My top 10 spirits of 2012. Some are new this year, some are simply new to me, and some I simply cultivated a new found appreciation for this year. These are not in any particular order, as the range of spirits was wide and unable to be compared to each other. Aside from the rarest of the rare (#1), these were heavily imbibed by myself and my friends in 2012.
PS - As odd as it may sound, I feel terrible to think of those that were left off the list. Like forgetting to thank someone important at an awards show...
- Casa Noble 6 yr Anejo Tequila
Not an everyday tequila, for sure, due to price and extreme rarity. I believe this tequila was not meant to have made it out of Mexico, but by some wonderful accident a few cases ended up in the States.
- Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon
Skip the inferior entry-level "Small Batch" version and go for this one. Not a huge price difference for the huge leap in quality and flavor. And, for another $50 - $60 or so, and if you can find it, the Single Barrel "Limited Edition" release is impressive, as well.
- Benriach 12 yr Scotch
I was a never a fan of Speyside Scotch, I always preferred the peat and smoke of the Isles. But this one changed my mind. Grass and cereal grains and a chocolatey finish that goes bitter just when you think it'll go sweet.
- George T. Stagg Bourbon
An old friend and favorite. At 143 proof (or so), this one will always do the trick and do it quick. I prefer whiskies with some heat, and you'll feel this one all the way down your chest on the first sip. Also, this will immediately cure a sore throat and most likely knock the cold right out of you.
- Ransom Old Tom Gin
Alambic pot-distilled Old Tom Gin out of Portland, Oregon, infused with botanicals that make this awesome for Tom Collins' or my preference, just with soda and a splash of citrus. If you're someone who think you "hate gin," this one may change your mind.
- Corralejo Triple Distilled Reposado Tequila
Not a huge difference in flavor from the regular Reposado (which is awesome) but the circular blue art glass bottle looks great on my bar, and for the price, it's a killer every day sipping tequila. Along with Cinnamon syrup, Fernet Branca and Orange Bitters, I included it in a new cocktail "The Black Hand."
- Pappy Van Winkle 12 yr Bourbon
I always look forward to late-November, as it marks the annual release of the year's Pappy Van Winkle collection. While the more aged versions (15 yr, 20 yr, and 23 yr) are still of the finest quality, I feel they can be a bit overwhelming for my personal taste. And also because I tend to view things for their quality-for-the-dollar, I think the 12-year is the gem of the collection. One of the finest bourbons around.
- Saler's Gentian Liqueur
Introduced in 2012 and imported by the always excellent Haus-Alpenz, this smells like the forest (moldy and mossy), but tastes bittersweet, of citrus and root flavors. Incredibly unique and the inspiration for one of my proudest cocktail creations to date, the Aperitif Marinao.
- Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye
Considering most ryes are 4 years old or younger. this 13-year-old Rye is really special. Definitely the most difficult item in the limited Van Winkle Collection to get your hands on, I was lucky enough to procure a few bottles of this year's vintage. Perhaps the finest Rye Whiskey I've ever tasted.
- Elijah Craig 20 yr Bourbon
I was disappointed to see Elijah Craig 18-year go off the market this year, as it was high-quality for a mid-priced Bourbon, and bridged the gap between the lackluster 12-year and the pricier 20-year. But, all that aside, this one is really good. Oak, tobacco and leather at first, with some sweeter elements beneath the surface. Would probably appeal to fans of Blanton's or Van Winkle, I'd think.