Review: MARTELL XO – #24

Martell, the grandfather of cognacs, dates back to 1715 and is one of the four biggest houses.

Baked banana dipped in vanilla, cigar traces, citrus, roasted nuts and a variety of dark fruits is what you canMartell XO expect from this XO. It is much more on the fruity side compared to Hennessey XO but still has some masculine features in the form of spices, traces of cigars and an ash fade. It is more comparable to Martell Cordon Bleu I would say. Still while Cordon Bleu is a closer resemblance there is also a significant gap between these two. Martell XO is fruitier, spicier and not as soft as Cordon Bleu. Even though there is more depth to the XO I still prefer Cordon Bleu or, if I had to choose between other XO’s from the big houses, Hennessy XO.

VERDICT: It definitely deserved its silver medal at the IWSC last year (2012) but I still don’t think it can compete with Hennessey XO or even Martell Cordon Bleu.



Review: MAXIME TRIJOL Elegance – #29 hit

When referring to the quality of cognac young age is commonly associated with inferiority. This is not the case with Mamaxime_trijol_elegancexime Trijol Elegance however. With only 10 years on its back Elegance is the youngest in the family but has still managed to win gold in competitions like the International Spirts Challenge in London 2005. Although young, Elegance is a pure Grande Champagne cognac and is a worthy adversary to most V.S.O.P.s and even some XOs. The palate entry is led by a dry-yet-fruity medium body with delicate notes of under ripe pears. Creamy vanilla appears followed by a soft bite that could only be expected by a cognac of this age. There is surprisingly good complexity and depth something I find rare among younger cognacs. Comparing price to age I can see why some people would be put off. I must emphasize though that Elegance is of good quality and worth every penny spent.

VERDICT: When comparing this to the available range of V.S.O.P.s I find it slightly superior to most. That being said you can get a cheap XO (but not necessarily of better quality) for the price of a single Maxime Trijol Elegance.


Review: KNOB CREEK – #55 hit

I definitely have a sweet spot for bourbon and this one quickly gained my admiration. It is produced by Beam Inc. in Kentucky and is named after Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home Knob Creek. Because it has aged nine years in charred American white oak it has absorbed more sugar in the wood than younger bourbons. This sweetness really comes through and I guess this is partly why I love this particular edition. That said, the sugary flavors are well balanced with oaky and to a certain extent floral notes. This works very well. You can aKnob-Creeklso find syrup, spicy rye, and small amounts of caramel in here. At 50% abv. you would expect it to be rather harsh and hard to drink on the rocks. This is not the case though. Still I have a tendency to add a few drops of water just to get rid of the edge.

VERDICT: With 50% abv. Knob Creek does not reach the broad audience. A shame if you ask me. It has the perfect balance between woody, sweet and floral notes. In my opinion this is one of Kentucky’s finest.


Review: FLOR DE CÃNA 12yo – #48 hit

Flor De Caña, one of the most praised rums in Latin America!

It is rums like the 12 year old Flor De Caña that makes me start questioning the integrity of my taste buds. Sometimes, I have noticed, you just have to force yourself to like things. Like with eggplants, humus, cabbage, cauliflower and asparagus (I still haven’t gotten completely used to these long weird green things). It took me years before I actually started to enjoy these vegetables. I guess the same goes for spirits.  But it is not like I haven’t given this Nicaraguan rum a chance. Now, a half bottle later, I still haven’t been able to fully appreciate the supposedly outstanding flavor of Flor De Caña. So I give up.Flor da Cana

First let me state that I don’t find this rum to be of poor quality. Not at all. But I do think it lacks character. In addition it is very light bodied, almost watery, and the finish is one of the briefest I have encountered. On the palate there is burnt vanilla and allspice but that is about it.

VERDICT: I really can’t see why this particular bottling gets so much attention. It is not like it is bad in any sense but at the same time I don’t find it remotely impressive either. Oh well again I am reminded about the subjectivity of taste.


Review: EL DORADO 12yo – #15 hit

I tasted this rum some years ago and at that time I did not consider it being anything special. The other day I found it on discount and couldn’t resist. It was meant as a gift but weak as I am I “accidentally” opened it. I am glad I did. This is truly an amel-dorado-12azing rum and I really wonder why I never realized this. I guess my taste buds have been refined throughout the years. This multi-award winning rum is remarkably smooth and right from the start you are overwhelmed by the taste of dark brown sugar and vanilla. There is also a later entry of nuts and raisins as it gently continues down your throat. Not the slightest burn. Even though I usually refrain from drinking soft and mellow rums, mainly because I find them too dull and one dimensional, El Dorado is my one exception. There is something about the taste that I can’t put my finger on, but it is just so darn good. It is like being in love with a woman without knowing quite why.

VERDICT: The taste of El Dorado 12yrs is unexcelled and I can’t recommend it enough. Period.


Review: PYRAT XO – #33 hit

Image yourself standing in the kitchen peeling a dozen of oranges and chopping the peel into small pieces. Imagine the aroma that would follow. If you add some vanilla and butterscotch to that then you have Pyrat XO. Brilliant!1829

Pyrat XO came out in 1998 and is a blend of 9 different rums from 7 distilleries around the Caribbean where it has matured in French Limousin and American sweet oak barrels for up to 15 years. I can honestly say that this is the most unique rum I have ever tasted. The Citrus fruits are overwhelming, in a good way that is, and I can certainly understand if people misjudge it for being a liqueur or something else. Entwined with the vanilla-citrus are less apparent notes of raisins and nuts that give the rum good depth. There is no burn and it is also very smooth and round bodied.

