Thursday, July 29, 2010
An important factor is spirits is aging, or the lack thereof.
RAW SPIRITS - A spirit that has not been aged, diluted or otherwise processed after distillation can be said to be 'raw'. Raw spirits are not usually sold. One virtually-raw spirit that is available in most states of the U.S.A. is 190 proof grain spirit (Everclear). In a few states this product is illegal, and a 151 proof version is found on liquor store shelves.
NEW SPIRITS - A spirit that has not been barrel-aged, but has been diluted to salable proof, can be said to be 'new'.
Some spirits commonly sold new are:
Pisco brandy (but not other grape wine brandies)
Wasser (kirschwasser, birnewasser, marillenwasser, etc.)
Eau de vie (de poire, de mirabelle, etc.)
Mezcal (including that from Tequila) - blanco/plata ['white'/'silver']
Geist (himbeergeist, wacholderbeerengeist, etc.)
Oude genever - friesche ['fresh']
A spirit that has been stored in wood for any amount of time can be said to have been aged. Spirits that have been aged for minimal periods of time can be called 'young'. Spirits aged to full maturity can be called 'old'. The appropriate amount of time to reach full maturity varies by type of spirit. Spirits aged beyond full maturity can be called 'extra-old'.
YOUNG SPIRITS - A spirit that has been minimally barrel-aged (for that type of spirit) can be said to be 'young'.
Some spirits commonly sold young are:
Rum (traditional, light, or semi-light) - 'white' [colorless] - 1 year or older
Mezcal (including that from Tequila) - reposado ['reposed'] - 2 months or older
[Note that young rums are aged in new barrels and are without color. Virtually all rum-producing countries legally require at least one year of aging before sale. Such laws probably reflect more interest in combating moonshine rum than in ensuring quality.
OLD SPIRITS - A spirit that has been barrel-aged to full maturity (for that type of spirit) can be said to be 'old'.
Some spirits commonly sold old are:
Brandy (including that from Armagnac or Cognac) - v.s. & v.s.o.p. - 2 years or older
Whisk(e)y (any type) - often without specific age indication - 2 years or older
Rum (traditional or light) - often without specific age indication - 3 years or older
Agricole rhum - often without specific age indication - 3 years or older
Mezcal (including that from Tequila) - añejo ['yearling'] - 1 year or older
[Note that 'gold' or 'special' rum is usually young rum blended with a small amount of old rum and then artificially colored so that the entire product will look old.]
[Note that 'gold' Tequila mezcal is usually new Tequila mezcal that has been artificially colored to look old.]
EXTRA-OLD SPIRITS - A spirit that has been barrel-aged beyond the normal point of full maturity (for that type of spirit) can be said to be extra-old.
Some spirits commonly sold extra-old are:
Brandy (including that from Armagnac or Cognac) - x.o. - 5-6 years or older
Whisk(e)y (any type) - age given in years - no specific threshold, but noticeably beyond old
Rum (traditional or light) - age given in years - no specific threshold, but noticeably beyond old
Agricole rhum - age given in years, or x.o. - no specific threshold, but noticeably beyond old
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Liquors - alcoholic beverage products containing distilled alcohol.
Spirits - liquor that is sold at 70 proof (35% alcohol-by-volume) or higher, that also contains no, or less than 2.5 % (by weight in the finished product), sugar syrup.
Primary Spirits - flavorful spirits distilled from a characteristic fermentate.
Primary Spirits of Wine - flavorful spirits distilled from fermented fruit.
[brandy, Cognac brandy, Pisco brandy, apple brandy, kirschwasser, apricot eau de vie, etc.]
Primary Spirits of Beer - flavorful spirits distilled from fermented grain.
Primary Spirits of Toddy - flavorful spirits distilled from fermented nectar.
[Ceylon arrack, traditional rum, light rum, agricole rhum, cachaça, mezcal, Tequila mezcal, etc.]
Secondary Spirits - flavorful spirits distilled from material macerated in neutral spirits.
[ouzo, Lebanese arak, German geist of any kind, genever, gin, aquavit, absinthe, etc.]
