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Tasting Notes

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©2014 F. Paul Pacult

F. Paul Pacult’s Top 75 Five Star Spirits 2014


These superlative 75 spirits represent the best of the best spirits that I’ve tasted in the last twelve months, starting in the mid-autumn of 2013 through October 2014. Each has been rated Five Stars, our highest accolade. Each is of benchmark quality. They are listed in order of personal preference, nothing more. Just your trusted critic’s annual self-indulgence and nod to the notable moments of epiphany. The final cut for 2014 is an astounding mixture of craft distiller (Germain-Robin, Clear Creek, Charbay, St George Spirits, Spring 44, Balcones) and mainstream distiller magic from the likes of Highland Park, Talisker, Ardbeg, Jim Beam, Hennessy, Maker’s Mark, Camus, Glenmorangie, and Cutty Sark. All major spirits categories are represented, with whiskeys and brandies grabbing the lion’s share of recognition.

Doubtless, every single subscriber/reader would arrange (one hopes) the order differently and that’s what makes lists so simultaneously exciting and enervating. Lists, by their very nature, are controversial because of their underlying subjectivity but at their finest they assist in organizing one’s mind about a particular topic. So, take it with a single grain of salt or a 25-pound bag of salt, as you wish. Here are what I perceive to be the ultimate expressions of the distiller’s art as I’ve tasted them over the past year.

  1. Highland Park Dark Origins Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland) 46.8% abv, $80.
    Auburn/bronze color; flawless clarity. Mamma mia, I smell all sorts of slightly sour bake shop things, such as baker’s yeast, bread dough, starch, white flour, egg yolk; later inhalations introduce seductive aromas of citrus, vinegar, malted barley, sea salt, light toffee. Entry is toasted, semisweet, cereal-like, honeyed, caramel-like; midpalate soars with succulent flavors of raisins, stewed plums, salted sourdough bread, dried flowers. Ends on a sensationally luscious oloroso sherry note that points to the sherry cask aging. Utterly beguiling. Doubtless, one of the best whiskies from any nation that I’ve had this year.
    Spirit Journal December 2014:
    Highest Recommendation

