Reviews from Mr. Booze

Casa Noble Crystal Tequila Review

casanoble_crystal_santana_750__73559.1353106612.1280.1280I’m going to begin this review with a rather strong statement, one that I never thought I’d use pertaining to tequila, a spirit I enjoy, but one that has never been a “go-to” in my home bar arsenal.  This Casa Noble Crystal (silver) Tequila has got to be one of the most delicious and interesting spirits I have ever tasted.  I’ll discuss the complexities of the tequila in a moment, but I want to continue to share with you, for a moment, how very much this bottle blew my mind.  Enough so to have vowed that the remainder of the bottle will, hopefully, stay upon my top-shelf for at least a year to be sipped and enjoyed sparingly as if distilled by Tolkien’ elves in deep dark deserts, rolled out in barrels when the moon is full and the tops are opened to capture the moonlight in the liquid.  I loved it, and the more I drank it, the more I appreciated what it was.  There, enough of the initial reaction.
Casa Noble has a rich history as a tequila distillery.  With a 1700’s startup date, and the very first tequila distillery to triple distill their product and grow their own Blue Agave in fields on distillery property, these guys more than know what they’re doing.  The agave plants that they use in their process are cooked in a manner, before distilling, that imparts a true and sweet fleshy flavor that subtly remains with each sip.  The plant’s spirit can be tasted, and like the corn back in a good bourbon, the peat in a single malt scotch, or the peppery rye back in a good rye, an agave print, especially one as sweet and playful as this, is testament to what it is you’re drinking  and is a supreme compliment to the time and craft poured into each hand-blown bottle.
Awarded with a CCOF, Organic Certification, Casa Noble is the very first tequila distillery to be recognized as a truly organic one.  Their product and the pride demonstrated in it is 100% pure.  I didn’t think it was that important beforehand, but you can taste the purity.  It has a very clean and natural flavor and finish that I’ve never experienced in the tequilas I’ve had before.
I started with the Casa Noble Crystal, a clever and deserved substitution for the standard “silver” classification, because I wanted to start with their canvas tequila. They offer a selection of single barrel and barrel aged tequilas, but I chose the Crystal as my kick-off.  I wanted to taste the bones.
I sampled the tequila in four different ways which I’ll describe here.
1) Chilled shot with a pinch of salt beginning and a lime wedge finish.  To use the word “smooth” doesn’t seem quite right.  There was absolutely no bite, but a citrus, slightly peppered finish blew my mind. Loved it.
2) Classic Margarita with fresh simple syrup, lime juice, Grand Marnier, and olives. The tequila more than delivered in this classic. As mentioned earlier, the agave flavor carried in the drink.  Best margarita I’ve ever had.
3) Time Out cocktail.  Made with fresh mint and lime juice, the Casa Noble Crystal elevated a busy drink significantly. The drink tasted cleaner with the tequila’s own subtle citrus flavor adding to the drink.
4) Just neat in a fluted wine glass.  I let my nose do the work this time and really enjoyed the scent of the tequila. Warm outside with the smells of spring coming on, this tequila made a pleasant evening all the more so.  It was with this experience that I learned just how good this tequila was.  Surprisingly clean, the flavors imparted didn’t last long. They disappeared within a few seconds.  I blame the loss on the smoothness.  Honestly, there’s absolutely no fight with this tequila.  It’s like being hit with a feather pillow.  You’re just left with flavor as you sip.  Kinda like drinking the silver glow of a Christmas tree light.
Carlos Santana is part owner and, with my last odd reference of the review, I’ll compare the Casa Noble Crystal Tequila to his later guitar style; because of its beautiful complexity, it’s a very challenging yet smooth and lilting drinking experience.  It’s sophisticated … but it’s also tequila which carries a fun factor not found in other spirits, especially in the warm months.
I’ll end this review the same way I started it. I loved it.

The Tides Inn

Looking for an on the water getaway on the mid-Atlantic with a bit of interesting booze’ history. and a signature cocktail that will immediately take the edge off & the crimp out of your dad-drive shoulders? The Tides Inn in Irvington VA is such a glorious throw-back to simpler times, we thought it was well worth a shout-out. Hospitality is the absolute king at the Tides Inn and one feels like you’re walking back into a lost atmosphere at the resort. I love an era of bar, an era mostly lost in today’s flavor of the month restaurant mentality, and the Tides Inn delivers on all counts. Dark, cool, welcoming, a view & a bartender that knows what they’re doing. Try that Lancaster Lemonade if ever there. You won’t be sorry. Here’s a brief piece of the Tides Inn’ liquor history from G.M. Gordon Slatford –

The Tides Inn
Lancaster Lemonade

The Tides Inn is a quaint small resort on the northern neck of Virginia which is gaining a lot of “notoriety” for its customer service and quality. Named the #1 resort in Virginia by Travel and Leisure magazine readers in both 2011 and again in 2012, it is a home away from home with remarkably good food and a location and views which are quite breathtaking.

