I returned from a five-day trip, and LL said, “Get some more of that stuff.”

“Um, what stuff?” I said, barely in the door.

“That Jardesca stuff. It’s delicious.”

Now, my wine-writing/-blogging colleagues and I endure tides of emails from marketers promoting jardescanew cocktail recipes and possibilities, most of which sound awful. (“You’ll love our rose hip bitters with rye!”) The message I received from the Olive and Poppy company, however, was polite and informative, not pushy or gushy. The product was Jardesca, an aperitif beverage made in Sonoma County, a combination of three white wines and an eau de vie flavored with 10 botanicals. So, I said, Sure, send me a bottle.

Typically, the manufacturer is reticent about revealing what the wines and botanicals are, though I believe that among the latter are pink peppercorns, pink grapefruit rind and bay laurel.

What I know is that the stuff is intriguing, tasty and highly individual. When I was safely back in the kitchen, LL poured some Jardesca over ice and handed it to me, and indeed that’s a perfectly appropriate way to drink it. However, I added a squeeze of lime, a few basil leaves and a splash of sparkling water. This was a truly attractive and slightly mysterious cocktail.

Jardesca’s color is pale yellow-gold with green highlights; the tantalizing bouquet segues from cucumber, verbena and green olive to lemongrass, ginger and green tea. A few moments of contemplation bring out notes of gardenia and lilac, wood smoke and almond skin. A fleeting hint of sweetness characterizes the entry, but this is mainly dry, even sliding to bone-dry on the finish. The entire package is animated by bright acidity for crispness and a lively nature.

As a fortified wine, Jardesca hits 18 percent alcohol. It strikes me as more of a Spring and Summer thing than Fall and Winter, but it could probably be accoutered to accompany the days that dwindle down to a precious few. Price is $30 for a standard 750 milliliter bottle. Available only in California and Florida, but the company will be happy to fill online orders at jardesca.com.

Some people have jobs that just make you say, “Awww, man, no fair …!” I’m thinking in this case of Nicolas Palazzi (image at right), whose family owns Bordeaux properties in Cotes de Bourg, Entre-Deux-Mers and Graves — his mother is French, his father Italian — but whose heart lies in the world of spirits. Palazzi’s work is to haunt old cellars in Europe and search out barrels of spirits or fortified wines that have been quietly aging for generations, bottle them in small quantities and hand-sell them all over the globe. I previously wrote about his Paul-Marie et Fils Pineau des Charentes Tres Vieux Fut #3 (here) and his Paul-Marie et Fils “devant la porte” Grande Champagne Cognac (here). A more recent foray took him into the realms of Spanish brandy and rum, bottled under the Navazos-Palazzi label, indicating a joint venture between Palazzi and Equipo Navazos. An interesting story itself, Equipo Navazos began as a group of sherry-loving friends that searched for ancient hidden treasures in the region’s cellars and bottled what they selected in limited editions, beginning in 2005, for a small circle of connoisseurs, collectors and writers. In 2007, a company was formed to market the sherries to the public, still keeping quantities at the artisan level.

