Spirited Reviews August 2016

Words by Simon Difford

The following are new products we've received and other products reviewed during August 2016. Products are listed according to the Difford’s Guide rating awarded to them.

Please click on product names for full tasting notes and further information.

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

Cardamaro Amaro
Reminiscent of sweet vermouth, amaro and oloroso sherry combined with a slight oxidised madeira varnish note. Wonderfully complex and quaffable.

Normandin Mercier Rare Petite Champagne Cognac
Fabulously complex with attractive toasted nuttiness and dried fruit.

Difford's Guide rating 5/5 [exceptional]

Bepi Tosolini I Legni Rovere
A grappa to challenge the best cognacs, with a delicate spice that perhaps better suits sipping with a cigar. Wonderfully toasty and nutty with rich vanilla.

Flying Dog Tropical Bitch Belgian Style IPA
Superbly balanced and flavoursome with sweet ripe tropical fruit countered by dry resinous pine, steely and earthy hops, along with sour zesty grapefruit. Complex and delicious.

7 Fjell Ulriken Double IPA
At a whopping 8.5% alc./vol. this is hardly a session IPA. It has an equally huge flavour. It's a big beer, but it's no hop bomb - hop notes are in balance with sweet cereal and caramel.

Normandin-Mercier Grand Champagne XO Cognac
Dry and complex with nuts, tobacco and dry spiced oak enriched with dried and candied fruit.

Normandin Mercier Vieille Fine Cognac
Characterful, robust in structure and beautifully balanced with toasty oak tannins and dry nuttiness offset by rich plum, madeira cake and fruit cake, enlivened by warming Christmassy spice.

Normandin Mercier VSOP Petite Champagne Cognac
Fruity and spicy. Ripe apricot and cherry with zesty citrus offset by enlivening black pepper spice and dry oak complexity.

Difford's Guide rating 4.5/5 [excellent]

Porter's Gin
Clean, zesty and complex with brawny peppercorn spice.

Haig Club Clubman
There are other grain Scotch whiskies that we prefer, but none offer such a combination of packaging, price and liquid. Clubman is a masterclass in product, packaging and branding by Diageo. We await the marketing campaign with interest.

Kirki Break The Sell Ale
Well-balanced with a creamy mouthfeel. Piney and grassy hops sit in kilter with white bread crust malt.

Freedom Prototype Pale Ale
Dry and hoppy but not overly so. Cleansing zesty citrus and resinous pine.

Thomas & Evans No.1 (T&E No.1)
As non-alcohol carbonated drinks go, especially considering its mere 99 calories per bottle, T&E No.1 is excellent, offering temperance drinkers a refreshing alternative. Best summered up as being low in carbonation, dilute sparkling green apple juice with a hint of lime and subtle herbal complexity.

Au Vodka
The shiny gold bottle may appeal to those seeking bling. The vodka inside is of a good quality - clean and fairly neutral with faint cereal character. Hard to fault.

Difford's Guide rating 4/5 [recommended]

Peychaud's Aperitivo Liqueur
As bitter Italian aperitivos go, Peychaud's is on the light side - slightly drier and rootier than Aperol but much tamer than the likes of Campari. Low in alcohol, this is a middle of the road crowd-pleasing Aperitivo.

Σόλο Αμερικάνα (Solo Americana) Pale Ale
An American west coast style IPA with accompanying dominating hops that's brewed in Norway for a Greek brand owner. This pale ale is tasty despite its identity issues.

Σόλο (Solo Psaki) Χωριάτικη Saison
Highly carbonated, dry, yeasty and lightly spiced with pale malts and tangy bitter hops.

Juniper Green Organic London Dry Gin
Classically London dry in style with piney juniper, black pepper spice and generous zesty lemon. Juniper Green boasts organic credentials but a minimum alc./vol..

Difford's Guide rating 3.5/5 [commended]

Canal Dive Brown Ale
Toffee and dark caramel dominates this brown ale with light resinous pine hops contributing welcome bitterness. Faint chocolate and coffee.

Argo Golden Ale
A likeable flavoursome ale with heavy yeasty Marmite-like notes.

Difford's Guide rating 3/5 [mediocre]

Nestville Northern Spis County Whisky
Spice dominates this whisky with toasty oak and nuts.

Gusto Cola
A cola for the health and environmentally couscous, but perhaps not for those who are used to and like the flavours of more mainstream colas. Finish lets this righteous cola down.

Difford's Guide rating 2.5/5 [disappointing]

St Peter's Without Alcohol Free Beer
We've found most of the "alcohol free lagers" we've sampled disappointing, yet had high hopes for this "alcohol free ale" by St Peter's, sadly we found it equally unbeer-like. Perhaps have a nice cup of tea instead.

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

Difford's Guide rating 1.5/5 [shameful]

Difford's Guide rating 1.5/5 [disgusting]

Click here products reviewed in July 2016