The annual Tales of the Cocktail conference held in New Orleans, a multi-day event celebrating all things spirits and cocktails, has become prime territory for debuting new spirits. Some are poised for splashy launches in bars and liquor stores within weeks of Tales concluding, while others are limited-edition previews that may not find widespread distribution for a year or longer. But every bottle provides clues as to what we’ll find in our glasses going forward. Here’s a field guide.
The Bottle: Plantation O.F.T.D. Overproof Rum ($32)
Created by Maison Ferrand, the Cognac, France-based label also known for making Stiggins’ Fancy Plantation Pineapple Rum (which won Best New Product at the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards on Saturday night), this tiki-oriented bottling holds similar cocktail-making potential. Created by Ferrand’s Alexandre Gabriel in collaboration with tiki-philes Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Martin Cate, Paul McFadyen, Paul McGee, Scotty Schuder and David Wondrich, the acronym stands for “Old Fashioned Traditional Dark”—not, as one of the collaborators joked, “old fart tiki dudes.”
What it means to your drink: Tiki culture and tiki-inspired cocktails are still going strong. Also, although overproof spirits have been on the ascent in the whiskey world, there haven’t been many overproof aged rums; now that might be changing. This rich and boldly flavored bottling with a wallop of alcohol (138 proof!) is intended for mixing. It also made a mighty fine Jungle Bird.
The Bottle: Bruto Americano ($30)
St. George Spirits, located in Alameda, California, has developed a reputation for producing innovative, made-in-the-USA versions of spirits traditionally made elsewhere (their take on Martinique’s funky agricole rhum springs to mind). Now, this rosy aperitivo made with California-grown Seville orange and balsam fir gives American locavores something new to try in this popular category.
What it means to your drink: While this isn’t the only USA-made aperitivo, it’s definitely one of the best. It riffs on the bitter flavor profile made familiar by Campari, but is layered with slightly woodsy notes and a faint anise twang that will make it welcome in Negroni variations, or a fully made-in-America Americano.
The Bottle(s): Toki (Beam Suntory, $40); Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky (Anchor Distilling, $75)
These two Japanese whiskies are made at rival distilleries, but both officially launched just weeks ago—Toki in June, Nikka Coffey in May—and were showcased at Tales. Compared to rich, bold single malts that have made Japanese whisky so well-known, both of these bottlings have relatively light flavor profiles.
What it means to your drink: Neither producer is talking about it much, but Japanese whisky has become a victim of its own success. It has sold so well over the past few years, stocks have been depleted as it takes time for whisky to age. In the meantime, expect to see fewer age-statement whiskies (neither of these bottles has an age statement) and more blends. The Toki bottling in particular, exclusive to North America, is designed for mixing into highballs and other cocktails.
The Bottle: Martin Miller’s 9 Moons Gin ($60)
During Tales, Martin Miller’s debuted this golden cask-aged gin. Inspired by bartender experiments with barrel-aged spirits, it was aged for nine months (hence the name) in Iceland in oak barrels. It’s a limited edition experiment with only 2,000 bottles being produced, and is packaged in a sleek, square bottle reminiscent of a perfume flask.
What it means to your drink: Although craft distillers have been rolling out barrel-aged gins at a fast clip, there haven’t been very many from larger producers. Expect to see more. Perhaps in a year or so, barrel-aged “sipping gin” will officially be a category.