Posted by Arctic Wolf on July 9, 2015
Finlandia describes itself as the Vodka of Finland. When I researched the spirit, I discovered it is distilled in the Finnish village of Koskenkorva, by the Altia Corporation from locally grown six-row barley and what the Finlandia website calls ‘untainted glacier water’. After distillation, the spirit is transported to Rajamäki (also in Finland) where it is brought to bottling strength and bottled. It is imported into Canada by Brown-Forman.
I sampled Finlandia side by side in a flight of vodka spirits which also included the more premium Belvedere Unfiltered Vodka, and AnestasiA Vodka, as well as a locally produced spirit Alberta Pure Vodka which shares a similar price point with Finlandia. I compiled notes for each Vodka, and from those notes (and from my notes in a separate tasting in my private tasting room) I constructed my reviews.
Here is a link to my full review for Finlandia Vodka:
“… only a few wisps of grainy spice were apparent in the breezes before I took my first sip. The vodka has a soft lightly sweet lemon balsam flavour which spreads across the palate as you sip. There is also a mild spiciness that covers the tongue …”
Please enjoy my latest review which includes two nice recipes at its conclusion, a Vodka Martini (with Grapefruit Peel) and the Vodka Daiquiri.
Note: If you are interested, here are the links for the three other Vodka Spirits in the flight which I sampled side by side with the Finlandia:
Posted in Vodka, Vodka Reviews | Tagged: Cocktails, Finlandia, Martini, Vodka Daiquiri, Vodka Martini, Vodka Review | Comments Off on Review: Finlandia Vodka
Posted by Arctic Wolf on July 1, 2015
Rum Nation is an Italian company created by Fabio Rossi, who began his life in the spirits trade as a Oenologist (one who has studied wine-making). After his studies, Mr. Rossi left the wine business and started up a whisky company in Edinburgh (Wilson and Morgan) acting as an independent bottler of Single Malt Scotch Whisky. His interest turned to rum, and in 1999 Fabio Rossi founded Rum Nation. His company is headquartered in Italy; but Fabio purchases select rums from various distillers in the Caribbean and the Americas. As a result Rum Nation provides a rather unique assortment of limited edition bottlings. One such bottling is Rum Nation Jamaica 8 Year Old Rum (2015 release).
The 8 Year Old Jamaican Pot Still Rum was distilled in 2006 in a traditional Pot Still (distillery located St. Catherine, on the Island of Jamaica) and spent the first 7 years of its maturation on the island in ex-bourbon casks. From Jamaica, the rum was transported to Italy where it was transferred to ex-sherry casks (Oloroso), and then it spent an additional year aging in a cool wine cellar in the Piedmont. The final rum was bottled at a full 50 % alcohol by volume in Italy in 2015.
Jamaican Pot Still Punch
According to Fabio Rossi:
“We decided to bottle at 50% because we wanted it to stay ballsy, and appeal to whisky drinkers!”
You may read my full review of this ‘ballsy’ rum by clicking on the following link:
“… The breezes seem to be filled with baking spices (vanilla, cinnamon, and a touch of cloves), rich brown sugar, and sherry-like aromas of dark fruit (raisins and dates). I also sense a strong presence of orange peel which is typical of Jamaican rums. In the midst of those familiar rummy scents are the punky notes of the Pot Still …”
Please enjoy my review as well as the suggested punch recipe at its conclusion, Jamaican Pot Still Punch.
Happy Canada Day!
Posted in Dark Rums, Rum, Rum Reviews | Tagged: 8 Year Old, Cocktails, Jamaica, Pot Still Punch, Pot Still Rum, Rum, Rum Nation, Rum Review | Comments Off on Review: Rum Nation Jamaica Pot Still 8 Year Old Rum
Posted by Arctic Wolf on June 29, 2015
Gin appears to be the original Martini spirit. There is some speculation as to how exactly this bar drink evolved, the beginnings of this cocktail form was perhaps initiated as early as 1888 when a recipe for a bar drink which consisted of half a wine glass of Old Tom Gin, and half a wine glass of Vermouth was published (Johnson, Harry (1888), The New and Improved Illustrated Bartenders’ Manual; Or: How to Mix Drinks of the Present Style). Over time this simple bar drink evolved and changed into the present day Martini.
