Hey there, ladies and gentlemen, and happy New Year. I hope your resolutions are holding up. I hope you’re still in the sort of honeymoon-reintroduction phase of work that makes it seem like fun. Unfortunately, I’ve got to start this little piece I’ve prepared for you with a confession; a bit of lamentation, if you will. I recently wrote an article that detailed why you should be keeping some good whiskey nearby as often as possible, especially around this potentially devastating post-holiday season. I discussed the possibility of meeting the recently unemployed president, as well as your potential ability to save a man’s life with whiskey. I think it was a fine piece, and that’s not what I’m upset about.
I’m upset because I never once told you what whiskey to buy. Nock to tip, nary a mention of how to spend your holiday dosh is mentioned. Needless to say, the higher-ups at the site were furious.
“How will our readers make sense of any of this without a comprehensive guide?” They digitally screamed.
So, hat in hand, I ask for your forgiveness, dear reader, and present you with the answer to all of your troubles. Here’s what liquor you should buy.
Novo Fogo Barrel Aged Cachaça
The New Year is the perfect time to extend the boundaries and try exciting things, which is exactly why Novo Fogo should be capturing your attention. This unquestionably delicious spirit is sourced from the organic sugarcane farms of Brazil, maintaining some kick-ass ethics along the way – the whole process from cane to bottle is committed to the goodness of mankind and that pureness sure does show in the taste. The organic cachaça is aged in 53-gallon American oak barrels that once housed bourbon, giving it an uplifting and incredibly unique taste. After being reconstructed and re-toasted for flavor enhancement, a 2-3 year process begins in the heart of the Atlantic Rainforest. Pop that top and you’ll get the delicious scents of banana bread, dark chocolate, cinnamon bark and coffee backed by a freshly cracked black pepper. Go on, experience something new.
Lagavulin distillery is notorious and revered for leading the pack in quality scotch from the Islay region. If you’re not familiar, it’s the soil of this Scottish region that provides the flavor called “peat”; but most would just call it smoky. In any case, the distillery is releasing a special edition, sherry-cask-matured series in celebration of their 200th birthday. This particular 8-year variant of the series blends affordability and quality, coming in at around $80 and being described as “exceptionally fine” by whiskey enthusiast and verbose British person Albert Barnard. The word of the day with Lagavulin is smoky. This 8-year features a healthy dollop of that, alongside olfactory fruity notes of pear, apple and honey. A sip of the whisky reveals notes of vanilla, pepper, and even bubblegum. They’re also releasing a commemorative 25 year; but it costs about $1,200 and it’s almost impossible to find. So…
Okay, I’m not entirely sure how things go on a dairy farm. You get the milk from the cows, you manipulate it enough to work alright for us non-cows, and then you toss it into a jug, right? Wrong; that’s why I’m not a farmer. Apparently, somewhere in the process of creating milk and cheese from cow stuff, Mr. farmer Jason Barber figured out how to separate the curds from the whey and use that whey to create vodka. And you thought getting booze from potatoes was strange. Odd as it may sound, reviews of the world’s first all-milk vodka are resoundingly positive. Black Cow is said to possess sweet vanilla notes, a cinnamon finish and a creamy body; even going to far as to be compared to vanilla ice cream. And it’s light on the wallet at around $35. A MOOst have, i’d say (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Irish whiskey distiller Teeling pulled out all of the stops for one of the oldest single malt Irish whiskeys out there. Teeling began this process in the year 1983; presumably whilst listening to a Tears for Fears album and teasing their bangs as far out as they could go. After 33 long years in old bourbon barrels, the liquor saw the light of day and yielded a scant 275 bottles (5,000 for the 24). This decades old whiskey boasts strong floral notes, as well as light orange and toast flavors, with a distinctly light yet complex body. Any whiskey aged for that long is going to be somewhat heavy and complex, but Teeling claims that their creation is still unmistakably Irish, and “luxurious”, but “never oaked”. That 24’s going to run you about $300, while the 33 is about…*cough* $3,000 *cough*. Yeah, yeah, I know. But the 33 comes with a booklet detailing the intricacies of its creation, and it was bound by one of the oldest bookbinders in Ireland. So…That’s gonna look good on the shelf.
