Jan 22, 2017

Chateau de Pellehaut 2001 15yo...

Chateau de Pellehaut 2001 15yo (48.6%): And I think this review will close our "malternative" January... I am running out of ammunition here at home. The bottle on my desk is an Armagnac from Tenareze region. Distilled by Chateau de Pellehaut from 100% Folle Blanche grapes and bottled exclusively for K&L Wine Merchants.

Color: Dark amber, chestnut honey. Very thin legs...

Nose: Toasted oak, copper mugs and vanilla. Chocolate milk, cinnamon and nutmeg. Sweet, creamy and milky... Zante currants, raisins and honey rock candies. Some salty and coastal aromas that I never got from an Armagnac before: Brine, wet sand and rotting wood.

Palate: Thin but extremely creamy and mouth covering texture... Such a beautiful entrance... Vanilla, cream puffs and gentle oak. Mint chocolate chip ice cream, marzipan and custard. Mille-feuille, dried strawberries, eucalyptus and nutmeg. Incredibly gentle compared to Armagnacs from Bas-Armagnac region.

Finish: Dry... Medium long with eucalyptus leaves, cinnamon and cardamom.

Overall: Last month in one of the facebook groups somebody said "That 2001 Pellehaut was the best bourbon I had all year..." It is so true... This is a great Armagnac for bourbon lovers, especially for wheated bourbon lovers. Sweet on the palate but finishes dry with loads of dried fruits and spices. Perfect combination of vanilla, mint and cream. Such a great example for its region... Way more gentle, rounder and more fruity than its cousins from Bas-Armagnac. Actually to be honest today before I posted this review while I was editing my tasting notes I poured myself another glass and raised its score a little. It's growing in me. So happy to have a bottle at home, brilliant stuff...

Price: $50

Jan 14, 2017

Louis Roque Vieille Prune...

Louis Roque Vieille Prune (42.0%): Now this is an interesting one... A brandy distilled from plums. Yes, it is kinda like an aged Slivovitz but also not... A different kind of plum known in France as "prune"  is used in the process. As you all know the name "prune" refers to any kind of dried plum in US but actually it is derived from the French word which indicates that specific kind of plum... Anyway, to avoid any confusion let's say now that it is distilled from fresh prunes in Souillac, north of Armagnac region by Louis Roque. And as I learned also from Serge Valentin a.k.a. Whisky Fun this specific type of brandy making started to create an alternative way to produce distillate after phylloxera wiped all the vineyards in France but got popular and some producers kept making it even after.

Oh, one last thing: After you manage to peel the rock solid wax from the bottle (it took me a good 15 minutes) you will see that it has a wine bottle style cork. You need a cork screw to start with and more importantly you will need to save that cork carefully because if you end up damaging it you better have an old cork lying around somewhere at home. Ok, enough talk, let's pour...

Color: Light amber, polished copper with very thin legs.

Nose: Well, plums... Yes, it noses like Slivovitz in the beginning. After allowing it to air a minute or two herbal and floral aromas evolve, almost like a cordial now. Garam masala, nutmeg and cardamom pods. Elderflowers, juniper berries and sloe gin.

Palate: Not so sweet on the palate... Maybe I was preparing myself for a liquor like palate after the nose but it's not like that. Very much like an aged Slivovitz. Toasted oak, burnt plums on a plum tart and young eau de vie. French pastry shop: Almond croissant, pain aux raisin and creamy pastry fillings. Viscous and thick.

Finish: Long with sweet burns on either side of the tongue. Definitely finishes sweeter and thicker than the palate. Chestnut honey, burnt sugar and toffee.

Overall: I liked it... Actually I liked it way more that I thought I will. Maybe because I am familiar with Eastern European plum brandies or maybe it ended up being less sweet than I though it will be but I think I will enjoy it once in a while as an digestive and a late night drink. Would I buy another bottle when it is finished? Yes, I would... Probably not right away but sometime. Nice to find something I can enjoy sipping that I was not familiar with before. Recommended to folks who like to be adventurous...

Price: $45

Jan 11, 2017

Santa Teresa 1796...

Santa Teresa 1796 Ron Antiguo de Solera (40.0%): Continuing tire-bouchon's malternative January with a rum from Venezuela... Santa Teresa 1796 is a vat of rums of various ages matured in ex-Bourbon and Cognac casks which goes through a solera process after it's blended. The solera system created by master distiller Nestor Ortega is made of four rows of French Limousin oak casks which gives an additional four years of maturation to the spirit. The process was originally built in 1992 to launch a special product for the 200th anniversary of Santa Teresa Hacienda in 1996 and has been used since then.

Color: Dark amber, old copper with a ruby hue and faint legs around the glass.

Nose: Leather upholstery, the rack of old bomber jackets in your favorite second hand shop, tobacco leaves and molasses. Dark honey, almost like buckwheat honey. Overripe baby bananas, cherry coke and Snapple fruit punch. Dried cranberries, sticky toffee pudding and honey roasted nuts like the ones thay sell from pushcarts on the streets of New York. Toasted wood, bitter almonds and freshly grated nutmeg.

Palate: Not so sweet, almost salty... Thin in texture but oily and mouth covering. Salted butter, caramel filled chocolate drops, molasses and cocoa nibs... Spicier than the nose suggested: cloves, cinnamon, allspice and tons of nutmeg. Cherry coke and bananas are present on the palate as well. Roasted nuts I had on the nose are lightly salted now: Macadamia nuts, cashews and hazelnuts. Candied orange peel, toasted coconut chunks and damson plum jam. Beautiful palate...

Finish: Long with sweet spices rather than the salty notes. Caramel, wood and quince paste.

