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Evan Williams Cinnamon Reserve Review

Cinnamon flavored alcohol seems to be slowly following in the footsteps of spiced rum; companies are beginning to spit their own takes out, bit by bit.  Goldschlager’s gone through somewhat of a surgence, we were treated to Fireball Whisky not too long ago, and even the latest offering from Malibu, Island Spiced, promises “caribbean rum infused with coconut, vanilla and a hint of cinnamon.”

And here we have Evan Williams, certainly no stranger to flavor-infused spirits.  They’ve already granted us affordable liqueurs in the form of Reserves (honey and cherry), each sharing their own bit of success.  Naturally, a new flavor has worked its way out of the distilleries and onto store shelves.  Cinnamon Reserve promises a “hot cinnamon taste” along with “a hint of fire and spice” and, if my time with Honey Reserve was any indication, one heck of a sticky, syrupy experience.

A picture of cinnamon churros with 2D flames is certainly eye-catching amidst aisles of black, white and brown labels.  The copper color of the full bottle proves to be misleading, as the spirit’s saturation quickly fades when poured, unlike the more consistent Honey Reserve.  On the nose there’s a definite cinnamon character (what a shock), though I can’t help but compare it to Fireball, which is far more forward.  It’s odd too, since Fireball is a cinnamon-infused whisky, while Evan Williams is merely a liqueur, so the bourbon-whiskey essence is played down.

If you gave me both Cinnamon Reserve and Fireball in a blind taste test without trying either beforehand, however, I’d have thought very differently.  Where a shot of Fireball tingles your mouth and taste buds like a tasty, spicy chicken wing, Evan Williams gives you a more straightforward cinnamon flavor with cordial and bourbon essence immediately on the finish.  More cinnamon briefly creeps back up, but it doesn’t stick around nearly long enough to leave a remotely strong impression.

Much like Crown Royal Maple, the cinnamon of Fireball felt like it was an actual part of the whiskey.  Yet with so much flavor, combined with a fairly tame amount of alcohol (66 proof), Fireball lacked the soul of a true whiskey.  What it offered instead was a rather refreshing experience, given the gimmicky premise.  Evan Williams, by comparison, wants to be a jack of all trades.  It wants to feed you the added flavor, but not so that cinnamon is the only thing it offers.  Sadly, the rest of the drink is not very worthwhile.  That lingering, syrupy character which Honey Reserve bathed in is present here, bringing out an experience that makes me suspect this stuff has high fructose corn syrup.  It doesn’t have this issue quite as bad as Honey Reserve, but without as much of a flavorful profile, it’s hard for me to be generous.

I hate turning this review into a comparison, but it’s damn-near inescapable.  Evan Williams have simply found themselves stuck on the backburner once again.  Honey Reserve was an ample supply of honey, but once considered alongside Wild Turkey’s American Honey, the lower price tag began to make even more sense.  Not that Honey Reserve was a bad product, it just didn’t have much of a place amongst vastly superior (Wild Turkey) and commendably different peers (Jack Daniel’s, Bushmills).  Cinnamon Reserve can at least enjoy the potential for more accessibility in recipes, though if my town is any indication, its not going to be the easiest bottle to find.  What we have here is a spirt that feels timid, afraid of giving us the flavor and experience touted on the very bottle.  It’s not a bad drink, per se, but when you can get a more authentic and fulfilling experience for literally the same price elsewhere, it’s tough to look at the glass half full.

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Posted by on March 23, 2013 in Alcohol, Alcohol, Blog, Drinks, Review

 

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Olympus Has Fallen (2013) Review

Original review posted on IMDB, here.

If you’re looking for an action film straight out of the 90’s but stuck in the present day, you’ll arrive at Olympus Has Fallen. We’re initially led to believe that this might offer a story of personal redemption, when it’s in fact a rudimentary action flick with little purpose beyond entertaining the regular American viewer.

There’s nothing wrong with offering a film such as this, so long as its entertaining. And, thankfully, Olympus Has Fallen offers enough enjoyable and compelling moments to keep its viewers watching with some degree of interest. No, the characters are not compelling and far from fully developed, and that’s not necessarily the point. The point here is to keep the audience entertained and occupied, which is done sufficiently, if in an inconsistently effective manner.

