Father’s Day Gift Guide 2014
What to get for your old man? That’s the question that tends to brew in my mind when every year arrives to Father’s Day. It’s hard to pick a gift for my dad personally because he pretty much has everything he wants and needs in life but there’s always something that could surprise him, especially when it comes down to the quaffable and edible.
Greenore 8 Year Old Single Grain Irish Whiskey won Gold three years in a row at the International Wine and Spirits Competition between 2008 and 2010. This whiskey is an interesting expression made by Kilbeggan Distilling Company, owned by Beam Suntory. This whiskey is made up of 93% corn imported from France (due to Ireland’s climate, corn does not grow well there) and 7% malted barley.
Greenore is produced entirely in a column still, which results in a much lighter and softer distillate. Bottled at 40% ABV after 8 years in a first fill used bourbon barrel, the nose offers up aromas of fresh corn and vanilla wafers. On the palate, this whiskey is very bourbon-like, with fresh vanilla and caramel predominating and an undertone of fresh peaches. The finish is quick and light. At approximately $50 a bottle, Greenore isn’t cheap, but it is definitely worth exploring through the world of Irish whiskey.
C by Courvoisier is a full Cognac blended from spirits produced from grapes from 50 winegrowers in the Fin Bois Cru, a somewhat lesser Cognac region surrounding Grand Champagne and Petite Champagne. It’s understandable – there are only so many grapes in Grande Champagne region and they must cost a fair Euro these days, so Courvoisier can make a less expensive Cognac by stepping into nearby areas. The resulting spirit is double barreled in both young and mature barrels. No age statement is offered.
The deep amber, almost burnt orange color is enticing, and the nose offers lots of citrus and apple fruit character, with a touch of floral element to it. On the body, lots of heat. In a vessel that curves in at the lip, this traps a lot of alcohol in the glass, and it quickly becomes overwhelming. Let it dissipate and you’ll get lots more of that apple and orange fruit, plus a healthy slug of wood. ($35)
St. George is located in Alameda, CA. Their California Agricole Rum using 100% California sugarcane. St. George Spirits’ California Agricole Rum is a colossal, grassy rum that is a clear expression of California sugarcane, and strikingly different from most rums in its allegiance to the ripe, vegetal properties of just-harvested cane. California Agricole arrives at a slightly higher 86 proof than most rums.
Caliche Rum was first launched in 2012 as a premium white rum made from a traditional base of Caribbean molasses. It is aged for between 3 and 5 years in a solera system of oak casks (meaning small portions of the oldest rums are left to help marry and flavor the new rum coming into the cask). While the aging gives rum a bronze, golden color (known as gold rum), Caliche uses a charcoal filtration to remove color, which yields the clear silver rum with some vanilla and caramel notes still present from the aging. Caliche rum is made at the Serralles Distillery in Puerto Rico, home of well-regarded brands such as Don Q and Captain Morgan. ($19)
Dry Fly Distilling is one of the few micro-distillers that is committed to using local, sustainable and quality ingredients and distilling them perfectly.
Dry Fly Vodka (80 proof) Is the vodka that will blow your mind. Has a very sweet nose that has notes of strawberry, vanilla and yogurt, it’s clear that this is not an ordinary vodka. The entry is soft and sweet with a taste that reminds me of vanilla frosting. The vodka has a fantastic mouthfeel and finishes well with just a hint of heat. Dry Fly vodka leaves your mouth clean and cool – as close to a benchmark for perfect distilling. Dry Fly does their own grain fermenting (rather than starting with commercial neutral grain spirits like many vodkas) and it shows. This vodka is simply one of the best we’ve tasted in a while.
Dry Fly Whiskey (80 proof) is a young whiskey and generally, we prefer aged whiskeys because it develops more character and does feel like and taste underdeveloped but that being said, it’s a very good young whiskey with lots of potential. One to two years of age in barrel often leaves a whiskey underdeveloped. It has a nice light amber color, the nose on the Dry Fly Whiskey is bran cereal with cinnamon, apricot jam, and vanilla. The taste has warm aromatic spices like cinnamon and strong bran cereal like oats and bran. There’s a solid amount of heat with a nice wide mouth feel. The whiskey finishes well into a very cool finish. As with their vodka, it’s clear just how exceptional the distilling process at Dry Fly is, and while we like this whiskey, we can only imagine how great it could be if it was left in barrel for another few years. As it stands, it’s pretty damn good.
