SPIRITS TREND: AGAVE-MANIA
With a renaissance of artisan Tequila and more Mezcal brands than ever before in the USA, it's undeniable that agave is the industry darling of the moment. At Ultimate Spirits Challenge we had a huge spike in 2015 with significantly more entries for most agave categories as well as overall higher scores. Tequila & Mezcal are now commanding the high price points of other fine sipping spirits like Whisky and Cognac on the shelf and menus as well as being featured in the most innovative and trendsetting bars around the nation and beyond. This is one trend we hope will stick around.
ULTIMATE SPIRITS CHALLENGE CHAIRMAN'S TROPHY SPOTLIGHT:
REDBREAST 15 YEAR OLD IRISH POT STILL WHISKEY 98 POINTS $75
This extraordinary spirit comes from a family that has been involved the beverage alcohol business since 1857. As a brand they have adapted throughout the ages, this 15 year old bottling being their most recent launch in 2005 for the 50th anniversary of La Maison Du Whiskey in Paris. This 46% and non-chill filtered Whiskey has been well received by aficionados worldwide with good reason. At a score of 98 points it is one of the few spirits that earned the highest score given in 2015 and recipient of the prestigious Chairman's Trophy award. All in all, a fine example of the sensory elegance Irish Whiskey has to offer.
Tasting Note: Deep ginger color. Truckloads of baking spices, including allspice, clove, toasted cereal in aroma. Toasty, slightly saline flavor that's intensely grainy, breakfast cereal-like. A bona fide pure pot still classic.
UBC PERSONALITY SPOTLIGHT: TAD CARDUCCI
Tad Carducci has been one of our beloved spirits judges for 6 years contributing substantial joviality to the judging room. When asked what his favorite part of USC is and why he keeps coming back, this is what he had to say: "I feel truly honored to be a judge at Ultimate Spirits Challenge. I get to spend several days a year sitting side by side with my own mentors; discussing, dissecting, sharing opinions, and, of course, tasting some of the finest spirits in the world. Not a bad gig!"
Tad is one half of Tippling Bros. the sought-after beverage consultants, partners in Mercadito restaurants, The Tippler NYC and proud authors of newly released A Lime and a Shaker: Discovering Mexican Inspired Cocktails. Riding high on the wave of agave-mania, Tad describes the book as "a culmination of many years spent creating agave-based cocktails for our clients and our own restaurant and bar partnerships and is also a testament to ours hared love for all things agave. It's packed with recipes and information but it's fun and whimsical, much like ourselves." Check out the book here!
WINE TREND: ALTERNATIVE PACKAGING
Some of us may have turned our noses up a few years ago at the thought of sipping Pinot Noir from a can or bubbly from a plastic pop-top jar, but now it seems that these alternatively packaged wines offer serious quality. One of the benefits of blind tasting is throwing out any intellectual bias about a product, be it based on brand recognition or its unconventional package. We are continually surprised at the quality that comes from bag-in-box, stackable plastic pods and even canned wine that is now on the market. Consumers are getting hip to the trend, finding that when they take a chance on these wines for the sake of convenience, the juice inside proves good enough to them coming back. We look forward to the evolution of this category of wine and what kinds of new shapes and sizes are yet to appear on the market.
ULTIMATE WINE CHALLENGE CHAIRMAN'S TROPHY SPOTLIGHT:
BARBADILLO OBISPO GASCON PALO CORTADO JEREZ 97 POINTS $35
Sherry appreciation is on the rise in the USA which comes as no surprise considering the unwavering quality of many bottlings on the market. Hailing from Sanlucar De Barrameda means Barbadillo's Obispo Gascon Palo Cortado comes from a base of Manzanilla, creating layers of delicate salinity and elegant freshness underneath the matured nuttiness. With a score of 97 it is among the top 5 highest scoring wines of the 2015 competition, a nod to the potential of the fortified category within the national market.
Tasting Note: A baking spice laden nose full of roasted nut skin and toasted pine nuts. Savory and high toned flavors of toasted nuts develop into light coffee and butter crunch toffee. The finish is long, nutty and bone dry.