Jose Cuervo Cinge is a new cinnamon-infused tequila that retails for about $18. As you may know, Cuervo is the top-selling tequila brand in the world, and since vodka and whiskey have embraced the flavored liquor trend, it’s no surprise to see tequila flavors, too.
Cinge is sweet and spicy, though mostly spicy, vaguely reminding me of a Fireball candy. Because Cuervo isn’t a 100% agave brand, the mugginess of tequila is eclipsed by the cinnamon burn, and your lips will be left sticky and sweet. Cinge has a unique flavor that makes for some fun cocktail recipes, and since tequila mixes well with apple, here’s a recipe for you to try:
Arriving for winter is a seasonal version of Jack Daniel’s that’s meant to be drunk hot: Winter Jack Tennessee Cider. Wrapped in a snowy-white label, Winter Jack is lighter in color than it’s namesake, and considerably lighter in alcohol: just 15% vs. Jack’s usual 40%.
Depending on where you are in the world, this will either be called Tennessee Cider or Tennessee Apple Whiskey Punch, but it’s the same Winter Jack regardless of the subtitle. It’s described on the label as “a seasonal blend of apple cider liqueur & Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey,” and it ends up taking just like that: a little Jack, a little apple, some cinnamon and spice.
Really, Winter Jack is made to be an easy cider for a snowy day: pour it in a coffee mug, heat it up, drink and repeat. Winter Jack will run you $15-20 a bottle, and there are 30 states that it’ll be distributed to in the U.S., though the list excludes my home state of New Mexico, so we’ll have to take a road trip to Colorado or Texas to get some.
This week we’re doing a two-part series called Bees vs. Trees, in which I taste a bunch of honey whiskies (the Bees) and maple whiskies (the Trees). Today, the Trees get the spotlight as maple is a fairly new whiskey flavor that’s gaining popularity. Just as an educational note, there is a very blurry line between whether these are, by definition, flavored whiskies or strong liqueurs, since they usually have added sugars as well.
I imagine you’ve experienced the fact that the smell of maple really dominates the air when you’ve got some out. These whiskeys are no different: just an open bottle of one of these is enough to fill your entire house with the smell of maple. Surprisingly, though, while maple gets all up in your senses, the flavor that gets delivered to your tongue is much more tame, which may also be because most of these (unlike their Bee brethren) are 40% ABV or higher.
Cabin Fever Maple
Description: ”A 3 year old whisky that is infused with real grade B dark maple.”
The flavor experience with Cabin Fever can be summed up in one word: butterscotch. It dominates your palate, it’s creamy, it’s rich, and from start to finish, this is a butterscotch experience. It seems like a great fit in a hot, boozy tea this winter – I’m working on a recipe right now.
Crown Royal Maple Finished
Description: ”Fine DeLuxe Maple Flavored Whisky.”
Truthfully, I am not a fan of Crown Royal and generally don’t have it in my home bar. This variety is nice and strong, and sweet maple is all in the smell. The whiskey itself is more of a drier, nuttier experience, and does not align with the initial smell, since it’s much more subtle and strong. We liked it better than “regular” Crown, and I imagine this pairing well with a cigar. The bottle comes is a cool brown version of the iconic Crown bag, too. #bonus
Knob Creek Smoked Maple
Description: ”Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey with natural flavors.”
Alright, tell the kids to leave the room, because it’s serious whiskey time. Knob Creek is the highest % alcohol of any of the Bees or Trees, and it delivers. While there is certainly the maple smell wandering out of the bottle, this is a serious whiskey at a serious alcohol level. There is only the faintest trace of maple on the finish, and drinking this reminded me some of my Maple Old Fashioned: good whiskey, a little maple. Knob Creek may be the only option from this whole series for stuffy or serious whiskey sippers.
Jim Beam Maple
Description: ”Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey infused with natural flavors.”
The only brand in this series to play for both teams, Beam delivers a maple version of their classic bourbon. While the label says maple, we found it carried more of a toasted marshmallow experience through the senses – less maple, and more…..just sweet. I imagine there will be several appearances of Beam Maple in Fall cocktails, and it’s probably a better fit as a mixer than a sipper.
This week we’ll have a two-part series called Bees vs. Trees, in which I taste a bunch of honey whiskies (the Bees) and maple whiskies (the Trees). Today, the Bees get the spotlight as honey has become a very popular additive to a wide variety of whiskeys. Just as an educational note, there is a very blurry line between whether these are, by definition, flavored whiskies or strong liqueurs, since they usually have added sugars as well.
After tasting this lot, I found that overall, honey whiskies have a much less-pronounced scent than maple, but the sweetness comes through stronger as you taste them, plus the honey whiskies are mostly lower in alcohol % than the maple varieties that you’ll see in the next part, too.
Let’s get tasting!
Evan Williams Honey Reserve
Description: ”The smoothness of Evan Williams with a sweet honey taste.”
Evan’s take on honey whiskey is pretty interesting, and overall, we found it to be the least honey-tasting of the bunch. It’s got a more dry, almost medicinal, flavor that finished very fruity, almost like cherry cough syrup. This might be a good fit for a cocktail with some fruit ingredients, particularly cherry or berries.
Jim Beam Honey
Description: ”Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey infused with real honey and liqueur.”
Beam is the only brand you’ll see playing for both teams in the Bees/Trees series. We found it to be the sweetest-tasting of the bunch, with a strong flavor of root beer, even licorice. The honey flavor is present and does contribute to the overall sweetness of the drink. This might be a fun liquor to mix with Root or even Absinthe to help complement it’s flavors. Actually a splash on your ice cream would be pretty great, too.
Bushmills Irish Honey
Description: ”A blend of triple distilled Irish whiskey, real Irish honey, and other natural flavors.”
This may not be a surprise, but Bushmills is the more serious honey whiskey in this list. It tastes like an Irish whiskey, even a Scotch, as you can totally detect the barley base it’s made with, which is a very different experience from the bourbons and Tennessee whiskies in this list. Just as it finishes, there’s a touch of what seems like a cool, natural, sweetness. We found it tasted stronger than the others, and it would be a perfectly respectable sipper. If you’re a Scotch noob, this and Dewar’s Highlander Honey would make some good entries to start with.
Jack Daniel’s American Honey
Description: ”Honey liqueur blended with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey.”
I am consistently surprised by the quality of the various Jack Daniel’s whiskies I try. American Honey smells mostly like whiskey, and it’s not syrupy or sticky. The honey flavor delivers a substantial helping of sweetness, though the Jack Daniel’s base turns this into a more nutty/buttery experience, ultimately tasting something like pecan pie. Sipping this neat with a spicy, earthy cigar would be a good fit.
Clique Vodka is a newer brand that’s really embraced the times it’s in. Their Twitter handle @cliquevodka is printed right on the black bottle, and they’re promoting a hashtag of #cliqueshots to feature folks drinking Clique or holding their bottles of Clique.
All that considered, it’d be easy point to Clique as all style and no substance, a marketing plan in high gear. The biggest question to ask about Clique, then, is “how does it taste?”
It’s actually quite good – a touch fruity with traces of berries, and minimal alcohol burn. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely worth $16. Try Clique in this pleasantly sweet vodka cocktail: