Category Archives: Gin

Review: Brandon’s Vodka and Gin

Who is Brandon? Brandon is Phil Brandon, the founder of Rock Town Distillery, the first legal distillery in the state of Arkansas since Prohibition. Both are distilled from Arkansas red winter wheat and are bottled in hand-numbered bottles. Here’s how both — available regionally in limited markets — shake out.

Brandon’s Vodka – Incredible nut and butterscotch character on the nose. Almost dessert-like on the tongue, it’s hard to believe this isn’t a flavored spirit. The overwhelming notes of creme brulee, almonds, and dark chocolate are impossible to ignore, making this a love-it-or-hate-it spirit. What else to say? It has no medicinal character and no real bite to speak of, and I scarcely know whether to even categorize it as a vodka at all. 80 proof. (Batch 7, Bottle 32) B+ / $30

Brandon’s Gin -As odd as Brandon’s Vodka is, Brandon’s Gin plays it by the book: A straightforward infusion “vapor infused” with seven (unnamed but natural) botanicals. Juniper and citrus peel, plus a little pepper, start you off, and eventually those herbal characteristics fade and leave you with hints of Brandon’s sweet vodka, the obvious base for its gin. An exercise in contrasts, but one that works for the most part. 92 proof. (Batch 6, Bottle 221) B+ / $30

arkansaslightning.com

Review: Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin

Nolet’s (not Nolet, mind you) hails from Holland, part of a new wave of ultra-premium gins flavored with unexpected ingredients. Nolet’s (distilled from the same wheat as Ketel One) lets you in on three of them — the rest are kept secret — but one of the big three immediately jumps out.

That ingredient: Turkish rose petals. Tasted neat, Nolet’s is a floral bomb, almost overpowering in its perfumy nature. Other revealed ingredients — white peach and raspberry — aren’t as forward, but if you try Nolet’s with a twist of lemon it will help to keep the flower petals at bay and allow the fruit to shine a little more clearly, along with a little bit of a citrus kick.

Nolet’s is obviously well crafted, but it’s hard not to think that the distillery overdid it a little bit with the flower petals. In cocktails and in other gins, floral elements tend to go an awfully long way, especially in an overproof (95.2 proof) spirit like this. The pale yellow color is enchanting, and over time the roses do start to fade (as with perfume) and you find a little more fruit and a touch of juniper in the mix. The finish, after an hour in the air, even starts to take on a dark chocolate character… but that’s a long time to wait to drink a glass of gin.

As a side note, Nolet’s is also the creator of one of the most expensive spirits — and easily the priciest gin — I’ve ever tried, Nolet’s Reserve Dry Gin. This limited edition bottling saw just 400 bottles produced this year, and if you can find one, expect to pay about $700 for it. (No typo there!)

I tried it. The character? Quite similar, but with a little more sweetness, some vanilla, and a bit less of the rose character on the tongue. Is it worth close to four figures for a bottle? I think the price is crazy — despite the saffron used to make it — but gin fanatics may feel otherwise.

B+ / $50 / noletsgin.com

nolets gin 525x700 Review: Nolets Silver Dry Gin

Review: Bloom Gin

Bloom is a real enigma: Born from the distiller of one of the world’s first London Dry gins — parent company Greenall’s celebrates its 250th anniversary this year and is the producer of Bombay and Bombay Sapphire for Bacardi — Bloom is a brand new gin with a modern twist. It is designed for women, by a woman.

Joanne Moore is the world’s only female master gin distiller, and after 15 years working her way up the ranks at Greenall’s, she’s finally been given her own empty bottle to fill.

It should have happened a lot sooner, because Bloom — female-focused or not — is one of the best gins on the market today.

Bloom is part tradition, part newfangled innovation, and Moore took me through a private tasting of the spirit, the seven ingredients that make up its infusion, each paired with a single-ingredient distillate, which show how different (or similar) an infusion can taste vs. the aromatic that goes into it.

Bloom is distilled from English wheat, and the infusions start with Tuscan juniper, Moroccan coriander, and angelica — all traditional gin flavoring agents. She then goes wild, adding Indonesian cubebs (a member of the pepper family), chamomile flowers, honeysuckle, and Chinese pomelo (part of the grapefruit family). The final spirit is bottled at 80 proof.

