Category Archives: Spirits

Tequila

This hearty spirit from Mexico has been gaining interest of late. The central ingredient in margaritas, it now attracts attention as a fine beverage that can be drunk neat. We thought a quick primer would be of use.

Tequila may come to mind as the stuff with the worm in it—not true!—or the song by The Champs that Pee Wee Herman danced to. In fact, tequila rates as a high quality drink. Producers focus more and more now on creating tequilas that can stand beside the great whiskeys, rums, and other fine spirits of the world.

Tequila derives from the blue agave plant. This prodigious plant favors altitudes of 4000 feet and more. A succulent, its leaves grow to a height of six feet, and its stalk can rise close to twenty from the ground. For tequila production,producers cut off the incipient stalk so that the plant’s energy goes to growing its core, called piña.

Producers harvest the piña, which weighs 100-200 pounds, when the plant is twelve years old. This then is roasted slowly to remove the sweet sap. The sap is fermented and distilled. A second distillation produces a clear liquid, the most basic of tequilas.

  • Blanco (white) or plata (silver) tequila receive no more than two months aging in stainless steel vats or neutral oak barrels
  • Resposado (resting) is aged between 2 months and a year in any size oak barrel
  • Añejo (aged) is aged between one and three years in small oak barrels
  • Extra añejo is aged for at least three years in small oak barrels

The barrels for añejo and extra añejo often come from whiskey, bourbon or other distillers. Such barrels add complexity. Charring the barrels also adds flavor components. Complexity and smoothness result from this aging.

By definition, tequila hails from the area around Tequila, in the Mexican state of Jalisco. The best tequila bear the designation “100% Blue agave”. Lower quality tequila, called mixtos, may have as little as 51% agave, with glucose or fructose filling the rest of the sugar requirement. These sugars lack the character of that derived from the agave.

Connoisseurs often drink fine tequilas neat. Good tequila has a clean bright flavor, almost sweet and slightly vegetal in an earthy and inviting way. Many people enjoy the ceremony of licking salt from one’s hand, drinking a shot of tequila then taking a bite of lime. The finer, aged tequila need no such additions and can be consumed in snifter or wine glass. Many tequila cocktails exist, usual featuring fruit juices. Tequila can replace other spirits to create variants of familiar drinks.

Here are some of the fine tequila you will find on our shelves.

  • Espolón Reposado $24.99 (truly weird label!)
  • Avion Silver $34.99
  • Avion A&#241:ejo $61.99
  • Don Julio Reposado $59.99
  • Herradura Reposado $46.99
  • Herradura Añejo $52.99
  • Patron Silver $47.99
  • Patron Reposado $51.99
  • Patron Añejo $54.99
  • Cabo Wabo Blanco $39.99
  • Cabo Wabo Reposado $47.99 (Ex-Van Halen singer Sammy Hagar is involved with Cabo Wabo)
  • Leyenda del Milagro Silver $29.99
  • Leyenda del Milagro Añejo $41.99
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Murray McDavid Whisky

Murray McDavid WhiskyAs an independent bottler, Murray McDavid takes an unusual approach to whisky making. Under the guidance of Jim McEwan, who has 40 years of whisky making experience, Murray McDavid buys barrels of single malt whiskies then ages them. to make the most agreeable drop of the pure as possible.

The company does not bottle a whisky unless all of its directors agree on its quality. You can just picture the discussions going into the wee hours. Do you think they enjoy their jobs?

Murray McDavid treats every barrel uniquely. Rather than aim for a consistent style, the tasters seek to allow each whisky’s nature to express itself. As always, the point is not some truth regarding how one should make whisky, but how the whisky tastes.

Murray McDavid does not chill-filter, which can remove flavor components, and character. They do not add caramel coloring, either. They use small labels on their bottles, they say, so that the whisky’s color can be enjoyed rather than the usual promotional blurbs.

All Murray McDavid whiskies carry a standard 46% alcohol. Higher alcohol, the bottler believes, just overwhelms the palate while lower alcohol weakens the structure. They recommend enjoying the whiskies neat or with a splash of water.

This innovative bottler uses casks that previously held sherry, rum, and even Château Lafite-Rothschild! This gives each specific bottling a subtle, unique character. Time in cask varies greatly, again depending on the specific whisky.

Murray McDavid produces only tiny amounts of these spectacular whiskies. The whiskies define the sort of wonderful rarity that aficionados clamor for. Keep that in mind if such a character inhabits your gift list.

  • Bunnahabhain, 13 years old, $89.99
  • Glendullan, 17 years old, $79.99
  • Bowmore, 11 years old, $79.99
  • Bowmore, 8 years old, $69.99

 

Some Special Bourbons

Bourbon is basically American whiskey, that is, a grain distillate that has been aged in charred barrels. As always, such definitions depend on trade agreements, and the degree that other countries respect such agreements.

