Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Uprising American Single Malt Whiskey From Sons of Liberty Distilling (RI)

Sons of Liberty Spirits Co., South Kingstown, RI
Uprising American Single Malt Whiskey  40%

I first tasted Sons of Liberty at a massive whiskey tasting show in Manhattan before I ever knew anything about them. I didn’t know where they were from or who they were. And out of more than 100 whiskies that day, their products stood out! Done!

Now, having lived in New England, I loved that they were located in South Kingstown, near Charlestown and Exeter and Narragansett. So that cemented it for me. I have been going to those towns since I was a kid. I’ve been writing about wines, beers, and spirits from the region for more than a decade. So the rest was easy.

Sons of Liberty, of course, we a secret society of citizens in the American Colonies, that organized in an attempt to protect the rights of colonists and to oppose unfair taxation. There’s was the famed motto, “No taxation without representation.” Enter Mike Reppucci who thought it would be a good idea to try to make world class whiskey in New England. He founded Sons of Liberty Distilling.
“A little known fact, even among regular whiskey drinkers, is that all whiskey starts as beer,” says Mike. “For years, craft brewers have been producing outstanding seasonal brews, and we saw the opportunity to advance the trend to American craft whiskey.”

That’s when Mike turned to the famed master distiller Dave Pickerell to begin experimenting with recipes using different beers. They finally settled on a stout, which featured 100% barley malts such as Chocolate Malt, Crystal 45, and Biscuit malts among others.  They double distilled the beer after it was finished. The aged the distillate in a combination of new, charred American oak and toasted French oak barrels, to give it added complexity.

Nose: Cocoa and coffee come through, along with apples and figs, vanilla and caramel.

Palate: Apple, cocoa, vanilla, caramel and honey all come through. A hint of spice comes through at the end. The finish though is surprisingly vanilla and cream and finishes dry and clean. To me finishes lighter and drier than it smells. Maybe because the roasts suggest it, I was expecting a bit more brown sugar? But that it being picky. This is a wonderful whiskey. Well executed. Beautifully done. Like me, when I first tasted it, it will open your eyes! Strike another blow for the Sons of Liberty and for Rhode Island!

Battle Cry is another exceptional single malt whiskey, but that's a review for another time!

For more single malt whiskey, click below!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Nashoba Stimulus Single Malt Whiskey - Amazing Single Malt From Massachusetts! (MA)

Nashoba Valley Winery & Distillery
Stimulus Single Malt Whiskey 42%

Located in the heart of Massachusetts’ apple country, Nashoba Valley Winery is a stunning hilltop orchard overlooking the charming town of Bolton. They first started producing fruit wines in 1978, and since then have gone to produce fine food wines, beers, and fine spirits. The family-owned orchard and farm, not only boasts all of those, but a restaurant as well.

I went with friend Richard Srsich (foreground) and Bill Rotondi and MaryBeth Robinson-Morello... 

...and Hudson Valley wine authority and author Stephen Casscles.

Nashoba Vallley Winery has won more than 100 national and international medals, and the has received accolades from such noteworthy publications as “Boston Magazine”, “Wine Enthusiast,” “Cooking Light,” ”Food & Wine,” and “The Yankee Magazine.”

"I remember sitting down with my wife and saying, 'We'll spend $60- or $70,000 and after 10 years we might start getting some of it back,'" owner Richard Pelletier told Eric Felton of the Wall Street Journal. "At least the kids are young," he joked with his wife, "so at the very least, years from now we can have an open bar at their weddings." Felton noted that Mr. Pelletier kept “the oldest barrel in his living room, where he [could] easily steal tastes and keep tabs on its progress.”

Nashoba started distilling in 2003. They laid down their first two casks of whiskey in 2004. They laid down 5 in 2005. And they’ve been laying down 20 barrels a year since 2006. They released their Stimulus Single Malt Whiskey for the first time on November 14, 2009. The first two batches produced 600 bottles. They use barley, and the batch sizes have fluctuated, as is normally the case with small micro-batch distilleries.  

“It’s paranoia (about hard liquor). There are no books about how to make rum, but thousands on how to make beer and wine. Distilleries have to glean information on their own and learn it themselves,” Pelletier told the Telegram (Worcester, MA). “For all intents and purposes, the process of making beer, and the whiskey wash (a byproduct of beer) are the same processes. The temperature is different, and some of the grains are different. The whiskey wash is distilled after that.”
The thing you have to love about Stimulus is that it is absolutely a product of place, like few others in the nation. Their malt whisky is produced, aged, and bottled at their distillery in Bolton, Massachusetts. They make the wash for distilling. They distill it right there behind the tasting room bar. It is aged in new whiskey barrels as well as in their own, previously used wine barrels, for cask finishing. Then, they have several of their whiskey barrels cut up, and the small chucks are used as the stopper in the bottle! That’s intense!

