Hi guys! Remember me?
It’s been a while. We hit Tales of the Cocktail back in July – and not long after I got back from that I found out that my job was sending me out of the country. It was the first time for me doing so, which also meant I got to do the fun of trying to get a passport in less than two weeks (surprisingly easy in the DC area once you get past the misinformation and apathy), get my stuff together, and head out to South Korea.
Which, really, at least the parts I was in, seemed to have no cocktail culture. I didn’t even see a bottle of Campari the entire time I was there which meant that first Negroni back was magical – not to mention how I almost came to tears tasting hops in my Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA the first day back. I did have my soju, and lots and lots of Cass and Hite, but that’s neither here nor there for this post.
Before I left I had a chance to meet up with Erich and Lindsay from Leopold Brothers over at The Gibson. They took me on a tour of fourteen of their products, from vodka and gin to flavored whiskey to liqueurs, and I was honestly surprised at a lot of them. When I got back I was lucky enough to find my favorite liquor shop was carrying some of them. One thing you might not be able to see from the picture is that each bottle is hand numbered.
We first started off with the vodka. It uses multiple bases for it and instead of filtering distills it more. I was really expected to say “meh, vodka” but liked the complexity I tasted in it when warm. I haven’t bought a bottle yet but I’d have to say it’s more likely to be the kind of vodka I’ll buy for drinking straight – yes, I do that, shut up vodka haters – than for mixing. Use the cheaper, more one dimensional stuff for mixing where you ain’t gonna taste it. This is the kind I’ll knock back and chase with caviar and sour cream on homemade potato chips at New Year’s Eve.
Next up was the gin, which has a number of botanicals that are all distilled separately before being added together. I picked out cardamom and coriander, I’m going to guess by accident, though I was surprised to see how floral it was and that there wasn’t much of a pine hit to it. This is the gin I used to make my first Negroni after coming back to the States and while it was fine in that, it really shone in gin and tonic, especially with the Fentiman’s tonic. I’ll be making more of those now that I managed to steal my bottle back.
After the gin we hit the rum. It reminded me quite a bit of a rhum agricole – not something I’d necessarily drink straight but an interesting flavor.
The next three drinks we had were their flavored whiskeys. They’re working on a plain whiskey but I didn’t get a chance to try that.
First up was the apple whiskey. This was, as I said then and will still say now until I’ve drank too much of it, “slap yo’ momma” good. (Note: now my momma will probably slap me, but what will be will be. It’s worth it.) They use real apples and smash the fruit in house. I was reminded me of a story my grandfather told me about drinking hard cider made in bourbon barrels that had bourbon left in the bottom. I seriously need to get at least a bottle or two of this, especially as fall approaches. In fact, I have plans for me, a bottle, and NOBODY ELSE BOTHERING ME WHILE I WATCH FOOTBALL. I don’t wanna share.
The blackberry whiskey was much more aggressive in the taste profile. I almost felt like it was more like a blackberry wine in taste. It didn’t bowl me over, but I could see how someone who really likes blackberries would love it (coughcoughMarshall) and it could be good in some things. It was my first hint at what was my problem – there are too many good things in the line-up, I can’t afford them all! (Not to mention store them, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. If Leopold Brothers (coughing again, man, what is in the air tonight?!) gave me a bottle of each, I’d damn well find somewhere to store ‘em…and not just in my belly.)
The peach whiskey was something I didn’t expect at all. The proof on this one dropped from 80 to 60, but while I typically am not a huge fan of peaches I liked this. I immediately started thinking of a lot of drinks that I’ve seen that incorporate peach brandy or the such and was wondering how this would work (such as the Georgia Mint Julep from the first edition of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails – it might be in the second, but sigh I haven’t gotten that yet).
From there we went to the liqueurs.
The peach liqueur, like most of them if I remember correctly, uses three pounds of peaches per 750 milliliter bottle. It was very concentrated, almost to a syrup. It seemed much more of a one-trick pony to me and not something I’d buy unless I had something specific to use for it.
The tart cherry, though, made me thinking “maraschino liqueur that actually tastes like cherry”. I’m tempted to pick one up – the difference between it, maraschino liqueur, and cherry Heering is a fascinating idea to me and something I’d like to experiment with.
Next up was the blackberry. If I thought the blackberry whiskey was like wine this was REALLY like wine, made with four pounds of blackberries per 750. I liked it a lot – however, I saw myself drinking it more on its own as a dessert (or like I’ve done (ahem) to Horton blackberry wines in the past, chilled and straight from the bottle while at a horse race).
Cranberry was described as “great for your mom” and I was wondering if my mom was getting hit on in absentia. I wasn’t a huge fan of it, but it did make me think of Thanksgiving, maybe kind of Christmas, so I might try to revisit it as those holidays approach. (What?! It’s September? Feh, I guess I better get on that!)
The sour apple liqueur was like apple juice to me and I mean that in the nicest possible way. Maybe I need an Apfelkorn versus sour apple liqueur battle in my future. They’re not the same but they are both very delicious.
The French Press coffee liqueur was something I did not expect at all. The use the same press to make coffee with the liqueur as they do the fruit, with one added exception – they actually add sugar to the coffee liqueur. My goodness. You can taste the quality in this one. If you like coffee liqueurs either be prepared to give all your money to Leopold Brothers or don’t bother trying it.
Then we hit the herbal side.
They had a digestif called 3 Pins. Very herbal, but sweet, I would definitely enter it in a battle royale with some of my favorite European digestifs. It honestly probably reminds me of Hog Master more than a lot of them, since it’s so sweet, but I’d love to break it out for my friends who also like 999, the new Zwack, and Jagermeister. If I was going to make an old fashioned with it like one might do with Fernet it would need a solid hit of bitters but maybe nothing else.
But the absinthe.
A quick note on me and absinthe: I like absinthe okay but I’d never really seen the holy grail of absinthes. At Tales, over at the Mixo house, I was introduced to an Obsello reserve absinthe that had aged in barrels. It wow-ed me. I loved it. I was like “OH THIS IS WHAT YOU LOVE”.
The Leopold absinthe uses 15 herbs for flavoring, is aged for three months, and uses 15 herbs for coloring. It has a HUGE oil meniscus when it louches, and was amazingly smooth when I tried it. At $71.99 at Ace, I was sorely tempted to buy some, the first time I’d really considered spending that much on an absinthe. I may still do so, once I take care of a few other things, because it’s damn delicious.
If you haven’t tried these yet you really need to do so. Ace carries a few of them; Best Cellars in Dupont Circle, from what I hear, carry more. I’ll be heading out there soon to buy apple whiskey, believe you me.
And great to see y’all again!