Spirited Reviews January 2016

Words by Simon Difford

The following are new products we've received and other products reviewed during January 2016.

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]

Pekoe Earl Grey tea liqueur
Wonderfully fragrant Earl Grey tea with delicate smoke and orange notes. As liqueurs go this tea liqueur is on the dry side.

Cherry Marnier Liqueur
One of the oldest and very best cherry brandy liqueurs available today with rich morello cherry and dark berry fruits, but is the pronounced marzipan, grilled almond and vanilla flavours from the cherry stones that set this cherry brandy apart.

Difford's Guide rating 5/5 [exceptional]

Windswept Brewing Company APA
A British pale ale with extra zippiness courtesy of American hops contributing grassy, zesty and piney flavours with accompanying assertive bitterness, but not overly so. Made more attractive due to pleasing bready and peachy fruit flavours.

Pekoe Supreme Ceylon tea liqueur
This Dutch made Ceylon tea liqueur perfectly balances light tea tannins with light sweetness accentuating the tea's flavour.

Harviestoun Raspy Engine raspberry porter
Take a heavy traditional porter and add some fresh raspberry. The result is lighter and obviously fruity but retains its balance rather than becoming sweet and syrupy.

Bluecoat American Dry Gin
A very American, big, bold premium strength gin but with traditional London dry flavours. Pleasingly fresh and zippy.

Ballantine's 17 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky
Full-bodied and pleasingly characterful with dry oak, light spice and faint wood smoke perfectly balanced by sweet ripe apple and vanilla.

Velho Barreiro Cachaca (Yellow Label)
Sugar cane flavours and subtle sweetness make this a very pleasant cachaça with buttery new leather, sweetcorn notes and subdued complex spice.

Difford's Guide rating 4.5/5 [excellent]

Glenmorangie Milsean Private Edition Highland single malt Scotch whisky
Slightly sweet, spicy and very fruity with the candied notes suggested by the stripped packing, but also with a complexity that will appeal to aficionados.

Windswept Brewing Co Typhoon Amarillo IPA
Tropical fruit IPA with attractive zesty mandarin and grapefruit and assertive piney hope resins.

Windswept Wolf Scottish ale
Dark and toasty with chocolate, coffee, brown bread and liquorice.

Pekoe Jasmine Green Tea
This relatively dry liqueur strikes a good balance between bitter tea tannins and sugar with a pronounced green tea flavour and subtle jasmine blossom notes.

Chapel Down Vintage Reserve Brut NV English sparkling wine
This English sparkling wine makes for a great alternative to Champagne with well-balanced citrus acidity, meaty and biscuity notes.

Harviestoun IPA
A good example of a fruity American-style IPA with well-judged hop bitterness and aromatics.

Terra Comtix La Trobonix Ambrée
Bready malt dominates this amber ale with attractive stewed fruit, yeasty notes and earthy herbal piney hops.

Marnier VSOP Fine Champagne Cognac
A full-bodied, traditionally styled cognac with flavours of blackened fruitcake, honeycomb, crème brûlée and mild spice.

Marnier VS Cognac
A good traditionally styled VS Cognac with flavours of blackened fruitcake, toasty oak and vanilla.

Metaxa Grand Fine
Aromatic floral liqueur meets brandy with black tea, rose water, toasty oak, plums, apricot and raisin.

Ballantine's 12 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky
Starts with vanilla and honey before toasty oak and then finishes with lingering salty toffee and vanilla fudge.

Jameson Distillery Reserve 12 year old Irish blended whiskey
The heavy wine notes partner well with this light whisky. A more integrated version of the 12 year old Special Reserve.

Chivas Regal 12 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky
Initial rich and fruity honeyed pear and apple quickly dries with oak and smoky vanilla before finishing nutty and spicy.

Difford's Guide rating 4/5 [recommended]

Akashi-Tai Shiraume Ginjo Umeshu
Sweet and syrupy, this rich "plum" sake is a good cocktail sweetener, also imparting flavours of stewed plum, raisin and faint marzipan.

Izarra Green (Vert) Liqueur
A peppermint liqueur from France's Basque region which is differentiated from green crème de menthe by its herbal and spice complexity.

Wild Card Jack of Clubs Ruby Ale
A lightly spicy ruby ale with caramel, old leather and nutty brown bread.

Harviestoun Broken Dial Amber Ale
A Scottish amber ale with toasty malt, caramel and good piney hops.

Hermit Dutch Coastal Gin
Beautiful packaging and attention to detail such as a small sea shell in the box adds to this gins appeal. For 'coastal' read salty and indeed this Dutch gin does have a slightly saline flavour. The nose has very appealing overripe banana juniper aromas but these are masked by salt and pepper on the palate. Our notes and rating are averaged between batches No.3 and No.4. Batch No.5 could be a 5/5!

Glendalough Premium Irish Poitin
This Irish Poitín has a character that is believably off a small, perhaps illicit still with attractive flavours of fermenting wort and fruity esters carrying into the finished product.

Ballantine's Hard Fired Blended Scotch Whisky
Sweet vanilla-ed toasty notes of bourbon in a light smoky Scotch whisky with red apple, new leather, buttery biscuit and black pepper spice.

Gibbet Oak Falstaff Bramley Dry Apple Cider
A bone dry, honest artisanal cider with faint yeastiness and superb apple character.

Feeney's Irish Cream Liqueur
Creamy (as you'd expect or an Irish cream liqueur, although not as thick as some) with chocolate, hazelnuts and subtle whiskey and spice.

Bluecoat Barrel Reserve American Dry Gin
Wood flavours and dry tannins dominate this American dry gin with eucalyptus, pine, vanilla and caramel.

Difford's Guide rating 3.5/5 [commended]

Blackdown Silver Birch Vermouth
It's a vermouth but not as you know it. This English vermouth is made with silver birch syrup and is certainly unusual with herbal, wormwood, grassy and chamomile notes.

G.E. Massenez Liqueur de Litchi
Not as sweet or a pronounced in lychee flavour as some other lychee liqueurs but with attractive rose blossom.

Birrificio Angelo Poretti 4 Luppoli (hops) Original
An Italian pale lager that will offend few, with notes of sweetcorn, sweet white crusty bread and mildly bitter grassy hops.

The Dubliner Irish Whiskey
This Irish blend appears to lack age and so complexity but is decent enough with notes of new leather, cigar box, vanilla and red apple.

Limoncello di Capri
Moderately sweet with flavours reminiscent of lemon meringue pie filling with zesty lemon acidity.

Difford's Guide rating 3/5 [mediocre]

Shepherd Neame Spitfire Gold Ale
As its brewers say, this golden ale "has potential crossover appeal for lager fans." We say, "shame it's in a clear bottle and doesn't have a bit more character."

Bitter Truth Cucumber Bitters Cocktail Flavouring
Moderately bitter bitters. More reminiscent of pickled cucumber rather than fresh English cucumber these bitters also have notes of stewed cabbage.

Click here products reviewed in December 2015

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