Luxury spirits: what’s new and exciting?
Seemingly in contrast with the tough financial times we live in, the spirits category continues to become more premium, for a variety of reasons. Among these is the fact that, generally speaking, consumers are better informed about spirits, but they’re also drinking less – which means they’re willing to spend more when they do. It’s worth having options on your backbar for guests like these who are looking to trade up.
And then there’s the extreme, luxury end of the category – offering not so much a trade up as an invitation to take out a second mortgage. There’s no shortage of interesting new products at this end of the market, as distillers let loose and showcase the very best they have to offer. They might not be for every bar, or indeed most bars, but for the right venue they can be a useful, and profitable addition.
Read on for a round up of just some of the most interesting recent top-end spirit launches.
The Glenturret 50 Years Old (£40,000)
Scotch whisky distillery the Glenturret unveiled its first ever 50yo whisky last year, teaming up with French crystal house Lalique to present this venerable spirit in a black decanter. Only 150 of these decanters were released, each made from black crystal, said to be the most difficult to produce. The whisky itself comes from a single refill sherry cask, filled in 1972. The first decanter was auctioned by Sotheby’s, including artwork by Scottish artist Matthew Draper, who used ink made from charring and burning the whisky’s staves.
Later in 2022 saw another release from The Glenturret in Lalique crystal, entitled The Glenturret Prowess, limited to 320 bottles, and priced at £11,800. Like the packaging for the 50 Years Old, this decanter was designed by Lalique artistic and creative director Marc Larminaux, who took inspiration from the skilled hands that produced the whisky, and drawing on the designs of trophies that celebrate success and prowess. The liquid itself, a 33yo single malt, consists of whisky drawn from two casks, filled in 1987 and 1988. Prowess follows on from the distillery’s previous Lalique bottling, entitled Provenance.
Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery Collection Chapter Three (£42,500)
In 2020 Ireland’s Midleton Very Rare embarked on a series of six annual releases of exceedingly rare Irish whiskey from the Old Midleton Distillery, which closed in 1975. Entitled the Silent Distillery Collection, the releases range from between 45 and 50 years old, resulting in what Midleton describes as Ireland’s oldest and rarest whiskey collection. Last year’s release, Chapter Three, is a 47yo whiskey that is a combination of two spirits, one aged in an ex-bourbon barrel, and the other in an ex-sherry butt, both dating back to 1973. Only 97 bottles were produced.
To create the packaging for this rare release, Midleton teamed up with Irish designer John Galvin, who created a bespoke wooden cabinet to house the Irish Waterford Crystal decanters. Galvin used wood from Burr Elm, with markings to represent the flames used to heat the pot still used to produce the whiskey.
Penderyn 20yo (£1,250)
The latest spirit producer to dive into the world of NFTs is Welsh distiller Penderyn, teaming up with online platform Paiverse to launch a 20yo single malt. The bottling, from one of the distillery’s ex-bourbon single malt casks from 2002, consists of just 25 bottles, and is the oldest whisky ever released from Penderyn – it only began distilling in 2000, after all.
Each of the 25 NFTs is a digital certificate of ownership for a bottle of this rare Penderyn Single Malt whisky, using blockchain technology for authentication and ownership verification. Penderyn isn’t the first spirit producer, or indeed first whisky, to make use of NFTs to launch a new product – the list already includes The Glenrothes, The Dalmore, Johnnie Walker, and many more.
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Clase Azul Colores (£870)
Tequila brand Clase Azul is no stranger to the world of top-end spirits, having created a number of rare and interesting bottlings presented in different versions of its distinctive bottle, and with some serious price tags to match. For Día de Muertos last year, it unveiled limited-edition Colores, consisting of 6,500 decanters available around the world.
The second in a series of Día de Muertos releases from the brand, this latest contained an añejo tequila that was initially aged for 22 months in American whisky casks, and then finished for six months in rum casks from Martinique. The resulting tequila was bottled in silver-plated, hand-painted decanters that apparently took 12 days to produce.
Cognac Frapin Cuvée Rabelais (£9,000)
There’s no shortage of luxury expressions to choose from in the world of cognac. Among the more noteworthy in recent times was the return of Cognac Frapin’s Cuvée Rabelais – its fifth release, and the first in over 15 years. Named after the French writer – who also happens to be an ancestor of the founder of Frapin – this cognac is made from a blend of eaux-de-vies from the house’s Paradise cellars. This latest release consisted of 500 bottles, each hand blown by Cristallerie Saint-Louis in France, decorated with 18-carat gold, and housed in a wooden case.
Procera Green Dot (£135)
Gin might not generally command the sort of prices that spirits like cognac and scotch do, but Kenyan brand Procera is among those offering a luxury option in the category. Its Green Dot expression is at the top of the range, showcasing the brand’s use of green African juniper. In fact, juniper is the only botanical in Green Dot, used in both green and dried form, along with other parts of the juniper plant. Procera’s packaging is suitably premium too, with glass that’s handblown in Kenya, and finished with a palm wood stopper.
The brand unveiled the 2022 vintage of its range of gins in September last year. Procera is featured on the cocktail list at Duke’s in London, as a trade up from its world-famous and already rather premium Martinis.
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