Overall: That's my kinda rum..! Not overly sweet and well balanced. Old enough to hide all the young alcohol notes but young enough not to show any over-oaked character. Great cask management, the wood influence is as delicate as in old style sherries... Only thing I could ask would be slightly higher abv. to give a little more texture and body. For this price it is a steal,  one of my favorite rums priced under $50...

Price: $40

Jan 8, 2017

Ararat 3yo...

Ararat 3yo (40.0%): Today we have the legendary brandy from Armenia on my desk which is named after the holy mountain of Ararat... It is a double distilled spirit distilled from local grape varieties. Yerevan Brandy Company started the brand all the way back in 1887 but didn't get a steady worldwide distribution till its acquisition by Pernod Ricard in 1998. Today the distillery has a line-up of seven different expressions and this one is the youngest and cheapest in the range being only three years old. They say after being served Ararat Dvin, one of the older expressions of the seven, at Yalta Conference Winston Churchill loved it so much, Stalin started to send him a case every year till his death in 1953.

Color: Medium amber with slow legs. Quite dark for a three year old brandy... Medium amber.

Nose: Young... Cheap construction lumber, saw dust and vintage buckskin jacket. Shoe polish and new make spirit. Let's wait a couple of minutes. Totally worth it, much better now... Burnt sugar, ginger snaps and Ferrero Rocher singles. Caffé mocha, ground nutmeg and ground cloves. Very sweet...

Palate: Pretty thin mouthfeel and young alcohol burn... Cinnamon, powdered ginger and sweet chocolate chips. Burnt sugar again, quite a lot... It gets even sweeter somehow, almost like a cheap rum now. Molasses, candied orange peel and caramel bonbons. Not my cup of tea.

Finish: Medium long with mostly sugar burn. Artificial sweetener, cinnamon and honey...

Overall: This is a quite sweet brandy, definitely too sweet for my palate... I really don't remember this amount of sweetness from my earlier experiences with Ararat but it was ages ago. On the other hand that sweetness probably is helpful to cover the harshness of the young alcohol which was pretty dominant from nose to finish already. Well, the brandy is only three years old to start with... I know that the price tag is very attractive but I don't think that it is worth to purchase a bottle. At least not this one. I definitely would like to try the other expressions of the line-up though...


Price: $23

Jan 6, 2017

Blanche de Normandie...

Blanche de Normandie (40.0%): Another brandy I mentioned in the malternative of the year category in my "top ten of 2016" post but didn't have time to edit its review before the year was over.

This one is an unaged calvados from the famous Calvados producer Christian Drouin. It is distilled from apple and pear ciders made from fruits harvested from Coeur de Lion orchards.

Color: Clear with thin legs.

Nose: Cold pear compote, Honeycrisp apples and unaged grappa. Fresh green asparagus, cotton painters rags and linseed oil. The nose doesn't give it away like a distilled spirit... It noses mostly like a cider. Soft, fruity and sweet... Not a hint of young alcohol burn and/or new spirit aromas whatsoever.

Palate: Incredibly easy drinking for an unaged spirit... Oily and mouth covering texture. Apples are greener and tarter now: Golden Delicious and Granny Smith. I barely catch pear notes by the way, it is definitely more apple forward on the palate. Underripe white peaches and nectarines.

Finish: Medium long with dried apple slices and a touch of white pepper.

Overall: It is very creamy, fruity and way too easy to drink... I personally would prefer it at a higher abv. at least at high forties but it is what it is. Years and years ago in France when I saw that they serve ice creams and sorbets in little bowls topped with a generous amount of eau de vie I totally fell in love with the idea. I started to use the same trick at home ever since and I cannot wait to try this bottle the same way. Yum... If you like trying different eau de vies you should definitely add this one to your list...

Price: $50

Jan 4, 2017

Jacoulot Marc de Bourgogne...

Jacoulot Marc de Bourgogne (45.0%): Although I named this brandy the malternative of the year last week on my "top ten of 2016" list I didn't have a chance to edit my notes and post this write-up in time before the new years. So, here it is a few days later...

The brandy in the bottle is a Marc de Bourgogne. For readers who are not familiar with the name it is a pomace brandy made from the leftovers of wine making process and distilled and aged in Burgundy. Marc is a lesser known pomace brandy variety compared to its Italian cousin grappa and it actually rarely finds its way out of France. This particular one is made from waste of Pinot Noir grapes and aged for 7 years in French oak barrels. I also learned from Serge Valentin of Whisky Fun fame that the tiny note on the label which says "Extra Egrappé" means that only pressed berries are used for the mash not the stems and stalks.

Color: Light amber, orange blossom honey with thick legs around the glass.

Nose: Damp black garden soil, very old Fino sherry and overripe table grapes. Prunes, sweet soot and chalk. Freshly painted walls, latex paint, wet clay and apple cider. Dusty, sour and dirty... I could nose this forever...

Palate: Grape leaves in brine, dirt and toasted oak staves. Bitter greens, dandelion leaves and wet sand. Wild mushrooms, aged emmental cheese and spearmint leaves. Grape seeds, fresh thyme, rosemary and lambic beer. Stunning palate...

Finish: Long... With dry soil, dried fruits and mint.

Overall: I really cannot wipe the smile off my face now... Such an unpleasantly pleasant experience. From nose to finish your brain is suggesting images of aromas and notes you would normally find repulsive but in this case you end up simply enjoying them all and ask for even more. Hard to stop nosing and sipping... This is a beautiful brandy. I always loved Marcs and tried to convince people how good they can be but this bottle is the proof I was actually looking for. Every sip reminded me my Dijon and Burgundy trip back in 2011 where I first discovered Marc de Bourgogne. Highly recommended... A must try...

Price: $90 (1 liter bottle)