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  1. #1
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    Mostly non-bourbon finds the last few days

    Had to drive from DC to Boston and back over the last week and saved some time for bottle hunting...not a lot of bourbon content here, but here's what I found in two different stints of hunting in New Jersey.

    -Ropiteau Freres Marc de Bourgogne, no age given, capacity noted as "4/5 quart," tax-stamped
    -Suntory Japanese malt whiskey, squat bottle, no age listing, boxed, tax-stamped, bottle in mint condition because it's been in a box forever.
    -Jacob's Well "84-month" from the late 90's "micro-bourbon start-and-stop.
    -Four Roses Single Barrel, not the current label but from the current incarnation (woo hoo!)
    -Emilio Lustau "Senor Lustau" Solera Gran Reserva Brandy de Jerez, first time I've seen this in a long while in the States, great stuff in the sweeter style
    -1981 Graham's LBV port, in miniatures! (ha ha ha)
    -Tanqueray Malacca gin, 1.75L, first time I've seen it in about six years (clearly an older bottle, and this isn't made any more)
    -Ornellaia grappa, hasn't been brought into the USA in a long while, importer listed as Kobrand, which has been bought and sold a couple of times in the last five years, Italian tax-stamp (not normal for current grappa releases)

    In Cambridge, MA:
    -Sazerac 18yr rye, current release (there was a thread about this stash elsewhere)

    And some newish releases:
    -1976 Domaine Dupont Calvados for a verrry reasonable price.
    -JC Cellars, Petite Sirah grappa; this is one of the new-fangled high-end wine producers in the Central Coast. I've never had a grappa made from Pet, but I've had grappa made from Ruche which is aromatically similar, so there's high hopes here.
    -St George Spirits, California Gold, apparently 80-proof, 100% agave distillate from California, aged in wood to a deep anejo color and without added caramel, in a grappa-like, tall, thin 375mL bottle

    So, not a lot of bourbon here, but some fodder for the spirits geeks anyway. I look forward in particular to tasting the marc and Suntory (and of course, the legendary FRSB!).

  2. #2
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    Re: Mostly non-bourbon finds the last few days

    An eclectic drinker, to be sure.

    Jake, what do you think of grappa and marc?

    Can you give the board a capsule description of these brandy styles?

    I always thought they were the white dog of the brandy world; how do you view them?

    Gary

  3. #3
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    Re: grappa and marc

    Grappa and marc are both pomace brandies, made from the fermented skins and pips that are the byproduct of winemaking. This material is taken from the press (most wine producers de-stalk before pressing, and the stalks are basically just compostable detritus). In both cases, I believe distillation can be pot or column, continuous or discontinuous.

    Almost all (99%) of grappa is bottled unaged. Some grappi (stagionati) are "seasoned" by a few months, generally in new or once-used barrique, which imparts a soft, licorice-like topnote. Grappa takes on certain characteristics of the underlying varieties; the most obvious example of which is the sweet, floral aromas and syrupy texture of grappi based on muscat (a popular grappa source in South Africa and other grappa-producing areas as well as Italy; I highly recommend moscato grappi as the starting point for aspiring drinkers). In general, grappi show in spades the non-fruit characteristics of the variety--so grappa from ruche or moscato are highly aromatic, grappa from Gavi or sangiovese is more steely, and grappa from nebbiolo is woodsy. Good grappa is quite expensive. For entry-level, I suggest the grappas of Inga (several varieties, including a Nebbiolo grappa that is quite smooth and reminiscent of walking through a forest just after a rainstorm). Great grappa is quite smooth, with the high-toned aromatics often mistaken for roughness. And it's the absolute best, number one, no questions asked digestif in the spirits world (barring certain highly unpalatable bitters that serve no other useful purpose).

