The 2016 Spirits Of The Year

These 20 spirits had the highest ratings from the Distiller Tasting Table in 2016!
Dec 29, 2016
  • 20
    20 Panamá-Pacific Rum 9-Year
    94
    Fruity
    Panamá-Pacific Rum is the brainchild of San Francisco-based Haas Brothers, an importer, marketer and merchant of distilled spirits since 1851. Estate-grown sugarcane is harvested from the renowned Panameño growing region of La Provincia de Herrera, then small batches of molasses are fermented using special proprietary yeast strains. The mash is distilled in an antique Coffey copper column-still and rested in American oak casks.
  • 19
    19 Liberty Call San Diego County Spiced Rum
    94
    Spicy
    Liberty Call redistills its white rum for this product, then infuses it with a basket of spices, including clove and nutmeg, that's refreshed periodically. "Best of hearts only" are said to be used. The rum is then "rested" in toasted and charred oak with a "splash" of handmade caramel added.
  • 18
    18 Farmer's Botanical Organic Gin
    96
    Floral & Herbal
    Released in 2010, Farmer's Organic Gin is produced by Crop Harvest Earth Co, a distillery dedicated to producing spirits from organically grown crops. This gin begins with a base spirit made from organically and sustainably grown grain. While the entire botanical recipe is a company secret, it's known that the lineup includes juniper, elderflower, lemon grass, coriander, and angelica root, all of which, along with other undisclosed botanicals, are organically grown. Following distillation in small batches, the gin is then bottled at 46.7% ABV.
  • 17
    17 Ron Barceló Premium Imperial Blend 30 Aniversario
    96
    Earthy & Rich
    Created by Miguel Barceló this anniversary blend is aged for 10 years in used American bourbon barrels. The rum is then recasked in Chateau D’Yquem barrels for two years. Each year the company allocates a small amount of this product to the world market.
  • 16
    16 Arta Tequila Extra Añejo
    96
    Rich & Sweet
    Arta Tequila is a family-owned brand located in the Tequila Valley region of El Arenal, Jalisco. They pride themselves on their sustainable practices and while they are not certified organic, grow their agave without the use of pesticides. This Extra Añejo is aged a whopping 5 years, with 3 of those years spent in American white oak (ex-Heaven Hill bourbon barrels) and a 50/50 split for the remaining two years in a combination of ex-Cognac and ex-sherry barrels.
  • 15
    15 Appleton Estate 30 Year Rum
    96
    Fruity & Rich
    Only 1,440 bottles of Appleton Estate 30 Year Old were made! This rum started as exquisite distillate for Appleton, aged for 8 years-- was blended and then laid down for another 22 years--to emerge as a masterful achievement in balance and gracious flavors. Very limited!
  • 14
    14 Octomore 07.3/169 Islay Barley
    96
    Peaty & Briny
    Bruichladdich's Octomore series preaches to peat devotees, in the quest for the best and most heavily peated Islay whiskies ever produced. The 07.3 release clocks in at 169 PPM, and has been aged for five years in ex-bourbon and Spanish Ribera del Duero wine barrels. Distilled from Islay barley, it has also been bottled at cask strength, 63% ABV. The series is named for the Octomore Farm, nestled above Port Charlotte.
  • 13
    13 El Jolgorio Tobalá Mezcal
    96
    Fruity & Sweet
    This mezcal is distilled from 100% agave tobalá which grow semi-wild. The agave are harvested after 12 years and pit-roasted in the traditional manner. The roasted "piñas" or hearts of the agave plants are crushed using a mule-drawn tahona before the juices are open fermented. This mezcal is double-distilled and produced in Matatlan, Oaxaca by Mezcalero Gregorio Martinez Jarquin. This is released in small batches due to sustainable practices conserving the wild agave plants as well as the scarcity and size of the tobalá plants. It only grows in high altitudes in the shade of oak trees and is relatively small in size.
  • 12
    12 Laphroaig 30 Year
    96
    Full Bodied & Smoky
    The new limited edition Laphroaig 30-year hit shelves in October 2016. Bottled at a cask-strength of 53.5%, the whisky was aged for 15 years in first-fill ex-bourbon casks, before being moved to older refill casks for the duration of its maturation.
  • 11
    11 Beefeater London Dry Gin (47%)
    97
    Spicy & Juniper
    Beefeater is a London Dry Gin that is actually produced in London; the distillery is located in Kennington just south of the River Thames. It is made from a neutral grain spirit base to which nine botanicals are added and steeped for 24 hours. These botanicals include, in addition to the juniper, coriander seeds, licorice root, citrus peel, and bitter almond. This is then redistilled and reduced to strength with softened water. This 47% ABV is their export strength version. The Beefeater name was chosen as to be something quintessentially London; the Beefeaters, as the Yeomen Warders are called, have been guarding the Tower of London since 1485 and adorn the bottles.
  • 10
    10 St. George Botanivore Gin
    97
    Floral
    Botanivore is aptly named as this gin most certainly is a "botanical eater", 19 different ones to be exact. Sixteen of them are steeped overnight in a neutral spirit to soak and steep. The remaining three--juniper berries, bay laurel, and fresh cilantro--are placed in a basket within the still to have the vapor pass through them. After pot-distillation, this gin is brought down to 45% ABV. It is sold in a 750ml size and in a 200ml sized bottle, the latter of which is sold in a trio pack with their other two gins.