Results: Amazing. Bloom had been previously described to me as “floral,” but unlike, say, Nolet’s, which is full of perfumy rose petals, Bloom is floral only in the sense of standing in a rain-soaked meadow full of wildflowers. Honeysuckle and chamomile are not heavy aromas, and they do not overpower the rest of the aromatics here. In fact, it’s citrus that comes on the strongest — driven by that pomelo and possibly the fruitier characters in the two floral ingredients. But best of all is how perfectly these seven ingredients all come together: Bloom is balanced, smooth, and easy to sip straight, even at room temperature. Call me a girl if you want: I love this gin.

Bloom officially launches today in San Francisco only, then spreads across California and beyond.

A / $35 / bloomgin.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

bloom gin Review: Bloom Gin

Review: Spring44 Vodka and Gin

Spring44 (aka Spring 44) is a new line of vodka and gin out of Colorado. All are distilled five times from a multi-grain blend of wheat, rye, and corn (much like whiskey), filtered through a coconut husk filtration system, and blended with water from a 9,000-foot-high source.

We checked out all three of the distillery’s initial offerings. All are 80 proof.

Spring44 Vodka – I like this spirit a lot. A bracing nose offers light medicinal notes, and the body has astringency to spare. It is however balanced by just a touch of sweetness, giving it an interesting character while still living squarely in the realm of traditional vodka style. Spring44 isn’t a complicated vodka — it wears its medicinal character on its sleeve — but it is authentic and expressive. It’s a wonderful balance of old world and new. A-

Spring44 Honey Vodka – Kind of an odd choice for your first and only flavored vodka, but Spring44 obviously has a jones for honey flavor that it couldn’t ignore. Compared the the relatively restrained flavors of the straight vodka, the Honey version is huge and overwhelming. A light yellow hue indicates that plenty of honey goes into this blend, and while it isn’t immediately evident on the nose, it’s awfully big on the tongue. This honey notes here are earthy and, as is often the case with honey vodkas, on the funky side — not quite honey but not quite vodka, either. Where it lives is an odd middle ground between tradition and fun, and unlike the straight vodka, it doesn’t work as well. B [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Spring44 Gin – Spring44 uses 12 botanicals (including many Colorado natives) in this formula and does not reveal them. The character is also not entirely balanced, heavy on fruit flavors (I presume berries of various ilk are in the mix), with juniper coming up behind. Again, this just doesn’t work together the right way, both sweet and bitter but not in the way you might expect. The finish is off: A lingering flavor of berries left to macerate too long — a bit like an Eastern bloc fruit brandy — and not so much a gin. B-

about $22 each / spring44.com

spring44 vodka and gin Review: Spring44 Vodka and Gin

Review: Oxley Classic English Dry Gin

England’s Oxley gin is nothing if not unique: From its production technique — a “cold distillation” using a vacuum to lower the boiling point of the liquid, yielding just 240 bottles of product each day — to its avant garde bottle — partially clad in metal and with its neck wrapped in leather — Oxley is an experience you don’t easily forget.

Imbued with 14 botanicals (a complete list isn’t provided), Oxley is a big and complex gin that aficionados of the spirit should love. Juniper is moderate to strong, but if you give it a little air you’ll soon release lots of citrus notes — grapefruit is in there — plus what tastes like cinnamon, a bit of licorice root, and clear vanilla on the finish. Oxley calls this recipe #38. Seems that perseverance paid off.

For something that’s 94 proof, this gin is on the mild side. It has a bite, but nothing substantially more than your typical 80-proof distillate. The finish is clean and both a bit tart and sweet, quite inviting. Altogether a worthy gin that — while very hard to find — is worth “calling” in your Martini should you see a bottle on the back bar.

A- / $50 / oxleygin.com

oxley gin Review: Oxley Classic English Dry Gin

Review: Broker’s London Dry Gin

You’ll see the hat first: Broker’s Gin has a fun little bit of surprise & delight: A bowler hat affixed to the lid of the bottle, a hat which will certainly someday end up on the head of my daughter’s Ken doll. It is too manly for Barbie.

But Broker’s is hardly a gimmick in search of a semi-drunk buyer looking for kitsch. It’s a solid and enjoyable gin — one of few which is really quite tolerable on its own, and at room temperature at that.

