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Top 50 innovative spirits launches of 2020: 30-21

A gin finished in Tequila barrels, an agave-based vodka and a cherry-flavoured spiced rum all feature in the third chapter of our top 50 most innovative spirits launches of last year.

Innovative launches from Jose Cuervo, Kopparberg and Belvedere made our list

The third part of our top 50 innovative spirits launches of 2020 was dominated by a series of firsts, including the first Irish whiskey finished in ginger beer casks and the first baijiu to be made in the UK.

Producers continued to experiment with unusual barrel finishes, including Chicago’s Skeptic Distillery, which finished a gin in Tequila barrels, while Jose Cuervo released an añejo Tequila finished in Irish single malt whiskey barrels.

Swedish cider producer Koppaberg also made its first foray into rum last year, and Belvedere vodka used rye for its latest innovation.

Click through the following pages to see the third part of our top 50 innovative spirits launches of 2020, counting down from 30 to 21.

To view 50 to 41, click here.

To view 40 to 31, click here.

30. Teeling Ginger Beer Cask

November saw the launch of what is thought to be the first Irish whiskey finished in ginger beer casks. The 46% ABV product was created as part of a collaboration between Irish whiskey producer Teeling and London’s Umbrella Brewing.

Teeling master distiller Alex Chasko hand selected casks of ginger beer from Umbrella Brewing to create the Irish whiskey. Each cask was used to marry Teeling’s Small Batch whiskey, resulting in flavours of ginger, rich molasses and subtle hints of malt. The whiskey is said to have a hint of lasting spice on the finish.

For more information, click here.

29. Umiki

Japan’s Yoshino Spirits Co released the ‘world’s first’ ocean-infused whisky finished in pine tree barrels in March 2020.

According to Osaka-based Yoshino Spirits Co, the ocean is the source of life and the pine tree is the symbol of life in Japan. The whisky gets its name from the Japanese word for ocean, ‘umi’, and ‘ki’, which translates as tree in Japanese.

To make the whisky, water from the Pacific Ocean is blended with Japanese ocean-side malt whiskies and grain whiskies. The liquid is then finished in Japanese pine tree barrels.

For more information, click here.

28. Thompson’s Baijiu

Thompson’s Baijiu is the “first” baijiu to be made in the UK and is produced with 100% British grown sorghum grains.

The product is the result of a collaboration between Essex-based The English Spirit Distillery and local farmer Pete Thompson.

The UK-sourced grains were fermented in a way that mimicked the traditional processes used in baijiu production through laboratory conditions. Technicians at The English Spirit Distillery used enzymes before final distillation to produce the desired profile and aroma.

For more information, click here.

27. Jose Cuervo Tradicional Añejo

Tequila brand Jose Cuervo released an añejo finished in Irish single malt whiskey barrels last year.

Made from 100% Blue Weber agave, Jose Cuervo Tradicional Añejo is the first añejo in the Tradicional series.

The Tequila was matured for more than 12 months in new American oak barrels before spending four months in Irish single malt whiskey barrels from Bushmills, the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery.

For more information, click here.

26. Kopparberg Cherry Spiced Rum

Kopparberg CHerry Spiced Rum

Swedish cider producer Koppaberg moved into rum in 2020 with the released of a spiced cherry-flavoured variant.

Kopparberg said it hopes to attract the five million consumers drinking rum in the UK. Cherry Spiced Rum (37.5% ABV) is said to be inspired by the animals that come alive at night in the dark forests surrounding the town of Kopparberg.

The rum has also been released in a ready-to-drink canned format, mixed with cola and bottled at 5% ABV.

For more information, click here.

25. Ginquila

Chicago‐based Skeptic Distillery took a creative approach to barrel‐finishing with Ginquila. The gin was finished in Tequila barrels for seven months. Its botanicals include juniper, cinnamon, thyme, arbol and chipotle peppers, lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit and papaya.

Like all of Skeptic Distllery’s products, the gin is cold‐vacuum‐distilled to “ensure the utmost freshness and flavour profile”.

The 40% ABV product is described as a “unique and versatile creation” that was inspired by the Tequila‐based Cantarito cocktail, a staple in bars in Southwestern US and Mexico.

For more information, click here.

24. Crystal Head Onyx

Crystal Head Onyx Vodka

Ghostbusters actor Dan Aykroyd added agave‐based Onyx to his Crystal Head vodka brand. Crystal Head Onyx is the third vodka in the portfolio and is made from Blue Weber agave from a single farm in Mexico.

The expression joins Crystal Head Original, made from Canadian corn, and Crystal Head Aurora, made from English wheat.

Like the first two Crystal Head vodkas, Onyx is filtered through more than 10,000 herkimar diamonds.

For more information, click here.

23. Wrecking Coast Muscovado Silver Spirit

Cornwall’s Wrecking Coast Distillery manufactured a spirit using muscovado sugar, a first for the UK.

Under EU regulations, a product can only be labelled ‘rum’ if it is made solely from molasses or sugarcane juice or syrup.

To make the expression, sugar and water are combined to create a syrup before a five‐day fermentation. After distillation, the spirit is matured for more than nine months.

On the nose, the expression has notes of salted apricot, green apple, pear drops and tropical fruits such as pineapple and mango. The palate offers a “fresh, grassy and earthy sugarcane flavour, akin to a young agricole”.

For more information, click here. 

22. The Organic: Gaia 1.1

Part of the Waterford Distillery’s Arcadian Series, The Organic: Gaia 1.1 became Ireland’s first organic whiskey on its launch. Distilled in 2016, it is made with organic Irish barley, and has been certified by Ireland’s Organic Trust.

The whiskey has been matured in super-premium oak barrels, comprising: 42% first-fill American oak, 17% virgin American oak, 23% premium French oak and 18% vin doux naturel, known as sweet fortified wine casks.

Waterford Distillery’s Arcadian Series pays tribute to radical growers and alternative values such as heritage grains and unusual growing methods.

For more information, click here.

21. Belvedere Heritage 176


Malted rye spirit drink Belvedere Heritage 176 aims to challenge neutrality in vodka. Made using Polska rye, Heritage 176 is a blend of 98% vodka and 2% rye. Due to European law, Heritage 176 cannot be called ‘vodka’ because the malted rye spirit was distilled to 92% rather than the required 96% for vodka.

The product celebrates the technique of malting rye that was widely used by Polish rye vodka makers until the 1890s.

The brand’s master rye distillers experimented with different levels of malted rye in the final spirit and concluded that 2% delivered the ‘most complex flavour profile’.

For more information, click here.

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