Spirited Reviews February 2016

Words by Simon Difford

The following are new products we've received and other products reviewed during February 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 [exceptional]

Birrificio Del Ducato Violent Femme Hoppy Saison
Reminiscent of a Belgium saison with yeasty flavours and refreshing peppery spice.

El Mayor Reposado 100% Agave Tequila
Brawny peppery spice, good toasty agave and sweet caramel with sweet roasted pineapple and tropical fruit.

Rock Rose Navy Strength Scottish Gin
A punchy cleansing gin with pronounced pine needle freshness, black pepper and cardamom spice.

Koskenkorva 013 Vodka (40%)
A very neutral, superbly clean vodka with distinctive minerality.

Aberfeldy 16 Year Old Highland single malt Scotch whisky
Blackened fruitcake and apple pie fruitiness, rich sherry vanilla and butterscotch, balanced by dry toasty oak, clove and black pepper spice.

FEW Barrel Aged Cask Strength Gin
Brawny and intense but easier than its high alcohol strength might suggest. Piney juniper and spicy oak come together to make a very interesting gin to mix with.

FEW American Gin
Distinctively different with pleasing earthy, spice, nutty and zesty lemon notes. As the might suggest, juniper is fairly subdued.

Molinari Caffè liqueur
A complex and superbly balanced coffee liqueur with well integrated chocolate and sambuca flavours. Serve well-chilled after dinner.

Mastiqua Mediterranean Sparkling Drink with Mastiha Water
This delicately flavoured water is superbly refreshing with delicate mastiha notes.

Difford's Guide rating 4.5/5 [excellent]

Purity Saddle Black Unfiltered Hoppy Black Beer
Dry, lightly spice, toasty and faintly smoky with a full-bodied almost creamy mouthfeel. Earthy liquorice, chocolate and coffee flavours predominate.

Ledaig 1996 Island Single Malt Scotch Whisky
A robust, dry, spicy malt which combines smoky earthy notes with sweet baked apple and rich wine notes. Not easy but likable.

Birrificio Del Ducato ViaEmilia
This Italian pilsner has attractive overripe banana fruitiness set against dry piney and grassy hops with good cereal character and a creamy mouthfeel.

Birrificio del Ducato Winterlude Tripel
Creamy mouthfeel and well-balanced, its punchy high alc./vol. is well disguised with cleansing black pepper spice with sweet cereal and orange zest.

Brooklyn Gin
A very clean citrus zesty and spicy American gin with moderate juniper influence.

Birrificio del Ducato Freeride West Coast IPA
A decent Italian take on an American West Coast IPA with cleansing resinous piney hops, grapefruit zesty freshness and sweet tropical fruit.

El Mayor Blanco 100% Agave Tequila
Earthy agave and enlivening peppery spice with faint lime zest and honeysuckle blossom.

El Mayor Añejo 100% Agave Tequila
Peppery spiced oak, sweet caramel and vanilla with tropical fruit and faint lavender.

Rock Rose Scottish Gin
London dry in style but with distinctive potpourri and cardamom notes.

Ailsa Bay Lowland single malt Scotch whisky
A Lowland malt with the character of an Islay and cask strength power. Unchecked this is a brute with brawny black pepper spice and coal tar smoke. However, with a splash of water, sweet creamy vanilla shines and tames to make this a fabulously balanced malt.

Forest Dry Gin Summer
A citrus forward clean gin with enlivening freshness. Juniper makes its presence known with light ginger notes.

The Collector Vermouth
A very fruity approachable vermouth with distinctive berry, stewed orchard fruit, marmalade and wormwood herbal complexity.

Marka Nordick Bitter
As the name suggest this is a bitter liqueur but with a light honeyed sweetness bolstering camomile floral notes over tea-like tannins and root bitterness. A superbly complex digestive. Only a lack of filtration to clear and remove risk of sedimentation disappoints.

FEW Barrel Aged Gin
Clove spice and dry oak meld well with piney juniper, freshened by candied citrus.

