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Host's Guide Holiday 2012: Spirits of Giving

  • Richard Carleton Hacker

Aviation Gin
This pot-still-infused spirit hails from Portland, Oregon, and reflects a modern style of gin known as American Dry, which features the thick, creamy mouthfeel of many English gins yet introduces a spicy-sweet complexity resulting from the addition of unique botanicals such as lavender and Indian sarsaparilla. This 84-proof full-bodied gin invites one to go beyond the standard martini and venture into the realm of such retro cocktails as the Aviation, an early-20th-century drink that called for a mixture of gin, maraschino liqueur, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and crème de violette liqueur. Fittingly, the cocktail was the inspiration for this new gin’s name. ($29)

High West Campfire Whiskey
A long aging process and high amount of char in the oak barrels leaves many bourbons with a trace of smoke in their flavor. This mere suggestion, however, is nothing compared to the waft of sweet smoke one finds in Campfire, a unique and aptly named combination of American and Scottish spirits. This relatively young whiskey from Old Town Park City, Utah, possesses the unmistakable iodine-laced accents of an island Scotch, thanks to the addition of a blended malt whiskey to a combination of straight bourbon and straight rye whiskey. The flavors of this smoke-tinged bourbon-rye-Scotch blend linger long after the last swallow—much like the glowing embers of, well, a campfire. ($60)

Karlsson’s Vodka Batch 2008
The award-winning small-batch artisanal Karlsson’s Gold is composed of seven individually distilled varieties of Virgin New Potatoes, a high-dollar crop from the Cape Bjäre peninsula in southwestern Sweden. These spirits are then blended in varying proportions (as each year’s harvest is different) by master blender Börje Karlsson to maintain a consistent taste for Karlsson’s Gold, just as single malts are combined to produce a consistent blended Scotch. Now Karlsson has selected one of these varietals, the Gammelsvensk Röd, to create what can best be described as a single-varietal potato-vodka eau-de-vie. Like grappa in taste and texture, and slightly briny, this single-distilled vodka is best served neat and chilled, preferably in a Riedel Vinum XL aquavit glass. Only 1,980 signed and numbered bottles have been produced. If you missed this one, Batch 2009—the second in the series, made from a single distillation of the sweeter Solist varietal—is now being released. ($80)

Knob Creek Rye
It takes a very special blend to garner a Double Gold Medal in its premiere outing at a blind tasting by 33 judges at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, but that is exactly what Knob Creek Rye did earlier this year. Knob Creek Bourbon was one of the original four small-batch bourbons by Jim Beam; the newest addition to the brand’s portfolio, this 100-proof herbaceous and spicy rye whiskey, is already on the back bar of some of the top mixologists in the country. ($41)

This article was originally published in the November 2012 issue of Robb Report. Click here to read more articles from this issue.

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