Gerard Butler does what he has to, being the fairly routine action hero a la John McClane, which is a bit of a shame since the opening act alludes to so much more. But by the second half, just about all potential for actual exploration is cast aside. Aaron Eckhart is a likable actor in all of his performances, even in one as underplayed as this. There’s also a potentially strong predicament foreshadowed early on that could’ve been utilized to give the film a great edge, but it’s ultimately abandoned for the routine action movie wrap-up. Meanwhile, everyone’s favorite key player, Morgan Freeman, really seems bored in each scene, as if he’s only there to occupy the cameraman’s attention.

As you can probably guess, both the plot and characters are thin, with only implied potential separating the key players from even more routine movies (which isn’t saying much). The action and tension are where Olympus Has Fallen is left to shine, which it does during the time is plays. Looking back, however, it’s far easier to pick the movie apart. You’ll be entertained while watching it, but left banging your head shortly after leaving the theater.

Given the lackluster stream of movies released so far this year, Olympus Has Fallen is able to make enough room for itself. Taken into account with other action films, however, there’s little (if anything) to truly make it stand out. There’s a sense of identity crisis here, as the film is more or less lost in another time period and suggests more than it delivers. For my money, it’s decent popcorn entertainment, but not much else.

 
 

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Blue Bell Mint Cookies ‘n Cream Review (On The Ice Cream Informant)

Once again, Chad (aka The Ice Cream Informant) has featured a review of mine, this time of the new Mint Cookies ‘n Cream ice cream from Blue Bell.  The link to the review can be found here.

Here’s the original review, along with the images.

There are two things I can’t seem to tear myself from. Most recently, it’s been Blue Bell ice cream, despite my last two ventures being completely skippable. The other is mint-chocolate treats which, given my childhood obsession with mint chocolate chip ice cream, shouldn’t be too surprising. Maybe it’s more than mere coincidence then, that Blue Bell would come out with a Mint Cookies ‘n Cream flavor to adorn their gold rim.

Blue Bell already have a traditional Mint Chocolate Chip flavor, but now we’re tossing cookies ‘n cream into the mix. For some strange reason, the pint is even more scant on details than Rum Raisin was, which is to say it has no details at all. Only when I seek out Blue Bell’s web site do I find that it’s a “smooth mint ice cream combined with mint creme-filled chocolate cookies and semi-sweet chocolate chips.” Fine by me, because without such guidance I might’ve suspected the cookies to be completely mint flavored, which would be interesting in theory if boring in execution.
But we have an ice cream to devour here, and even with a trench on the edge, I’m ready for that mint scent to grace my tongue. I dig in and am greeted by a brief, initial stiffness that quickly gives way to a medium-light body. The mint flavor is decidedly tame, offset by plenty of chocolate chips and more than a few Oreo imitators. These range from little crumbs to smudges and even entire chunks. It’s nice to see that Blue Bell didn’t skimp out on the mix-ins here, because even though “mint” is the first word for this flavor, it’s the chocolate that steals the show. I think it’s a good decision, since the ice cream has just enough flavor to balance the experience and hold everything together.
Blue Bell had me worried for a bit. After two lackluster offerings, I really wanted to find something that would restore my faith. I figured something similar to my favorite flavor as a kid would be the perfect chance for me to truly praise them again. I’m happy to say this is the case, with two classic selections coming together for a little something new and old at the same time. And yes, I’m already missing that lovely, green pint.
Question of the Day: What was your favorite ice cream as a kid?
 
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Posted by on March 19, 2013 in Blog, Food, Ice Cream, Review

 

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Blue Bell Rum Raisin Review, Featured on The Ice Cream Informant

Thanks to a personal favorite and fellow reviewer accepting reader submissions, my review for the Florida-exclusive Blue Bell Rum Raisin ice cream has been featured on The Ice Cream Informant’s website. Said review can be found here.

