New Scotch whisky and liuerur items




MAY DELIGHTS
The Spirits and Beer Buying Guide for this month is a potpourri that features many new Scotch whisky and liqueur items. The Scotch whisky reviews focus on Scotches that have been retooled for 2003. The Bowmore 25 Year Old from Islay has been reformulated by the distiller. This was due to a temporary changeover in the distillery's barrel stocks from old bourbon barrels to sherry butts during the barreling of this particular whisky. The result is a sweeter, more wine-like 25 Year Old Bowmore that flies in the face of what one normally thinks Bowmore to be. This issue also highlights the reissue of Ambassador Blended Scotches, a well-respected line of whiskies from Scotland that were known for their light, approachable character. Ambassador whiskies had been off the market for many years. It's good to see them back.

Liqueurs are one of the most demanding spirits to evaluate because of the intense, sometimes overbearing aromas, textures and flavors. They have to be seriously good for me to give them a nod. This month, I discuss some of the genuine treasures I've come across of late, including the lovely liqueurs from Domenis and Douce Provence.

Last, I take a brief look at a handful of the nicest lambic and fruit beers currently making the rounds. Lambics are most typically top-fermented ales that have been flavored with fruit, first created in Belgium in the 15th century. Lambics differ from fruit beers in that they are made within the recognized lambic region of Belgium. Both styles provide superb, refreshing warm weather drinking. So when the temperature starts climbing in your backyard, think lambic and fruit beers.

—F. Paul Pacult

 

SCOTCH WHISKY

CLASSIC (96-100)/Highest Recommendation
Bowmore 25 Year Old Islay Single Malt Whisky (Scotland; White Rock Distilleries, Lewiston, ME); 43% abv, $160. A new recipe, one that employs a higher proportion of Sherry-influenced whisky. Initial sniffings are briny, salty and cotton candy sweet; aeration adds scents of pastry, baked pear and butterscotch. Palate entry is rich, almost jammy and peppered with salty/winey flavors; midpalate explodes with deep tastes of maple, honey, brown sugar and toffee. Finish is long, nicely balanced between the sea salt and the sherry, and succulent.

VERY GOOD (85-89)/Recommended
Ambassador Royal Deluxe 12 Year Old Blended Whisky (Scotland; Medek Wine & Spirits, New York, NY) 43% abv, $20. Pretty pale amber. Initial sniffings detect concentrated, nutty and semisweet aromas; aroma develops in the copita and emits notes of butterscotch, almond butter and dry cereal. In the mouth it's firm, intensely grainy; at midpalate the taste profile turns caramel-like. Finishes well, with succulent flavors of nut butter, sweet oak and caramel. Best Buy.

Glengoyne Limited Edition Scottish Oak Wood Finish Central Highlands Single Malt Whisky (Scotland; Skyy Spirits, New York, NY) 43% abv, $66. Opening aroma is soft, malty and even a dash peppery; bouquet deepens considerably in the glass, emitting succulent scents of light caramel, marshmallow and almond butter. Palate entry is tight, lean and gently sweet and malty; midpalate stage shows lovely, moderately complex flavors of cocoa, black coffee, oak resin and cake frosting. Aftertaste is long, grainy sweet and austere.

AVERAGE (80-84)
Ambassador Deluxe 25 Year Old Blended Whisky (Scotland; Medek Wine & Spirits, New York, NY) 43% abv, $100. Rather meek aromas of dark caramel, old oak and sweet grain fall short of the mark. Palate entry shows some assertiveness; at midpalate this whisky awakens, offering opulent, textured, semi-dry tastes of oak, cereal grain, oatmeal. Aftertaste is more grainy than woody.

LIQUEURS

CLASSIC (96-100)/Highest Recommendation
Domenis Kosher Amaro (Italy; Fiume Wines, Inc., Los Angeles, CA); 28% abv, $50. Organic. Bouquet is delicate, lightly bitter and elegant and doesn't hammer one's olfactory sense into submission; there's gentle orange peel, orris root, anise, bark and angelica; the best amaro bouquet I've ever evaluated. Palate entry is mellow, semisweet, not in the least bitter and botanical; midpalate shows exceptional balance, with a taste emphasis on orange zest. Finishes gently on the tongue. Runs rings around every other amaro out there.