I think gin gets sort of a bad rap. Gin enthusiasts are a dime-a-dozen sort, and they’re usually quiet about their passion for the pungent liquor out of fear of mockery from their peers. People don’t understand gin, I think. They think it’s for hipsters or old folks. They’re not always wrong—have you been in a gin bar? They’re really image-y sometimes. Look—the point I’m fumbling to make is this: maybe you should get to know gin a little better.
The ominously named Death’s Door Distillery (that alliteration, though) aims to change that. Since 2006, relatively old in the rapidly shifting gin world, DDD has been making fine gins with the variety of fruits and spices found on Washington Island (actually in Wisconsin). This particular manifestation puts forward the classic juniper flare, alongside spicy notes of fennel and coriander for a punchy, yet simple flavor; something any good gin should strive for. Death’s Door has described their gin as a “utility” gin for our generation. That means that grandpa will love it in his martini as he prattles on about Frank Sinatra, and your hipster friends will love it with ice in a tiny mason jar as they complement each other’s distinct eye-wear.
Moving right along on our tour through this digital tour of the infinite liquor store that we call the internet, we have Cyrus Noble Bourbon. Now, bourbon and I have never had a full understanding. The sheer variety and unpredictability of the type of whiskey has always thrown me off, and I find bourbon’s aesthetic confusing. Is it for dads? Is it for slick business folks?
If you’re as confused as I am about bourbon, (among other things) take the dive with Cyrus Noble. Those Haas Brothers are at it again, using a San-Franciscan family recipe as old as 1871. Cyrus Noble prides itself on being a bold whiskey; a fervent blend of caramel, hazelnut, and toffee ensure a strong, yet smooth experience. The lack of wild fruit or peat notes found in more eccentric whiskeys result in a flavor that could be described as “balanced”. The 5 years spend in white oak casks give it a scent that could be described as “intimate”. The $36 dollar price tag gives this homely small-batch bourbon a value that could be described as “very reasonable”.
It would seem that rum has always had an inability to separate itself from the unmistakable stigma of being a drink by and for pirates and sailors. Maybe that’s the fault of its intrinsically Caribbean origin; or perhaps the doing the doing of a Sailor named Jerry, or a Captain called Morgan (Are those the most nautical names you could think of, guys?). In any case, people who can see around the shwashbuckly veneer of rum will understand that it’s dignified liquor that can be just as complex as its more aesthetically-established cousins. So, take off the eye patch and goodwill Hawaiian shirt and buy some good rum with your holiday doubloons.
Kirk and Sweeny’s make their rum from the fermented molasses from sugarcane, like anyone else. Unlike anyone else, they age their rum in white oak barrels for every second of 18 years. This gives their rum an unprecedented taste of oak and vanilla, alongside the classic flavors of sherry and dried fruits. Their rum is said to have a kind smoothness; the type that salty sea dogs pray for when en route to a plunder…? I’m not too versed in my pirate vernacular. Either way, this one weighs in at a little under $50, which is an insane value for an 18 year liquor—the exact sort of insane value that those sea thieves dreamed of.
Uh-oh– surprise twist, its grappa. If you haven’t tried this stinky Italian liquor, know the following—it’s used mostly to supplement digestion after eating a heaping mound of Italian carbohydrates, and it kicks like a damn mule. Grappa is typically sipped from a small glass and over a full belly, and not mixed in with cocktails. This is due in part to its odd flavor, as well as its ability to devastate an empty stomach. Made from the leftovers of the wine-making process, (grape stems, seeds and skins) grappa toes the line between a strong, strong wine(between 70-120 proof [that’s 35-60% alcohol, folks]), and brandy. Due to the diverse nature of grapes and grape leftovers and the diversity in aging in the distilling process, grappas can run a wide range of flavors and aromas.
