Spirited Reviews December 2015

Words by Simon Difford

The following are new products we've received and other products reviewed during December 2015.

Products are listed according to the Difford's Guide rating awarded to them. Please click on product names for tasting notes and further information.

Difford's Guide rating 5+/5 [outstanding]

Holy Grass Vodka
Made at a husband and wife run artisanal distillery, this is Scotland's answer to Poland's bison grass vodka. Faintly sweet with a creamy mouthfeel and flavours of grass, vanilla, red apple and jasmine tea.

Domaines Hine Bonneuil 2005
Floral, fruity and spicy with a light-bodied freshness - this is delightfully characterful, young and zippy, rather than being heavy and woody.

Bodegas Argüeso San León Manzanilla sherry
A well-aged manzanilla with pronounced marine saltiness and faint elegant nutty oak

No. 209 Chardonnay Barrel Reserve Gin
This Chardonnay barrel aged gin is dry and spicy with buttery pine, cut grass, green apple and lavender.

Three Cents Pink Grapefruit Soda
The perfect grapefruit soda for a Paloma. Ripe pink grapefruit flesh and zest with well-balanced citrus acidity.

Three Cents Lemon Tonic
Drier with more pronounced bitter quinine and zesty citrus than other bitten lemons. Perhaps too dry for some.

Three Cents Tonic Water
Dry and superbly clean with good quinine notes and invigorating carbonation.

Three Cents Mediterranean Tonic
One of the best of the 'flavoured' tonic waters we've sampled, with distinctive cucumber, celery and basil flavours.

Difford's Guide rating 5/5 [exceptional]

John Walker & Sons Private Collection 2016
Having sampled the vattings of grain whiskies and the Highland malt that that comprise this fabulous predominantly grain whisky, I can appreciate the fine balance Jim Beveridge has achieved with the apple, pear, grassy and faintly anise notes from the malt lifting the two grain whiskies that comprise this blend - one being honeyed with sweet caramel, toffee, estery fruit, vanilla fudge and delicate spice; the other having sweet honey, cigarette ash and white pepper spice notes. As always where Jim's involved, the result is better than the sum of its parts.

No. 209 Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Reserve Aged Gin
Spicy pine, berry fruit and zesty citrus. Great in a Martinez.

Romati Cardenal Cisneros Pedro Ximénez sherry
This superb Pedro Ximénez has attractive date flavours, along with intense raisiny fruit and hints of dark chocolate.

Gutierrez Colosia Fino del Puerto Sherry
Dry, but not as bone dry as some finos with marine notes usually associated with a manzanilla. Attractive yeasty white toasty baguette crust with pear, apple and toasted almond.

Las Medallas de Argüeso Manzanilla sherry
An excellent and very approachable manzanilla with faint marine saltiness, lightly toasted almond, zesty lemon, grassy and fruity notes.

Dark Cave 5 Year Old Tsipouro
This aged tsipouro takes this very traditional Greek spirit to a new premium level with flavours of Christmas - fruitcake, honey, spice and nuts.

Difford's Guide rating 4.5/5 [excellent]

Marnier Lapostolle XO Armagnac
Blackened fruitcake, dried fruit and Christmassy spice characterise this earthy, nutty XO armagnac.

The Kininvie 25 year old Special Release #1 "The First Drops"
A chance to own a piece of liquid history, and a pretty tasty piece at that, with dry toasty oak tannins balanced by rich vanilla with enlivening nutmeg, cinnamon and cracked black pepper spice.

Askaig Islay 100˚ proof single malt Scotch whisky
Classic Islay - smoky peat, charcoal and hospital antiseptic with clove, black pepper spice and salt. Faint fruity notes - red apple on the nose progressing to orange and pineapple on the palate.

Talisker Neist Point Island single malt Scotch whisky
More than a hint of marine saltiness and elegant smoky peat are served in balanced proportions with malty vanilla fudge and enlivening black pepper and light clove spice.

Talisker Dark Storm
A particularly smoky Talisker expression with rich honeyed malty cereal and intense pepper, nutmeg and clove spice.

Samalens VSOP Armagnac
An easy, quaffable, value for money armagnac with good fruity character, lavender and red apple.

No. 209 Barrel Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Gin
A powerful aged gin with piney, juniper tropical fruit, warming spice, fruity candied orange and lime peel.

Otter Nouveau Celebration Golden Ale
Assertive citrus hop bitterness with white banquette crust maltiness and faint white pepper spice. As the brewing expert, Carl Heron, says, "Here's to the next Otter Nouveau Day!"

Hop House 13 Lager
This flavoursome Irish lager boasts bready maltiness with faint apricot and peach fruit.

Pierre Guy Liqueur d'Absinthe
This lightly sweet absinthe liqueur combines herbal wormwood flavours and sweet anise without the hit usually associated with absinthe.

Three Cents Plain
Clean soda water with good carbonation.

Little Valley Stoodley Stout
This well-balanced stout has an attractive creamy mouthfeel with flavours of burnt rye bread charcoal and heavily roasted coffee bean with some sweet liquorice and zesty bitter orange.

