Three Cheering Categories



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This month, we highlight 15 new rum and vodka releases as well as eight pale ales. First, the rums. The trio of new rum selections couldn't be more different. Canne Royale Extra Old and Coyopa 10 Year Old, while both sipping rums, are at opposite ends of the aged- rum spectrum. Canne Royale is satiny-smooth, while Coyopa is robust and assertive. Both deserve to be savored on their own.

Ciclón from Bacardi is a strangely appealing blend of rum, Tequila and lime juice. The question is what to do with it, since the herbal Tequila taste overshadows the rum.

Two new unflavored classics, one from Russia, the other from California, caught my fancy. I'm growing weary of flavored vodkas, whose tutti-frutti flavors are driving me back to the real deal. Both Charbay and ZYR are top-flight products that deserve attention from vodka mavens. Charbay is the brainchild of Miles Karakasevic, proprietor of Domaine Charbay Winery and Distillery in Napa Valley. ZYR, on the other hand, flies a bit in the face of what one normally expects from vodka from Russia, the traditional home of vodkas that are noted for their hearty, let's-guzzle-another-round natures. ZYR is substantial, to be sure, but it's also feline and sophisticated.

This month's beer focus is on pale ale, the crisp, bitter, hoppy style of ale that evolved in Burton-upon-Trent, England. This dry style of ales goes well with spicy Mexican, Thai and Chinese foods. Samuel Smith's Old Brewery Pale Ale from the UK is a standout.

—F. Paul Pacult

Rum
SUPERB (90-95)/Highly Recommended

Canne Royale Extra Old Rum (Grenada; West Indies Spirits, LLC, South Jordan, UT); 40% abv, $25. Nosings pick up sweetly fragrant aromas of vanilla bean and brown sugar. Palate entry is toasty and mildly sweet; midpalate is sweeter, as sugar cookies, brown sugar, honey and vanilla bean unfold. Aftertaste is long and bittersweet.

Coyopa 10 Year Old Rum (Barbados; Sidney Frank Importing Co., New Rochelle, NY); 40% abv, $50. Zesty scents of cinnamon, oaky vanilla and cocoa. Sap and maple-like flavors bring the taste buds to full attention; by midpalate, the flavor explodes in waves of butter cream, brown sugar, honey and chocolate-covered cherries. Finish offers hints of marshmallow and dark chocolate.

VERY GOOD (85-89)/Recommended
Ciclón Bacardi Premium Gold Rum Infused with Imported Blue Agave Tequila & Natural Lime Juice (USA); 35% abv, $14. Made from Puerto Rican rum, lime juice and 100% agave Tequila. First sniffings are dominated by the tart perfume of fresh-squeezed lime juice; aeration heightens the lime juice intensity. Palate entry is dry, herbal; by midpalate, it's obvious that the rum is merely a base for the Tequila-lime-juice combo. Best Buy.

 

Vodka
CLASSIC (96-100)/Highest Recommendation
Charbay Vodka (USA; Domaine Charbay Winery & Distillery, St. Helena, CA); 40% abv, $27. Opening nosing passes detect subtle toasty, charcoal aromas. Entry is off-dry to sweet and properly oily; sweet graininess dominates the midpalate. Aftertaste is long, bittersweet and delectably oily. Fashioned more in the plump, sweet style of Holland than eastern Europe (thick, hearty) or Scandinavia (light, flowery). Best Buy.

ZYR Russian Vodka (Russia; Symphony Importers, Manhasset, NY); 40% abv, $32. A combination of wheat and rye grains. Firm, assertive aromas of grain mash, wheat biscuit and distant dried herbs enchant; aeration adds wet slate, minerals and seedless rye bread. Palate entry reflects the spirit's Russian heritage as the dry to off-dry taste of grain mash blankets the tongue in richly textured waves; potent but silky flavors of concentrated grain, breakfast cereal and black peppercorn impress at midpalate. Aftertaste is herbal and mildly sweet.

SUPERB (90-95)/Highly Recommended
42 BELOW Vodka (New Zealand; Preiss Imports, Ramona, CA); 42% abv, $25. Smells of wet cement or damp stones in the initial minutes before the aromas shift gears, offering toasty, ash-like, smoky scents of tobacco leaf, roasted cereals, pencil eraser and vegetable oil. Palate entry shows an oily texture and tastes of charcoal and mildly sweet grain; midpalate displays well-structured flavors of lead pencil, off-dry grain and licorice. Finishes full in the mouth, acceptably fiery and off-dry.

Ciroc Snap Frost Vodka (France; Schieffelin & Somerset, New York, NY); 40% abv, $30. Owns a peculiar bouquet reminiscent of turkey dressing. Palate entry is sweet, ripe and grapey, a complete 180-degree turn from the odd bouquet; midpalate highlights the sweet, fruity ripeness to the point where it starts to resemble grappa. Finish is delightfully sweet, polished and elegant.