Neutral Spirits - spirits distilled from any fermented material so that they will be virtually flavorless.
Cut Spirits - flavorful spirits that have been cut with neutral spirits, and often flavored.
[rum-verschnitt, inlander rum (Stroh 80)]
Flavored Spirits - spirits that have been flavored after distillation, but not sweetened.
[spiced rum, flavored rum, flavored vodka, etc.]
Liqueurs - liquors that are sweetened with at least 2.5% (by weight in the finished product) sugar syrup.
Primary Liqueurs - liqueur that are produced by sweetening primary spirits, without adding other flavors. Some primary liqueurs of fruit spirits have juice of the same fruit added. High quality primary liqueurs should be 60 proof, or more.
Secondary Liqueurs - liqueurs that are produced by sweetening secondary spirits, without adding other flavors. High-quality secondary liqueurs should be 60 proof, or more.
[traditional Curaçao liqueur, triple-sec Curaçao liqueur, Chartreuse liqueur, pastis liqueur, Galiano liqueur, gin liqueur (Hayman's 1820), etc.]
Flavored Primary Spirit Liqueurs - liqueurs that are produced by flavoring and sweetening primary spirits. Some flavor from the primary spirit should be noticeable. High-quality flavored primary spirit liqueurs should be 60 proof, or more.
[orange-flavored brandy liqueur (Grand Marnier), apricot-flavored brandy liqueur, proprietary flavored brandy liqueur (Bénédictine), proprietary flavored whisk(e)y liqueur (Drambuie), flavored agricole liqueur (Clément Créole Shrubb), etc.]
Flavored Secondary Spirit Liqueurs - liqueurs that are produced by flavoring and sweetening secondary spirits. Some flavor from the secondary spirit should be noticeable. High-quality flavored secondary spirit liqueurs should be 50 proof, or more.
[sloe-flavored gin liqueur (please use only the Plymouth brand), proprietary flavored gin liqueur (Pimm's #1)]
Ratafia Liqueurs - liqueurs produced by sweetening a maceratioin of fruit and/or fruit-stones and/or nuts and/or other botanicals in spirits of any type so that the noticeable flavor will be of the macerated material rather than the spirit. High-quality ratafia liqueurs are usually less than 50 proof.
[amaretto liqueur, hazelnut ratafia liqueur (Frangelico), raspberry ratafia liqueur (Chambord), Irish cream liqueur, falernum liqueur, allspice liqueur, cherry ratafia liqueur (Heering), elderflower ratafia liqueur (Saint Germain), ginger ratafia liqueur (Domaine de Canton),etc]
Crème Liqueurs - liqueurs produced by sweetening flavored neutral spirits, usually to a point of more than 30% (by weight in the finished product) sugar syrup. High-quality crème liqueurs are usually less than 50-proof.
Huile Liqueurs - liqueurs produced by sweetening flavored neutral spirits to a point of sugar content less than that for crème liqueurs. Huile liqueurs are often mis-labelled in the U.S.A. as schnapps liqueurs or crème liqueurs. High-quality huile liqueurs are less than 70-proof.
[huile de pomme liqueur (Berentzen), huile de melon liqueur (Midori), etc.]
Schnapps Liqueurs - liqueurs produced by sweetening flavored neutral spirits to a point of sugar content less than that for crème liqueurs, but sold at spirit-proof. Schnapps liqueurs were made to profit from the market demand by German immigrants for schnaps. German schnaps are unsweetened spirits, not liqueurs, that often have the flavor of fermented-or-macerated fruit-or-botanicals. Schnapps liqueurs were created as cheap American ersatz. Schnapps liqueurs were traditionally sold at high-proof, since they were a substitute for spirits. High-quality schnapps liqueurs should be 70 proof, or more.
[apple-flavored schnapps liqueur, peach-flavored schnapps liqueur, cinnamon-flavored schnapps liqueur, etc]
Fortified Wines - wines that are fortified with a spirit (usually brandy), often stopping fermentation and preserving more of the grape-flavor and sweetness that in normal wines. The presence of distilled alcohol means that they are technically liquor.
[Sherry, Port, Madeira, etc.]
