This year, we tried dozens of new spirits and liqueurs, taking notes and nursing hangovers along the way. Here are some of the things I noticed—from both in front of and behind the bar—as an NYC booze writer and bartender. Brandy continued to earn rightful recognition as the original American spirit for cocktails; more Taiwanese, Canadian, and Irish whiskies joined their Japanese counterparts in the ranks of celebrated non-American whiskies; and speaking of Japanese, as my friend Kara Newman reports, Japanese gin is on the rise. Beyond specific styles, we're also seeing continued interest in aging with a wider range of casks and barrels, from sherry and other fortified wines to applejack.
The below not-so-scientific, nowhere-near-comprehensive compilation of field notes represents bottles we loved this year—both those meant for sipping and for mixing, familiar producers and new faces, crowd-pleasers and quirkier personal favorites. From barrel-aged cachaça to sherry-cask-aged Taiwanese whiskey and one funky sotol, here are our favorite spirits and liqueurs of 2017.
Approachable but worthy of intrigue, the debut house whiskey from rare spirits hunterNicolas Palazzi’s PM Spirits makes a strong statement in an already crowded brown-spirits market. A full-proof, MGP-made Indiana bourbon, it sips pleasantly dry on account of an increased rye mash, and balances spicy, earthy, and caramel-y to perfection. Offering sophistication beyond its eight years, this is my 2017 must-have for any whiskey lover. And not that it matters, but it’s also one of my favorite bottle designs of the year (that glass stopper!). Mic drop indeed, y’all.
Honorable Mention: Highwire Distilling Jimmy Red Straight Bourbon Whiskey, $99.99; El Tesoro 80th Anniversary Extra Aged Tequila, $200; Appleton Estate Joy Anniversary Blend, $250; Knappogue Castle Special Barrel Release, $65; The Street Pumas - Rum, $29.99