Russia Vodka (Russia; Donya Ltd., Brooklyn, NY); 40% abv, $30.
Quadruple-distilled whole wheat and rye mashes. Nose showcases dill, a pinch of black pepper and a dash of off-dry grain mash; aeration adds licorice and rubber eraser. Palate entry is herbal; midpalate highlights silky and oily tastes of black pepper, linseed oil, charcoal and pipe tobacco. Aftertaste is long, satiny and a touch hot.

Svoboda Vodka (Russia; MBT Wine & Spirits, Hallandale, FL); 40% abv, $10.
Shows typical Russian aromas of off-dry grain mash, light dried herbs, smoke and charcoal. Sweet, grainy, almost candied tastes on entry lead to spirity fire, sweet grain and coconut oil. Finish is long, embers-warm, intensely sweet and charcoal-like. Best Buy.

Turi Vodka (Estonia; Casdon Importing Co., Miami, FL); 40% abv, $30. Quadruple-distilled rye grain mash. Bouquet is mildly spicy. Turi is light-to-medium in body, not oily at all and bittersweet in a grainy, flowery, fresh-off-the-still manner. Finish is long, lean, floral and sweet.

Vincent Van Gogh Pineapple Vodka (Holland; Luctor International, Reno, NV); 35% abv, $30. Bouquet is like freshly cut pineapple. Palate entry is sweet and fruity; by the midpalate it's the viscous texture that's as attractive as the intense pineapple flavor. Finishes sweet and fruity.

VERY GOOD (85-89)/Recommended
Beryozka Vodka (Russia; Donya Ltd., Brooklyn, NY); 40% abv, $11. Triple-distilled whole wheat and rye mashes. Opening bouquet has a touch of dill; aeration brings out scents of slate, minerals, dry grain and lead pencil. Palate entry is mildly prickly, and offers tastes of dry-roasted cereal grain and black pepper. Aftertaste is medium long, off-dry and moderately rich in texture. Best Buy.

Black Diamond Vodka (USA); 40% abv, $17. Understated aromas of chalk and grain mash; only meek scents of scallion and metal develop with air. Palate entry is sweet and properly grainy; the flavor menu expands at midpalate to include cocoa butter and sesame oil. Aftertaste is long and semisweet.

Jazz Vodka (Poland; Stanley Stawski Distributing Co., Chicago, IL); 40% abv, $15. Early nosings pick up intense, grain-like aromas; aeration bolsters the concentrated, dry graininess but adds pungent supplemental scents of burning rubber, charcoal, baked beans and cigarette ash. Palate entry is sweet, grainy and a bit muted; midpalate is semisweet, oily and concentrated. Finish is long, sweet and grainy.
Best Buy.


Levsha Vodka (RusFed; Donya Ltd., Brooklyn, NY); 40% abv, $11.
Triple-distilled whole wheat and rye mashes. Displays the prototypical Russian vodka bouquet that's equal parts grain, herbs (especially dill) and black pepper. Palate entry features sweet grain and a pleasantly oily texture; midpalate flavors of charcoal, tobacco smoke and lead pencil add to the strong grain flavors. Aftertaste is oily, medium-long and as herbal as it is grainy. Best Buy.

Pale Ales
SUPERB (90-95)/Highly Recommended
Samuel Smith's Old Brewery Pale Ale (England; Merchant du Vin, Seattle, WA). Firm, yeasty, sour apple, fresh spring garden bouquet. Sweet, raisiny flavor at palate entry; hoppy and fruity at midpalate with a final touch of coffee bean. Lush and elegant aftertaste.

VERY GOOD (85-89)/Recommended
Blue Point Pale Ale (USA). Dry to off-dry scents of yeast, sourdough and yellow fruit impress the olfactory sense. Smooth and silky on the tongue, showing zesty tastes of dry cereal and flowery hops.

Brooklyn Brewery East India Pale Ale (USA).
Bouquet offers opening aromas of ripe apricots and malt; later sniffs detect pears, hops and light malt. Pear and apricot notes continue through midpalate. Aftertaste is soft and keenly bitter.

Shipyard India Pale Ale (USA). Smells like a bakery just when it opens, yeasty, doughy, moderately sweet and sour. Tastes of bittersweet hard candy, just-baked bread. Finishes bittersweet, silky and moderately hoppy.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (USA). Nose is hoppy and floral, with nuances of spice and yeast. Crisp and tart, almost bitter, at palate entry; midpalate is yeasty and hoppy. Finishes mildly sweet and fruity.

Young's Ram Rod Pale Ale (England; Belukus Marketing, Inc, Austin, TX). Bouquet of sweet, toasted cereal, caramel and cocoa. On palate, trim, bone-dry taste shows roasted barley and anise. Long, potent finish features roasted barley malt.

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