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Top 10 Spirits 2005

Best Selections for Your Home Bar

By Chris Rubin

There’s something about this time of year—the holiday season—that must create thirst. When else does a guest immediately need a drink upon entering your home? For that reason alone, it’s worth stocking your bar with the following bottles—or perhaps stuffing the stockings of friends and loved ones with them so you can have a drink when you visit.


Distillery No. 209, $40

Gin hasn’t seen the frenzy of new bottles that bedevil the vodka market, so it’s still easy to stand out in this field. No. 209 does that—it’s fresh, floral and fragrant, with delicate sweet notes. Quintuple-distilled from gin, 209 uses juniper, bergamot orange peel, coriander and cardamom to craft a spirit delicious enough for people who thought they’d never like gin.


SKYY90, $35

SKYY’s initial claim to fame was a vodka relatively free of congeners, or the stuff leftover from distillation that can cause hangovers and headaches. They have gone another step with this new 90 bottle. Using a new facility that took ten years and $25 million to create, this vodka is the first ever distilled to 200 proof, meaning zero leftover water or byproducts. Water from Sierra Mountain gets blended back in to bring it down to 90 proof, yielding an impressively crisp, clean taste.



Delamain Grande Champagne Cognac, $80

Delamain, which translates to “handmade,” is one of the leading small producers of high quality Cognac. It’s a very feminine Cognac, light and delicate, subtle and intoxicating, with an average age of 25 years.


Partida Reposado, $55

Most producers purchase their agaves in bulk from a variety of growers, and the Partida family was one of those suppliers for generations. They have always produced a tequila from their estate for their own consumption, and have finally decided to bring it to market. Smooth and rich, the reposado has been aged six months in French Canadian oak, from which it derives a hint of sweetness.


Del Maguey Pechuga, $200

Tequila is not the only thing made from agave. This cousin comes from a different species of the plant, and is fire-roasted in the ground before distillation, giving it a distinctive smokiness. Pechuga then gets a final distillation mixed with wild mountain apples, plums, bananas, almonds, rice and— chicken breast. Rare and exotic, this spirit has a wonderfully complex nose that will keep you intrigued for hours.


Oronoco, $35

Most sugarcane in Brazil goes into cachaça, the national drink. But Oronoco sources fresh-cut mountain cane from the slopes of the Paraiba do Sul river valley, then triple distills it in copper pot stills before blending it with older rums and briefly aging it in Brazilian oak. Light and clean, Oronoco has hints of vanilla and a smooth finish.


Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon, $25

Placed in a single oak barrel in 1995, this glorious bourbon only recently made the move into bottles. With its golden amber hue and complex, spicy aromas, it’s a terrific bargain as well as a terrific bourbon.


Jon, Mark and Robbo's Malt Scotch Whisky, $30

Whisky has long had a certain stuffiness, but that’s far from the case with this new label, a partnership of three young lads from across the pond, one of whom happens to be a former Master Distiller for The Macallan. This is whisky to drink and enjoy, not sit around and analyze. There are three different types, but we recommend "The Rich Spicy One," which has sherry and exotic spice aromas and a long, smooth finish that defies its bargain price.


Germain-Robin XO, $100

Cognac may be the most famous name in brandy, but for the last decade and a half, Germain-Robin has consistently proven that quality stuff can come from California as well. Pinot Noir dominates the blend of a dozen varietals, yielding a rich, complex brandy with a long, lingering finish.


Starbucks, $20

Coffee is not just for breakfast any more. Starbucks Coffee Liqueur mixes the java company’s signature House Blend of dark-roasted Latin American beans with neutral grain spirits for a 40 proof liqueur that’s viscous and slightly sweet. Add it to coffee, use it in a White Russian or even pour it over ice cream.

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(Updated 03/28/11 BH)

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