Macallan 18

Macallan 18Macallan 18

Overall Rating: 6/10

 Taste: Cherry; Sweet; Charred oak

photoThe Macallan website refers to the 18 as “the iconic Macallan. Although the Macallan 18 isn’t really my style, it’s really smooth and I finally understood why some professional tasters like it.

I shared a glass with Joey and Darius. Joey appreciates the quality of the whisky but felt that the price is too high and wouldn’t pay more than a hundred dollars for the bottle. Darius felt the same  way about the price and thought that the 1792 Barton Reserve is better than this bottle of Macallan.

Estrella Damm Inedit

estrella-ineditEstrella Damm Inedit

Overall Rating: 5/10

Taste: Lightly carbonated; Fruity; Weak finish




“Inedit means “Never been done before”. In cooperation with the brew masters of Estrella Damm, Inedit was crafted by the globally acclaimed chef Ferran Adria, Juli Soler and sommeliers Ferran Centelles and David Seijas from ElBulli Restaurant.

The Estrella Damn Inedit is a carefully brewed blend of lager and wheat beer styles. It contains a brew combination of barley malt, wheat, hops, coriander, orange peel, yeast and water.

It is recommended that this bottle be enjoyed in a wine glass and kept cold after serving.


EstrellaHere are our thoughts after sampling a bottle:

Matt: “It has a great nose hit but it has a thin and weak finish. I’m not a fan.”

Mike: “I like light beers so this helps me go longer and stronger. It’s a good beer but I wouldn’t pay so much for it especially when a specially brewed beer, should have a special finishing at the end.”

Ravi: “Nice and fruity but it could be better. Reminds me of a summer beer garden drink which you will mix with lemonade, like a summer shandy.”


We re-read the labels on the bottle and realized that this beer was recommended to be drunk together while eating some food. However, the conclusion between us was if you want a lighter beer, this is for you. But if you’re looking for a beer to be drunk own its own, this wouldn’t be your drink.

Austrian Beer Test: Gösser vs. Stieglitz

So Timo, Lucy and I did a blind taste test on 3 different Austrian beers. On the picture you can see Lucy in action.

Our Reviews:


Beer no. 1- According to Lucy it was nice, stronger compared to American brands with honey.

Beer no. 2- Lucy thought it had a very similar taste.

Beer no. 3- Grosser but lighter.

Lucy liked beer no.1 best among the 3.



Beer no. 1 and 2 are smoother than Beer no. 3. I found all 3 brands good but like Beer no. 3 best as it was the tastiest. I liked beer no. 2 better than beer no. 1 as it had a nicer taste maybe because it was a different brand.



Timo found beer no. 2 sweet tasting, but beer no.3 was bitter and beer no. 1 was in between. He liked all 3 brands but liked number 2 best.

Brands we tested were:

Beer No. 1- Stieglitz Gold

Beer No. 2- Gösser, the main brand of Göss brewery which is one of the largest and most popular breweries in Austria.

and Beer No. 3- Stieglitz Pils



Lagavulin 16 vs. Laphroaig 10 Year Cask Strength – Thanksgiving Day 2013 Blind Tasting

There were two smokey whiskeys that Joey, Arwin, Ravi and Anne were blind tested at thanksgiving.  Lagavulin 16 was my standard favorite smokey whiskey but the Laphroaig surprised me when I tried it on it’s own as to it’s nice smokiness. Joey thought #1 was a tad bit darker.  Arwin and Ravi thought they were the same in color. Ravi thought #1 was a nice up front taste but doesn’t lingered enough. It was  nice and smokey but wished it lasted longer. He also thought #2 lasted longer and was less intense.  He preferred #2 and thought #2 was Lagavulin and #1 was Laphroaig. But he was  hedging as he tried it more and the differences seem to went away when you tried them together. Joey thought #1 was in moderate smokiness, tasty but agreed that it doesn’t lingered enough.  It had a sweeter smell. Arwin liked #1 better and #2 hurts at the end. Joey would liked to drink #1 after a good steak but #2 at a fire. When eating, he wanted up-front flavor.  He thought #2 was Laphroaig and #1 was Lagavulin. Anne thought #2 was stronger. In the end, #1 was Lagavulin 16 year and #2 was Laphroaig 10 year cask strength.

