Let’s face it, one-upmanship is more than a way of life for most of us. It’s in our DNA. Whether it’s recounting that spectacular one-shot kill, pointing to a record book trophy on the wall or pulling a custom rifle out of the gun case, we enjoy our well-earned bragging rights.
The same holds true in our choice of spirits. Our good taste–and when it comes to super-premium spirits I mean that literally–is reflected in our choice of libations, which in itself is manifested by the spectacular home bars many members have constructed as an integral part–and even a focal point–of their game rooms. After all, what better setting and incentive could one wish for at the next SCI home fundraiser, for example, than to offer your guests some of the rarest potables imaginable?
So here then, are a select few of these rarities, listed by category, and I can confirm that I have sampled every
one before recommending them. Some can be more readily attained, while others–due to their extremely limited production–may already be selling on the secondary market for more than their original suggested retail price. But all are capable of raising the bar, in the truest sense of the word.
VODKA–Aside from winter wheat harvested from Russia’s “black earth” Tambov region, with Stolichnaya’s Elit Pristine Water Series–The Himalayan Edition ($3,000) it’s all about the water. Sourced from snowmelt naturally filtered through rock in the Himalayan Mountains, this naturally purified liquid goes through five micro and electrostatic attraction filtrations, plus quartz, carbon and freeze filtrations that suspends the water at zero degrees Centigrade for eight hours to “condition” the vodka’s structure. The 300 individually numbered bottles are hand-blown from Bohemian glass and come with a 24-carat gold-plated ice pick.
GIN–If you want to make the world’s most expensive martini, you have to start with the world’s most expensive gin, and Nolet’s Reserve ($700) is it. Created by Carolus H.J. Nolet, 10th generation patriarch of the oldest distilling family in the world, the Dutch-based Nolets started making genever in 1691. Nolet’s Reserve uses botanicals rarely found in other gins, including herbaceous verbena. But much of the recipe is a family secret. Only 500 bottles are produced yearly.
TEQUILA–Although excellent agave distillates abound at very affordable prices, the category has been elevated in recent years by such stalwarts as Gran Patrón Burdeos and Milagro Unico. But the real leader of the pack is any of the De León tequilas, most notably Leóna Reserva ($850), aged in Château d’Yquem barrels for thirty-four months, resulting in a taste and texture akin to an XO cognac.
BOURBON–If it sells out soon after it’s released year after year, it’s got to be on our list, and Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year Old ($300) is among the most sought after of American spirits. Stemming from the old Stitzel-Weller Distillery in South Louisville, KY, today Julian Van Winkle III, along with his son Preston, continue in the family tradition of producing this iconic, limited edition bourbon through the Buffalo Trace distillery. Approximately 3,300 bottles are released annually.
SINGLE MALT SCOTCH–Not surprisingly, this is the biggest category of spectacular spirits and the choices can become overwhelming, but here are some
guaranteed to raise an appreciative eyebrow:
Macallan has just released the latest in its Fine & Rare Collection, the vintage 1989 Macallan ($3,500), a 21-year-old whisky distilled on February 28th, 1989 and bottled in 2010. Coming from just one first-fill sherry cask, there was only enough to fill 200 bottles, fifteen of which are destined for the U.S.
From the Isle of Jura comes not one but two rarities. The Jura 1977 Vintage ($750) was aged in three first-fill bourbon casks before being finished in a ruby port pipe for 12 months. Only 52 bottles are available of this 36-year-old spirit. The Jura 30 Year Old ($550), named “Camas an Staca,” after Jura’s largest standing stone, spent 27 years maturing in American white oak plus a final three years aging in sherry casks, resulting in just 200 bottles.
And then there is The Balvenie 50 Y.O. ($30,000), distilled in 1952–the same year Balvenie’s current master blender, David Stewart, started work at the distillery–and bottled in 2012, thus marking a half century at the same distillery for both the whisky and the man. Due to evaporation, only 88 bottles, each housed in a bespoke wooden canister, could be filled, with ten of those allocated to the U.S., two of which have been purchased by the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and one by Mastro’s Steak House in Beverly Hills. Both are offering it at $3,700 for a
two-ounce pour in a Glencairn crystal tasting glass.
RUM–There is no contest here: Angostura Legacy Rum ($25,000) bills itself as the most expensive rum in the world, and it is. Created to celebrate the 50th anniversary in August 2013 of Trinidad and Tobago achieving independence from Great Britain and becoming a republic in 1962, Legacy is a blend of at least seven different column-distilled rums (the distillery won’t divulge how many). The youngest of these rums, all ex-bourbon barrel aged, is seventeen years old, but some are much older. Only enough spirits were produced to fill twenty-two Asprey-designed decanters, with three of these reserved for the United States.
COGNAC–One would think that the epitome of Grande Champagne Cognac would be Louis XIII ($1,900), which is blended with 1,200 different eaux-de-vie ranging in age from 40 to 100 years. But one would be wrong. Rarer still is the aptly-named Louis XIII Rare Cask 42,6 ($22,000), a single cask of eaux-de-vie so extraordinary that cellar master Pierrette Trichet refused to blend it and bottled it separately. Individually numbered and accented with a 22-carat rose gold neckband, only 738 black crystal Baccarat decanters of this rare cognac exist.
Almost as elusive is the Camus Cuvee 5.150 cognac ($13,500), comprised of five different eaux-de-vie with a combined age of 150 years and created to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of one of the last and the largest of the family-owned cognac houses. Only 1,492 Baccarat decanters have been produced, no doubt a subtle nod by fifth-generation Cyril Camus to America, the largest cognac consuming country in the world.– Richard Carleton Hacker