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Review – Kansas Clean Distilled Whiskey

Posted by Reese On November - 11 - 2011

Kansas Clean Distilled WhiskeyKansas Clean Distilled Whiskey, or simply Kansas for short, is “a new whiskey for new whiskey drinkers”.  Their process starts with artisanal whiskey and column distilled winter wheat spirit.  These are blended to make a very light and tremendously smooth whiskey.  But is whiskey really the right word.  Yeah, I’d say so.  A couple years ago I might have been willing to get up on my soapbox and spout off about how this isn’t true whiskey and blah, blah, blah.

But you know, maybe I’ve mellowed a bit, or maybe my ideas have simply changed.  Thing is, a few years back I could have said similar words about the new gins coming on the market.  Words like, “they’re wussing up the gin”, “where’s that familiar juniper punch”, etc.  Over those years though, the gins I would have been criticizing are now some of my favorites and gins now completely run the spectrum.

So, what’s Kansas taste like?  It’s smooth and very mild.  The color is very light parchment (think ivory resume paper).  The nose is light with aromas of vanilla and light spices central.  The flavor follows the nose every step of the way.  The vanilla notes are central with super light hints of spice coming through.  Overall you get the core flavors of whiskey in a very light, mellow package.

Kansas Clean Distilled Whiskey Sour

I wanted to try this whiskey in a cocktail so I mixed up one of my favorites, a classic whiskey sour.  I dropped the bitters to almost nothing, trying to let the flavors of this whiskey come through, if only lightly.  And that they were.  I used one dash of my Hess’ House Bitters.  The vanilla of the whiskey came through lightly in the background but the bitters, albeit a small amount, added most of the spice flavors.  The drink was tasty, but lacked the whiskey flavors that I feel are key to the overall profile.

So here’s my honest truth.  I’m a whiskey guy and this isn’t the whiskey for me.  It’s too light.  When I pour a glass of whiskey or mix it into a cocktail I do it because I want to taste it.  Where I see Kansas coming in is as a gateway whiskey for people who want to start drinking whiskey, but want to start slow.  Start with this, you’ll get the base flavors in a delicious package and once you’re comfortable you can move to the next level.  Maybe an Irish Whiskey or a blended scotch.

† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.

Roundhouse Spirits

Posted by Reese On November - 8 - 2011

I love it when the little guy survives against the odds and ends up thriving.  It’s the classic story of the underdog and I can’t help but think that applies to the story of Roundhouse Spirits.  Started in 2008 in a small garage in Longmont, Colorado, Roundhouse first produced only gin, one micro batch at a time.  They distilled each batch from grain neutral spirits and hand selected botanticals in a 3 gallon still.  The batches were so small that some of the bontanicals measured only one increment on their scale.  That meant they could easily add anywhere from half to double the amount they were wanting for each ingredient.  This resulted in vast swings in the flavor profile for each batch (a single 6 bottle case).

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Full Picture Set on Flickr

While some people loved  this variation and micro batching, the distiller, Ted Palmer, definitely did not.  You see, he hand bottled every batch.  From filling to corking to labeling and sealing, it was all done with his two hands and bent back.  But, don’t feel too bad for them yet.  This is where the story gets really good.  Roundhouse was met with glowing reviews and became popular.  This has allowed the distillery to expand.

Moving to new digs in Boulder, complete with two stills, a brass and steel mash tun, storage room and, to Ted’s great appreciation, a small bottling line and labeler.  This move has done a few things for Roundhouse.  First, it’s allowed them to smooth out the wild variations in their product.  Sure, you’ll still get variation since they’re producing small batches, but it won’t be nearly as wide as it was originally.  Second, it’s allowed them to increase production.  This is just plain good all around.  Third, it’s allowed them to start experimenting and creating new products.

Roundhouse still produces their two core products.  Roundhouse gin, their first and still flagship spirit, now has some credentials behind it.  Since they started production, Roundhouse gin has won a gold medal from the International Review of Spirits and a bronze medal from the 2010 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.  Very nicely done!  Corretto, their coffee liqueur, remains the best coffee liqueur I’ve ever sampled.  It’s crisp and clean.  They keep it lightly sweet by using really great coffee locally roasted at the Unseen Bean.  This really good coffee keeps the bitterness down.  Thus, less sugar is needed to tame it all.

In addition to these core spirits, Roundhouse is now producing two other offerings.  Starting in March of 2011, in very small quantities, in Colorado only, you could get your hands on their Imperial Barrel Aged Gin.  Ted summed this up really nicely when he said that a lot of the local bartenders call this ginskey.  It combines the flavors of gin with the barrel aged flavors of a whiskey.  As such, it plays really well, and extremely interestingly, in both gin and whiskey cocktails.  Starting more or less right now (Nov 2011) Roundhouse will start offering an agave spirit.  Can’t really call it tequila, so they’ve decided to call it Tatonka.  Based on pure blue agave nectar this spirit is tremendously smooth while maintaining the agave flavors.  Since Ted leaves out the heads, which some tequila producers leave in for added flavor, Tatonka has none of the drawbacks of traditional tequila and all the benefits.

