Looking for a new flavor? Need a little help making your next choice at your local bar or bottle shop? Dining and drinks writer and judge Virginia Miller combs through new craft spirits releases to taste, review, and recommend. Here are her top 12 picks of the month, rated on a scale of one to five. 

My bottle review column (last month’s edition here) is about what is unique, standout, new and/or trending in spirits with my review ratings on a 1-5 rating scale. My 10 bottle picks of the month:


Burdekin Distillery Vintage Cane Spirit


Burdekin Distillery is situated at the foot of Mt. Elliot in Bowling Green National Park, North Queensland, at the confluence of rainforests and the Coral Sea. This Australian cane spirit from locally grown cane exudes all of that grassy sugarcane goodness us rhum agricole lovers adore, with a rich depth and minerality from spring mineral water on their property. I only tried the aged rum vs. the unaged, but if the unaged is near as good as the aged is, I could be a big fan. Double distilled, aged in Pedro Ximénez sherry barrels and sustainably produced, the joy is tasting their Martinique-esque notes: funky and grassy married to spice, fig and brown sugar notes. A beauty in cocktails (like classic Daiquiris) as it is to sip neat, I’d happily taste any rum they make.  Taste Rating: 5




From Takara Sake USA founded in Berkeley, California, in 1982, BENIIKKO shochu is a rare, 1x distilled 100% imo shochu of Beni-Satsuma sweet potatoes from Japan’s Kagoshima prefecture. Another rarity: they use imo (sweet potato) koji instead of more typical rice koji. This is a honkaku style of shochu, exuding sweet, floral, apple-like notes with subtle earth and white pepper. It’s silky texture and vibrant body belies it’s merely 25% ABV. At roughly $29.99 SRP, it’s also a great value for its taste quality, lingering with a bright, sweet finish on the palate.  Taste Rating: 4.5


• Oak House Distillery Robert’s No. 1 Dry Gin


Brand new from Georgia in April 2023, Oak House Distillery is the first legal distillery in Athens since the 1860s. Rob Woods and Supakana “Air” Nagachinta’s distillery houses a cocktail bar and lounge, two custom-designed stills and 2.5 acres outdoors under large oak trees for lingering over food and drink. Robert’s No. 1 Dry Gin is distilled via a “basket” to infuse botanicals, which come through heavily on the floral citrus side, this gin being inspired by Nagachinta’s native Thailand with lemongrass and makrut lime, alongside cardamom, coriander and juniper. Thankfully, it’s beautifully balanced with herbaceous juniper and coriander and stands up nicely in cocktails. They have two more gins in the works (Robert’s Hibiscus and Honey and Robert’s Old Tom aged in bourbon barrels) as well as an upcoming rum distillery making Jamaican-style rum using native Jamaican yeast. This distillery is one to watch.  Taste Rating: 4.5

• Tulchan Gin


While herbaceous whispers peek through in Scottish Tulchan Gin (45% ABV), berries and citrus stand out first from 14 botanicals sourced in or representing Speyside, Scotland, the heart of whisky country. This taste of the Scottish Highlands utilizes sloe berries, blackberry leaves, white asparagus, elderflower woven, juniper, angelica root and licorice root, to name a few, although the vegetal, savory notes are subtle.  Taste Rating: 4


Talisker 44 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Released at the end of 2022, Talisker 44 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky: Forests of the Deep is a whopping $4499 per bottle at only 1,997 bottles, with only 102 in the States. As the oldest Talisker release ever, I was delighted to taste it and hear of the brand’s partnership with Parley for the Oceans for ocean conservation fighting plastic pollution. This crucial cause backs an incredible whisky graced with sustainably farmed Scottish sea kelp and stave wood shavings before being finished in marine oak casks. It’s deep, dark and layered, with a briny whisper, a bold, umami, smoky, peppery palate that finishes elegantly with savory hints of pepper and salt. For those who can find it (and with deep pockets), it was available through DrizlyTaste Rating: 5


• Golden Rule


San Francisco-based Golden Rule Spirits was founded by two cousins, turning out some of the cutest, retro-looking, brightly colored mini-cans in the saturated RTD field. They launched with a Margarita and an Old Fashioned, then released an Espresso Martini and Paloma. The purity of ingredients are there (for example, the margarita is tequila, triple-sec, lime juice), as is the proof (48 to 79 proof, varying per cocktail). Though I like the earthy-dry notes of the espresso martini, the margarita and paloma win for tasting most like a freshly-shaken cocktail… very difficult to do in a can.  Taste Rating: 3.5 (Old Fashioned), 4 (Espresso Martini), 5 (Margarita & Paloma)

