Spirited Reviews April 2016

Words by Simon Difford

The following are new products we've received and other products reviewed during April 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]

Facundo Neo Silver Rum
White chocolate, vanilla and almond with mild enlivening white pepper, charcoal and very faint spearmint. A truly excellent white rum.

Gran Patron Piedra extra añejo tequila
Rich roasted agave brilliantly balanced by spicy oak.

Facundo Eximo Rum
Rich raisiny fruit cake, vanilla, nougat and buttery richness, beautifully balanced by dry oak tannins, bitter chocolate and Christmassy spice. A very special sipping rum.

Gran Patron Burdeos Tequila
Flavours and character reminiscent of an XO cognac presented in a fruity tequila.

Ron Zacapa Reserva Limitada 2015
Vanilla, amaretto and honeyed richness are harmoniously balanced by espresso coffee, bitter chocolate, dry oak, with subtle enlivening spice and faint herbal complexity.

Difford's Guide rating 5/5 [exceptional]

Facundo Exquisito Rum
Rich and rounded. Madeira, vanilla, blackened fruit cake and brown sugar balanced and enlivened with Christmassy spiced oak.

Angostura 1919 Trinidadian Rum
The 2016 new label is a dramatic improvement on previous bottlings. Medium-bodied with generous vanilla, zesty citrus and mocha coffee and passion fruit.

Angostura 5 Year Old Rum
Medium-bodied, soft and rich. April 2016 saw the introduction of a new label and with it a much improved version of this rum, particularly on the nose with fresh passion fruit, cherries, toasted almond, Bakewell tart, caramel and muscovado sugar.

The Golden Age Blend Blended Scotch Whisky
Sherried and spicy, this huge malt is balanced and characterful.

Den Klodsede Bjørn (The Clumsy Bear) N0.6 Unfiltered Vodka
There's an appealing creamy dairy sweetness, clean minerality and zippy white and black pepper spice to this very characterful vodka.

Beefeater Crown Jewel Perrless Premium London Dry Gin
Tasting an old bottle of Crown Jewel against the resurrected incarnation, the aroma and flavour of the two are virtually identical. It is a brilliantly balanced gin with juniper, citrus and white pepper spice presented in harmony, but it is the floral parma violet notes from generous use of orris root that set this gin apart. (Same about the bottle.)

Redbreast All Sherry Single Cask 1999 Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
Blackened fruit cake, matchbox lighting strip, coal dust, burnt raisins and cracked black pepper spice typifies this sherried pot still whiskey with sweet balancing liquorice and blackcurrant jam released with water. A splash of water is essential to experience this whiskey at its best.

Victory Prima Pils
The hop flower illustration on the label of Prima is an indication of what to expect, a heavily hoped pilsner which is also surprisingly malty.

Difford's Guide rating 4.5/5 [excellent]

Angostura 1824 Trinidadian Rum
Over the 16 years I've being sampling 1824 it has steadily improved and this 2016 label and blend is the best yet. Mocha coffee leads with vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon spice. Faint zesty orange, sultana and blackened fruitcake.

Cruzcampo Gran Reserva 1904
One of the better big name Spanish beers with a strength that packs a punch. Well-balanced lightly toasted malt character. The dried grassy finish with its faint metallic notes leaves you wanting another sip.

Den Rene Bjørn (The Clean Bear Vodka)
A very characterful vodka with bready flavours reminiscent of new-make-spirit.

Patron Silver Tequila
Light and fabulously clean with invigorating peppery spice. Pleasing herbaceous core and faint notes of marzipan, muscovado sugar, gingerbread and white chocolate. All in all, a very refined tequila.

Elements of Islay Peat Islay Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
Generous sweet ripe orchard fruit, peaty smoke, mouldering charcoal and zesty lemon. Sold in a 50cl bottle but at 59.3% alc./vol. this is a lot of whisky with generous Islay character.

Helbing Hamburg's Kümmel
More of an eau-de-vie Kümmel, Helbing lacks the syrupy sweetness common to many other Kümmel liqueurs and its complex caraway notes are comparatively delicate.

Benromach Sassicia Distilled Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky
This sub-10 year old malt does have some youthful exuberance but generous fruit, vanilla and sweet barley adds richness and balance to produce a perhaps somewhat brash but pleasing malt.

Highland Park Ice Edition Island Single Malt Scotch Whisky
A huge malt which explodes on the palate with salty, lightly smoky and assertive spiced oak, balanced by rich honeyed and overripe pineapple notes. The Highland Park name and limited availability makes this an attractive collectable - that's also an enjoyable dram. Not sure how that turquoise bottle in a wooden mountain frame is going to look on your mantelpiece though.

