Sunday, August 11, 2013

Spirits Review #1 - Hangar One Spiced Pear Vodka, Suntory Yamazaki 12yr Single Malt Whiskey, Johnnie Walker Black Label, and Laphroaig 10yr Scotch

One of the main reasons in regards to starting this blog besides reviewing fine dining restaurants is to write reviews of fine spirits. Now, I finally got down to writing my first spirits review blog post after a year. I'm no expert of taking down notes of smell, taste and finish such as professional tasters but will do my best in order to describe the sensations I experience during the process. In the end, I'll be giving a score by the following rubric out of 6 points.

1/6 - Something that undergrads would drink and then chase it down with soda. Would not drink this stuff even if it's the only thing that will get me buzzed.

2/6 - Drinkable only after having already consumed many drinks prior.

3/6 - It's alright, definitely something I am fine drinking when keeping costs down.

4/6 - Good. Something to be enjoyed for sure.

5/6 - Delicious! There's no hesitation at all when I'm willing to shell out more for it.

6/6 - Nectar of the heavens.

For this first spirits review, I will be giving my insight on four spirits: Suntory Yamazaki 12yr Single Malt Whiskey, Hangar One Spiced Pear Vodka, Johnnie Walker Black Label Blended Scotch Whisky, and Laphroaig 10yr Islay Scotch Whisky.

Suntory Yamazaki 12yr Single Malt Whiskey

Unlike the famed Hibiki, a blended whiskey, that became well known to the world from "Lost in Translation", the Yamazaki 12yr is a Single Malt from Suntory's Yamazaki distillery. When I first noticed it on the shelves at BevMo, I immediately bought a bottle. In addition, this is a prized favorite all over Japan as I definitely had lots of it when this was their nicest whiskey they have to offer. The scent of the whisky incorporates the flora of Japan, especially its maples. Also by the smell, I can tell that they use water from pristine sources. For the taste, it certainly is unique when comparing it to a Scotch. Although there's a slight hint of smokiness. it's quite smooth in taste and on the palate. When it goes down, it leaves a nice smooth burn without it being harsh at all. 5/6

Hangar One Spiced Pear Vodka

Being originally from the Bay Area, I'm quite partial towards the magnificent wines, beers and spirits produced in the region. Although vodka is my least favorite spirit, especially when preferred by those that want a spirit that mixes easily with chasers (although I truly respect those that appreciate and enjoy vodka as it is), Hangar One is certainly my favorite distiller of vodka. There original, unflavored vodka is great for what it is but what makes them unique is that they use actual organic fruits and plants in order to flavor their products; nothing artificial. Their vodka I will write about is their Spiced Pear Vodka. As this is part of their unique "Tasting Room Series" that diverges from their standard, yet quite breathtaking flavors, it does live up to its upscale connotation of the series. After chilling it in the freezer and pouring it in a glass, the color is certainly like that of the skin of a pear. After taking note of how it smells, it certainly is loaded with the pear aroma and spice notes of cinnamon and cardamom. The first sip of it is quite sweet, but not overwhelming, and it goes down quite smooth as there isn't much of a burn. It's just as if I were drinking the juice of a freshly squeezed pear. Even though I think it's not close to Hangar One's best flavors such as their Kaffir Lime, Buddha's Hand Citron, or their Frasier Raspberry; which just tells you how phenomenal their vodka's are (this coming from a whiskey drinker), it's still something worth checking out and sampling.  4/6

Johnnie Walker Black Label Blended Scotch Whisky

Although I prefer my Single Malts more than Blended whiskeys, this is definitely a standard, go-to classic. From the nose, not only I get the smokiness/peat that's well associated with the Black Label but I get cherries as well. However, once it hits the tongue, it's well-rounded with smoke, deep flavors, and a nice pungent burn. It's because of this well-rounded character of Johnnie Walker that makes it well known, even by the most distinguished Scotch drinkers. 4/6

Laphroaig 10yr Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

The Macallan 12 year used to be my go-to Single Malt especially how it has that unique flavor and smoothness from the Sherry casks. However, it's now replaced with my new standard favorite of completely opposite character, the Laphroaig 10yr Islay Single Malt Scotch Whiskey. Unlike Macallan which is a Highland whisky, even though the original, spiritual home of Macallan is in Speyside and many connoisseurs still regard Macallan as that from Speyside; the Laphroaig is from Islay producing a much smokier, peatier Scotch which is quite opposite from the smooth flavorings and burn from it being aged in Sherry Oak. On the nose, it's quite pungent with the peat, not at all shy. The flavor is loaded with aggressive smokey, wood flavor. Even though it produces a nice, powerful, deep burn for the finish, it'll leave you wanting for more, especially if you're the whiskey epicure that enjoys these powerful characters of peat/smoke.  Even though it's quite reasonably priced around $40, I have to say that this Scotch is transcending. 6/6

On a side note: in the following picture, that is for sure a Sushi Clock. You can get them from and they're quite well made.