Sunday, June 29, 2014

Tasting Notes - Eagle Rare 10 Year Single Barrel

(This is where the magic happens.)
Have you ever had a whiskey orgasm? It seems like a humorous question, perhaps. Quite some time ago, I had a friend who introduced me to the term "tastegasm". It's an interesting word, and it invokes a certain urgency to communicate that "This tastes REALLY damn good."

And that is the case with Eagle Rare's 10 year single barrel.

SEE ALSO: Tasting Notes - Don Julio Reposado

I've been waiting to try Eagle Rare for quite some time. I've been fairly hesitant to taste it at my favourite bars (or even less than favourite) due in part to the fact that its fairly pricy, and secondarily because I don't want to mess up my first impressions, as I did with my first taste of Buffalo Trace.

(Buffalo Trace, of the famed Buffalo Trace Distillery; owners of the Eagle Rare brand.)
So in the nature of keeping an authentic first impression, I'm writing this article after having consumed a fair amount of 'The Eagle' for the first time. If my adjectival use of poetic-ly ending words weren't hinting enough, here it is; I've drunk Eagle Rare for the first time tonight, and it was great.
On the nose, hints of a vanilla dessert are prominent. Anise creeps up as it usually does, and the smell of buttered toast is omnipresent. The toast may be charred oak, depending on your frame of mind at the time.

Before it hits the palette, a recognizable taste rushes past my lips. I taste honey but there's something else I can't put my finger on. Vanilla, chocolate and grain complement the palette, and the finish is a medium bodied vanilla and baked bread aroma. After my first rinse of the mouth I take small sips of the bourbon, trying to place the flavour that is so familiar. Not until well after the tasting do I realize what the recognizable flavour is.

But before that, I try the spirit as an Old Fashioned. It's sweet, like a desert shot, or digestif. But it's not too sweet. It tastes like banana bread, with honey spread. I move on to try it as a Manhattan, but am disappointed. It's too sweet, and may work better with dry vermouth.

SEE ALSO: Old Fashioned, New Fashioned and Out of Fashion

I smell the empty glass and still note the nostalgic odour. After some time, I realize its maple syrup. But not just any maple syrup. It's warm maple syrup toffee that's been poured over the fresh snow of my home village; New Denmark, New Brunswick. The reason it took me so long to place it was because I'd only tasted that toffee once, and fourteen years ago at that.

In short, Eagle Rare 10 year is the best bourbon I've had so far. In less short, it invoked feelings of nostalgia, joy and warmth. I want to try the 17 year old, but I'll have to wait....

Eagle Rare 10 Year Single Barrel Reviewed by Thomas Goodine on June 29. Maple, vanilla, oak and like desert. The end of all things average is here! This is the bourbon I've been looking for! After experiencing the godliness that is Buffalo Trace, I have been eyeing up Eagle Rare for some time, and that time has now come! Rating: 5

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What are natural ingredients, and do they matter?

(These sure seem to be natural ingredients...)
The title of this article poses a couple of hypothetical (rhetorical, to some) questions about the nature of natural ingredients. Perhaps the real underlying question behind the former - "what are natural ingredients?" - is "what does the word 'natural' mean?"

SEE ALSO: Flavored vodka

The definition of natural is not an entirely obvious one. In standard use, or on the shelves of grocery stores, natural refers to anything that does not exist solely because of human ingenuity. The standard definition is broken, however. If you consider that bananas and corn only exist in their current forms because of thousands of years of human cultivation, you realize that almost everything on the shelves does not fit our popular definition of natural. The next definition you might consider is the technical one. Anything that exists, is natural; anything that does not is unnatural. This is also, a definition which I am particularly biased towards; nevertheless, I intend to reveal it's shortcomings. This use of natural is fairly weak in describing anything, since it describes... well... everything.

(A whole bunch of crap that I keep on hand for using as natural ingredients.)
Where does this lack of a strong definition leave us, then? Perhaps, somewhere in the middle. For the sake of simplicity, could we agree that there could be a gradation of how natural something appears to be, based on how much human interference is required to create it? For example, a watermelon would be more natural than watermelon flavored syrup. Despite that the watermelon was cultivated, and genetically modified by humans, the syrup may not have flavoring from a real watermelon in it at all. Perhaps looking at the unclear gradation of "naturality" can add some conciseness to the idea that we're trying to think of, when asking these questions? To recap of what a natural ingredient is; the more processing or tampering that is involved with the original product, the less natural it is.

But does it matter? Well... yes and no.

SEE ALSO: Bitter me this, bitter me that

The reason why it matters is because authentic flavors should not be replaced with artificial flavors, wherever possible. While, it is true that cost is always a concern, I believe that as long as the cost is reasonable, then the authentic flavors should always be more favorable than the artificial ones. To return to the example above, with the watermelon versus the watermelon syrup, I would always prefer to get the flavor of watermelon by pureeing real watermelon, rather than by using a syrup that is flavored like watermelon. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that if the syrup were infused with real watermelon, it would not change my position; I would still prefer to puree my own watermelon in order to obtain that flavor.

