Two standout new spirits of the year thus far? Here are two unusual US-made spirits that immediately drew me back for a second taste.
Bete from Sidetrack Distillery ($32.95/375 ml)
In my three trips to Seattle in seven months, a spirit that keeps impressing me with every sip is the uncategorizable Bete from Sidetrack Distillery in Kent, WA. The spirit is distilled from sugar beets and like the great beet cocktails I’ve had over the years, it’s vegetal, earthy, while simultaneously light and bright. Figuring out ways to use it in cocktails may seem initially daunting, but messing around at home, I find it plays beautifully with lime, lemon and other citrus, as well as vegetables like celery. A fascinating product, never has the essence of beets quite been captured like this.
High Ester Navy Style Rum from Lost Spirits Distillery ($45/375 ml)
Monterey’s Lost Spirits Distillery (from Distiller/Blender Bryan Davis, formerly making Leviathan peaty whiskey and an absinthe) is not far from my home of SF… but their new cask-strength, Navy-style rum (68% ABV) is an adventure hinting of far away islands and stormy seas.
Hardly what one might call an “elegant” rum – though it is well made – this high ester rum is robust, overproof and most importantly, memorable. Not as boozy as its ultra-high proof would suggest, its Grade A molasses-base ensures a dark, moody spirit with the kind of funk I adore in a rum, hence my first loyalty to agricole-style rums. This is not agricole, but it’s funky, alive, woody, laden with overripe fruit and licorice notes, produced in copper pot stills. There’s a wildness to the rum more exciting than dozens of American-made rums I’ve tried this year, or in any recent years.