Nina's Savse Super Orange Fruit Smoothie
As the name suggests this smoothie does indeed contain orange but is made more interesting with six other fruits, of which carrot is most obvious in its flavour. Well-balanced and comparatively dry.

Nina's Savse Super Blue Fruit Smoothie
This berry and apple fruit smoothie may only contain 4% beetroot but the maroon red vegetable disproportionately contributes to its flavour.

Armand Guy Pontarlier Anis Ponsec
Clean, full-favoured star aniseed with a wonderfully milky character with water.

Difford's Guide rating 4/5 [recommended]

Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey
Leather, spicy and fruity with distinctive passion fruit.

Ginraw Gastronomic Gin
Clean and citrusy with zesty lemon, kaffir lime leaves and enlivening black pepper spice.

anCnoc Blas Highland single malt Scotch whisky
Spicy and zesty with attractive praline chocolate and ginger.

Crowded Hive Oaked Orange Blossom Honey Mead
Very mildly honey flavoured with attractive orange and orange blossom notes.

Ciroc Apple Flavoured Vodka (37.5%)
With its clean crisp green apple flavour, faint sweetness and almost creamy mouthfeel this flavoured vodka is something of a crowd-pleaser.

FEW Standard Issue Gin
This is a huge gin in every respect other than juniper with distinctive citrus, aniseed and menthol.

Forest Dry Gin Autumn
Zesty tangerine notes dominate with pleasing supporting juniper, spice and angelica root nuttiness.

Forest Dry Gin Winter
There's a lot going on in this gin with piney juniper, herbal, spicy and floral notes, soapy citrus zest, blueberry fruit and a light earthiness.

Stauning Young Danish Rye
Too young to be a "whisky" this precocious rye has a huge personality, exuding cinnamon and black pepper spice. However, this is tamed with a splash of water to reveal pleasing rye bread and fruity notes.

Stauning Peated Danish Single Malt Whisky
Youthful and exuberant but with pleasing bready cereal and smoky peat unimpeded by oak.

Nina's Savse Get The Glow
A zesty and filling pineapple, coconut and vanilla breakfast smoothie.

Difford's Guide rating 3.5/5 [commended]

Elephant German Sloe Gin
Some will be attracted by this sloe gin's unfiltered hazy appearance while others will find it off-putting. The palate is drier, more tart, than many other sloe gins - perhaps a tad to dry and peppery for some. We liked the pronounced sloe berry fruit flavours and subtle lavender notes.

Forest Vermouth
Rich red berry fruit and wine with enlivening spice. Great flavours but lacks harmony.

Douglas Laing's XOP Glen Grant 30 Years Old Single Malt Scotch
Perhaps a tad over matured with notes of apple and barley sugar dominated by pencil shaving-like dry oak and lightly bitter crushed mint leaves.

Bols Pineapple Chipotle Liqueur
Reminiscent of chilli and black pepper spiced Fruit Salad banana chews.

0101 Brewed by Data
Brewed at a microbrewery according to a recipe designed by a social analyst, a marketing analyst and a super computer, this disappointing beer is proof that somethings are best kept simple and left to brewers and their craft.

Cariel Vanilla Vodka
Flavour appears more vanilla ice-cream / cream-of-soda than natural vanilla pod - but who doesn't like vanilla ice-cream? Accompanying spirituous cracked black pepper spice.

Difford's Guide rating 3/5 [mediocre]

Bols Date Liqueur
Caramel and Demerara sugar notes are perhaps more pronounced than that of date.

Bols Blackberry Liqueur
Intense jammy blackberry and raspberry with hints of chocolate.

FEW Grappa
Overly woody and spicy with leather, fruit cake, black pepper and clove spice.

Bernardo's Likör Kaktus (cactus liqueur)
Perhaps more vanilla and raspberry jam than you'd expect a cactus to taste like.

Difford's Guide rating 2.5/5 [disappointing]

Difford's Guide rating 2/5 [pretty awful]

Forest Dry Gin Spring
Rose water and rooty bitterness overly dominate this "gin".

Click here products reviewed in January 2016

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