 

U.S. regulations state that bourbon must be at least 51% corn. In the bottle, it must be at least 80 proof (40% alcohol). A straight, unblended bourbon must be aged for at least 2 years, and cannot have any coloring or flavoring agents. Bourbon’s flavor and color derive from the charred new oak barrel in which it is aged.

 

A number of small distillers have sprung up lately (and not so lately), producing the equivalents of single malts. Idiosyncratic differences are their charm.

 

Fun Fact: Distillers called the initial fermentation of the mash Distiller’s Beer. They call the first distillation of Distiller’s Beer Low Wine. They call the second distillation High Wine.

 

Bakers Bourbon

Bakers Bourbon

Baker Beam’s grand uncle is some gentleman named Jim. The style is smooth and silky, despite a hefty 107 proof. Utilizing a strain of yeast that has been in the family for 60 years, and aged for 7 years, this would be a welcome gift  for a bourbon lover.

Basil Hayden

A considerable dose of rye along with the corn makes the difference here. It’s spicy, peppery flavor carries through at 80 proof.

Knob Creek

The Beam family stands behind this bourbon as well. Made with rye and barley as well as corn, this is a full-bodied, dynamic bourbon. At 100 proof, and aged 9 years, it expresses its bourbon heritage appropriately.

Van Gogh Flavored Vodkas

A rep from the Dutch distiller Royal Dirkzwager came to the Bedford store this past Saturday to share with customers samples from its Van Gogh product line. Tasters were duly impressed.

Vodka itself is nothing more than neutral spirit. Distillers use grains (as in Van Gogh’s case) or potatoes as the sugar base for fermentation. They then distill the product of this fermentation. After fermentation, they filter the product to remove flavor impurities.

The result: plain vodka. Distillers flavor this pure spirit through infusion.

We tasted three representatives from the nearly twenty in Van Gogh’s extensive flavored vodka product line, Dutch Caramel, Dutch Chocolate, and Double Espresso. The craftsmanship shows.

Van Gogh vodkas start with high quality water and receive three distillations and multiple filterings. Great purity results. Van Gogh’s flavored vodkas then receive a double infusion. We do not know the nature of the process but it takes six weeks. Obviously no instant flavors are used.

We’re guessing that double infusion accounts for the tremendous depth of flavor in these vodkas. You taste the pure expression of the flavor.

Most flavored vodkas seem to aim for just an aromatic suggestion of flavor. Van Gogh’s taste more like liqueurs, albeit not so sweet. Intensity is the watchword. Each of the three vodkas offered concentrated flavor that lasts and lasts. These vodkas taste absolutely delicious straight, with deep, pure flavors and aromas.

And that would be enough. But you can do more with these vodkas than drink them straight. Try adding some to brownies, puddings, or cakes. Pour some in coffee. And naturally, a world of mixed drink possibilities exist.

The Van Gogh website offers loads of recipes for each flavor. We addend a few of their recipes below.

And just to engage you even more, each bottling offers a different commissioned image on the bottle, each one inspired by Van Gogh. You may want to keep the decorative bottles after you’ve emptied them.

Recipes

Just a few recipes for using Van Gogh Vodkas. More available at the website.

Chocolate Almond Kiss

1 oz Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate
1 oz Hazelnut Liqueur
1 oz Cream

Double Hazelnut

1 oz Van Gogh Double Espresso
1 oz Hazelnut Liqueur
Splash of cream

Dutch Coffee Bomb Shot

1 oz Van Gogh Dutch Caramel
1 oz Van Gogh Double Espresso
½ oz Irish Cream
Fill with stout ale

Cabin Fever Maple Whisky

Rob Robillard, the maker of Cabin Fever maple whisky, visited the store recently to pour samples. We have mentioned this delightful liqueur here before but thought that his visit gave us an opportunity to say a little more about it.

Cabin Fever stands largely as a one man operation. Family members help, but making and selling Cabin now represents Rob’s full-time job. He formerly worked in the technology field.

What began as a home hobby grew as Rob developed the recipe. People enjoyed his creation.

He uses maple syrup from his own sugar bush in Vermont to flavor the whisky. He cold-filters the distillate for smoothness and to remove impurities that would compete with the maple flavors. Three years of barrel aging mellows and smooths the whisky. What results is sweet, fragrant, and warming.

Rob offered Cabin Fever two ways, with ice and neat. Ice tempers the perceived sweetness. Chilled or not, a very tasty and pleasant sip.

Rob impressed us with the many further uses one can put to this liqueur. Here are a few:

  • Whip some into maple syrup and serve on pancakes or crepes.
  • Add a dollop to whipped cream.
  • Pour over pound cake.
  • Use as a replacement for whiskey in mixed drinks.
  • Splash into the pan when doing a reduction.