Today, I look at each of these three collaborative products — two brandies and the rum — tasted from small samples provided by Palazzi.
First is the younger of the two brandies, a six and a half year old single-cask brandy found in the cellars at the Rey Fernando de Castilla bodega in Jerez de la Frontera. For the initial three years of its life, this spirit rested in multiple-use sherry casks; the next three and a half years were spent in 600-liter casks that had formerly been used for fino sherry. Made from 100 percent airen grapes, it is bottled unfiltered and at full proof, 41.1 percent alcohol, and no additives were employed. The color is pale but radiant gold with green highlights. This is a very young, powerful, impetuous and fiery brandy, yet it manages to be ultimately well-balanced and harmonious. Notes of spiced pear with hints of banana and bay leaf dominate a bouquet that brings up touches of toasted wheat, candied orange peel and some astringent little white flower. Profound acidity grips the palate and keeps this brandy vibrant; the texture is lithe and sinewy, and the overall impression is of blond wood, bitter orange, fruitcake, walnut shell and a tinge of toffee. It stays with you. Production was 720 half-bottles. Excellent. About $80 a half-bottle.
The “Montilla” is a single cask brandy that’s at least 50 years old. Palazzi and his partners found it at Bodega Perez Barquero in Cordoba. It spent its whole life in what is apparently an oloroso sherry cask. Like its stablemate mentioned above, it was bottled unfiltered, at full proof (40.1 percent alcohol) and receives no additives like caramel coloring. It is also made from 100 percent airen grapes. The color is medium gold-amber; the bouquet offers hints of cloves and allspice and a plethora of woody and woodsy notes: dried porcini, walnut shell, moss, smoke from a leaf fire, pencil shavings, all opening to toffee, maple syrup, pine and old leather; and far in the distance, a subliminal touch of woodland flower. This is a deep, multi-dimensional brandy that when it first flows across the tongue feels infinitely smooth and mellow, but boy does it have an afterburn as it goes down. The last elements that I pointed out in the bouquet — the toffee, maple syrup, pine and old leather — define the flavor profile but add depths of fruitcake and plum pudding and an intriguing steely mineral quality. Again, 720 half-bottles was the production. Excellent. About $115 per half-bottle.
A bit of mystery surrounds the Ron Navazos-Palazzi. Because of a non-disclosure agreement, Nicolas Palazzi can reveal only that the rum originates from an island at the southern end of the Antilles and that it is made from molasses. This rum aged five years in former bourbon casks at the distillery and then was shipped to Jerez, where the bodega emptied it into old oloroso sherry casks and aged it for 15 more years. It was kept around because the bodega simply did not know what to do with it. The alcohol content is 51 percent, translating to 102 proof. Navazos-Palazzi will produce 1,500 bottles a year for four years; the present example represents the first release. The color is medium amber with gold highlights; not surprisingly, there’s a lot of wood here, but the rum, at least initially, feels clean and bright. You have to imagine a combination of sherry and rum, with sherry’s dryness, spareness and elegance and rum’s hint of sweet fruit. Still, to reiterate, there’s a lot of wood here; this is dense, almost viscous, powerful, dominated by leather and loam, with faint notes of maple syrup, dark molasses and toffee, allspice and sandalwood; a wayward whiff of mango. Unique, perhaps an anomaly. Excellent (sort of). About $165 for a standard 750ml bottle. As Palazzi told me, “Yes, we don’t really give things away,” but what price does one put on such a rarefied product? For thoughtful sipping after dinner, not for your daiquiri or Dark and Stormy.

The Paul-Marie et Fils “devant la porte” Grande Champagne Cognac is a one-of-a-kind, unfined and unfiltered, cask-strength cognac that will blow away lovers of distilled spirits, especially of the kind that demand lingering over for an hour or so. The story is as interesting as the product. Nicholas Palazzi, whose parents own small estates in Bordeaux, has deep connections, through his grandfather, with the Cognac region. Seeking out an old friend of his grandfather, someone from whom he could learn all the intricacies and nuances of cognac, Palazzi found himself, a few years ago, in the dark, redolent cellars of ancient properties, cellars that held barrels of cognacs that went back generations. After tasting many of these, Palazzi chose one barrel to bottle, a barrel “in front of a door” — devant la porte — that had been distilled in 1951. He bottled the spirit in August 2009 and since then has been basically hand-selling it all over the world, though with only 257 bottles in existence it’s obviously pretty damned rare. The alcohol content is 51 percent, yes, 102 proof.

Palazzi sent me a small sample of Paul-Marie et Fils “devant la porte” Grande Champagne Cognac, which I took my time about opening, but finally broke down. The color is medium copper-amber with a pale, almost transparent rim. The first impression is of alcoholic power buried inside woody spices — sandalwood, cloves, allspice — with a touch of burnt orange and bitter chocolate. Slowly, traces of toffee, caramel and dusty leather emerge. Then, at least in my experience, the cognac shuts down for 20 or 30 minutes, perhaps gathering its forces for the real display, because a little time leads to a blossoming of pear and fig pudding, spice cake and toasted coconut and a reassertion of the caramel, toffee, almond brittle elements. There’s a touch of something slightly bitter in reserve, and yet sweet, too, a woody sense of rigor and strength somewhat belied by the cognac’s utter smoothness and mellowness as it flows powerfully across the tongue and palate, somehow achingly dry yet honeyed simultaneously. Exceptional. About $600 (a bottle).

I told LL that I was writing this “last minute gift” post and she said, “Like, very very really last minute,” but, you know, it’s about 3 in New York and hours earlier on the West Coast. Plenty of time! Get to it! Make someone happy!

We never drink liqueurs. They’re too sweet, thick and cloying. Oh, there are ancient bottles of Grand Marnier and B & B in the back of the liquor cabinet, bought because we needed two tablespoons in a dessert of some kind and then forgotten, but if we’re going to sip something after dinner, we want it to be port with cheeses or a tipple of single malt scotch or something bracing like Amaro Nonino.

