Bored of whisky and ready to try something new?
Okay, you’ll probably never be truly bored of whisky, but it can fun to switch things up every now and again and explore some of the world’s other tasty spirits. Here are a few beverages to consider for those times you just feel like drinking outside of the box.
Just as real champagne needs to come from the Champagne region in France (everything else is called sparkling wine), true cognac is a brandy from France’s Cognac region. To be called cognac cru, it must be made with at least 90% Ugni blanc, Folle blanche, and Colombard (all varieties of white grape). Grapes are pressed, left to ferment, twice distilled in distinctly shaped copper still, and aged in French oak barrels for a minimum of two years. The final product is made of a blend, and like whisky, the youngest component of the blend determines the age of the cognac.
We know what you’re thinking—but there’s a difference between those superbrand vodkas and the good stuff. When you venture into the latter territory, forget everything you know about vodka. The so-called “odorless, colorless, flavorless” rules need not apply.
You probably know of Żubrówka, the Polish herb-flavored vodka that is anything but flavorless. Now it’s time to venture into the world of craft vodka to find spirits that represent the local terroir. Check out 1911 vodka from New York (distilled with local apples, giving it a melon taste) St. Augustine vodka from Florida (distilled from Florida-armed sugar cane—expect a citrus nose on this one).
Eaux de Vie
If you’re seeking out a digestif that’s a little different, it’s time to explore the world of eaux de vie. These are colorless distilled beverages made from fruit (but not grapes!). The most common varieties are apple, yellow plum, peach, and pear (sometimes called Poire Williams—another name for the Bartlett pear).
The flavor of eau de vie comes strongly from its parent fruit. That’s because after distillation, it is bottled almost immediately to preserve that fresh, juicy taste.
If you’re of the school of thought that gin tastes like cleaning product, then it might be time to change your mind. Pick up a bottle of quality gin and you’ll find out that they don’t all taste overwhelmingly of juniper. Look for something that was made with botanicals other than (or in addition) to juniper, and you’ll find yourself delightfully surprised. For example, Bourbon Barrel Gin (Watershed Distillery in Columbus, Ohio) has a mulled spice taste: think cinnamon, citrus peel, and vanilla. St. George Dry Rye (St. George Spirits in Alameda, California) is the perfect example for a deliciously peppery, spicy gin. Give it a try—you just might like it.
When you think of rum, you probably think of sitting on a tropical beach someplace. That’s definitely not a bad thing, but there’s more to the world of rum than the Caribbean and Latin America. Excellent rum is being produced around the world—from Europe to Asia, even right in our own backyard.
The craft rum industry is developing in major, wonderful ways right here in the United States, and we couldn’t be more excited. Distilleries are producing rum so varied that it’s almost hard to compare them. Case in point: Bull Run Pacific Rum (a distinctly non-sweet balanced white rum from Oregon) versus Wicked Dolphin Rum (a spiced rum from Florida with notes of vanilla, oranges, and honey).
It’s time for a trip back in time: remember that infamous spring break where you drank way too much cheap tequila? Well, forget it: good tequila is like night and day from that stuff.
As with the previously discussed cognac, tequila is only tequila if it is made in the area surrounding the city of Tequila, Mexico—although some tequila is bottled in the US and still recognized as tequila. We predict that tequila is going to make big waves in the coming year. Even George Clooney is getting in on the game: after enjoying his own homemade tequila for years, he’s released his own brand of tequila called Casamigos Ultra-Premium Tequila. Sip it neat or mix it in a tasty cocktail.