Distilled in England and bottled at a hearty 94 proof (an 80 proof version is also available), Broker’s doesn’t enumerate its botanicals but admits to a total of 10, imported from three continents.

Whatever they’ve done, it works. You get incredible flavors of lemon oil, clover, honey, cardamon, anise,  and hints of licorice, with juniper bringing up the rear. The balance is amazing: No overwhelming evergreen to punch you in the face, just lots of citrus intercut with herbs and spices galore. Pleasantly both sweet and tart, you’ll find zero bite: Broker’s leaves you instead with a lengthy and warming finish. It’s almost impossible to believe this is 94 proof.

At under $20 a bottle it’s one of the best bargains in gin going. And, in case I failed to mention it: They throw in a free bowler hat! Buy now!

A / $19 / brokersgin.com

BrokersGin Review: Brokers London Dry Gin

Review: No. 209 and No. 209 Kosher Gin

Passover begins tonight, but those among you who keep kosher during the period may be surprised to find that you can still drink your gin and tonic during the week. No. 209 is one of the only kosher gins in the world (Gordon’s is also on the list) — and it’s the only spirit maker I’ve encountered that makes two versions of the same product, one kosher, and one not.

But that’s not all: Passover, I understand, has special restrictions regarding grains, so even if something is kosher for normal use, it may not be kosher for Passover. 209′s special version of its gin, however, is.

We got a chance to try them both and see how they compare, head to head.

No. 209 is based in San Francisco, having relocated here from Napa. Both gins are 92 proof.

No. 209 Gin – Distilled (five times) from corn spirit, leaving a very neutral spirit as a base, to which Quite forward on citrus, as juniper takes a back seat. 209 doesn’t reveal its botanical list, but it adheres to a mostly straightforward infusion, including bergamot, lemon peel, juniper, cassia, cardamom, and coriander, and others. The character features aggressive lemon and orange oil, with bittersweet citrus peel finishes. Nice, pleasant evergreen character — but not clearly juniper — on the finish, which is clean and refreshing. Definitely a choice gin for the gin drinker who wants an alternative to Tanqueray. A- / $30 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

No. 209 Kosher-for-Passover Gin (pictured) – It’s hard to tell the difference between No. 209 and its kosher version, aside from the embossed medal on the front. But inside the bottle, the products are quite different. 209 Kosher is distilled from sugar cane instead of grain, again going through the still five times. Bay leaf is added to the infusions, and cardamom is removed. Other changes are kept secret. There are much stronger juniper notes here, to be sure, along with a somewhat creamier, fuller body. It also brings with it a bigger bite and a lingering finish that veers into a somewhat bitter territory. Still very good, but the original version is better. B+ / $38

209 Kosher for Passover gin Review: No. 209 and No. 209 Kosher Gin

Review: No. 3 London Dry Gin

This new gin from London’s Berry Bros. & Rudd features a mostly traditional recipe with just six ingredients: Juniper, orange peel, grapefruit peel, angelica root, coriander, and cardamom. No. 3′s little twists are pretty minor, inconsequential, really: This is a juniper-heavy gin, hot with alcohol like “real” London Dry, and bracing with a clean, citrus-fueled finish.

As traditionally-flavored gin goes, this is a winner, very pleasant and refreshing. The juniper is strong and fragrant, but it is short of being overwhelming. The citrus sweetness cuts it in the end just enough that the whole thing just works. Bit expensive, though.

92 proof.

A- / $44 / no3gin.com

no 3 london dry gin Review: No. 3 London Dry Gin

Review: Beefeater Winter Edition London Dry Gin

Gin is traditionally associated with summer drinking — and in fact, Beefeater put out a “Summer Edition” gin earlier this year to take advantage of that notoriety. So what do you do when winter’s chill is felt? Put out a “Winter Edition” gin to try to prove the snowbirds wrong.

Beefeater Winter Edition is likely going to be considerably tougher to find: It’s available only in travel retail (aka duty free) shops, price unknown, for a limited time.

It’s traditional gin with a plus: More citrus, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pine shoots in the infusion, bottled at 80 proof.

