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Spirits Continued

What’s New This Spring?

The first of the year is a fun time for a spirits buyer. There is always an endless amount of new products to taste, some incredible, which means great new stuff on the shelves. So, put your reading glasses on, we’ve got a bunch for you to consider…Duncan Taylor & Company has ownership of one of the largest privately-held collections of rare Scotch whisky casks. The company has been “laying down” casks from premium Scottish distilleries for decades and has, in recent years, made its branded products available to whisky connoisseurs throughout the World.

Dimensions collection from Duncan Taylor Scotch Whisky Limited.

The Dimensions collection is an outstanding range of single malt and single grain Scotch whiskies encompassing the full breadth of the Duncan Taylor portfolio. Containing whiskies aged up to 39 years, the Dimensions collection showcases the multi dimensional levels of character and flavor available from individual distilleries and casks. The Dimensions collection consists of single cask, cask strength releases and exclusively numbered small batches at 46% abv. Neither chill filtered nor colored, only the finest whiskies are selected for inclusion.

Duncan Taylor Dimensions Blair Athol 750ml – $185.99

Blair Athol Distillery was established around 1798. The Blair Athol distillery was closed in 1932 and production did not recommence until 1949. Stills increased from 2 to 4 in 1973 and a dark grains plant was installed in 1975. Blair Athol is a major contributor to Bell’s blends.

Duncan Taylor Dimensions Glen Grant 750ml – $111.99

The Glen Grant distillery was established in Rothes by the brothers James and John Grant in 1840 and is now among the top selling whiskies in the world, especially in Italy. The number of stills at Glen Grant was increased from 4 to 6 in 1973 and again from 6 to 10 in 1977 when the distillery was acquired by Seagram (Chivas).

Duncan Taylor Dimensions Imperial 750ml – $139.99

The Imperial distillery was established in 1897 by Thomas Mackenzie, then taken over soon after by Dailuaine-Talisker Distilleries Ltd in 1898. Production of the spirit ceased in 1899, but only for 20 years. Production thereafter was sporadic yet constant for many years until 1998, when the Imperial distillery was unfortunately mothballed.

Maurin Quina Liqueur 750ml – $31.99

This delicate liqueur is created by macerating wild cherries, quinine and bitter almonds in fortified white wine before blending it with cherry brandy, lemon juice and cherry juice. The famous green devil on the bottle was designed in 1906 by Italian artist Leonetto Cappiello. If you are mixing adult beverages at home, this is a must have. Works brilliantly with gin, vodka, bourbon, tequila…you name it. Blanco tequila combines with cherry-marzipan notes of the Maurin Quina for this light and refreshing tall sipper.

House Spirits Still Rum 375ml – Regular Price $23.99, On Sale $19.99

The House Spirits Distillery on Portland’s east side also makes special, limited release rum in their Apothecary line. It’s an aged, golden style rum made from Demerara sugar, but still eminently suitable for all your rum-based drinks. More rounded and laced with sweet vanilla oak spice, with toasty richness, it would make for a hearty-style mojito. You can buy it---when it’s available---at the Distillery Tasting Room. (examiner.com)

Corsair Quinoa Whiskey 750ml – $49.99

Corsair Artisanal Distilling is currently one of the distilleries at the leading edge of whiskey innovation and experimentation, with distilleries in Bowling Green, Kentucky and Nashville, Tennessee. The first matter to note is that some will question whether Quinoa in a spirit can properly be called a whiskey. Why? Because technically Quinoa is not a true grain, but is a so-called pseudo-cereal, from another plant family. When you taste this Corsair Quinoa Whiskey you will have no doubts that whatever the taxonomy of the quinoa, that this tastes completely like whiskey. Corsair Quinoa Whiskey is made from 80% malted barley and 20% from unmalted red and white quinoa seeds. The whiskey is aged in new oak barrels; the largest in size being 30 gallons, and using the rather heavy No. 4 char. Length of aging depends on climatic conditions at the time of the year of the aging, and varies between 6 months and 1.5 years. For apparently the first commercial quinoa whiskey, this is quite amazingly good. Those who like very spicy whiskeys, especially US straight rye whiskeys, will find it very easy to like this whiskey. It derives a ton of flavor out of that 20% Quinoa content. Grassiness from the malted barley is also quite evident here, which makes for an interesting combination. The nuttiness may come from either or both of the quinoa and the barley. (WhiskyConnosr)