(This is what the bitters making process is like. Is it TOO processed? What is the point where too much human ingenuity would be considered less natural?)
I also mentioned that part of the debate doesn't matter, though. It doesn't matter because, well, the importance of natural versus artificial is a cultural construct. The true definition of natural still stands, despite my wishes to find a compromise. Natural is natural, and if it can exist, it's natural. Similarly, all foods are organic because they all contain carbon. For this reason, using the labels of natural, or organic, are redundant and nonsensical. 
A conclusion is needed, however, and my opinion is as stands: when something is said to be flavored with watermelon, then it should contain watermelon. If on the other hand, it contains watermelon syrup, then it should specifically be advertised as containing watermelon syrup; anything else, I believe, is dishonest and hence false advertising. At the same time, I would not want to restrict products by having them label something as being artificially flavored, or confounding the situation by urging them to label their products as natural, or organic. Specificity and accuracy, are much more important.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The "Horned Melon" - Kiwano Martini

(The Kiwano Martini. It looks, and tastes, somewhat strange.)
This past week I got a little bit creative in my home kitchen, and put together a Kiwano Martini. It was a fairly difficult task, to say the least, considering I didn't know the best way to extract the juice from the Kiwano, or to separate the flesh from the seeds. I did manage to put something together, however.

Speaking of Kiwano, let's address five of the W's (okay, four W's and one H); what is it, where is it from, why bother, who named it, and how do you use it?

(This is a Kiwano. Shocking, isn't it?)
Starting with 'what'. The Kiwano is a fruit, related to the cucumber. It looks quite a bit different though. It has waxy orange skin covered in horns. Don't worry though, the horns are not sharp. As for 'where', the Kiwano is an African fruit. It's fairly interesting, being that it's the only source of water during the dry seasons in the Kalahari desert. "Why bother"? Well, why bother with anything? It's different! Not the most typical of ingredients to be used in cocktailing. But... "who" named it? It doesn't exactly have an African name, does it? The African name actually translates to 'horned melon' or 'horned cucumber' (cucumber is related to melons, don't you know!) The Kiwis (people from New Zealand) and Australians gave it this name. At some point they decided to start growing it in their own Oceanic part of the world, and the result was a name change to something that sounds a bit more like it's from that part of the world. "How" do you use it? That's a tough one actually... I haven't quite figured that one out yet. It's quite difficult to extract juice from the flesh. I tried squeezing it, and while that got most of the seeds out, some still remained, and I was still stuck with a gel-like flesh. One may try steaming it to extract the juice; I'm sure I'll give that a try eventually, as my hand squeezing method only extracted one ounce of juice from a half of a Kiwano. Another somewhat obvious solution may be to puree it.

So here's the recipe I concocted

  • 1 oz of Zu Bison Grass Vodka
  • 1 oz of Kiwano Juice
  • 3 drops of Lemon Juice
  • 2 dashes of Lavender Bitters
  • A pinch of cracked or muddled Rosemary
  • 1 triangle shaped peel of Kiwano skin
  1. Mix all ingredients (except peel) in a shaker full of ice.
  2. Shake or stir (I prefer stirred).
  3. Pour in a chilled Martini glass.
  4. Garnish with Kiwano peel.
The recipe is fairly good. The vodka taste is noticeable, as well as wheat-like Bison Grass taste in the Zu. The vodka is the prominent flavor, but the taste of cucumber is obvious as well; the few drops of lemon help lift and complement the neutral flavor of cucumber. It has a floral, garden-like aroma, thanks to the mix of bitters, bison grass, rosemary and Kiwano. It's not sweet at all; bitter-sour is the taste combination you'll be expecting with this one. If you're not one to enjoy the taste of spirits then feel free to add a bit of simple syrup.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Tasting Notes - Sauza Gold Tequila

(This is the place where most bad nights full of regret begin...)
Wa-wow-wee-wah! Tasting Notes, Tequila edition is back! This time, a Sauza Gold review delivered to you from the porcelain throne. The verdict? Not too bad....
See Also: Tasting Notes - Don Julio Reposado

Sauza Gold is the first gold Tequila I ever tried. And well, it's probably the gold Tequila I've had the most! I've had a lot of bad experiences with Tequila, but now that my taste buds have become accustomed to the spirit, how do I feel about Sauza Gold? The truth is, it's not half bad, and memories of an instant gag reflex seem to be a thing of the past. It's super oaky, and tastes kind of like apple juice. And of course, who could forget that agave flavor? It IS Tequila after all.

Sauza Gold Tequila Reviewed by Thomas Goodine on June 8. Oak, apple juice, and agave notes. A cheap Tequila like no other! Well... actually that's not that far from the truth. It's fairly enjoyable, and not half bad... that is to say, it's about 35% bad, but the rest is good. Rating: 3

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tasting Notes - Pinnacle Whipped Vodka

(Don't be deceived, vodka purists. Novelty flavored vodkas aren't all crappy ideas!)
There's not much that I can say about Pinnacle Whipped Vodka that you can't gather from the name of the product on it's own. But, I'm certainly going to try!

See Also: Flavored vodka

So Pinnacle Whipped Vodka is, as the name would suggest, a Whipped Cream flavored vodka. Its quite sweet, as one would expect. It tastes like good old fashioned whipped cream, and has a vanilla ice cream quality that is... well, unsurprisingly delicious. As far as flavored vodkas go, this is probably one of the better products I've had. It's easy on the pallet, with no associated burn. Mixes great as a hi-ball with a few soda's, such as Orange Crush or root beer, but I'm not sure how much diversity you can expect from a whipped cream flavored vodka.

There's no subtlety here. It's a desert spirit, for sure. BUT, I challenge you to make a non-desert cocktail with this stuff. (If I had a large bottle, I might consider it.) As far as a rating goes, I would give this a solid 80%, or four star rating. As mentioned earlier, it's delicious, so that scores it huge points.

Pinnacle Whipped Vodka Reviewed by Thomas Goodine on June 5 . Whipped cream flavor, ice cream notes. Pinnacle Whipped is a whipped cream flavored vodka. It mixes well with soda such as Orange Crush and root beer. Would be good as a shot, or sipping dessert spirit. Also good for dessert cocktails. Rating: 4

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