Spirited Reviews

Montelobos Mezcal Joven

43.2% alc./vol.
Producer: Casa Montelobos, Oaxaca, Mexico (NOM-O156X)

Launched August 2012 and part of the William Grant stable, Montelobos is a 100% Espadin, unaged, organic mezcal developed by Dr Iván Saldaña, a respected agave academic.

The agaves used to make Montelobos are cultivated by the Lopez family in the shadow of Montelobos (mountain of wolves) in Oaxaca's Sierra Madre range. They are harvested and cooked in the traditional manner, smoked in a large stone pit ('palenque') for 4-5 days, before Rambo the mule pulls a tahona wheel over the cooked agaves to crush them and release the smoky agua miel to ferment and distil. The still is part pot and part column.

Appearance: (bottle No. 1A2477) Crystal clear.
Aroma: Coal dust and coal tar with faint notes of burnt crispy bacon, chargrilled vegetables, menthol and smoke.
Taste: Dusty coal with vanilla sweetness and chargrilled peppers.
Aftertaste: The palate slowly fades with very mild smokiness.
diffordsguide rating: 5+/5

Caña Brava Rum

43% alc./vol.
Producer: Las Cabres Distillery, Panama

This light white rum is made from sugar cane grown in the mineral-rich volcanic soil of Panama's Herrera region. Caña Brava is continuously distilled in a vintage classic 1922 copper and brass column still by Master Distiller and former Minister of Cuban Rum, Francisco "Don Pancho" J. Fernandez. The rum is aged for three years in a combination of new un-charred American oak and ex-bourbon barrels before blending with older rums for consistency. Caña Brava is carbon filtered prior to bottling.

The 86 company's innovative bottle is designed for ease of use by bartenders and includes a scale with measures in fluid ounces and litres to allow bars greater inventory control and batching of cocktails.

Appearance: Crystal clear.
Aroma: Fudge, 'soft-scoop' vanilla ice-cream and icing covered patisserie.
Taste: Dry and superbly clean with notes of icing covered patisserie, faint sweetness and subdued peppery alcohol.
Aftertaste: Cracked black pepper spirit notes build and linger.
diffordsguide rating: 4.5/5

Ford's Gin||
45% alc./vol.
Producer:Thames Distillers Ltd

Simon Ford, former Plymouth U.S. brand ambassador, developed this gin with Charles Maxwell of Thames Distillers. It is flavoured with nine botanicals (juniper, coriander seeds, orris, jasmine, angelica, cassia, bitter orange, lemon and grapefruit peels), then steeped for 15 hours before distillation in 500-litre stainless steel pot stills.

Appearance: Crystal clear.
Aroma: Clean pungent lavender and camphor from the high juniper content with celery, parma violets and citrus.
Taste: Juniper and fresh floral notes compete with zesty citrus for attention with just enough spice. Very soft mouth feel, especially given the high alcohol strength.
Aftertaste: Classic London dry with all the flavours found in the nose and palate presenting themselves in a long lingering finish.
diffordsguide rating: 5+/5

Tequila Cabeza Blanco||
43% alc./vol.
Producer: El Ranchito, Arandas, Mexico

This 100% agave tequila is distilled and bottled by the Vivanco family at their El Ranchito distillery, on the edge of their 800-acre mountainside field in Arandas.

The Jimadores pick the agaves at between seven and nine years of age and with a sugar content of 23-28%. The piñas are cooked in brick ovens at 100ËšC for 24 hours. Fermentation of the mosto is started with champagne yeast and fermentation is over the winter months when the cooler temperatures allows for longer fermentations. Distillation is in two separate copper pot stills, firstly the 'destrozador' still first produces the ordinario at 20-22% alc./vol. which is filtered. The second distillation, in the 'rectificator' still, produces tequila at 55-56% alc./vol.. There is no filtration after the second distillation and distilled water is added to reduce to bottling strength.

Appearance: Crystal clear.
Aroma: Dusty, cement and herbaceous vegetal with olives and green peppers in brine.
Taste: Slightly sweet minerality, roasted vegetal and a dusty note with a nutty balsa wood note.
Aftertaste: Dusty, acorns, magic mushrooms and cracked black pepper.
diffordsguide rating: 5/5

Aylesbury Duck Vodka||
40% alc./vol.
Producer: Domaine Charbay Distillers

Launched September 2012, Aylesbury Duck is distilled in Canada from winter wheat sourced from local farmers in the Western Rockies of Canada (near Calgary).

Aylesbury Duck's fermentation period is three days, producing a 9.5-11% wash which is continuously distilled using a three-column copper-plated still in the 1940s. The distillate is shipped at 96.5% alc./vol. to Domaine Charbay Distillers in Napa Valley where purified water is added to dilute to strength prior to bottling. The water used is drawn from a well in Mendocino County due to its purity (only four parts particles per million). Only a light particle filtration is used prior to bottling.

Appearance: Crystal clear.
Aroma: Clean mineral motes with slight cooked eggy brioche and faint fudge.
Taste: Superbly clean minerality with faint almond, cream-of-soda vanilla, toffee and fudge. Cracked black pepper spirit spice.
Aftertaste: Charcoal notes emerge in the finish.
diffordsguide rating: 4.5/5

Belvedere Vodka||
40% alc./vol.
Producer: Polmos Zyrardów Distillery

Launched in 1996, Belvedere is widely regarded as the world's first super premium vodka. It is named after Poland's presidential palace in Warsaw and, like the building, translates as 'beautiful to see'. It is made from 100% Polish Dańkowskie Złote rye and distilled using a four column process.

Appearance: Crystal clear.
Aroma: Clean and subdued with very faint tangerine and lemon zestyness, floral notes and rye bread crust.
Taste: Wonderfully clean and silky with a creamy mouthfeel. Floral notes and hints of vanilla with faint white chocolate, almond oil and mild black pepper.
Aftertaste: Peppery spice with faint grassy notes and cream-of-soda vanilla.
diffordsguide rating: 5+/5

Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select Bourbon||
45.2% alc./vol.
Producer:Woodford Reserve Distillery (Labrot & Graham)

Produced from whiskey selected from stocks held at Brown-Forman's distillery in Jefferson County (the mash bill is 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% malted barley). The barrels are then moved to the Labrot & Graham distillery to finish maturation. The bourbon in these casks is then blended with a relatively small amount of whiskey distilled at Labrot & Graham to produce Woodford Reserve. We sampled U.S. stocks but in the UK the alcoholic strength was reduced to 43.2% alc./vol. in 2010.

Appearance: Clear, coppery amber.
Aroma: Chargrilled sweet-corn, ginger biscuit, freshly shaved oak and cinnamon.
Taste: Mellow, with vanilla crème anglaise, buttery corn-on-the-cob, gingerbread, delicate cinnamon spice and butterscotch with hints of espresso and dark bitter chocolate..
Aftertaste: Long, pleasing finish with lightly spiced buttery corn-on-the-cob and oaky butterscotch.
diffordsguide rating: 5/5

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