There’s not a ton more for me to add to this success story beyond, well done, gents.  Keep up the awesome work and keep the spirits flowing.  If you’re interested you can tour the distillery Thursday – Saturday from 3:00pm – 7:00pm with no appointment needed.  While you’re there sample some of the custom crafted cocktails.  You can’t go wrong.  As for getting your hands on a bottle, Roundhouse is now available in CO, TX, WY and MO.  If you’re not in one of the distribution areas, though, fear not.  They’re also available online.

Review – Pama Pomegranate Liqueur

Posted by Reese On November - 3 - 2011

Pama Pomegranate LiqueurI received a review bottle of Pama about two years ago and it got lost in the shuffle.  It’s a shame, but it happens.  And, now that I’ve tried Pama, I’m doubly disappointed that I waited so long.  Pama has a fantastic flavor and is a dream to mix with.

Pama’s color is a bright, well…pomegranate, red.  The aroma is sweet with the pomegranate notes coming through loud and clear.  And, now, the important part, the flavor.  The flavor of Pama definitely manages to hold on to some of the fresh fruit flavor.  Sadly, there really isn’t any way to keep it all.  The sweetness is definitely present, this is a liqueur after all, but it’s cut really well by the sour notes leaving you with a nicely balanced spirit.  The base spirits are a combo of vodka and tequila and you can definitely taste hints of the tequila coming through, which I really like.

Wanting to know how it would hold up to other bold flavors we mixed up a couple cocktails from the Pama website.  Though, I have to give you a tip.  There is a secondary Pama site that’s kinda hidden in the lower right of the main site, Pama Professionals.  This is where you want to go look for cocktail recipes.  They’re a step above the recipes on the main site and they sport more nuanced flavors and complexity.  To get us started, Elisabeth wanted something with Champagne.  I couldn’t complain as the Champagne would cut some of the sweetness and play really well with the fruitiness.

Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette (Pama Professionals)
1 oz PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
1 oz Gin
1 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
1) Combine the Pama, gin, lemon juice and simple syrup with ice
2) Shake until well chilled
3) Strain into a Champagne flute and top with Champagne

This drink has definite ties to a French 75 and that is a great thing.  The sourness of the lemon and Pama are tamed a bit by the extra simple syrup and the champagne cuts through it all giving it a great lightness.  If you use a bold gin its flavor come in and play ball as well, the herbal notes working especially well with the fruitiness.  Definitely give this one a try next time you’re jonesing for a French 75.

Following that I wanted to play off the tequila base so I checked out their site and opted for the Persephones Elixir.

Persephones Elixir

Persephones Elixir (Pama Professionals)
3/4 oz PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
1 oz Blanco Tequila
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
Ginger Beer
1) Combine the Pama, tequila and lemon juice with ice
2) Shake until well chilled
3) Strain into an ice filled collins glass and top with ginger beer

The added tequila harmonizes extremely well with the pomegranate.  The ginger beer adds light effervescence and flavor complexity.  This is a great drink and I would definitely mix this up on a hot day.  And, since you added some volume with the ginger beer, you might actually get some hydration out of it too.  Win win.

I learned some valuable lessons with this one.  One, here are another pair of pink cocktails that are delicious.  I’m starting to see a real trend developing here.  Two, I’ll think twice before putting something on the back burner again.  I’d hate to miss something as good as Pama as a result.

PS – If you’re a cook, you should definitely check out some of the food recipes on their site.  There look to be some great recipes on there.  For one, the Pama Flourless Chocolate Torte has been on my mind since I saw it.

† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.

Review – Ice Cream Happy Hour

Posted by Reese On November - 1 - 2011

Ice Cream Happy Hour CoverDo you like ice cream?  Since you’re human, I’m going to bet yes.  And, since you’re reading my blog I think it’s safe to also assume you like booze.  So, friends, can you imagine the combination of the two?  Neither could I.  Mind you, I tried.  But my brain basically rebooted from joy every time I tried.  Salvation came in the form of Ice Cream Happy Hour, a new book from Valerie Lum and Jenise Addison.

The book is compilation of 50 recipes for ice creams, sorbets and sherbets.  There are boozy twists on the classics, like the one we chose Mint Chip with Creme de Menthe.  There are cocktail inspired recipes that definitely sound awesome.  Whiskey Sour ice cream, yes please!  And, to round it all out there are recipes for boozy sundaes, floats and the like.

