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Top 50 most innovative spirits launches of 2015: 10-1

Toasted cricket bitters, spirit distilled from tea leaves and Italy’s first single malt whiskies make up the final instalment of our most innovative spirits launches list.

We’ve been counting down the top 50 innovative spirits launches of 2015 – but these are the 10 most inventive

Counting down the top 50 creative new spirits which made waves in the industry last year, this was the group that truly stood out with their ability to defy expectations.

The process unearthed a plethora of gems spanning a broad spectrum, from rum created specifically to pair Cuban cigars to a blended Scotch expression that is said to “live forever”.

Our 10 finalists were selected for their dedication to breaking boundaries and pushing the spirits industry forward, from unusual blends found in the likes of a new Cognac-honey liqueur hybrid, to groundbreaking processes used to create the world’s first spirit distilled from tea leaves.

Click through the following pages to see the final part of our top 50 innovative spirits launches of 2015, counting down from 10 to 1.

Alternatively, click on the below links for the launches coming in at 50-11.

Top 10 spirit launches in 2015 50-41

Top 10 spirit launches in 2015 40-31

Top 10 spirit launches in 2015 30-21

Top 10 spirit launches in 2015 20-11

10. Bowmore Mizunara



West met east when Bowmore Distillery launched the first Islay single malt Scotch whisky finished in Japanese mizunara oak casks.

The no-age-statement bottling is the result of maturation in mizunara oak, creating a “marriage of Scottish strength and passion with Japanese elegance and refinement”.

Casks made from mizunara are among some of the rarest in the world, since the oak is left for around 300 years to grow.

For more information, click here

9. George Washington Distillers Reserve and George Washington Limited Edition

George-WashingtonDistilled using 18th Century methods at George Washington’s reconstructed US distillery, these whiskies are made from 100% Scottish barley, both peated and unpeated.

Aged in Bourbon casks re-coopered in Speyside and finished in Madeira wine casks, their production was overseen by both American and Scotch whisk(e)y distillers. Distillers Reserve has been distilled once, while Limited Edition underwent a second turn in the stills.

For more information, click here

8. Puni Nova and Puni Alba

Puni-DistilleryItaly welcomed what are thought to be its first single malt whiskies at the end of last year in the form of Puni Nova and Puni Alba.

Created at the Puni Distillery, based in South Tyrol, in the Italian Alps, the two bottlings use locally sourced grain, which is distilled in traditional Scottish copper pot stills.

Puni Nova has been matured for three years in ex-Bourbon barrels and then finished in European casks, while Puni Alba has been aged for more than two years in Marsala dessert wine casks and one year in ex-Islay casks.

For more information, click here

7. Critter Bitters

Critter BittersThere are some unusual bitters out there, but the new Critter Bitters brand takes the ticket for having the most unusual base ingredient – toasted crickets.

Said to add a sweet, “nutty note’ to drinks, the product comes in two bottlings: Toasted Cricket Bitters and Pure Cricket Tincture.

By taking the “ick factor out of entomophagy”, Critter Bitters endeavours to encourage “insect eating traditions”.

The brand was founded by US designers Lucy Knops and Julia Plevin after they received more than US$25,000 on Kickstarter.

For more information, click here

6. Glenmorangie Tùsail

Glenmorangie-TusailIn January 2015, LVMH-owned Glenmorangie added Tùsail to its Private Edition range, a single malt made from a “rare” form of winter barley which was declared almost extinct in the 1980s.

Maris Otter barley was first commercially harvested 50 years ago, and is said to have a “unique” taste. It fell out of favour with brewers and distillers as other strains were developed which offered higher yields.

Two British seed merchants joined up in 1992 to preserve the barley, which fell foul to illegal cross pollination and almost died out. Bill Lumsden, director of distilling whisky creation at Glenmorangie, then ordered a batch and oversaw a traditional floor malting process. “When we heard the story of those determined
to preserve such a flavoursome grain, their 
ethos – and the barley itself – seemed the
perfect match for a Glenmorangie single malt,” 
he said.