This peaty Single Malt dates back to 1816, when John Johnston and Archibald Campbell each constructed a distillery on what today is the Lagavulin site. After Johnston died, Campbell consolidated the two, before selling it to malt merchant Alexander Graham. Today it continues to uphold the traditions of its past, using meticulous preparation to create powerful whisky. Their signature 16 year old malt has a strong peat, smoke and seaweed nose that is followed by a nutty complexity and light fruitiness. In the mouth characters of Charcoal, dry woodiness and iodine followed by chilli chocolate and a hint of toffee. (Source:

The original Laphroaig is distilled the same way today as when Ian Hunter invented it over 75 years ago. In making Laphroaig, malted barley is dried over a peat fire. The smoke from this peat, found only on Islay, gives Laphroaig its particularly rich flavour. Those enjoying the 10 Year Old will first notice the bold, smoky taste, followed by a hint of seaweed and a surprising sweetness. This full-bodied variant is the foundation of all Laphroaig expressions and comes with a long finish. (Source:

Tequila Revolucion: Reposado, Anejo, Blanco

I tried different varieties of tequilas recommended by a bartender at Mayaheul on Adams Street in Normal Heights, San Diego. First was the Revolution Reposado. It was good and perhaps a poor mans whiskey.  Maybe I’m doing it wrong to try to recreate smokiness in a tequila.  So next, I asked for something interesting and got the Orgullo Anejo which has lots of tastes in it and layers. There were changes with each sip.  It was definitely interesting and an experience. Still, I had the idea that I’m not experiencing intrinsic goodness of tequila and I asked the bartender. I was told that true tequila drinkers drink Blancos.  He gave me a sample of Fortaleza and I can see the rawness and appreciated it,  just like I like neat scotches. Maybe I need to order Blanco tequilas to taste the plant better.

Tequila Revolucion prides themselves in selecting 7-9 year Blue Weber Agave and baking the pinas in traditional brick ovens. The resulting liquid is fermented and then given a double-distillation process. The bottle has two interesting features: first, an engraving of two pistols; second, 45ml markers on the bottle so that pouring can be precisely measured. (This latter is a bit baffling to us–how do you use the markers while pouring?) According to the write-up in The Tasting Panel Magazine (May 2012), the brand was founded by Juan Carlos Arav Fortique in 1995 based upon the “best raw ingredients” for a product that would “rebel against the ordinary.” (Source:

Tequila Revolucion Repsoado is rested (or “reposado”) in oak for 10 months prior to bottling, imparting a light color and flavor to the normally clear spirit. 10 months is a bit longer than the standard 6-month aging for most reposado tequilas. In another unusual move, the barrels are selected only from those that have previously held tequila (where many oak barrels will be ex-bourbon barrels). They suggest looking for a hint of butterscotch with the more familiar tequila flavor notes of vanilla, honey, and oak. (Source:

Tequila Revolucion Anejo aged for 18 months in oak which they are careful to ensure previously held tequila (many tequilas are aged in ex-bourbon barrels or similar). This is also a bit longer than the standard 12-month aging process required for the anejo designation. They describe their anejo as “rich and complex” and recommend it for sipping neat in a snifter. (Source:

The Blanco has a mild nose of citrus, herbs and raw agave that reminds of Siete Leguas blanco but dialed down. Once in the mouth, it’s a bit watery. The taste is relatively unoffensive, but what you remember is a strange astringency at the back of your throat and top palate that lingers unpleasantly. Unfortunately, this is carried through the line and is particularly strong in the reposado. (Source:


Belching Beaver Brewery, truly great beer

I was visiting San Diego recently and decided to try some beers at the Belching Beaver Brewery.  I sampled a number of beers. First was blushing IPA. It was just ok, drinkable and rated as 6. Next was Hop highway IPA and was rated as 7 for having nice hops. Rabid rye IPA was the last and it was very good and had a subtle rye, good for an 8 rate.

