Scotch, Brandy, Gin, Liquers, Vodkas, Tequila, Irish Whiskey, Rum
96 Hart Brothers Clynelish 15-year-old Single Malt Scotch (CVI BRANDS, CA) 56.1% abv, $89. Pale straw in color; the nose is light and floral, with some subdued cereal notes. The body is big, and on the palate the flavors explode: sweet butter, peat, wildflowers, oak and leather are all easily detectable here. The finish is gentle and seemingly lasts forever.
95 Glenmorangie Elegance 21-year-old Single Highland Malt Scotch (Brown-Forman Beverage Company, KY/Glenmorangie P.L.C., U.K.) 43% abv, $400. Very pale straw in color; the nose brings aromas of sweet hay, cereal grains and a dash of sea air. The lush, buttery body carries a complex, spicy palate with notes of brine, cream, white pepper and just a hint of dried fruit. The finish is long, warm and luxurious.
90 Hart Brothers Highland Park 10-year-old Single Malt Scotch (CVI Brands, CA) 57.6% abv, $53. This malt is almost colorless save a hint of very pale straw. The nose is rich and briny, with faint peat notes and a hint of blackberry that balances the aromas perfectly. The body is light, and on the palate it's the brine flavors that predominate over light hints of peppery spices and a dash of oak. The finish is spicy and lengthy.
87 Hart Brothers Highland Park 19-year-old Single Malt Scotch (CVI Brands, CA) 43% abv, $91. Very pale gold in color, the nose brings a delightful balance of tobacco, oak, brine and light fruit notes. The body is medium and the palate is initially salty, but the tobacco, oak and fruits found in the nose come through after a few seconds. The finish is warm and long.
97 Hennessy Timeless Cognac (Schieffelin & Somerset, NY) 43.5% abv, $3,000. This medium- to deep-amber Cognac brings luscious aromas of raisins, violets, citrus zest and wildflowers to the nose. The body is big, rich and buttery, and the palate bears a melange of flavors: sweet butter, delicate perfume, dark berries and a backdrop of peppery spiciness, all tightly woven together into a bone-dry, heavenly blanket of luxury. The finish is long, dry and austere.
90 Hamptons Gin (The Hamptons Spirits Company, NY) 47% abv, $30. The nose is light and fruity, with juniper notes lurking in the backdrop. The body is big, and the palate follows the nose, but here the high alcohol content comes into play, pointing up the juniper notes. The finish is long and very warm. The fruity style of this gin doesn't normally lend itself to martinis, but here we have found an exception. Add very little vermouth and garnish the martini with a twist of lemon.
88 Lazzaroni Amaretto 1851 (Premium Imports, Ltd. KY/Paolo Lazzeroni & Figli S.P.A., Italy) 24% abv, $14. Hazelnut in color; the nose is pure marzipan. The body is big and syrupy, and although almond is the predominant flavor here, there's also a hint of lemon zest. This amaretto isn't quite as sweet as most. The finish is medium.
87 Limoncino del Chiostro (Premium Imports, KY/Paolo Lazzeroni & Figli S.P.A., Italy) 32% abv, $16. Cloudy lemon-yellow in color; the aromas are of fresh lemon juice—there's a tartness that's attractive. The body is medium and syrupy, and although the palate remains true to fresh lemon flavors, there's a touch more sugar here than in the nose. The sour-lemon aspect, though, comes back in spades in the long, luxurious finish.
82 Burnett's Citrus Flavored Vodka (Sir Robert Burnett Co., KY) 40% abv, $9. Refreshing aromas of lemons and limes. Medium-bodied, with the palate following the nose. There is a slight bitterness in the finish.
80 Burnett's Orange Flavored Vodka (Sir Robert Burnett Co., KY) 40% abv, $9. The nose is fresh and carries a touch of orange sherbet. The body is medium and the palate is surprisingly dry, with a slight bitterness that suggests orange pith. The finish is short and warm.
88 El Conquistador Reposado Tequila, 100% Agave Azul (Premium Imports, Ltd. KY/Agroindustria Guadalajara, Mexico) 40% abv, $32. Almost white, with only a hint of straw. The nose is initially vegetal, but some fruits lurk in the backdrop along with a dash of chilies. The body is medium, and the palate is earthy—reminiscent of a damp forest floor after a storm—and very dry. The finish is long and pleasing.
89 The Tyroconnell Single Malt Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey (Premium Imports, Ltd., KY/Andrew A. Watt & Co., Ireland) 40% abv, $24. A rich, grainy nose with notes of sweet honey and fresh grass emanates from this pale-straw-colored whiskey. The body is a bit lean, but the palate is very rewarding; it's similar to the nose but it also carries a sharp bite that's seldom found in Irish whiskey, yet is welcome in this one. The finish is smooth, clean and long.
94 Rhum Barbancourt Traditional White Rum (Crillon Importers, Ltd., NJ/Succers de Jean Gardère Et Cie, Haiti) 43% abv, $13. The nose is initially spicy, but there's also a raisiny sweetness. The body is big and the palate, too, is spicy—featuring mainly black pepper. But there's a wonderful fruity note, too. The finish is long and smooth.
We don't recall ever tasting a white rum that's as well knit as this one. It can be sipped neat, but it also works very well in mixed drinks. Best Buy.