About Reviews…

Lately, quite a few of you have been asking us “Hey Charlie and Skunkie, why don’t you review [product x]?”

Well, the answer is simple: We don’t have access to [product x] to review it!

See, we live in a rural area, and while we love our local liquor stores, they’re rather limited in what they stock. So we don’t get new items that often. And unusual items are even more rare to come across.

We’d LOVE to review items for you. And you know that when we review an item, we’re brutally honest about it. But without items to review, well, you can see where we are right now.

But, there’s a way YOU can help out in this regard.

If you find something interesting you want us to review, SEND IT TO US! We have a mailbox just for things like that, you know.

Just send it to:
1456 Lambert Rd
Berea, KY 40403

We’d love to review whatever you send us! But please, no psycho-weird mail. The screeners at the post office frown on us getting any more dead animals.

Review: HotCig SX300 Box Mod (e-cig battery)

Let me say two things up front:

1. GearBest contacted me and asked if I would do this review in exchange for this box mod. The device has no monetary value to me.

2. I’m still relatively new to vaping (93 days when I wrote this review), so expect my review to be more subjective.


So. The HotCig SX300 50 watt VW Mod. It’s a single battery (18650) mod that ranges from 7.0 to 50.0 watts.

According to the website, it’s 9cm x 5cm by 2.5cm (about the size of a pack of King cigarettes). It has a decent weight to it (a shade over 4 ounces), and is made from spun aluminum.

0327151338bIt has a single button control (fire/on/off/lock/unlock), with a nice clicky feel. Adjustments up/down for the variable wattage are gravity controlled, meaning you tilt the device left or right.

I’ve been using it almost exclusively for the past week, with a variety of atomizers (everything from a iClear 16D to an Orchid V4 built to 0.8 ohm, and covering the full scale from 7 watts to 50, with 15-20 being my personal favorite) and it’s performed like a champ.

On a fully charged 18650 battery, I’m getting about 3 days between charges (told you, I’m still relatively new), of course, YMMV. Interesting side-note: When you remove the battery and replace it, the device REMEMBERS your last setting. Very nice feature, in my opinion.

It has an on-board charging port (on the SIDE, not the bottom, which is another plus), which works fairly well. It automatically stops charging when the battery hits 4.22 volts. Something that from what I’ve read, most box mods don’t do. And yes, it does pass-through!

I can honestly say that it is a solid little box.

Just 2 minor points that make it not perfect.

1. The screws that hold the battery door in place are VERY tight. Like “broke a screwdriver bit trying to get them out” tight. I’ve found that if you don’t replace them all the way back in, they’re still pretty tight, but not as bad. But then you have a loose door that clicks against the case every time you move it. Someone who’s handy with tools could easily replace the screws with magnets easily enough though.

2. The “gravity adjust” controls for the VW settings are a bit sluggish when you first tilt the device, and then are slow to stop when you turn the device right side up again. But with a bit of practice, you can compensate for that.

Overall, if I had to, would I buy one? Yes, definitely. Solid construction, decent wattage/voltage range, and a good battery life. It’s worth the money.

Also, if you buy one, use the Coupon Code SX300 to get A few dollars knocked off!

John Dekuyper & Sons Chocolate Truffle Crave

For a long time I’ve been searching for a chocolate flavor that meets some very strict criteria.

I personally classify chocolate as one of four types: soft (think fresh chocolate cake), sharp (think artificial chocolate syrup with the inherent metallic/chemical edge), hard (think Hershey’s original candy bars), or warm (think real hot cocoa, made with dutched choclate powder, milk, and real sugar).

Chocolate has complex nuances on its own. Add alcohol to the mix, and things can get very interesting, or very bad.

So when I saw the bottle of John Dekuyper & Sons Chocolate Truffle Crave on the shelf at my liquor store of choice, I was hopeful, but slightly skeptical. I’ve tried other chocolate-flavored liqueurs in the past, and always walked away disappointed.

Dekuyper bills itself as “the Brand Bartenders Trust,” which is true. EVERYONE knows them as the most ubiquitously available brand for moderately-priced flavored spirits. There’s not a bar in the world that doesn’t have a bottle from them knocking around. They’re not the BEST alcohol in the world, but they’re the most consistent brand. And that speaks volumes.

chocolate-truffle-craveBut this new line they’re producing under the JDK&S label isn’t the same moderately priced offering they’ve built their massive empire on. This is a slightly higher priced liqueur ($18 on average) in a slightly fancier bottle. Not as expensive as Godiva ($30 on average, and not worth it since it has a nasty chemical aftertaste, in my opinion), but not the usual modest price either.

