Must Have Festive Spirits 2021
Here is our top picks for your consideration this Christmas – great for Christmas lists, stocking fillers or gatherings of the festive variety! Whatever your plans this festive season have a wild one and treat yourself to a good winter tipple!
Samuel Gelston’s Irish Blended Whiskey (ABV 40%)
Here we have a delicious blended whiskey from Irish distillers, Samuel Gelston, which is matured in ex-bourbon casks, creating a long and pleasant finish – and for a fantastic price.
The malted barley and grain ingredients for this fine tipple are sourced locally, then triple distilled for smoothness, then matured for 19 months in best quality ex-bourbon oak casks.
Don’t expect a game changer, but do expect a smooth and rounded whiskey, with acres of sweetness all for a great price, making this an ideal mixer for a few winter warmer cocktails, our favourite being a classic Irish Coffee of course.
Now available in 180 Waitrose stores nationwide!
Bushmills Black Bush Irish Whiskey (ABV 40%)
Bushmills have been at it since 1608. We know them well. Bushmills Black Bush is a blend of 80% malt whiskey to 20% grain whiskey. The sherry inspiration is derived from the blend being aged for up to 7 years in a combination of oloroso sherry casks and ex-bourbon casks.
On arrival this Whiskey is gentle and warming, the nose greets you with a bold bouquet of fresh apples, heavy bodied red wines and a shimmer of champagne. The baked grains are also present – like fresh baked cakes, or pastries – but more grainy, not too tart.
On the tongue, the sherry tones are there – but we think this makes spirit have a smoother and milder taste than traditional cask whiskeys. You are also greeted with the similar ‘baked goods’, grains and caramel. What’s more there is also a hint of cranberries, red-currants and figs – which really drives the ‘Christmas’ feel home.
There is definitely more grain in the finish, a perfect short burn on the tongue – followed by a trail off, with red wine notes – this will be attendance just after the cheese board at our Christmas, alongside our other favourites. Well worth a tipple this winter!
Bankhall Sweet Mash Whisky (ABV 46%)
Distilled in the vats of the Bankhall Distillery in Blackpool, England, Bankhall Sweet Mash Whisky combines US and UK whisky styles and techniques to redefine English whisky.
This bourbon-style sweet mash is aged exclusively in new, charred American oak casks that have seen a full range of seasons in Blackpool since they were made by coopers in the US in the autumn 2020.
There’s plenty of character on offer here, starting with an orange glaze on the nose, that forms into a Crème caramel on the tongue, and finishing with vanilla custard and delicious charred oak.
Again, well priced and therefore very decent for Christmas cocktails.
Oxford Rye Whisky (ABV 46.3%)
With its vibrant coppery gold colour, Oxford Rye Whisky not only looks the business, but it tastes sublime too! This is an absolute corker that would charm the pants off any whisky enthusiast this Christmas.
On the nose, expect a really fragrant combination of floral and fruity aromas including banana yoghurt, flowery herbs, freshly baked bread, caramel, butter, clove, nutmeg and nuts.
On the palate, I’m pleased to report that the subtle banana continues along with a nutty vanilla and a peppery spice.
The finish isn’t too shabby either, with sweet, warming spices in excess.
To sum up, this is complex, but bloody hell… absolutely a new favourite, offering layers of creamy fruitiness, ideal for a winter warmer. The price isn’t for the faint hearted, but hell… it’s worth it and let’s not forget that you’ve earned it!
Suncamino Rum (ABV 40%)
Heard of floral Rum? No? Well…you have now! A world first – Suncamino Rum is a floral delight! Breaking the stereotypes linked to traditional Rum – Suncamino elevates this signature spirit to new realms of taste and experience.
The name ‘Suncamino’ means “Journey to the sun” – and embodies the wanderlust traveler, adventurous horizon breaker and seeker of modern contemporary tastes. A child of three South African Capetonian friends who sought to create a modern twist derived from their love of the outdoors and the ocean – with a little help from a distiller in Barbados.
