There are pumpkins piled high at every farm stand or spread out in the fields, and it seems as though “pumpkin spice” is in everything except wine. There’s even a Pumpkin Pie Sorbetta liqueur at Long Island Spirits, but we are rebelling against all things pumpkin, so we did not try it on our recent visit to their tasting room. It was a chilly rainy day, and we and our guests agreed that it was perfect weather for whisky (or whiskey). So we dodged the raindrops and climbed the stairs to the airy space that includes a bar along one side and an assortment of tables and stools or chairs, plus doors leading to an outdoor deck where, one visitor noted, it would be nice to sit on a sunny day.
We were surprised to discover that we were not the only people there on this mid-week day. One couple ordered cocktails and sat at a table near the window, while a few other groups stood at the bar for tastings. We brought our tastes, plus a couple of bags of potato chips ($1.50 each), to a table and commenced some serious assessments.
There is a lengthy menu of cocktails and a separate menu of “Craft Tastings.” The latter is divided into two categories, of either three samples of “Vodka, Gin, or Sorbettas,” for $11. or three samples from the “Barrel Aged Tastings” list for $15. In either case, you get to keep your tasting glass, which the bartender will wrap up for you, as a souvenir. We have quite a collection of them!
Since there are eleven options on the first list, and seven options on the second, we needed some time and discussion to choose who would try which. Finally, my husband and I decided to share a Barrel Aged tasting; one visitor, who is a single malt scotch aficionado, decided to do one of those as well; and our other guest, whose favorite drinks include martinis and gibsons, opted to go for a vodka, a gin, and a sorbetta.
1. Pine Barrens American Cherrywood Smoked Malt Whisky $39 for 375 mL
The bartender informed me that this and the other whisky are aged for one year, but in small barrels so they get plenty of exposure to the wood. That might account for the aroma of pencil shavings I detected, as well as a fruity note. Our friend noted that he prefers his whisky with a drop of water, and I suggested he could just step outside if he wanted water, at which he mimed wringing out his hat into his glass! We all agreed that this is a smooth whisky, somewhat fruity, though our friend did not like the finish.
2. LiV Potato Vodka $32 for a liter
This is the vodka that they started out with, and it is still a winner, which our friend called classic. She added that it would be good to sip on its own or as a mixer, as it is smooth and clean tasting.
3. Pine Barrens American Single Malt Whisky $39 for 375 mL
Again we are in agreement, this time that we liked the first whisky better than this one, which is sharper or harsher, though it is not bad. It has a slightly funky aroma, and one friend says she detects a scent of chocolate.
4. Deepwells Botanical Dry Gin $32 for 750 mL
True to its name, this is a complex gin with a piney aroma. Our martini-loving friend says she would like it in a gin and tonic, but that it is too floral for a nice dry martini. “There’s a garden in here somewhere,” she concludes.
5. Sherwood House Vineyards XO Brandy $39 for 375 mL
Made from pinot noir and chardonnay grapes and aged six years, this is a really nice brandy. I imagine sipping it after dinner in front of a fire, perhaps while cracking walnuts. It makes me warm all the way down, one of us comments. I get some tastes of vanilla and spice—almost but not quite pumpkin pie!
6. Tahitian Lime Sorbetta $19 for 375mL
The sorbettas come is slim elegant bottles. Knowing she has limoncello and orange liqueur at home, our friend chose to try the lime flavor. None of us really like this, which we say tastes like lime rinds mixed with sugar. Blimey, it’s limey!
7. Rough Rider Double Cask Straight Bourbon Whisky $39 for 750 mL
Our whisky drinking friend is pleased with this choice as well, which he says would go well in a mint julep, but is also nice to sip. It is smooth and pleasant, with a good finish.
Reasons to visit: You are in the Riverhead area and want to try something other than wine, cider, or beer; the Cherrywood Smoked Single Malt, the Potato Vodka, the Deepwells Botanical Gin, the XO Brandy, and the Rough Rider Bourbon; you would like a creative craft cocktail but don’t feel like going to a bar; you want to add to your collection of vodka or shot glasses. We also have liked in the past, and bought, the Bull Moose Rye Whisky. I don’t always like rye whisky, but I like this one.