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Top 10 Spirits 2003

High-Profile Tipple

By Chris Rubin

Nothing warms the body and soul in the cold winter months like fine spirits. Whatever your tipple of choice, you'll find a suggestion below for the perfect bottle, whether as a gift or a new experience for yourself. These nine spirits and one fortified wine all represent high quality, good value—and maybe something that will be new and exciting to you.


Ultimat, $58

A unique vodka from Poland, Ultimat uses rye, wheat and potatoes, fermenting and distilling them separately, and then blending for what they consider the ultimate in body, flavor and complexity. It's undeniably rich and creamy in the mouth, with a hint of vanilla in the finish. And it comes in a strikingly attractive cobalt blue Polish crystal decanter.


Tanqueray No. TEN, $30

Vodka has pretty much wiped gin off the map, but if more people had a sip of Tanqueray's No. TEN, the tables might be turned. Tanqueray uses fresh, whole fruit botanicals, and it's all distilled in "Tiny Ten," the small batch still that lends its name to the product.



Pierre Ferrand Selection Des Anges $100

The "angels' share" is the French term for the portion that evaporates during the aging process, and that poetic phrase is the source of the name for this fabulous bottle. Well aged, it's subtle and delicate, with all the flavors and aromas you'd expect in a top quality Cognac.


1973 Baraillon Armagnac, $165

Cognac's rustic cousin has its partisans, who prefer its stronger flavors and fiery warmth. And, unlike Cognac (with rare exceptions), Armagnacs are vintage dated in particularly good years. 1973 was one of those, and this bottle represents the brandy at its best.


Coeur de Lion Calvados Pomme Prisonniere, $80

It's a bit of a gimmick, but there's no denying the beauty of the apple inside ("imprisoned," as the name says) this bottle of Calvados, the apple brandy of Normandy. The brandy itself is first rate.


Don Julio 1942. $125

Shaped like a leaf from the agave plant used to make tequila, the 1942 is a top-of-the- line, limited edition anejo bottling, named for the year Don Julio established his first distillery. It's a personal favorite of Steve Wallace, owner of Wally's, a man who knows his stuff whe
n it comes to fermented and distilled agave juice.


Midleton Very Rare, $150

A fabulous whiskey from across the pond is no surprise but this one's from Ireland, not Scotland. It's triple-distilled, aged and blended by John Jameson & Sons Master Distiller, who signs every bottle. One sip will forever change the way you think of Irish whiskey.


Warre's Port Otima, 10 Year Old Tawny, $26

A perfect gift, whether for the Port lover or the Port novice. The 500 ml bottle is lovely, and the contents, while priced at entry level, are far more sophisticated.


Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 Anõs, $40

How many rums do you find that have been aged for more than 20 years? This Guatemalan product is dark, rich and full, with just a hint of sweetness.



Araujo Grappa (Pomace of Cabernet Sauvignon), $100

Maybe it takes a California winery to make a delicious, relatively smooth grappa, and that's what Araujo does with cabernet grapes.

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(Updated: 03/28/11 BH)

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