Suncamino is an 8-year-old blend with a gorgeous floral bouquet – three core botanicals Hibiscus, Orange Blossom and Honeybush permeate this with smooth, yet vibrant notes. This Rum works neat, with ginger ale, in cola or in a vast array of classic cocktails bringing its own twist to the fray. If you are an aficionado of traditional spiced Rums, Suncamino will be right up your street. This drink will make those who weren’t that into Rum…into Rum!
On a final note the Suncamino mantra is beautiful;
“Bring good company, a bottle of Suncamino, and pick a spot on the map – The rest will take care of itself.”
Devon Cove Rum (ABV 42%)
Perhaps best known for their delicious, award-winning Devon Cove Vodka, this is the latest handcrafted product to join the Carr’s family farm line up.
The rich golden colour provides a little hint at the depth of this little beauty. It’s made from molasses with locally produced Quince Devon honey, cocoa nibs from Salcombe Dairy, smooth Devonia spring water and oak sourced from the family’s own farm.
On the palate, expect hints of orange blossom, creamy caramel, light spice and lashings of rich vanilla to finish.
Smoother than Rick Astley’s dance moves, you’ll love this straight up on the rocks, or in a simple to make Cuba Libre. In fact, for those of you who love to get your cocktails just so… Devon Cove have recently launched their Devon Rum cocktail kits.
I just love the back story here and the fact that this British rum is punching well above its weight. Expect this to pick up a few awards in 2022!
Burleighs Christmas Gin (ABV 40%)
Deck the halls people Burleighs Christmas Gin has landed!
Hot out of the distillery, award winning Leicestershire craft gin producer Burleighs have launched this festive little cracker.
Created by head distiller Charlie Hendon, Burleighs Christmas Gin blends a selection of the distilleries signature botanicals alongside festive favourites including nutmeg, ginger, liquorice root, star anise and cloves. But that’s not all… it also features a full-bodied red wine. Yup!
The process goes something like this; the botanicals are steeped in red wine to create a festive infusion before being adding to the distillery’s copper-pot still Messy Bessy.
So, what’s can you expect…
Well, expect an unmistakable mulled wine aroma that will get even the biggest party pooper in the festive mood. If you love mulled wine and gin, you’ve hit the jackpot. Love it!
Burleighs recommends serving the Christmas gin with premium tonic, fresh orange and a cinnamon stick. HoHoHo!!!!
Speights Huckleberry Gin (42% ABV)
Now this beautiful liquid will put the zing into your gin this Christmas! Honestly, it is absolutely delicious… fruity, zesty, aromatic and sweet.
If you’ve not heard of huckleberries before, they are essentially wild North American blueberries, and selected for their sharp berry flavour, which are beautifully complimented by a unique collection of Speights botanicals.
Team this with a floral tonic for the best results, not forgetting the fresh blueberry garnish of course!
Secret Garden Christmas Gin (ABV 39%)
If you’re like us, you absolutely love a Christmas drink – mulled wine, cider or a drop of sherry? Well let us introduce you to Secret Garden Christmas Gin – which expresses all of the Christmas feels in a delightful little bottle!
Distilling Cinnamon, Ginger and Cardomom – then blending with classic Juniper, Coriander, Angelica Root and Winter Savory to create the distinctly festive Gin. Secret Garden Christmas Gin is a luxurious tipple, with a robust spiciness – the finish is smooth and not too overbearing with an embracing warmth – much like a bite into a mince pie or Christmas cake – it boasts ‘that Christmas feeling’!
This Gin works well being complimented with tonic or soda and red berries. Alternatively switch any Gin cocktail with this for a Christmas twist and compliment with dried orange slices for garnish. It levels up a Martini to new heights!
This is one to share throughout December and compliment Christmas drinks and gatherings, or even as a perfect stocking filler for a Gin lover!
