In the mid-90s, Pace ran some pretty iconic television advertisements that featured cowboys around a campfire chatting about picante sauce. When the cowboys find out that the picante sauce they are being offered is made in NEW YORK CITY, they get pretty offended. While this salsa ad has little to do with the current concern with slow and local food, it immediately came to mind when I came across Bastille whiskey. Here in the South, we drink Bourbon and if we’re feeling fancy, I suppose Scotch. But whiskey from France? I hadn’t really considered it!
However, when one of the gentlemen at Morganelli’s wholeheartedly recommended Bastille 1789, we decided to take a chance on it. I mean, the French are hardly inexperienced at making fine spirits even though they tend to work more with grapes than grains. The malted barley and wheat in Bastille are grown in Northeast France and it turns out that lots of Scotch producers source barley from that region anyway. So, why not keep the production in France? Indeed, there is a burgeoning whiskey industry in France as the French are huge consumers of important whiskey. Here in the US, we haven’t come across too many brands available to us locally but after trying Bastille, I’ll be watching out for others. Because this is a lovely whiskey.
Bastille is a mild sipper with lovely fruity notes. I get berries, stone fruit, and peppery baking spices with an aroma of floral honey. It is sweet on the tongue with only the mildest heat and spice. Usually, when I sip a whiskey, I’m doing it to assess what sort of cocktails it might be good in. And certainly, I think this would play nice with other spirits. But, it is subtle and complex enough to stand on its own. At around $30 a bottle, it is a great value and reminds us that very lovely things can be quite accessible. Vive la France!
Just another quick post about some good news: Our favorite local liquor store, Morganelli’s, now stocks Luxardo Maraschino cherries! If you’ve ever had a drink that called for a cocktail cherry, these are the cherries that are meant to be in it.
Instead of bright, fructose-laden red globes, these are dark, dark cherries stored in syrup (which is just as delicious as the cherries are). The texture on the inside is smooth and sweet, with a rich cherry flavor that remind me more of Heering cherry liquor (also dark red and syrupy) than kirschwasser (which my spell correct wants to tell me is Schwarzenegger).
So three cheers for Morganelli’s, who has the savvy and smarts to ask for suggestions on social media (like their Facebook! DO EET!!) and actually follow through with it. This is just another reason why they are our favorite… it’s just coincidence that they are geographically the closest to home.
For a recipe suggestion, I will once again go back the Corpse Reviver #2; Luxardo’s cherries are the sweet ending waiting at the bottom of the glass and a perfect finish to the drink. I think I’ll have one now! Post over!
In the last few months, a few new kinds of flavored whiskey have trickled down here to Columbia (AKA the bottom of the distribution chain). Adding flavors is, of course, nothing new; I’ll save my rant on all the kinds of Kool-Aid that have been poured into vodka for another day. As far as whiskey (or whisky, depending on… oh, don’t get me started), however, there have already been offerings from some major distillers with flavors like cherry, honey, and cinnamon. But this new flavor that has come to us is an interesting choice for sure.
I’m not sure if it’s a seasonal marketing push or if these will be sticking around for a while, but the maple flavors are here. I guess I should be thankful that there isn’t more pumpkin syrup being dumped into other spirits (I’m looking at you, Pinnacle). The combination of maple syrup and whiskey seems like a good one, right? The dark-sugar and caramel notes of maple syrup should make a great compliment alongside the smoky (smokey? Another ‘e’? Let’s not bother) wood and smoother caramel side of many a good whiskey.
For our consideration tonight, we’ve got three options: Crown Royal Maple (out of Canada), Cabin Fever (also from the Great White North), and Jim Beam Maple (from Kentucky). For contrast, I warmed up some Trader Joe’s Grade A Maple Syrup and combined it with a healthy dose of Larceny. This approach is only mirrored by two of these offerings, though; according to the information on the website, Crown Royal ages the spirit in “maple-toasted oak” instead of infusing the syrup right into the whiskey. Let’s see if it makes a difference, yes?
Of the four contenders here, the home version of syrup and bourbon is the darkest, but this might have more to do with my lack of measurement than the contents. I did, however, make sure to sip some maple syrup by itself first, just to put myself in the mood. The Crown Royal and the Cabin Fever were both the mid-amber color of a milder whiskey, about the shade of Barenjager but definitely not the deep, rich color of maple syrup. The Beam was lighter still, almost the color of an average single-malt. Finally, my home concoction, about three parts bourbon to one part syrup, was almost as dark as the maple syrup itself. This lead me to wonder how much aging or blending the whiskey had gone through on the first three to produce such a light hue, even after the addition of maple syrup!
