Bevvy's Best Spirits 2019 | Bevvy

Another year is nearly in the books, and as we enter into a brave new decade, it’s easy to get reflective. Of course, for Team Bevvy, most of that reflection is liquor-related. Because throughout the year, we sampled hundreds of spirits in the pursuit of reviews, research, and personal leisure. These included tiny tasting sips from plastic cups at industry events, rare liquors discovered while traveling or browsing our local bottle shops, and random drams that showed up unannounced on our desks.

Along the way, we singled out several favorites across a range of categories and price tags. The 16 spirits you see here represent some of the best drinks we had all year. Not everything was released in 2019—in fact, a couple aren’t new at all—but each was consumed in the past year and left an impression that’s stayed with us ever since we first cracked open the bottle.

Take a look below for some spirited inspiration. And if you see a bottle in the wild, grab it before someone else does.

Copper & Kings “A Song for You” American Brandy

Copper & Kings A Song For You Brandy

Louisville-based Copper & Kings makes some of America’s most interesting brandies. That trend continued in 2019 with A Song for You, a limited-release that celebrates the brand’s fifth anniversary. Inside the bottle is a blend of Copper & Kings’ earliest sourced pot-distilled brandies, nicknamed DNA1. Those brandies were aged between eight and 18 years in ex-bourbon barrels, with most falling in the 12 to 13-year range. A Song for You is delightfully complex, with typical flavors of fruit and oak mingling with a cooling menthol note, savory spices, and herbs. I’ve mostly been drinking it straight or over a large cube, but if you want to experiment, it also makes a solid Brandy Old-Fashioned and Sazerac—Kevin Gray

Maker’s Mark RC6

Maker's Mark RC6

The full name of this bourbon is Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series 2019 Limited Release: Stave Profile RC6. Verbose, sure, but it describes how the brand’s first-ever nationally available limited-release bourbon was made. Similar to Maker’s 46, RC6 was finished with special wood staves (RC6 stands for Research Center 6 and denotes the specific wood stave recipe used). But, while Maker’s 46 dialed up the oak and spice, RC6 amplifies the ripe fruit character already found in the distillery’s proprietary yeast strain. Bottled at a hefty 54.1% ABV, the bourbon provides a loving face-punch of red apple, apricot, banana, and baking spices. It’s still Maker’s, but different, and a great, non-gimmicky example of how a unique wood finish can impact flavors and aromas. —KG

Tarnished Truth Fourth Handle Gin

Tarnished Truth Four Handle Gin

I’ve got a soft spot for this one, not only because of where it’s made (at a hotel in Virginia, a couple hours’ drive from me), but also because of its unique flavor profile. The expected juniper, citrus, and coriander hits you on the nose with some floral notes in the background. In the mouth, things take a turn. It comes across as earthy, which isn’t something I often say about gin. I’ll credit the grains of paradise and rose petals in its mix of botanicals for that. It finishes long, with cucumber and citrus peel. Use it in bolder gin drinks, like a Bijou or a Martinez, or anywhere you might use geneverJeff Dufour

The Glenlivet 14-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Glenlivet 14 Year

The Glenlivet 14 was released in July 2019. It’s aged in bourbon and sherry casks before being finished in ex-cognac casks for at least six months. That combo yields a whisky that merges citrus, florals, and poached pear with rich flavors of raisins, chocolate, and licorice. Bottled at 80-proof and priced around $55, it’s become my go-to lately for whenever the evening calls for an easygoing after-dinner dram. Which is often. —KG

Bushmills 11-Year-Old Single Malt Crystal Malt

Bushmill's Crystal Malt

This entry’s a bit of a bummer, as the spirit itself has never been released in the U.S., and as far as I’m aware there are no plans to do so. I only had the chance to taste the unreleased whiskey because of a Boston tasting event led by Bushmills Master Distiller Colum Egan. I still don’t completely understand the crystal malt process, which involves stewing the malted barley in its own crystallized sugars, but it did give the cask-strength spirit an unmissable quality of unripe banana and caramelized marshmallow that made it one of the best whiskeys I’ve ever had. ET

Cotton & Reed Allspice Dram

cotton and reed allspice dram

You can’t have a tiki bar without allspice dram. But to say that it’s versatile would be… inaccurate. It only plays well with a handful of other spirits and flavors, and you don’t want its jab of clove and baking spice to pop up too often. Enter this dram from Washington D.C.’s Cotton & Reed. Consider it a halfway station between allspice dram and amaro. For starters, they back off on the sweetness, replacing some of the sugar with dry-fermented limes. Secondly, it brings a much more complex bouquet of aromatics and bitterness. You’ll want to experiment with it in Manhattans and BoulevardiersJD

Barrell Dovetail Whiskey

Barrell Dovetail Whiskey

Cask-finished whiskeys can get a little gimmicky, but hell, if scotch producers can get away with it, so can bourbon makers. Barrell Dovetail from Barrell Craft Spirits blends a 10-year-old MGP bourbon that’s seen secondary aging in barrels from Dunn Vineyards in Napa, with an 11-year-old Tennessee bourbon that does time in both blackstrap rum casks and late-bottled-vintage port barrels. The longer you spend with it, the more its complexity reveals itself—peanut brittle, apple cobbler, mint, chocolate, tobacco, and on and on. Two disclaimers: 1.) The price tag makes this far from an everyday sipper; and 2.) at nearly 62% ABV, it almost demands a splash of water. JD

