THIRSTY THURSDAYS: Corsair Artisan Distillery Tasting
Last Saturday, I had the great pleasure of going to a tasting for Corsair Artisan Distillery Spirits at Mafiaoza’s. (I know it’s a tough job…but someone’s gotta do it!). A few weeks ago on my Facebook Fan Page, my good friends Ehson and Rania suggested I do a Thirsty Thursday post. Herein, was destiny and this post is a product of their suggestion.
In my last post, I wrote a little bit about my cooking philosophy. In addition to trying to source the best local produce, I also love the idea of drinking locally! When I go out and about in Nashville, you can usually find me drinking some great Yazoo Beers. Just recently after I started food blogging, however, I discovered Corsair Artisan and I am simply blown away by how good all of their spirits are!
Corsair Artisan Distillery started making small batch spirits in 2008. Even though they are from Nashville, they were distilling (and continue to do so) in Bowling Green, KY. After they helped move along some Tennessee legislation that allows distilleries in more counties here, they were able to set up a second distillery in Nashville! You can go to their distillery on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. It’s located at: 1200 Clinton Street #110, Nashville, TN 37203.
I got to meet Andrew, the Master Distiller of Corsair Artisan, who was running the tasting. Andrew is a great guy who knows his spirits. The method of the distillery seems to be to do everything in small batches so they can exert a lot of control over the flavor of the finished product, in addition to removing a lot of sweetness in order to really taste the spirit’s artisanal quality. We went through a tasting of 7 spirits and then had a few cocktails.
First up was the gin ($29.99). Frankly, I love gin. I’m a bourbon guy, but if I’m not drinking it, I look at gin first. This gin is intensely aromatic, but lighter and more floral and most gin’s I’ve had. Andrew said they take off a lot of the peppery spices and use a vapor method for extracting flavors as opposed to a steeping method. The reason I like this gin more than say, a Tanqueray or Plymouth, is because it doesn’t hit you over the head with juniper flavors. Although you get juniper, a lot of other things are coming to the party. Really good stuff.
Vanilla Bean Vodka ($27.99) is not your average Vanilla vodka. You can tell right off the bat because this spirit isn’t clear. It has a beige/light yellow hue to it because Corsair uses actual vanilla pods, instead of vanilla extract. Because vanilla pods are not as sweet as sugar laden extracts, you can actually taste the vanilla without all that residual sweetness. To me, using the pods also made the texture of this spirit extremely creamy. With some good quality ginger ale, this would be great!
The Spiced Rum ($27.99) is a great spirit that has been aged in bourbon new barrels for a week. You can compare it to Capitan Morgan’s or Sailor Jerry’s (but, it doesn’t have all the sweetness). You can taste all the spices that go into this – nutmeg, cinnamon, and mace. Even though it has a higher proof, there is a good balance here as the alcohol content isn’t too strong and you can still taste all the nuances of the rum.
Hands down, the Pumpkin Spice Moonshine ($37.99) MAY be my new favorite spirit…not just from the Corsair Artisan folks, but…in the world! This stuff is simply, delicious. Andrew said they make their own pumpkin beer and then distill the beer into this spirit. This is moonshine, but you could honestly drink it straight. It has a wonderful creaminess to it, the alcohol taste is mellow, and it tastes like pumpkin! Who wouldn’t want this?!?
Afterwards, I had a great cocktail with this moonshine, some apple cider, and bitters. It was unbelievable – fall in a glass.
You can also head over to one of Nashville’s best cocktail bars, The Patterson House and try the Pumpkin Flip, which showcases this spirit!
This Wry Moon ($37.99) is actually a white whiskey – a new trend going in the cocktail world. The idea behind this spirit was to make a moonshine out of rye instead of the traditional corn. It is not aged and has 2% chocolate rye, which leads to a great finish. When I tasted it, I couldn’t believe that this spirit was actually kinda refreshing. Maybe because it was after the Pumpkin Spice Moonshine, but when I tried this, it was really light and crisp – and on a hot day like we had Saturday, it was fantastic.
One cool thing that Andrew mentioned was that as a distiller, he wants to find a balance between alcohol and water to provide the ultimate taste. Imagine that the alcohol is like a little ball holding onto a bunch of flavorful oils. If you just had 100% alcohol, you wouldn’t really get much flavor. By adding water to the mixture, you dilute the alcohol per volume, but allow those oils to drop out of the alcohol and flow throughout the water. In so doing, the flavor of the spirit really comes out. Andrew has found the perfect balance for all of these in his spirits – so if you’re wondering why some are 80 proof, 85 proof, or 92 proof, it’s because at that alcohol per volume, is when the spirit tastes best.
Now that’s some quality control!
I apologize because I couldn’t find a picture of just the label of the Triple Smoke ($47.99), but this is also a great spirit! I love things that are smoked (especially this pulled pork that I made over the summer!) The Triple Smoke is in between a bourbon and a scotch, and is cherry, peat, and beechwood smoked. It is then aged in bourbon casks. It smells like a cigar and a BBQ pit in a glass – awesome!
Yessir, we were drinking Red Absinthe ($47.99). There are different types of absinthe, the most commonly known one being the green variety. This absinthe is inspired by the Spanish style rouge absinthe, which gets its color from red hibiscus leaves. If you thought that gin was aromatic, this had 100 TIMES more herbs than the gin – so you can imagine the smell of this spirit.
First, let’s assuage some myths about Absinthe (as I was told). Absinthe (with wormwood) is now an approved spirit by the FDA. Wormwood is not a hallucinogen at the amount you will drink. If you drink like 5 bottles (you would die of alcohol poisoning), then maybe you would hallucinate. But the fed’s say it’s ok, so that’s good enough for me. The more interesting story was, if absinthe isn’t a hallucinogen, why was it banned in the first place? Apparently, absinthe was becoming so popular in bars around France, that the consumption of wine was dropping dramatically. As such, the French wineries created a smear campaign dubbing absinthe as a dangerous hallucinogen. Well, that rumor worked. And it took over 80 years for us to prove it wrong.
Allright, so onto the spirit. They say the best way to drink absinthe is by creating a “louche”. You’ve probably seen those absinthe slow drip machines either in a movie or in that Sky Mall magazine, which just happens to have everything you’ll ever need. With green absinthe, you take shot, put a spoon with a sugar cube, and let water slowly drip down into the shot. With red absinthe, you do not need the sugar because there are no bitter herbs like in the green kind. So basically, we just got a glass, added a bit of water and swirled it around until the spirit became cloudy. You can tell an absinthe is good because there should be a 1:1 ratio of absinthe to water in order to form the louche. This absinthe has those great classic flavors of anise and fennel. Besides that, the ritual of drinking this spirit is just cool. I MAY have to use it at a Halloween party!
So now, you know what Corsair Artisan has to offer. Go check out the distillery and enjoy making their drink recipes. It’s really rare to get your hands on great products like these with people who genuinely care about their craft and take so much pride and joy into making these spirits for us to enjoy. So, thanks to Corsair Artisan Distillery for doing what you do. I’ll be a happy customer for years to come!