Brugal 1888 – Ron Gran Reserva Familiar

Father’s day treated me well this year – a shiny bottle of Brugal 1888 Ron Gran Reserva Familiar joined my collection (Dominican rum distiller). It’s a blend of rums aged 5 to 14 years. It was given to me courtesy of some random guy at the liquor store. **My mom actually paid for it, but said random rum lover gushed over the Brugal 1888 Reserva, so I went with it.

The Brugal isn’t as dark and rich in appearance as say, Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, but it’s still appealing to the eye.  It has plenty of legs that reveal a light bodied rum – when swirled in your glass, it settles down the sides quickly and in thin lines.  So, how does it taste?  The Brugal Reserva offering is subtle to start, but comes on strong with cinnamon and caramel.  Harshness follows with hints of vanilla.  I kept waiting for the finish to……well…..finish. But the bite lingered and fluctuated between smokiness and spices, and left me wanting a smooth run for my next sip that didn’t come.  You could even call it an imposter – a rum that poses as a scotch (**for the record, I love scotch).  At $62+ for a bottle, I can think of a number of cheaper offerings I prefer.  I’m not saying this is poor quality rum – far from it.  It’s just that I wouldn’t drink this again if I’m buying.  No offense mom and random liquor store guy.

Delerium Nocturnum

Delerium Nocturnum is an 8.5% Belgian Strong Ale from the Huyghe Brewery in Belgium. It pours out a beautiful rich brown head with a nice head. It was rich enough to stand up to and even pair nicely with a Cohiba. While it is a very tasty beer, I found I liked its sister, Delerium Tremens even better. I thought Tremens was richer, sweeter, and more complex, more of what I expect in a Belgian ale. I would definitely drink it again but would take Tremens every time if given the choice!

On another note, I really need to get the proper glassware for a Belgian ale. I don’t think I have the palate to detect the difference made by glassware, it’s more for the experience. But then again, who knows…..

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Columbus

This is Columbus from Brouwerij ‘t IJ in Amsterdam. It is a 9% beer that is rich and complex. I tried many of the beers at Brouwerij ‘t IJ but this was by far my favorite.

I would definitely drink this again, it is so good. As far as I know though, Brouwerij ‘t IJ doesn’t export to Canada. I managed to bring 4 bottles back with me in my suitcase, I’m down to three now. I’m guarding it carefully but I want to drink it! I’m hoping that my good friends in Amsterdam will do their best to hook me up with more! (Are you listening Scotty?)

If you are ever in Amsterdam I would highly recommend going down to the Brouwerij ‘t IJ, hang out on their beer garden and try all their beers, especially the Columbus!

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Maudite

Today I drank this bottle of Maudite from Unibroue in Chambly, Quebec. It is wonderful, I’ve had it on tap at the Sugarbowl and it is just as good out of the bottle. I love this beer, it has that fruity, yeasty taste that I associate with a Belgian abbey ale. The cork gave me a run for my money but it was worth the work! This is an unfiltered, refermented in the bottle beer so there is still yeast in the bottom, I love that , just be aware of it when you pour this beer. I would drink this again, on tap or from the bottle.

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Trappist Westvleteren 8

I have long wanted to get my hands on a Trappist Westvleteren beer. Westvleteren, located in West Flanders Belgium,  is the smallest and most secretive of the Trappist brewers. Not only is their beer itself scarce because of the small production, but anyone wishing to purchase beer can only buy it in limited amounts, and even then, only from the monks themselves. They sell only to individual customers who agree not to resell the beer. People have been caught and prosecuted for doing so.

Trappist Westvleteren beer bottle
A nondescript bottle holds the most unique beer I've ever tasted

I’ve long had my eye on this beer, and long worried that I’d never see it, let alone have a chance to drink it. But I have great friends, and through them my proverbial ship came in this past Christmas. Impossibly huge thanks goes out to Kevin & Cath!

I stress at this time that this beer was a gift. I didn’t buy it or sell it. I did, however, share it.

Trappist Westvleteren beer cap
The only identification of Westvleteren beer is the cap

The first thing to note is the bottle. Simple. Brown. No label. The only identification is the cap.

The beer pours nicely, with beautiful colour. It’s fairly cloudy. The first big surprise was the smell. As is often the case with good beer and especially Trappist beer, the smell and the taste don’t always match up. I smelled fruit, predominantly cherry, and spice.

