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So without further ado, here’s my round up of the best things I drank all year, in no particular order:
1. Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque 2007 – I was lucky enough to taste this gorgeous ambrosia at a gorgeous lunch hosted at the Baccarat Hotel here in New York City. It is a gorgeous champagne that is has a light and fruity nose of pear and apple tart with a touch of pineapple. On the tongue this amazing wine has flavors of red berries, lemon brioche, a touch of spiciness, and a lovely creamy finish with just a touch of salty minerality.
2. Dom Pérignon 2005 was a true pleasure to taste, especially since it is so unbelievably sold out and impossible to find. On the nose it is yeasty, with flavors of fresh pineapple, tropical fruits, and lemon-lime. On the palate it is wonderfully effervescent with a dominant flavor of creamy pineapple tart – the piquant flavors of the tropical fruits mixed with a lovely creaminess and a nutty pastry crust. Exquisite.
3. This fall I tasted what is arguably the best dessert wine on the planet – Château d'Yquem 1996 Vintage, and what an incredible dessert wine it is. The nose is heavily perfumed with flavors of orange flower water, honey, and sweet Riesling. On the palate the wine is viscous but silky and smooth, with the sweetness of fresh honeysuckle, mandarin oranges, and a bright lime flavor that keeps you coming back for more. What an incredible treat to be able to taste such an iconic bottle of wine.
4. The Old Overholt 1909 was perhaps the rarest and most highly coveted spirit I tasted all year. The whisky came from the wine cellar of Richard Mellon Scaife and was sold by Christies wine to much success. The first sale had impressive results, a case of 12 liter bottles selling for up to $14,000. Fortunately, I had a privilege to taste it, not only neat, but served in classic cocktails. It was impressive how delicious this rye whiskey is after so many years, woodsy with flavors of cedar, spicy apples, and a slight ginger. Even better than the 1909 Vintage on its own was the Old Overholt Old Fashioned prepared with Gum Syrup and just a few dashes of Brokers Bitters.
5. Another highlight of the year was when I was invited to Dufftown, Scotland to be part of the selection committee for the to 1978 cask of Glenfiddich be sold in the United States. It was an incredible experience to play “master distiller” for the day, learn about the core Glenfiddich flavor range, and what expert distillers are looking for when they select rare releases. The result? Cask No. 28121 - an incredible bottle of scotch with flavors of mandarin orange, creamy chocolate tart, toasted almonds, green apple, with a peppery chocolate mint finish.
6. Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye was a game changing bottle for the category of Canadian Whisky, a bottle that is beginning to change people’s opinions about what Canadian Whisky is capable of. I really love this whisky. Neat, no water. It’s perfect just as it is.
7. In May of 2015 I was invited to France for the 300 year anniversary of Martell cognac, an unbelievable few days where I toured the distillery, shared a gorgeous meal in the Jules Verne with friends, and had a seat at the epic black tie celebration held at Versailles. It was a memorable evening that included a private tour of the palace, a flyover by the French Airforce, and an artistically choreographed meal created by Chef Paul Pairet. The evening culminated with a pour of the Martell Premier Voyage cognac created for the 300 year anniversary. The final blend is a combination of cognacs made using the same growers as the original cognac created in the 1730’s and then aged in the wood from a 300 year old tree. The nose was exquisite and complex with notes of honeysuckle, candied orange, black currant, apple, pear, and red fruits. On the palate this rare cognac has flavors of gingerbread, dried apricots, raisins, and toasted almonds.
8. This year Glenmorangie released their rare and incredibly delightful 1969 Vintage. It’s a gorgeous dram with a nose that is light and almost grassy. It has a nice sweet saltiness to it with bright lemon, apricot and almonds. On the palate this whiskey has flavors of bitter ale, dried apricots, cereal, cocao, with a nice chocolate brioche flavor to it.
9. This year I was also introduced to Parce Rum, made in Colombia and aged in charred American Oak barrels. The 12 year is especially amazing – velvety, sweet and complex with flavors of cocoa, tobacco, dried tropical fruits, mocha, and toasted macadamia nuts. Keep your eyes peeled for this new release, it is wonderfully delicious for sipping.
10. Perhaps the trip that I was most pleasantly surprised by was my visit to Jacob’s Creek in Australia. I didn’t know what to expect, and I certainly wasn’t expecting to taste such a diverse range of styles of wine. One of the bottles that really surprised me was the 1963 Tawny Port, because who expects vintage port in the middle of Australia? I sure didn’t. The wine is lovely, sweet with flavors of raisin, Christmas cake, and baked figs.
11. After making my own Auchentoshan whisky glass, I was offered a taste of the rare 1979 Vintage, an Oloroso sherry cask finished scotch that is bold and not for the faint of heart. It’s a dram that has a lot of spice, bruleed orange, plum, black fruit, chocolate, tobacco, pepper, and anise.
12. This year Beam Suntory released a non age statement blended whisky called Hibiki Harmony, a lovely and floral whisky with flavors of light toffee, rose, honey, and apricots. On the palate this whiskey is creamy, and tastes slightly green, with honey, apricot, mint, and just a touch of smokiness from the smoked malt whiskey. The care and discipline that goes into a Hibiki blend is astounding, there are 5 different kinds of whiskeys that are blended, all of which are incredible on their own. I truly believe that the master distiller at Hibiki is the best whisky blender in the world, a man who understands the delicacy and subtlety required to bring out the subtle flavors in this dram. It is exquisite by itself or served in a Hibiki Shiso Julep!
13. Delon Tequila, owned by Diageo and Sean Combs aka P. Diddy, is a surprising tequila to me. While part of me wants really hard to disregard it based on its celebrity affiliations, it’s damn good tequila. I also have to give Mr. Combs credit, the bottles are gorgeous and packaged beautifully, all details that he was heavily involved in. Most importantly, the liquid on the inside is really delicious, especially the more aged tequilas. My favorite in the collection is the Diamante, a Joven style tequila made from highlands agave. It has a nose of agave and freshly cut herbs with a touch of vanilla. The palate is spicy yet smooth, with flavors of cinnamon, fresh agave, light oak, caramel, finishing with a nice minerality from the agave fields.
14. Last but not least is the Bowmore Mizunara Cask release, a really cool collaboration between Suntory and Bowmore. It works like this – Suntory is the only company allowed to harvest wood from the Mizunara forests which are owned by the University of Tokyo. The casks (which are notoriously the most expensive and least efficient casks used to make whisky) are then sent to Bowmore and filled with the Islay scotch that is between 15-20 years old, which are then left to age in the weather beaten warehouses at Bowmore. The result is a scotch that is east meeting west in a glass: the nose is sweet and welcoming with flavors of white peach, white pepper, salt, honey, and a light flavor of green bell pepper. On the palate it is creamy with Bowmore’s signature salty, smoky brininess, white peaches, grilled pineapple, cedar, green bell pepper, and a savory finish of paprika and a rich deeply caramelized finish.
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