New York State is slowly growing an unique independent spirits scene for the past few years that we (New Yorkers) since we practically had none due to Prohibition in the 1920s. This all started to change in 2002, when state laws regulating distilling began to loosen in 2007, the trickle of New York whiskey and vodka became an explosion, when the New York Farm Distillery Law lowered the financial bar for beginning distillers (the main qualifier is to source at least half of their raw material from New York), and allowed qualified distillers to open tasting rooms and sell spirits right from the distillery.
Today, New York’s new distillers are engaging in a complex blend of reinvention and innovation: many seek to explore New York’s bibulous heritage by making whiskeys from heirloom varieties of grain or fruit brandies in styles rarely seen in the past century, or distinctive styles of gin that reflect New York’s inimitable culture and history. Others are tinkering with entirely novel styles of spirits. Here’s a few we explored:
Montezuma Winery has a fine selection of distilled spirits (seen on the top of this section of photos). Amongst the ones seen, here the most unique is the multiple award winning Bee Vodka ($48.99 for 750ml). It is pot distilled in a copper potstill and and copper column this vodka is made from 100% New York Finger Lakes honey – an expensive and difficult proposition. Triple distilled in individual batches to ensure that the purest hearts of each distillation. Hidden Marsh Distillery Queens Flight Brandy ($28.99 for 375ml) has subtle floral, grain and vanilla aromas and undertones of oak, pepper and hints of leather, tobacco from the wood aging. Strong citrus floral component with honey. Smells a good bit like a sweet bourbon or Irish Whiskey in some ways. Marshland Series Maple Liqueur ($24.99 for 375ml) is made from 100% locally sourced New York maple syrup and using the “farm to bottle” green/environmental approach working with local people and resources. It has a slightly pale gold like maple syrup. Very thin coating on glass. Slowly goes from scalloped edgeline to legs. Thick body and entry to it. Nice maple flavor to it without being overdone or tasting sickly sweet. Lone Loggers-Bourbon ($44.99 for 750ml) is a lightly proofed bourbon. It has a supple, dry, light-to-medium body and flavors and aromas of honeycomb and oak, and a faint spice accented finish.
Adirondack Distilling‘s Vodka ($29.99) is made from locally grown corn and therefore it is gluten-free. Their custom distillation process allows them to create a great tasting vodka that brings out the subtleties of our recipe. This vodka has earned multiple international awards for its smooth flavor (recently, Platinum at 2013 International Spirits (SIP) Awards). It’s clean, crisp and it’s fantastic as a vodka based martini besides served in shots. The ADK Gin that was released last summer, it has the same base alcohol they use to make vodka with. Then infuse it with different botanicals like juniper berries and other aromatics that the team believes reflects the Adirondacks like the Adirondack bill-berries, orange root, and cinnamon. It is very smooth and has a little floral, slightly sweet finish. 1000 Stills White Whisky gets its name from its heritage. 6.1 million acres to hide from the law, bootleggers found refuge in the wilderness of the Adirondacks, known as the land of 1,000 stills. Recipes of corn whisky were passed down from generation to generation and perfected through the years and this is what you get in this amazing bottle of whiskey that is gently sweet and great depth of flavor.
Catskill Provisions ($49.99) New York Honey Whiskey is an 80 proof rye, made of their handcrafted rye infused with late-summer honey produced in the Northwest Catskill Mountains. This infusion of rye and honey leads to a unique flavor profile – the whiskey has a warm, spicy aroma that gives way to notes of sweet citrus, mellow honey and wildflowers on the palate. The finish is warm and bold, with a touch of ginger and oak.
The Finger Lakes Distilling‘s McKenzie Whiskey ($39.99 for 750mL) is their take on an Irish-style whiskey, which means soft, smooth and easy drinking. Using a combination of locally-grown unmalted barley and malted barley, the whiskey is aged in old bourbon and rye barrels to give it a rich, silky flavor.
I’ve been intrigued the relatively recent attention of meads, an ancient honey wine that seemed to be nonexistent then but then again, all things old is getting its renaissance. I’ve “discovered” Crafted Artisan Meadery who produces award winning meads in northeast Ohio. The Pollinator is a dry hopped spiced blackberry mead and it just won a Mazer Cup International Mead Competition in March 2014. The Spiced Apple Cyser is a sweet mead crafted with 100% raw Ohio wildflower honey, fresh Ohio apple cider, spices, and yeast. This apple pie-inspired cyser (a style of mead flavored with cinnamon and apples) can be enjoyed year round, but with cinnamon and nutmeg notes. This does taste like apple pie and I would like this so much more when autumn rolls around. Hop Nectar is a semi-sweet metheglin mead (a traditional mead with herbs and/or spices added) that is crafted with 100% raw Ohio wildflower honey, water, and yeast. This traditional mead is then dry hopped with Cascade Hops prior to bottling for a perfectly balanced profile. It’s a sweet yet spicy mead that has lots of character. Blue Honey Melomel is a semi-sweet melomel mead (essentially, it’s made of honey and fruit) that is crafted with 100% raw Ohio wildflower honey, farm raised Great Lakes blueberries, water, and yeast. This blueberry melomel is then aged on French oak staves for 3 months to provide added depth and complexity. Supposedly, this particular mead ages well but it won’t survive for long in my house. It’s truly special and delicious.