Tosolini Sambuca
A superbly clean and fresh sambuca with a powerful star anise flavour.

Tsilili Hamburg Muscat Grape Spirit
Grappa-like, very aromatic and well-balanced with black pepper, white grape fruit, rose water and smoothing oily mouthfeel.

Stoupakis Ouzo Kazanisto
Clean and cleansing star anise and black pepper with faint complex herbal undertones.

Homeric Mastiha
A traditional mastiha with minty and pine forest freshness, and mild black pepper spice.

Metaxa 12 Stars
Well-balanced and very fruity with honeyed sweetness balanced by black pepper spiced dry oak. Attractive floral notes throughout.

Difford's Guide rating 4/5 [recommended]

anCnoc Rascan Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Bags of smoky earthy peat with some burnt rubbery notes. Despite the big flavours this very dry malt is thin in body.

Firkin Gin Islay Rested
Like many aged gins this Islay influenced gin will offend many gin drinkers but delight a few.

Chapel Down Three Graces English sparkling wine
Fresh and zippy with pronounced lemony acidity, apple and faint pear drops.

El Domador Silver Tequila
A clean blanco tequila characterised by charcoal flavours with roasted agave character and black pepper.

El Domador Añejo Tequila
Tasty, almost too tasty to be true with pronounced cream-of soda vanilla and charcoal toasty notes.

Little Valley Hebden's Wheat beer
Classic wheat beer in style with pronounced coriander and white pepper with faint clove and overripe banana.

Little Valley Moor Ale
Burnt malty notes with faint tar characterise this ale with blackened fruit cake, tar and orange zest.

Little Valley Python IPA
Doughy yeasty wholemeal bread and pronounced bitter, grassy, citrusy and floral hops.

Little Valley Gragg Vale Bitter
Its brewers describe this bitter and bold and malty - it is indeed malty with pronounced bready character and mild zesty citrus and grassy hops.

Little Valley Vanilla Porter
This toasty porter delivers the promised vanilla with roasted cashew nuts, liquorice and coffee.

Little Valley Ginger Pale Ale
A lightly spiced, pale ale with hints of ginger and zesty lemon rather than a full-on ginger beer.

Monin Bubble Gum syrup
Should you want to make a bubble gum flavoured cocktail then this sugar syrup is perfect.

Tosolini Myrtil liqueur
Jammy blueberry and redcurrant with notes of piney juniper and cracked black pepper spice.

Three Cents Ginger Beer
Good freshly grated ginger root flavours. Drier, less sugary than many other ginger beers. 4/5

Metaxa 7 Star
Aromatic and brandy-like with pronounced floral, marmalade and plum fruit, gently spiced with black pepper.

Metaxa Private Reserve
Lightly sweet and very fruity with fruitcake, lavender and blackcurrant boiled sweets (hard candy).

'M' Dry Mastiha Spirit Drink
As the name suggests this mastiha is differentiated by its dryness when compared to other syrupy liqueur-like Mastihas. Very refreshing in peppermint-like way.

Little Valley Tod's Blonde
A flavoursome light-bodied ale with good malty flavour and grassy hops. A great ale for lager drinkers.

Tsilili Tsipouro Without Anise
A refined tsipouro with attractive pear fruity spice.

Homeric Rose
Rose petal flavoured mastiha with piney and mint-like freshness.

Homeric Mint
As if mastiha were not refreshing enough, this mastiha has added spearmint flavoured freshness.

OneDrop Mandarin
Slightly sweet and intensely flavoured with zesty mandarin, pine fresh mastiha and white pepper.

Difford's Guide rating 3.5/5 [commended]

The Dublin Liberties Oak Devil Irish Whiskey
As the Oak Devil suggests, dry, young oak dominates with assertive black pepper spice.

Don Papa 10 year old rum
With its sweet, fruity and spicy flavours, this slightly sweet "aged ten years" Filipino rum could have aptly been labelled 'spiced rum'. It's also strangely reminiscent of Southern Comfort with boiled sweet (hard candy) tropical fruit flavours.

Reserva Tequila
A 100% agave reposado tequila with distinctive cream-of-soda vanilla and mocha coffee.

Butterfly Cane Spiced Premium Spirit Drink
Mild, mellow and very lightly spiced. An inoffensive spiced rum - sorry "spirit drink".

Little Valley Withens Pale Ale
Light in alcohol, body and interest, with moderate dried grass and citrusy hop bitterness.

Butterfly Cane 3 Year Old Rum
Buttery oak, vanilla and mild spice. Mellow and hard to hate but could equally be described as being somewhat bland and hard to love.

Metaxa 5 Star
A very aromatic and approachable, easy drinking, brandy-like spirit. Those expecting a dry brandy should be aware of this spirit's smoothing honeyed sweetness and faint rose blossom notes.

Difford's Guide rating 3/5 [mediocre]

Firkin Gin
A big assertive gin with a high bottling strength amplifying dry oak tannins from oak aging - perhaps for too long, or in under seasoned casks.

Click here products reviewed in November 2015

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