Aromatized Wines - wines that are fortified with a spirit-maceration of aromatic botanicals, usually after fermentation of the wine is complete. Many aromatized wines are also additionally-sweetened.
[sweet vermouth (rosso/rouge), medium vermouth (bianco/blanc), dry vermouth (a waste of time), rouge quina (Dubonnet), blanc quina (Lillet), etc.]
Bitters - spirit-macerations of aromatic botanicals, traditionally combined with water-infusions of the same botanicals. When mixed with other liquors, all bitters should remove most of the sensation of the harshness of the alcohol.
Additive Bitters - bitters that are not sweetened and are meant to be used in small amounts.
[aromatic additive bitters (Angostura, Fee Brothers, Peychaud's, Boker's, Bitter Truth), orange additive bitters (Angostura, Fee Brothers, Bitter Truth), peach additive bitters, celery additive bitters, cherry additive bitters, lemon additive bitters, grapefruit additive bitters, cacao additive bitters, etc.]
Grand Bitters (a.k.a. Beverage Bitters, Kräuterlikör, amaro, amer) - bitters that are meant to be used in larger amounts. Grand bitters are often sweetened. Almost all grand bitters are proprietary.
[Campari, Amer Picon (defunct), Torani Amer (substitute for original-formula Amer Picon), Picon Club, Picon Biere (grand bitters for beer), Cynar, Aperol, Berechovka, Jägermeister, Zwack Unicum, Caperitif (defunct), Fratelli Fernet Branca, Fratelli Fernet Menta, Luxardo Fernet Branca, Calisaya, Amaro Montenegro, etc.]
Thursday, July 22, 2010
All Saint Croix rum is now distilled in continuous stills and is therefore light rum. Cruzan does offer a heavy, molasses-flavored rum - but it is based on light rum.
I finally decided to contact Cruzan and asked them when continuous distillation began on Saint Croix. Today, I received the following answer:
Monday, July 19, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Since the real stuff has gone, producers have been free to call something else 'applejack.' What is sold as 'applejack' today is simply apple brandy blended with a greater amount of neutral grain spirit. As a purist, I reject all products labelled 'applejack.' I use straight apple brandy in all mixed drinks bearing the 'jack' moniker. For thoroughbred drinking, I prefer Calvados apple brandy served neat.
Open a bottle of good cider (sparkling apple wine). For our purposes here, you should avoid any very dry bottling - if you can. Cover the opening with cheesecloth and place it in a clean, odor-free refrigerator. Position it so that it will not be knocked over. As soon as you find it to have gone flat, blend it with one-third as much straight apple brandy. If you have been forced to use a dry cider, you should consider adding a little bit of organic, unfiltered apple juice.
That is probably as close as you can come to traditional applejack without breaking any law.
1 ½ fl-oz. [45 ml.] dry gin
½ fl-oz. [15 ml.] Chartreuse liqueur (green)
1 tbsp. [15 ml.] superfine sugar (or ¾ fl-oz. [22.5 ml.] simple 1:1 sugar syrup)
1 fl-oz. [30 ml.] fresh Key lime juice
shake & fine-strain into a chilled 5.5 fl-oz. glass sour goblet
garnish with a small mint sprig
1 ½ fl-oz. [45 ml.] dry gin
½ fl-oz. [15 ml.] Chartreuse liqueur (green)
2 fl-dsh. [1.25 ml.] orange additive bitters
½ barspoon [1.25 ml.] fresh Key lime juice
stir & fine-strain into a chilled 4.5 fl-oz. glass cocktail goblet
garnish with a small mint sprig
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
Arrack - the word is from the Arabic, and means 'spirit' in the sense of high-proof, unsweetened liquor. There are three main types of spirit called arak or arrack. Arak is usually a geist or
If I asked you which spirit was made by secondarily-distilling a maceration of juniper berries and other botanicals, you would probably answer 'gin.' If I asked you the same question but changed the ingredients to wormwood and other botanicals, you would probably answer 'absinthe.' And if I asked you the same question but changed the ingredients to caraway, there is a good chance you would answer 'aquavit.'