Trappist Westvleteren beer in a glass
Note the rich brown and red colour of the beer

Tasting Westvleteren 8 was an absolute pleasure. It was so well balanced. The cherry and spice that I smelled came through, but I also picked up hints of caramel and toasted malt. There was certainly more, but I’ll admit that in the face of the Westvleteren 8 my palette is probably out of it’s depth. This beer drinks a bit sweet, but finishes dry.

I’m not sure when I’ll have my hands on another bottle of this rare and incredible beer, but you can bet that some time in the future I will drink Westvleteren 8 again. Even if it means hunting for seat sales.

Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva

Diplomatico Reserva Exlcusiva first hit the bottom of my glass in the summer of 2009.  I was hunting for something new after enjoying a run with Cruzan’s Single Barrel, their flagship offering.  To be perfectly honest, I first picked up Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva because the bottle caught my attention – its deep green hue and a label like freshly printed money.  It’s a shame us Canadians have to pay, on average, $55.00 for Exclusiva, but there is no questioning its unbelievable value at this price point.  The spirit lurking within its eye-catching exterior is blended from 80% heavy and 20% light rums, aged for up to 12 years in white oak barrels.

With my first taste, I was shocked at how smooth and sweet the Venezuelan rum was, and I didn’t experience the teeth that other rums in this category often have.  As Exclusiva moves toward its finish, smoothness reigns supreme with a complex array of flavours emerging.  A bit more about the smoothness of this spirit; I wouldn’t go so far as to call it silky smooth.  Some will revel in the intensity and richness of its toffee and fudge finish, while others may find it overpowering.  If you’re looking for something more refined, consider a stellar choice like Santa Teresa 1796 Ron Antiguo de Solera Rum, or El Dorado’s 15-year-old Special Reserve.  But if you savour a spirit that holds nothing back, Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva is for you.  There is no question – I will drink this again for years to come.

Garrison Imperial IPA

As you can see from the Garrison Brewing site itself, this IPA has won Beer of the Year twice at the Canadian Brewing Awards. If you check other beer review sites, you’ll see some decent ratings. All of this leads up to a really nice review here. Or at least it should. Besides, shouldn’t I be pro Canadian beer?

I fancy myself an IPA lover. I’m always eager to try a new one. The Garrison Imperial just didn’t measure up for me. I didn’t even find it overly hoppy. While some great IPAs come across as complex, this just came across as confused.

My advice would be to check out something from Brew Dog like their Hardcore IPA, or even track down the Jockamo we reviewed here in October 2011.

As for the Garrison Imperial IPA, I probably won’t drink it again. Especially with so many great IPA’s popping up all over the place these days.

Hitachino Nest Festive Ale 2011

My experience with limited edition holiday brews has been good; generally enjoyable and at the very least, interesting. The Hitachino Nest Festive Ale is no exception to this.

I’m unfamiliar with the brewery’s “regular” beers, so I can’t compare it that way. I found it to be as flavourful as my personal gold-standard beer, Innis & Gunn, only with a less fruity, sweeter taste. There is a hint of orange among the various winter spices used but the overall flavour was “caramelly”. Slightly carbonated, but also stronger — 8% ABV — so it’s one to enjoy slowly.

From the rear label:

“This commemorative ale was brewed specially to celebrate the new year using cinnamon and coriander. Please enjoy while you forget the worries and troubles of the old year.”

I’ll drink (again) to that.

Innis & Gunn Rum Cask

I have loved Innis & Gunn for quite some time now and the Rum Cask is no exception. I was lucky enough to be given an Innis & Gunn glass for my birthday by Jeff and Patricia and I always drink my I&G out of it! It pours a beautiful brown color with very little head that dissipates quickly. Smelling it, the rum aroma is very present. I love the rich dimension that being aged in whiskey casks gives to the Original I&G and that same dimension is present here but being aged in a rum cask gives it a different touch.  The Rum Cask has that typical sweet, malty, rich Innis & Gunn.

I would drink this again. In fact I will be drinking it again, many times, since I bought a case recently when it was on sale at Superstore. Kim had to convince me to buy the case. You know you married the right woman when she urges you to buy your beer by the case!

Would you drink it again?