Cranes Cranberry Gin (ABV 37.5%)
She’s back, like stranger in the night – we couldn’t not put this delightful, magical and frankly awesome spirit on the list. After all it’s a Cranberry Gin – cummon’ it’s Christmas!
Cambridge distillers Cranes, formed by twin brothers Ben and Dan – originally made natural fruit ciders. But ventured into the Gin market, and we’re so glad they did. If you’re looking for a Gin that is ultimately welcome at a summer BBQ, and also a cold winters night, Cranes transcends this plateau – complimenting Gin based cocktails as well as a traditional G+T. Described as ‘smooth, fruity yet delightfully sharp’ this spirit really delivers what is expected.
We can’t wait to be sat round a table this Christmas, with family members over a game of Monopoly or Pictionary, with a glass of Cranes Cranberry Gin swishing around in our glass with ice, a top end tonic and of course, Cranberries.
Caorunn Scottish Raspberry Gin (ABV 41.8%)
Let’s face it we’re all here for Scottish Gin. They’ve impressed and shaken the Gin industry…or ‘Gindustry’ should we say. Move over London Dry. We’ve had Caorunn before, and to be honest – it’s really up there with the best.
Caorunn Scottish Raspberry Gin is infused with Perthshire Raspberries as well as Caorunn’s usual 11 botanicals. This spirit is deep, it waits around with you to really observe the tastes – yet it is fresh and cleansing. Whereas some mixers can mask the vibrant tonalities of a traditionally British Gin, Caorunn firmly defies this – expressing itself above all else.
Drop this is with some Fever Tree Indian Tonic Water, over ice with a garnish of fresh raspberries and red apple slices – or even better give this to the Gin lovers in your family. They won’t be disappointed!
Hayman’s of London Exotic Citrus Gin (ABV 41.1%)
In our experience of reviewing the finest premium spirits over the years, Hayman’s consistently deliver on creating delicious gins, and their latest Exotic Citrus Gin is no exception.
As the name suggests, Exotic Citrus builds on the base of the stunning Hayman’s London Dry, but also features kumquat, pomelo, Persian lime and mandarin, not forgetting the sun dried citrus peels used to drive the depth of flavour.
On the nose, expect a lively clash of sweet citrus meets juniper, with oranges being most prominent. On the palate, I’m loving the fruits busting through; clementine, tangerine and mandarin, with soft background notes of pineapple and mango tickling the tongue.
There’s a sharpness from the citrus, which is where the Persian Lime makes its grand entrance.
It’s absolutely good enough to drink neat, but quite simply irresistible with an unfussy tonic and slice of orange.
I love the idea of enjoying this around Christmas, it’s a very special little glass of sunshine and beaches on cold and darkened days!
Tog トグ Gin (ABV 40%)
This delightful little match-up is a collaborative design from Tog トグ Knives and Psychopomp Distillery of Bristols. Tog トグ Knives are crafted in Japan but designed in Britain – and this Gin is a love letter to that relationship, but also the masterly crafted knives that have been born from global collaboration.
Psychopomp micro-distillery have really expressed this connection through this Gin, using the British botanicals juniper, burdock and English oak alongside the Japanese botanicals of cherry wood, pyropia seaweed and sesame. All wrapped up with a complimentary citrus zest of grapefruit and orange.
A little on Pschopomp – they’re a small, independent small batch distillery in St Michaels Hill in Bristol. When demands for their Gin went wild and the HMRC licenced a basement as a distillery. This grass-roots venture exploded into popularity! Psychopomp micro-distillery is now a team of 4 and has a sister distillery, Circumstance Distillery, down the road in Whitehall, Bristol. They are also clearly a ‘go-to’ when it comes to interesting and innovative challenges set by larger brands like Tog トグ.
This Gin sits well in any complex cocktail or in a simple G & T – will a big ol’ wedge of lemon. Drink responsibly while cooking your Christmas dinner with the new Tog トグ knife set you got from Santa!