For more information, click here

5. The Glover

The-GloverContinuing a year of hybrid spirit innovation, in October independent bottler Adelphi Distillery released two blended malts created from liquid sourced in Scotland and Japan in homage to 19th Century industrialist Thomas Blake Glover, who was known as the ‘Scottish Samurai’.

Limited to 390 bottles, the first
 expression, The Glover 22 Year Old, was
 created from three single casks: one refill
 ex-Sherry hogshead distilled at the Hanyu
 Distillery in Japan, one American oak
 ex-Sherry hogshead distilled at the Longmorn Distillery in Scotland, and one Spanish oak ex-Sherry butt from Scotland’s Glen Garioch Distillery.

The second release, The Glover 14 year Old, has a peat influence and is limited to a run of 1,500 bottles.

“We wanted the final whisky to present the unique flavours of both casks, but also to be even more than the sum of its parts,” said Alex Bruce, Adelphi Distillery’s managing director.

For more information, click here

4. ABK6 Honey

ABK6-HoneyContinuing the hyper-local trend, single estate Cognac producer Domaines Francis Abecassis moved into the liqueurs category with the launch of ABK6, 
a single origin honey expression in March.

A combination of single vineyard Cognac and honey from a specific area in Cognac’s Charente woodlands; tasting notes for the special expression are said to include jasmine, violet, honeysuckle and rose petals, in addition to vanilla and toffee.

To create the expression, cellar master Christian Guérin blended the Cognac and honey together during the spirit’s ageing process, giving the resulting liquid an “intense and aromatic” flavour.

For more information, click here

3. Tang

TangBacardi pushed the boundaries of distilling in March this year by releasing what is thought to be the world’s first spirit distilled from tea leaves: Tang.

Developed exclusively for the Chinese market, the product is the result of a “groundbreaking” process which extracts complex sugars from tea leaves, allowing them to be fermentable.

The wash is then distilled and blended to highlight specific flavours, before the liquid is diluted to 40% abv with French spring water in Cognac, France.

Tang, the resulting “tea spirit”, is said to be bold and fragrant, with a smooth, bittersweet tea taste, designed to complement food.

For more information, click here

2. Whiskey Union, Diageo

whiskeyunionIn November, Diageo surprised the spirits community with the launch of an “experimental craft whisky” division, set to “push the boundaries of blending”.

Named Whiskey Union, the project is in line with the drinks giant’s strategy to grow its Scotch whisky portfolio, developed in response to innovation from American and New World whisk(e)y players.

While the launch is a concept rather than an individual product, the umbrella feels so fresh we feel it’s appropriate to include the product-focused innovation in the line-up.

Two products have been launched under the Whiskey Union label so far: Smoky Goat and Boxing Hares. Both are described as “unorthodox, weird and wonderful”, but each will need to be labelled according to industry regulations in individual markets.

Smoky Goat is described as a “smoky sweet” blended Scotch whisky, while Boxing Hares has been labelled as a “spirit drink” made from Scotch whisky infused with hops.

Also planned for release is Huxley – a “unique” blend of Scotch, Canadian and American whiskies.

For more information, click here

1. Watenshi Gin

watenshiInnovative in terms of production and inspiration, 2015’s Most Innovative Product is the brainchild of distilling duo Will and Lucy Lowe from the Cambridge Distillery, and has been billed as the world’s most expensive gin.

Created using a form of fractional condensation, Watenshi’s production process captures the “finest” 1% of the production of the Cambridge Distillery’s Japanese Gin expression. It is an element so light that it would remain in vapour form even at zero degrees Celsius, hence the name Watenshi, which translates as ‘the Japanese Angel’.

Lowe looked at the different condensation rates and temperatures, and calculated that chilling the vapours to -75C at very low pressure would enable him to secure that illusive part of the distillation.

He said: “It’s an incredibly 
laborious process,
 which results in a 
yield of just 15ml
 each still run.
 Someone asked me 
recently what the 
batch size is for Watenshi distillation: the answer is one fiftieth of a bottle.”

For more information, click here

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