Angry Orchard recently released The Muse to their Cider House Collection. It’s inspired by the slightly sweet demi-sec Champagnes and sparkling wines, The Muse is bubbly and effervescent. It is made from traditional culinary and bittersweet apples and aged on French oak. The Muse is sweet upfront with a juicy apple aroma and bright acidity, and slightly drying on the finish with a lingering sweet apple note. The French oak adds a subtle wood impression, imparting notes of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and hints of vanilla.
The flavor is full, well rounded and it’s not nearly as sweet as I was thinking. There is huge, woody cider with big sweet apples, apple cider, lightly tart baker’s apples, gooseberries, and light melon, peach, and lemon. I’m getting a lot of white wine in here, with big oaky notes. The finish is also surprisingly dry and clean, and this definitely hints at Champagne-dryness.
Bulleit Bourbon is a popular Kentucky bourbon. On the nose, it has floral scents of violets and juniper, dried herbs, and spices. The caramel, vanilla and honey notes balance extremely well with the high rye cinnamon and coriander spice that comes through but the rye spice fades a little quick. The middle of the road 90 proof lends a surprisingly nice kick and the medium thickness really wraps up the bourbon quite well.
Harpoon Brewery is a Boston-based brewery, founded in 1986 that creates unique and delicious beers.
Since winter is loosening it’s chokehold ever so slowly, it’s a good time for shandy. Shandy is beer blended with citrus juice and Harpoon Brewery just released their UFO Big Squeeze Shandy. This is part of their unfiltered UFO series, it is an unfiltered wheat beer blended with grapefruit juice. The 4.5%-abv offering, which is characterized by sweet malt, tart and citrus notes. It’s a refreshing and great beer to drink for the summer.
Harpoon Citra Victorious is the 50th installment of the 100 Barrel Series. This is a grapefruit-infused, dry-hopped pale ale which features both Citra and Cascade hops along with 96 pounds of grapefruit peel. The Citra hops provide a juicy citrus character while Chico yeast yields a fruity aroma in this grapefruit-infused pale ale with a great medium body.
The 100 Barrel Series is derived from an internal employee competition. About 5 years ago, brewery staffers from every department were invited to brew a beer of their choosing and present it to their colleagues for a blind sampling and voting at the company’s annual gathering in Vermont. Each year the competition became more fierce and the entries more numerous and diverse. The Harpoon Kettle Cup was born. The winning beer would be brewed as a 100 Barrel Series beer.
Hard Cider is simply made of freshly pressed apples. We ferment it with our house yeast, yielding a clean but refreshing all natural cider. It’s clean, light, straightforward apple cider that you won’t mind drinking throughout the warm days.
UFO Raspberry Hefeweizen is a German style, raspberry infused beer. (Hefe is German for yeast; weizen is German for wheat.) It has an intense aroma of raspberries in the glass. When sipped, raspberries dominate the flavors, slightly sour too. Toward the end the typical here characters come in, but not distinctly. Just a nice malty complement to the finish. It’s a very refreshingly tart beer that has a nice medium body with lots of carbonation. It’s an amazing beer to have during brunch and replace my mimosa until Harpoon Brewery stops selling it for the season.
Bison Organic Beer is an award winning, artisan brewery founded in 1989 in Berkeley, CA that creates USDA certified organic beers with an unusual twist. Their year-round flavors: Hop Cuvee, Chocolate Stout, and Honey Basil kind of give you the essence of what their beers are about.
The Chocolate Stout beer (5% ABV) has a dark, mahogany highlighted, blackish color with a light, frothy, low profile, creamy tan colored head. On the nose, it smells of roast cocoa nib, baker’s chocolate, and some subtle cream notes. Flavors are roast forward with a blend of cocoa and baker’s chocolate and a bitter undertone and creamy highlights that help to keep the palate balanced.