Upon opening the bottle, you get a rich, almost earthy scent of cocoa. My first thought was a memory of the old tin can of Pullman’s Dutched Chocolate powder in my grandmother’s pantry (yes, scent DOES play a big part of the memory process, and for me that’s a very deciding factor with any alcohol).

The liqueur itself is a light brown color, with surprisingly little threading when held up to the light (as you probably know, “threading” in a spirit usually denotes added sugar). So was this going to be more of a bitter or “dark chocolate” taste?

Interestingly enough, no. It is lightly sweet, with almost no burn at all. The chocolate flavor is VERY strong throught the entire taste (not just a quick burst) fading to a nice rich vanilla finish.

By my own standards for chocolate, I would definitely classify it as being “soft” and “warm.” It’s not the “perfect” chocolate I’ve been searching for, but it’s damn close to my dream ideal.

Overall, I’d say if you’re a fan of chocolate, definitely pick up a bottle and keep it handy as an occasional sipper. I’ve not tried mixing with it, because honestly, it stands very well on its own.

(Damn close to perfect as it is.)

byejoe Red and Dragon Fire

This is a double review. Charlie is reviewing the Red variety, and Skunkie is reviewing the Dragon Fire variety.

Charlie’s Review: byejoe Red:

byejoeIf you’ve caught even a single episode of the show, you know that I absolutely can’t stand gimmicks when it comes to alcohol. The “let’s add 10 pounds of garnishes to a Bloody Mary” and “let’s take a perfectly fine product and add honey to it” gimmicks are recent examples. To me, good alcohol doesn’t need a gimmick. It should be capable of standing on its own merit. And if it needs a gimmick, then it isn’t good alcohol.

So I approached byejoe with a skeptical eye. Right on the main page of their site, they describe it like this:

byejoe is the spirit of china, a modern revolution in asian-fusion mixology.

Do you know how many “revolutions” and “fusions” I’ve seen? I’m 158 years old, so I’ve seen more than my fair share. And don’t even get me started on “mixology.” Call me old-fashioned but it really irks me when someone calls themselves a “mixologist.” You’re not a “mixologist,” you’re a bartender, damnit, and you shouldn’t need to rely on fancied up words, tossing bottles around like some insane juggler, and setting things on fire to make a decent drink!

But friends, while I’m capable of tearing through all the “latest innovations” to show that it’s all just a gimmick, I’m also equally capable of realizing when something really IS innovative, and refreshingly new.

And there’s the interesting quandry. Because while byejoe is new, it’s based on an alcoholic beverage that’s literally thousands of years old!

Baijiu is a Chinese distilled spirit made from sorghum, and has been used during celebrations for thousands of years. So it’s a beverage with a VERY long history and a venerable tradition behind it.

So, with that kind of background, does byejoe measure up? Honestly? Yes, yes it does!

byejoe Red has a very intriguing flavor. The initial scent when I opened the bottle was a burst of sweetness. But threading in the sample I poured was almost non-existant. So while it has a sweet component, it’s a natural sugar, which doesn’t overwhelm at all.

The initial taste was quite surprising. A light, sweet taste, almost like cotton candy, followed by an intense burst of spice, similar to red pepper, quickly fading to an indescribable finish. Very little alcohol burn too, which is surprising for an 80 proof spirit.

Now when I say it’s “indescribable” I mean that literally. It’s a complex blend of flavors, hints of sweet, pepper, citrus, and earth tones that all fade almost before you realize they’re there.

That brings up my next point. Unlike some alcohols I could name, byejoe’s flavor doesn’t wear out its welcome in your mouth. But it doesn’t just burst and fade too quickly either. You can tell the distillers at byejoe have done their research to develop a very well-crafted beverage.

Now for the down-side. As tasty as it is, to me, it isn’t a sipper. I’ve had it straight, and while interesting, it’s just not right. On the rocks didn’t improve it either.

So then I moved on to my standard battery of tests, and mixed it in place of vodka in a screwdriver. NOT recommended. It combined with the sweet of the orange juice to become far too cloying.

That gave me the idea to try it in a Bloody Mary, with the thought that it would work better as a sweet component in a savory drink. And it was beautiful. The sweet and savory combined to strike a perfectly balanced note in my drink.