The results are less out there than you’d think. Beefeater Winter Edition is milder than standard Beefeater by a mile, mellowed out by clear cinnamon and fresh orange — not bitter orange peel — notes. A bit of vanilla character here, though it’s not in the recipe. Juniper is muted — unusual for this distillery — but still present. I’m not sure I can discern between juniper and “pine shoots,” but either way, the evergreen portion of Beefeater Winter Edition is pleasantly there, yet kept in balance with the other botanicals in the gin. Perfect, dare I say, for a little winter tipple.

A- / price unknown (in one liter bottles) / beefeatergin.com

beefeater winter edition gin Review: Beefeater Winter Edition London Dry Gin

Review: Tanqueray, Tanqueray No. Ten, and Tanqueray Rangpur

A reader recently complained (or kvetched, perhaps) that I didn’t review enough accessible products, stuff that you’d find on the shelf of your average liquor store and didn’t cost five figures.

Fair enough, so here you go.

It doesn’t get much more mainstream than Tanqueray, the British gin (produced in Scotland, actually) which is one of the best-selling spirits in the world.

Tanqueray exists in the U.S. in three varieties now (there’s also a vodka), and I recently received a holiday kit from the company so I could try them all side by side.

Here’s how they stack up.

Tanqueray London Dry Gin is the standard-bearer, and the company provides the identity of only three ingredients — angelica, coriander, and juniper. The rest are secret. That said, all one really needs to know — or tastes — in Tanqueray is the juniper. Along with Beefeater, I think it’s one of the most juniper-heavy gins on the market. Obviously people are into that: “Tanq & Tonic” is one of the most-called-by-name drinks of all time. The juniper nose is rich and strong on the palate. Secondary flavors are elusive, but you’ll find mildly bitter lemon and orange peel if you hunt for them. That evergreen character is all-encompassing, and as with heavily-peated Scotch, you either like this or you don’t. I find Tanqueray grows on you over time, but my ultimate gin preference is always to seek something with a little more balance and nuance. 94.6 proof. B / $17

Tanqueray No. Ten (10) strikes an immediate impression in its iconic, monolithic bottle, one of the best-designed decanters on the market. The gin inside clearly adheres to the Tanqueray formula, but it extends that with a bit more citrus. The company claims it is the only gin to use handpicked fresh fruit in its distillation, including white grapefruit, orange, and lime. There is also chamomile in the mix, a curious addition. What comes through in the finish is, of course, juniper, and all three of the citrus fruits mentioned. Grapefruit, for sure, with orange and lime more of an afterthought. I definitely prefer Ten to regular Tanqueray, and arguably worth the upgrade in price. 94.6 proof. A- / $28

Tanqueray Rangpur adds Rangpur limes to the Tanqueray recipe, and the results are obvious. The nose only hints at citrus, but it’s the finish where those limes — almost like tart Key limes — come to the forefront. Whereas standard Tanqueray can be overpowering with juniper, Rangpur is overpowering with lime — almost chemical in the way it comes across. The flavor is actually bigger and more powerful than standard Tanqueray — this despite a cut in proof of more than 12 points. The ultimate effect is more like a lime-flavored vodka than a gin, though it doesn’t eschew juniper character altogether. Not my favorite Tanqueray expression. 82.6 proof. C+ / $21

tanqueray.com

tanqueray Review: Tanqueray, Tanqueray No. Ten, and Tanqueray Rangpur

Review: Martin Miller’s London Dry Gin

One can hardly talk about Martin Miller’s gin without talking about Martin Miller. Miller is a self-described “gypsy” who often compares himself to Richard Branson — presumably because of the flowing locks both of them share. Miller made his money in mail-order dating, an antiques guide book, and a bed and breakfast before turning to hotels in England and finally gin. Now 10 years old, Martin Miller’s gin is an upscale bar standard, though it is far from exorbitantly priced.

But enough about him, here he has his own vanity spirit, a single-batch copper pot gin, steeped overnight with juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, citrus peel, orris root — and some oddities — powdered licorice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cassia bark. It is distilled in England, then shipped to Iceland where it is cut with water.

