Unusual Drinks (Part 2): Stolen Spirits Smoked Whiskey, Burrough’s Reserve Gin, Underberg, Brennivin “Death Schnapps” and Boardroom Spirits Beet Spirit

Sour beer, white lightning from South America, smoked rum, and liqueur made from the sap of a tree in Greece—those were featured in my first installment of “Unusual Drinks.”

But there is more weirdness to come. Oh so much.

Let us begin with another offering from our friends at Stolen Spirits. They purchased 11-year old American whiskey, and added a smoky flavor by pitching charred, chopped barrel staves into it. (It’s a bit like the technique some vintners use to add flavor to their white wines.) The result is a 92 proof brown booze loaded with vanilla and baking spice flavors. Yum.

Wait, you might object, that’s not all that unusual. Well, how about this: barrel-aged gin? Historically, this white spirit has sluiced straight from the still to the bottle. No more. Folks are aging it. Beefeater, producer of the venerable London dry gin, has introduced a few new products in recent years, including Burrough’s Reserve. This 86-proof gin spends time —how much is not clear— in small oak casks that formerly held red and white Bordeaux wines. This imparts a straw color to the spirit and produces a gin that is softer, less piney, and more herbal. Does it work in a martini? Beats me—I sip it neat.

When a small bottle of Underberg digestif (88 proof) landed on my desk, I was unnerved. It looked like a tincture from the late 19th century—an eye-dropper type bottle wrapped in brownish newspaper, with a label boasting herbs from 43 nations. I nearly looked to see if the label claimed it cured dropsy, pleurisy, and priapism. Nope, but it does exclaim: “TO FEEL BRIGHT AND ALERT.” Five minutes after my first tiny sip of this German medicine the bizarre, intense, bitter flavor afflicted my tongue. It was as if I had licked wood that had been stewed in mint, anise, licorice, clove, and who knows what else.

After Underberg, I thought I was well girded to taste “death schnapps.” I was wrong. Brennivin is an evil booze. It is only 75 proof but unswallowable — it bombs the mouth with caraway and cumin aromas, and sent me to the sink.

Last, but assuredly not least in the unusual drinks queue this time is…. Beet spirit. Yes, a craft distillery in Pennsylvania has made a 90-proof clear spirit from red beets. I take my hat off to the producer, Boardroom Spirits, this liquor is astonishingly smooth. If you like borscht, well, this is the hooch for you. It oozes beet aroma and flavor. Which is very unusual.

Kevin R. Kosar is a senior fellow at R Street Institute and heads its alcohol policy reform program. He is the author of Moonshine: A Global History (2017) and Whiskey: A Global History (2010).

Share

Unusual Drinks (Part 1): Grand Teton Brewing Gose, Pisco Porton, La Caravedo Pisco, Fos Liqueur, and Stolen Smoked Rum

pisco-portonThere is something very satisfying about having a go-to drink. After a long day of work and kid care, a glass of whiskey is very welcome. The Kosar house bourbons include Four Roses Small BatchBuffalo Trace, Weller 12-year (and Special Reserve), and Woodford Reserve. Big bottles of Bulleit and Old Forester can be had for a song, and are oh-so worth it. My preferred Tennessee firewater is George Dickel — the 8-year, usually, and the 12-year if I feel like I’ve earned it.

And don’t get me started on the glories of gin. Plymouth martini’s, Beefeater gin and tonics… these are the drinks that make the gloaming bright. And we are in the golden age of gin.

Some days, however, I want something different, something that will throw a screwball at my palate and brain. So I roam, and crack open things that make my brain think “Whaaaat?” look or give me an unsettled, nervous feeling.

Starting this bibacious journey, I aim for something light — Gose (pronounced Goes-uh). This German-style of beer features can be hard to find in the U.S.A. It’s a strange brew, that is made with a lot of wheat and is both salty and tart. (Most beers tend toward the bitter side of the flavor spectrum, with America’s mega-IPA’s being the bitterest of them all.) Fortunately, Grand Teton Brewing of Idaho produces a delicious Gose. It is spiced with coriander, which tops off the riot of flavors.

Moving right along to the potent stuff, Pisco began pouring into America in the past decade. It is the South American cross between brandy and grappa. Like brandy, Pisco is wine distilled into spirit; like grappa, Pisco usually is not aged. Pisco Porton is very fine brand, that offers up slightly sweet and herbal heat. La Caravedo is another Pisco worth a look — it is lighter, dryer, and gentler than Porton.

Wandering further into white spirits, we come to Fos, a Greek liqueur made from the mastiha tree sap. This is one of the stranger drinks I have ever tasted, and I say that as a compliment. The nose is surreal — it smells like bark, and in the mouth the hooch has a light sweetness that is utterly dissonant from the aroma. A sip of Fos takes your taste into a whole new realm of possibility.

