Top 10 Spirits 2006
Selections for Your Home Bar
By Chris Rubin
are inherently celebratory, and what could be more festive
and fun than a classic cocktail—except, perhaps, one
with a modern twist? Top-quality spirits provide the power
in these drinks, so consider the following exceptional bottles,
whether you’re stocking your own bar or stuffing a
potatoes and even sugar beets can serve as the source
material for crafting vodka, but employing grapes
instead appears to be the latest trend. Idôl
relies on grapes from the old world—the treasured
vineyards of Burgundy—where both Chardonnay
and Pinot Noir are fermented, distilled, and then
brought down to proper proof with the addition of
pure water from the Côte d’Or. The first
ultra-premium vodka crafted by a wine connoisseur,
Idôl manifests that unique lineage in the subtle,
clean flavors found inside every bottle.
caipirinha may well be the next superstar cocktail
to emerge from south of the border (way south, in
this case!). And while sugar and limes can take credit
for the libation’s sweet/sour balance, it’s
cachaça, the sugar cane-based liquor, that
provides the potent punch. Leblon, aged in casks that
once held Cognac, tastes smoother than most—so
smooth it can be sipped straight or used in place
of rum and vodka in many other cocktails.
Frapin VIP XO, $159
Frapin has nearly 500 acres of Grande Champagne vineyards,
amassed over five centuries. So the venerable house
has plenty of long-aged (average 25 to 30 years) Premier
Cru brandies from the family reserves to bring to
the blend that goes into this prestigious bottle.
Subtle and delicate, VIP XO lingers on the palate
long after the glass is empty.
Appleton Estate 21 Year Old Jamaica Rum, $89
1749, Appleton has been perfecting the art of distilling
rum in Jamaica, and all that expertise goes into the
21 Year Old. This is a major liquor, as each rum in
the blend was produced from estate-grown sugar cane
and spent at least 21 years in American oak barrels,
which formerly housed Jack Daniels whiskey. And while
two decades-plus is a long time for any spirit to
slumber, the climate in Jamaica results in faster
than usual aging, so this smooth-sipping rum has the
appealing qualities of a liquor aged substantially
1800 Colección, $1,800
from agaves grown in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico–a
region famous for its superb tequilas—1800 Colleción
defines state-of-the-art, spare-no-expense tequila.
Produced in tiny quantities following traditional
artisanal methods, 1800 Colección undergoes
double distillation in small copper pot stills before
aging in small, deep-charred barrels of French Limousin
oak. After slumbering for five years, 1800 Colleción
gets a splash of even longer-aged reserve tequilas
for added complexity.
Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 20 Year, $99
This venerable house uses wheat rather than rye, and
its bourbons show Cognac-like complexity with exceptionally
long finishes. The 20 Year version goes into the bottle
at more than 90 proof, yet is remarkably smooth, with
a hint of sweetness derived from its premium ingredients.
South Gin, $30
kinds of ingredients pop up in various gins with some
bottles boasting 40 or more botanicals. But South
Gin may well be the only bottle featuring Manuka berries
and Kawakawa leaves, which are staples of Maori medicine
from New Zealand. Faintly spicy with a light nose,
South Gin weighs in at more than 96 proof, yet is
gentle on the palate.
Boulard Calvados Grand Solage, $33
apple-based brandy of Normandy can rival fine Cognacs
and Armagnacs, and Boulard, a family business now
spanning five generations, represents the finest.
More than 120 varieties of apples contribute their
unique flavors to Boulard’s Grand Solage, a
gold-hued liquor with aromas of apples, various other
fruits and a hint of vanilla from the oak casks in
which it has been aged for three to five years.
Johnnie Walker Blue, $199
age is declared in Johnnie Walker's ultimate blend,
but many of the whiskies that go into this uniquely
smooth product have been aged for 50 to 60 years.
An elegant gift, every bottle of Blue is packed in
a silk-lined box and bears its own unique serial number.
Los Danzantes Mezcal Reposado, $70
the bottles with a worm! True mezcal is a hand-made,
artisanal product following the centuries-old traditions
of the region, and none is better than Los Danzantes.
Aged in French oak barrels, this is a graceful mezcal,
the fire tamed by a little age, with a long, graceful
More Spirit Reviews
and Champagne Reviews