There is a funny story about the origins of the packaging. The whiskey was originally named for the stimulus packages that were given out in the early 2000s, which was partly how the still was funded. As a tongue-in-cheek homage, the distillery first submitted the name to a partisan, conservative governmental board, which rejected it, saying that “Stimulus” sounded more like a drug than a whiskey. Disheartened, Pelletier and his team regrouped and came up with a whole new name and package for approval. But just before presenting it for the second time, he realized that there were new names on the approval board who had never seen or heard about the old package. They submitted the old package again, and this time it came through with flying colors, proving that all politics is local…and timely.

Color: Rich golden 
Nose: Lots of fruit up front. Apple. Pear. Red fruits. Slightly floral. Spices. Toast. Vanilla.
Taste: Medium bodied. Apple, pear, and light red fruits all come through. Hints of honey, apricot, and spice all come through with lovely mouthfeel.
Finish: Smooth, easy finish. Lingers nicely, lightly. Fine.

A wonderful whiskey you need to try!

Also, if you're looking for more Single Malt Whiskey click below:

Howard Bursen is Making the Best St. Croix on the East Coast at Sharpe Hill Vineyard (CT)

Sharpe Hill Vineyard is an award winning winery in Connecticut's Quiet Corner! Sharpe Hill Vineyard wines have been awarded more than 250 medals in International tastings. Founded by  Steven and Catherine Vollweiler, the winery is located in the town of Pomfret - just minutes from scenic Route 169 and from the Putnam Antiques District. The winemaker Howard Bursen, part of the old Finger Lake wine mafia (you should see him play banjo alongside Peter Bell of Fox Run and Dave Whiting of Red Newt!) is the incredibly talented winemaker there. I have written about him often. He makes some incredible wines quietly there in Connecticut.

Buy St. Croix Grapevines

St. Croix is a relatively new wine grape. This hybrid grape cultivar was produced in 1983 by Elmer Swenson, a pioneering grape breeder who introduced a number of new cultivars that are hardy in the Upper Midwest. It was introduced by the University of Minnesota.

St. Croix vines are vigorous and produce medium sized, somewhat loose clusters of grapes. It has moderate to good disease resistance, and is hardy to -28°F or better. St. Croix grapes produce medium to full bodied, dry, deep red wines with low tannins, good fruity aromas, and have currant and other dried fruit flavor aspects. Production often employs oak barrel ageing to add even more complexity to the wine’s bouquet and flavors.St. Croix produces wines that have been compared to a light to medium burgundy. Sugar content and tannins are low at maturity, but St. Croix has been used both as a varietal and for blending.

But I will be blunt, I have tasted few St. Croix wines I like....even a little bit. But that's where Howard Bursen come sin. I met him several times in the last few years at the Eastern Wineries Exposition. And there, he bade me try his versions of St. Croix. And I have been won over by the grape being handed by this incredible vintner.

Now, one thing to do with a red grape that winemakers sometimes do, is they make a rose out of it. But few people I've met have done so with St.Croix, as they have fallen in love with it's deep color, and their desire to make a big, dark California style wine with any new grape they find. Howard took a different tact. In the summer of 2006 Sharpe Hill released their Dry Summer Rose. The Sharpe Hill Dry Summer Rose 2014 was made from St. Coix grapes and a touch of blended white wine. The wine  was a lovely pink/salmon wine, with a big nose of classic strawberry and bright cherry, and a hint of citrus. It was dry and bright and refreshing. An amazing, fun, lovely dry summer rose! This was the best St. Croix I had at the time, and Howard blanched. He had something else to try! 

Howard pulled from his bag of tricks a wonderful, full bodied, estate grown St. Croix which was a 100% estate wine. The color was impressive, and I clenched my teeth ready for an acidic affront to red wine, with cloying flavors. Wrong!!!!! This was a lovely, dark Rhone-ish red, with dark cherry, dark cassis, and hints of raspberry and plum, vanilla and a dash of white pepper. 


I tasted the wine with Michael Kaiser of Wine America and Danny Klein, Regional Vice President, American Wine Society at the blogger's table at the Eastern Wineries Exposition. Both were equally impressed with the rose'.

Shapre Hill has been a quality producer in Connecticut and on the east coast, and Howard continues to improve upon past successes. A winning combination! Get up to Sharpe Hill and try these wines. These wines were easily the best versions of St. Croix I have had on the east coast so far!