VERDICT: Even though I have to be in a certain mood to have a Pyrat I take my hat off for what they have accomplished here. The mouthwatering citrus flavors together with heaps of vanilla and butterscotch makes it downright delicious. Highly recommendable if you want to taste something out of the ordinary.


Review: JIM BEAM Honey – #72 hit

Jim Beam entering the grey zone!

In a blind test I honestly can’t say if I would have put my money on whiskey or liqueur. I would probably have gone with the latter Jim-Beam-Honeysince this reminds me so much of the Italian apricot/almond based liqueur amaretto. But it is not. This is the four year old white label infused with REAL honey! Is it worth your time? It depends. If you are a single malt connoisseur you would most probably be disappointed. On the other hand if you like overly sweet whiskeys or don’t like whiskey at all this might just be your thing. At 35% abv. it is soft as velvet and pose no resistance as it slinks down your throat. It is liquid candy. Sweet as hell. I found Red Stag Black Cherry sweet but this is incomparable. I have a hard time deciding if I like it or not. I guess I do kind of like it despite its lack of resemblance to the whiskey I am used to. That said I quickly get too much of it. At some point it breaches your sweetness threshold and you start regretting. I’d say it should be taken in moderate amounts.

On the palate: I don’t have much to say here. Honey, honey and…..honey. Okay I guess if you dig a little bit deeper you will find both vanilla and oak as well. There is also hints of almonds.

VERDICT: Reluctantly I must admit I kind of like this Bourbon. Still it quickly gets too sugary and I tend to keep it to one or two drinks. If you like soft, creamy and sweet bourbons and don’t mind that they are borderline liqueurs I would advise you to try this one.


Review: DOORLY’S XO – #30 hit

You never go wrong with Barbados rum, it is said. Doorley’s XO is no exception.

Doorly’s XO is a blend of different aged rum – 6 to 12 years – where the oldest has undergone a second maturation in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks making this Barbados rum very unique. The quality of this masterpiece is also backed up by severarum_doorlys_xol gold medals including from San Francisco Wine & Spirits, IWSC, Monde Selection and BTI.

Doorly’s XO is best characterized as a round, mellow, medium bodied rum with rich flavors of lush tropical fruits on the palate. It also has a certain sherry-laden complexity to it on top of the underlying bed of vanilla and butterscotch. The finish is light and soft with creamy toffee being most apparent.

VERDICT: Doorly’s XO is good, mild, and creamy and will satisfy most rum drinkers’ needs. The only reason to why I am not giving it a higher rating is because of its mild and light character and to a certain extent lacking complexity.



“You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover”, it is said. Well this is exactly what I did with Pampero Aniversario when I first laid eyes on it and I am glad I did. Not only does this Venezuelan gem come in the coolest and most innovative bottle design ever it also delivers one of the most rewarding experiences you can get from a <10 yo spirit.Pampero

It took me 28 years before I discovered the wonderful world of Rum. I still blame my abusive teenage relationship with Bacardi for this but I guess I should just be grateful for eventually stumbling into this beautifully crafted Venezuelan Rum. Pampero Aniversario was my first and set the whole Rum exploration in motion. Let me first point out that this is NOT why I rate it so high (I can’t rule out the influence of the leather pouch though).

Distilled and matured near the Equator, Pampero Aniversario is a blend of rums that have aged between 2 and 8 years in American oak casks. Its name literally translates to “intense storm” which I think fits the description perfectly; this is spicy vanilla mayhem. An later entry of toasted bananas and toffee engage the palate while the upperfront gums are assaulted by a light bite. I know some find it a bit harsh (which is understandably considering its young age). This is of course relative so comparing it to rums like El Dorado and Ron Zacapa this is certainly true. Personally however I don’t mind an alcoholic punch as long as it doesn’t conceal the essence of the rum which is not the case with Pampero Aniversario.

VERDICT: The more I drink Pampero the more I like it. It is neither smooth nor complex but still such a delightful experience that you can’t walk away easily.  Un top of all this you can get it for around 30 dollars which is a real bargain if you ask me.


Review: BUFFALO TRACE – #71 hit

“One of the world’s great whiskies”. – Jim Murray

I am a sucker for intriguing advertisements so when I noticed Jim Murray’s statement on a Buffalo Trace bottle the other day I had no choice but to buy it. A “great” whiskey for measly 30 bucks is not something I am likely to walk away from. Luckily so. It appears as if Jim was right again, this is truly a “great” bourbon. I would actually go as far as to say it is one of tBuffalo Tracehe best bourbons I have tasted yet! I am far from alone in my infatuation as Buffalo Trace has won multiple medals throughout the years most recently receiving a Double Gold Rating at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2012. Its success is also illustrated by the size of the distillery. To date the Buffalo Trace Distillery site encompasses 119 acres and, impressively, 114 buildings.

The first thing I liked about Buffalo Trace, and maybe least important, was its name. A whiskey that is named after the migration path of thousands of buffalos from the 18th century is just awesome in itself. Secondly, and more importantly, the taste of Buffalo Trace is exquisite! It is much more on the sweet side than most whiskeys but still manage to keep under the sugar-overload-threshold (In contrast to Bourbons like Red Stag and Jim Beam Honey). Caramel is filling most of the picture here accompanied by candied vanilla and hints of orange fruit and green grass. There is good balance in this whiskey and I have to restrain myself from continuously filling the empty glass.

VERDICT: Agreed, this is absolutely one of the world’s great whiskies. It is sweet, creamy, caramel like and yet combines the sugary notes with citrus and orange fruits in a divine manor. This is one of those whiskies I could easily drink half a bottle of and still not get enough. At 30 dollars a bottle this is a steal. Instant favorite.