Distilled by Maison des Futailles (Montreal, Quebec)
For a long time my spirit of choice was rum, which I clung to as an ex-boyfriend tried to badger me into liking scotch. (“It’s Laphroaig! It’s delicious! How can you not like it?” “It tastes like a Scottish tire fire.”) Then one day a couple of years ago I discovered bourbon and have never looked back. I’m a whiskey drinker now, though not a terribly sophisticated one.*
I’m not huge on rye, but I will drink it in cocktails, and as a result I’ve never been terribly impressed with Spicebox. They’ve tried, bless their hearts, but everything of theirs that I’ve ever had has always tasted exactly like Fireball to me. Fireball is at least devoid of pretension. If you’re going to drink alcoholic cinnamon hearts, gonad up and admit that’s what you’re doing. Nevertheless, I’m a sucker for novelty, so I decided to play along and try Spicebox’s seasonal offering.
The first thing to hit my nose was vanilla and honey. Cinnamon kicked in on the back end. I smelled no pumpkin at all, though it is admittedly a subtle scent – maybe it was just overwhelmed by the spices and the whiskey itself. I took a sip.
Nope. Sweet, verging on syrupy; more vanilla, and a little more variety in the spice, with a bit of ginger and nutmeg. Still didn’t taste any gourd. I began to wonder if I hadn’t been had and this wasn’t just repackaged regular Spicebox with half a bottle of simple syrup added. It was much more like spiced rum than like whiskey, but with an artificiality to it.
As I’m a persistent critic, however, I decided to try a mixed drink. The sweetness needed to be balanced out, so instead of a Manhattan – my preferred rye cocktail – I opted for a Sazerac.
I couldn’t find Peychaud’s anywhere that was open at nine on a Saturday, so I used Agnostura. I already had some absinthe, so I used that for the anise. Finally, I decided to add a splash of regular rye to give it more of a kick. I left out the sugar.
Blech. Bad choice all around. The absinthe completely overwhelmed the delicate taste of the vanilla in the whiskey, and the bitters did not play nice with the spices. The sweetness wasn’t counterbalanced properly, so it just tasted sickly. I couldn’t taste the lemon oil at all.
The Spicebox might have gone better with some Coke, or possibly even tonic water – though again, the bitterness of tonic might not work well. If anyone gets a chance to give this a try, let me know.
*Double of Knob Creek on the rocks, if you’re buying; Jack’s** and Coke if it’s on me.
**Yes, I know it’s a Tennessee whiskey and not a bourbon. If you care about the difference, you care way, way more than I do.