Monthly Archives: January 2017

Whiskey Reviews page 3

Merrimack Valley Whiskey Review (homepage)
Merrimack Valley Whiskey Review LogoThis page has reviews on flavored whiskies, American “blended whiskies” (which are not technically true whiskies) and other spirits and wines.


Revel Stoke Spiced Whisky

Misc Flavored Whiskeys

Canadian Whiskey, imported by Phillips Distilling Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota
No age statement; website says that it is a mix of a 3 year old and an 8 year old.
Mash bill unavailable, 90 proof.

I’m the first to admit that I don’t have a background in spiced liquors, either whiskey or rum. Straight, yes, Flavored with something like maple? Perhaps. But “spiced”? Outside of my experience. Such concoctions could be “delicious” to some people, but my first response to this unusual spice experience is “this isn’t whiskey!” Lots of spice, pepper, a hint of cherry. There eventually is a slight, nice undercurrent of caramel. Was that flavor added – or part of the original whiskey? Also, this is a bit sweet. Could their be added sugar? Their website states “Features hints of vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, coriander and cardamom” – since I don’t know what cardamom and coriander would taste like in whiskey, I’ll take their word for it – maybe it’s in their strongly, and I just don’t recognize it! 🙂

Would I recommend this? Well, not to a whiskey enthusiast who likes straight whiskey, but it might be nice for people to sip on, on a cold winter night. As the photo below shows, this is just one of a line of flavored whiskys; if I come across the others I’ll be sure to review them.


Miglianico Montupoli Montepulciano

This red wine is from the wine growing regions of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

Montepulciano is a red wine grape variety grown widely in central Italy, most notably its eastern Abruzzo, Marche and Molise regions. The variety was named after the Tuscan parish of Montepulciano, but, confusingly, is not used in the famous wines produced there. – Montepulciano.

This wine had a surprisingly strong berry flavor, yet with almost no sweetness. Not what I expected from a dry wine; very nice.


1/22/16 Alcaeus: Ancient Oak Cellars

I’m not a wine connoisseur, and especially not a fan of dry wines. Still, I like to try new things – who knows when you’ll have a great experience, and discover something new? So when I had the opportunity to try this at Kappy’s Fine Wine & Spirits in Medford, MA, I was happy to explore. This is a Cabernet Franc, one of the major black grape varieties. One doesn’t generally see it on its own; it is usually part of a blend. They are generally lighter than a Cabernet Sauvignon. This expression is from a family winery in Santa Rosa, California – Sonoma County. It certainly had a pleasant, subtle, fruity nose. But I ended up tasting the tannins more than anything else. That’s not a knock – I’m upfront about my ignorance of the topic. Someone who likes Cab Francs might love this. Just not my thing.

Ancient Oak



Red Shot Cinnamon Flavored Whisky

Canadian Whiskey with Natural Cinnamon Flavor, 30% ABV/60 proof.

What can I say? This ain’t whiskey – it’s a whiskey-based cocktail, more of a liquor, where the predominant – dare I say only – flavor is sweet, sweet cinnamon. If that’s your thing, this has it in spades, and it’s cheap. Probably designed to make college kids drunk, it’s sure not a sipping whiskey.

For an in-depth comparison of five similar products, see BLOWING UP FIREBALL: Cinnamon Whiskey Review Round Up


Black Velvet Toasted Caramel Flavored Whisky

Well it’s shockingly sweet, more like a flavored liqueur than whiskey. Sure, I’m used to detecting a hint of caramel or toffee, which may occur at small level in straight whisky. So for me to taste added caramel flavoring – well that overwhelmed my spirits palate. This has the intensity of sweetness and caramel flavor that I would associate with an actual piece of caramel candy. Still, this is a flavored whisky by design, so it’s not fair to compare this to straight whiskey. For people who like flavored liqueurs, that would probably be a good choice. Yet although I occasionally enjoy a sweet drink, such as a frozen strawberry daiquiri, I just can’t see myself coming back to this.

Pictured here with one of my father’s, זיכרונו לברכה, Frank Sinatra albums



Jim Beam Apple

Apple Liqueur Infused With Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Introduced in 2015.
James B. Beam Distilling Co., Clermont, KY, Beam Suntory. 70 proof. No age statement.


Right off the bat, this isn’t whiskey – it’s a cocktail including whiskey and “flavored liqueur, which probably has a base of vodka, rum, or some distilled neutral spirit, along with flavorings. So if you are looking for a good scotch or whiskey to casually to sip, this ain’t it. This is a simple, very sweet, apple tart drink to have at a party with friends. And the flavor is decent – if this is the kind of experience that you’re looking for, then job well done!  Like most flavored liquors, I do wish that they cut the sweetness by half – most drinks Americans enjoy are heavily over sweetened. But that being said, the flavor is pleasant, and since it’s lower proof than most whiskey, one can perhaps drink a bit more of it, if the occasion allows.


Taking a break from whiskey. Was doing a bit of wood-working for a holiday art project – when it’s done, you’ll see it 😉 Working on the project with my daughter, at my friend Joe’s house. Greatest guy.  While there he introduced me to B and B Dom , made by Benedictine. 86 proof, made in France, aged for 2 years in oak barrels. It is a drier liqueur than Benedictine. Their label states “Benedictine’s own bottled B and B unites the delicate finesse of Benedictine and dryness of fine Cognac brandy.” Benedictine itself is a herbal liqueur composed of 27 plants and spices. Super sweet a little bit like desert wine. After a year of tasting whiskies, I’m not used to this level of sugar, lol.