Prohibition did its part to popularize the Martini as its main ingredient, Gin, was very easy for an illicit establishment to produce (illegally), and by the time prohibition ended, the Gin Martin may well have been the most popular bar drink served in North America.
Today, it remains a popular cocktail. Like the Vodka Martini (which arrived later on the scene), the Gin Martini can be served at varying degrees of dryness depending upon the amount of aromatized wine (usually vermouth) is used in its construction. The traditional recipes found in the cocktail guides from the 1920’s usually recommend a ratio of gin to vermouth of 2:1. Modern recipes contain much less vermouth, and in fact my brother-in-law’s favourite recipe calls for his cocktail glass to be rinsed with Vermouth only and the rest of the volume of his cocktail to be gin and garnish.
Traditional Gin Martini (cucumber garnish)
At the recent Belvedere Martini Seminar hosted by Ali Dedianko, Belvedere Vodka Global Ambassador, she made the point that we should perhaps explore also a larger range of garnishes than the typical olive or lemon peel. One of the garnishes she suggested was cucumber, and that is the direction I have chosen to go for this particular construction of my Gin Martini which combines No. 3 London Dry Gin and Stock Vermouth with thin slice of cucumber in an excellent Martini cocktail:
The following link will take you to my recipe page:
Note: I made this point with respect to the traditional Vodka Martini, and it bears repeating again with respect to the Gin Martini. Once you open any bottle of vermouth, it is important that you realize that all aromatized wines have a very short shelf life. This is because the wine will begin to oxidize almost immediately, and after only one short week (even if the bottle is refrigerated) it’s flavour will have undergone a noticeable and undesirable change. I suspect in fact, that it is experiences with bad vermouth that have led many people to decrease its volume in the classic martini cocktail, not understanding that the vinegary component they are tasting is not a normal flavour component of good vermouth.
Please use fresh vermouth whenever you are serving Martini cocktails.
Posted in Cocktails & Recipes | Tagged: Cocktails, Gin Martini, No. 3 London Dry Gin, Stock Vermouth, Traditional | 3 Comments »
Posted by Arctic Wolf on June 26, 2015
AnestasiA Vodka was created as a result of founder, Yuliya Mamontova’s desire to create a luxury spirit in the United States. Yuliya’s passion was a result of her upbringing, as she learned the arts of fermentation and distillation as well as the expertise of marketing and packaging firsthand growing up in a family of European Vodka Producers.
Her luxury vodka, AnestasiA, is produced in Bend Oregon from corn which is sourced from Pacific Northwest farms and water which flows from Bend’s Cascade Mountains. According to the company website:
“The waters of this range flow through riverbeds of lava rock, and thereby avoid picking the sediment—metallic salts such as magnesium and calcium—present in most water sources. In fact, our waters contain 90% less of these compounds than your average drinking water. This makes our water remarkably ‘soft’, and results in AnestasiA vodka’s naturally derived purity.”
The AnestasiA spirit is five times distilled, and after the final distillation, the distillate is brought to bottling proof with the soft Northwest water. Then it is filtered a further five times through crushed lava rock, neutral charcoal, and Arkansas-derived quartz crystal. The final Vodka is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume in a stunning decanter type bottle (shown to the left) which is made partially from recycled materials.
Founder, Yuliya Mamontova, reached out to me through my website, and asked me if I would agree to receive a bottle of her luxury Vodka to review.
Here is a link to that full review:
“… At the cold serving temperature I could detect absolutely no aroma above the glass, however, when I sipped the vodka I could taste a firm lemon zest with just a hint of grain spice. It is very pleasant especially with the lingering lightly sweet lightly spicy lemon flavour which coats the palate …”
Included with my review is a very nice cocktail which combines the AnestasiA Vodka with Gilbey’s Gin. I call it, Tactical Equilibrium.
