A decade after the cocktail revolution began revving its engine, spirits shopping has become a bit more involved for the cocktail geeks in your life: They're picky, tend to be hypercritical about what they mix with and are always showing off a new bottle. Remaining mixologically au courant has become a chore for most, and foraging ahead of your trendy friends is likely out of the question. You know it's bad when their significant other doesn't smile when you bring a bottle to their apartment anymore.
Though an iconic offering, like a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label Scotch or Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, would instantly canonize you among startenders and storied bloggers alike, most of us can't afford the time or money required to acquire them. Keep your chin up! Below you'll find a selection of limited-edition bottlings from some of the worlds most revered distillers. I've put all of them on my wish list for Christmas but would be happy if someone showed up with one of them any day of the year.
Del Maguey Ibérico ($200)
This year, Del Maguey released an ingenious twist on its peerless Pechuga: a mezcal distilled with ripe wild fruits, rice, spices, nuts and a chicken breast suspended below the condenser. After tasting what was left of the chicken after distillation with Del Maguey founder Ron Cooper, chef Ruben Garcia of José Andrés's ThinkFoodGroup suggested substituting Ibérico de Bellota ham for the bird and shipped a leg to Oaxaca for Cooper to try. Their experiment won best new product at Tales of the Cocktail this year—in case you're wondering how it all worked out.
Parker's Heritage Original Batch Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Wheat (13 Year Old) ($90)
Every year Heaven Hill releases a rare and excellent whiskey named after legendary sixth-generation master distiller Parker Beam. This year's offering, its eighth in the line, was bottled at cask strength from the original barrels of Heaven Hill's singular Bernheim wheat whiskey. The 7-year-old Old Bernheim, available year-round, is delicious at 90 proof and a great bottle to stock alongside bourbon and rye, but the undiluted original distillate at 13 years old is the best dram I tasted in 2014.
Expresiones del Corazón Tequila Añejo Aged in George T. Stagg Barrels ($80)
Ever heard of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection of old bourbons and ryes? It's probably better if you haven't, because wait lists ensure the bottles never hit the shelves almost anywhere. Well, imagine what would happen if you took some of the world's best tequila and matured it in a handful of the most distinctive bourbon barrels from Kentucky. Thankfully, the line debuted this year, and there's still some left before collectors buy up the supply.
Tanqueray Old Tom Gin ($32)
A year after re-releasing a single batch of Malacca, a soft, citrusy gin that the brand produced from 1997 to 2001, Diageo followed it up with master distiller Tom Nichol's modern adaptation of Charles Tanqueray's original recipe for Old Tom Gin. Ginophiles, cocktail geeks and packaging junkies couldn't be more excited about this prestigious addition to the growing subcategory of 19th-century-style gins that allow bartenders to bring historic cocktail recipes to life.
Gourry de Chadeville Grande Champagne Single Cask Cognac ($150)
Importer Nicolas Palazzi, who's forgotten more about cognac than I've ever known, has bottled a single cask (330 bottles) of Pierre Goursat's wood-fired pot distilled cognac at a whopping 64.3 percent ABV (cask strength) to show how distinctive the brandy coming from the Gourry domain is. History in a glass, the hearty spirit is a rare bottling of unblended cognac--there's nothing on the market quite like it.
Plantation Pineapple Rum Stiggin's Fancy ($30)
This pineapple-accented amber delight was named after a character who fancied the tipple in Charles Dickens's Pickwick Papers, and given by its creators to the men and women who helped produce Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans this past summer. Some were kind enough to share theirs, and thanks to fervent demand among those who didn't receive a bottle, another (small) batch should be appearing in 2015, so preorder now. After collaborating on Dry Curacao and 1840 Original Formula Cognac, Pierre Ferrand's Alexandre Gabriel and historical oracle David Wondrich have staged another coup on the cocktail world. Message Plantation Rum via its Facebook page for availability.
Martini Gran Lusso Sweet Vermouth ($38)
Martini Gran Lusso was created in 2013 to mark the 150th anniversary of the Martini company that year. The full-bodied, spicy vermouth has the richness of Carpano Antica Formula with unparalleled botanical integration. It's hard to tell whether Martini was bluffing when they said this was a one-off, as it's still available: I'm not going to wait around to find out.
Note: Prices based on online availability and may change at local retailers.
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