Whether you’re mid-way through Dry January and deciding what the first alcohol to pass your lips will be come Feb, or you’re eschewing the whole thing and instead embracing Try January – a chance to explore new tipples – then we have the thing for you. With so many boutique and bespoke spirits on the market, we’ve asked Will Baber, owner of the award winning Tasting Room in Bath, to give his top five drinks for the New Year.
Diplomatico Reserva Rum Venezuela @ £34.50
Mmm, rum. Indulging in a Mai Thai or sipping a rum and coke always makes me think of deserted sandy beaches, a dusty hammock, and a straw hat to cover our faces with as we let life fall into neutral. But it’s a while until summer, so bring it into your home with this refined and elegant Venezuelan Rum.
A gorgeous amber colour, it has a base of vanilla and oak, with hints of cinnamon, ripe oranges and bitter dark chocolate. What’s more, there are wonderful complex flavours of golden syrup and Demerara abounding. Add to this the amazingly smooth texture – it’s almost like being stroked with a silk glove.
Sibling Gin – Cheltenham @ £38.50
This triple distilled gin is produced in the South West by four young Siblings, all under the age of 23 – who are in fact the youngest distillers in the world! Their contemporary, smooth gin is created in a ‘crystal still’ – the first of its kind in Europe. So, apart from making waves as accomplished young entrepreneurs, what does the gin taste like?
Well, I love it for the characteristic smoothness that is achieved by combining tones of vanilla with the exciting addition of blueberry. Add to this the subtle hints of orange and lemon, and you’re ensured a clean fresh twist. We’ve been enjoying it with Fever Tree tonic, a sprig of mint, and a few muddled blueberries to bring out the flavours.
Chateau de Millet 1980 Armagnac @ £81.00
For those not 100% sure, Armagnac is a distinctive brandy produced in the Armagnac region of Gascony. It is the oldest brandy distilled in France and there are some absolutely stunning varieties out there.
The one I have selected won Silver Award at the Concours National des Caves Particuliuares in 2000, in large part due to the incredible layers of complex flavourings. First comes the scent – you’ll recognise vanilla, cinnamon and candied orange, possibly taking you back to Christmases past. Then comes the first sip – a wonderful roundness, combined with floral, woody and spicy notes. The long and pleasing finish is resplendent with grilled almonds and more of that sweet vanilla. This is one to pour into a brandy glass, swirl around in the glow of a fireside, and enjoy decadently.
Teelings Single Grain Irish Whiskey @ £39.50
Whiskey has just been growing and growing in popularity in recent years, with the general demographic of drinkers changing incredibly. The Old Fashioned is now the most popular cocktail ordered, so there are obviously some discerning fans out there!
I love Teelings flagship Irish whiskey for its moorish, sweet spice finish complimented by vanilla undertones. The small batch bottling consists of hand selected casks which are given further maturation in ex-rum barrels – thus imparting extra character and smooth flavour unique to Irish whiskey, and allowing an inviting nose where vanilla and spice dances with the bright sweet notes of rum.
Clynelish 1998 – 16year old Chill filtered Signatory Vintage Independent bottling @ £47.50
To those new on the whisky scene, or looking to buy a fan, then it’s always an idea to consider the barreling process. Clynelish is bottled by Signatory Vintage Whisky Co. who never disappoint with their selection of barrels. This 16 year old Highland whisky is produced at 43% and has a lightness of flavours of mixed fruits, vanilla and touches of smoke – you can almost close your eyes and imagine yourself looking out over a loch, smelling the wood smoke from a distant cottage on the air. The finish is accompanied by the zesty citrus hint of mandarin orange to offer something a little lighter.