What We’re Drinking in 2013

There are some exciting things happening in the wine and spirits world right now and we want you to be the first to know about them. We taste new bottles every day, so we know when something truly special is in our glasses. From whiskey distilled from beer to rare Chardonnay, here’s what we’re drinking in 2013.


Smooth Ambler Barrel Aged Gin
All gins used to be aged and this new limited release from Smooth Ambler is nothing short of a mind-expanding bit of history in a glass. The individual characteristics of the gin botanicals have been rounded out harmoniously by their time in used bourbon barrels. The nose is a mélange of classic gin notes and unmistakable whiskey aromas that mingle together effortlessly. Vanilla, butterscotch, juniper, wildflower, and citrus are perfectly balanced and set against sweet and delicate wood sugars and spices. A rich and luscious texture ends with a finish that lasts much longer than any whiskey aged for this amount of time. Easily one of the best spirits we’ve come across in a while, this extraordinary gin can be enjoyed so many ways, including neat, but I encourage you to experiment with this in your favorite whiskey and gin cocktails.

Owney’s New York City Rum
Made from domestic molasses and citing some extraordinary NYC history, Owney’s Rum is a dynamic new edition to the craft spirits scene. Bridget Firtle has cashed in everything in order to pursue her dream of making craft spirits the right way. Her white rum is full of gorgeous pure cane, molasses, and vanilla elements with some well-balanced esters and minerals. For now her distillery space inEast Williamsburgis a one-woman show and we absolutely cannot wait to see the incredible developments sure to take place there over the coming years.

Herencia Mexicana Blanco Tequila
This tequila just seems determined to make you fall in love with it. With its heady nose of deep jasmine flowers, lemon, and sweet sap, stopping to smell the flowers never had more meaning. Classic and delicious on the palate with gorgeous notes of sweet agave, mineral, and pepper. Gorgeous texture and gentle but complex spice elements help keep the senses thoroughly stimulated. The best value I’ve ever seen for a true tequila of this quality; the only bad thing about it will be the day that it runs out. Equally a must for the connoisseur and beginner alike.

Charbay “S” Hop Flavored Whiskey
Flavored whiskey? OK, I’m listening. Well, it’s not exactly flavored in the way you may think. It’s not a finished spirit that has macerated with flavoring agents, or had agents added just before bottling. What we have here is distilled beer. Specifically, The Big Bear Black Stout fromBearRepublicBrewing. Regular whiskey production uses a “distiller’s beer” that yields a white spirit when distilled. In this instance you have the next step: making a brewer’s beer that is finished with hops and then distilled, giving a unique aroma that is quite complex, even before aging. This is part of a new movement in whiskey to create change before distilling, as opposed to using a particular cask finish to achieve extra layers of flavor. The aromas leap out of the glass here: herbs, orange, malty grain, leafy greens, and flowers.

New Holland Brewers Whiskey
In their short history, New Holland Spirits has already established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. This brewers’ whiskey, derived from what would typically be used for delicious finished beer, ends up being distilled twice in a traditional pot still. Malted barley, smoked barley, and rye, along with aging in heavily charred, small oak barrels, help add layers and layers of flavor complexity and subtle nuances of aroma. Cereal aromas and flavors mix with a caramel sweetness, all guided along by a streak of spiciness and a hint of smoke. Welcome to the New World of Whiskey, friends.

Leviathan 1 American Peated Single Malt
The age of a whiskey is the most important factor, right? Older means better? I’m here to say that age does not guarantee these beliefs. Age does not determine the quality, only the character. There are many whiskies (-eys) that do not provide an age statement. The popularity of these spirits is evident in the excitement over the intense, robust, and sometimes very smoky/peaty styles out there. If you enjoy character like this in whiskey you must realize that in older spirits these phenols, bonds, and compounds break down. In this case younger spirits retain the aforementioned. Leviathan has the highest p.p.m. of peat outside of Islay in the world at 110. It’s also finished in late-harvest Cabernet wine casks. These elements, combined with others not mentioned, make this whiskey a major standout.

Barbaresco “Ovello”, Gigi Bianco – 2007
An exquisite pairing with meaty stews or braised duck breast. This is a classic Barbaresco with charming aromas: roses, white pepper, and red fruits. Classic, elegant Nebbiolo from a tiny property in Barbaresco.

Dolcetto d’Alba, Rizzi – 2011
This was another great vintage for wines in the Langhe appellation, producing exceptional color, distinct freshness, intense aromas, outstanding structure, and perfect balance. This Dolcetto is full of fruit that is singularly enjoyable in the flush of youth.

Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese, Oreste Buzio – 2011
Grignolino is a very fussy grape to grow, and it has so little color in its skins that the wine can easily be mistaken for a rosé. This example from the Buzio winery in Monferrato is a stunning example of Grignolino done well: light and dry with white pepper, tangy red fruit, and chalky minerals. I can’t think of a better match for a lighter style of pizza, with fresh herbs and a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Corton Blanc Grand Cru, Chandon de Briailles – 2000
A rare find, this Chardonnay is unusual because it comes mainly from Pinot Noir soils. Quite full, evoking yellow fruits (peach, apricot) and a touch of honey. Used oak barrels for maturation and limited stirring up of lees bring about an elegant and fresh finish. From a Burgundy vintage that produced beautifully structured, ageworthy whites.

Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Baudes”, Hubert Lignier – 2007
The “Les Baudes” vineyard is located just beneath “Bonnes Mares.” This has a fabulous nose that’s perfumed with berries and minerals and shows incredible elegance on the palate. A classic Chambolle for the cellar.

Interested in a special tasting of some of the rare bottles that Astor carries?
Check out French Wine: Discoveries From The Astor Cellar .