December 2010

Best Spirits of 2010

By: Anthony Dias Blue
   Over the course of each year, I taste hundreds of spirits, new and old.

In 2010, I was especially impressed with the quality of the the spirits that arrived as samples. Not only did today's new distillers bring many excellent first-time products to market, some in categories unto themselves, but larger, more established houses delivered stunning new expressions of brands that have already become classics.

This is a listing of this year's spirits to which I gave a score of 94 or better. Most have been featured in my Blue Reviews column in THE TASTING PANEL's print edition, while others have not (yet) appeared there.

Anthony Dias Blue  

VODKA, FLAVORED VODKA and GIN

95 Rökk Vodka, Sweden ($15)
Soft vanilla nose; smooth and subtle with lovely vanilla and lush texture and a long, elegant finish; silky but with a note of heat on the finish; stunning.

DIAGEO NORTH AMERICA

94 Purity Vodka, Sweden ($40)
Rich and smooth with lovely vanilla and notes of grains and spice; creamy texture and lovely balance with rich flavors and purity.
PURITY VODKA AB

95 Chambord Flavored Vodka, France ($25)
Lush black-raspberry fruit with hints of orange, vanilla and honey, showing remarkable depth; silky texture, ripe berry fruit, with underlying notes of vanilla supporting the rich fruit flavors; remarkable grace and finesse.
BROWN-FORMAN
96 ZU Zubrowka Bison Grass Flavored Vodka, Poland ($30)
Slight golden tint; lovely fragrance of vanilla and grass; silky smooth and aromatic with notes of vanilla, cut grass and coconut; medium weight and beautifully balanced; distinctive and extraordinary; one of the world's most unique spirits; wonderful by itself and a brilliant addition to cocktails.
RÉMY COINTREAU USA
94 Citadelle Gin Reserve, Vintage 2010, France ($40)
light gold in color; lush juniper nose; intense and spicy with juniper, complex herbs and a creamy texture; rich, balanced and showing a long, lush finish.
W.  J. DEUTSCH & SONS
95 Ransom Old Tom Gin, USA ($36)
Medium amber/orange color; aroma of mint, juniper and citrus peel; silky and spiced with notes of vanilla, orange and various spices; add toastiness and creamy texture; lovely and complex with depth and unique flavors.
DOMAINE SELECT

RUM, CACHAÇA, TEQUILA and MEZCAL
94 Bacardi Reserva Limitada Rum, Aged 12 Years, Puerto Rico ($110)
Medium amber color; lovely elegant nose with lightly toasted wood, dried pear and caramel notes; silky and off-dry with elegant, luscious flavors of honey and brown sugar; supple and with a long, elegant finish; complex and refined with layers of flavor and remarkable depth; mellow but with a charming kiss of heat on the finish.
BACARDI USA
94 Avión Silver Tequila, Mexico ($50)
Fragrant and showing rich agave funk; silky and elegant yet earthy and spiced with a bright pepper element; assertive without being aggressive; lush and dry with a long, spicy finish.
TEQUILA AVION
94 Dulce Vida Tequila Añejo, Mexico ($50)
Amber color; spicy and creamy with ripe agave, vanilla and caramel; notes of anise, honey and lovely aromatics; rich, elegant and complex with some nut flavors on the long, rich finish.100 proof.
DULCE VIDA SPIRITS, LLC
94 Mezcalero Release #2 Mezcal, Mexico ($84)
Smoky, rustic agave nose; silky, hot and edgy with notes of burning leaves, pepper, spice and flesh; if tequila is too tame for you, check this out; remarkable and complex.
CRAFT DISTILLERS
WHISKIES
95 Balcones Blue Baby Corn Whiskey, USA ($38)
Pale amber; aroma of hot buttered popcorn; smooth, toasty and lush with lovely corn flavors and a long, mellow finish; distinctive and delicious; made from 100% blue corn.
BALCONES DISTILLING
96 Parker's Heritage Wheated Bourbon, USA ($80)
Powerful and intense with lovely toasted vanilla oak and rich fruit; dry, silky and dense with spice, elegance and notes of cherry, hickory and caramel; an American classic.
HEAVEN HILL DISTILLERIES
94 Maker's 46, USA ($33)
First new product from Maker's Mark in 50 years. Honey and caramel nose; spicy with notes of maple cream and smoke with dried fruits, hickory and lush texture; mellow, sensual and seamless with a long, rich finish.
BEAM GLOBAL SPIRITS & WINE
94 Bowmore Darkest 15 Year Old Sherry Cask Finished Single Malt , Scotland ($70)
Dark amber color; soft aroma of a hickory fire; smooth and lush with creamy, dried fruit, almonds, raisins, sherry and caramel with the addition of the smoky, briny Islay peat; a great combination of elegance and island funk; long, balanced and surprisingly delicate.
SKYY SPIRITS
94 Eades Small Batch Speyside Whisky, 70% 12 Year Dufftown, 30% 15 Year Mortlach, Scotland ($70)
Amber color; lush and sweet with lovely honey, heather and creamy spice; smoke in the mid-palate and a lush warming toastiness; long, rich and showing complexity and depth.
THE VIRGINIA DISTILLERY
99 Glenfiddich 40 Year Old, Scotland ($2700)
Intense and rich with toasty, spice and mature flavors of light wood, hickory fire, rancio, dried fruits and Christmas spice; exceptionally long, elegant and complex; vanilla, leather and graceful balance; quite spectacular but always well-bred and classic.
WILLIAM GRANT & SONS
100 Glenglassaugh 40 Year Old Single Malt Whisky, Scotland ($2525)
Dark, ruddy mahogany color; smooth nose of old wood, rancio and mellow dried plum; silky smooth and toasty vanilla with rich, complex, mature flavors; intensely elegant and delicate, yet with a subtle power and an extremely long finish; vibrant, concentrated and exquisite.
PURPLE VALLEY IMPORTS
95 Glenglassaugh 30 Year Old Highland Single Malt Whisky, Scotland ($694)
Deep amber; silky texture; lovely biscuit aroma; toasty oak and smooth, creamy notes of spice, sandalwood and toasted almond; dry and very elegant with teak and dried fruits; mellow and rich, complex and balanced, subtle and refined; a classic.
PURPLE VALLEY IMPORTS
95 The Glenrothes 1994 Vintage, Scotland ($79)
Lovely malty nose; smooth treacle and marshmallow with vanilla and lush creme brulée; creamy, ripe dried fruits and hint of citrus; long, mellow and exquisite.
SKYY SPIRITS
100 Highland Park 1968 40 Years Old, Scotland ($3999)
Lush nose of brown sugar, allspice and treacle; creamy and mellow with lovely floral and dried fruit essence; long, smooth and layered with seductive malt, sweet grass and honey; rich and seamless with gorgeous balance and lusciousness; perfection.
RÉMY COINTREAU USA


