You’ve got your back bar all set, with a carefully curated range of spirits and cordials and amaros and such that fit exactly what you want to achieve? Good, now get ready to start all over. In fact, it’s probably already a continuing process, as products that once had to be brought over bottle by bottle in travelers’ luggage are becoming more widely available in the U.S., and bartenders welcome, even create, their own, high-quality new products. And the spirit industry, which, as Paul Pacult notes in this week’s “Asked and Answered,” is today, producing probably at the highest quality level ever, so even the new spirits that at first seem hard to fit into the contemporary craft cocktail scene are often getting a trial.
At more broad-based operations, where consumer trends are more followed than set, these products can catch fire in a moment. So, as we head smack into the heat of summer, here’s just a smattering of some of the most interesting spirits now entering or on their way – expect your friendly local distributor to show up with a sample soon:
After distilling for major Cognac houses for more than 160 years, the first Merlet Brothers Blend Cognac is now available in the United States. Brothers Blend is named after the two Merlet sons who came back to the family business to help carry on its tradition, and was created by Gilles Merlet with their assistance.
It’s produced from a marriage of different eaux-de-vies ranging from four to 12 years in age and the Merlets call it “savory, fruity and spicy at the same time. It is without frills or pretension, designed solely to delight the drinker and give them a most enjoyable Cognac experience.” Recommended for cocktails, this Cognac follows up the Merlet line of cordials now available – crème de peche, cassis, fraise, poire and framboise.
Brothers Blend took home a gold medal at this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the cordials scored high at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge.
Back in new clothes and perhaps formulation, Grand Marnier Cherry is a limited edition expression that will debut for the 2012 holiday season. Grand Marnier Cherry marks the launch of an entirely new series of marques that will continue to explore “the world’s most elegant flavors,” say the producers.
Grand Marnier Cherry is blended with premium quality cognacs used to craft the original Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge. This new expression also blends the essence of natural European Griottes cherries, hand selected from one of Europe’s finest producers. The result is “an elegant and delicious spirit distinguished by the natural essence of cherry and orange,” says the company – tome, the blend of orange and cherry flavors is well-balanced, engaging and worthy of some fine high-end cocktails.
The announcement that Diageo has acquired Cabin Fever Maple Flavored Whisky and intends to roll it out nationally in the U.S. this fall means the flavored whisky trend is spreading to Canada. Already in the market, two recent brands: TAP 357, a premium maple-flavored Canadian rye whisky, at its release, the only Canadian maple rye whisky of its kind.
The small-batch whisky is a blend of cask-aged, three-, five-, and seven-year-old blended rye whiskies that are then matured further after the addition of maple. The more recent arrival is Spicebox Canadian Spiced Rye Whisky, a blend of three-, four-, five-, and six-year old Canadian whiskies. The predominant rye note in Spicebox Whisky is evident on the palate with notes of vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper, says the company. Developed by master blender Michel Marcil, Spicebox has just launched in the U.S., and Whisky Advocate gave it the highest score in a roundup of Spiced Whiskies.
Maple and spices are just two of the components in arum you probably won’t be able – or afford – to buy: Appleton Estate Jamaican Independence Reserve 50-year old rum, said to be the oldest rum bottled. Laid down 50 years ago in anticipation of the event and carefully managed by master blender Joy Spence, the rum is rare – 800 bottles – and exceptionally rich and spice-laden. It will be sold on-line, retailing at $5,000 or so.
Among the exploding group of sweeter spirits, there’s now Mariposa Agave Nectar Liqueur, called the world’s first. Designed with bartenders in mind, especially considering the growth of agave nectar as a cocktail sweetener, Mariposa is made from agave nectar combined with 100-percent agave tequila and vodka, enhanced with hints of rose oil and gardenia.