Old whisky, new mezcal, and other unexpected spirits

Photo: Kevin R. Kosar

A few months back, a friend came to town from Tennessee. His schedule was jammed as was mine, but I was eager to see him. He works in insurance and I inevitably learn a lot when he explains  the various fallouts of Obamacare and Trump’s subsequent war against it.

“I have something from George Dickel to bring you for review,” he added. That was that. Logistics be damned, we were going to meet.

He came by my office and pulled from his bag a small of gold from Tullahoma—George Dickel Reserve 17-Year Old Tennessee Whisky (43.5% ABV; 87 proof). There is a whole cockamamie story about how this whisky was a happy accident; some barrels got mis-inventoried or somesuch. I love the folks at Dickel but I am not sure I buy it. That, however, is neither here nor there. This is the longest aged Tennessee whiskey to be found, and you can sip it straight with ease. The deep copper liquor offers notes of corn, white pepper, caramel, apple, and toffee. Wow.

George Dickel 17-Year is not cheap. A half-sized bottle (375 ml) runs around $75. But for the American whiskey fan, or for friends enjoying a rare meet-up, it is more than worth it.


Being a drinks writer has its perks. One never knows when a courier will arrive with an unexpected delivery. On occasion I have shrank back in horror when I opened a box to find dill pickle vodka or a similarly evil concoction. Typically, though, I receive good drinks.

So it was that I met the acquaintance of La Luna Mezcal, a new entrant to the American market. The bottle I received is numero 307 from Lot 7, and weighs in at a whopping 49.56% ABV (99.12 proof). Continue reading “Old whisky, new mezcal, and other unexpected spirits”


Blue Label Vodka



Blue Label Vodka comes to America via a Houston company.

You can read a bit more about this spirit at http://bluelabelvodka.com.

As anyone who knows much about vodka can tell you, Poland tends to make superb vodkas. (See our other Polish vodka reviews here.)

We demolished this liter of vodka in a little over a month. It was delicious served neat from the freezer—thickly viscous and slightly sweet.

Well done. (Rating: Very Good)


Smooth Ambler Whitewater Vodka

Source: AlcoholReviews.com


Fresh from…. West Virginia!
Smooth Ambler Spirits opened its doors in 2009. We first tasted their 80 proof vodka two years later (Batch 11), and already they were producing a fine grain spirit that can hang with the top shelf big brands. (Rating: Very Good)

Read more at http://www.smoothambler.com. The distillery makes gin, vodka, rum, Bourbon, rye, and more. So it is worth a visit!


Iceberg Vodka

Iceberg VodkaImported from Canada, Iceberg Vodka proves that one need not drop $30 or $40 for good hooch.

Iceberg (80 proof) retails for a mere $15 to $20 a bottle (750 ml), and it is straight forward—clean spirit that is a little sweet. (Rating: Good)

This corn-based vodka is produced by Canadian Iceberg Vodka Corporation and imported by Admiral Imports of Cedar Grove, New Jersey.

In addition to this standard unflavored version, Iceberg Vodka comes in flavored versions: cucumber, chocolate mint, and creme brulee.

You can read more at http://www.iceberg.ca/ or https://twitter.com/iceberg.


Russian Standard Vodka and Russian Standard Gold Vodka

Russian Standard VodkaRussian Standard Gold VodkaTwo Russian Standard Vodkas—one retails for about $20, the other is nearly $40 a bottle.

Which is better? Clearly the latter.

Russian Standard (80 proof), which we first reviewed more than a decade ago, is a good vodka. It is not exceptional, but you can do far worse. And the price point is attractive. Once chilled, it can be enjoyed—as opposed to tolerated—neat, which is the most fundamental test of a vodka’s quality. (Rating: Good)

Russian Standard Gold Vodka (80 proof) is pricey, but for those with the wallet, it clearly is a step up. It is cleaner, and one can sip this vodka neat at room temperature without batting and eye. It is that good. (Rating: Excellent)

Read more at http://www.russianstandardvodka.com, or try to order a bottle via InternetWines.com.


Double Cross Vodka

Were there was an AlcoholReviews.com award for best packaging, Double Cross Vodka would win it for 2012. This is a really beautiful bottle. It towers more than a foot high, and everything about it says “quality.” Double Cross’s website tells of the Slovakian poetry on the bottle and the other fine touches.

As for what’s in the bottle, this seven-times distilled wheat vodka has earned praise from Paul Pacult and other famed reviewers. We are not surprised—Double Cross Vodka is very good. From the freezer and taken neat, Double Cross is clean and shows an appealing toffee note. We cannot detect any off flavors or burn. Superb.  (Rating ****1/2)

Even after long storage in a freezer, the bottle’s top opens without incident. This is no small matter—we have come other super premium vodkas whose cheap tops that tend to get stuck in the bottle and even crack when one tries to wrench them off.  Which is no good.

Those looking for a sharp gift for vodka lovers can order a custom-engraved vodka here. You can see the one we got below—it is a beaut.