The website offers many recipes at Cabin Fever.

Walden Liquors

Taste of New England

People identify certain foods with New England. Looking around the stores, we found several items that feature such foods. Not necessarily produced in New England, these items nonetheless bring our cherished region to mind. New products arrive in the stores almost daily but here are some of the New England-themed items currently at our stores.

  • Pumpkin. While not native to New England, pumpkins feature prominently in New England’s autumn landscape. We’ve mentioned pumpkin beer before, and have received more since then, probably close to 20. Hearty and delicious, these brews have proven extremely popular. Grab them now, stocks are dwindling. For those seeking something different, Hiram Walker has seen the light with a liqueur called Pumpkin Spice ($12.99/bottle). We expect it to prove popular, sipped by itself or as a mixer. Other pumpkin liqueurs are on their way.
  • Maple. Can anything be more New England than maple syrup? How about a whisky infused with maple? Smooth and only mildly sweet, Cabin Fever ($21.00/bottle) already enjoys an eager following.
  • Cranberry. Michigan outstrips New England in cranberry production but we still think of cranberry as our own weird little berry. Mike’s Hard Cranberry ($8.45/6-pack) proves zippy and refreshing. Cranberry beers are due in soon.
  • Apples. In the old days, when you said cider, you meant the hard stuff. Back before refrigeration, cider in its alcoholic form kept better than the sweet version. According to a website, children in the 14th century were baptized with cider because it was cleaner than water. Magner’s ($9.99/6-pack) from Ireland, and Woodchuck Fall ($9.00/6-pack) from Vermont produce serious, tasty ciders, complex, delicious, and a great alternative to beer.

And just to show the possibilities, we recently sold out of Harpoon’s 100 Barrel Series Oyster Beer. Yes, an oyster-flavored beer. Such a beer may not be to everyone’s taste but it certainly brings New England to mind. If they called it Quahog Beer, the New England connection would be even stronger.

Visit our website at waldenliquors.com.

Tito’s Vodka

Tito's Vodka

Before the 1950s, one rarely saw vodka in this country. By the mid 70s, it had overtaken bourbon as the number one spirit here. Its neutral flavor mixes with and complements other ingredients.

Vodka begins with the fermentation of a range of possible sugar/starch sources like wheat, corn, rye, potatoes, sorghum, and others. Multiple distillations then refine the product, concentrating the alcohol content and removing impurities. Most producers also filter the product.

At this stage, the product can be 90% alcohol or more (180 proof!). Producers add water to reach legally-defined and potable levels. In the US, vodka must be 40 percent alcohol (80 proof). The European Union sets the mark a little lower.

Plain vodkas are not strongly flavored, but that does not mean they are flavorless. Cleanness, purity, and smoothness mark the best vodkas. Tito’s stands as our case in point.

Tito’s Vodka relies on the handiwork of Tito Beveridge, of Austin, Texas. Trained as a geologist for the oil industry, he somehow entered the mortgage business. During this time, Tito began making vodka infusions for his friends. Starting a distillery proved the logical next step.

It’s the old story of working hard, learning through experience, and maxing out the credit cards. Despite lacking the backing of the big distributors, the brand grew. Wildly popular in the Austin area, Tito’s Vodka is now gaining a superlative national reputation. While unlikely ever to outstrip Smirnoff in terms of sales, Tito’s Vodka has made its mark. A Wine Enthusiast tasting gave Tito’s a score of 95, topping Ketel One (89), Grey Goose (84), and Belvedere (84).

No longer a one man operation, Beveridge’s operation remains small. He makes just one product: a corn-based, gluten-free vodka. Beveridge aimed to create one that can be sipped neat, without mixing or infusion.

The result of Tito’s effort shows exceptional roundness. Not harsh at all, it is a pleasure to sip. The flavor is clean and bright, with a faint sweetness. Adding something as simple as an olive or a citrus peel creates a magnificent cocktail. And that’s just the beginning.

Serving Suggestions

    • By itself. Chill the vodka in the fridge or ice bucket, or add ice. Serve with enough air space in the glass to allow you to enjoy the aroma. Add a strip of lemon, lime or orange peel, for that extra something.
    • In cocktails. Vodka, especially good ones like Tito’s, blend beautifully in drinks. The flavor complements and reinforces those of the other ingredients.
    • As an infusion. Infusion is simply a matter soaking flavoring ingredients in vodka until the flavor has been extracted. Be creative: spices, herbs, or fruit can all be used. Or try a vanilla bean, or coffee, chocolate…  the possibilities are endless.

Tito’s website provides instructional videos, go here.

We carry Tito’s Vodka in numerous bottle sizes. This is a premium vodka at a mid-range price. Give it a try.

$31.99/1.75l
$18/99/1l
$11.99/750ml
$7.45/375ml
$1.79/100ml