Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Johnnie Walker Double Black Label

Distillery: Johnnie Walker
Location: Kilmarnock, Scotland
Proof: 80
Distiller website
Rating: A-

Today we follow up our last review of the Johnnie Walker Black Label with their new release, the Double Black Label. The Double Black pours up a deep honey-amber color and looks identical to the Black Label in color when placed side-by-side. The nose has the same peat, oak and vanilla from the Black Label along with a big helping of wood smoke.

On the palate the Double Black Label has peat smoke up front along with some black pepper spiciness. There are notes of vanilla, oak and iodine as well, but they are further in the background than the Black Label. There is also a hint of oaked red wine here as well. The mouthfeel is tannicly astringent just like the Black Label. On the finish, the Double Black Label has vanilla sweetness paired with pit barbecue smoke.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the Double Black Label, but what I found was remarkably close to the original Black Label. The vanilla and smoke notes were bigger on the double black and the iodine and sweetness (particularly on the finish) were a little toned down. There is a nice black pepper spiciness in the Double Black as well. I think I was expecting something drastically bigger or different with the Double Black Label, but what I found instead was just a bit of a modification to the original. While the Double Black Label is not a "rush out and buy this now" kind of release, it is still an excellent whisky on its own merit.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Distillery: Johnnie Walker
Location: Kilmarnock, Scotland
Age: 12 years
Proof: 80
Distiller website
Rating: A-

We're doing some scotch reviews this week to test out some recent acquisitions of mine, namely the Glencairn whisky tasting glass and Johnnie Walker's Double Black Label. We're going to start off today with the original Black Label to have a comparison for its "double" brother. Johnnie Walker Black Label pours up a deep honey-amber in color. The nose detects peat, smoke, oak and some seaweed.

On the palate, peat is the dominant flavor. Smokiness and oak play the lead support roles. Some iodine notes (similar to bacon or seaweed) are here along with hints of vanilla, unsweetened chocolate and cherries. Johnnie Walker Black Label has a slightly astringent, tannic mouthfeel. The finish is slightly sweet, with oak and fading peat. The sweet note is the last to fade in the end.

Johnnie Walker Black Label has long been my go-to blended scotch. It has the classic Islay peat and iodine flavor I love (largely owing to the Lagavulin used in the blend) without being overpowering. This is one of my all-time favorite pairings for a sweet, chocolaty dessert.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Saranac India-Style Copper Ale

Brewery: The Matt Brewing Company
Location: Utica, NY
Style: IPA
Brewery Website
Rating: A

The folks over at Saranac apparently had a hard time choosing, so they split the difference when naming today's beer - their India Style Copper Ale. The beer pours up (you guessed it) a deep copper color, with a foamy tan head. The nose is pleasantly complex with notes of citrus hops, malt syrup and some yeast ester notes that take on a bit of a cherry aroma.

The palate first picks up some breakfast cereal off-dry malt notes. Hops lead with citrus and apricot. Pine resin comes in a bit later along with some black pepper spice notes. The hops bite builds over time. The same cherry note of yeasty fruit that was on the nose makes an appearance on the palate as well. A fleeting hint of sweetness supports the fruit notes well. The Saranac India Style Copper Ale is medium-bodied with some hoppy oiliness. The finish has off-dry malt with a long hops bite, which is paired with fruity notes from both the yeast and hops.

Saranac has a big winner on their hands with the India Style Copper Ale. This ale has some nice complexity and is well-balanced. There is enough of a malt backbone here to withstand the IPA-style hoppiness, and a nice shot of yeasty fruit esters really fits in quite well for such a hoppy beer. This is a unique take on the copper ale style and is well worth seeking out.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Taza 70% Cacao Puro Chocolate Mexicano

Manufacturer: Taza
Cocoa Content: 70%
Location: Dominican Republic
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B

Today's chocolate tasting is something a little different. We have Taza 70% Chocolate Mexicano "puck" on the tasting block today. This is a disc of stone-ground Dominican dark chocolate. The chocolate is a deep reddish-brown in color. It has a firm, slightly crumbly snap to it with lots of small crystals visible along the snap line. The nose has cocoa with notes of plum and black currant.

The palate leads off with a liqueur note. It then moves to s fruity acidity with hints of plum, nectarine and some citrus. There is a fudgy undertone of brownie batter, Chewing the Tazo 70% disc brings forward notes of marshmallow and sour cherries. The texture is very course with a gritty texture and lots of crunchy crystals. The finish has stone fruit that fades to toffee, caramel and finally a bitter espresso note that takes some time to fade in.

As far as snacking chocolate goes, the Taza Chocolate Mexicano disc is a totally different experience from a textural standpoint. It is very coarse and almost crunchy with the smount of crystals present. The flavor is really nice, with a bright fruitiness and a nice cocoa richness. While I don't think I will be snacking on this again, I really can't wait to try this in a hot chocolate.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

E. Guittard Nocturne 91% Dark Chocolate

Manufacturer: Guittard Chocolate Company
Cocoa Content: 91%
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B+

Today's tasting is Guittard's Extra Dark chocolate bar, their 91% cacao Nocturne. The Nocturne is deep brown in color, bordering on ebony, with merlot undertones. The nose is predominantly cocoa with hints of vanilla and mint.

