A classic London dry gin (45.2%) with very pure aromatics, led by characteristic scents of juniper. Extremely smooth and refined on the palate showing no rough edges or spirity heat, this elegant gin compares favourably with much higher-priced spirits.
Another rye-based Polish vodka which seems to share many of the positive aspects of the Wyborowa (clean, peppery, vanilla-tinged aromatics — this time with slight herbal nuances). Clean, with nice body and texture, and the pronounced peppery aromas characteristic of rye-based spirits. Distilled since 1864, the brand is partially owned — and fully endorsed — by actor Bruce Willis. Yippee ki-yay, martini lover. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
The same grain that gives rye whisky its characteristic spicy zip imparts similar spicy/white-pepper notes to this well-structured vodka, along with hints of vanilla and citrus fruit. Smooth, moderately viscous, and very clean, it finishes quite long with hints of vanilla, liquorice and spice.
Having undergone its usual aging and blending regime, Mount Gay’s newest offering is then aged a second time in charred bourbon barrels. The charred bourbon is evident in the rum’s definite smokiness, but master blender Allen Smith ensures that, in the end, it’s still most definitely rum. Vanilla, caramel, marmalade, cloves, nutmeg, and charred oak on the nose. Big and peppery, with smoky dried orange peel, caramel, vanilla bean and a hint of sweet bourbon. A nice mixer, to be sure, but try as you would a whisky — neat with a few drops of water.
When it comes to French brandy, you typically have a choice of the “standard” stuff, or high-end Cognac/Armagnac. St-Rémy has stepped in to offer an alternative with its Small Batch Reserve. Dried fruit/fruitcake aromas combine with vanilla, nutmeg, sultana and toasted nuts. Smooth, spicy, round and warm in the mouth with complex notes of toffee, dried fruit, orange peel, and soft oak.
At 57.5% alcohol by volume, and peated to a staggering 167 ppm (making it the world’s most heavily peated whisky), you might expect the Bruichladdich Octomore (6th edition) to be simply overpowering. The thing is, it’s not. Sure, the smoke is there, but so is the Bruichladdich character. There’s elegance, complexity and fruity overtones nestled in amongst the earth, seaweed, black pepper, vanilla and bog myrtle. Salty/peaty on the palate, with minty/menthol notes, vanilla and toasted nuts. Profoundly long on the finish with a final dash of black pepper.
Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie Scottish Barley Islay Single Malt ($70) Unpeated Islay malts are not all that common, but this example from Bruichladdich is certainly proof that you don’t need smoke to create complexity. Sweet barley, a whiff of spice, citrus (which becomes more intense with a dash of water) and honey notes combine with a whisper of sea spray on the nose. Smooth and silky in the mouth, it perfectly balances traces of lemon, honey, caramel and crème brûlée with a long, subtly peppery finish.