I was at a trade tasting a couple of days ago, however, and was offered a decent portion of Belle de Brillet liqueur, the blend of Williams pears and cognac from the venerable Maison Brillet, a family-owned cognac producer since 1850.

Smooth as silk and mildly honeyed in sweetness, Belle de Brillet offers the essence of pears. (Twenty pounds of pears go into each 750 milliliter bottle.) Think first of a fresh pear, juicy and flavorful; then consider a spiced and macerated pear, roasted with white wine and thyme; then ponder an oven-dried pear, intense and concentrated. Somehow Belle de Brillet manages to capture and balance every nuance of these aspects of a pear’s useful transformations. The cognac base of Belle de Brillet provides subtle touches of toffee and orange rind and distant back-notes of toasted almonds and woody spice. Truly lovely, comforting stuff, so much so that I did what one is not supposed to do at a trade event, where people are seriously working the floor; I held out my glass and said, “Uh, may I have some more, please?” Excellent. About $42.

Imported by A. Hardy USA, Des Plaines, Illinois.

Image from granitbleu.com.

Must the world be one big freaking conundrum?

Example. Many authorities say that cachaça (“ka-SHA-zha”), the national spirit of Brazil, should not be called rum, or a kind of rum, because it’s distilled from pure sugar cane juice and not from molasses. Many rums, however, are made from sugar cane leblon1.jpgjuice, and, besides, the bottle of Leblon Cachaça that I used to make caipirinhas (kai-pur-EEN-ya) this weekend says, very clearly, “Brazilian Rum.”

O.K., here’s another. The two books I consulted on making a caipirinha — New Classic Cocktails by Gary Regan and Mardee Haidin Regan (Macmillian, 1997) and Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century by Paul Harrington and Laura Moorhead (Viking, 1998), each excellent in its way — took different approaches to the drink, the first recommending granulated sugar and the second simple syrup, while each book offered a radically different method of making simple syrup. The Regans call for two cups of granulated sugar and two cups of water, and the water is not to boil. Harrington and Moorhead call for two cups of sugar and one cup of water that boils. Hmmm, must we do thermal violence to create simple syrup? I chose to follow Harrington and Moorhead’s proportion of sugar to water, but heeded the Regan’s injunction against boiling the water. I allowed the water to simmer and stirred the entire time, so the sugar dissolved and the mixture thickened and clarified. Simple syrup keeps in the fridge, in a tightly closed glass jar, forever.

No Brazilian would make a caipirinha with simple syrup, but granulated sugar in Brazil is more finely granulated than its counterpart in the U.S., akin to what we call superfine sugar, so the simple syrup came in handy. To test a theory, I made two caipirinhas, one with sugar and one with simple syrup. The glass with the cut limes and granulated sugar required pretty strenuous muddling to get the sugar to dissolve. In truth, the caipirinha made with simple syrup was more intense than the one made with sugar.

Thousands of brands of cachaça are available in Brazil, in styles ranging from raw, rustic and fiery to more elegant artisanal efforts. The stuff used to be hard to find in the U.S.A., but “drink-builders” around the country have come to value its versatility in the creation of signature cocktails and its relatively light fruitiness compared to rum, though don’t mistake cachaça for a wallflower; it’s powerful goods.

Leblon Cachaça is a fairly new brand in this country. The distiller is Gilles Merlet from Cognac, and indeed the distillate, after going through the copper alembic pot stills, ages six months in used Cognac barrels. The result is a cachaça that seems smooth and concentrated and slightly spicy. While elegance and seamlessness may be the target, this product still retains something wild and florid, grassy and earthy; it hasn’t forgotten its roots in the sugar cane fields of Patos de Minas.

The caipirinha itself presents a conundrum. The combination of the keen acidity of the limes and the sweetness of the sugar is a paradox of bracing effect, sending the taste buds into search-and-rescue overdrive before you say, “Whoa, that’s incredibly refreshing!”

What can I do with this “press release” I received by email today except to reproduce it here the way it was sent to me? Perhaps no comment is necessary. Well, one comment: I promise that whoever wrote this “press release” really did spell “muddle” as “muttle.” And one more comment, actually a question: Can “Platinum Bruno’s Martini” actually cost $38? And notice that it’s no longer sufficient to be well-dressed; “chic attire” is requested.