Belching Beaver does not brew good beer. We brew truly great beer. Currently, we are crafting 7 distinct beers year-round that range from pale ale to stout, which are sure to please anyone’s tastes. Our first priority is using quality ingredients to create the beer recipes at our microbrewery. (Source:

If you’re a beer advocate, and love small intimate tasting rooms with good beers this is the place to go. Their small tasters are awesome. Good beer at a reasonable price. Open, clean, well lit with simple design. Although their beers are limited only to their own, they have a huge variety of styles, different treatments and you can choose between flights, half pours and pints depending on your mood. Plus their pints have killer prices.

Brennivin, a nice summer drink

Darius, Donnie, Dad, Joey and Arwin tried Brennivin. Darius thought that he wouldn’t drink by himself because he doesn’t like licorice. Donnie felt it was ambivalent and just okay. For Dad, it was not his cup of tea. Joey tasted it as mild licorice with some other subtle spices. He thought it as not a single malt scotch  and it was better than vodka. It has its place for the right occasion, thus, it is a nice summer drink. Arwin thought of it as not a lot of flavor and he preferred fernet branca.

Brennivín is an Icelandic schnapps, considered the country’s signature alcoholic beverage. Having a national beverage seems to bede rigeur for small countries who want to  maintain their cultural identity. Iceland is no exception. It is made from fermented potato pulp, and flavoured with caraway seeds. It is sometimes called svarti dauði (“black death”). (Source:

At times it is drunk as a “chaser” after sampling “hákarl”, which consists of putrefied shark meat, to mask the meat’s taste. The word brennivín literally translates into English as ‘burning wine’, and comes from the same root as brandy, namely brandewijn which has its roots in the Dutch language. (Source:

Despite its unofficial status as national beverage and a traditional drink for the mid-winter feast of Þorrablót, many Icelanders do not regularly drink it. The drink has a strong taste and high alcohol content and carries an equivocal reputation despite the fact that Iceland lives huge taxes on most alcoholic beverages, brennivín is actually one of the moderately priced liquors available in the national alcohol store.

Brennivin today is mostly enjoyed as a patriotic drink, most notably on St. Thorlac’s Day (December 23), a holiday that honors the patron saint of Iceland. It’s a popular souvenir sampled then brought home by Iceland’s growing number of tourists.


The Laddie Ten – Bruichladdich, smooth

The other day, Joey, Dad and I tried The Laddie Ten. Joey said it has a sweet smell with some peat and hint of vanilla. Dad thought it was not his cup of tea. I said it was like an oban, smooth and not boring.

The very first 10 year old whisky to be wholly distilled, aged and bottled following Bruichladdich’s resurrection in 2001. In many ways this marks the beginning of the new era and this will be snapped up by connoisseurs and collectors. A true milestone bottling.

At Bruichladdich, we believe the whisky industry has been stifled by industrialization and self-interest – huge organisations have developed that require a stable status quo to ensure that their industrial processes can run to maximum efficiency, producing the maximum “product” with the minimum input and variation, all to the lowest unit price. We reject this. We believe that whisky should have character; an authenticity derived from where it is distilled and the philosophies of those who distil it – a sense of place, of terroir that speaks of the land, of the raw ingredients from which it was made. (Source:

The Laddie Ten, this whisky, this spirit, malted from only Scottish barley for authenticity, slow-fermented for purity, trickle-distilled for creamy texture and cask-filled at 70% for extra flavour, has been quietly slumbering in our loch-side warehouses for the last 10 years, and we are immensely proud to offer this landmark dram to you now.The true beginning of a new era. (Source:

This 10 years old ‘Laddie Ten’ has been praised by a lot of people as a high-quality, low-cost whisky. It’s unchill-filtered and not coloured, as all bottlings should be these days.