Posted in Vodka, Vodka Reviews | Tagged: AnestasiA, Cocktails, Tactical Equilibrium, Vodka, Vodka Review | Comments Off on Review: AnestasiA Vodka
Posted by Arctic Wolf on June 22, 2015
Ali Stirs up a Cocktail
Two weeks ago I introduced the Vesper Cocktail (see recipe here) which was conceived and popularized by Ian Fleming in his 1953 James Bond novel, Casino Royal. It is basically a dry Gin Martini with a dollop of Vodka added. Some have claimed the dollop of Vodka served the purpose of smoothing out the relatively strong flavour of Gordon’s Gin which Bond called for in the original recipe. (If you read my Gordon’s Gin Review written several years ago, I make mention of the unusually strong flavour of this dry gin.)
The Reverse Vesper is a variation upon the original cocktail, and it was introduced to me by Belvedere Global Ambassador, Ali Dedianko. Ali was in Edmonton this past Spring presenting a “Crafting the Perfect Belvedere Martini” seminar for an intimate gathering of local media. Ali featured the Reverse Vesper and even had all of us sampling the delicious bar drink at the event. We were shown that by reversing the proportions of Gin and Vodka in the original Vesper, we create the reverse cocktail. In this case, rather than using a dollop of Vodka to soothe the flavour of a sharp gin, a dollop of dry gin is used instead to add a light piny character to the traditional Vodka Martini.
Reverse Vesper with Cucumber and Lemon
When I decided to reconstruct a Reverse Vesper at home for a few of my friends, I decided to employ a premium vodka which would add its unique flavour and character to the cocktail as well. For this purpose I chose Belvedere Unfiltered Vodka which is distilled from 100 % Dankowski Rye grain grown on a Single Estate. The Belvedere Unfiltered features wonderful light chocolate tones within its rye forward flavour profile. I also decided to use a better gin than Gordon’s, in fact I used one of my favourites, No. 3 London Dry Gin. To give the martini an additional twist, I employed both a cucumber garnish (the flavour of which works very well with both the gin and the vodka), and a twist of lemon peel which pairs well with both dry gin and with the added cucumber.
All of the combined flavours within the Reverse Vesper are simply divine, and you can find my recipe page here:
Note: Once one goes down the path of adding a little Gin to their Vodka Martini, or in the case of the Vesper, adding a little Vodka to their Gin Martini; then suddenly a whole new range of mixing possibilities opens up to those inclined to be creative. Many standard cocktails including Gimlets, Daiquiris, Fizzes, and Collins can be the subject of this type of experimentation with the aim of building new cocktails this summer. I embrace this form of creativity, and I encourage all who read my postings to do the same.
Posted in Cocktails & Recipes | Tagged: Belveder Unfiltered, Cocktails, Martini Mondays, No. 3 London Dry Gin, Reverse Vesper | 1 Comment »
Posted by Arctic Wolf on June 19, 2015
Alberta Pure Vodka is a brand name owned by Carrington Distillers who appear to be based in Calgary, Alberta. This is a triple distilled grain spirit produced by Alberta Distillers Limited which is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume. It is sold throughout Western Canada and even makes its way into Ontario via the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario).
When I tasted the Alberta Pure Vodka for the first time it was as part of a flight of vodkas my friends (the Rum Chums) and I were sampling at my first Vodka Tasting of 2015. We chilled each Vodka in my deep freeze such that there were all at about 2 degrees Celsius when we sampled them. Each vodka was served individually in a shot glass, and I kept track of what my friends were saying during the tasting.
(Note: My previous reviews for Potter’s Premium Vodka and Absolut Vodka were published based upon notes compiled from that initial tasting session.)
Alberta Pure Martini with mint and lime
More recently, I sampled Alberta Pure once more, this time in a flight of more premium vodka spirits which also included Finlandia, Belvedere Unfiltered, and AnestasiA. Again I compiled notes for each Vodka and from those notes (and from my previous notes) I constructed this review. (My reviews for the other three spirits will follow in the coming weeks.)
Here is a link to my full review for Alberta Pure Vodka:
“… when I raised the glass to my nose I could detect very little aroma. There was a light spiciness, but that was all. The first sip brought forward bits of grain spice and a touch of citrus zest, but again, that was all. When chilled, Alberta Pure is an extremely clean crisp spirit …”
I have been on a bit of a Martini kick lately and my review includes a nice recipe for a Vodka Martini (with lime and mint garnish).