From: Katherine Rothman [mailto:info@kmrpr.com]
Sent: Friday, November 07, 2008 10:57 AM
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: three unique and sexy drinks from from Bruno Jamais Restaurant Club

For More Information
Please Contact:Katherine Rothman

At KMR Communications, Inc info@kmrpr.com

***If you would like to run this as a contest, we are happy to offer two readers one certificate for any of the drinks below.

Platinum Martini



muttle four slices of orange in a Boston shaker add two ounces patron platinum tequila image001.jpg

3/4 oz peach schnapps


served up op in a double martini glass (chilled)

2) This cocktail is collaboration between Bruno Jamais and Sommelier Benjamin Maury. Bruno wanted a signature cocktail using his favorite liquor, patron platinum. He wanted something strong yet smooth. Bruno liked the way orange flavor is often used to complement tequila using liqueurs such as Cointreau or triple sec but to refine the taste Maury suggested that they use fresh orange instead. The peach schnapps was then added, blending perfectly with the orange while adding a hint of sweetness. . Initially this drink was to be served in a rocks glass over crushed ice following the tradition of the caipirinia but in keeping true to New York style they decided serve it up. Thus, creating the “Platinum Bruno’s Martini.”

Crème Brûlée Martini, traps that seductive dessert in a glass and, when topped with that grid of caramel, gently set across the image002.jpgrim, makes a spectacular presentation that leads to an equally spectacular taste.

Then, there’s the Sexy Back, which Maury says was inspired by all the lovely ladies (and their backs) that walk up to his bar. In this one a mix of citrus vodka, creme de cassis and sour mix are topped with a little Champagne for a complex, effervescent cocktail. Stop by next time you’re on the Upper East Side and try one for yourself.


Ph: 212 396-3444

Bruno Jamais Restaurant Club brings the French Riviera to the upper east side. Where else can one dine in style until 3am with delectable cuisine such as chocolate soufflé and Foie Gras? The service and décor are equally impressive. The restaurant received the “Best Interior Design” award by Hospitality Design Magazine. There is also live entertainment on Monday nights with the best of jazz and soul. On a cold winter’s night, allow debonair owner Bruno Jamais to make you feel at home and beat the doldrums of winter. With Chef Hok Chin at the kitchen’s helm the cuisine is sure to delight even the most discerning palates. Bruno Jamais and Chef Hok Chin have created a unique menu that has an Asian influence without losing its French integrity. Bruno Jamais is also the perfect place to book your private party and can accommodate up to 200 diners for a buffet dinner or 70 people for a sit down dinner. For those upper east siders who are tired of trekking downtime for an evening of fun, this exclusive venue has it all. If you are looking to see stars, celebrity patrons have included: Billy Baldwin, Joan Rivers, Cindy Adams, Chazz Palminteri and even former President Bill Clinton. Reservations are suggested and chic attire is requested. BRUNO JAMAIS RESTAURANT CLUB — The restaurant received the “Best Restaurant Design” Award by Hospitality Design Magazine for 2004.

24 EAST 81 STREET NY NY www.brunojamais.com


What’s interesting to me, or, you know, like tragic, is that websites like clubplanet.com and about.com mention these cocktails completely uncritically and even use the language of this “press release,” which has been making the rounds, I discovered, for at least a year. No wonder “journalists” get a bad name.

We discovered New Amsterdam gin one evening sitting in a bar, and, glancing at the array of glittering bottles on the shelves, saw something new. “That’s New Amsterdam,” the bartender told us, and we asked him to make two martinis, new-amsterdam-gin.jpgone with olives and one with a twist. Examining the bottle to see where the product was made, I was surprised that the label was so reticent. We’re in an age where spirits, especially gin and vodka, trumpet their origins, their purity, their sustainable character. Not so in this case, but when I read the magic word “Modesto” the revelation came. “Holy moly,” I exclaimed to LL, “Gallo makes this gin.”

New Amsterdam is an intensely fragrant and citrusy gin, and I have to disagree with several other bloggers and assert that 1. New Amsterdam makes a delicious martini, and 2. it makes a martini that should be garnished with an olive instead of a twist because the lemon oil can be rather aggressive with a product already dominated by the citrus element.

For the record, our favorite gins are Tanqueray, Junipero and Hendricks. The first two are traditional, austere, chastening and pure, the latter more winsome and floral, a summertime gin.

Anyway, acquiring a bottle of New Amsterdam for home use and sniffing and sipping it straight from the freezer, we discovered that it’s a gin with myriad immediate pleasures.

