New Spirits to Brighten Your Day

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  • By Randy Kemner
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New Spirits to Brighten Your Day

Rieger's Kansas City Whiskey


Rieger's whiskey was made from 1887 until Prohibition shut down operation in 1919, a familiar story.  Brought back to life in the late 1990s, the distinctive "Kansas City style" whiskey adds a dash of oloroso sherry to its 90% corn, wheat and rye whiskies to create a unique style.  Bottled at 46% alcohol (92 proof), this whicky offers a tremendous rich color and viscosity.  The flavor is equally rich, and quite nice to sip.  Bravo.

$39.99 per bottle


Hillrock Estate Distillery Solera Aged Bourbon Whiskey

Hudson Valley, New York


With roots that go back to 1806, the Hudson Valley produced quality whiskies until Prohibition.  Then in the 1990s, there was an effort to revive the Hillrock Estate with a hand-crafted re-do, the results of which didn't hit the market until a couple years ago.  Created by legendary the late master distiller David Pickerell (Maker's Mark, Whistlepig), Hillrock Bourbon utilizes all its grains grown in New York, then it employs a system similar to that of sherry production, replenishing the older liquid with the new to create more consistency and complexity.  With a seductive aroma of caramel, this 92 proof super-premium bourbon offers a round, plush texture.  The distinctive block bottle also exudes luxury.

$94.99 per bottle


Garrison Brothers Distillery Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel

Hye, Texas


In a few short years, the Garrison Brothers distillery, located 60 miles west of Austin in Texas hill country, has created quite a stir in the craft spirit community.  Created in 2006 with the first whiskey launched in 2010, Garrison Brothers takes full advantage of its limestone aquifer and except for its midwest barley, uses locally sourced ingredients like red winter wheat and 74% white American corn from the Texas panhandle.  Aged four years and bottled at 94 proof, the distillers select the very finest barrels for their single barrel bottling.  With a deep amber color and a rich flavor that includes a hint of clove in the finish, this super-premium Bourbon is an accomplished creation.

$104.99 per bottle


Belle Meade Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Madeira Casks

Nashville, Tennessee

Belle Meade Bourbon whiskey is made by Greenbrier Distillery using sour mash.  This hand-numbered bottling is a blend of six to nine year old Bourbons finished in used Madeira casks.  The resulting whiskey is richer and smoother than either the straight and sherry-casked bottlings.  With a deep amber color, noticable caramel in the aroma, it has a round texture and a warm, lingering flavor.  But it's the aroma I keep going back to.  It's a joy to drink neat.

$79.99 per bottle


Surprises Out of Paso: Wine Shine Brandies


Late in January, I met with Michael Blash, one of the owners and distillers for a new operation in the "Tin City" complex in south Paso Robles.  His products, cleverly named Wine Shine, are distilled from wines produced by some of the region's most sought-after wineries, including Paso superstars Saxum and Denner.  Moreover, many of the brandies are aged in used barrels from the same wineries.


Until now, the only domestic brandy we've offered has been the great Germain-Robin from Mendocino.  The others are either too rough or too tepid.  Until now, that is.  Wine Shine's brandies--both the straight-up kinds and flavor-infused offerings--make brilliant use of their column stills and the richness of their source fruit to create some impressive brandies.  (Because of their sweetness, we'll be merchandising the 80 proof Orange and Cinnamon brandies in our liqueur section.)  The distillery also makes a solid vodka under the Tin City label.


I encourage you to give them all a try.


Wine Shine Clear Brandy, Paso Robles

Brandy triple-distilled from premium grapes, without use of oak barrels and bottled at 90 proof.  It provides an aromatic alternative to vodka.  Silky texture, clean flavor and satisfying finish.  The distillery recommends sipping neat, over a bit of ice, and accompanying Brandy Alexander and the Sazerac cocktail.

$39.99 per bottle


Wine Shine Oaked Brandy, Paso Robles

Aged two years in barrel, Wine Shine Brandy has a rich aroma, smooth texture and a lovely flavor that leans more toward the great brandies of Jerez than those of Cognac or Armagnac.

$39.99 per bottle


Wine Shine "Barrel Mates" Reserve Brandy, Paso Robles


Aged four years in barrel, this rare brandy has every virtue of the younger offering, but with more intensity in every direction--aroma, flavor, finish.  Although it is just four years old, it belongs alongside the great Germain-Robin brandies as the finest this country produces.

$54.99 per bottle


Wine Shine Orange Flavored Brandy, Paso Robles

More potent than Cointreau or Grand Marnier, this orange flavored 80 proof brandy has been infused with 100 pounds of orange peels for every barrel, a third of which were burned to bring more intense flavors.  Pleasantly sweet, beautifully flavored, Wine Shine Orange Brandy can be enjoyed on its own or as a classy ingredient in your next cocktail creation.  The distillery suggests creating a California Side-Car, an "amazing margarita", over ice or neat.

$39.99 per bottle


Wine Shine Cinnamon Flavored Brandy, Paso Robles

If you're expecting a sweet, sticky mess like Fireball, look elsewhere, because Wine Shine Cinnamon Brandy isn't made for bikers and 19 year old girls with fake IDs.  It is an 80 proof, lightly sweet oak-aged brandy with the flavor of real cinnamon sticks and carmelized simple syryp, not some chemical additive made by a food scientist in New Jersey.  It is pleasurable to sip, and a creative home mixolist can have a ball thinking up combinations of ingredients to make memorable cocktails.  The distillery suggests complementing egg nog, coffee, rum, rye and aged whiskeys, in addition to simply sipping it.

$39.99 per bottle


Usquaebach Blended Scotch Whisky 2016 Release

Over the years, I've seen the distinctive crock bottle in high-end spirits stores' locked cases, but until recently had never sampled it.  Using a blend of 41 single malts, it has a pleasant sweet not to the attractive flavor.  Not peaty until a faint smoky taste emerges in the finish, this special whisky, dubbed "The Grand Whisky", will be a handsome addition to any scotch lover's back bar.

$124.99 per bottle


Ilegal Mezcal Joven, Oaxaca, Mexico

If you want to try a well-made textbook Mezcal., this is a good place to start.  Ilegal began as a project made for a clandestine Guatemalan nightclub, but over the past decade refined itself to be made only from sustainable ingredients in a hand-made, artisanal fashion.  It has a perfectly-realized smoky flavor, full in the mouth.

$47.99 per bottle


Suntory Roku Gin, The Japanese Craft Gin

Produced & Bottled in Japan


For years the world's craft gin distilleries were trying to mimic London Dry Gin, using juniper and as many traditional botanicals as they could acquire.  More recently, craft distillers have responded to the locavore movement and added locally grown ingredients to their gins in an attempt to make them more individual and unique.  Such is the case of Roku Gin, a Suntory project.


At 86 proof, Roku uses a combination of juniper and traditional botanicals and Japanese-specific botanicals Sakura flower, Yuzu peel, Sencha tea, Gyokuro tea, Sansho pepper and Sakura leaf, ingredients you are not likely to find in Great Britain.  The result is a gin with a powerful aroma and intriguing flavors, some flowery, some citrusy.  Although it is juniper-dominant, the exotic ingredients are nicely in balance. 

$32.99 per bottle


Tin City Distillery Vodka, Paso Robles

Made by the impressive brandy producer Wine Shine, this solid artisan vodka is named after the Tin City complex in south Paso Robles.  Distilled four times, the vodka has nice texture, not too soft, and is offered in a handsome bottle.

$17.99 per bottle


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