Le Dicciotto Lune—that means the 18 moons by the way; yeah, I’ve been to Italy—somehow figured out how to make grappa so dang good that they won an award for it. Their double World Grappa Award winning booze combines eight different types of grapes, and steeps in barrels made from four different types of wood. As such, Le Dicciotto leads with a nutty, earth-centric flavor, and follows up with sherry-like raisin notes, along with apple and peach features; not to mention the sharp bite of an 82 proof liquor. Either the folks over at Marzadro are total wizards of their craft, or they threw enough metaphorical (probably) spaghetti at the wall until something stuck. Add this one to your cabinet for when your girlfriend’s imposing, maybe-in-the-mafia uncle stops in. It’s important to make a good impression.
I don’t remember how to say “buy here” in Italian.
I know what you’re thinking— Vanilla Bean Vodka? I thought this guy was a respectable authority on the topics of wine and spirits—hence his position as a writer on this website I’m on! Where is he going with this? Shouldn’t liquor enthusiasts be purists, daring not to venture into contemporary and experimental products?
A little verbose of you, but I understand that you’re confused. Please, let me explain.
It’s true, the reputation of flavored vodkas has been tarnished by the lower-shelf renditions of the spirit; wandering into such treacherous territory as cotton candy and bubblegum flavored vodkas. Here’s the thing, there isn’t really a way to extract those flavors in a natural sense. At least not on the budget of lower-cost, higher-production distilleries. Instead, we turn to OYO (a play on words of their origin state of Ohio) Distilleries and their array of inventive liquors. As the story goes, some vodka found its way into a honey-saturated bourbon barrel, and was forgotten about for 16 months. I’ll give you some foreshadowing for the sake of time—vodka isn’t supposed to be brown usually, but hey, If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, ya know? What resulted was a tasty and natural addition to an already well-rounded vodka. Add some natural vanilla beans to the process and Bob’s your uncle, you’ve got a tasty liquor treat. The flavors here are pretty straightforward. You’ve got honey and vanilla up front, along with the spice, pepper and tang of a vodka, with a little wood finish on top.
The idea here is versatility, really. Some people don’t drink liquor straight, and that’s okay. It’s not your job to start your dear old auntie’s Easter off with a stiff scotch. Instead, make her the tastiest dang martini she’s ever had. The right way.
We’re zig-zagging all over the place now, ladies and gents. Japanese Whiskey? Japanese peated whiskey? Variety, remember? Try to keep up.
Most would scoff at the idea of anyone besides the Irish or the Scottish making a smoky whiskey. Especially those darn Canadians, what are they even doing up there? Either way, Ichiro Akuto of Chichibu Distilliery has figured out how to smoke his liquor just right to give it that distinctive flavor—with only three years in the barrel, no less. The merging of Scottish tradition and Japanese precision is the secret here, according to Chichibu. It would seems that in this case, raw craftsmanship and skill has outdone the process of waiting 20 years for a whiskey to yield the flavors that make it great. Wisps of honey, custard and raisins swirl into the smoky menagerie that is this bold and brave creation. And hey, three years isn’t a small amount of time. Apparently, it’s just enough time to give Akuto’s creation such a quirky and delectable style.
Alquimia Reserva De Don Adolfo Extra Anejo
Rounding out our tour with a bit of festive flair is Alquima Reserva’s Don Adolfo Tequila; after all, I couldn’t compile an entire list of recommended liquors without making a pit stop by Mexico’s golden treasure (that’s a nickname for tequila I just came up with, cool, huh?). I could go on to make a bunch of jokes about tequila’s intrinsic nature to leave you on the floor somewhere unfamiliar, wearing a funny hat, probably with something drawn on you. But I won’t do that, because Don Adolfo deserves better. The Don Adolfo takes its name after the founder of the farm and distillery, from where the same family has harvested and tended the agave for 23 years; leading to a certain and reliable tequila. This particular bottle comes with a little extra age under its belt—6 years, actually. This is far longer than most tequilas, and lends it an exotic and fruity flavor, along with a rich and syrupy body. Some have even gone so far as to compare it to a cognac. In any case, it’s vital to invest in a bottle for the tequila enthusiast in your circle. After all, this one is meant for sipping. It’d be a shame to do anything else with it, really.
So, there you have it. I felt so bad about stirring up your emotions with that other confusing article that I scoured the globe to find the best bottles with which to decorate your liquor cabinet for any occasion. Pick and choose at your leisure if you can’t afford them all at once. Thank me later.