The Hop Cuvee has an orange body with a nice foamy head when poured into a tall glass. It smells of grapefruit, pineapple and hops. When sipped, it follows the aromas with a bit of peppery spiciness with a tinge of bitterness. In regards to body, it’s a little heavier than some pale ales but lighter than a IPA
The Honey Basil beer has a light amber color with aromas of malt with a bright, basil aroma. It tastes wonderfully of basil and transitions nicely into a floral sweetness and then into a very slight bitterness. The honey begins to peak through in the finish, but then its muddled by a triumphant comeback of sweet herbal goodness. It’s a light, refreshing beer that you want to drink in a warm, summer day.
Saison de Wench is a seasonal spring beer since it’s steeped with rose petals. It pours a hazy orange with a foamy bone white head. The aromas of malt, grain, rose petal, fruit, and slight lemongrass. The taste is much the same with slightly sour malt, earth, rose, and hibiscus flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of earthy bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good beer with a nice mixture of earthy, floral, and fruit qualities in the aroma and flavor.
Coffee & Tea
Mr. Espresso is a highly respected, independent coffee roaster and coffee equipment and coffee training center based in Oakland, California. It’s owned by the same family for over three decades and they make some fantastic coffee. Their roasting style is still rooted with espresso, like the family has started but round out their collection with amazing single origins and blends, at a variety of roasts. They are the only coffee roaster, as far as I am aware of, roast their beans with oak wood to give it a unique flavor profile.
Mr. Espresso’s Colombia, El Bado (12 ounces, $12) Is a very sweet yet tart cup of joe. Aromas of roasted cacao nib, orange-y citrus, almond, and floral honeysuckle. It has a light but distinctly syrupy mouthfeel. It maintains the sweet yet acidic finish. Organic Neapolitan Espresso ($12.25, 12 ounces) is the brand’s expression of the Neapolitan style espresso but use Fair Trade certified and organic coffee beans. This espresso made for a seriously good shot. I adored its smoky, floral complexity and it’s fantastic with steamed milk. Ethiopia Alemu Natural ($13 for 12 ounces) yield a wonderful cup that has aromas of bright red berries, lemon zest, and molasses. There’s a crisp acidity when drinking but has a touch of sweetness that makes it a delightful cup to sip and savor in the morning. Sumatra Lintong ($12 for 12 ounces) has tobacco, earthy notes that makes it almost a robust, brooding kind of coffee but with a touch of citrus as an end note to make it unusually intriguing. (The Rwanda Musasa was a delicious, aromatic coffee but it’s no longer available.)
Dogwood Coffee Co is a small, quality-focused roaster out of Minneapolis, Minnesota started in 2010. Dogwood has already established itself in many of the Twin Cities’ coolest and most trusted coffee shops. Describing its coffees as “well developed light roasts,” the company has an eye for quality and a knack for getting the most flavor out of its beans by not under roasting them.
Like most high quality roasters, they have relationship-based single origins, Dogwood also offers three eye-catching blends emphasizing balance and presented with a sense of fun. Kenya Wanjengi ($19.95 for 12 ounces) is a full-flavored, complex coffee with a bright tartness up front and flavors of blackberry and red berries. Neon Espresso ($16.75 for 12 ounces) is true to its name as this espresso blend is super sweet and bright (like neon). It has a medium syrupy body with a sweet candy-coated finish that lingers. It’s a joy to sip this shot without any milk (though there’s nothing wrong about adding steamed milk either). (The other two beans, Sulawesi Indonesia Toarco AA and Columbia El Merdiano, were a pleasure to drink but they are unfortunately, no longer available for sale.)
Kakalove Cafe is a nano-roaster located the small city of Chia-Yi in Taiwan. Though you might argue these beans aren’t locally roasted, they do send you fresh roasted beans in about 2-3 business days and the beans have its necessary resting period. The Ethiopia Yirga Natural Bedhatu ($23 for 16 ounces) has complex flowers ranging from honeysuckle to lavender, roasted cacao nib, orange, tobacco in aroma and cup. Richly tart, floral-toned acidity and has a light but very silky mouthfeel. Deep, flavor-saturated finish. Ethiopia Washed Sidama Shilcho Coop G1 ($22 for 16 ounces) have a sweet-toned but delicately pungent tobacco, guava-like fruit and honey aromas. Gentle, complexly expressed acidity with a silky mouthfeel. The floral notes in particular carry into a sweet, flavorful finish. Sumatra Lake Tawar Screen 19 Plus TP ($20 for 16 ounces) is a sweet-toned yet pungent and heavy. It’s oak-y, carob and sweet cherry with subtle vanilla aromas. Brisk but has acidity in the background. Tanzania Songea Peaberry ($17 for 16 ounces) has honey, roasted cacao nib, citrus-y aromas. It’s softly rich in acidity and has a lightly syrupy mouthfeel with flavors of citrus and cacao in particular carry into a bittersweet, flavorful finish. Rwanda Abakundakawa ($18 for 16 ounces) is an intensely pungent coffee. Aromas of black currant, orange, dark chocolate with a slight mushroom-like edge in the cup. Round, rich acidity. Full, syrupy mouthfeel. The savory pungency carries into a lasting but simple, finish.
