You think the beer business is booming? You should take a peak into the world of craft distilling, where booze giants are redefining themselves with new takes on classic styles and newcomers are throwing the rule book out altogether. It’s like the Wild West out there. And if you’re more of a traditionalist, don’t fret: Four Roses is still killing it with their annual small batch release. We picked the 10 best new spirits that came across our livers this year. Drink up.
City: Lawrenceburg, Ky.
Four Roses has long been a dependable standby for its affordable Yellow bourbon, which every bar should use as its well whiskey. Its slightly more expensive Small Batch and Single Barrel bourbons are really tasty, but this year, the 2014 Limited Edition Small Batch is a highlight from the distillery. It’s not cheap, retailing somewhere around $100 a bottle, and it can be hard to find, but this citrus-y smooth bourbon is one to look out for.—Jonah Flicker
This is one of those ancient liqueurs that’s been rediscovered recently, and honestly, it took me forever to open the bottle because there’s a chili pepper on the label. But I’m a journalist, so…It smells like something out of my grandmother’s spice cabinet. Yes, it’s spicy, smoky, a little salty and did I mention spicy? The heat lingers, but it’s not like a jalapeno hot—this is more of a spiced ginger heat. Complex and tasty. Traditionally, Ancho is enjoyed neat. If you do this, bring a glass of water along for the ride. Or go with the Ancho Cerveza—a shot of Ancho Reyes mixed with a pint of beer. -Graham Averill
City: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Mister Katz rock and rye is kind of like an elevated version of Hochstadter’s Slow & Low; an antiquated spirit that’s coming back into fashion. It’s made from the distillery’s young rye (they are still aging their initial rye release), infused with rock candy, bing cherries, orange and cinnamon, giving it a fruity, spicy flavor—kind of like an old fashioned straight out of the bottle. But at only 65 proof, you can sip this liqueur-like spirit all night long and still keep a clear head. Well, sort of. —Jonah Flicker
City: Brattleboro, VT
Unlike some other so-called “maple-finished” spirits, Sapling Maple Bourbon is the real deal. Blended and aged with real Vermont maple syrup, this oak-aged, three-year-old bourbon is well balanced and subtly sweet. While that sweetness may overpower lesser-quality spirits, here it’s a welcome complement to the warm bite of the bourbon. Enjoy up, on the rocks, in a Manhattan, Old Fashioned, your coffee, or anywhere else you take your bourbon. (For Sapling completists, they also make a maple rye and maple liqueur.) — Jim Sabataso
City: Atotonilco, Mexico
Just when you thought Patron couldn’t get any better, they launch their volcanic stone crushed line, which, if you can visualize it, is like the difference in taste between table side guacamole and the stuff you buy in a tub. The 50-ton volcanic stone is porous yet extremely hard and when crushing the freshly baked blue agave pinas, it creates a more flavorful, higher proof mash that when barreled, blended and aged 12 months, earns the anejo label. The light amber color should yield a taste profile that includes oak, vanilla, honeydew and cantaloupe melon. New this year, Patron Anejo is part of the biggest product launch for the company in 25 years. It was worth the wait. -RJ Strain
City: Middleton, Ireland
Living in the United States got just a little bit sweeter as of March 1, because that’s when Pernod Ricard started distributing Green Spot on American soil. The Irish whiskey is highly sought after in its native land because of its limited availability and single pot distillation. It’s got some spice, some honey, some oak, but it’s incredibly clean and mellow the way most Irish whiskeys are clean and mellow. I actually got to have this whiskey in Ireland before it was released in the states. That has nothing to do with how good Green Spot is. I’m just bragging.—Graham Averill
City: San Francisco, Calif.
After producing two other types of gin, Anchor introduced a stevia-sweetened Old Tom this year. As the first commercially popular style of gin, this product hearkens back to an earlier century with an herbaceous taste profile was complimented by a silky, subtle sweetness. Bonus fact: the cat on the label is a nod to an (illicit) gin vending machine said to have graced the streets of London in the 1700s.—Clair McLafferty
City: Alameda, Calif.
Unlike many American rums made from molasses, this potent potable is distilled from sugar cane juice à la the French Antilles style. To increase the rum’s funkiness and introduce more oaky, earthy flavors, this new release was aged for three years in used French oak barrels. -Clair McLafferty
City: Park City, Utah
Back in February, High West named this whiskey as an homage to how quickly love (and whiskey) can disappear. To evoke the taste and warmth of a rich Christmas pudding, the distillers finished some of their Rendezvous Rye in port barrels. It’s incredibly smooth and a little bit sweet. Like love. -Clair McLafferty
Full disclosure: There’s nothing that A Smith Bowman produces that I haven’t liked so far. They make some incredible bourbons (a single barrel and a small batch) and some other stuff that I haven’t tried yet but am sure is just dandy. That’s how good their bourbons are. Abraham Bowman is a limited release bourbon that hit the shelves early this year. It’s aged 12 years, then finished in port barrels, which brings out a dark fruit sweetness in a bourbon that’s already incredibly rich with strong notes of oak and caramel. This is super bourbon. —Graham Averill