As is the case every year, this list is culled from all the products reviewed in our Spirit Buying Guide over the past 12 months. And, as always, compiling it has been quite a treat, with selections ranging from rare single-vintage Armagnacs to Bourbons meant to represent the pinnacle of the distiller’s craft, like Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Revival, which nods to the legendary Jimmy Russell, or Booker’s Bourbon 2017 Sip Awhile, a tribute to Booker Noe.
Each year also brings delightful surprises, however. For example, who would have predicted a tropical-fruit-inflected gin from a newly launched Kentucky whiskey maker, like Rabbit Hole’s rye barrel-finished dry gin? Or an amaro that showcases arugula’s natural bitterness to pleasing effect, found in Italy’s Rucolino Amaro? How about a pink-tinged Tequila rested in Napa Cabernet barrels. Hello, Código 1530 Reposado.
Together, these are the pleasures of the spirits world. We’ll always have familiar standbys to comfort us, like classic Scotch whiskies, pristine vodkas and cozy brandies that gently warm and cheer with every sip. But at the same time, new, innovative bottlings add pep to our step. They push the industry forward and spark new cocktail ideas, too.
Now is the perfect time to celebrate the old and the new. We’re lucky to have both options in abundance. –Kara Newman