11 Top New Spirits of 2014 (So Far)

By Lanee Lee, Foodable Contributor

As the saying goes, So many things to sip, so little time. To streamline the process (plus do your liver a favor), we picked our favorite 2014 spirit releases that we think you should try now. 

U.S. Spirits

1. JARDESCA California Aperitiva 
Sonoma, CA

The first of its kind as a California white wine/eau de vie hybrid, is a refreshing sipper with bay laurel, pink peppercorn and grapefruit peel botanical notes. JARDESCA (a fictional word riffing on the Latin words for garden/fresh) works well alone on ice with a citrus twist or an alternative to cocktail calling for a vermouth. (Price: $30.00)

2. Cutler’s Gin
Cutler’s Artisan Distillery, Santa Barbara, CA

Released this May, Cutler's Gin is a new, Western-style gin. So if you’re not a fan of ‘Christmas tree’ aka juniper forward gin, you’ll love this. The brainchild of chemist-turned-distiller Ian Cutler, the gin features local Santa Barbara botanicals, like bergamot orange, elderflower, pomelo, pixie tangerine and lemons. It’s already garnered a silver award at the International Wine & Spirits Competition in London. (Price: $34.99)

3. Ghost Chili Pepper Vodka
Ascendant Spirits, Buellton, CA

Some like it hot. Master Distiller/owner Steve Gertman of Ascendant Spirits likes it really hot. Ghost chilies – also known as Bhut Jolokia or Naga – are, according to Scoville’s spice ranking, the world’s third hottest chili. As the only U.S. ghost chili vodka on the market launching in August, get ready for some serious fire. Best sipped slowly (and carefully) on ice or added to a Bloody Mary or Margarita for kicks. Check out their Pink Lightning strawberry moonshine, as well – released in July. 

4. Loft & Bear Artisanal Vodka
Downtown Los Angeles, CA

The city of Angels finally has its second distillery since Prohibition. Launched in June, twenty-eight year old Master Distiller Paul Ryan Elliott is churning out vodka made from California and Michigan wheat that’s distilled four times. It possesses notes of floral and vanilla bean on the nose with a rich, butter taste on the palate.  (Price: $39.99)

5. St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur
St. George Distillery, Alameda, CA

In search of a breakfast sipper or a sophisticated version of the Dude’s favorite drink? St. George Nola Coffee Liqueur may do the trick with its Yirgacheffe (Ethiopian) coffee beans, French chicory root, and Madagascar vanilla ingredients via cold infusion with a vodka base. (Price: $33)

6. Copper & Kings American Brandy
Butchertown, Kentucky

There’s a gleaming, new distillery in Louisville, but it’s not in the name of bourbon. Launched mid-July, Coppers & Kings is Kentucky’s first brandy distillery — open to the public for tastings and tours. Distilled at a low temperature twice, Copper & Kings brandy comes in two expressions: Immature (unaged) and Craft Distilled (aged in Bourbon/American oak barrels).

Latin Spirits 

7. Solbeso
Ecuador, Peru, Dominican Republic

As the world’s first new spirit category in 200 years, the cacao fruit distillate is making a serious splash. Founder Tom Higbee, while working for a chocolate company in Peru, noticed thousands of pounds of cacao fruit being tossed in the river as waste in harvesting the coveted cacao bean. After years of research, Solbeso, a fragrant spirit with notes of honeysuckle and orange blossom distilled from the white, pulpy cacao fruit, was born. Made in three different South American countries on cacao farms, Solbeso is best on the rocks with a twist of lemon or in your favorite white (and brown!) cocktail recipe. (Price: $39.00)

8. Roca Patrón
Atotonilco, Mexico

Patrón is going old school. Three new tequila expressions launching in August — Roca Patrón Silver, Roca Patrón Reposado, and Roca Patrón Añejo —– are made with the ancient tahona process. Tahona refers to the giant two-ton stone wheel of volcanic rock (roca) that crushes the cooked agave to break the bonds of fiber and release the agave juice. “As people’s taste for tequila, and appreciation for this fine spirit has quickly evolved, it’s the perfect time to introduce a more complex and robust tequila made entirely from the tahona process,” says Founder John Paul DeJoria. (Price: Silver $69.99; Reposado $79.99; Anejo $89.99 [750ml])

U.K. Brown Spirits

9. Glenglassaugh
Portsoy, Scotland

Distilling Scotland’s national spirit since 1875, this is the first year Glenglassaugh (pronounced glen–glassoff) has hopped the pond. Via Anchor Distilling Company imports, five single malt whiskies are available stateside: Revival, Evolution, Torfa, 30 Year Old, and 40 Year Old. Check out the Evolution (aged in ex-George Dickel whisky barrels) or for a splurge, try the 40 Year (aged in ex-bourbon barrels, European oak hogsheads, Pedro Ximinez sherry puncheons and Oloroso sherry butts). (Price: $64 - $3,000)

10. Glenfiddich Original & Glenfiddich 26 Year Old
Dufftown, Scotland

Just in time for a very swank stocking stuffer, Glenfiddich Original launches in November. It’s a reproduction of the 1963 recipe used by Hamish Robertson, the fourth Malt Master at Glenfiddich. Another collector item, released in June, is the 26 Year Old ‘Excellence.’ It’s the first single malt from the Speyside distiller to use Bourbon casks throughout the entire maturation process. (Price: Original $99.99; 26-year-old $499)

11. Ballentine’s Brasil

Since flavored vodkas have been on the market for at least a decade, it’s time for scotch makers to join the party, too. Launched in January, it’s a Scotland-meets-Brazil tribute with citrus and vanilla notes. Mix with lemonade, and you’ve got yourself an adult version of an Arnold Palmer. (Price: $37.40)