In addition, an earlier submission of mine appeared on The Ice Cream Informant’s site as well.  This came in the form of another Blue Bell flavor: Red Velvet Cake.  You can check out the review for that here.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2013 in Blog, Food, Ice Cream, Review

 

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Southern Comfort 100 Proof Liqueur Review

Personal note: My internet has been completely out the past week (thanks to terrible service and prices on AT&T and Comcast’s parts) and it won’t be restored until this coming Saturday at the earliest.  So until then it’s just my phone and occasional time at my friend’s place.

My experience with Southern Comfort has been a bit, how might you say, inconsistent.  The original batch is easily one of the sweetest hard alcohols you’ll find.  It makes sense, since even the 100 proof variant says that it’s a liqueur (go ahead, check the bottle).  For all its syrupy sweetness, Southern Comfort can be a very enjoyable drink on its own.  I even tried a sip of the Fiery Pepper variant and found it rather stomachable.  Now the Black Cherry flavor, that’s one which will forever live in infamy among my (empty) collection.

But I’m able to cast a putrid drink aside if other offerings are solid.  And since I’m a sucker for drinks that are intense and/or high in proof, I decided to grab a 100 proof bottle.  I figure it’ll either have more burn or less of sweet factor, which might make cocktails using 70 proof SoCo a bit more interesting.

The dark purple label and noticeably dimmer color help distinguish this bottle, not unlike Captain Morgan 100 Proof (though to more success).  To my surprise, upon opening the bottle, the scent isn’t terribly imposing.  On the nose I’m beginning to get some Black Cherry deja vu, bringing some ripe anxiety to the table.

I take a sip and the sweet flavor almost immediately gives way to the burn of the alcohol.  It very quickly goes from that heavy, almost dark peach flavor to the tangling burn of a comforting liquor as it massages your chest.  The drink is still very sweet, yet less dominant and cordial; in other words, it feels a bit more adult.  There’s still no mistaking this for an actual bourbon, and one shot of this can definitely leave your throat and mouth dry.  Whether the extra $5 is worth the climb is a question of personal preference.  If less sweetness and higher potency is what you want out of SoCo, then this is a viable option.  But if you enjoy SoCo the way it is, then I can think of little to persuade you to make a permanent jump up the proof ladder.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2013 in Alcohol, Blog, Review

 

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Godiva Liqueur Review (Chocolate & White Chocolate)

Chocolate Liqueur Review

Great, now I’m reviewing alcohol.

I originally thought I’d be subjecting a more conventional bottle to my scrutiny, but while shopping, a couple little devils caught my eye.  For the longest time I’ve been curious about Godiva’s chocolate liqueur, but couldn’t see myself justifying the $30 price tag they come with.  This isn’t so much because of the beverage itself, but because of what other drinks I could mix it with in my collection (or lack thereof).  So I took the sampler’s route and bought a 50 milliliter bottle of the regular chocolate and white chocolate flavors.

It’s been a long time since I had Godiva chocolate, but given their name and reputation, this should be an interesting treat.  The bottles look nice, dark and elegant, almost like some high-class chocolate syrup.  Sometimes a really nice bottle is all it takes to catapult my attention.

Aesthetically, the regular chocolate variant looks like perfect chocolate milk, complete with a silky appearance and almost irish cream-like scent.  As I take an initial sip, the burn from the alcohol faintly lingers about my throat while the chocolate flavor gives off a mild personality.  The burn comes up more as I work my way, but becomes nonexistent on the finish.  I can’t help but think of irish cream mixed with chocolate syrup while I finish what little I have.  This is definitely something that could stand on its own as a post-dinner drink, like eggnog except you’re not limited to one time of the year.

White Chocolate Liqueur Review

Now, I love white chocolate.  I think it’s a bit of an unsung sweet that, when good, holds up on its own.  When paired with the right stuff it’s incredible, but they aren’t always so clear-cut.  It’s kind of like how I view Jameson whiskey–you really need to know what it can and can’t go with.  Needless to say, my hopes are quite high for this one.