Now here’s a treat for the drivers and non-drinkers this Christmas. Feragaia is an amber coloured, zero-alcohol spirit made in Scotland using a blend of 14 land and sea botanicals including chamomile, seaweed, blackcurrant and bay leaf. Feragaia is amassing a loyal following in its homeland of Scotland thanks to a growing movement seeing over 1m Scots cut down alcohol consumption since lockdown.
To taste it is totally unique, it’s closest cousins being a combo of peaty whisky, mescal and vermouth. Ideally teamed with a tonic or ginger ale, expect pleasant citrus notes and a delicious spicy finish that will have you giving a ‘what the…’ stare back at the glass.
It’s a bit of an Ironbru/Marmite for us, personally I love it, but it’s definitely not for the other half, mainly because she can’t touch whisky.
Go in with an open mind and embrace this fine spirit!
Serving suggestion: Wild Gorse Mojito with Feragaia
- 50ml Feragaia
- 15ml lime juice
- 10 gorse flowers (can be foraged)
- 5 mint leaves
- 1 tbsp honey
- Topped with tonic, to taste
- Gorse flowers, to garnish
Master of Malt £24
St Germain Elderflower Liqueur (20% ABV)
Christmas is a time for giving as well as festive cocktails of course, and right here we have the quintessential mixer. St Germain Elderflower Liqueur is actually the world’s first artisanal French liqueur, made with 1,000 fresh, wild, handpicked elderflower blossoms in every single bottle.
On the nose, floral with a definite hit of lychee syrup, peach and sweet blossom.
On the palate, this really comes alive with notes of soft pear, elderberries, citrus and miles of elderberries. Wow! And the fun doesn’t stop there. The finish is outstanding… long, fresh and incredibly smooth and balanced.
Whilst this is delicious as an aperitif, you need this in your life if you are a purveyor of fine cocktails. But don’t overcomplicate it… simple measures of grapefruit juice, St Germain and prosecco is an absolute winner!
Master Of Malt £29
Dobel Tequila (ABV 40%)
This multi-faceted, multi-aged Cristalino tequila crafted in the lowlands of Jalisco, Mexico – by the talented Maestro Dobel. A blend of 100% agave Extra-Añejo (extra aged), Añejo (aged) and Reposado (a little aged) tequilas and distilled using a unique charcoal filtration process that removes colour and enhances fruity and floral character. You can tell the creators of this Tequila know their stuff – the bottle alone shouts luxury. Merging the traditional with the innovative has put them at the top – humbling them as Mexico’s best-selling, ultra-premium Tequila.
Maestro Dobel Diamante deploys its delightful, yet subtle notes in an array of earthy tones with sweet follow-ups. Vanilla, butterscotch and herbal spice flood the palate with over-arching hints of oak and the expected herbal spice. Finishing quickly with sweet honey and slightly more of a spicy snap. This Tequila is equally welcome neat in a glass over ices, as well as a Margarita.
This tops our list simply because it is the best on the market in this range – and it has a well-deserved reputation. If you’re looking to ‘get into’ tequila or know someone who is – this is the perfect place to start.
Stream – Junmai Daiginjo (ABV 14%)
The Wasabi experts are back – but this time with another Junmai!
Junmai is a type of Sake, created using only rice, water, yeast and koji – there are no other additives such as sugar or alcohol and this one is perfect for beginners on their Japanese Sake adventure.
Created to cater to lovers of White wine, Using local dewasansan rice polished to 50% Stream Junmai Daiginjo have strived to make a semi-sweet, lighter style of sake to appeal to a wider audience. Stream Junmai Daiginjo is lighter-bodied, has low alcohol content (14%) and has an expressive structure. The drinker is met with melon and candied pears as well as slow hints of creamy rice.
Like a fine wine, Junmai is great with food – Stream Junmai Daiginjo works well with grilled vegetable based dishes, moules mariniere and other white wine or cream dishes – but also is perfect as an aperitif.
This beautiful bottle will sit well on the shelf, screaming to be opened – explore the tastes of Japan or gift them to anyone interested in the culture.
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