First greeting the nose are whiffs of cedar, juniper and cloves. There’s a quick and seamless segue to pungent scents of orange rind and burnt orange that remain steadfast but open to emit touches of white pepper, licorice and a chilly note of peppermint.
Only as the gin gradually warms in the glass does it offer a floral aspect, like some shy and astringent Alpine flower.

This sense of layered sensual appeal fades a bit in the mouth as the alcohol takes over, but New Amsterdam has a satiny texture that carries spicy juniper and general citrus flavors smoothly across the tongue and down the throat.

A great gin? New Amsterdam is no Junipero, which is made in small quantities in San Francisco by the Anchor Brewing Company and is, to my sensibility, among the greatest gins in the world; one would not call New Amsterdam beautiful or profound. Yet it’s a satisfying gin, one that’s beguiling and almost carefree; the word “fun” comes to mind, a quality that I’m certain the designers and marketers of this gin hoped for. And it sells for $14 for a 750 ml bottle, which is half or a third of what the great gins cost.

… if you drink too much. Which I did a couple of nights ago. Waking (if we can call it that) in the morning feeling as if several IEDs had gone off in my cranium. I had only myself to blame for several million of my brain cells being carried off in body-bags and being slipped into shallow graves in the Potter’s Field of Hopes and Dreams. Instead of sipping sparingly, sensibly, I just kept pouring amaro_01.jpg shots of Amaro Nonino Quintessentia into my cunningly-wrought and delicate little liqueur glass. Master, as usual, of my own destruction. Of the product itself, I have nothing but delirious praise.

Amaro Nonino Quintessentia is produced by the Distilleria Nonino in Italy’s northeastern-most province of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, hard by the borders of Austria and Slovenia. The company was founded in 1897 and is still family owned, the present members being mother and father Giannola and Benito and daughters Cristina, Antonella and Elisabetta, and a damned fine-looking bunch they are, as you can see in the accompanying image. Giannola and Benito Nonino revolutionized Italy’s grappa industry in 1973 by producing the first single-variety grappa from the pomace of picolit grapes. (Grappa, as the French marc, is distilled from noninofamily.jpg pomace, the residue of grape skins, stems, seeds and pulp left after pressing white grapes or, for red grapes, after fermentation.) This innovation shifted the emphasis in grappa-making, as other distilleries followed the lead of Nonino is making a variety of single-grape grappas.

In 1984, Nonino was the first to distill whole grapes, marketed as a line called ÙE. These single-variety products cannot be called grappa, because they’re not, and are instead designated as “Distillates.” In 2003, the family added a unique line of distillates called “Gioiello,” distilled directed from honeys derived from a number of different fruit blossoms and flowers. I tried several of the Gioiello distillates when they were first released; they’re spectacularly seductive.

But back to Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, which I adore and which taken to excess was my recent downfall. The term “amaro” — Italian for “bitter — refers to any number of liqueur-like digestifs composed of a neutral alcohol base infused with roots, flowers, herbs and spices and intended for after-lunch or dinner sipping to settle the stomach and aid digestion. European monks produced such concoctions for a thousand years, but the notion of making the products commercially emerged in the mid 19th Century. Companies that make amaro place a great deal of value (tradition, on one hand, marketing on the other) on their secret formula. The website for Terlato International, Nonino’s importer (formerly Paterno), gives us some clues. Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, we are told, is made from “cereal alcohol, grape acqua vitae aged five years, roots of gentian, saffron, rhubarb, sweet orange, bitter orange, quassia wood, tamarind, galenga, licorice, cinchona.” The producer’s website, nonino.it, mentions that the base consists of ÙE distillate and prune distillate.

Quassia, by the way, is a tree that grows in Surinan or Jamaica, which is a bitter tonic or “stomachic,” as they used to say, and is slightly narcotic. Galenga (or galengal) is also known as “Thai ginger,” though it is more aromatic than regular ginger. Cinchona is a South American shrub or small tree that is a source of quinine.

Of course we don’t know what proportions of these substances are used in Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, and those mysteries should not concern us. The point I’m making is that being a fan generally I have tried numerous other amaros, Fernet-Branca, Averna and so on, and none of them is as deep, as complex, as darkly resonant, as harmonious, as medicinal yet amusing and gratifying as Amaro Nonino Quintessentia. Most of them make the mistake, to my palate, of keeping the licorice element too high and bright and of emphasizing their amaro’s sweetness over the bitterness, leaving them unbalanced.

Anyway, it’s about 12:30 on a Sunday afternoon. I’m finishing this post. Surely it’s not too early for a nip of Amaro Nonino Quintessentia to celebrate another job well done. Well, it is?