The results are on the powerful side for gin. The aroma hints at traditional, if muted, juniper notes, but the body packs more of a wallop: Quite a bite, with a distinct lemon finish (which is odd, since there is no lemon in it). All those herbal additions don’t do much to cut through it. Martin Miller’s is powerfully citrus on the whole — there’s even grapefruit here  — and maybe too much so. It’s not as wholly in balance as I’d like it to be, and the bite is a little tougher than it ought to be. It has some charms, but I think it requires just the right cocktail (and not a martini) to show off its biggest strengths.

This gin is 80 proof, but a stronger version, at 90.4 proof, is also available.

B+ / $29 / martinmillersgin.com

martin miller gin Review: Martin Millers London Dry Gin

Review: Darnley’s View Gin

darnleys view gin Review: Darnleys View GinWemyss (pronounced “WEEMS”) is well-known for its line of Scotch whiskys, and now the Wemyss family is taken an enormous leap into the world of white spirits, offering its first ever gin.

Darnley’s View is a London Dry Gin, flavored with just six botanicals, a scant number in a world of gins that commonly see 15 or more ingredients in the mix.

Darnley’s View is largely traditional, with juniper, lemon peel, coriander seed, angelica root, and orris root in the mix. The one big addition: elderflower, practically a weed on the Wemyss estate. It’s quite evident here, with that sweet lychee character giving the gin a charming, exotic character without being overpowering. What’s missing? Some orange peel — a traditional element in gin — would have added more balance — and frankly, Darnley’s View could benefit from a bit more juniper.

With its clean and light finish and sweet overtones, this is a great mixing gin, particularly in cocktails that use fruit juices in the mix. A martini wouldn’t be out of line, either.

On the whole, this is a solid workhorse of a gin, one that has just a little bit of uniqueness to keep things interesting and alive.

80 proof.

B+ / $40 / darnleysview.com

Review: Berkshire Mountain Distillers Spirits

Hailing from Sheffield, Massachusetts, Berkshire Mountain Distillers is a new (est. 2007) boutique distillery that makes a ragtag assembly of vodka, gin, and rum. Primarily available in the Northeast, we tasted through the company’s current lineup, with one exception (we’ll get to that later).

Berkshire Mountain Distillers Ice Glen Vodka is distilled from unknown materials, and is blended with water sourced directly from the Berkshire Mountain property, and finally charcoal filtered. The result is a surprisingly plain vodka. Though the body is buttery and rich, there’s only a minimal amount of flavor here. The primary taste is merely watery. It isn’t until the finish that some of vodka’s more traditional, medicinal notes start to come on, and linger they do for quite a while. This is an acceptable vodka but a hard sell at this price. 80 proof. B- / $30

Berkshire Mountain Distillers Greylock Gin is more unique, flavoring its spirit with juniper, coriander, angelica, orris root, orange peel, licorice, and cinnamon. Intensely aromatic, the juniper is a bomb on the palate of this London Dry style gin, with citrus the secondary note. Licorice is curious — and quite a delight — in the finish. This is a gin that feels quite versatile, though it does pack a wallop in the flavor department. 80 proof. A- / $30

Berkshire Mountain Distillers Ethereal Gin Limited Edition Batch No. 1 is exactly what it claims to be, a limited edition gin with unique flavoring agents. In this case, it has all the ingredients of Greylock, plus lemon, cubeb (grain of paradise), black pepper, elderberry, spearmint, rose hips, and nutmeg. As you might expect, it’s even more powerful than Greylock, and the mint and lemon shine through clearly. The finish turns a tad bittersweet, though. Perhaps this gin is just too busy? There’s already a Batch No. 2 (pink label) on the market as well, with a different recipe. 86 proof. B+ / $40

Berkshire Mountain Distillers Ragged Mountain Rum is the only brown spirit in this lineup, a pot-distilled and barrel-aged (for undetermined time) rum from Blackstrap molasses. The nose is distinctly earthy, not sweet, and the body backs that up — not wood, but the earth proper. Crafted as a sipping rum, I didn’t get the joy of drinking rum out of Ragged Mountain that I do with sweeter, aged styles, instead finding myself thinking this rum would work better in a simple mixed drink. B- / $30

berkshiremountaindistillers.com

Review: Beefeater London Dry Gin Summer Edition

Take standard Beefeater and add hints of elderflower, blackcurrant, and hibiscus flower and you’ve got Beefeater’s limited-release Summer Edition gin.