BRANDY

94 Camus Borderies XO Cognac, France ($140)
Medium amber color; fragrant, floral, feminine and rich with toasty vanilla oak; lovely depth and considerable finesse; elegant, graceful and balanced.
CAMUS WINES & SPIRITS
95 Conjure Cognac, France ($18)
Lovely, vibrant copper color with flashes of orange and gold; remarkable nose that suggests nut meats (almond, hazelnuts) vanilla, caramel, sweet oak, toffee, dried peach and hints of rancio complexity; elegant yet generous with lovely silky smooth mouth feel and sensuous texture; mellow and luscious with flavors of crême brûlée, new leather, soft Christmas spices, honey and fine cigar wrapper.
BIRKEDAL HARTMANN IMPORT CO.
95 Cognac Frapin Domaine Château de Fontpinot XO, France ($95)
Sweet toasted oak, lovely spice and caramel on the nose; floral and elegant with notes of orange peel, toasted oak and sweet creamy vanilla; luscious, rich and balanced with a long, seductive finish.

PALM BAY INTERNATIONAL
97 Christian Drouin Calvados Pays d'Auge 1960, France ($660)
Lovely tart tatin nose; toasted, ripe apple with elegance and rich brown sugar; vanilla, caramel and spice; elegant, long and supple; stunning.
PREISS IMPORTS
94 Etude XO Alambic Brandy ($150)
Lush, burnt orange and toasty oak on the nose; amber color; rich and toasted with caramel and dried fruits; dense and layered with amazing depth and elegance; bursting with flavor and beautifully balanced; long and quite astonishingly complex for such a young brandy.”
TREASURY WINE ESTATES

LIQUEURS AND EAUX-DE-VIE
95 Bottega Sambuca d'Anice Stellato, Italy ($24)
Rich star anise nose; creamy and thick with sweet anise and vanilla undertones; rich, intense, unctuous and pure with a long sweet flavor that coats the tongue and lasts for a long time; exquisite with some heat and bite on the finish; gorgeous; umami in action.
PALM BAY INTERNATIONAL
98 Chartreuse Liqueur (Green) ($60)
This has been around so long it had a color named after it—a translucent light green; complex, lush, spicy nose; 130 herbs create a mystical sweet, potent and seductive flavor; beautifully balanced between spice, sweet and alcohol heat; creamy, fascinating and very long; hints of lime, mint, pine, licorice, and many more; still superb after 405 years.
FREDERICK WILDMAN & SONS
94 Galliano L'Autentico ($38)
Bols is rehabilitating this superb liqueur that was almost KO'd by Harvey Wallbanger, bright yellow color; smooth sweet herbal nose; creamy texture with sweet vanilla and anise supported by a complex blend of woodsy herbs and spices, licorice, mint, lemon and creamy vanilla - all backed by a stiff backbone of alcohol; one of the highest proof liqueurs and yet impressively smooth.
WILLIAM GRANT & SONS, INC.
95 Luxardo Maraschino ($32)
Bright and clear, this Marasca cherry liqueur has been made in Padova since 1821; it has an earthy nose and a sweet, creamy wild berry flavor with spice and lovely creamy sweetness; aromatic, lush and exquisite with a long, rich finish; let the cocktail making begin.
PREISS IMPORTS
96 Nonino Quintessentia Amaro Nonino ($45)
Bright, copper color; rich, herbal, spiced nose; sweet and creamy with orange peel and bitter herbal notes; lush and profound with complex flavors and a long, rich finish; this could be a revolutionary cocktail ingredient.
TERLATO WINES INTERNATIONAL
95 Underground Herbal Liqueur ($28)
Dark amber color; lovely licorice and spice nose; creamy texture with silky mouth feel and beautiful licorice, anise, mint, chocolate and prune flavors; rich, long—an instant classic.
OGDEN'S OWN DISTILLERY
   

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