Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Spirits of the Year 2015

Good evening! And welcome to the new year, 2016. You know what that means, don’t you? It means that it’s time for one of my favourite blog-related tasks (besides the drinking), and that’s announcing the three spirits I drank in the previous year that I deem to be worthy of special attention (so to speak). It was quite a good year for special spirits, but I won’t be mentioning those that didn’t quite make the cut. As ever, there’s no overall winner, and these are in no particular order.

Rum: Plantation 3 Stars (41.2%, £22 for 70cl)

This is the first time a rum has made it into the top 3 – sure, there’s only been two other years so far, but that’s still two years without recognition for rum. Rum has just never struck me as a particularly interesting spirit – too easy drinking, you might say. Nevertheless, the discovery of this excellent value, excellent quality white rum  was a revelation and one that has since encouraged me to delve a little deeper into the rum world. Apparently it’s aged, but the colour then filtered out, or some such thing. I have no idea why anyone would want to do that, but you can’t deny this is a wonderfully tasty rum. It’s a couple of percent stronger than your average and certainly worth the extra pounds it costs compared to lesser and cheaper alternatives. If I had enough money to keep favourite spirits in stock as well as trying new ones, this would have a permanent place in my cabinet. I’ll be posting more about it in the coming months.

Brandy: Asbach Urbrand (40%, E9.30 for 50cl)
Another first for Spirits of the Year here, as brandy makes its first ever appearance. Yes, finally a brandy that looks delicious, and tastes as good as it looks – soft and luxurious, with just the right balance between sweet and savoury. Slutty with just the right amount of class, if you will. Or should that be classy with just the right amount of sluttiness? Whether you do or you don’t, I just like saying that. You can read more about this one here.

Grappa: Casimiro Rittochi Nel Tempo (42%, 18 euros for 70cl)

The final place in this year’s hall of fame is reserved for an example of my favourite spirit genre, grappa. It was a difficult choice between this one and two, perhaps even three others, but in the end this soft two year old just oozed class and emerged as the pick of the bunch. You’ll be able to read more about this one later in the year.

So there you go, a mixed bag this year, and no place for a whisky this time. I look forward to trying a whole new slew of spirits throughout 2016 and seeing who makes the grade this time next year. In the meantime I’ll contact the various producers of this year’s winners and announce the good news.

Finally, I haven’t done it before, but since I’ve been drinking so much beer of late, and also since there was one absolute standout of the genre last year, I thought I might do a 2015 Beer of the Year. And that accolade goes to Harviestoun Brewery’s Ola Dubh 18. This is Old Engine Oil  that has been aged in casks that were previously used to age the 18 year old Highland Park whisky. It is even better than it sounds. So congratulations to Harviestoun Brewery also.

And what about 2016? What do we have in the pipeline? Well, in all honesty, it could be a more modest affair this year, as I might not have quite as much money for fancy booze, but I’ll do my best. I’ll let you into a little secret though; it’s only a few days into the new year and I’ve already found some contenders. On a more positive note, we’re already planning a return to the area around Lake Garda, which means even more top quality grappa! Whatever happens, I promise I’ll keep doing my best for you, so please come back and see what I’ve been getting up to. Feel free to give me some feedback an’all. I’d love to hear what your favourite spirits were in 2015.


  1. I must try more brandy, I have always found Cognac dull when compared to Scotch and didn’t realise that the Germans made any - which is daft considering they are big wine producers. Your description of Urbrand has me itching to buy a bottle, do you know whether it’s available in the UK? The usual suspects (Whisky Exchange / Master of Malt) only seem to have Asbach Uralt which I suspect is a different beastie entirely.

    My own stand out spirit of 2015 was the Caol Ila Distillers Edition which was bought as a direct result of reading your blog - so many thanks for that. I might go so far as to say it’s my favourite Scotch to date (especially now as the GlenDronach 15yr old has been discontinued). I have since bought a bottle of the Lagavulin Distillers Edition which sadly, and despite being £20 more expensive, I haven’t found anywhere near as enjoyable.

    Aside from Scotch honourable mentions go to Aalborg Taffel Akvavit - which has a lovely mouthfeel and was delicious direct from the freezer; and Calle 23 Blanco Tequila – the first Tequila I’ve had that is a pleasure to sip rather than knock back.

    And who knows, maybe 2016 will be the year I finally try Grappa…

    Anyway, thanks for another enjoyable read, I’m looking forward to following your drinking exploits over the coming year.

  2. Thanks David. So many positives in that comment. First of all, thanks for continuing to visit the blog. I'm glad you've found it entertaining and useful, and I'm delighted that you've enjoyed the Caol Ila Distillers Edition so thoroughly. I'll have to treat myself to another bottle of that someday.

    Sadly I haven't seen the Asbach Urbrand anywhere else, and would tend to rely on The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt myself. Generally, if you can't get it at one of those two, you really have to find a specialist. Based on how much I enjoyed the Urbrand though, I'd certainly be up for giving the Uralt a go.

    Thanks for listing your standouts of 2015 also. I'll make a mental note to check those out at some point.

    There's plenty to come this year that I'm looking forward to sharing, so I'll see you again hopefully. Enjoy your drinking.