TOPO Piedmont Gin
Chapel Hill, NC
I have mentioned this gin before on this blog, when I took a tour of the distillery. But this is the first TOPO spirit I’ve had my hands on a bottle of and thanks go to Esteban, TOPO’s spirit guide, for the parting gift at my farewell from North Carolina. At that tour, I was impressed by how soft the Piedmont Gin’s notes were in comparison with other gins that I often find overwhelming. So you can bet I’m excited to give it a thorough tasting.
Nose: A sap-covered pine cone comes to mind, hinting of sugar with the juniper. Spices are present in modest levels; I can’t distinguish between them but I can appreciate their evening properties. Allspice pokes its head out eventually. No major alcohol heat. Citrus rounds out the smell.
I chilled the shot before sampling because I can only barely handle gin on its own – I am not a gin martini drinker. So you should recognize that its flavor profile may be dulled in this review, but hey, at least I drank it at all. Mild alcohol tingles, then spices hit my lips: clove, allspice, coriander. Those quickly take a backseat to the soft, pillowy upswell of juniper. Mild lemon mixes with that juniper until they both dissolve and the spice comes again. But it’s different now, brighter, more like celery seed. The longer I sip, the more the gin reminds me of an oatmeal cookie.
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Luxardo Maraschino Original Liqueur
This is a spirit of legend for me, in that I’d seen it in a million cocktail recipes before I could ever track it down. Now that it’s finally appeared at my local ABC store, I can explore it. And it’s full of shockers. Per Luxardo’s website, the spirit is distilled from the marasca cherry and aged for two years before being diluted and sweetened. When I think maraschino, I think of the dessert topping and thus (1) sweet and (2) reddish-pink. This spirit is neither.
It’s clear as it can be for one. And there’s nothing sweet about the nose. The smell is a blend of cherry and almond that makes me wish it were in ice cream form, like now. I’m not talking toppings. I’m talking the main event.
Okay, the Gourmez, just drink it already! Fine, fine. So about that sweetness…it’s there, but its taste is pure sugar in undissolved, granular form. The sweetness bears no resemblance to most mixers’ almost plastic taste and its very light. Vanilla notes are strong, but it’s the spirit’s nuttiness that’s most surprising. Cherry comes across as the least of its ingredients.
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RumChata is a liqueur coming from the Agave Loco brand, and you can bet I squealed when I saw it on the shelf. Why? Because I love horchata, and an horchata made for imbibing sounded perfect to me. My expert background in foodie Spanish means I can translate their horchata con rum slogan easily into horchata with rum, and it’s a needed slogan because RumChata just doesn’t convey “horchata with rum” strongly enough on its own. Sarcasm aside, their proclamation of using real dairy cream was suspect, but not because of the real. You see, horchata is traditionally made with rice or nut milk, so lauding the use of dairy instead is a tad peculiar. A few countries do add dairy to the mix, but it’s not that common in my experience.
The texture is similar to an irish cream but smoother. The rum and cream combination gives it an interesting patchwork, layered look if you stare for a while.
No nose to speak of, but the taste is fantastic. It’s moderately thick, which means a cocktail would be the ideal use for it, but place a shot on the rocks, and you could convince yourself it’s a regular horchata spiked with rum. The spice levels are lovely, with mellow cinnamon being the most prominent among them. There is a disconnect between the cream and the bite of the rum that settles almost as a metallic tang on the tongue, but I don’t find it that off-putting.
This liqueur has great potential for me. So much so that a cocktail creation was necessary for exploring it more thoroughly. Or maybe I just wanted a cocktail. I present the Knackered Nougat!
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