The best bottles of 2017 to try now and love forever
2017 was the year of the shake up. Once reliable bases were all but erased, and it was all about the big, loud, new-sense of spirit, eager to drain the swamp and pomp... out of cocktails and spirits of course.
This year's low inventory from big names and big entries from no-names helped drive our collective love affair with cocktails made from great value base spirits and exotic liqueurs and drams pulled from young, crafty, spirited new comers.
Here's a round up of our and your favorite ways to find balance, fun and wellness in 2017. To keeping the spirit of creativity and flavor thriving in the New Year. Cin Cin!
EXCLUSIVE RUM CASKS
Earl Brown showed up with a sample of Rye whiskey in September last year, one half of the two-man (one cat) Wright & Brown Distilling Co of West Oakland. Along with moonshiner and tugboat operator Daniel Wright, they had spent 3+ years designing and building out their operation, including on site fermentation and distillation on a modified Vendome copper pot still. The topic at that time was their first release, a Rye whiskey that has been a store favorite ever since. Earl is one of those guys that radiates passion, knowledge, and joy for what he does - no detail is too small and after years spent turning a dream into reality he was ready to talk about all of them. We were having such a great time chatting, he broke out a sample of another product in the works - a single-run rum. That rum imprinted itself on my mind in a way few spirits ever have, and I spent the next year re-sampling from my memory. When Earl got in touch to let us know their Rum was getting ready to be released, we jumped at the chance to visit the distillery and choose our very own single barrel. Loads of sampling paid off with an especially remarkable rum. And in true Bitters + Bottles form, we're adding an extra twist, this is Barrel #27 Release 1. Also known as "the Halloween Barrel."
A little more backstory, Wright & Brown produces both once-distilled and twice-distilled rum. Our single barrel release coincides with their Small Batch 001 release, a 500-bottle release blended from their double-distilled rum (that deliciousness is heading into the shop as well!) Now a sampling of that Wright & Brown passion...
"A major difference between the single-run and the double distillation is that with the single-run, it is distilled to proof, the proof we barrel at. In other words, no water is added after distillation, before barreling. This allows a much richer and more pure version of the distillate to be aged. The difference is that most rums are distilled to a much higher proof: up to 190 proof for some column still rums. They then have to add a significant amount of water before barrel aging (and often flavoring additives to make it taste like 'rum.') Ours has no flavoring or coloring added.
Our still design: a modified pot still from Vendome Copper and Brassworks in Louisville, allows us to do a double distilled pot-still approach or a long, slow, single-run. With the single-run, the aromas and flavors are more intense, heavier, richer. Some people describe these characteristics as the 'funk' or 'hogo'. With single run comes deeper cuts. This can lead to more oils, esters and acids in the rum which aren’t visible to the naked eye but in addition to non-chill filtration can lead to flocculation or cloudiness in cold temperatures. There is nothing bad about this floc besides aesthetics. In fact those elements are part of the reason this single distillation rum has such remarkable texture in the mouthfeel. It goes away by giving the bottle a good shake and only appears after extended periods of cold temp.
Our molasses is carefully selected for flavors, non-GMO, Grade A blackstrap molasses from Georgia."
Barrel 27 was distilled on Halloween day, 2015, to around 114 proof, aged in a 225 liter recooped Limousin Oak barrel with a very light char. The barrel was partially drained and a small amount of filtered water was added and allowed to marry in barrel to bring it down to a bottling proof of 99.
This Trinidad 15 Year Rum with a Red Pineau des Charentes finish was one of only a handful of Plantation Single Cask Rums crafted by Maison Ferrand for 2017. The Single Cask series is born from merging origins and a double aging process in cognac casks with an “original” finish. By definition, these are rare in quantity, exclusively selected worldwide and therefore not available everywhere.
This Trinidad distilled rum was aged 10 Years in the Caribbean in ex-Bourbon barrels, 4 Years in France in Cognac Casks, and finished for a year in Red Pineau des Charentes barrels. Very limited inventory.
Soft, supple, incredibly easy to sip. Complex without being rich or heavy. Tropical fruits and banana are joined by fig, plum, red grape, apple skin, and caramelized pear. Sweet caramel, maple, and brown sugar meet notes of leather, barrel char, hazelnut, vanilla, and a gentle cinnamon.
The national bird of Jamaica, the Doctor Bird has been immortalized in Jamaican culture for centuries. This fruit-forward, no-holds-barred blend of high-ester Jamaica rum is an homage to this beautiful creature and the land of wood and water. Pot-distilled in Jamaica from the finest sugar cane, utilizing techniques that date back centuries, Doctor Bird draws upon the ghosts of rum past. Possessing strong pineapple, mango, passionfruit, coconut and butterscotch notes, and finished in Moscatel Casks, our rum ebodies a flavor as colorful and unique as the Doctor Bird itself.
Distilled at Worthy Park. 50% ABV.
"Craft whiskey" has finally evolved beyond the semi-meaningless small batch, artisanal, hand-crafted tropes that it created for itself.
291 WHISKEY, $69.50
COLORADO RYE MASH WHISKEY: Unique, yet traditional, it has a flavor profile of cinnamon, rye bread, oak, and maple. Accolades include a 94 Point score from Whisky Bible and Best “No Age Stated” American Rye from Whisky Magazine.
COLORADO BOURBON WHISKEY - “The Honeycomb and Molasses play their part, as does the rye amid the soft grains....” – Whisky Bible. Double Gold Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Life comes at you fast y'all! Remember that click-bait Daily Beast article from 2014, the sort of shady one that proclaimed your craft whiskey was sourced from a factory in Indiana? Well that 'factory' went on to be named the 2015 distillery of the year by Whisky Advocate. With the #1 sourced whiskey distiller so christened by the "#1 source for whisky information [and] education," interest and sales spiked in 2016. Beyond having their hands on great whiskey, the folks putting out this whiskey became beloved for bottling to their own geeky ABV specs, many times with well-executed barrel finishes that broke ground in American whiskey production.
FROM ITALY, WITH LOVE
Italian liqueur made with rose petals and bergamot. Perfect with anything clear.
Italian inspired (though not necessarily from Italy) bitter, sweet, herbal, orange-y, root-y, or anise-y; a diverse category making cameos in old classic and new exotic cocktails.
BIG FLAVORFUL LIQUEURS
Elderflower, Passion Fruit, Pineapple, Banana, Apricot, there isn't a cocktail this line up doesn't enhance. An economical way to breath new life into the most classic of cocktails, or invent new ones.
The flavor we draw on most when tinkering behind the bar, this cocktail workhorse adds zip to mules, manhattans, and everything in between.
Big. Herbal. Boozey. The preferred bouquet of any back bar these days. We found bar spoons sneaking into just about everything for a touch of herbal balance.
THE NEW GIN-ERATION
SILENT POOL, $49.50
Fresh floral and clarifying citrus notes are grounded by earthy and spicy cassia bark. The smooth finish is achieved with the help of local honey. Great on the rocks, with tonic, or a twist.
Melissa, our gin expert, is a certifiable Four Pillars fan-addict. She went as far to call it her desert island gin, which is saying a lot because we've got 100+ to choose from.
OLD HARBOR, $24.50
Distilled from the finest southwestern botanicals - lime, cucumber, cilantro, sage, and more - all grown locally. A spicy, bright, juicy and intensely herbal gin. Great neat or mixed.