At least that’s what it says on the bottle. In my mouth, this tastes an awful lot like standard gin to me, with juniper top notes — always big in Beefeater — still dominating the nose and the body.

Hibiscus, oddly enough, is the most recognizable part of the additions here, giving this gin just a hint of floral character — one that’s probably enhanced by the elderflower in the mix, too.

But on the whole, Beefeater proves that, as with its “24″ premium bottling, no matter what it adds to the blend, Beefeater is gonna do what Beefeater is gonna do: Dump a lot of juniper into the mix and call it a night. Yes, it’s a slightly softer gin than you might be used to, but it’s still unquestionably gin and it’s still got that juniper kick. Bring on the tonic.

80 proof.

B+ / $19 / beefeatergin.com

Beefeater Summer Gin Review: Beefeater London Dry Gin Summer Edition

Review: G’Vine Floraison and Nouaison Gins

In the beginning, there was just G’Vine. This upscale gin hails from France and is distilled from grapes, making it unique in the gin world, and its mild citrus-forward flavor made it a hit with Drinkhacker in the early days of the site — where it was one of the first spirits we reviewed back in 2007.

Now G’Vine is expanding its portfolio with Nouaison, another gin with a different character to call its own.

We got samples of both the original “Floraison” (green bottle) and “Nouaison” (grey bottle) to do a fresh little review of something old and something new.

G’Vine Floraison Gin, as our original review notes, is a milder style gin, with juniper as a secondary player. Lemon and orange are neck and neck here, with a muted juniper backbone that gives it more of a floral character (hence the name, perhaps), than an evergreen one. Still a winner and an easy pick for any cocktail, simple or complicated. This is a rare gin that is actually refreshing, not off-putting. 80 proof. A-

G’Vine Nouaison Gin has a more traditional aroma, and juniper is clearly more present in the blend here. The body is harsher, and the alcohol level is higher (87.8 proof), and it’s an obvious response to those who might have found Floraison too muted for their tastes. I’d say Nouaison overdoes it a bit in an attempt to dig toward London Dry style. Although there are some really intriguing characteristics here — an almost cocoa-like silkiness and a touch of leathery tannin on the finish, not to mention the intensity of the juniper and other spices — I find myself drifting back to Floraison as the night goes on. B+

each about $35 / g-vine.com

Review: Citadelle Reserve Gin 2009 Vintage

Citadelle isn’t just releasing this specially-flavored (with 19 spices) and cognac-barrel aged (5 months) gin — it’s actually going the vintage route, with this 2009 edition recently hitting shelves.

Versus the 2008 version, the only difference in recipe I can tell is one month less in oak: 5 months vs. the 2008 bottling’s 6 months. It’s still a hazy golden hue, with spice and citrus, and a little vanilla finish imparted by the time in cask. Just as good as the 2008 — perhaps a little smoother, even. I like it a lot and recommend it just as highly as last year’s model.

Even better: It can now be found for cheaper than the 2008, about $5 less per bottle. Win.

A / $35 / citadellegin.com

Citadelle Gin Reserve Vintage 2009 Review: Citadelle Reserve Gin 2009 Vintage

Classic Recipe: Pegu Club Cocktail

Ted Haigh reminds us in Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails that there’s a reason why the Pegu Club in New York has its name.

Pegu Club Cocktail
1 1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. Cointreau
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Goes down a little too easy. Note: The better the quality of the gin you use, the better this drink will be.

pegu club cocktail Classic Recipe: Pegu Club Cocktail

Original Recipe: The Bull Ku Cocktail

Made this for company, to rousing applause — to take advantage of Bulldog gin, one of my new favorites, and Ty Ku liqueur. The cool, light green color didn’t come across in my photo, alas…

The Bull Ku Cocktail
1 1/4 oz. Bulldog gin
1/2 oz. Ty Ku (original) liqueur
Prosecco or cava

Shake the gin and Ty Ku with ice and strain into a cocktail glass or champagne flute. Top with prosecco or cava.

bull ku cocktail Original Recipe: The Bull Ku Cocktail

Drinkhacker’s 2009 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

Booze: The gift that keeps on giving, whether you like it or not. It’s now tradition at Drinkhacker to look back at the best new spirits of the year, offering our suggestions on our favorite tipples — and the stuff that’s most likely to impress your holiday giftee should he find a neatly wrapped bottle under the tree. As always, we’ve tried to offer suggestions in a variety of price ranges, with a focus on spirits a bit out of the ordinary — as long as, no matter what the price, it’s the best stuff on the shelf.

