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Monday, October 22, 2018

Trader Joe's Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky

It's probably been mentioned, but when my family goes on vacation, there's three basic kinds of must-do stops: a zoo, a baseball game, and Trader Joe's. Zoos are always fun with small kids (although we live less than two miles from the local one and never go...), baseball is fun for Sandy and I, and Trader Joe's? Well, you gotta eat anyways. We don't have the budget to have every meal out and don't wanna eat nothing but fastfood either.

But that's not the biggest reason. It's just fun to go see the different TJ's. Each own has their own local flavor. And perhaps most excitingly to us native Pennsylvanians, most out of state TJ's have beer and wine...and some even have booze like Trader Joe's Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky, as procured on summer vacation when passing through Louisville, KY a few months back.

I like me most single malt scotch whiskies, but this one? Not a huge fan of it as is. Can't quite state why. I've never heard of any "speyside" whiskies which just might show my complete depth of ignorance...apparently it is so named after the region of Scotland by the River Spey. Sounds quaint. They're also known for their salmon around there too. I'd probably love it there.

The label states all sorts of stuff: "slight sweetness", "toffee notes and a floral elegance," "flavors of caramel , dried apricots, vanilla and light cinnamon spice," a "smooth oaky finish." I'm not sure I'd say or taste all of that...but there's different a lot of here and there going on, with a fairly alcoholic burn. It's enough that for me, I need a little ice in it to melt. Whisky on the rocks isn't always my preferred presentation, but to make it drinkable it's what I need here. That helps mellow everything out into a more cohesive flavor, versus it being all over the place.

I will tell you this though: this just might be the perfect whisky for mixing. I could see spiking some punch or whatnot with it...but Sandy made me a cop of TJ's fox tea and poured some of this whisky in for me for when I got home from the day job today. It was FANTASTIC. So perhaps that's where it strength lies.

It's also pretty cheap. Can't recall for sure, but it's around $10 or $15 for the 750mL bottle of 80 proof booze, so you get your money's worth. There's certainly a lot worse out there in similar price range, but I'm also not lamenting that the nearest bottle for sale is at least a six-ish hour drive away. I'll more than deal with that, and will be looking for something else next time we're on a trip. We'll give it a 5 total.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, October 19, 2018

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Cream Liqueur

Currently visiting a booze-friendly state, Sonia and I decided to check out what the local Joe's had to offer in the way of exotic libations. In addition to canned wines and the standard Josephsbrau offerings, we spied this gem wedged in between the Three Buck Chuck display and some non-TJ's brand pumpkin ales—relics left over from an America that still tolerated pumpkin spice.

Not surprisingly, this isn't the first pumpkin liqueur we've ever sampled. I'm quite certain we've had more than one other brand, in fact, but the names of most escape me at the moment—mainly because they were entirely unworthy of note. The one other brand that's not bad that I can still remember is Fulton's Harvest. This product is comparable, but both Sonia and I agree it's slightly better.

Like Fulton's Harvest, this beverage is thick and smooth—similar to Bailey's or any other cream liqueur, for those of you unfamiliar with the pumpkin varieties. It's creamy, syrupy, and velvety. It's nearly the same consistency as non-alcoholic dairy cream—although, in this case, it's like the cream you'd get from an alcoholic cow that eats a lot of pumpkin spice. 

The flavor here starts off with a liquor-laden bite, but then gradually, the pumpkin spices open up on your palate. There's a nice balance of nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. It's like a sweet, liquefied pumpkin spice pudding, with just a bit of a kick. It'd be great, along with some vanilla ice cream, as the base for an autumnal adult milkshake. 

The alcohol content is similar to that of an average wine at 12.5%. It's strong enough to give the lightweights a buzz, but since it's so thick and desserty, it's difficult to down more than a shot or two at a time. 

Along with the recently-discovered Spiced Pumpkin Madeleines, this product is a winner. I'm sure it won't make quite the splash on social media that it might have circa October 2014, but if you're a drinker and you like pumpkin spice, Sonia and I will tell you it's definitely purchase-worthy. $8.99 for 750 ml. Double fours on this one.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Trader Joe's Organic Maple Butter

Are we pumpkin spiced out?

Here we are....halfway thru October...and there's been nary a new, exciting, enthralling, OMG-worthy debut of anything pumpkin spice related. That's fine by me. When we've reached the tipping point of society where the local garage is advertising pumpkin spice brake pads, it shows we've gone too far. Cinnamon is far too crumbly to offer decent stopping ability anyways.

Maple, though?

In my opinion, maple really ought to be the official flavor of fall. Can't get enough of it. It goes well with almost anything. It's far more versatile than most people give it credit - think beyond pancakes, people. Maple is where it's at.

And so it is with Trader Joe's Organic Maple Butter.

It's really tempting to compare TJ's maple butter with something like their maple sugar candy, although that wouldn't be precisely accurate. Whereas maple sugar is highly concentrated nature sugar bomb from boiling down maple syrup to remove liquid, maple butter is simply churned maple syrup that got agitated to the point of creaminess. That's it. As a result, it's still very maple-y, of course, but not quite as much as maple sugar. There is a similar feel though, in that there is a slight chalkiness from the sugar granules. It's nowhere near offputting.

The maple butter is pretty darn excellent. It's absolutely creamy, smooth, and a little bit drippy and runny, but nowhere to the same extent as regular maple syrup. That might make it an excellent "mess control" option for the younger crowd. Like regular butter, it will melt/seep into something warm if placed on top of it, like on top our sweet potatoes the other night. Put it on anything though - veggies, toast, pork roast, chicken, ice cream, etc. And yes, I guess even pancakes too.

It's $5.99 for the small jar, which is about in line pricewise for most maple products. It's not an awful value. I'll admit to being tempted to just guzzle the whole jar down. Love maple and anything maple, as does Sandy, so it's an absolute winner from us. The only thing keeping it from a perfect score is the small lack of anything truly amazing/unique about it, but that doesn't mean it's not worthy of your pick up next time you're at the shop. It's a small jar, you'll find room for it alongside all your pumpkin spice crazy stuff.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Maple Butter: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons