You’ve probably heard the adage before that the only constant is change. It’s especially true in the beverage industry, where suppliers continue to introduce new products to capture the collective imagination. Affording consumers the opportunity of drinking new and exciting brands is at the heart of dynamic beverage marketing and efforts to boost sales. Consumers today are highly motivated by the pursuit of discovery.
Especially with the ever-increasing popularity of cocktails and signature drinks, ensuring that you stock the right product mix on the backbar is fundamentally important. Keeping in step with the times necessitates changing out your backbar selections on a regular basis. And should those products be exotic and out of the ordinary, so much the better.
Virus Vodka is a perfect example. While others spirits fight for credibility and mainstream acceptance, Virus Vodka has taken the road less traveled and is looking for a client base that is, shall we say, askew of the norm.
There has to be a place behind your bar for a vodka sporting a biological hazard symbol and marketed in an Erlenmeyer flask like in chemistry class. The American-made spirit is produced from 100% corn that is 6-times distilled in a continuous column still. After the vodka exits the still, it is subjected to a revolutionary, ultrasonic filtration system for eliminating impurities out of spirits. The finished vodka is gluten-free, Kosher certified and bottled at 40% alcohol (80 proof).
According to Patient Zero, creator of Virus Vodka, the product name and packaging are unlike anything developed for the beverage industry. “I grew up a rebel and was into everything from zombies and vampires to werewolves and superheroes. All of the things I was into growing up are now becoming mainstream. After 14 years in the beverage business, I decided to put what I loved growing up and my career experience together to develop Virus Vodka. There are many consumers out there like myself that have embraced the vodka for what it stands for.”
Recent Arrivals – Pisco, Gin & Vodka
If sales of pisco aren’t exactly setting records at your bar, perhaps you’re stocking the wrong brand. Campo de Encanto Acholado Pisco is a handcrafted Peruvian brandy consisting of a blend of small batch spirits of various vintages and varietals—specifically, Quebranta (74%), Italia (16%), Torontel (6%) and Moscatel (4%) grapes. After blending, Encanto is rested for a year to allow the constituent flavors to fully integrate. The Acholado is bottled at 42.5% alcohol (85 proof).
Its fetching aromatics and broad fruit and spice palate make artisanal Campo de Encanto an ideal choice for drink making, especially for crafting the classic Pisco Sour. However, do yourself a favor and try it neat first.
Another excellent choice is highly acclaimed BarSol Primero Quebranta Pisco, a luxurious spirit distilled exclusively from the dark purple Quebranta grape. The fermented grape juice and pulp are single-distilled in a copper alembic still, a practice designed to best preserve the grape’s distinctive characteristics. Peru’s leading export brand, BarSol Primero Quebranta Pisco has a wafting bouquet of red berries, citrus and mocha and the long-lasting flavors of tropical fruit, citrus, dark chocolate, spice and oaky flavors.
In a universe where most premium gins quibble about how much piney juniper they contain, recently released Brockmans Premium Gin has chosen to take the path less traveled. Produced and bottled in the heart of England, Brockmans is made on a foundation of continuously distilled, neutral grain spirits. What’s unusual is that after the second distillation, the spirits are infused with wild mountain blueberries and blackberries from northern Europe. The fruit juice imbues Brockmans with a lusciousness uncommon in distilled spirits. Innovation never tasted so good.
Located on the border of Poland is the country of Slovakia and the picturesque city of Stará L’ubovna. In the heart of the town is L’ubovna Castle and the oldest preserved distillery. Evidence suggests that as far back as 650-years ago it was producing a grain-based distillate similar in description to vodka. Some six and a half centuries later, Master Distiller Ján Krak of the Gas-Familia Distillery relied on a recipe discovered in the distillery as inspiration to create the world-class spirit, Goral Vodka Master.
The new import is indeed something special. Goral is crafted using select, late harvest Durum wheat and mineral-enriched water sourced from the underground springs high in the Tetra Mountains. The mash is then distilled in Gas-Familia’s sophisticated 7-column still. The last step involves the vodka being rendered essentially pure with an elaborate, micro-filtration process featuring a special mixture of natural substances and activated carbon.
New Releases – Bourbon & Scotch
Those looking for the quintessential bourbon experience will want to check out Elijah Craig 23-Year-Old Single Barrel Bourbon, a tremendous, limited edition whiskey brimming with character. The rye–based bourbon barrels used for this release were pulled from the middle floors of some of our best rickhouses in Nelson County. Its producer, Heaven Hill Distilleries of Bardstown, Kentucky, has the most barrels of “extra-aged” bourbons of any distillery.
As a single barrel bourbon, Elijah Craig 23-Year-Old is a once in a lifetime bourbon, a slice of life never to be repeated. Once the whiskey has been depleted, its exact flavor profile can’t be duplicated.
Another American whiskey attracting a great deal of attention is the limited release, Michter’s Bourbon Whiskey Toasted Barrel Finish. Made by the country’s first whiskey company, Michter’s new expression is a well-conceived and well-executed gem.
The company starts with their 8-year old, small batch bourbon. When it has reached maturity, the whiskey is transferred to custom-made barrels for finishing. The wooden staves are air dried for 18 months and toasted, rather than charred like a typical bourbon barrel. After its second stint in wood, the whiskey is chill-filtered and bottled at 45.7% alcohol (91.4 proof).
For those who need to be convinced that blended Scotch can be every bit as marvelous as a single malt should sample Monkey Shoulder® Blended Malt Scotch Whisky. It’s in a class of its own.
This extraordinary spirit is distilled, matured and bottled in Dufftown, Scotland. It is a blend of hand selected single malts from three Speyside distillers. As is the case with single malts, Monkey Shoulder is 100% malt and contains no grain whiskies. But unlike single malts, the whiskies used in Monkey Shoulder are crafted at different distilleries.
For each small batch of Monkey Shoulder, malt masters David Stewart and Brian Kinsmen blend together 27 casks of malts, after which it is matured in first fill bourbon barrels. The 86-proof (43% alcohol by volume) whisky makes no age statement.
New Releases – Tequilas & Mezcals
You could spend the rest of your life searching for a better extra añejo than Tears of Llorona Extra Añejo 100% de Agave Azul, but you’ll be wasting your time. It was created by the acclaimed Master Distiller Germán Gonzalez to be his private stock. Of course, it’s within the realm of possibility that some day you may discover an extra añejo you like as much as Tears, but better? The odds of that are highly unlikely.
The limited edition Tears of Llorona Extra Añejo is handcrafted at La Tequileña [NOM 1146] in extremely small batches. Tears of Llorona is a blend of 5-year-old extra añejo tequilas, half of which were finished in Scotch whisky barrels, a quarter in Sherry wood and a quarter in French Limousin barrels used previously to mature Cognac. The extra añejo is then rendered to proof and bottled at 43% alcohol by volume (86 proof).
Artisanal El Luchador Organic Blanco 100% de Agave Tequila is the first in a series of amazingly flavorful spirits handcrafted in the mountains of Amatitan at an altitude of 4,200 feet. The single estate agaves used to make the tequila are USDA and EU certified organic, meaning they were cultivated without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. The end result is a cleaner finished spirit.
Here’s the twist. While nearly all tequilas are marketed at the conventional strength of 40% alcohol (80 proof), El Luchador Tequila is bottled at a lip-tingling 55% alcohol (110 proof). Since water is used to render the tequila to its finished strength, the less water that’s used, the more flavorful the finished spirit. As a result, the flavors in El Luchador are vibrant, complex and thoroughly delicious, a marvelous glimpse into what tequila ought to taste like.
Gracias a Dios Tobalá Joven is exactly why legions of spirits enthusiasts are turning to mezcal as their drink of choice. The unaged spirit is entirely handmade in Oaxaca from USDA and EU certified organic tobalá agaves (agave potatorum) that grow wild in the Sierra Madre Mountains.
After harvesting, the agaves are brought to the distillery, or palenque, where they are cooked for 4 days in a rock-lined, wood-fired dirt oven that is covered entirely with rocks and agave leaves. The cooked agaves are crushed using wooden mallets. The final step is to double distill the fermented musto through the distillery’s small, copper pot stills. It is bottled at 45% alcohol (90 proof).
One of the great things about Gracias a Dios is there’s no mistaking it for any other than spirit. Only a mezcal can charm the senses like it does.
Another Oaxacan head-turner is Mezcal Sacrificio® Reposado 100% de Agave. It is elegant and rustic at the same time. The mezcal is made by distillers Manuel Benet Sr. and Eric Hernández at Destilería Sacrificio in Tlacolula, Oaxaca. The mezcal is handcrafted from 8 to 10 year old Espadin agaves and baked in mesquite wood-fired ovens for 2 days and nights under low, constant heat. After the agaves have been thoroughly baked, they are shredded using a horse-drawn, stone wheel. The agave’s sugar-rich juice is collected and transferred to wooden vats where it is allowed to slowly ferment using naturally occurring, airborne yeast. The mosto is first distilled in a uniquely designed, steel pot still, then again in a traditional copper pot still.
Mezcal Sacrificio Reposado is matured for 3 months in un-charred oak barrels that were used previously to age brandy. Sacrificio is likely the only mezcal aged in this manner. Before bottling at 40% alcohol (80 proof), the mezcal is oxygenated to hasten its flavors becoming fully integrating.