The part I liked best about this book is that they break down the ice cream making process into distinct, simple steps.  I hadn’t made ice cream before (despite having my own ice cream maker, go figure) and I found the recipe very easy to follow.  You will need an ice cream maker, but they’re pretty easy to find and, if you don’t want to buy one, I’m betting you have a friend who would gladly loan you theirs.  And, I can tell you, once you’ve had boozy ice cream, all others are just a little boring.

Creme de Menthe Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Mint Chip with Creme de Menthe
2 cups Milk
2 cups Heavy Cream
3/4 cup Sugar
4 Egg Yolks
2 tsp Mint Extract
3-4 drops Green Food Coloring
1 packet Gelatin
1/4 cup Cold Water
3/4 cup Cold Creme de Menthe
1 cup Chopped Chocolate
1) Scald the milk, cream and sugar
2) Whisk the egg yolks and temper with 1/3 of the milk mixture
3) Thicken the custard over low heat
4) Whisk in the mint extract and food coloring
5) Strain, cover and chill the custard for at least 8 hours
6) Dissolve the gelatin in the cold water
7) Melt the gelatin over low heat
8) Spike the custard with the cold creme de menthe
9) Churn the ice cream for at least 20 minutes
10) Fold in the chocolate 

† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.

Review – Bakon Vodka

Posted by Reese On October - 4 - 2011

Everyone who enjoys cocktails, or rather, drinking in general, has dabbled in infusing spirits.  Most stick with straightforward combos: mango vodka, strawberry tequila, vanilla rum, etc.  The next step in that process is fat washing.  Specifically you’re adding a flavorful fat to a spirit and the alcohol and water soluble flavors in the fat are pulled into the spirit.  Once you’ve infused you remove the fat and you’re left with flavorful spirits.

The first time I heard about this method was Don Lee’s Bacon Bourbon.  Don used the infused bourbon to make PDT’s Bacon Old Fashioned.  Seeing this I was inspired.  I tried it myself and, I won’t say I failed, but I certainly didn’t succeed.  What I ended up with was an under-flavored bourbon that tasted okay in an Old Fashioned, but really wasn’t any better than it would have been with unadulterated bourbon.  And, what’s worse, I couldn’t find anything else to put it in.  It met the drain shortly thereafter.

With that, my homemade attempts at fat washing ended and I put savory infusions on the back burner and never really looked back.  So, when a bottle of Bakon Vodka (it’s bacon flavored, in case you hadn’t figured that out) turned up on my doorstep, my brain was immediately filled with concoctions of bacon delightfulness.  Think of the amazing bacon pairings people have been coming up with lately…bacon chocolate chip cookies (made them, they’re amazing), chocolate covered bacon (had it, also amazing), candied bacon (had it, amazing)…okay, this is getting repetitive.

The common theme there though is the sugar component, and while I definitely wanted to try that avenue, you’ll have to come back later for those results.  The first place I wanted to start was what seemed like the obvious use for this spirit, the Bakon Bloody Mary.  But first, let’s talk about the vodka itself.

Bakon Vodka has a distinctly bacony aroma.  It’s not the kind of bacon flavor you might get when you cook up your Sunday breakfast, though.  It was singularly porky.  No maple, very light smoke, very.  But, none the less definitely bacon.  And, while the flavor is good, it’s not something I’d ever drink on its own.  I think it’s the idea of it all that gets to me.  Okay, let’s see how it mixes.

Bakon Bloody Mary

Bakon Bloody Mary
2 oz Bakon Vodka
4 oz Tomato Juice
1/4 oz Lemon Juice
3 Dashes Worcestershire Sauce
1 Dash Hot Sauce
Pinch of Chipotle Powder
Heavy Pinch of Kosher Salt
2 Grinds of Black Pepper
Garnish with Veggies and Pickles
1) Combine ingredients in shaker with ice
2) Shake until well chilled
3) Strain into an ice filled Collins glass
4) Garnish with lemon and celery

I used my basic Bloody Mary recipe with one minor tweak.  I wanted a hint of smokiness so I added a pinch of chipotle powder and cut down the hot sauce.  The bacon comes through in the aroma quite clearly.  In the flavor it’s much less intense, but still present.  And, while it doesn’t added a super bacony punch, it adds a mellow, savory backbone to the cocktail that I really enjoy.  As for the added chipotle it did its job perfectly.  There was a light smokiness and just the right amount of spice.  This is definitely a must try for the folks in your life who lie in the intersection of bacon lovers and Bloody Mary lovers.

As for Bakon Vodka itself, I’ll give you this advice.  It’s tasty stuff, when properly applied.  Definitely don’t get this expecting to be able to use it in any vodka recipe.  The results will not be pleasant.  Though, when mixed in the right recipe the added complexity and savory quality, even in sweet drinks, is worth it.

† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.