Spirits Features

Here you will find our Spirits feature story archive.


December 2, 2016: Rice Whiskey

Despite the current fashionability of Japanese whiskey, early online reactions to Kikori, a new one, were dubious. “Not whiskey,” some commenters said. One even suggested that Kikori’s producers had somehow duped whiskey regulators into letting them use the term on its label. The source of the offense? Kikori is made from rice.

Most whiskey is made from barley, corn, wheat or rye; and Japanese whiskey follows in the Scottish tradition by using malted barley. Some early skeptics ...Read more

by Jordan Mackay in Spirits Feature, Spirits, December 2016

November 10, 2016: Aged Chartreuse

Twenty years ago, Paul Einbund discovered Chartreuse the same way most people did back then: He pointed at a dusty bottle sitting lonely on a high bar shelf and asked, “What’s that?” The answer: A sour face and “Ick, Chartreuse. Stay away!”

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But a couple years later, when he’d become a sommelier, a representative of the Chartreuse distillery in France offered a taste of Chartreuse “VEP,” which stands for Vieillissement ...Read more

by Jordan Mackay in Spirits Feature, Spirits, October 2016

June 1, 2016: Gin 2.0

Around the turn of this century we experienced a minor gin revival, the great white spirit’s first stirrings in the world since before the vodka age. Anchor Distilling launched Junipero, a craft gin, in 1996, and any number of others followed. Despite the publicity this mini-movement received, gin’s revival was a flop.

After 2002, gin sales stagnated. Cocktail drinkers weren’t having it. Many of the new releases seemed almost apologetic about being gins, suppressing ...Read more

by Jordan Mackay in W&S Issue, June 2016, Spirits Feature, Spirits

April 7, 2016: Consider the Apertif

The cocktail may be an American invention, but that doesn’t mean we have it all figured out when it comes to the culture of drinking. For instance, our “cocktail hour” tends to include drinks like a dry Martini or two, or a Manhattan. On their own merit, these drinks are great. But, unless your approach to dinner is characterized by a stagger, not to mention a dulled appetite, they are not generally the best choices.{ ...Read more

by Jordan Mackay in Spirits Feature, Spirits, April 2016

February 8, 2016: The Apple, Distilled

A cold, drizzly November day in Normandy is nothing unusual. But Emmanuel Camut asks if I’m sure I want to brave the tall wet grass and mud in order to reach a small, locked shed in the middle of an orchard of gnarled apple trees. “Well, is it interesting to see the old stocks?” I ask. Tall and graying, at the end of middle age, Camut cuts a handsome figure in tall rain boots, a heavy ...Read more

by Jordan Mackay in W&S Issue, February 2016, Spirits Feature, Spirits

December 21, 2015: Cocktails Made Easy

Not terribly long ago, I attended an anniversary party thrown by two elegant friends. Every party consideration had a characteristic style and grace, from the sophisticated canapés to the repertoire of the jazz band to the quality of the Champagne. Everything, that is, but one. For those who desired a good cocktail, the bar selection was as appealing as a dirty thrift store for someone in search of an Armani suit: a sad table strewn with gin, vodka, ...Read more

by Jordan Mackay in Spirits Feature, Spirits, December 2015

October 2, 2015: Bourbon Out of Bounds

A common misconception about Bourbon prevails in this country. To be called Bourbon, people say, America’s most famous spirit must be made in Kentucky. Not only is this untrue, but the pervasiveness of the idea reflects the homogeneity of the product as it stands. The good news is that one boon of the often overhyped craft spirits movement is a new flowering of Bourbon culture.

The misbelief is understandable: Kentucky may be Bourbon’s spiritual home ...Read more

by Jordan Mackay in Spirits Feature, Spirits, October 2015

August 5, 2015: Island Ingenuity

At a banquet in Taipei earlier this year, William Stanton, former US ambassador to Taiwan, toasted T.T. Lee, the founder of Taiwan’s Kavalan whisky distillery, by reminding the group assembled around the table of the island’s unique accomplishments. “Remember,” he declared, holding up a glass of tawny spirit, “Taiwan is an island. It has no real natural resources except for the industriousness and ingenuity of its people. Yet they’ve achieved so much … including this incredible ...Read more

by Jordan Mackay in Spirits Feature, Spirits, August 2015

May 29, 2015: Vodka Ice Cold & Straight Up

While I’m not a vodka drinker by habit, I harbor one strong opinion about it: The only truly cool way to drink vodka is as the Eastern Europeans do, ice cold and straight up. I came by this opinion at age ten, when I developed much of my other drinking wisdom, by devouring Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.

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Bond’s dinner with M at Blades in Moonraker< ...Read more

by Jordan Mackay in Spirits Feature, Spirits, June 2015