Top Spirits and Beers of 2015

From next Tuesday right up until Christmas Eve, I’ll be unveiling my top ten whiskies of 2015.  Before that thought, I wanted to highlight some of the other cracking drinks I’ve had the chance to experience this year, which includes some top class gins, a whole host of beers and a Texan Rum (in a pear tree).

Balcones Texas Rum
Let’s start with the rum, which I only tasted last week during a Balcones Tweet Tasting.  And it was an absolute treat!  It was packed full of sweetness – chocolate, vanilla, raisins, dermerera sugar, blackberries – but tasted just like a Scotch Whisky, and its 63.9% ABV barely made its presence felt.  Dangerous stuff!  The palate was like a light, liquid, sticky toffee pudding, and adding a water only accentuated all the delicious.

Edinburgh Cannonball Gin
One of the newest additions to the Edinburgh Gin family, Cannonball is a Naval Strength gin; packing a punch at 57.2%.  The strength, along with the vibrant selection of botanicals which include double strength juniper and Szechaun pepper, means it stands head and shoulders above the rest of the range, and allows it to work with either tonic or in a cocktail – just don’t drink too much of it straight!

Daffy’s Gin
Another addition to the Edinburgh gin scene, Daffy’s spent 2015 firmly establishing itself in an already crowded market.  It has been bottled at a very specific 43.4%, as the distillers believe this to be the perfect strength for their expression – not too punchy, but with enough oomph to have some presence.  The use of Lebanese mint as a botanical brings a freshness to the spirit, complementing the sweet and fruity notes, along with a warm and elegant finish.

Rock Rose Gin
Cannonball and Daffy’s were great but Rock Rose has been an absolutely revelation this year.  Made on the Caithness coast by a husband and wife team, the distillery uses botanicals found in the local area, before bringing them together in their bespoke still – Elizabeth.  Straight, the juniper really cuts through, along with cardamom and coriander seed, and a very feint aftertaste of white chocolate.  It was also beautifully smooth.  Adding the tonic and orange peel resulted in one of the best G&Ts I’ve had in a long time.

The Beers
I tasted A LOT of good beers this year…along with a few bad ones.  Honourable mentions go to the following:

  • Fyne Ales – Eureka!
  • Left Handed Giant Brewing Co. – West Coast Red
  • Pilot – Citrus and Basil Tart
  • Stewart Brewing – Double Radical Road
  • Alchemy – Citra Burst
  • Drygate – Steam Beer
  • Fyne Ales – Ragnorok (aka Double Jarl)
  • Black Isle Brewery – Red Kite, on tap at the Red Squirrel