Also check out our 2008 holiday guide.

Bourbon – Old Rip Van Winkle Family Reserve 23 Years Old (2009 Edition) – $350 – A hugely expensive and hugely delicious bourbon that will impress your giftee until he’s three sheets to the wind. More affordable choices include Evan Williams Single Barrel 2000 Edition, a complete steal at $26, or the always-good George T. Stagg limited edition bourbon; the 2009 is a real standout.

macallan 1824 4 bottle lineup 274x300 Drinkhacker’s 2009 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasScotch – Macallan 1824 Collection — prices vary — This collection of four different whiskys was bviously not distilled in 1824 (it’s just an homage), but your giftee doesn’t have to know that. For a real splurge: Laphroaig 25 Years Old is a rare knockout.

AbsintheVieux Carre – $60 - The absinthe craze is finally on the wane, and fewer new brands popped up in 2009 than last year. Vieux Carre, made in Philadelphia, is arguably the best.

GinBulldog - $25 – I love everything about this gin, which is light, fresh, and inexpensive. Also check out Citadelle Reserve, which is aged and unique — any gin drinker will find it quite the departure from Tanqueray.

Vodka – Any tea-infused vodka– less than $20 – Tea-flavored vodkas are the booze trend of the year, and for good reason, they taste great! Firefly and Jeremiah Weed are both outstanding. For a good unflavored vodka pick, check out Van Gogh Blue or Vermont Gold.

Rum – Appleton Reserve — $24 – You won’t find a better rum at this price level on the market. Brugal Extra Viejo is comparable in price and quality.  For Captain Morgan fans, hook them up with The Kraken and you’ll blow their mind.

bache gabrielsen hors dage 185x300 Drinkhacker’s 2009 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasBrandy – Bache-Gabrielsen Hors d’Age Cognac — $400 – Not just a killer cognac, it’s the best sub-$1,000 spirit I tried this year. I have one, sad, half-ounce drop left in the sample I received at the end of September. I can’t bring myself to finish it off.

TequilaCasa Noble - $40 to $60 – This line of tequilas is both delicious across the board, from blanco to anejo, and the bottles are pretty enough to gift without wrapping. 901 is good for a silver. Or try mezcal: Mijes Joven is the best I tried in ’09.

Liqueur – J. Witty Chamomile Liqueur - $25 – Continuing the tea craze is this exotic and very spicy liqueur, flavored with chamomile leaves and other essences. For fans of the bitter stuff, look into Root Liqueur. I also wholeheartedly recommend just about anything from the Thatcher’s Organic line.

Need another custom gift idea? Drop me a line or leave a comment here and I’ll offer my best advice!

Review: Bulldog Gin

Yes Virginia, they still make gin in England, despite all the Johnny-come-latelys operating out of the States and other countries.

In fact, you might say they still make the best gin in England, as time and time again these blokes prove that they can’t be beat when it comes to flavoring neutral spirits with the little berries off of evergreen trees.

Bulldog Gin is a quadruple distilled spirit, 80 proof, that hails from London proper. Infused with the traditional botanicals, it adds to the mix considerably by including in its ingredient list dragon eye (aka longon), poppy, lotus leaves, lemon, almond, cassia, lavender, orris, licorice, angelica, coriander, and of course juniper.

The result is distinctly gin but hardly something I’d call a “bulldog.” The spirit is actually quite delicate and mild, a harsh rebuke to the over-greened Beefeaters of the world. Picking out the flavorings is tricky. The juniper is certainly the strongest, but I also get a lot of lemon, then the lavender and the licorice. (But rest assured it’s not absinthy in any way.)

Best of all, Bulldog isn’t harsh but is quite smooth and easy to drink solo, rare for a lot of gins. Whether you’re a tonic type or want a slightly unusual martini, Bulldog is an excellent pick, one of the best gins on the market today and at a great price.

A / $25 / bulldoggin.com

bulldog gin Review: Bulldog Gin