For me personally, when it comes to spirits I look for something I can sip neat. The purity of each style’s expression appeals to me. While I take the time and make the effort to mix cocktails when the mood, I’m far more likely to drink them neat or simply sip the on the rocks. By filling a bar with spirits I enjoy solo, I know that the cocktails I mix with them will have a delicious result; it’s a lot like the axiom about not cooking with wine you wouldn’t want to drink. After recently tasting through a bunch of spirits that came across my desk, here are my 6 current favorites that will keep you warm with the nip of fall in the air.
Salute American Vodka – Suggested Retail Price $22.99. This entirely American vodka is distilled, designed and sold in the US. All of the wheat and corn grains used are from America’s Heartland. $1 from the sale of each bottle is donated to veteran’s charities. This vodka has a smooth, gentle taste and an inherent bit of sweetness that goes down easy. It’s intense, pure and delightful to drink on its own. Salute American will be a tremendous component in your favorite vodka based cocktails. The price is quite reasonable and the charity component makes it an all around winner.
Privateer Silver Reserve Rum – Suggested Retail Price $34. This double-distilled rum produced from pale amber cane juice crystals and real boiled brown sugar. After distillation, aging takes place in stainless steel tanks. It’s bottled unfiltered without and foreign additives. Vanilla bean and pineapple aromas are prominent on the lovely nose. Coconut, brown sugar and crème brule flavors are all in play throughout the palate. Bits of chocolate bean and continued coconut are both in evidence on the finish. This rum has good intensity of flavors and no discernable heat. I generally don’t think of white rum is for sipping, but Privateer Silver Reserve is an exception. That said it’ll make for spectacular cocktails.
Caorunn Gin – Suggested Retail Price $40. This small batch gin hails from Scotland and it’s produced at the Balmenach Distillery in Speyside. Highland spring water is used as well as local and traditional botanicals. Caorunn leads with a big and somewhat boisterous nose. Herbs, spice and a strong floral component are all on display aromatically. All of those elements are in play on the palate, albeit in a slightly subtler manner. All the flavors are fresh and pure with measured intensity. The long finish is crisp and clean. There is wholesomeness to the flavors, coupled with the intensity of them that makes this gin stand out from the pack.
Crystal Head Vodka – Suggested Retail Price $49.95. This vodka is made using water from Newfoundland, Canada. It’s distilled four times and filtered seven times. Three of the filtrations are through Herkimer diamonds. It’s bottled without additives of any kind. Bits of Vanilla lead the nose. The palate is easy going and mellifluous. White and black pepper spices add a nice component that tickles the back of the throat and lends to the long and indulgent finish. This is most definitely Vodka to be savored on its own or mixed with the very best of ingredients for premium cocktails. The striking bottle means it will also stand out from other spirits behind your bar.
anCnoc Rutter Single Malt Scotch – Suggested Retail Price $85. The name anCnoc is Gaelic for Knock Hill and the distillery Knockdhu (Black hill). It’s located on the edge of Speyside. This is part of a new batch of releases which are part of the Limited Edition Peaty Collection. It’s beautiful in the glass, showing off the color of golden apple juice. R opens with an intense nose which shows off lemon zest and smoke. Tropical fruits, spice and continued smoke are all in play on the powerful but proportionate palate. Mesquite Honey and spices emerge on the long and persistent finish. This is gorgeous single malt.
anCnoc Flaughter Single Malt Scotch – Suggested Retail Price $85. This is also part of the new Limited Edition Peaty Collection. They’re made to pay tribute to the area’s original style of Whisky. Natural peat from the land is utilized. Toasted Farro and hints of burnt sugar fill the nose. The peat and smoke is present but in a more subtle manner than on the Rutter. Lemon curd and dried apricots inform the even keeled palate. Limestone and bits of pleasing heat are part of the finish along with a mélange of spices that ring on and on. These two Scotches are particularly fascinating sipped side by side.
What really ties these selections together for me, aside from being delicious of course, is their purity. Each of them was produced with that in mind and it shows. Every one of these would make a fine addition to your bar.