Glen Garioch 8-Year-Old “Old Particular” Single Barrel Scotch

Glen Garioch Old Particular Scotch

Although considered “young” with an 8-year-old age statement, this Highland single malt is mature on flavor and has become a daily drinker for me since stumbling upon it at my local spirits retailer. It was distilled in 2010, aged in refill hogshead casks, and independently bottled in 2018 at a cask-strength of 59.5% ABV. The color is a light, delicate amber, and the nose is floral and peppery with hints of smoke. It’s slightly hot and robust on the palate, but savory and sweet, with malted flavors of butter, dried bananas, cinnamon, and just a tinge of peat. It finishes smooth and silky, with notes of spicy pepper and lemon zest. I like this one better with a drop of water. —Jay Hung

St. George Baller Single Malt Whiskey

St. George Baller Whiskey

When a whiskey-loving friend pulled this bottle from his backpack recently, I figured something special was about to take place. That instinct was correct. According to St. George Master Distiller Lance Winters, this bottle is “a California take on the Japanese spin on scotch whisky,” and it was created with highballs in mind—hence the name “Baller.” What a narrow niche! The 100% American barley whiskey is aged in ex-bourbon and French oak wine casks, filtered through maple charcoal, and then finished in umeshu casks. It’s worth a sip, however you choose to drink it. I’ve yet to mix this one into a highball, but served neat, it’s full of honeyed malt, wood smoke, plum sweetness, dry fruit, citrus, and more smoke. It’s wild and wonderful and strange and memorable. —KG

Partida Elegante Extra Añejo

Partida Elegante Extra Añejo Tequila

At a recent blind tasting, this extra añejo tequila from Partida really stood out among a field of 12 other agave spirits. With the extra time spent aging—a minimum of 40 months in ex-bourbon barrels—this drinks a bit more like a scotch whisky than a tequila, with the agave characteristics having been softened, rounded, and more subdued from the influence of the wood. Amber in color, the nose has a restrained aroma of fruits and vanilla. The palate is full-bodied with a heavier mouthfeel, with flavors of chocolate and toasted toffee, black pepper, dried nuts, and delicate hints of roasted agave leading to a smooth finish. —JH

Four Roses 130th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon

four roses 130 anniversary bourbon

This special release, which debuted in September 2018 to mark the distillery’s 130th birthday, takes everything that makes Four Roses great and dials it up to 11. It also has one of the longest and most rewarding finishes I’ve encountered in bourbon. Eric Twardzik

Mount Gay The Master Blender’s Collection: Pot Still Rum

Mount Gay Pot Still Rum

Mount Gay’s new Master Blend, Trudiann Branker, wasted no time putting her stamp on the storied brand with this limited release. Pot Still Rum is an homage to the way Mount Gay originally made rum for about 200 years—exclusively with pot stills.  To make the spirit, Branker selected a specific batch distilled in 2009, and six months prior to bottling the liquid, she placed it into virgin ex-whiskey casks to enhance the spicy and roasted nutty notes. The result is a warm, rich, 48% ABV rum that’s loaded with dried fruits, dark chocolate, butterscotch, and oak. If you find a bottle, snag it. —KG

Plantation Xaymaca Special Dry Rum

plantation xaymaca rum

$25 is an absolute steal for this pot-stilled Jamaican rum. Its opening shot of hogo and clean, dry finish made it my go-to Daiquiri rum for the summer of ’19. —ET

Casa Dragones Joven Tequila

casa dragones joven tequila

While I enjoy mezcal and tequila, it’s generally brown spirits that I’m spending the big bucks on. So I’m grateful to have received Casa Dragones Joven as a wedding present this year, as it’s the type of spirit I may have never bought myself—but should, as its soft character and complex web of floral and vegetal flavors showcase the best of what agave spirits have to offer. —ET

Balvenie 29-Year-Old Single Cask “Whisky Big Nose”

Balvenie 29 Year Whisky Big Nose

On a recent rainy trip to Taipei, I happened to walk past an impressive whiskey bar called Backyard Jr. Not one to take my good fortune for granted, I stepped in for an obligatory dram (or several). After a few tastings, the standout of the evening was this independently bottled 29-year-old Speyside single malt,  aged in refill hogshead casks and released at a cask strength of 51.3% ABV. This deliciously mature spirit appears dark auburn in the glass, and has a nose that’s floral and fragrant with hints of honey. Glazed toffee comes through on the palate with a soft malty sweetness, plus notes of vanilla, spice, oak, and dried raisins. The mouthfeel is rich and full-bodied, and it finishes long and fruity. The “secret” distillery? Balvenie. —JH

Foursquare 14-Year-Old “Empery” Exceptional Cask Selection Rum

Foursquare Empery Rum

Foursquare is a brand of choice for me when it comes to rum, and I’m especially a fan of their Exceptional Cask Selection series. Imagine my excitement when this appeared on the shelf of my local retailer. Aged in ex-bourbon barrels for 10 years before finishing maturation in ex-Oloroso sherry barrels for four more years, this Barbados-produced rum is bottled at a cask-strength of 56% ABV. The color is dark auburn, and the nose is fruity with hints of vanilla, honey, and soft oak. It’s spicy and tingly on the palate, with layered notes of oak, vanilla, apricots, and toasted caramel before a smooth and delicate finish. —JH

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