This article written by Robert Haynes-Peterson was originally published on AskMen.
We get it: It seems as if things should be warming up out there. Maybe someday they will. But it's not quite yet time to put away the whiskies for the season, and a host of new releases means there's a lot of drinking to do before it's time for poolside G&Ts. Plus, you know, St. Patrick's Day.
Green Spot Irish Whiskey: This is the one your bartender's been waiting eagerly for. Bottles were being "smuggled" in and poured from behind the bar before the first legal stuff arrived in the country. The brand got its start in the 1880s, but was relaunched in 2011. The single pot still spirit is aged seven to 10 years in first- and second-use bourbon barrels (and just a "hint of sherry cask,” according to distiller Brian Nation) to create an earthy nose with hints of apricot, mushroom and burnt wood. On the mouth it is round and full, with notes of vanilla, stone fruits and ripe apple. 40% ABV, $50
Captain Morgan White Rum: The Captain has long been known for one thing: Spicing up parties, from the frat house to the tailgate. The combination of bite and sweet, mixed with a little cola, is one of those aromatic memes that travels with you throughout your life. Now the Captain sails into new waters, with an ordinary white rum. (What's next? A straight rye from the folks at Fireball?) The five-times distilled spirit is simply a clean, accessible rum, ideal for daiquiris and mai tais. No "Black Spiced" or "Lime Bite" or what have you. On the nose it's somewhat antiseptic and almost neutral for a rum. On the palate, warm, sweet and pleasant, with notes of brown sugar, apple and molasses. It's also very smooth. Pair with soft fruit (pineapple, mango) or, of course, cola. 40% ABV, $16
Teeling Irish Whisky: This new label from a family with deep roots in Irish whisky arrives just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Sons Jack and Stephen Teeling view this return to the "roots" of Dublin's distilling past as a venture into independent whisky production (almost all Irish whisky is produced by a handful of companies at one of three major distilleries). While this non-chill-filtered whisky is from reserve stock (aged in ex-bourbon barrels, then finished in Flor de Caña rum barrels), the company is constructing a new distillery (it claims it's the first new distillery to break ground in over 125 years), scheduled to begin operations in 2015. Sweet and smooth, the whisky boasts aromatics of vanilla and baking spices, and notes of oak, cinnamon, allspice, and vanilla on the mouth, with a pleasing spice finish. 46% ABV, $40
Ancho Reyes Chili Liqueur: Another highly anticipated arrival among bartenders, with some seriously buzzed buzz, this Mexican import is set to shake up the flavored spirit category. With a base spirit made of cane sugar (like rum) not agave (like tequila), the emphasis here is on the poblano chili, a smokey-sweet staple in Mexican cooking. Fireball fans will recognize the spicy-sweet nature of the spirit, but it's not a sugar bomb. It opens sweet, then expands into chili spice, chocolate, ripe stone fruit, candied almonds, and baked apple, with a pungent, herbaceous finish. Blend with reposado tequila or Fernet Branca for a bracing shooter. Though it's billed as a liqueur, at 80 proof, it's full-on hooch. 40% ABV, $33
Compass Box The General: You've got to have a holy grail, and this new, very limited release from innovative London-based Scotch whisky blenders Compass Box is a good one. Like some other recent higher-end releases (The Glenlivet Alpha comes to mind), there's an element of trust here: The producers have opted to not go into great detail about the components, blended Scotch whiskies from two companies. One's been sitting for 33 years and the other, Compass Box claims they can't disclose for fear of violating Scotch whisky regulations (would they have to kill you?). "We know little of the component whiskies,” says the release, and while they reveal there's a combination of American bourbon whiskey and sherry casks involved in the blending, "the provenance wasn't really important." What's important is the taste, a deep, "antique" whisky rich in dried fruits and old sherry wine notes. Given Compass Box's hugely successful track record with previous expressions, we're ready to march into battle with The General. Only 1,600 bottles were made. 53.4% ABV, $300
Mama Walker's Maple Bacon Liqueur: You know that thing when you crave a Denny's breakfast at 2 a.m.? Mama Walker's has captured that feeling in bottle form with the release of three breakfast-themed liqueurs: Maple Bacon, Glazed Donut and Blueberry Pancake. It's a grand slam of sugary vodkas with scents and flavorings geared to make you wake up and search out the coffee. The liqueurs do a good job of emulating their namesakes, if that's what you're after. Maple Bacon starts off smelling and tasting like so much Mrs. Butterworth's syrup. But the bacon, crispy and well-fried, kicks in at the finish, and immediately brings to mind camping at cabins by the lake, a small fire growing, stoked by whoever woke up less bleary-eyed before you. Is that so wrong? 35% ABV, $13
Old Blowhard 26-Year Bourbon: "It's rare to see [American] whiskeys at this age," says Diageo master of whiskey Ewan Morgan about Old Blowhard, part of a series of "forgotten" whiskeys from Diageo's new Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Company (a distillery in name only). Created at the old Bernheim Distillery (now closed) and stored at the old Stitzel-Weller distillery (also closed), Old Blowhard has been brought down from cask strength (148.7 proof) to 90.7 proof. It's a pretty big whiskey in its own right, but it still has so much flavor. On the nose, toasted oak, smoked vanilla, creme brulée. On the palate, big and bright, with a brave bite. Notes of caramel, vanilla, toasted dill, orange peel and candied fruit. Easier to find (and cheaper) than Pappy Van Winkle 23-Year, and even older. 45.35% ABV, $150