Super Spirits for Super Celebrations
Raise the Bar for your Bar
Posted: December 14, 2006
By Jerald O’Kennard
As Samuel Johnson famously said, "Claret is the liquor for boys; port for men. But he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy." An update for the modern man (or woman) would further specify that the brandy should not only be of the ultra-premium variety (preferably a luxury Cognac or vintage dated Armagnac), as all your other spirits should be, but to be a super-hero (this is a post comic book world we live in after all) and separate yourself from all of the wannabe heros out there, you need to lead trends, not follow them. To that end, here are some avant-garde, delicious, and courageous choices worthy of the spirituous armoire of your new super-bad, super-tasty alter-ego and sure to make for some memorable "shake and awe" at your next party. Now all you need is the cape...
94 points • Scorpion (Mexico) Silver Mezcal 80 Proof. $44. Clear. Complex, fruit fudge and smoky nose. A soft, round entry leads to a smooth medium body with delicate lemon grass, dried fruit, and spice flavors. Finishes with a long, silky, sweet, and hot spicy finish. A velvet brick.
Like extremes? Then you need an extreme tequila, or mezcal, which is a kissing cousin of tequila. Watch that sting when you pucker up to this though, not from spirit, but from a real (dead and desiccated) scorpion that’s in every bottle. How cool it that?
96 points • Cuervo (Mexico) Reserva la Familia Añejo Tequila Colleccion 2005 80 Proof. $125.99. Brilliant copper color. Sweet, robust aromas of vanilla, toasted coconut, dried fruit, roasted nuts, and leather. A soft, supple entry leads to a smooth medium-to full-bodied palate with rich spice, toffee, nuts, caramelized agave, and pepper flavors. Finishes with a long fade of pure chocolate, toasty oak, brown spices, dried fruit, and agave flavors. A complete tequila with great balance, effortless grace, and brooding power.
Want to try the mellow side of tequila? This house reserve from Cuervo is not what you’d expect from a tequila-- smooth and very cognac-like. The thinking man’s tequila.
91 points • Compass Box (Scotland) "Asyla" Grain and Malt Blended Scotch Whisky 80 Proof. $35. Yellow golden color. Lightly floral and grassy, butter pecan ice cream, toffee, and toasted oak aromas. A brisk soft entry leads to a mild, slightly sweet light-to medium-bodied palate with vanilla nut fudge, brown spice, and exotic peppercorn flavors. Finishes with a rich perfumed fade of toffee and wood spice. Distinctive and dangerously drinkable.
Not your father’s Scotch whisky. This liquid treat is made by a former executive of a big Scotch company that wanted to elevate the category of blended Scotch whisky. He succeeded. Everything about this whisky is modern and cool--from the package, to the name, to the flavors.
90 points • Fazenda Mãe de Ouro (Brazil) Cachaça 80 Proof. $28/L. Clear. Sweet, fresh meringue, coconut cream, cane stalk, dried tropical flowers, and delicate mineral aromas. A buoyant entry leads to a silky, dryish medium-bodied palate with sweet sugarcane stalk, vegetable oil, coconut milk, and wet stone flavors. Finishes with a lightly sweet powdered sugar and warming, white pepper and talc fade. Delicately textured with subtle sugar essences, mild tropical fruitiness, and peppery heat.
Need to get a fire started? Try the hot alternative to rum, cachaça. Made from fresh cane juice; it’s smooth and fragrant, but with a nice, peppery, Brazilian twist. Because cachaças are usually distilled just once, (rums are smoothed out with a second distillation) they still have some raw and untamed character that comes out at the most interesting of times.
95 points • Nusta (Peru) Pisco 80 Proof. $100. Clear. Sweet whipped cream and perfumed baked orchard fruit aromas. A round entry leads to a supple dryish medium-to full-bodied palate with perfumed lavender, sweet ripe orchard fruit, Pinot noir, and prunes, spice, and balsa wood. Finishes with a round, slightly peppery fade of lavender, raisins, and spice. Subtly complex, pure, and elegant. Made for slow contemplative sipping.
Fancy yourself a connoisseur of ultra-premium vodkas? Good, then your ready for the next step: eau-de-vie and in this case pisco. Traditionally made from grapes instead of grain, like so many fancy new vodkas that are coming out now. This has incredible perfume and rich fruity flavor that flavored vodkas just can’t match and purity of spirit that rivals some of the world’s finest drinks. Pricey, but worth every penny.
91 points • Ron Santa Teresa (Venezuela) Rhum Orange Liqueur 80 Proof. $17.99/375 ml.
Deep amber color. Rich dried orange peel, toasty oak, vanilla, white pepper, and brown spice aromas. A rich entry leads to a vibrant full-bodied palate of peppery spice, orange peels, vanilla bean, and aged rum flavors. Finishes with a long sharp, peppery, orange peel fade. An excellent and pure orange liqueur that will work brilliantly in cocktails.
This is a very secret ingredient that will transform almost any cocktail into a masterpiece. You will be loved when you mix with this. Guaranteed.
92 points • Damiana (Mexico) Liqueur 60 Proof. $32. Brilliant electric golden green color. Exotically spicy and fresh aromas of ground nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon bark, ginger, and white pepper. A silky entry leads to a mildly sweet medium-to full-bodied palate with fresh cinnamon, ginger, ginseng, and brown spice flavors. Finishes with a long sweet ginseng gum and spice fade. A very interesting and exotic herbal liqueur with alleged aphrodisiac qualities—Bonus!
Tastes good, great for sore throats, and is a widely acknowledged aphrodisiac. What else do you need to know?? Go get some!
94 points • DH Krahn (NY) Gin 80 Proof. Clear. Subtle citrus, banana custard, and mild botanical aromas. A soft, round entry leads to a super smooth, dryish light-to medium-bodied palate with delicate flavors of powdered sugar dusted lemon peels, talc, peppery spices, mild juniper, and light grassy botanicals. Finishes with a mineral, pepper, dried juniper and lemon blossom water notes. Deliciously flavorful, yet delicate.
Super sleek package to go with your finest wardrobe, super flavor to make your finest martini. Remember: vodka martinis are for kids.
95 points • Inner Circle (Fiji Islands) "General Manager Reserve" Green Dot Rum 115 Proof. $34.95/700ml. Pure copper color. Rich aromas of toffee, toasted nuts, brown spices, mocha, and vanilla are enticingly broad and deep. A robust entry leads to a vibrant, off-dry full-bodied palate with toffee, nut, brown spices, rubber sap, and white pepper flavors. Finishes with a lingering fade of chocolate, coffee, mineral, cigar box, pepper, and a copper tang. Powerful, yet amazingly balanced and approachable, even at full strength! A dash of spring water opens up further intriguing complexities.
At 115 proof, truly a manly rum, but this has a lot more going on than fire. A great tasting rum (make sure to add a little soothing water) made from a secret "lost" island recipe that was rescued from extinction by wily Australians. This is truly an adventure in a glass.
And to further temper your "Bar of Steel", follow these links to the various spirits categories that we’ve reviewed so far this year. We’ve sorted out all the Kryptonite, so you need have no fear brave soul.
(Look for a complete review of the "Best of 2006" and "2006 Spirits of the Year", as well as the results of our new "Best Buy Bar" competition, in early January.)