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The Best New Spirits Of 2011 (And They'll Taste Great In 2012, Too)

Posted: 01/04/12 06:30 PM ET

Back in early December, when I first started thinking about writing this year-end wrap-up, I thought that 2011 was a pretty blah year for new spirits, especially compared to 2010, when a month didn't go by without at least one or two spectacular brands debuting in bars and on liquor store shelves. But my attitude quickly changed once I discovered how hard it was to narrow down all the newly-released booze I've tried this year to a mere ten brands. And that doesn't even count all the newbies that I somehow missed out on (Angel's Envy bourbon, you WILL be mine in 2012!)

In the end, I simply couldn't decide among the dozens of worthy spirits that first met taste buds in 2011, so I included another five "honorable mentions." Every one of them is worth trying, and I'll bet dollars to daiquiris that at least a couple of them will nudge aside your favorite brands in your liquor cabinet. And as always, feel free to weigh in with your own favorite new releases from the last calendar year.

10. Bols Barrel-Aged Genever ($50)
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I'm not a huge genever fan, but with this barrel-aged gem, Bols has converted me. Genever is the Dutch forefather of the English gins we're familiar with today, but wood aging makes this version a lot closer to whiskey. In fact, my favorite way to use it is as a bourbon substitute in a Manhattan. It's a little sweet, a little malty, ridiculously smooth, and unlike many of the young bourbons which it resembles, doesn't have an alcoholic burn. It's also worth trying in a Martinez, the antecedent of the martini, which originally called for "Holland gin" -- or, in other words, genever.

Holland; 42 percent ABV, aged 18 months
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