Each year, I arrive at this point trying to whittle down the year\u2019s finest 50 spirits from among all those that received high ratings reviewed in the Spirits Buying Guides. It\u2019s not an easy task, especially when a growing number of fine spirits is receiving glowing reviews in the Superb and Classic ranges. The increase in higher ratings is not, I assure you, due to me becoming more lenient or indulgent with age. Just the opposite is true, my peers tell me. If anything, I\u2019ve grown even more demanding after 20 years as a spirits evaluator and as the art of distillation has advanced and the skill level of distillers has pressed forward in tune with the technology.\r\nIf anything, I feel more compelled than ever to ferret out and report on the genuinely good from the horde of mediocre spirits as prices have risen (sometimes unjustifiably, even laughingly so) and categories have ballooned due to more line extensions taking advantage of the marketability of established brands. What I have witnessed firsthand over the last half-decade is the overall quality of spirits improving and that truth alone is responsible for the slight up-tick in better scores.\r\nIn difficult economic times, in particular, the role of the critic in any discipline, be it movies, cars, books, clothes, etc., is to guide consumers to true value and authentic brilliance, all in the name of saving the two most important commodities of the day, money and time. To that end, please allow me to introduce you to the 50 most brilliant spirits that I\u2019ve reviewed for Wine Enthusiast in 2009, both in the magazine and on the web site.\r\nTo see our list of the top 50 spirits of 2009, click here.