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).


Beefeater 24 Gin, Caorunn Gin, and Berry Bros. & Rudd No. 3 London Dry Gin

Source: AlcoholReviews.com

Do we like gin?  You betcha. Just check out all these reviews we’ve done.

Whenever a new bottle comes to market, we itch to try it.  And unlike most other spirits, gins are relatively few in number.  Indeed, just 15 years ago the gin drinkers choice in the U.S. were limited to Beefeater, Tanqueray, Gordon’s, and perhaps Boodles.  Then there was a flurry of new entrants—Bombay Sapphire, Plymouth, new versions of Tanqueray, and assorted small batch gins (e.g., Bluecoat).

And yet more have arrived.

Beefeater 24: A few years ago, Beefeater got into the game and released Beefeater 24.  For gin rookies, Beefeater 24 It is more accessible than the standard Beefeater. Beefeater 24 is lower proof (90 vs. 94) and also is lighter on the juniper and is laced with an appealing citrus note.  It works well in a Martini with a twist but not an olive.; and Beefeater 24 is especially refreshing with tonic. (Rating ****)

Berry Bros. & Rudd No. 3 London Dry Gin: This 92 proof gin popped our eyes when it came over the transom a year or so back.  A new London Dry Gin?  London Dry is already the predominant style of most brands of gin, so how now? Well, perhaps it was released as a reaction against the new-to-market gins that de-emphasize juniper.  Quoth the No. 3 website, “No.3 was created to be the last word in gin for a Dry Martini.” This gin also has a modest six botanicals. (Sapphire boasts 10.) It is tasty—the juniper is balanced against the citrus flavors, and the close is slightly earthy and dry.  Yum. (****1/2)

Caorunn Small Batch Scottish Gin: This might be the most exotic of these three gins.  For one, Caorunn (ka-roon) is made in Scotland. It is a light 83.6 proof, and is made with 11 botanicals, five of which were chosen for their “Celtic” heritage—heather, bog myrtle, rowan berry, dandelion, and “coul blush apple.” Funny enough, the makers suggest serving it in tonic with a slice of apple not lime. The gin is made at Balmenach Distillery, and it is very mild. Wave it under your nose and you won’t get a blast of pine up your schnozz or prickles in your sinuses. The flavor is lightly floral and citrusy, with just a touch of juniper.  Very pleasant, and probably especially appealing to the novice gin drinker or the martini quaffer looking for something gentler than the usual.

You may shop for all these gins at our preferred retailer.