My first deep sniff of the Crown Royal hit me right in the nostalgia region of my brain. Not for any consumption of booze or pancakes as a child, but it right away reminded me of the maple creme sticks (think of a skinny eclair, in Ohio we called them creme sticks) I would eat on Saturday mornings after youth bowling league. Sure, it was maple-ish, but not quite the full-on maple odor I was expecting. Not too much burn in the nostrils, due to there not being much whiskey to smell there.
The Cabin Fever was a similar smell, but a little more astringent and even less maple. That little bit of alcohol in my nose was offset by a lighter maple component, but not because of the sweetness. It seemed to be lighter without being sweeter. This one I had trouble placing until I got to tasting it.
The Jim Beam had a slightly more smoky smell and a better (read: lower) alcohol level in the smell. Still a little bit of maple to it, but still not much sign of whiskey. There was the usual signs of maple syrup in the sugar, caramel hints, and butter.
The TJ’s/Larceny maple I made smelled like bourbon all the way until the end of the inhale, when you could pick up a slight ping of that sweetness and deliciousness. There was far more of this than what I portioned out of the mini-bottles, so I knew there was more to be done with this one. Perhaps it needed more maple, but this might not be an experiment that I try again anytime soon.
Finally, the Flavor
The Crown Royal came through in the taste in much the same way as the nose. The taste is light and sugary, not with a brown sugar taste, but with a confectionery kind of sweetness that still reminds me of the Krispy Kreme donuts from childhood. It is tasty and light, but not in the way that maple syrup is. It’s probably a result of the way that the maple flavor was added, but it tasted more like an alcoholic maple candy than syrup.
The Cabin Fever was sweeter still, but had more of a buttery, brown-sugar kind of mojo happening. It comes across less like maple than the Crown, and more like a Werther’s Original. A lot like those butterscotch-ish candies, actually. Again, maybe it was the thin nature of the spirit, but this is more of a maple confection flavor than maple syrup.
Jim Beam’s offering managed to get a lot closer to what I *thought* I was in for. Jim was thicker in consistency and had a legitimate maple syrup note to it with less sugar. But being less sweet didn’t increase the burn; it actually went down rather smoothly. The taste rolls across the tongue with a tip-of sharpness that bring to mind the idea that a tree somewhere was very, very drunk. This was the most straightforward of the three.
My unmeasured homemade version was the only one with an actual whiskey flavor to it, much less a bourbon taste. It tasted like exactly what it was, but helped me nail down the missing whiskey flavor from the other three.
It’s not always a glamorous life, but that’s no reason to go editing realistic photos! This was literally my view through the whole tasting.
Which one of these to choose really depends what you are looking for. I tried mixing some of this into a whiskey-and-coke, but the maple was lost… as well as the whiskey. If anything, it just made the Coke even sweeter with little other contribution. I did not try to make a familiar whiskey cocktail with these out of a suspicion that I would over-sweeten the drink without picking up any maple. The solution might have been to over-pour the maple whiskey to get it to stand out… but I have a feeling these were not made for mixing. Feel free to experiment and let me know how it goes!
I may yet experiment more with the remainders of these mini-bottles, but not this day. I’ve got lots more to say about whiskey in general, and about The Great American Whiskey Fair! Next time…
This afternoon I stopped by my favorite liquor store to wander aimlessly. The gentlemen at Morganelli’s are lovely and always offer to help. I’m always, “Just looking.” Yet, I somehow never manage to leave the store without a purchase. Today I stopped in to buy a surprise for my husband but couldn’t resist getting another gin. What can I say, I’m a gin fiend. And while I certainly have some favorites (I’m looking at you Nolet’s silver) it is hard to resist the temptation of adding something new to the collection. Hence, while we’re likely to have 6-7 gins on the bar at any given time, the only stand-by that is always there is Beefeater.
So, my browsing today led me to procure a gin I’ve always admired in cocktails but never had a bottle of for home, Aviation. You see, it is sweltering in “famously hot” Columbia, SC today and I was browsing the liquor store thirsty. Gin and tonic, being the most refreshing drink known to humankind, of course crossed my mind. So, I snatched up that bottle of Aviation and rushed home to turn it into a sweaty glass of pure refreshment.
By the time I got home, I realized we had no limes but I persevered and sipped my lime-free drink on the balcony while cracking into a book (about gin, naturally.) I’ll be honest, the balcony bit only lasted a few minutes. Not even a gin and tonic can chill down this day that much. Skipping the lime allowed me to catch the subtle citrus that Aviation carries as well as the floral notes. I also am picking up a very pleasant “green” flavor and something subtly peppery. But who am I kidding? This isn’t a tasting session, it is pure refreshment and relaxation. . . just as a gin and tonic was intended to be.