While in Europe we decided to drink like the locals (not only in wine & beer this time) and here are the results. Some are rare, some are not; but all are very special to me for many different reasons. I cannot wait to tell you about them!
From the Top-Left
Casa Noble Single Barrel Joven:
Ever since I fell head-over-heels in love with agave spirits this tequila has been on my list. I was unable to locate it in the Minnesota market so I finally picked up a bottle while in Chicago. Bottled at cask strength (51%) this “Joven” is only barreled in French Oak casks for 6 weeks and has the barrel/bottle date documented on the bottle. This technically would still classify it as a “blanco” per tequila regulations however it is very different than a typical blanco. Carmel, vanilla and clove with bright, bold agave melt over the palate. Casa Noble ages their reposado tequila to the max allowable timeframe (364 days); with that being said, this is a great middle-ground between their un-aged blanco and their near-anejo reposado. Being a true agave fan, I greatly enjoy this expression as it is bright, full of character, agave forward and has some oomph being barrel strength; great for cocktails and sipping neat. (Binny’s Beverage Depot, Chicago; $59.99)
Yellow Chartreuse: I’ve been looking to pick this bottle up for a while now but it’s been a bit more than I wanted to shell out. However, 33 Euro is what they pay in Paris. I had to jump on it and haul this baby home. It does share a similar, yet tamed and more gentile profile with its emerald sibling. The yellow really understands the concept of being a team player (an area its emerald sibling struggles with). It mixes very well while adding a slight herbal note; but more than that it’s almost like a silent leader. It brings all of the other ingredients in the glass together and takes them all to the next level.
Can you sub Yellow for Green in any quantity? I once thought “yes” however, now I would say “no”. Like fraternal twins, they may have similarities but deep down one could not take the place of the other without being easily noticed. One more thing, Saffron; that’s what gives this variety its lovely yellow hue. (Roy’s Cave, Montmartre; 33,00 Euro)
Jade Espirit Edouard Absinthe:
I originally tasted this absinthe at a bar called ‘Rules’ in London on our honeymoon. We tasted it side-by-side with Pernod 69 and the difference was astounding. Since then I have been on a search for this bottle. I have always had a special place in my heart for Absinthe (obtaining my first bottle back in 2006 via the web, around the time it was re-legalized for import).Technically, this award-winning Absinthe is no-longer impossible to find in the states but it is rare. I decided to pick this up from one of the few known sources around the globe; a hole-in-the-wall liquor ‘cave’ in Paris lined wall-to-wall-to-wall with exotic bottles from all over the globe. The clerk spoke no English; it was very hard to leave that store… (Roy’s Cave, Paris; 78,00 Euro)
You can find info on procuring this bottle and other amazing and rare Jade Liqueurs at www.bestabsinthe.com
Loyaal 5 year aged “Oude” Genever:
Also spelled ‘Jenever’ in Amsterdam and Belgium. Where to begin? In Amsterdam there are “Jonge” (or young) & “Oude” (or old). The oude does not mean that it is aged, but in fact refers to an old recipe verses the jonge or new recipe. ‘Jonge’ jenever can contain no more than 15% malt wine and 10 grams of sugar per liter; while ‘Oude’ jenever must contain at least 15% malt wine, and no more than 20 grams of sugar per liter. Only the oude jenever is aged; the Bols aged product here in the states is an oude recipe and is aged 18 months. Jonge jenever has a somewhat neutral taste with notes of juniper and malt wine, however oude jenever has a smoother, fuller and maltier flavor profile. I’m a huge fan of the oude; can you tell?
Traditionally jenever (particularly the Oude) is served in a tulip-shaped glass filled to the brim usually at room temperature and those enjoying would bend over with hands behind their backs to sip out the first taste so as not to spill any of the spirit. When served as a chaser with a bier it is called a “Kopstoot” (or a Headbutt) & when served dropped into a bier it is called a “Duikboot” (or a U-Boat).
