Some spirits producers will tell you that distillation cancels out provenance. While that might hold true for most mass-produced booze, it doesn’t apply to small-batch spirits made from ingredients sourced with care.
Single-estate spirits, crafted with grains, agave or other base ingredients grown at one location, express the character of where they’re made. The effects of climate, soil, altitude and native yeasts matter here. But don’t take our word for it. Try these five bottles of single-state spirits for a taste of true authenticity.
Appleton Estate Rare Blend 12 Year Old Rum ($45)
This rum is produced on an estate in a small, circumscribed area. “This land is the mother to our rum,” says master blender Joy Spence. “The endless fields of vivid green sugar cane, the rich and fertile soil and the blazing blue limestone spring supplying our water all give rise to the lingering sweet smells of molasses and aging rum that fill the air.”
Deep bronze in the glass, it has fruit and cocoa notes followed by molasses, orange peel, vanilla and coffee, with a hint of toasted oak and almond, and a bittersweet luscious finish. “You can’t fake a single-estate spirit, and you can’t make it on a whim,” says Spence. “We’ve made rum this way at Appleton Estate for 265 years.”
Belvedere Vodka Single Estate Rye Series ($45 ea)
Both vodkas in the Polish brand’s single-estate line are made with diamond Dankowski rye, but the rye is planted on fields almost 310 miles apart. The result is two wildly different flavor profiles. “While it might be hard to showcase as many nuances in spirits as you can in wine, the differences that you can show are significant enough that they can share the stage with wine,” says Belvedere brand ambassador Brian Stewart.
Smogóry Forest, in the western part of the country, is known for its continental climate and fertile soils, resulting in a salty-sweet spirit with notes of caramel, honey and white pepper. Lake Bartężek, in the northern Mazury Lake district, boasts glacial waters, snowy winters and weather influenced by Baltic winds. Vodka produced here is mellow with black pepper, toasted nuts and cream.
Chase Vodka ($38)
The Chase family’s farming heritage dates back three generations. In 2008, it decided to build the U.K.’s first craft distillery in more than 200 years in order to process the surplus potatoes that were either too small or “wonky” to make it to market. Its vodka is made from only two ingredients: estate-grown potatoes and water from its bore hole.
“Terroir, in our eyes, is as much about sustainability as it is taste,” says global brand ambassador James Chase. “Having the potatoes growing around the distillery not only means we can guarantee quality but the food miles involved is considerably less.” The vodka shows clean aromas of white pepper and potatoes with a creamy, waxy mouthfeel.
Far North Spirits Roknar Minnesota Rye Whiskey ($42)
“We wanted to express the uniqueness of northwestern Minnesota as purely as we could from start to finish,” says Michael Swanson, owner and distiller at the northernmost distillery in the contiguous United States. From grain to glass, every aspect of this rye whiskey is Minnesotan. The rye hails from Swanson’s 100-year-old family farm in Hallock, and the grains are milled, mashed, fermented and distilled at the distillery.
The resulting whiskey has brown sugar, orange peel and sawn-oak aromas, with flavors of dried currants, almonds, vanilla and a baking spice finish. ”Regional expressions of spirits are one of the most vital contributions craft distilleries can make,” says Swanson. “They add authenticity, heritage, nuance and depth to the whiskey category.”Continue to 5 of 5 below.
Tequila Ocho Puerta del Aire Plata ($40)
A joint venture by third-generation tequilero and fifth-generation agave farmer Carlos Camarena and the official ambassador of tequila to the EU Tomas Estes, this tequila highlights the stark differences in agave grown at different estates with varying altitudes and climates.
Each release comes from a specific estate and year of harvest. For the plata (silver), the agave is cooked in steam-powered ovens, fermented in wooden fermentation tanks using wild yeast, distilled and proofed with mineral-rich spring water from the distillery. Complexity of character, rather than consistency, is the overarching goal for Ocho’s line of single-estate spirits.