With the festive season fast approaching, the drinks cabinet is more important than ever. Parties, celebrations and general merriment hinge beyond those hinges – but what bottles are lined up inside your cabinet?
If you’re looking to supplement your supply, or just try something new, allow Gentleman’s Journal to steer your in the right direction. For our 2017 Drinks Awards, we tested tens of bottles of whisky, gin, vodka, tequila and rum to find the best tasting, most cleverly designed and best value for money available. And, in our bid to find the most spirited of spirits, we settled on the following winners and runners-up.
Let’s start with the best. The king of spirits, whisky comes in as many types and varieties as the men who drink it. We focused on Scotch for our category – although Irish and Bourbon variants are just as acceptable and delectable.
Winning this category was Ballantine’s 12-Year Old, chosen for its quality at a reasonably low price point, and excellent cocktail-making qualities. In second place, Balvenie’s Double Oak 12-Year is similarly palatable neat – without breaking the bank. And, coming up third is the old dependable, Johnnie Walker Black Label – peaty, a little smokey, and never disappointing.
Ballantine's 12-Year Old
Johnnie Walker Black Label
Gin has had something of a renaissance in recent years. Once the scourge of London’s streets, this clear spirit has returned with a clean vengeance to become every discerning gent’s choice in a martini – and many other cocktails besides.
Our winner, Isle of Harris Gin, is not only crisp and delicate to taste – the perfect gin for a G&T – but it’s also a wonderful example of bottle design. You’ll want to keep this on your shelf way after you’ve drained it – which can only be a good thing. Second up comes Plymouth’s Naval Strength Gin, a spirit with as much history as alcohol – and who doesn’t love a good story? Third place goes to Nicholson Gin, another great story: this gin has just hit the market again, resurrected from days gone by to make waves in the gin market once more.
Isle of Harris Gin
Plymouth Naval Strength Gin
Rum is going to be the next big thing – or so we think here at Gentleman’s Journal. We’ve seen the ginaissance sweep across London, and whisky is always plugging away, but we forecast rum to be the next spirit to take the hearts – and glasses – of drinkers.
If you’re a stranger to this South American spirit, why not start with the reassuringly Cuban Havana Club 7 Years – a deliciously dark Anejo rum, and the winner of this category. Next up is Mount Gay XO, an extra old rum imbued with deep, rich flavours and a strong Barbadian heritage. And, rounding out this group comes the diminutive Don Papa, a small but potent bottle with one of the most distinctive tastes – and labels – in the entire competition.
Vodka is perhaps one of the most hotly-contested spirits in terms of gentlemanliness. But James Bond ordered vodka martinis, so we’re on board. And anyway, you won’t find any bottles of Glenn’s or red label here. It’s only the finest, cleanest and clearest spirits for us.
In first place, the modestly-priced but ingeniously-conceived Zubrowka Bison Grass vodka is not only sharp and smooth, but contains a single blade of grass – as much a talking point as a drinking point. In second place, the clean Ciroc scoops the prize – known as a party vodka, but one as easily enjoyed over ice or straight from the freezer at home. Finally, rounding out the top three is Belvedere – Bond’s current vodka of choice, and one as smooth tasting as it looks in that slimline, delicately-decorated bottle.
Tequila is another love or hate spirit. Some can’t stand the stuff and, for others, it is the drink of the gods. Get it pure enough, and it is said that tequila will never give you a hangover. So, if you’re struggling to get over big nights out these days, these bottles could be your spiritual saviours.
Up first is the George Clooney-founded Casamigos. Recently sold for $1 billion – so you know it’s good – this was developed as a sipping tequila, a bottle to replace your scotch as an evening tipple. In second place, comes Patron Silver – a classic for a reason, and a clean, clear and crisp spirit that tastes as nice neat as in cocktails. Finally, third place goes to Jose Cuervo Especial Gold, our favourite tequila for cocktails given its rich flavour and bolder taste.