the whiskey, the spice slowly tapers into a long and light finish of caramel, vanilla and tobacco.

Conclusion: Henry DuYore's Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a a very lovely  spirit whose flavor falls outside the mold of Kentucky Bourbon. This bourbon is  well balanced, nuanced and slowly evolves both in the glass and on the palate. It's a shame that this bourbon isn't being made any more however, those lucky enough to find a bottle can drink a glass of America history that is a mighty fine bourbon.