“The Ultimate” Islay Single Malt Scotch
Every year Ardbeg, the makers of the peatiest scotch whisky, do a special release and this year it’s called Ardbog. It has a very small allocation – we only got one bottle and that’s all we will ever get.
Ardbeg is known for being super intense- even for an Islay Scotch – with a brush fire smokiness and big peat across the entire thing from start to finish.
This one takes it a step further, amping up the peat to almost unprecedented levels but then balancing it with notes of sweetness and a hint of brine.
They describe it as…
“A rare vatting of different styles of Ardberg where rich salty whiskies are balanced with softer, sweeter casks to create a dram of great depth and peaty complexity.”
We found it to be…
“Very much like being punched in the mouth by a boxing glove that was lit on fire, but… you know… in the good way.”
Please don’t misunderstand us… WE LOVE THIS SCOTCH!
Originally released in 1997, as a lighter alternative to regular Tanqueray, then promptly discontinued four years later, Malacca was one of the first offerings to venture away from the rigid traditions of London Dry-style gins well before the renaissance of both forgotten classic-styles (like Old Tom) and the radical experimentation that we’re enjoying today. In fact, Cocktail historian, David Wondrich, at the time suggested Malacca as an alternative to Old Tom gin in the classic cocktails that call for it, since it was almost impossible to find Old Tom on the market in those days.
The good news is, Malacaa is available again and we’ve got it.
Based on a 1839 recipe from Charles Tanqueray, this one of the earliest New World takes on classic London Dry. It’s softer and less junper-y that regular Tanqueray, with obvious hints of grapefruit.
Malacca is a good starter gin if London Dry’s a bit much for you and you want to ease your way in.
Or, if you’re a fan of regular Tanqueray and want to venture out in the direction of the New World styles, this would be a natural transition.
Mark, our bar manager, remembers the original release fondly,
“When there were so few new, interesting choices in the gin world, this was a bit of a revelation.”
And, quickly adds…
“I’d put it in a Martinez in a second.”
Desert Dry is a New World style from Flagstaff, AZ, distilled at an elevation of 7000 feet in the first legal distillery in Arizona.
Desert Dry claims to be crafted with eight selected botanicals (they don’t list which) “including some native to the Southwest and Sonoran desert.”
We’re not sure what the “desert” notes are other than the ones that your normally find in gin, and it’s definitely heavy on the Juniper but we also found a sweet, floral nose – with distinct notes of rich, honeyed lavender. It’s fairly viscous and not too dry.
All in all, Mark calls it,
A “fine” gin. Probably not the sort of thing you’d want in a martini but it would be very respectable “mixing” gin and the floral notes should be very nice in a G&T.
FEW American Gin
A contemporary American-style gin made just outside of Chicago.
Strong, sweet citrus on the nose with warm vanilla and hints of juniper along the body.
This is the gin we use as an example of the New World Style in our “Styles of Gin” gin flight. This modern style of gin is characterized by downplaying juniper and showcasing less traditional and uncommon botanicals.
These folks also make a bourbon and a rye now which we have on our bar back and look forward to sampling soon. Feel free to try them first and let us know what you think.
You can learn more about them at their web site here.
Islay Dry Gin
This is one of our bar manager, Mark’s current favorites.
Mark has long been a fan and student of Scotch distilling traditions so when he found himself in charge of the world’s largest gin bar, he started working his way through the great new Scottish gins and this was a clear and immediate standout.
Made from 9 traditional gin botanicals and 22 handpicked native Islay botanicals (that’s where the super smokey, super peaty Scotches are made), it’s then distilled in a copper Lamond still nicknamed “Ugly Betty.”
It’s a New World-style gin but it holds to its London Dry roots – like London Dry with a twist. Look for citrus and mint on the nose and a rich, earthy flavor.
Mark calls it…
One of the most surprising, interesting spirits I have ever had…
He recommends drinking it first and foremost neat, in a glass, but it would also make a terrific Corpse Reviver #2
You can learn more about them at their web site….http://www.bruichladdich.com/the-botanist-islay-dry-gin/the-botanist
Uncle Val’s Botanical Gin
This is a favorite of almost every bartender in the place and what the owner has his Martini made from most often.
We’ve included info from their marketing materials below but John Peet probably expresses best what we all we love about this libation,
A great bar regular of ours recently got me a bottle and I took it on a camping trip and drank it around a fire with 3 of my favorite people in the world. That gin will always have a place in my heart, they are a newcomer in the game I believe that bottle was from their 11th batch. It has a taste that can go perfectly with a relaxing evening like that one.
It is smooth with a sweet meyer lemon taste.
It is an awesome combination of refreshment and juniper that was perfect for a summer night.
From their web site…
Uncle Val’s is a small-batch botanical gin
inspired by Zio Valerio’s love of gardening
and native tuscan cuisine.
The botanicals are not only Uncle Val’s
favorite cooking ingredients,
but also happen to make an
exceptionally unique and smoothly delicious gin.
- JUNIPER: the quintessential gin ingredient, juniper adds a dash of that distinctive “gin” taste to Uncle Val’s.
- CUCUMBER: adds a cooling effect to the taste, along with subtle freshness cues.
- LEMON: the citrus zing provides balance amongst the botanicals, along with the added benefit of crispness.
- SAGE: derived from the phrase “to be saved,” sage has been held in high regard throughout history both for it’s culinary and medicinal properties. Helps make you feel more alert, calm and contented, with the effects lasting.
- LAVENDER: historically used for its calming effect, it reduces stress, aids in sleep.
And their suggested recipes…