- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It’s been a helluva hot summer, and you need to make sure to stay hydrated. But in addition to life-giving water, here are some life-enriching craft spirits to keep an eye — and a glass — out for as you hit the firewater shops.

Seagram’s Watermelon Flavored Vodka

In times like these — when it’s hot as all get out — you want your adult juice to be refreshing but also deliver its intended kicks. For cooling down while acting cool this summer, might I suggest Seagram’s Watermelon Flavored Vodka, which boasts the summery nose and taste of a melon fresh from the farmers market with a smooth vodka palate that goes down easily. Recommend it on the rocks or added into a summery cocktail.

Baltimore Whiskey Company Shot Tower Gin

While this craft distiller in Baltimore’s Remington neighborhood won’t be ready to tap their first batch of whiskey barrels until next year, meantime, they have been mixing up the extremely floral Shot Tower Gin, named in honor of a 19th century Baltimore structure. Look for hints of jasmine on the nose and a fully botanic taste profile.

This craft spirit will please even the most choosey gin conneisuers, as my British girlfriend (who bought a bottle) can attest.

Glendalough Double Barrel Whiskey

Ireland’s first craft distillery unveils a fine whiskey to complement their stellar gin, for which they are already known. Glendalough, which means “valley of the two lakes” in Gaelic, is named for a glacial valley in the Emerland Isle’s Wicklow Mountains long known for a monastery founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin, who appears on the bottle.

The Double Barrel Whiskey, aged in bourbon and sherry oak casks, is light in color and boasts a bit of a delicious burn on the front of the tongue. A fuller flavor, but less burn, is displayed with just a small splash of added water.

Glendalough will be hosting a cocktail party at Hank’s Cocktail Bar in Northwest Aug. 15. at 7 p.m. More info can be found at HanksCocktailBar.com.

Blue Nectar Silver, Resposado Extra Blend and Reposado Special Craft

While the traditional mix for tequila in the U.S. is 51 percent agave and 49 percent neutral spirit (known as “mixtos”), 100 percent blue agave tequila is quickly making inroads in the craft tequila market. And Blue Nectar master blender Guillermo Garcia-Lay has been concocting new offerings from this south-of-the-border distiller.

The Silver is super smooth to the taste, and is best enjoyed over ice or, better yet, in a marg. The Extra Blend is velvety and easy to the palate. Enjoy it neat. The Special Craft is my least favorite of the three, but can still be enjoyed in a margarita. (For overall quality, my money is on the Extra Blend.)

MurLarkey Heritage and Smokehouse whiskeys

You don’t need to head to Kentucky or Tennessee anymore to find American whiskey. The relatively new MurLarkey Distilled Spirits of Bristow, Virginia, is getting into the game of small-batch products to put the Old Dominion’s craft whiskey trade on the map.

Heritage, which is finished in wine casks with a mash bill of corn, rye and barley, definitely has a bite you can taste, and is also a tad on the bitter side. Unlike many whiskeys, this one is actually better without a dash of water.

Smokehouse absolutely lives up to its name, and you can truly taste the curing process developed by product master and five-star chef George “Papi” Zwetkow. This is truly a spirit for the adventurous, and there’s no way you will not be able to nose the conflagration of the mash. Keep this one around to pop open in wintertime.

Tequila Corralejo

Viva, Central Mexico! Tequila Corralejo, fashioned from Blue Weber Agave from Hacienda Corralejo in Guanajuato, aims to take on the big boys in the U.S. tequila market, and with an excellent taste profile, there’s a good bet it has a shot.

Corralejo is velvety on the palate, boasting hints of caramel and cactus (naturally). This tequila would be best enjoyed neat or as an apertif, but would also make for a fine base in your next margarita.

Fabriquero Sotol

From the Mexican state of Durango comes Fabriquero Sotol, made from the sotol plants that are then cooked for five days in a lava rock-lined pit using acacia and mesquite. The conflagration of flavor is noticeable on the nose, with its hint of brininess brought forth from the minerals. The taste is similar to mescal but with a bit of a salty profile.

This is really a spirit that should be mixed together in a cocktail, perhaps with mescal or rum for optimal taste.

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