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Tony Sachs

Tony Sachs

Posted: December 29, 2010 09:25 AM

2010 was a silly year for cocktails. From bacon-infused everything to meals-in-a-glass to beer cocktails to my own (failed) attempt at creating a cocktail trend, it was clear that, at least for the time being, original ideas were valued at least as much as good ones, if not more so.

For spirits, however, the last year has been a dilly, a doozy, a real humdinger. In other words, spectacular. A ridiculously gushing torrent of new bottlings has hit the shelves of liquor stores and bars worldwide. Scores of talented and dedicated innovators are taking the plunge and bottling new and exciting concoctions. I can't say how many new brands hit the market in 2010. And of course, there were plenty of ridiculous entrants in the booze sweepstakes every year, from the latest flavored vodka to the bright green liqueur made, I kid you not, from "decocainised coca leaves." I have no idea how many of them I've tried -- it seems like dozens, if not hundreds or possibly thousands.

But these ten stuck with me. They run the gamut from light to dark spirits, Scotch to tequila, gin to rum, large corporate distillers to brand new low-budget startups. The only thing they have in common is that they're all delicious. And you don't have to forget about your old favorites in order to love these new spirits -- you just have to make more room in your liquor cabinet for all of them.

So, without further ado, here are...

MY TOP TEN NEWLY-INTRODUCED SPIRITS OF 2010 (meaning spirits that were first made widely available in the USA in 2010 -- don't hold it against me if something I mentioned was available in a mom-and-pop store in Minsk in 2009...)

10. Whipper Snapper Oregon Whiskey
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WHIPPER SNAPPER OREGON WHISKEY: Only a distiller who really knows what he's doing could get away with creating a whiskey like this. Fortunately, Ransom Spirits' Tad Seestedt is that distiller. He slowly mixes up malted barley and unaged "white dog" corn whiskey in an old-school pot still to create a hybrid of Scotch and bourbon. Then he lightly ages the concoction (less than two years) in new barrels, used whiskey barrels, and even used pinot noir barrels. It starts off like a young, vibrant Scotch before segueing into the sweet, slightly wild white dog flavor, with a nice clean finish. Seestedt describes it as "hi-falutin." I call it oddly compelling -- it's fun to play with in cocktails, and even more fun to sip it neat, especially with friends who have no idea what you're pouring for them.
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As always, if there are any new spirits you think I missed -- and believe me, given the number of newbies this year, I must have missed some -- this is your space. Let your fellow readers know which new spirits floated your boat this year. I'll be reading, taking notes, and hunting down bottles, believe me....


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