• Deadmau5 and CoCo Vodka RTD


Joel Zimmerman, aka deadmau5, is one of the biggest, Grammy-nominated electronic artists in the world — and another musician in the liquor world. He collaborated with CoCo Vodka™ (launched 2019), a hard coconut water RTD cocktail line with natural electrolytes, in classic coconut vodka and coconut rum flavors, plus pineapple and lime coconut water variations. At 5% ABV, sparkling water keeps the coconut water and triple distilled vodka drinks refreshing, but there is too heavy a sweetness for me. Tasting like that beachy coconut oil vibe that made Malibu Rum such a hit, this line will certainly find its fans as the flavors are still real and vibrant, even if too sweet and a touch cloying. Case in point: while my industry friends with refined palates agreed with me, the line was a hit with my neighbors and non-drink industry friends as I tasted them on it. Taste Rating: 3.5


Fósforo Tobalá Mezcal


At roughly $95 per bottle, Fósforo Tobalá isn’t cheap. And I’m over the endless glut of celebrity-backed spirits (in this case, Fósforo Mezcal is from Mad Money’s Jim Cramer and his wife Lisa Detwiler, after visiting many producers around Oaxaca). But Fósforo Tobalá is made by fourth-generation mezcalero Aarón Alva Sánchez and Mariana Hernández in Huehuetlán el Grande, Puebla. Released in the U.S. in spring 2022, the beloved tobalá varietal is, as I learned seeing it up close and personal in Oaxaca a decade ago, a small agave plant even after 10 years of growing, thus explaining its higher cost. In fact, the tobalá can take 8-15 years to grow to maturity. I haven’t tried their even costlier Tobalá Penca ($125) in a black bottle, but Fósforo Tobalá is an elegant beauty of a mezcal at 45% ABV. It’s fruity and grassy on the nose, while the subtle yet layered vegetal palate exudes an ashen, almost tobacco like layer of earth and smoke.  Taste Rating: 4.5


Consensual Old White 10 Years Porto


With my recent return to the beautiful country of Portugal, I was immersed again in porto tonicos (ubiquitous white port and tonic cocktails), port and aged white port. Aged white port is my favorite category of port we rarely get enough of in the states. I’ve tasted aged white port up to 40 years in Portugal, and, like my beloved sherry, it exudes nutty, caramelized depths, yet is dry and bright compared to a tawny port of the same age. Consensual Old White 10 Years Porto is a nutty, dry beauty that also hits with juicy apples and warm honey without being too sweet. An ideal after dinner sipper, complex enough for porto tonicos but at merely 20% ABV. I wish we would see more aged white ports imported to the States.  Taste Rating: 4


Cook’s Mill American Straight Bourbon Whiskey


Distilled from corn grown and harvested in Catawba County, North Carolina, and released late 2022, Cook’s Mill American Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a blessedly balanced bourbon, weaving from balanced fruit and cherry notes to not overly woody tannins. It’s nicely restrained and easy to drink yet still complex. Better yet, NC native Jason Queen restored an old grist mill and is growing non-GMO grains in the state for corn-forward bourbons with NC provenance. Trying a glut of whiskies in any given week, this one stood out.  Taste Rating: 4.5

Ready for another round? Visit Virginia’s website http://www.theperfectspotsf.com/wp02/for last month’s edition, plus personal recommendations on the best spots in cities around the world. 

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Founding The Perfect Spot in 2007 sharing top recommends globally in food and drink, Virginia Miller is W. North America Academy Chair for The World's 50 Best Restaurants, regular columnist at The Bold Italic and Medium, Distiller Magazine, American Whiskey Magazine, Whisky Magazine, VOICES, Liquor.com, Gin Magazine, etc. She held roles as Zagat SF/NorCal editor, SF Guardian restaurant critic, Table8 National Editor/VP of Content. Published in over 60 international publications, she’s covered global dining, travel, spirits, cocktails, hotels and bars with regular columns at Time Out, Where Traveler, Google’s Touringbird, Food Republic, Thrillist, Travelux, to name a few. She wrote The Official Emily in Paris Cocktail Book. Virginia consults in dining, spirits, cocktails and drink. She co-created Avion’s Reserva Cristalino tequila with Pernod Ricard’s House of Tequila innovation, marketing and distilling teams and is now working multiple agave spirits projects in Mexico over recent years, including cutting edge innovation products and blends for different clients. She consults for multiple distilleries on short-term projects, whether evaluating and providing feedback on samples or products or multiple versions. She helps create various samples and flavor profiles with distilling teams or in labs, edits or writes tasting notes, provides feedback on marketing materials and leads tastings virtually or in-person. She leads tastings virtually for Whiskies of the World and for company parties or private events, educating on a range of spirits. Virginia creates drink menus for Michelin-starred restaurants (like Dominique Crenn’s Golden Poppy in Paris, a multi-month project creating an entire menu of cocktails and non-alcoholic cocktails with stories and photos for the restaurant’s launch). She aids in honing and curating food and drink menus and provides feedback on dishes and drinks. Virginia judges in many international dining, food, spirits, cocktails and bars competitions and awards (including SF World Spirits, ADI Craft Distilling, Tales of the Cocktail, Good Food Awards, IWSC in London, Nola Spirits Comp, Whiskies of the World, etc.) and has visited over 13,000 restaurants and even more. top bars around the world.