My bottle review column (last month’s edition here) is less about tasting notes and more about what is unique, new or trending in spirits alongside my ratings (on a 1-5 rating scale). Now more than ever, small-batch distillers and drink producers need our aid. Please, support small business and quality! My 10 bottle picks for the month: 

The Family Jones Automatic Jones Rock & Rye
Denver’s The Family Jones offers the most memorably striking restaurant and bar design I’ve yet seen in a distillery, with a church-like floor-to-ceiling window and vivid blues contrasting the still’s copper glow above. Rob Masters’ mezcal pechuga-like experimentation of letting house barbecue hang in the still over their whiskey, gaining its fats and aromas, remains a happy memory since my 2019 visit (as did their house aquavit!) Producing gin, rum, bourbon and the like, they also “rock” a rock & rye (pun intended). So popular in their distillery bar/restaurant, they eventually bottled their Automatic Jones Rock & Rye in 375 and 750 ml bottles. It hits with allspice and citrus peel, undergirded by stewed fruits. Unusual for a Rock and Rye, it has won the likes of Best in Class and Double Gold at 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition (disclaimer: though I’m a judge at SFWSC, we taste and evaluate everything blind). 
Taste rating: 4.5

Circumstance Distillery “Cane”
From Bristol, England, I’m smitten with the funky, agricole-esque kick of Circumstance Distillery’s “Cane” rum. At 45% and only 375 bottles, their organic grains and non-traditional yeasts, produce vibrant results. They run two micro-distilleries (the other called Psychopomp Microdistillery — get it?) and experiment with gins, whiskies and beyond. Master of Malt calls them “Britain’s most innovative distillery.” Given a bottle of this rum, I’d say: please make more rum. It makes standout cocktails.
Taste rating: 4.5 

Jean-Luc Pasquet L’Organic 07 Cognac
Organic and with a refreshingly modern label and look for the category, Jean-Luc Pasquet L’Organic Cognacs use native yeasts, no chill-filtering and no added caramel or sugar. It’s one of those handmade, small batch brandies us Cognac-lovers crave. Jean-Luc and his wife, Marie-Françoise, have been growing organic grapes since 1995, while the Pasquet Cognac vineyard has been family owned since 1730. Their son, Jean, runs the brand now, having apprenticed under his father since childhood. One of those rich family stories that makes the Cognac and Armagnac regions of France so special, this is a stunning spirit/eau de vie distilled from 100% ugni blanc grapes from a single vineyard in Cognac’s Grande Champagne region. A blend of two brandies, aged 7 and 8 years in Limousin oak barrels, the 07 exudes dried fig, cedar, creme brulée and even a whisper of dark chocolate notes. Though lush and lingering, it also goes down fresh and bright.
Taste rating: 5

Aqva Di Gin Speziata
With an office in Milan and factory in Salerno, Italy, Bespoke Distillery founders Vincenzo Russo (who comes from decades of family distillers) and Flavio Esposito (international bartender) create spirits around trends and innovation, including their perfume-inspired Aqva di Gin line of Citrus, Floral, Spiced (the website has a comment calling their “not gin.”) I haven’t had the chance to try the Floral or Citrus versions, but Spiced is an intriguing take recalling barrel aged gins with warm spices and fall/winter notes invoked via galangal, tonka bean and pink pepper. This is not a gin to substitute in all classic recipes, but one to craft unique cocktails with. The finish lingers with a creamy texture.
Taste rating: 4

Casa Dragones Anejo Tequila Barrel Blend
Casa Dragones Anejo Tequila Barrel Blend is a special release in their new Barrel Blend, yet another way tequila is making waves in the higher end, sipping spirits market. It’s 100% Blue Agave, matured in two different wood barrels (new French Oak and new American Oak), then blended. It’s smooth, yes, but that is not necessarily an asset in my book (reads: bland, entry level). Thankfully, this goes beyond the initial light caramel and wood notes of the barrel. A nutty fruitiness comes through, and most importantly, so does the agave.
Taste rating: 4

Virginia Distillery’s Courage & Conviction
Released this April, Virginia Distillery’s Courage & Conviction American Single Malt Whiskey is a blend of whiskies aged in bourbon (50%), sherry (25%) and recharred cuvee casks from European red wine producers (25%). This fall they plan to release each cask in the blend individually. From a 100% malted barley mashbill, the tannins and initial wood hit threaten to overwhelm the palate, but the whiskey then nicely rounds out with orange, ginger, toffee notes, finishing with bright spice.
Taste rating: 4

Rhum J.M. 50% Agricole Blanc
My first love in r(h)um has always been agricole for a good 15 years. And Rhum J.M. was one of my intros to the category. Much as I appreciate an aged r(h)um, when it comes to agricole, I relish the fresh, grassy funk of unaged more. Sometimes robust, sometimes restrained and elegant, an unaged, white rhum agricole is such a pleasure in and crucial to a classic Ti Punch, or, for me, in a classic Daiquiri. Rhum J.M.’s 50% Agricole Blanc benefits from the higher proof of its 40% counterpart, especially standing up in cocktails. Ripe tropical fruit and aromatic earthiness ensure it sings in cocktails.
Taste rating: 4.5

Tattersall Distilling Fernet
I wish I could taste craft distillers’ spirits from Minnesota. If my longtime Minneapolis favorite, Tattersall, is any indication, there is more there that spirits lovers across the nation need to discover. While Tattersall’s Aquavit is my first favorite from their extensive line of spirits and liqueurs, their Fernet is no slouch and has regularly graced my home bar for years. A blend of more than 30 botanicals, spices and herbs, it’s layered, well-balanced and a fine example of the category, with just enough bitter to make a statement, tempered by the right level of herbal sweetness.
Taste rating: 4

Hven Organic Aquavit
Aquavit has been one of my great spirit loves for years. As I called out its rise and increasing quality from craft distillers in the U.S. back in 2017, it has only (still slowly) gained ground and is produced by more distillers than ever, sometimes as a limited edition bottling. But in its home region of Scandinavia, the spirit has also seen a surge in releases from smaller producers. One of my longtime favorites — and among the most magical distilleries in the world — is Hven, produced on a tiny Swedish isle about a 90 minute ferry ride from Copenhagen, though on Swedish soil. Hven’s Organic Aquavit is oak-matured both prior to and after distillation, adding unique elements of wood, coffee and chocolate to the herbaceous and citrus-forward aquavit (sourced from organically grown lemons and oranges). It is imported by Preiss Imports:
Taste rating: 4

Vergnano Cioco Carciofo (Artichoke) Liqueur
Though my favorite in the realm of artichoke-centric bitter Italian-style aperitivos (the most well known being Cynar) is Don Ciccio & Figli’s C3 Carrciofo Aperitivo (, Preiss Imports’ Vergnano Cioco Carciofo Liqueur ( is a shining example of an affordable artichoke liqueur — also unfolding with bitter orange and an array of herbs — ideal for both amari fans and newcomers to bitter liqueurs. It’s balanced, round and holds just the right amount of bitter (P.S. it goes surprisingly well with root beer given its whisper of sarsaparilla).
Taste rating: 4.5