Please enjoy my review and the additional Vodka reviews which will follow.
Posted in Vodka, Vodka Reviews | Tagged: Alberta Pure, Cocktails, Martini, Vodka, Vodka Review | 1 Comment »
Posted by Arctic Wolf on June 15, 2015
Ali Dedianko Double Strains her Martini
As everyone knows (at least those who have been following my Monday Martini series), I was invited to a special Belvedere Martini Seminar hosted by Blevedere’s Vodka Global Ambasssador Ali Dedianko which served as the inspiration for these Martini explorations. One of the topics which came up at her seminar was whether a proper martini should be shaken, or whether it should be stirred?
The popular theory is that the violence of shaking a martini in a cocktail shaker with ice will cause more of that ice to melt, and will therefore dilute your cocktail. Following that line of thinking, it would seem that stirring should be the preferred method of chilling your martini.
However, it is time to debunk this notion that shaking your cocktail to chill it will necessarily cause excessive dilution. The simple fact is that whether you are shaking your cocktail, or whether you are stirring your cocktail, the science of thermodynamics dictates that the same volume of ice will melt to bring your cocktail to zero degrees irregardless of whether it is shaken or stirred. It is not possible for one method to melt more ice that the other when chilling a bar drink.
But, that is not the whole story. What shaking in a cocktail shaker full of ice can do, is break the ice into very small pieces which will slip through the large holes on your cocktail strainer. It is those small ice particles which might make it into the cocktail which cause dilution of your martini as they will continue to melt after the bar drink is poured. That is why, if we choose to shake our Martini to chill it rather than stirring the cocktail in a mixing glass, we should take an additional step and double strain our chilled bar drink into our martini glass. The second strainer should be a fine sieve which will catch those small ice particles. After catching them in the fine sieve, we can then discard them into our bar sink keeping them out of the our bar drink.
This means that when I make my Dry Vodka Martini, I do not need to worry about dilution. And because I do prefer to shake my martinis rather than to stir them (this saves time), I always remember to double strain the cocktail.
In the case of the Dry Martini recipe I am sharing today, I have decided to additionally shake things up (pun intended) by adding not one but two garnishes to the bar drink. Some purists may believe it is sacrilege to add more than one garnish; but I really enjoy the complimentary flavours of both cucumber and lime in my martini. This is especially true when I use a superior vodka such as Belvedere Unfiltered (my review of this spirit will be published in a few short weeks). This particular premium vodka has a light but firm rye flavour. It makes sense to give this spirit just a little more to work with, and so I will make a small break from tradition.
Here is a link to my recipe page where you will find my Dry Martini:
Note: The moral of this posting is that there is in fact a bit of truth to the idea that cocktails which are shaken rather than stirred may be slightly more diluted. However we can mitigate this effect with a second fine sieve, which is why if a Martini recipes calls for the drink to be shaken, it should always specify that the cocktail should also be double strained.
As noted, I prefer to shake my cocktails. It is a faster way to make multiple cocktails for friends, and it puts on a better show for those who might be watching.
Posted in Cocktails & Recipes | Tagged: Belvedere Unfiltered, Cocktails, dry martini, Monday Martini | 2 Comments »
Posted by Arctic Wolf on June 14, 2015
Gilbey’s Gin is owned by spirits conglomerate Diageo; but it is produced and sold under its current license by Beam Suntory. The Beam Suntory website does not contain extensive information regarding Gilbey’s; however I did find this statement which describes its production:
“In making a fine London Dry Gin such as Gilbey’s, the fermentation process is similar to whiskey production. The fundamental difference is that the congeners, the natural taste elements that are so necessary to Bourbon and Scotch are absent. Instead, gin’s flavor is introduced to the alcohol when it is in a vaporous form and made to pass through a “filter” of juniper berries, herbs and spices.”
Here is a link to my full review:
“… I discovered a very traditional gin profile with firm juniper aromas leading out in front of lightly sweet citrus scents of orange and lemon. There are some fine spices in the breezes which remind me coriander, ginger and cardamon, as well as some floral accents resembling lilacs and white lilies …”
Please enjoy my review which includes two nice recipe suggestions, Gilbey’s and Tonic, and a Vesper Cocktail.