Laphroaig Lore Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Earthy, peaty and smoky with notes of graphite (pencil lead) and coal dust. With a splash of water, rich fruity green apple and chocolate sponge cake emerge, making this Islay malt very enjoyable.

Beaver Town 8 Ball Rye IPA
Brown bready malts hold their own against a powerful hop collation in this well-balanced, unusual IPA with assertive but not domineering hops.

Evil Twin Brewing Hipster Ale
As you'd expect of an "American Pale ale", this is an intensely flavoured beer with dominant bitter resinous pine hops. However, it also has complexity with orange zest, earthy, floral and good malty notes.

Deanston 15 Year Old Organic Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Not so sure how much "organic" influences the flavour, but this dry, salty malt is made attractive by bready malt, rich light honey and sweet green apple.

The Walter Collective Gin
Assertive cardamom spice strongly influences this clean and refreshing, otherwise traditional London dry-style gin.

La Vieja Licoreria Cinnamon Liqueur
Mild cinnamon spice with complexity added by subtle flavours including vanilla, honey, orange, chocolate and lavender.

Victory Headwaters Ale
As you'd expect from an American pale ale with a hop flower on the label, Headwaters is hop driven but this ale is set apart by the breadth of different hop flavours, including: piney floral, grassy, zesty grapefruit and orange.

Difford's Guide rating 4/5 [recommended]

Golden Eight The William Pear Liqueur
A rich liqueur with intense pear drop candy and vanilla flavours.

Hawthorn's London Dry Gin
Classic London dry in style with peppery spice and an almost spearminty Tic-Tac like freshness.

Arbor Gingerbread Saison
"Brewed with ginger" is very different to "ginger flavoured" and while ginger is present its presence is in balance with bready malt, mildly floral hops and saison yeast spice. Share a bottle - a little of this is fantastic but it's not sessionable.

Pontoon The Wingfield A Great British Gin Aperitif
Best appreciated mixed with soda, Wingfield produces a refreshing lightly (very lightly) alcoholic long drink suited to a summer's afternoon. A complex blend of citrus, elderflower, cumber and spices, its cucumber and mild grapefruit that shine. It could use a tad more alcohol so consider fortifying your serve or it could be a very dull afternoon.

Label 5 Classic Black Blended Scotch Whisky
A value price point and chocolaty malt with green apply fruit makes this easy drinking blend an attractive proposition.

Moritz Cervesa Pale Pilsner
A light pale lager with good white baguette crust maltiness best enjoyed on a hot day in its home town of Barcelona.

Longmorn The Distiller's Choice Speyside Single Malt Scotch whisky
Red apple, cinnamon, banoffee pie, vanilla custard and crystallised ginger.

Sharp's Sea Fury Special Ale
Bready caramel malt with moderately bitter piney hops.

Malfy Con Limone Gin
As the name suggests, creamy lemon curd and lemon zest dominate this gin to the extent that it is perhaps more a lemon distillate with other subtle botanical influences than it is, strictly speaking a gin. Hence, our categorising as a 'new western gin'. However, Malfy's lemon freshness does make this an appealing distillate.

La Vieja Licoreria Black Tea Liqueur (Licor de Te Negro)
Black tea leaves with subtle smoky aromas and faint notes of orange and dark berries.

Victory Vital IPA
Assertive hop bitterness, as you'd expect of an American IPA, with a wide range of hop flavours over a solid malty base, but perhaps with slightly overly dominant pine notes.

Difford's Guide rating 3.5/5 [commended]

Our London Vodka
Superbly clean and neutral in style. Same about the base level 37.5% alc./vol. for such a premium priced vodka. For that reason, we can't recommend it, hence the 3.5/5 rating.

808 Blended Grain Scotch Whisky
Light in colour, body and some would argue flavour, this grain whisky has subtle notes of light honey, buttery wheat, chocolate and popcorn. The over £30 price point seems a tad punchy for this liquid and packaging.

Moritz Epidor Cervesa Extra
At 7.2% alc./vol. this imperial pils packs a punch, disguised by caramel sweetness.

Difford's Guide rating 3/5 [mediocre]

Moritz Aiguage Bière Sans Alcohol
Arguably a beer is not a beer without alcohol. It certainly seems challenging to make an alcohol-free beer that tastes good. This is another valiant but disappointing attempt from Barcelona.

Click here products reviewed in March 2016

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