Trader Joe’s 2012 Vintage Ale – Unibroue, a good holiday drink

Mark, Timo, Ravi, Lucy and Jane tried Trader Joe’s 2012 Vintage Ale. Mark thought it tasted like a combination of sweet chocolate and a porter.  It tasted clove like. He rated it as 7 because it has lots of character but not too sweet like Belgian. Timo gave 4 because it was strongly flavored. While Ravi rated it 6. Both Mark and Ravi agreed that it is a good holiday drink. Lucy liked its sweetness and gave 7. Jane thought it as pine needles and aromatic.

Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale has appeared once a year since 2005. It’s a Belgian strong ale, running about 9% ABV and is contract brewed by Unibroue, the highly regarded Quebec maker of Belgian beers. From the very beginning, Unibroue has carved out a special niche in the beer world with top quality products and a brand rooted deep in Quebec culture. It made history by becoming the first North American beer maker to use a brewing method inspired by the two-centuries-old tradition developed by Trappist monks in Europe—particularly in Belgium. Over the years, Unibroue has remained faithful to its origins even as it has grown to become an icon of the brewing world. (Source:

The Vintage Ale is made with dark Belgian malts and spices, each year’s batch being slightly different. Most years, the 750 ml (25 ounces) corked bottles are labeled as “ale on lees,” meaning there’s a layer of yeast sediment in the bottle for further fermenting, assuring the flavor will continue to evolve. (Source:

This dark beer pours an incredibly thick and resilient head that slowly dissipates as the beer settles. It smells slightly fruitier and sweeter than its counterpart being. Indeed, it is a thinner and more noticeably effervescent drink than its cousin, but the two share many similarities. The almost tropical flavors presented in this beer are balanced by a hint of citrusy hops and a moderate darkness, yet nothing too intense to frighten away more timid drinkers. This is a highly drinkable beer and while it’s got a great deal of intricacy and flavor, it’s hardly intimidating. The bottle might be attractive to a wine drinker.  Classy and simple.  So there’s that.  And it’s awfully lovely to look at after it’s poured: that big, off-white head, under which the beer–a rich brown, reminiscent of the color of dark figs–bubbles excitedly from its high carbonation. If you’re in a Trader Joe’s and find yourself curious, grab a bottle. It’s a great price and a great beer, whether you’re a well seasoned palate or a curious individual who seldom drinks craft beer. Grab it while it lasts and enjoy!

Kirkland Signature Pale Ale – Gordon Biersch Brewing Company, earthy

The other day, I tried Kirkland Signature Pale Ale. It tasted as earthy but smooth.  Mark rated it as 6. No Sierra or anchor steam.  It was a good attempt at classic pale ale.

This is a classic, American-Style pale ale that displays all of the complex bitterness and aroma from the hops of the Yakima Valley in Washington State. By using a top-fermenting ale yeas strain we bring out the floral and herbal flavor profiles. A clean, malty body is developed from the pale and light caramel malt. ABV 5.4% Bitterness 35 IBU. Contract brewed for Costco by the Gordon Biersch Brewing Company under the brewer name Hopfen Und Malz (for the west coast market) and since mid 2009 by Matt Brewing as “New Yorker Brewing Co.” (for the east coast market. (Source:

Dan and Dean opened the first Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant in Palo Alto in 1988. Since then, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurants have opened across the United States and world to include locations from California to Florida and even Taiwan. In 1997, Gordon Biersch opened a state-of-the-art brewery and bottling facility in San Jose, CA in order to begin bottling and distributing its famed, German-style beers. Today, Gordon Biersch Brewing Company is a brewing industry leader with 22 years of experience and counting. The microbrew trend continues to grow, and the company is actively expanding its distribution nationwide. Since 1998, Gordon Biersch Brewing Company has more than doubled its production, increasing its capacity to 3.1 million gallons of beer annually, making Gordon Biersch Brewing Company the largest brewery in the San Francisco Bay Area (Source:, 2012)

Kirkland Signature Pale Ale pours a deep amber with quite a bit of white head which is retained for longer than most pale ales. The beer has some malt to it and quite a bit of hops. The flavor is a little on the thin side – almost like a paler version of an American Pale Ale.

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