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Welcome to 2016!

Keeping in the grand tradition of this blog, I don’t announce Booze of the Year until the year is actually over.  I also don’t name last year’s favorite as this year’s Booze of The Year… which seems extremely silly.  How can you name a Booze of the Year for 2016 when the year hasn’t even started?

So, here’s my annual “Best of” list!

Ready?

The Most Versatile Booze of 2015: Pau Maui Vodka

Pau Maui Vodka, Most Versatile Booze, Best of 2015

There were several superlative Vodkas this year. Those who were paying attention might have thought I’d pick Green Mark as “Vodka of the Year”… but, if you really pay attention, I’ve never named a Vodka of the Year.  As a matter of fact, a Vodka has never won an award on this site.  Well, times change!

Beautifully executed, light with a mellow & warm finish, Pau Maui Vodka is the Best of American Vodkas.  There are only three vodkas I can think of that I’d be happy sipping with just an ice cube, and Pau Maui Vodka tops that list.

However, as a mixer, Pau Maui Vodka is a Champion.  It blends wonderfully into whatever you’re mixing.  Why not try it in a Blue Hawaii… right now?

Unexpected Hit of 2015: Slaughter House

Slaughter House American Whiskey, The Unexpected Hit, Best of 2015

Folks who tuned in recently might be expecting me to join hands with Jim Murray and sing kumbaya over Crown Royal’s unexpected hit “Northern Harvest Rye.” While I like that stuff, something else came out of left field and knocked me for a loop…

I’ll admit it: quirky marketing made me pick up the bottle of Slaughter House American Whiskey in the shop and take a closer look.  Then, the fact that it’s fully aged whiskey that’s then been aged even longer in Orin Swift Papillon barrels made me buy it.

But it’s the flavor, the mouth feel and the finish of Slaughter House that has made it a favorite in my house.  Warm, sweet, and loaded with scents and tastes, Slaughter House is a fantastic whiskey with wonderful layers and a brilliant cherry finish.

Still, there can only be one… a pinnacle… a single release that stands out as a distinctive distillation, an amazing alcohol, a brilliant booze… the Booze of the Year:

Booze of the Year 2015: Bummer & Lazarus Dry Gin

The Pinnacle of 2015: Bummer & Lazarus Dry Gin by Raff Distillerie, Best of 2015

In another first, this is the first time a non-whiskey has won Booze of the Year.   But when you consider that there are only a few boozes up here that I’ve rated at 97 or better (as of 7 Jan, 2016) this award should be no surprise.

Bummer & Lazarus Dry Gin is not the only gin to use cinnamon (cassia) in its spice profile, it’s not even the first one to do it, but in my tastings: it’s the best.  Raff Distillerie has managed to make the cinnamon play well with others.  It isn’t a big standout, it’s not a tent pole, it’s not center stage… but it’s there and it’s welcome.  Along with the licorice, the orris root, and of course coriander and juniper, cinnamon is a nice note in this wonderful chord of musical booze.  Most American Gins are heavy handed in their application of citrus -which I do like- but it’s refreshing to have something buck the trends.

As Gins go, Bummer & Lazarus is a welcome addition to the Gin coterie.  As alcohol goes, it’s a beacon of what can happen when we think forward while staying true to our roots.

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And there you have it.  My “Best of” Boozes for 2015.

All right, 2016… let’s do this!