Posted in Gin, Gin Review | Tagged: Cocktails, Gilbey's, Gin, Gin and Tonic, London Dry Gin, Review, Vesper | 2 Comments »
Posted by Arctic Wolf on June 8, 2015
Ali Dedianko, Belvedere Global Vodka Ambassador
Last week I introduced everyone to Belvedere’s Vodka Global Ambassador, Ali Dedianko who hosted the Belvedere Martini Seminar which I attended at the downtown Edmonton restaurant, North 53. During that seminar, she introduced me to a very delicious cocktail called the Reverse Vesper (which I will discuss in one of my future postings). The Reverse Vesper is of course, based upon the more famous Martini-style cocktail the Vesper, (which is the subject of this posting).
The Vesper appears to be the invention of Ian Fleming who first published the recipe in his famous 1953 novel, “Casino Royal“ (which is also of course the novel that introduced the world to the iconic British secret agent, James Bond). In chapter 7 of the novel, Bond tells a bartender to build him a dry martini in a deep champagne goblet. His specific instruction is:
“Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.”
Felix Leiter who is accompanying him seems impressed with the bar drink, so James Bond goes on to explain to his CIA counterpart:
“I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad.”
Ian Fleming’s sentiments regarding proper cocktail construction hold a ring of truth as that is indeed the manner in which most of the bartenders I have spoken to prefer to build their best cocktails.
Of course Bond comes up with the perfect name for his cocktail when he meets Vesper Lynd in the next chapter. Her name was chosen by to her parents because she was “born on a dark and stormy night” and thus they chose the Latin word “vesper” for her name which means “evening”. James apparently feels the name suits his cocktail and asks Miss Lynd if he can borrow the name.
I have decided to construct my Vesper Cocktail as closely as possible (given what is available in my home bar setting) to James Bonds original formulation.
You can find this recipe by clicking on the following link which will bring you to my Vesper recipe page:
Note: After the 1953 publication of Casino Royale, the Vesper Cocktail became popular with bartenders around the world; however, the actual name of the drink and its complete recipe was not mentioned on-screen in the original, 1967 Casino Royale Movie. This first Casino Royale movie did not star Sean Connery. Instead actor David Niven played James Bond in what was actually a spoof film which satirized the other James Bond films produced to that point. It was not until 2006 when the 2nd adaptation of the original Casino Royale novel was released as a movie, that we heard the first onscreen reference to the Vesper cocktail. Of course, by then the original novel had already made it famous.
Posted in Cocktails & Recipes | Tagged: Cocktails, Ian Fleming, James Bond, Martini, Vesper | Comments Off on Martini Monday: The Vesper Cocktail
Posted by Arctic Wolf on June 5, 2015
Lady of the Empire
Tanqueray Gin was originally produced by Charles Tanqueray in London, England in 1830 at the Bloomsbury Distillery. The distillery prospered through the nineteenth century; but after being in production for over one hundred years, it was badly damaged in the bombing raids of World War II by the German air force. One still survived, and this still affectionately called “Old Tom” was moved to the new facilities in Cameron, Scotland where Tanqueray gin is currently produced. Tangueray Rangpur is a new style of gin from Tangueray. Whereas their flagship gin simply called Tanqueray is a traditional London Dry Gin which features , juniper, coriander, angelica root and licorice as the four major botanicals used in its construction. The Rangpur on the other hand is not labeled as a London Dry Gin, (it is simple labeled Gin) and according to the Tanqueray website features the Rangpur Lime as one of its major botanicals along with Juniper, Coriander, Bay leaves and Ginger.
Here is a link to my full review:
“… The aroma from the glass is more citrus forward with scents of both lime and lemon dominating the breezes and the juniper trailing along behind. The Rangpur also seems to have a stronger herbal component with hints of menthol and grassy lemonbalm. The spiciness of the coriander and ginger is very restrained …”
Please enjoy the review which is followed by one of my gin cocktails, the Lady of the Empire.
Posted in Gin, Gin Review | Tagged: Cocktails, Gin, Gin Review, Lady of the Empire, Rangpur, Tanqueray | Comments Off on Review: Tanqueray Rangpur Gin