  • 9
    9 Ardbeg 17 Year
    97
    Vanilla & Peaty
    An ancient distillery, Ardbeg was founded in 1794, passing through various hands until being mothballed in 1976 by Canadian distiller Hiram Walker & Sons in 1976, and then again by Allied Lyons in 1987. The distillery sat quiet for 10 years after that, slowly gathering dust before being bought by Glenmorangie Plc in 1997, which was later acquired by LVMH. This 17 Year bottling is a rare find on retail shelves; your best bet is through auction houses or fine bar establishments.
  • 8
    8 Teeling Platinum Reserve 30 Year Single Malt
    97
    Vanilla & Full Bodied
    Distilled in 1983, the Teeling Platinum Reserve 30 year single malt release included just 250 bottles. Each sold for approximately 1,500 Euros, while the Dublin distillery offers its scant remaining drams for 115 Euros. The whiskey spent its entire 30 years of aging in ex-bourbon casks, a marked difference from Teeling's typical finishing processes. Review from bottle #147.
  • 7
    7 Bache-Gabrielsen Sérénité Extra Grande Champagne Cognac
    97
    Fruity & Sweet
    Bache-Gabrielsen is a family-owned cognac estate that was founded in 1905 in the Grande Champagne region. They are known for their rustic facade, but state of the art production facility within. Sérénité is a blend of eaux-de-vie that contains 85% ugni blanc and 15% of the increasingly rare folle blanche varietals. The average age of the distillates, all aged in Limousin casks, is 30 years, however some as old as 50 years are contained in the final blend.
  • 6
    6 Ñusta Pisco
    97
    Floral & Herbal
    Ñusta translates to "Inca Princess" in the ancient Quechua language, and this pisco is the royalty of the Macchu Pisco family. Only 100 bottles were released in the initial launch of this premium pisco, which is a mosto verde made from the Italia grape. It's presented in a hand-crafted, artifact-esque ceramic bottle, each of which was made from a whopping 30 pounds of grapes via a true gravity-press system.
  • 5
    5 Domaine d'Aurensan Armagnac 20 Ans
    97
    Rancio & Nutty
    In prominent display on the label reads: "Triple Zero." What does that mean? Here, it means no reduction (addition of water), no added sugar, and no addition of colorants. All of these practices are common, if not encouraged, in commercially-released blends, but this is not a commercial blend. Four casks (1973, 1978, 1981, and 1990) were married for their respective qualities. These barrels were not topped up and thus the resulting blend has quite a bit of armagnac aged much over the 20 years that the label implies. The attention to detail does not stop here. The barrels used are from the estate's local forests making these a true expression of the Gascony terroir.
  • 4
    4 El Jolgorio Arroqueño Mezcal
    97
    Fruity & Sweet
    This mezcal is distilled from 100% Agave Americana -- commonly known as arroqueño -- which grow semi-wild in Miahuatlan, Oaxaca. The agave are harvested after 14 years and pit-roasted in the traditional manner. The roasted piñas are crushed using a mule-drawn tahona before the juices are open fermented. This mezcal is double-distilled and produced in small batches due to sustainable practices in conserving wild agave plants. Arroqueño is known for its enormous size and long ripening period -- as long as 30 years.
  • 3
    3 Mezcal Los Siete Misterios Pechuga
    98
    Fruity & Sweet
    Traditionally pechuga mezcals made to celebrate the harvest and other important holidays such as Easter, Christmas and La Fiesta de los Fieles Difuntos (the Feast of Lost Souls). Los Siete Misterios Pechuga is distilled twice and then infused with local fruits from the harvest. It is then distilled a third time with a turkey breast suspended in the neck of the still. Made by Maestro Mezcalero Don Celso Martinez in Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca.
  • 2
    2 Chateau de Leberon 1964 Armagnac Ténarèze
    98
    Nutty & Rich
    The front label of Leberon's releases reads "Brut de Fût." This roughly translates into "raw from the cask" -- a poetic way to explain the core philosophy both at Leberon and Domaine d'Aurensan the sister estates in Ténarèze run by the sisters Rozes. All of their brandies are made with zero additives and bottled unfiltered at cask strength -- truly a timepiece of how Armagnac used to be made. Barrel management is key if one plans on releasing a spirit at the ripe age of 51. The sisters harvest lumber from their land and don't completely fill them in order to allow breathing room that creates a slow, noble oxidation.
  • 1
    1 Monkey 47 Dry Gin
    99
    Fruity & Floral
    Hailing from Germany’s Black Forest, Monkey 47 is an exotic gin made with a molasses base. The 47 refers to the number of botanicals used which includes such unlikely fruit ingredients like lingonberries, blackberries, and honey pomelo. These are combined with a host of recognizable gin botanicals such as chamomile, sage, angelica, coriander, and a whole array of others. Another anomaly at Monkey 47 is that the distillate is aged in earthenware containers for three months before being brought to 47% ABV with the forest’s celebrated water.