My bottle review column (last month’s edition here) is less about tasting notes and more about what is unique or trending in spirits alongside my flavor and balance ratings (on a 1–5 rating scale). Across the spirits spectrum, here are 10 spirits of the month:


10th Street Distillery’s Peated Single Malt
San Jose’s first “small batch” distillery, 10th Street Distillery’s grain-to-glass whiskey stopped me in my tracks at first sip. Released late 2019, their Peated Single Malt Whisky recalls when I first tasted Westland’s elegant single malts from Seattle over 7 years ago. In both cases, it’s easy to assume it’s Scotch. Nearly a decade in the making and already winning double gold awards, 10th St.’s balanced smoke and fruit make it an ideal sipper. Former engineers and partners Virag Saksena and Vishal Gauri honed down to a custom peated malt utilizing the Bay Area’s alkaline, mineral-rich water, distilled on alembic double-pot copper stills, aged in ex-bourbon barrels (ABV 46%, $65).
Taste rating: 5

Citrus Liqueur

Amari Siciliani’s Mi…Manda-rino!
With their adorable labels and cheeky charm, I wish Amari Siciliani’s amari and liqueurs were available in the US — or in much of Italy. Even in my recent travels across the magical isle of Sicily, I struggled to find this small batch Palermo distillery’s bottles. They do right by amaro and a not-too-sweet limoncello-esque lemon liqueur, but it’s their Mi…Manda-rino! that first got my hooked when I tasted it in Paris. Sicilian citrus is famously superb and their mandarin shines in a bottle, almost juice-like in its freshness, blessedly subtle in its sweetness balanced delicately by tart-sour.
• Taste rating: 5


Glendalough Gins
Scotland’s long history of gin (Tanqueray, Hendricks, etc.) — and Ireland’s century-plus of no new distilleries until recent years — means Irish gins are playing catch-up. But like gin everywhere, they’ve been swiftly on the rise. Glendalough has been a notable Irish whiskey distiller since 2011. Since 2014, their gins have made an impression, rolling out seasonal gins, sloe gin and rose gin since. Their original Wild Botanical Gin remains the most versatile, showing off their wild foraged botanicals from Ireland’s beautiful Wicklow mountains south of Dublin, including rare plants like hardy watermint.
• Taste rating: 4

Masahiro Okinawa Gin
First tasting Masahiro Okinawa Gin is still nearly impossible to get in the states (although you can purchase it for a premium at e-store for Japanese spirits, dekanta), though released in Japan in 2017. Masahiro Distillery has been producing awamori since 1882, while their gin features regional, unusual botanicals like Balinese long pepper, guava leaves, goya (bitter melon) and shekwasha (an Okinawan citrus). As the first Okinawan gin, it may not be the best Japanese gin out there, although in typical Japanese fashion its tastefully balanced if not particularly memorable on the palate. But it’s a prime example of the continued flush of Japanese (and Asian) gins showcasing local botanicals.
• Taste rating: 3.5


Winding Road Distilling’s Agricole Blanc Virgin Cane Spirit
One of many distilleries proliferating around Australia these days, Winding Road Distilling Co. — in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales — is a family-run distillery sourcing local ingredients around their home village of Tintenbar. Producing rum, whisky, coffee liqueur and gin, their Agricole Blanc Virgin Cane Spirit appeals to rhum agricole lovers. Australia requires 2 or more years of aging in oak barrels to be called rum, but for those who like their r(h)um grassy, green and fresh, this unaged version is the one to get (they’re also aging it for release this year or next).
• Taste rating: 4 


Susto Mezcal
A newcomer in late 2018 with Austin-meets-Mexico connections, Susto Mezcal is produced by mezcalero Crispin Perez in Oaxaca’s San Dionisio Ocotepec region, featuring mezcal’s most common agave: espadin. It’s a solid cocktail mezcal or introductory mezcal with its rounder, more subtle mix of ash/smoke, citrus and vanilla notes.
• Taste rating: 3.5


Vergnano Maraschino Liqueur
While I often find Italian Maraschino liqueur overwhelms the classic cocktails it’s in (and thus I always cut it back), Vergnano Maraschino Liqueur is from a recipe developed by the first generation of the Fratelli Vergnano family in 1865. It’s sweet, to be sure, but the vibrancy of Marasca cherries and amaretto/almond nuttiness delight, while its lush profile changes some of those classic recipes (for the better), like a Last Word.
• Taste rating: 4.5 


Maria Gaetana Agnesi 1799 5-year Brandy
Film legend Francis Ford Coppola and Germain-Robin juice (brandy, that is) are behind Maria Gaetana Agnesi 1799 5 year Brandy, a more recent example of Northern California’s decades-old tradition pioneering excellent American brandy since the early 1980s from Hubert German-Robin, Charbay, St. George Spirits and Dan Farber’s Osocalis. Coppola’s brandy is named after an 18th century mathematician, philosopher and theologian, his spirits line tributing brilliant women of history. This blend of Germain-Robin brandies is proofed with Napa Valley spring water from the Coppola family estate in Rutherford (Napa). It sips elegantly yet robustly, continuing the California brandy legacy.
• Taste rating: 4


Cardinal Spirits Walnut Nocino
Italy’s traditional liqueur made from green, unripe walnuts gets the Indiana treatment, the only nocino distiller in IN (they also produce gins, rums, vodkas, brandies, canned cocktails and beyond). Cardinal Spirits Walnut Nocino exudes a pleasing balance from star anise, vanilla beans, allspice and orange peel steeped in their grape-based vodka with local English walnuts from Fort Wayne. This beauty evokes root beer and green, nutty notes.
• Taste rating: 4.5 


Tardy Cognac Family Grand Brulot
France’s Tardy Cognac Family’s Grand Brulot tributes the great New Orleans classic cocktail, Cafe Brulot. While nothing compares to the historic cart/tableside service of this flaming cocktail (more on that here), this bottling celebrates the coffee and brandy combo feature a blend of Cognac’s ubiquitous Ugni Blanc and Colombard grapes from the Tardy’s single-estate, aged for 4–5 years, then blended with 100% Robusta Ecuadorian coffee bean essence. Grand Brulot’s sweetness could make it difficult to mix in cocktails, but the brand released a helpful cocktail recipe booklet. Those who want a sweet espresso kick with Cognac elegance will find it an ideal digestif.
• Taste rating: 3.5