    The proper glass for grappa is something narrow at the top, with a slight flare out a nice touch; I use the Riedel cognac tulips, but basic INAO glasses would be fine as well. There is another class of grappa glass that looks a bit like the Riedel cognac glass, but with a smaller opening between bowl and flare. This serves to further focus the spirit on the sweetness-sensing tip of the tongue and regulate the size of the sip.

    Marc, on the other hand is almost always aged in barrique for many years, although the label regulations for such honorifics as "Vieux" and "Tres Vieux" are nebulous-to-nonexistent. Most of the underlying pomace is chardonnay, though some top producers that make mainly or solely red burgundy also produce Marc (DRC and Comte Georges de Vogue). The aromatics of pinot noir and chardonnay-based marcs are similar. The licorice notes tend to be more evident that in grappi stagionati, but they are more integrated as well. Great marc is indescribably complex and deserves meditation. Bad marc gives you a headache. However, it is highly underrepresented in the US market, and extremely expensive (for the most part) when available. Seagram's used to import the Joseph Cartron label as an entry-level marc; I've never tasted it, and the brand was (I believe) removed from the book at the Diageo takeover. Robert Chadderdon used to import a reasonably-priced vintage-dated marc from a small producer (I can't recall the name, but th current release as of two years ago was 1976-vintage), but I believe he's dropped it as well.

  4. #4
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    Re: Mostly non-bourbon finds the last few days

    Two more Boston finds (also current releases but rare):

    -Mastroberardino grappa di Taurasi, made from pomace of one of the aristocratic wines of Campania
    -Pastis Henri Bardouin ("HB"), a highly aromatic and complex pastis with strong mace/allspice undertones; cheaper than Pernod or Ricard and a million times better.

  5. #5
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    Re: grappa and marc

    Excellent, thanks. Personally I have never gotten past the taste, which can be like old leather with damp loam clinging to it, but probably I haven't had the best kinds. I recall once being given some overproof farm- produced marc at a dinner in the far north of France organised by a local beer club (Les Amis de la Biere) I used to belong to. The dinner was in a small town not far from the Belgian frontier in a lovely old 19th century house with a large high-grown garden in the back. I still recall the taste, in this case, with pleasure, the high proof helped but also as you said, it was the perfect digestif. We left at pitch black midnight by car - a big Volvo with wipers on the headlamps - one of our party had consumed less than the others and did the driving - and arrived safe in Lille an hour later, gliding along modernist "autoroutes" lit by ghostly purplish arc lamps or whatever those are called after leaving the narrow tracks of Flanders Fields. Once off engineered post-modern highways we were back in semi-medieval France, in this case its urban manifestation, still powered (I was, anyway) by fine "bieres de garde" and the old southern marc. At last we made the hotel, built in a former cloister, and to blessed sleep. An indelible experience.

    Gary

  6. #6
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    Re: grappa and marc

    Grappa....pure turpentine! We were in Colorado on a business trip and wanted to try it, so bought a bottle of Terrabianca Grappa La Bomba. Beautiful bottle! The contents however.....UGH! I haven't dumped it down the drain yet, but I paid way to much for a pretty bottle!
    Dawn

  7. #7
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    Re: grappa and marc

    Well, to each his own, I suppose. But try one made from Moscato before you write off the whole genre.

  8. #8
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    Re: grappa and marc

    I shall persist.

    But note my French story: even something that I didn't think I'd like, I liked.

    Gary

  9. #9
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    Marc tasting note

    Tasted the marc last night after failing to extract the cork with a two-prong corkscrew.

    Ropiteau Freres, Marc de Bourgogne (bottled 1965?), USA bottling: Clear amber. Classic licorice and earth attack with a floral topnote. Rich on the palate, with flowers and bitter chocolate along with some dried fruit and licorice. Extremely long and balanced finish with little heat, dark chocolate, a bit of vanilla, and a sweet, tertiary fruitiness. Exceptional stuff.

    A very pleasant surprise!

  10. #10
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    Re: Marc tasting note

    Sounds wonderful!

    Tim

 

 

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