Other than the white label, the bottle itself for this sample size is interchangeable.  A bit coy, really.  Once again, we’re talking silky smooth texture here, like a slightly thicker milk.  The burn from the alcohol is far less apparent to me, which is fitting with the mild flavor of white chocolate.  Much like how the chocolate flavor makes me think of irish cream, this one simply makes me think of milk (white chocolate milk, anyone?).  Because the flavor is so unimposing, I don’t really register the fact it’s white chocolate until the finish.

It’s probably my own bias, but on their own, I prefer the white chocolate flavor.  That said, I’m still pretty dry on recipes either of these could be used for, especially the white chocolate variant.  Other than a coffee or milk-esque drink, my creative juices simply aren’t flowing.  I enjoy both on their own, but I’m not so sure I’d shell out the price tag for a whole bottle of either one.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2013 in Alcohol, Blog, Review

 

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Les Miserables (2012) Review

Between The King’s Speech and now Les Miserables, Tom Hooper has already earned the Oscar Bait Director award from yours truly.  His choice of casts are solid, if not quite A-list quality; the sets and costume designs are elegant, realistic and plausible; strong direction is sufficiently provided throughout, if with some inconsistencies; and he’s not afraid to add more meat to the runtime either.  Yet where The King’s Speech offered a simple and familiar yet effective story thanks to investible characters, Les Miserables falls apart at the heft of its own ambitions as an adaptation.

At first, the journey of Jean Valjean (admirably played by Hugh Jackman) feels worthwhile and suggests potential for an impressive story.  By the time we transition from Anne Hathaway’s emotionally searing rendition of Fantine, to the meeting of both Jean and Cosette, we’re ready to join them on a path to something that holds mystery, tension and possible wonder.  Then we literally skip to the second act.

Right when we’re thrust into the French Revolution, Les Miserables buckles under immense pressure that seems to come out of nowhere.  The introduction of Marius and the actual development of Cosette (assumed by Amanda Seyfried), both pivotal characters, are both incredibly short-changed.  In fact, I think I missed any and all opportunity for Seyfried to leave her mark.  What’s more is that these two are supposed to have some sort of a connection, something that feels sudden and almost out of a Shakespearean play.  But even the loosest of Romeo & Juliet adaptations gave their characters time for establishment and some sort of growth.  Half the characters in this rendition of Les Miserables, on the other hand, feel like plot devices leading to a constant, vicious cycle of what could be labeled bait-and-switch.

Even Jean Valjean is shafted amidst scenes of emphasis on our new characters.  Each scene quickly begins to become less of a seamless transition between each other and more a desperate game of Leap Frog in attempt to cover what is too much ground for a feature film.  At 157 minutes, Les Miserables drains both energy and attention from the viewer at most every corner.  Thus we have a huge predicament, which turns into possibly the film’s biggest problem: it’s too long while being completely rushed.  These cracks even show during the film’s opening minutes, with quick camera cuts becoming an odd distraction as Jean Valjean travels about the land of France.

All these shortcomings are unfortunate to the point of being tragic, since effort is very abundant.  The work put into the look of the film is very noticeable, which stems from how deep-seated the very fabric of the story is in its setting.  Although there’s little for almost any of the characters to consistently leave their mark, they give their all.  Jackman is in good acting form, even if his singing voice isn’t the most captivating.  Samantha Barks gives as much heart and emotion to Eponine as possible, given the aforementioned shortcomings.  Really the only person who seems consistently developed and attended to is Russell Crowe as Javert.  He’s the closest thing the movie comes to feeling complete, much less having a properly handled character.  Javert might be the antagonist, but we see his motivations constantly brought into question, making him that much more human and, dare I say, fascinating.  This is what the rest of the film is in desperate need of, but just can’t come to grasp.

Even in the hands of a capable director, Les Miserables seems meant not as a single sitting viewing, but as a deliberate read.  Whether Victor Hugo’s novel jumps and stumbles as much as Hooper’s coerced attempt I have yet to see.  But it’s difficult for me to imagine such an encompassing piece being translated to the big screen without an incredible amount of compromise.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2012 in Blog, Film, Film Review, Movie Review, Movies, Review

 

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