Bartenders recommend their top spirit launches of 2018

Imbibe Editorial

Imbibe Editorial

23 December 2018

Need help navigating the gazillion new spirits launched this year? Fear not. Imbibe has caught up with some of the industry's key movers and (cocktail) shakers to find out their top products released in 2018

Chelsie Bailey, The Filthy 13
Hendrick’s Orbium and Chivas Regal Mizunara

With so many gins coming out with the gin craze, 99% of the products coming out are shite, but I think Hendrick’s Orbium is really amazing. They use blue lotus blossom, a botanical I’d never heard of before, which creates a balanced, dry, slightly bitter gin that’s different to the normal Hendrick’s. It makes a great Martini, as all good gins should. And it’s quite fun to use in more stirred down drinks – it works really well with things like Suze and Aperol Contrato.

Secondly, Chivas Mizunara Cask is my all-time favourite scotch now. Japanese mizunara oak is used to finish it and the result is absolutely delicious. It’s amazing, I tried it in a whisky highball and it tasted like apples. I like mixing it with soda or water, something that’s not going to take the taste away too much, but I’d also drink it neat.


Lee Jones, Smokestack
Hampden Estate rums

I loved both the Hampden Estate Rums released this year, but particularly the Overproof. It’s banging and I’ve not had a rum in a while that’s really wowed me, despite the fact that it’s a category that’s supposedly on the up.

It’s really full flavoured, and everything I would like from a single-estate rum. You can definitely enjoy it by itself, I don’t think it screams alcohol when you taste it. We’ve had it in quite a few specials and it’s got a great strength of flavour with that high abv, meaning it’s worked well in a lot of drinks.

It really comes through in tall punch-style drinks, and it’s really tasty in things like Mai Tais due to its funky aspects. People are less brand aware when it comes to rum. I’m hoping that people will start understanding what’s in their glass a bit more next year. The drinks themselves have been going down really well, it has a massive impact on flavour.


Ago Perrone, Connaught Bar
Derrumbes Mezcal

I love Mexico and I think that Derrumbes Mezcal is really good. Working in a fast-paced world, I like to slow down and just sip it on its own. The products are not new exactly, but every year they have a new release because they work with a single producer, a single farmer. So they find a new farmer and every batch is different from the others.

I think it's particularly good how Derrumbes highlights the different parts of Mexico and promotes its culture. The flavours change from year to year as part of the different expressions – but until you go to Mexico, you won't understand. If you go there and experience the Mexican spirit, in terms of life and people and culture, then you will feel it when you drink a good mezcal or tequila.


Marcis Dzelzainis, Sager + Wilde and Fare
30&40, Single Cask Release

I really like what Vincent Béjot is doing with his limited-edition single cask expressions from 30&40. He’s doing something quite similar to us [with El Destilado] in terms of highlighting the vintage, diversity and terroir of the spirit, but with calvados.

The brand has become kind of ubiquitous on London bar menus, but [with these new launches] he's trying to find slightly more esoteric expressions of what calvados can be. I use his 30&40 [Calvados Blend] in cocktails quite a bit, including one on tap at Fare, because it's a really good product, but with these I think it's just about going back to trying the neat spirit. Having said that, anything of that calibre will taste great in an Old Fashioned or something along those lines.


Toby Heap, The Edgbaston
Calle 23 Criollo

I tried this tequila at Imbibe Live and it’s wicked. It’s made from Criollo Blue Agave, which is like a mini agave, small in stature but high in sugars. Founder Sophie Decobecq had the idea a while back, but launched it while pregnant with her son, marking the occasion with this product. Baby agave for a baby person seems fitting!

The flavour is earthy, with zesty notes. It’s vibrant and delicious, with pepper, citrus and dried fruit. It’s a right treat as it’s bottled at 49.3%, and as the world knows, bartenders love a high abv. I believe she used the same production method as she does for her classic blanco, with the changes being the use of the criollos that come from a slightly different plot of land near the base of the hills – this change in microclimate also adds to the distinctive earthy characteristic.

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