Shanghai Cha is a new start-up tea brand that is trying to capture the wonderful flavors and aromas of Chinese tea. It makes sense since tea was originally drunk in China for centuries (even before the British and French) and the culture of tea is deeply rooted that the country should and does have the ability to source excellent teas. Shanghai Cha aims to source exceptional grade and aromatic Chinese teas. Their Kings Tieguanyin Treasure Mountain Oolong Tea is a wonderful, full-bodied oolong tea that has an deliciously sweet yet minerally flavor that lingers on the background ($32 for 1.8 ounces). The Anji Baicha White Tea ($28 for 1.8 ounces) is an unprocessed green tea that make it a white tea. It is a light-bodied tea with vegetal flavors, like asparagus, and citrus flavors.
Edible Goods (except for a few things)
Honeysuckle Gelato is a gelato brand based in Atlanta, Georgia. What makes their gelati and sorbets unique is based on having delectable flavors inspired by the good ol’ South and use the best possible ingredients. (Though they are not locally found in NYC, they have a limited assortment of flavors are available for delivery from these online stores.) The one that truly screams “Southern flavor” would be their Bourbon Pecan. The molasses and bourbon tinged gelato with wonderful crunchy bits of pecan tasted quite profound to me, as it’s my favorite version of this flavor. Though their Honey Fig is more like inspired by southern Italy, the earthy sweet fig purée is naturally sweetened by the use of their local honey, sweet cream, and milk made it hard to put down my spoon. Almost everyone’s favorite (or at least very popular for the past several years) flavor sea salted caramel gelato was delicious and their salted caramel is balanced to have the sweet and salty balance. Espresso gelato was a fantastic and was very flavorful. The mango peach sorbet was an interesting and amazing, sweet blend of tropics and the South and their sorbet is incredibly smooth that it’s great to eat on a sweltering summer day.
e-Creamery Ice Cream is online custom ice cream and gelato shop where you choose your own flavor, mix-ins, packaging, and even name your own ice cream. I have done the latter by having the Father’s Day inspired set. Their ice creams and gelati were delicious. Flavors ranged to the minimalist like straight chocolate or pistachio to the decadent like malted milk ice cream with chocolate covered malt balls and caramel swirls.
Sola Bee Farms is a sustainable, family owned bee farm since 1861, originally based in Woodland, California but expanded to Petaluma, California. Their honeys ($10 each 12 ounce jar) are sublime to have with your cup of tea up to baking a very special dessert that highlights on honey. The Yellow Star Thistle is bright yet savory with hints of fresh lemon, the Wine Country Wildflower honey that has bees getting their sweet nectar from that region does capture its inherent, lush flavors, and their Blackberry honey has a delicately juicy, tart blackberry flavor with the sweet honey even though it’s not an infused honey.
Zoku is a unique brand that creates home products that utilizes your freezer. Their signature equipment, if you will, is The Quick Pop Maker. It freezes popsicles or paletas quickly (about an average of 3 minutes) but you must refrigerate the base for at least 24 hours. This is great for the inner kid in you (the adult or father) to create some delicious ice pops that can be straight forward fruit purée with some sugar dissolved or be crazy as me and try to pair flavors with the fruit like my strawberry, lemongrass and lavender paleta seen above. The ice ball mold is fantastic for the cocktail snob who wants his ice slowly melting yet still cooling his drink. The ice cream bowl is a similar concept to The Quick Pop Maker except one would yield soft ice cream that you could eat straight out from the same bowl you mixed in.
Hydroflask is an Oregon-based brand that designs these vacuum-insulated travel mugs that keeps hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold for hours. The color choices are great personal touches and it’s for the adventurous or active person (or father) in your life. (Seen here: Water Bottles 21 ounce $26 and 40 ounce $35, and Coffee & Tea Flask $24)