Former illicit Highland whisky makers and Appalachian bootleggers notwithstanding, distillation is a refined art form. This holiday season, master distillers have raised their age-old craft to new heights of perfection with spirits that are a joy to give and to receive. Following are our selections of the most refined and refreshing pours for the connoisseurs on your gift list.
Leóna Reserva Tequila
Just in time for the Mayans’ alleged prediction of the end of the world, this latest expression of DeLeón tequila was specifically created for the occasion. “Legend has it the Mayans created a special elixir for the final night of civilization,” says Brent Hocking, the superpremium tequila’s founder and CEO. “We believe it was called Leóna—my take on a feminine version of DeLeón.”
Matured in Chateau d’Yquem barrels for 34 months—just two months shy of the time required to become an extra-añejo—this limited-edition, bronze-hued “añejo-plus” tequila possesses a texture more akin to an XO Cognac, brimming with burnt orange peels, cherries, and a hint of rose petals. Encased in a black presentation box and packaged with a flask sheathed in python skin, Leóna will officially be launched on December 21, 2012—the potentially cataclysmic end-date of one cycle of the Mayan calendar. Even so, those enjoying this tequila will find its beauty timeless. ($825)
Camus Extra Elegance
This hors d’age Cognac is produced by one of the last family-owned distilleries in France and is blended with eaux-de-vie ranging in age from 30 to 50 years. As such, it is the most elegant Cognac yet produced by the House of Camus during its 149-year history. The deep, burnished-gold color and pungent floral bouquet of Extra Elegance are but preludes to the rich, dominant flavors of its Borderies wines, which are enhanced by Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne. Cedar, tobacco, dried violets, and leather fill the mouth and linger long after the last sip. Yet for all the complexity of its flavor profile, the minimalist crystal decanter bears no markings other than the words Extra Cognac, which are embossed on its matte metallic-silver neckband. However, there is a soft cloth included in its mirrored display case to wipe off fingerprints, so that one may literally reflect on a Cognac that does indeed live up to its name. ($1,000/1.75 L)