Clever Fox Rum
Brought to you by Oceanside Distillers in San Diego, CA, Clever Fox rum is the debut product for this young brand. Fermented in-house using cane syrup sourced from Louisiana, then distilled in a single run using a hybrid still, this product balances cleanness and flavor with style.
Its 45% ABV (90 proof) strength makes it a clear choice for mixing in cocktails, where it seems destined for use in a Daiquiri, Mojito, or even a sophisticated rum Negroni.
On the nose, this spirit is a study in apricot, with cane, spice, and honey character emerging on the palate. It’s light, airy and unencumbered: perfect in your next daiquiri or mojito. This Clever Fox presents an emerging case for “West Coast Rum.
Mason Dixon Distillery Tsipouro
This project is a throwback to distiller Yianni Barakos’ first distilling run when he was 11 years old (yes, you read that correctly). Tsipouro is an un-aged grape brandy that hails from Greece, and it bears similarities to both grappa and moonshine.
Distilled from a slow fermented Catawba wine from Mazza vineyards in PA, this batch of Tsipouro is decidedly more refined than his childhood attempt, made using bread yeast and grape fruit concentrate. But that doesn’t mean this is prissy or delicate. Weighing in at 50% ABV (100 proof), it displays a charming rusticity that begs to be paired with the cuisine of its home, Greece.
On the other hand, if you’d like to enjoy this bottle in the winter months, consider mixing it with honey and spices, then heating it to create your own “Rakomelo,” or honeyed spirit.
Old Bay Vodka
A new release from George’s Beverage Company, this product begs the question: can you ever get enough Old Bay? It seems destined for use in a Bloody Mary or a dirty Martini, but a tasting and analysis of this bottle reveals more than might initially meet the eye.
The first thing that might raise eyebrows is the mere 35% ABV – isn’t Vodka normally at least 40%? Well as it turns out, this slightly lower proof point may be designed to highlight the flavors of the infused spices and botanicals and to make the vodka more sessionable in cocktail applications.
One pairing that seems particularly fortuitous for this savory vodka is a pairing with grapefruit juice. So next time you’re enjoying a sunset over the Chesapeake, break out some Old Bay Vodka greyhound cocktails and savor a taste of Maryland.
Another quirky offering from Copenhagen-based distillers, Empirical, Ayuuk is a single-botanical grain spirit that highlights the flavor of the passilla mixe chile. Inspired by creator Lars Williams’ trip to Oaxaca with his wife, Ayuuk also has a decided ecological and philanthropic streak.
Empirical works directly with the farmers who painstakingly cultivate these chiles at high altitude, paying them generous prices for produce that would otherwise be bought at pesos on the dollar. The result is a fragrant, flavor-packed distillate that offers a new and delightful addition to the ongoing conversation between spirits and chiles.
Bare Zero Proof Fernet
Rounding out the list of new and noteworthy spirits is Bare Zero Proof Fernet. With the explosion of the low- and no-ABV cocktail space, we’re seeing a number of noteworthy products entering the market designed to fill gaps behind the “dry” bar. Now, more than ever before, you can locate 1:1 zero-proof substitutes for your favorite spirits and liqueurs.
But…not all non-alcoholic spirits are created equal. So how does Bare Zero Proof Fernet stand up to scrutiny?
Color-wise, it has a lovely cola hue, which is very on-brand for Fernet. The nose is bursting with mint, of which they incorporate multiple varieties. The palate is where you can really tell that this is a non-alcoholic mixer, it being noticeably less bitter and “bracing” than fully-leaded fernet. However, the mouthfeel is excellent–better than most normal fernets, in fact–and the finish is long with a reminder of what you came to this bottle looking for: bitterness.