SUPERB (90-95)/Highly Recommended

Domenis Kosher Sambuca (Italy; Fiume Wines, Inc., Los Angeles, CA); 40% abv, $50. Organic. Crystal clear. Nose at opening is razor-sharp and totally focused on the anise; the aroma expands to include deep licorice and wet stone. Palate entry is sweet; strong, licorice/anise midpalate. Aftertaste is long, medium-viscous, semisweet and luscious. Definitely one of the finest sambucas.

Douce Provence Poire Williams & Cognac French Liqueur (France; Crillon Importers, Ltd, Paramus, NJ); 30% abv, $25. Pale flaxen color. Opening whiffs pick up lightly spiced fragrances of pears and white raisins; together, the pear and cognac provide an elegant, delicate bouquet that's soft, fruity and understated. Palate entry is tart immediately, then quickly turns semisweet as the pear influence overtakes the brandy component. Aftertaste is semisweet, ripe, fruity and intensely pear-like. A world-class liqueur, period. Best Buy.

VERY GOOD (85-89)/Recommended
Luxardo Sambuca Cream (Italy; Preiss Imports, Ramona, CA); 17% abv, $20. Initial nosings pick up a solid scent of beany espresso that overrides the cream and sambuca elements; air contact sees the cream take command as the espresso recedes. Palate entry deals with the creaminess; by midpalate, the anise/licorice spirit base makes itself known as the espresso all but disappears. Aftertaste is creamy and pleasant.

Paul Masson Chocolate Hazelnut Cream Liqueur (USA); 17% abv, $13. Milky beige. Faint odors of milk chocolate and mild cream emerge in the opening two minutes of sniffing; after four minutes, the hazelnut/spice fragrance kicks in, providing a moderately pleasant bouquet experience. Palate entry is semisweet, mildly creamy and a touch spicy; midpalate taste is more developed and defined as the hazelnut comes to the fore. Finishes plump, mildly creamy and nutty, with undertones of milk chocolate and nutmeg. Best Buy.

AVERAGE (80-84)
Paul Masson Mocha Caramel Cream Liqueur (USA); 17% abv, $13. Looks like chocolate milk. Initial nosing passes pick up intensely milky, but not necessarily creamy, aromas, with a minor hint of caramel; later whiffs detect more of the caramel but not much of the mocha. Palate entry is fat, nicely creamy but with no definable flavor presence; midpalate stage continues with the nondescript, bittersweet taste that's neither caramel- nor mocha-like. Aftertaste is mildly sweet and creamy but lackluster and fat. Drinkable, but only ordinary.

LAMBIC and
FRUIT BEERS


CLASSIC (96-100)/Highest Recommendation
Lindemans Peche Peach Lambic (Belgium; Merchant du Vin, Seattle, WA). Mildly turbid, dusty orange color; white foam. It owns the most enticing bouquet of any lambic I've tasted; ripe peach, sweet fruit pulp fragrance. In the mouth, the peach flavor is acidic and tart at entry, then it turns succulent, ripe and sweet, but never plump or cloying. Finishes long, clean, crisp and intensely peach-like. Unbelievably true to the fruit source.

SUPERB (90-95)/Highly Recommended
Liefmans Goudenband (Belgium; Wetten Importers, Inc., Lorton, VA). Deep brown, tawny hue; beige foam. Warm, grainy scents at first, then nuts, toasted bread aromas. The cleanness of it refreshes the palate as sweet, biscuity flavors of dried fruit and sugary bread impress the taste buds. Aftertaste is extended, elegant and nutty.

Lindemans Kriek Cherry Lambic (Belgium; Merchant du Vin, Seattle, WA).
Deep crimson/ruby hue; pink foam. The sweet, ripe black cherry aroma is nuanced and seductive. On palate, the taste explodes on the tongue, offering concentrated flavors of hardcore black cherry and blackberry. Aftertaste is razor-edged, refreshing, tart and acidic. Loved it from start to finish.

VERY GOOD (85-89)/Recommended
Liefmans Frambozenbier Raspberry (Belgium; Wetten Importers, Inc., Lorton, VA). Brackish, red/brown tone; beige foam. The intensity of the ripe fruit aroma is a revelation; beyond the fruit is a blast of yeast. In the mouth, it's light, tart. Finishes cleanly.

AVERAGE (80-84)
Belle-Vue Kriek Cherry Ale (Belgium; Labatt USA, Norwalk, CT ). Gorgeous cherry wood/ruby hue; faint white foam. Bing cherry nose is sweet, almost soda pop-like. More sweet than sour in the nose. Tastes of ripe red cherries; no subtlety or complexity here. Aftertaste is limp. Drinkable, but ordinary.

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