Had some high hopes for the Romana Sambuca, Italy, 42 percent ABV. It’s an Italian anise-flavoured, colorless, liqueur. Flavored with anise, elderberries, sugar, and a “secret natural flavor formula”, whatever the heck that is! I haven’t had anything like this in over 10 years! Reminds me of some old fashioned Italian pastries I had growing up, near East Boston.


10/20/16 Rebel Yell root beer whiskey

Mediocre whiskey mixed with flat, mediocre, watered-down root beer. But at least there’s the unexpected disgusting plasticy taste to sneak up and surprise you. This is 99 cents I’ll always regret wasting :-p




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Useful articles on whiskey
Is all whiskey and Scotch kosher?

Is all milk kosher?

Judaism offers ways to make every area of life kadosh/קדוש, holy. We do this by creating sanctifications/distinctions for eating (kosher vs treif), days of the week (Shabbat vs other days), and other areas. However, over the milennia, practices on this subject have increased in stringency, especially in the last 300 years. In the last generation, some leaders within Orthodoxy and Conservative/Masorti Judaism have taken a new look at assumptions about what it means to be “strictly kosher”. Many things observant Jews assume to be binding and traditional, are really not quite so.

Many observant Jews use only Cholov Yisroel (Hebrew: חלב ישראל‎‎) milk and dairy products. These are products that have been under constant rabbinical supervision from milking to bottling, to make sure that it is not adulterated with the milk of a non-kosher animal.

Today this is not a practical concern in the USA or most western countries; As such, most Modern Orthodox rabbis, and all Conservative rabbis, have ruled that FDA supervision is sufficient to be considered automatically kosher.

Is there such a thing as “Cholov Yisrael” cheese? (that is, cheese where a Jew watched over the whole production process to ensure that a gentile did not substitute a non-kosher animals milk into the ingredients)

Considering that the Talmud tells us that only milk of a kosher animal curdles , and that it is echoed by the Rambam (Maachalot Asurot 3:12) and Tosfos, we are on safe ground when we note that this is just another way that some kashrut agencies attempt to get more money for an item that need not be “Cholov Yisroel”.

Isn’t rennet an issue? Irvin Branwein writes:

A respectable and acknowledged body of Jewish legal opinion permits all hard cheeses made with rennet. Rabbenu Tam (b. 1100) grandson of Rashi, halakhic authority and leading luminary of the Franco-German, tosafist tradition, has written: “We have never found a proper reason to forbid the cheese of the gentiles and moreover, the Sages of Narbonne have permitted them.” [Talmud, Avodah Zarah, 35a, s.v. Hadda Qa-tanna]

More recently, orthodox, religious authorities have cited the Arukh Hashulhan in their lenient decisions on cheeses made with rennet. [Rabbis Hankin and Graubart, in HaPardes, Iyyar, 5722, page 9, and E’iduth L’Israel, pp.173-176, responsa, Havallim Bane’immim, Y.D. 23]

– Changing the Halakha, Irvin Branwein, Judaism, Issue No. 200, Volume 50, Number 4, Fall 2001

Our list of Kashrut articles. Halakhic, Traditional, Non-fundamentalist

Reincarnation and pseudoscience

A few rabbis have been trying to tie together kabbalah, “scientific proof of reincarnation”, “scientific proof of the afterlife”, etc, like this one here.


Rabbi Alon Anava, a proponent of educating people about the potential threat of Nibiru, said last week that the dwarf star some believe is poised to destroy two-thirds of the world’s population in anticipation of the End of Days is the cause of recent extreme weather events. End of Days blogger Menachem Robinson told Breaking Israel News that Nibiru will “make its closest approach” to earth within the next few weeks. Following a recent lecture about the arrival of Moshiach (Messiah), Rabbi Anava ascribed the dramatic uptick in monsoons, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes and other extreme weather events to the approach of Nibiru…. According to Rabbi Anava, Nibiru is merely one End of Days scenario that God could potentially implement. “It’s one of the surprises Hashem (God) can pull out of His pocket. It might not do anything. There are clear prophecies talking about rocks of fire, but any bad prophecy can be reversed. HaKadosh Baruch Hu (The Holy One, Blessed Be He) prepared it. “You know how HaKadosh Baruch Hu did the flood in the time of Noach (Noah)?” Rabbi Anava asked his audience. “He moved one of the planets a little bit. That caused the flood to happen.

There is zero scientific proof of reincarnation of the afterlife. The smarter fundamentalist preachers know this, but believe that it is valid to lie in order to gain new adherents. The less smart ones… actually believe their own claims.

Kabbalah itself is problematic, but we see here what happens when they tie pseudo-science with Kabbalah – they end up aligning themselves with conspiracy theorists, about all sorts of topics.

When you see a preacher (of any faith) talk about “scientific proof” which doesn’t exist, that’s a red flag.

Here are some articles examining holes in the claims that reincarnation and the afterlife were scientifically proven.

Ian Stevenson: The Skeptic’s Dictionary

Also Book Review of “Children who remember previous lives, A question of reincarnation”

Smilodon’s Retreat: Analysis of claims about reincarnation