Closing out this trip into unusual drinks, we go dark. Flavored rums are plentiful these days, and Stolen Smoked Rum is a recent and wild addition to the bunch. Rum from the Caribbean (Trinidad?) is aged in whiskey casks, then injected with coffee, vanilla, and Moroccan fenugreek (a clover-like herb found in the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Indian subcontinent. That fenugreek is used to increase maternal milk supply and constipation is a confounding discovery). This liquor floods the mouth and head with intense flavors, the Arabica coffee notes being the most intense. Mixed with lime and ginger beer, it makes a robust Dark and Stormy.

Variety is the spice of life, and thanks to globalism and the dynamism of capitalism tipplers have more drinks to explore than ever.

(This post first appeared on the American Spectator.)

Share

Barenjager Honey Liqueur, Bushmills Irish Honey Liqueur, and Wild Turkey American Honey Liqueur

Barenjager LiqueurBushmills Irish Honey LiqueurWild Turkey American Honey Liqueuer

The winter cold season is upon us, and we are making toddies nightly. A measure of booze, a slice of lemon (pestle it in the booze), some honey, and steaming water atop it. Simple.

Some time back, we gave a glowing review to Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Whiskey Liqueur. It works just fine for toddies.

But, JD is not the only honey hooch worth trying. Here are three other options that we have used lately. All of these honey liqueurs might be purchased through our preferred online retailer.

Barenjager (70 proof; $25  bottle) is a classic. It is a nice mixture of sweet honey and intriguing herbs. (Rating: Very Good) Read more at http://www.barenjagerhoney.com/.

Bushmills Irish Honey (70 proof; $24) is a new entrant to the market. It shows mild honey and the unmistakable Bushmills’ grainy flavor. (Rating: Good) Read more at http://www.bushmills.com/BMBushmillsIrishHoneyDetail.html.

Wild Turkey American Honey: (71 proof; $22) also is fresh to market. It is the most flavorful of the three, with a fat Bourbon aroma and honey playing a distant second fiddle. (Rating: Very Good) Read more at http://www.americanhoney.com/.

Share

Fuchen Herbal Liqueur

Fuchen LiqueurYou likely will notice the bottle to the left is nearly gone.

It isn’t because we accidentally spilled it. Nor is evaporation to blame.

The truth of the matter is, we liked this intense, bitter, herbal liqueur.  We really, really liked it.

Fuchen’s website offers a variety of recipes, but we enjoyed a shot or two of it mixed with tonic water. It’s a crisp, cooling drink on a balmy day.

But go easy with those drinks—Fuchen is 80 proof, and if you can easily take too much and find yourself goat dancing. (Rating: Very Good)

You may read more about Fuchen at http://www.fuchen.com/, and you may shop online for a bottle at InternetWines.com.

Share

Mariposa Agave Nectar Liqueur

Mariposa Agave Nectar Liqueur HHNot too many years ago, the price of fine tequila began skyrocketing.  In part, increased demand was to blame.  Oh, but we also were told that there was an agave shortage.  Yikes—might we run out of tequila

Today, one can find agave nectar jars in the grocery store (spread it on toast!), and there also is agave liqueur being sold. Funny how quickly things change!

Mariposa  (60 proof) is an agave nectar liqueur that contains rose oil and gardenia. Mariposa was cooked up by the folks at Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Kentucky. Whiskey drinkers will recognize that name—Heaven Hill makes Evan Williams and other fine brands of Bourbon. Whether this liqueur is made in MExico or Kentucky or where is hard to discern—the bottle’s label does not say.

The Wall Street Journal reported that agave nectar is significantly sweeter than sugar.

We believe it. One taste of Mariposa and we nearly gagged on the intensity. Sure, the rose oil and gardenia flavors were present, but the sweetness overwhelmed our palate. (Meanwhile, Forbes gushed over this  product.)

The bottle suggests putting a measure of Mariposa in a glass of bubbly.  That might work.  But, for the time being, we are steering clear of this booze.  (Rating: Not Good)

Share

Cafe Boheme Coffee Liqueur

Cafe Boheme Coffee LiqueurKobrand brings this mixture of coffee, vodka, creme, and vanilla to the United States.

It arrived perhaps five years ago, and we are a bit surprised to see it hanging on.  We simply cannot recall the last time we saw it being sold in a bar or hooch shop.

Cafe Boheme is a wee 32 proof (16% alcohol). It is probably best taken on the rocks.

The coffee flavor comes first, followed by a bit of vanilla and a light plume of alcohol. The creme adds flavor and serious viscosity to this liqueur. Cafe Boheme no doubt would appeal to the lovers of Kahlua, Bailey, and the like. (Rating: Good)

Read more at http://www.cafeboheme.com/, and you can try to locate a bottle for sale at InternetWines.com.

Share