Krogstad Gamle Aquavit 750ml – Regular Price $44.99, On Sale $35.99

Simple and clean are words often used to describe Scandinavian design, but it also goes for Scandinavian drink, particularly aquavit. Say the word “schnapps” and you might immediately conjure up visions of a sugary, peppermint-infused hot chocolate drink, but in Scandinavia, snaps is something completely different, and it’s hitting the United States. Snaps is the name for a shot of strong alcohol consumed in conjunction with a large meal, traditionally at holidays like Christmas and Midsummer – think big dinner parties fueled by frequent shots of a slightly herbal drink – and the alcohol in question is aquavit. Until recently, aquavit was relatively unknown in the US; the kind of thing you were only familiar with if you threw down during a midsummer celebration with a few Swedes. Aquavit is a neutral spirit that’s flavored with herbs indicative of Scandinavian cuisine; profiles like caraway, dill and anise. In the United States you can buy imported versions like Norwegian Linie and Danish Aalborg, but stateside artisanal distillers North Shore, House Spirits and 45th Parallel all have versions based off of the classic methods of distilling and aging. The first one to enter the US aquavit market, it’s no surprise that Portland cocktail menus are taking advantage of House Spirit’s Krogstad Festlig Aquavit, my personal favorite. Jacob Grier, lead bartender at Metrovino Portland, Oregon, and maybe best known for his creation of bone luging is such an aquavit advocate that last fall he put together an entire cocktail week devoted to the spirit. (Before It’s News)

Anchor Distilling Hophead Vodka 750ml – $31.99

As anyone who’s been following this column knows, I’m a fan of San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Company. It became one the country’s first modern craft breweries after Fritz Maytag (of the prominent washing-machine-and-cheese family) bought it in 1967, when the brewery was only making its flagship Steam Beer, and not doing it well. Maytag turned things around and started making small batches of porters, ales, and (my favorite) Christmas brew. It’s not overstating the case to say that American beer would not be as good as it is in 2013 without Anchor leading the way. In the early ‘90s, Anchor decided to branch out into distilling, and set up a still in the basement of the brewery. This wasn’t a sure thing--beer making and liquor making involve different skills--but Anchor’s Old Potrero Whiskey and Junipero Gin are actually great spirits, and they were way ahead of the craft-distilling curve, too. It’s taken Anchor 20 years to come up with another liquor, but it’s a good (if slightly weird) one: Hophead Hop Vodka. If a vodka is defined as being “without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color,” as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives likes to put it, then this Hop Vodka barely qualifies. It’s colorless, sure, but it smells like a big bucket full of ripe hops, like the pungent air of a brewery without that bready malt sweetness floating around. Even though it smells like a strong IPA, it tastes grassy, floral, and light, like a gin without the juniper (yes, I know that’s an oxymoron). To confirm that it’s more in a category of its own than a traditional vodka, I asked Adam Rapoport, our vodka-loving editor in chief, to take a sip. As expected, he was not into the grassy palate, and thought the base spirit was “too round.” Or, as I would put it, it just had too much character for his tastes. Whether or not you personally like the Anchor beers and spirits, the company reliably does interesting, fun stuff with its products, and you get the sense that Anchor’s always doing exactly what it wants to be doing. Just the bottle shape and the label design on this Hop Vodka put it in a category of its own on the shelf, and it ultimately doesn’t matter if it’s a vodka, or a gin, or something in between. It just tastes good and ... (Bon Appétit)

Collier and McKeel Handcrafted Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey 750ml - $37.99

It changes from plain whiskey to Tennessee Whiskey when we drip it through several feet of sugar maple charcoal, made from trees cut by local sawmills and burned on the farm. This gives Collier and McKeel the smooth, sweet, smoky taste that Tennessee Whiskey is known for. Only true Tennessee Whiskey is put through this extra step. Collier and McKeelis aged in very small barrels that are far more expensive than standard sized barrels but adds intense flavors that are our special gift whiskey making in Tennessee. And unlike some whiskies that have an artificial time table for the proper time in a barrel, we determine when it’s time to bottle the old fashioned way; when it tastes right.

Karma Silver Tequila 750ml – $31.99

Karma Tequila is produced from 100% blue agave grown in the highlands of Jalisco, where the volcanic soils and humid climate are the ideal conditions for growing high quality agave plants. These natural conditions produce a larger, sweeter heart which is crucial to the unique flavor characteristics of Karma. When the pinas arrive at the distillery they are patiently slow-cooked for up to 24 hours and then cooled for another day before being pressed…(DrinkUpNY)

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