Wine News
Top 10 Lists
Food & Wine Pairing Shop/Gifts Top 10 Wine Lists Top 10 Wine Bars 1


Top 10 Spirits 2004

Inside Tips on Spirit Sipping

By Chris Rubin

Wine may be best enjoyed with food, but there are times that call for just a real drink—from a shot to a good, stiff cocktail. The following spirits and fortified wines all represent high quality and good value, whether for you or someone on your holiday list.


Wyborowa Single Estate, $32

With more than a hundred new vodkas introduced over the last couple of years, it’s tough to keep track of what’s on the market. Having architect Frank Gehry design the bottle, with its unique twists and curves, helps Wyborowa practically leap off the shelf. And it just happens to be a first-rate vodka, smooth and easy to drink, produced exclusively from rye on a single estate.


Bombay Sapphire, $20

Visit Vinopolis in London and you’ll be treated to a whole display on this smooth stuff. It’s also fun to just gaze at the sapphire-blue bottle etched with the ingredients and their provenance, from Spanish lemon peel and almonds to Italian juniper berries and iris root. Take a sip and you’ll discover that this is not your father’s gin. It’s delicate and floral, and strikingly refreshing whether sipped neat, with tonic or in a martini.


Highland Park 18 Year Old, $66

Located in the Orkney Islands, Highland Park is the most northerly distillery in Scotland. The combination of the local peat from Hobbister Moor and local water from Cattie Maggie Spring results 18 years later in a whisky that’s rich and potent, yet strikingly smooth.


E&J XO, $22

You might not expect a quality brandy from Gallo, but with XO they’ve proven their ability to deliver. Wines made from Ugni Blanc and Colombard are distilled in traditional copper alambic stills, then aged seven years in both French Limousin and American oak barrels. The resulting brandy hits all the right notes, at an impressive price and all in a lovely package.


Vau Vintage 1999, $30

Traditional vintage ports require years of cellaring before they can be enjoyed. But Sandeman, by careful blending from its top vineyards, introduces a new style of vintage port, one ready to be enjoyed on release, without sacrificing the complexity one expects.


Corzo Silver, $45

Packaging isn’t everything, but you can’t beat a great product inside a beautiful container, and that’s the story with Corzo, a new line of super-premium tequilas in what look like oversized perfume bottles. Made from 100% blue agave, Corzo goes through three distillations and brief aging in small white oak barrels to create a crisp, clean and complex final product.


Nonino UE Decennale, $50

While most grappas, even at the highest price levels, have the aroma of jet fuel, these bottles are produced from whole grape clusters, not just pomace (the leftovers after the grapes have been pressed for wine), and have fresh and fragrant aromas reflective of their ingredients.


Maker’s Mark, $20

One of the finest bottles from Kentucky, it’s also impressively reasonably priced. Given its high quality, it’s a steal. Potent but smooth, it’s everything you look for in bourbon. Inexpensive enough to use in mixed drinks, it’s also tasty enough to savor on its own.


Laberdolive 1985, $130

France’s other brandy, Armagnac is a bit more rustic, full of fire and flavor. From Domaine de Jaurrey, Laberdolive is an artisinal, hand-made product, with the expected prune flavors of the region, and so much more, from exotic spices to nuts. This one lingers on the tongue and in the mind for hours after the last sip.


Vya Extra-Dry, $20

Okay, so it’s not technically a spirit, just a fortified wine, but it’s an essential mate to vodka and gin in real martinis, so it rates. The standard French and Italian bottles are fairly dreadful. Leave it to Andrew Quady, an American, to assemble a vermouth so good it not only makes martinis taste better but it actually tastes pretty fine on its own.

More Spirit Reviews
All Top 10 Lists
Sparkling Wine and Champagne Reviews

(Updated: 03/28/11 BH)

News / Tasting Notes / Features / Wine Map / Wine Events / Interviews / Community / Site Map / About Novus Vinum / Contact Us / Advertise

Copyright © 1996-2010 GAYOT ® All Rights Reserved; Privacy Policy; Disclaimer GAYOT (pronounced guy-OH)