This just in: According to The New York Times, the European Parliament decided that “traditional vodka can be made only from potato2_01.jpggrain or potatoes.” Countries with a heritage of vodka-producing, including Sweden, Finland and Poland, “had pushed for rules that would have included molasses among the ingredients allowed.” The parliament reached a compromise — which only Poland voted against — that vodka may be made from other ingredients than grain or potatoes “if their composition and origin are clearly indicated on the label,” the implication being that vodka producers in Poland want to use molasses in vodka without indicating it on labels. grain_01.jpg

Molasses! Think of it. If you ferment molasses and distill it, what do you get? Bad rum! The best rums are made directly from pure cane juice, not cane juice rendered into molasses. Why does Poland want to get into that business? And how are molasses_01.jpgvodka aficionados going to feel when they pick up a highly hyped new vodka named something like “Iconic Snow” or “Icy Freeze” and the label states: “Made from Molasses in Krakow”?

One feels similarly funny about Ciroc, the French vodka made from grapes, and not just grapes but “fine French grapes” (they’re from Gaillac) and not just “fine French grapes” but “snap frost” grapes picked, we are told, just after the first “snap frost.” (What?) But think of it. Vodka made from distilled grapes? Isn’t that, like, you know, grappa? (A highly refined grappa, to be sure.)

Technically speaking, vodka is defined as an odorless, flavorless white spirit. You could make it from rutabagas, but traditionally and practically and now by law in Europe, vodka must be made from potatoes or grain, unless stated otherwise on the label. What’s next for those accommodating madcaps in the EU? A ruling that says that sherry can only be made from real grapes in Jerez unless stated otherwise on the label? That Calvados can be made only from apples in Normandy unless stated otherwise on the label?

Ironically, the EU recently honored the Napa Valley as the only protected American appellation in Europe, unless, I suppose, otherwise indicated on the label.

The picture of grain is a Getty image taken from nattierosewrites.com. The molasses label is from clendening.kumc.edu.

We all have dreams, right? Some people dream of success in politics or sports; others dream of winning Nobel Prizes in literature or medicine. Some people dream of reaching the pinnacles of romance and love and desire or of starring in films and becoming cirrus2.jpghousehold names. And then there are the people who dream of being famous for no discernible reasons.

Paul McCann’s dream was to make potato vodka in Richmond, Virginia.

And why not? If Pritchard can make rum in rural East Tennessee and Anchor can make gin in San Francisco, why shouldn’t Paul McCann be able to make vodka in Virginia. And so he did.

His company is called Parched Group and the vodka is Cirrus.

Now I will be the first to admit that I have never seen the point of vodka, except as a chaser to caviar, and there a thimbleful of ice-cold vodka is far superior to even the finest Champagne. But vodka, originally distilled from potatoes but legally made of any sort of grain or combination of grains, was for centuries the bath-tub gin of spirits, the fiery stuff distilled in the backyard or the back room or the barracks to satisfy the alcoholic needs of desperate hordes. How vodka became the iconic symbol of sophistication and the main prop of the Cocktail Nation is beyond the comprehension of one who prizes the infinite nuances of gin and the fathomless depths of scotch. Vodka’s advocates tout its mixability, a trait others may call mindlessness.

Still, vodka cannot be ignored, as new labels seem to be introduced every week, each one rigorously emphasizing aspects of frigidity, purity and perfect transparency. The texts on the bottles frequently boast that the vodka inside was distilled five times and filtered five times, sometimes through such materials as diamond dust or virgins’ blood. (I made that one up.) The idea is that cirrus1.jpgthe best, the most expensive, the so-called “super-premium” vodkas should have no nature whatever except for smoothness.

Cirrus, I’m happy to say, actually displays character. Rather than being made in a continuous still, the process by which most vodkas, even so-called super-premiums, are made, Cirrus is made in a traditional copper pot still, in which it is distilled three times. I don’t know how to describe its scent other than to say that it smells like snow; if you live in the North (I spent the first 10 years of my life in Rochester, N.Y.,) you’ll know what I mean. Then there’s a touch of citrus, a whiff of black pepper, a hint of some astringent white flower. In the mouth, the texture is smooth, to be sure, but almost cloud-like in softness and volume. The main thing is that Cirrus neither smells nor tastes like a doctor’s office, which is the flaw of many vodkas.

Suggested retail price for Cirrus Vodka is about $22, but inevitably production and distribution are limited. Check the company’s website — Cirrus — and ask Paul McCann when Cirrus will be available in your state.

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