  2. The Exceptional Grain by Sutcliffe & Son Small Batch Scotch Whisky (Scotland) 43% abv, $100.
  3. Francis Darroze Une Larme d’Armagnac Bas Armagnac 50–75 Years Old (France) 43% abv, $1,900.
  4. Tesseron Lot No. 53 XO Perfection Grande Champagne Cognac (France) 40% abv; $315.
  5. Booker’s Small Batch Aged 7 Years, 2 Months Batch #C07-B-7 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (USA) 65.4% abv, $50.
  6. Ardbeg Supernova Committee Release Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland) 55% abv, $160.
  7. El Dorado 8 Years Old Demerara Rum (Guyana) 40% abv, $23.
  8. Clear Creek Distillery Williams Pear Brandy (USA) 40% abv, $45.
  9. Manoir d’Apreval 1980 Calvados Pays d’Auge (France) 42% abv; $230.
  10. Four Roses 2014 Limited Edition Small Batch Barrel Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (USA) 60% abv, $80.
  11. Pierre Ferrand Ancestrale Cognac (France) 40% abv, $800.
  12. Spring 44 Straight Bourbon Whiskey (USA) 45% abv, $40.
  13. Richard Hennessy Cognac (France) 40% abv, $3,200.
  14. Chateau de Laubade 1979 Bas Armagnac Barrique No. 74105 (France) 46.2% abv, $290.
  15. Plantation Rum Old Reserve 1998 Guadeloupe Limited Edition Single Cask (Guadeloupe) 42% abv, $65.
  16. Charbay Brandy No. 89 24 Years Old Alambic Brandy (USA) 46% abv, $93.
  17. Roca Patron Reposado Tequila 100% Agave (Mexico) 42% abv, $80.
  18. Maker’s Mark Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (USA) 56.6% abv, $40/375 ml.
  19. Talisker Storm Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland) 45.8% abv, $66.
  20. Clément Canne Bleue Rhum Agricole (Martinique) 50% abv, $55.
  21. Francis Darroze Domaine De Bernadotte 1973 Bas Armagnac (France) 43% abv, $210.
  22. Parker’s Heritage Collection 13 Years Old Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey (USA) 63.7% abv, $90.
  23. Citadelle Gin (France) 44% abv; $25.
  24. Gordon & MacPhail Linkwood 15 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland) 43% abv, $70.
  25. Camus Family Legacy Cognac (France) 40.8% abv, $1,299.
  26. Chateau de Laubade 1980 Bas Armagnac Barrique No. 74044 (France) 46.7% abv, $287.
  27. Facundo Eximo Diez Años Rum (Bahamas) 40% abv; $60.
  28. Domaine De Jouanda 1992 Bas Armagnac (France) 40% abv, $85.
  29. Suntory Yamazaki Single Malt 25 Year Old Whisky (Japan) 43% abv, $1,600.
  30. Glenmorangie Pride 1978 Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland) 47.4% abv, $5,800
  31. Pierre Ferrand Selection des Anges Grande Champagne Cognac (France) 40% abv, $150.
  32. Redbreast 21 Year Old Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey (Ireland) 46% abv, $180.
  33. Glenmorangie Companta Private Edition Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland) 46% abv, $99.
  34. Clear Creek Distillery Raspberry Liqueur (USA) 20.56% abv, $22/375 ml.
  35. Cutty Sark Tam O’Shanter Blended Scotch Whisky (Scotland) 46.5% abv, $300.
  36. Jim Beam Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (USA) 47.5% abv; $35.
  37. Lejay Crème de Cassis Liqueur (USA) 18% abv, $30.
  38. Lagavulin 12 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland) 55.1% abv, $125.
  39. Sazerac 18 Years Old Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey (USA) 45% abv, $80.
  40. Manoir d’Apreval Cuvee Gustave Calvados Pays d’Auge (France) 41% abv; $356.
  41. Balcones Fifth Anniversary Straight Bourbon I (USA) 64.2% abv, $95.
  42. St. George Pear Brandy (USA) 40% abv; $40.
  43. Gordon & MacPhail Smith’s The Glenlivet 15 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland) 43% abv, $80.
  44. Plantation Rum Old Reserve 2001 Jamaica (Jamaica) 42% abv, $45.
  45. Van Gogh Gin (Holland) 47% abv, $27.
  46. Tesseron Lot No. 76 XO Tradition Grande Champagne Cognac (France) 40% abv; $135.
  47. Mathilde Cassis Liqueur (France) 16% abv, $28.
  48. Elmer T. Lee Commemorative 1919-2013 Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon (USA) 46.5% abv, $35.
  49. Domaine de Jouanda 1988 Bas Armagnac (France) 45% abv, $99.
  50. St. George Raspberry Liqueur (USA) 20% abv; $35.
  51. Germain-Robin Small Blend No. 1 Alambic Brandy (USA) 41.8% abv, $246.
  52. Low Gap Clear Rye Whiskey (USA) 42.6% abv, $45.
  53. Facundo Exquisito Rum (Bahamas) 40% abv; $90.
  54. St. George Raspberry Brandy (USA) 40% abv; $40
  55. Van Gogh Espresso Vodka (Holland) 35% abv, $27.
  56. Balcones Texas Rum Special Release Batch 13-1 (USA) 58.5% abv, $70.
  57. Citadelle Reserve Solera 2013 Gin (France) 44% abv; $35.
  58. Mezcalero #8 Mezcal Don Valente Angel, Santa Maria la Pila, Oaxaca (Mexico) 47.9% abv; $84.
  59. El Dorado Superior Overproof Demerara Rum (Guyana) 75.5% abv, $18.
  60. BenRiach Horizons 12 Years Old Triple Distilled Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland) 50% abv, $80.
  61. Ransom Old Tom Gin, Batch No. 044/Bottle No. 0282 (USA) 44% abv; $40
  62. Caol Ila Unpeated Stitchell Reserve Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland) 59.6% abv, $110.
  63. Van Gogh Vodka (Holland) 40% abv, $29.
  64. Talisker 27 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland) 56.1% abv, $750.
  65. Maison Surrenne Distillerie Galtauld 100% Borderies Cognac (France) 40.5% abv, $100.
  66. DSP CA 162 Citrus Hystrix Vodka (USA) 40% abv, $38.
  67. Mortlach 18 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland) 43.4% abv, $299.
  68. Giffard Crème de Mure Premium Liqueur (France) 16% abv, $25.
  69. x
  70. Germain-Robin Absinthe Superieure (USA) 45.15% abv, $50.
  71. Lemon Hart Navy Spiced Rhum Demerara (Guyana) 43% abv, $30.
  72. Mathilde Framboise Liqueur (France) 18% abv, $28.
  73. Booker’s Small Batch 25th Anniversary Batch #2014-1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (USA) 65.4% abv, $100.
  74. Bigallet China-China Amer Liqueur (France) 40% abv, $38.
  75. Orphan Barrel Rhetoric 20 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (USA) 45% abv, $85.
© F. Paul Pacult
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