Annie Phalen (our guest on the show this past week) suggested going the other way, and adding it to pineapple juice. I tried it, with a dash of skepticism. Surprisingly, it worked wonderfully!

Thinking on it, it makes sense. The red sorghum while sweet, interacts with the acid component in orange juice, supressing it and thus boosting the sugars. But in the pineapple juice, there’s no acid to interact with, so it doesn’t get cloying. With the tomato juice, the lower acidity means the byejoe doesn’t have as much to feed on to convert to sweet, which actually balances it very nicely.

A 750ml bottle of byejoe will run you about $30 in most markets, and I personally think it’s worth it.

Charlie’s Rating:

This is a refreshing change from all the “gimmicks” out there lately.

Skunkie’s Review: byejoe Dragon Fire:
Now that Charlie has given us the overview of the byejoe brand I’m going to tell you about their one additional flavor, Dragon Fire. Frequent listeners of the show know I’m not a big fan of alcohol burn. And while I love spicy foods, spicy alcohol I’m very apprehensive about. But I wanted to try this. Mainly because I wanted to see if it had any flavor at all. For me, the original byejoe tasted like cotton candy, but it took me forever to decipher anything else flavor wise, and I’m not a fan of guessing games.

dragon-fireAnyway, onto the Dragon Fire. The initial smell is pretty intense, in a good way if you like dragon fruit. Much like the melon scent in Midori, the dragon fruit smell is very prominent. However, so is an earthy grain smell, I assume it’s the red sorghum. And yes there is a mildly yet distinctive scent of chiles.

Now taste, once again if you like dragon fruit you are going to love this. Now I’m a bit iffy on the flavor, so much like with tequila, I can see how people would fall head over heels with it. Me, it’s okay. There is a very smooth almost crisp flavor to it. And that sneaky warming sensation that is slowly increasing in the back of your throat and spreading across your chest, that’s the chiles. Very little of which I noticed in the initial taste. It’s a nice drink, but I couldn’t see it adding it to my regular rotation… until I mixed it into a drink.

Much like byejoe Red, where Dragon Fire really shines is as a cocktail component, in this case a take off on a Shanghai Mule (byejoe, ginger beer, splash of lime juice). By no means does the Dragon Fire flavor disappear in a cocktail but it is greatly balanced. The ginger reduces the overbearing dragon fruit while retaining the light crisp flavor. The burn of the chiles is moved a bit forward without being overwhelming. I finished my cocktail and resisted the urge to not only pour another but figure out what else would work well with the Dragon Fire.

If you are looking for a new taste and ingredient to explore, I would definitely recommend the Dragon Fire. Probably not for those who desire a more savory flavor but promising for those who tend toward the sweet and exotic.

Skunkie’s Rating:

A good “new” flavor to try, but shines as a mixer.

McAfee’s Benchmark Old No. 8 Brand: Brown Sugar

benchmarkAfter the absolutely hideous offering from Buffalo Trace known as McAfee’s Benchmark Old No. 8 Brand: Peach, I was wary of this one. But, as I mentioned in that review, Buffalo Trace has a long history and rich heritage, so maybe the Peach gimmick was just a fluke. Maybe they had learned from their mistake, and come out with a product that (while still a gimmick) was more worthy of the Buffalo Trace name.

Sadly, the old adage of “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me,” holds true.

Once again, we have a product filled to the brim with sugar (or more accurately, artificial sweeteners), an initial burst of flavour (more on that in a moment), followed quickly by the burning sensation of raw alcohol.

Seriously? Come on Buffalo Trace! You make some of the BEST Bourbon products in the known universe! You KNOW alcohol better than most people in the industry and have been at it longer than most people have been alive! You don’t have to rely on gimmicks to sell your products! Your target market is the average, semi-refined drinker with a modicum of good taste, not the “hey, let’s get drunk on nasty tasting shit” crowd!

I HIGHLY suggest you fire whomever came up with this idea, use whatever stock you have left of the entire Old No. 8 batch to fuel your stills, forget McAfee’s ever existed, and resume doing what you do best, making a damn good Bourbon without gimmicks.

As for the smell of this product, there’s virtually none. No dark notes of brown sugar, no hints of vanilla, not even a strong alcohol tang. Literally, nothing.

And the taste? Well, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words:

Yes, it tastes exactly like burning tires!

(Yes, it tastes exactly like burning tires, with slight overtones of molasses.)