De Ooievaar Distillery (the makers of “Loyaal” Genever) is the oldest distillery in Amsterdam and produces some of the most respected jenevers in the world. (Cave Rokin, Amsterdam; 35,00 Euro)
11.50 Euros for this 1-liter bottle at a Mono-prix in Paris. That’s where and how much, but it doesn’t tell a fraction of this bottle’s story. Oddly enough, I walked into several liquor stores in Montmartre to inquire on this and not-a-one knew what I was talking about. I finally located it on a budget shelf of Amari in a Mono-prix. I thought that was a bit odd. It has a unique mixture of Orange peel, Gentian and Quinquina and 18% abv. It seems something like what mixing orange liqueur with an amaro might taste like; Very delicious and not imported into this country currently. Traditionally in Northern France they often consume a few cl of this with a light “Witte or Blonde” bier. I ordered this at one of our favorite restaurants in Paris and I can see why, it is delicious! Picon & Bier seems to be to the northern French as the Aperol Spritz is to Italy and southern Europe. Don’t worry, I won’t “spend it all in one place” so to speak… (Monoprix, Paris; 11,50 Euro)
A special bottle of French wine: We had this wine under the Eiffel Tower on our honeymoon. #nostalgia (Huit à Huit, Montmartre; 20,00 Euro)
Fortaleza Tequila Repo: Unable to acquire this in Minnesota (lack of distribution). I simply couldn’t visit Chicago without picking up this very special bottle of tequila. It was my first bottle of high-end tequila and it still hangs with just about any tequila out there in my opinion. And who doesn’t love that pina-shaped cork?? (Binny’s Beverage Depot, Chicago; $69.99)
Front Row from left
Vegetal Elixer “Grande-Chartreuse”:
This stuff is like taking Green Chartreuse, re-distilling it and bottling it at proof (69%ABV); a deliciously smooth and flavorful version of Green Chartreuse. It is made by the same Carthusian monks that produce Green and Yellow Chartreuse. This is high quality stuff; upon tasting, I had no alcohol burn when sipping neat and the vegetal, evergreen flavors were amazing and abundant. 15 Euro bought me this 100ml bottle (roughly 4oz). – So not cheap, but worth every penny. It’s described as “a cordial, a liqueur and a very effective tonic.” What’s not to love? (Roy’s Cave, Montmartre; 15,00 Euro)
Bas Armagnac Delord “Hors d’Age”:
Armagnac. Did you know that France exports almost all of its cognac? In contrast, it exports next-to-none of its Armagnac. The French love this stuff and it’s easy to see why. It’s similar to cognac, but it offers a touch of spice and a fuller, more flavorful palate. While we were in Paris I had at least a glass of Armagnac every day (usually after dinner); everyone I tried was full of flavor and complex. Some would say it’s not as straight forward as cognac; then again, some would say straight forward is boring. I would lean towards the latter thought process. I love the unique complexities Armagnac has to offer. Honestly, I enjoyed a cheap Armagnac in France more than a good cognac anywhere.
“Bas-Armagnac” above refers to the region of Armagnac where the vineyard is located, while “Delord” is the house that produces the Armagnac. Armagnac is aged on French black oak barrels contrary to cognac which is aged on French white oak barrels. As with cognac, Armagnac has minimum aging requirements: for them, VS (Very Special) or Three Star is aged at least two years in French oak barrels; VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) or Five Star is aged at least five years in French oak barrels); and XO (Extra Old), Napoleon or Extra is aged at least six years in French oak. Hors d’Age Armagnac is a special category in Armagnac: it has slumbered in French oak barrels for at least ten years. I saw one bottle on the shelf that had been aged 25 years!!
This 10+ year Armagnac was 38 Euros in Paris; a bargain by my standards. And since (mostly) only the locals know of and purchase this stuff this is not a “tourist-trap” item. The bottle may look a bit funny and somewhat oversold but that’s just part of the Armagnac culture. Rest assured you are getting a quality product at an excellent price that was simply not intended for your consumption. LOL! (Nicholas Wine, Montmartre; 38,00 Euro)
Loyaal “Oude” Genever (Old recipe, unaged): Old recipe jenever goodness. When you order an “old” genever in Amsterdam most likely it will be unaged and close to transparent. If there is a “years of age” indication then it is indeed aged in oak. (Cave Rokin, Amsterdam; 11,00 Euro)
Corenwijn (“Cornwine” Jenever; also spelled Korenwijn): Produced like old recipe jenever but the “Cornwine” recipe calls for more malt wine (51% to 70% & up to 20 grams/liter of sugar) than typical jenever and is often matured for a few years in oak casks. The bottled ABV (usually 38-40%) is usually a bit lower than oude jenever, however this offers a larger flavor profile due to the higher quantity of malt wine used. This particular product is produced by Bols but is not circulated in the states. This Corenwijn would be somewhat comparable to a Corn Whiskey here in the States. (Cave Rokin, Amsterdam; 6,00 Euro)
When visiting a foreign land, I highly recommend immersing ones self in the local spirits, liqueurs & cocktails (not to mention local food, beer & wine). You might be surprised how many delicious spirits and liqueurs are out there that you have never been exposed to. I must say, it was like seeing Europe through a different set of lenses. There were moments I felt like I was a local & that’s an amazing experience.