On the palate there is an initial kick of bitter coffee grounds with some green notes. The acidity starts to roll in and brings some juiciness with notes of blackberries, currants and some apricot as well. Sweet spice notes of cinnamon and mint are here, along with some cedar. There are also notes of toasted oats and nutty notes of chestnuts and macadamia. Chewing the Nocturne brings forward a strong chocolate note along with raspberry, blueberry and mint. The melt is excellent and uniformly smooth. there is some astringency on the mouthfeel as well. The finish is quite long with a nutty, coffee ground note.

E. Guittard has done a nice job with their extra dark Nocturne. While the balance leans strongly toward the bitter/coffee ground flavors that often come with the territory at this high of a cocoa percentage, there is a nice supporting note of mint along with some hints of fruit to help round things out a little. The Nocturne is worth seeking out if you like dark chocolate in the 90%-plus range.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Dark horse Sapient Trip Ale

Brewery: Dark Horse Brewing Co.
Location: Marshall, MI
Style: Tripel
Brewery Website
Rating: B

Today we are tasting the Dark Horse Serpent Trip Ale. The beer pours up a hazy, deep gold color with lots of sediment and a short white head. The nose has lots of yeasty ester notes of banana and circus peanuts along with sweet spice notes of cinnamon and cardamom.

The palate leads off with wheaty malt notes, followed by a squirt of acidity. There are more yeast ester notes, but not as potent as the nose hinted at. The hops has a notable bite with citrus notes, but it really plays a support role here. The Serpent Trip Ale has a light-to-moderate bodied mouthfeel. The alcohol pairs with a fine fizz to leave a bit of a tingling sensation on the tongue. The finish finds a lingering hops bite with yeast and some light malt notes.

The Dark Horse Serpent Trip Ale is a nice tripel, although it is a bit on the light side. This drinks like an amped-up weissbier with an interesting hops character. Belgian Tripel and weissbier fans would do well to check this one out.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dogfish Head Hellhound on my Ale

Brewery: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Location: Milton, DE
Style: IPA
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

Up for review today is Dogfish Head's tribute to late guitarist and bluesman Robert Johnson. Hellhound on my Ale is heavily-hopped IPA with additions of dried lemon. It pours up a clear, golden amber with a faint haze and a foamy, off-white head. The nose is loaded with citrus hops, with notes of both grapefruit and lemonade.

The palate is slammed right off the bat with a big bite of resiny hops up front, which move to some piny and herbal hops notes. Citrus undertones then start to shine through. There is a big bitter bite here like very sharp cheese. Hints of oak and woody spice are tucked in the background as well. The Hellhound on my Ale has a medium-heavy body with mouthcoating resin and astringency. The finish has long, lingering piny hops notes along with hop resin and tannic herbal notes akin to a very strong black tea.

The Hellhound on my Ale hits 100 IBU's, making this beer about as bitter as they come. This is a real treat for the big hopheads out there. The only downside is that any potential complexity is completely inundated under massive hoppiness. Nonetheless, this beer is yet another fantastic showing from Dogfish Head and is well worth a try if you like your beer to bite back.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Trader Joe's 72% Cacao Swiss Dark Chocolate

Manufacturer:Trader Joe's
Cocoa Content:72%
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B+

Today's tasting is one of Trader Joe's store-brand dark chocolate bars. This bar is labeled as their 72% cacao Swiss dark chocolate. The bar is deep ebony in color with a slight waxy sheen to it. The nose has notes of vanilla and cocoa liquor.

The palate leads off with a rich, fudgy brownie batter note. This is followed up by some lightly toasted peanuts. Acidity is on the lighter side with hints or citrus along with a cherry note. There is also some almond nutty notes and a hint of bitter espresso. Chewing the chocolate reveals cherries, peanut butter and a hint of marshmallow and caramel. The mouthfeel is fairly smooth and slightly thick with a bit of a cooling sensation. The finish has peanut butter and caramel notes with some marshmallow and fudge.

While it may be nothing out of the ordinary, the Trader Joe's Swiss 72% dark chocolate bar is very snackable. There is a straightforward fudge and nut flavor profile that makes this chocolate easy to enjoy. This is a good choice for a budget chocolate bar that is relatively easy to find.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Samuel Adams 2010 Longshot Blackened Hops

Brewery: The Boston Beer Company
Location: Boston, MA
Style: Black IPA
Brewery Website
Rating: A

Today's tasting is a Black IPA from Samuel Adams. I know I'm posting this a bit late, as this is one of the 2010 winners of their yearly Longshot homebrew competition, but homebrewer Rodney Kibzey's creation is well worth discussion. The beer is a deep chestnut color, bordering on opaque black. The head is huge and foamy, and pours up tan-brown in color. The nose is led by fresh-squeezed citrus hops paired with a touch of roast coffee.

The initial impression on the palate is that of a juicy, citrus-hopped pale ale. This then fades to a smoky bbq flavor. There are notes here of iodine, maple and hickory. The flavor combination really reminds me of real pit barbecue. The hops here are mostly on the aromatic side with citrus and fruity notes, but there is a bit of a mild bitter kick, especially as it pairs up with espresso notes from the roast malt. The Blackened Hops has a medium-full body. The finish is smoky, roasted malt with some lingering espresso and piny hops.

I have yet to meet a Black IPA I didn't love, and the Sam Adams Blackened Hops is no exception. The flavor here is very distinct. The combo of fruity hops paired with smoky, roasted malt makes this a killer pairing for barbecue. This is well with seeking out if you can still find some.