Built in 1946 in a county which was dry, the Tides Inn has all of its bar area lined with walnut wood liquor lockers used in bygone times for guests to keep their alcohol in. The Stephens Family who built the Tides had little time for the puritanical few who decreed that alcohol and drinks were the devil’s brew and that it was really quite sinful to sit out on The Tides Inn’s terrace and enjoy a beer or it’s newly created house specialty, the “Lancaster Lemonade.”

Guests checking in before alcohol was allowed would pay $1.00 to be a member of the Chesapeake Club, an organization which ran the bar and was absolutely created to defeat the alcohol free rules of Lancaster County. Once the membership fee was paid, a key was given to the guest and they would immediately take the Tides Inn’s boat across the river to Urbanna where a multitude of naughty alcohol and beer vendors were eagerly waiting to take their money and send them back to The Tides Inn with a box of wines and spirits, sufficient to keep the guests happy and joyful for the extent of their stay.

Eventually, the puritanical few made way for a state liquor control board who realized that the state of Virginia could make good revenue by selling alcohol, and the lockers became forlorn and empty while the bar was lined with bottles and happy joyful people who would spend their time eating and drinking some of the finest food and wine in the state.

This is sounding like a fairy tale, but it is all true, and these lockers are used today for corporate groups who use them for memory games or just as a talking point.

The Lancaster Lemonade has become the #1 selling drink at the Tides and was created by a small team of the Tides Inn’s management and staff in the winter of 2010. There was snow on the ground and no guests to be seen, so Gordon The General Manager and Mine Host, along with others, created a plethora of different drinks in the Chesapeake Club. One was universally decreed to be the best, and it is now served proudly as the Tides Inn’s Signature Cocktail.

Lancaster Lemonade

Take the juice of half a freshly squeezed lemon; add a shot of Limoncello and a shot of Vodka; place in a personalized Mason Glass and add pinwheels of lemon. Add ice and top off with Northern Neck Ginger Ale; garnish with fresh lemon balm from the Tides Inn’s herb garden, and you have what we call “A Southern Sippin’ Sensation.”


Mr. Booze on Bulldog Gin

I was recently provided with a bottle of this English gin for review and wanted to share my reaction with you guys.  I cracked it a few months ago, and since I tend to really rotate the spirits and brands I quaff, I just now laid the empty bottle to rest out in the glass bin. With each drink I poured using Bulldog, I tried to recall, sometimes successfully and without fog the next day, my experiences with the gin.  Here are my overall and positive reactions.

The bottle itself is my biggest complaint.  I know some love the look of it – a dark smoky-black one with an incorporated spiked bulldog collar around the neck.  I find it almost too bold a statement like a too-hep twenty-something sporting too much ink and facial hair. The Bulldog barks atop your bar. I want a bottle that sits, pops a little, yet stays quiet till you need her.  There, there’s my whine.  Bottle doesn’t really thrill me….but the gin inside, now that’s another story.

When I cracked the bottle and took a strong whiff, the nose of the gin wanted me to immediately make a martini. The juniper used in distillation, along with eleven other botanicals from eight countries, was subtle and delicious.  Bulldog smells special, and the perfume of a spirit usually crosses over into the drink.  Bulldog’s woodsy, flowery-sweet scent also settled into my drinks which I appreciated.

I am happy to write that these smells of nature (lavender, poppy and pine) made their way into the smooth taste of the gin.  When I poured my Noilly Prat French Dry Vermouth into the pitcher with my Bulldog, along with a couple shakes of orange bitters, the resulting martini carried a pretty friendly, yet complex, gin flavor into the pool.  One of the better martinis I’ve ever tasted.  Of course, some credit has to be given to my amazing martini-making skills – just thought I should mention that (wink).

Bulldog is quadruple distilled in the UK, so harshness is not an issue.  I found this robust gin to be as smooth as any I’ve tasted.  Within its first week on my shelf, I made a martini, a gin ‘n tonic and a gibson.  Bulldog played well with the standards, but would she hold up with the juices and sours?  I found out.

Tom Collins is a quiet fave of mine, and I insist that he’s made old-school with fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, club soda, fruit and lots of discernable gin.  I want my gin to stand up and out in my juice cocktails. The glow one gets after a couple well-made gin hi-balls is appreciated, sure…but not as much as the botanicals and the smack of a gin that works in concert yet holds its own.  Bulldog works in a collins, a pink lady, a vesper martini and a gin bramble. I know ’cause I made ‘em all with the Bulldog.

Look for this gin. It would be a nice starter gin for the vodka or white wine drinker you know, yet it stands beautifully complex enough for the serious cocktail lover to appreciate, and that aforementioned novice to stay with, as he/she grows into gin cocktails.  Running between $25 & $30 a bottle, this is a pretty affordable gin.  Keep your eyes peeled for it.