It’s been a good year for wine and spirits. A slew of new or limited edition releases demonstrated the sheer amount of creativity and craftsmanship infusing the industry. It was almost impossible to narrow down a selection of our favorites, but some have been highlighted below and even more live in our Wine and Booze 2016 gift guide, within the BUY section of CH. In certain instances, we sided with the more obscure—for instance a tawny Port or a poblano liqueur—as we already assume you or your loved ones have bar staples like Campari and Pernod Absinthe. There’s a diversity of price ranges here, as well, with items ranging from just over $20 to the thousands. Being a NYC-based publisher, we have primarily directed people toward two sites, Caskers and Astor Wine + Spirits, for their vast stock and timeliness. For those elsewhere, many of these can be found at your local wine or liquor store—which is lucky considering how close the 25th is now. We’ve tried them all and can attest to their value and versatility.
Old Potrero 18th Century Style Whiskey
From 100% rye malt, this overproof whisky ($80) refines the essence of old-world distilling. SF’s Anchor Distilling produces the spirit through antique copper pot stills and mimics the aging process of the 18th century. With flavors drawn from specially toasted barrels, Old Potrero delivers vanilla and molasses notes on the tongue with spice to the finish. There’s a smokiness on the nose, but a delicate sweetness really defines the drink.
Casa Noble Alta Belleza Tequila
Limited to just 563 bottles, Alta Belleza ($1200) is tequila brand Casa Noble’s debut product in their new collectible spirits range known as Colección del Fundador. One my ask why there’s such a hefty price tag on this and the answer is simple: this is a single-barrel Extra Añejo tequila (no blending involved) that has been slow-aged in French white oak barrels and finished in very rare Tonnellerie Taransaud French Oak barrels from the To Kalon Vineyard—one of the most prestigious New World estates. All of the elements here are rare and considered.
Redbreast Lustau Edition, Single-Pot Still Irish Whiskey
As we’ve noted before, the phrase “single pot still” in Irish Whisky is akin to the respect warranted by single malt in scotch. Redbreast’s latest, the Lustau Edition ($75), sees this well-crafted spirit aged in Bodegas Lustau ex-Sherry barrels. The traditional Irish whisky creaminess meets with spice that lingers well after each sip. At 92 proof, this spirit is rather potent but without any loss of nuance.
Flor de Caña Centenario 25
There’s a reason why aged rum comes at such a cost. In the climates where rum is aged, like Nicaragua for Flor de Caña, much of the spirit evaporates each year leaving very minimal stock. At 25 years old, Flor de Caña’s Centenario 25 ($148) is a true rarity and one of the most flavorful options in the ever-emerging sipping rum category. This award-winning spirit carries plenty of caramel notes from all the time it’s spent in wood.
Cloudburst 2011 Cabernet
Balancing a vibrant acidity with rich dark cherry and blackcurrant flavors, Cloudburst’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon ($250) delights with sophistication. Over the last few years, Cloudburst has found a home in some of the world’s best restaurants due to its smooth tannins and consistent nuance. The 2011 cab vintage is certainly one of their best.
Celler La Salada’s La Bufarrella Xarel-lo Orange Wine
In the Penedes region of Spain, white wines have long been produced with a bright orange color. It’s a result of the process and nothing more. With regard to Celler La Salada’s delectable all-natural La Bufarrella Xarel-lo ($34) there’s a crispness that yields to a dynamics series of flavors. It’s bright and all too drinkable.
Ancho Reyes Verde Poblano Liqueur
Most often liqueurs are low proof, lifeless or overly sweet. None of that is true with the second product from Ancho Reyes: Verde ($36). At 40% ABV, it packs a punch and fresh hand-picked poblano peppers lend a true zing. This is spicy, but other earthy fruits and veggies factor in, making for a well-rounded yet dynamic sipper that can punch of plenty of cocktails—especially agave spirit-based ones.
Croft 10 Year Old Tawny Port
You don’t need to know much about Port, a fortified wine, to enjoy what Croft has done with this 10-year-old Tawny ($28). Spice and oak flavors (vanilla and caramel) unite beneath the smooth red fruit-driven blended wine base. This is a delight to drink straight, but Port has also been factoring into cocktails recently—and for good reason.
Louis Roederer Brut Nature “Philippe Starck Design” 2009
More than just refreshing package design by Philippe Starck, Louis Roederer’s Brut Nature 2009 ($85) is an effervescent wonder. This dry Champagne with notes of peach and hazelnut within was crafted from grapes grown solely in Côteaux de Cumières. It’s creamy, vibrant and sure to impress.
Perrier-Jouët 2007 Belle Epoque Brut Champagne Gift Set
A meticulous Champagne expression held within an iconic bottle, Perrier-Jouët’s 2007 Belle Epoque Brut ($160) can be defined by its floral profile. This is a full-bodied prestige cuvée also carrying a creaminess and a crispness akin to green fruits. And, of course, when purchased in gift box form it comes complete with two matching glasses.
The Botanist Islay Dry Gin
Hailing from Islay, known as a haven of peated scotch production, The Botanist Gin ($48) stands out from others in this botanical spirits category. While juniper forward, the flavor profile is complemented by 22 wild herbs and floral elements from Islay itself. This is a complex but easy-to-drink dry gin, making it an ideal counterpart to a G+T or other mixed drinks. And at 46% ABV, it’s higher proof than you’d expect.
New Amsterdam 100 Proof Vodka
New Amsterdam’s recently released 100 Proof Vodka ($22) certainly makes the case for a five-time distillation. Incredibly smooth with a gentle mouthfeel, the multiple distillation (and triple filtration) process allows the spirit to taste great even at an overproof level. Between the reasonable price and the high alcohol volume, there’s definitely a bang for your buck here.
Hero image courtesy of Royal Salute, all other images courtesy of respective brands