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Top 50 innovative spirits launches of 2020: 40-31

Apple brandy cask-finished Japanese whiskies, a liqueur for making Old Fashioneds and a low-ABV canned gin and tonic dominate the second chapter of our most innovative spirits launches list.

Nikka, Courvoisier and Angostura
The latest innovations from Nikka, Courvoisier and Angostura were among our most innovative spirits

In 2020, a number of producers unveiled innovative line extensions including herbal liqueur Riga Black Balsam with its XO bottling, and gin maker Hayman’s, which moved into rum.

It was also a busy year for experimental cask finishes, with Nikka finishing its Japanese whiskies in apple brandy barrels, while Cognac brand Courvoisier created a VS expression finished in Kentucky Bourbon casks.

Click through the following pages to see the second part of our top 50 innovative spirits launches of 2020, counting down from 40 to 31.

To view 50 to 41, click here.

40. Riga Black Balsam XO

Herbal liqueur brand Riga Black Balsam is targeting Cognac, brandy and rum drinkers with its super-premium XO expression.

Launched in May 2020, Riga Black Balsam XO is a blend of the brand’s flagship bitter with eight-year-old French brandy.

Riga Black Balsam XO is made from 24 ingredients, including 17 botanicals such as herbs, roots, berries and buds. The botanicals are infused in a spirit-water mix using single barrel infusion to create the Riga Black Balsam essence, which is then blended with the brandy.

For more information, click here.

39. 6 O’clock Gin Light and Low

Spirits producer Bramley & Gage tapped into the low-alcohol category with the launch of a 0.8% ABV canned gin and tonic.

The 6 O’clock Gin Light and Low is said to have “all the characteristics you’d expect from a great craft gin and tonic”. The can contains 0.2 units of alcohol and 50 calories per can.

Bramley & Gage also released a canned G&T using its signature 6 O’clock London Dry Gin and tonic water, which carries an ABV of 7%.

For more information, click here.

38. Nikka Yoichi and Miyagiko Apple Brandy Finishes

Nikka experimented with cask finishes last year with the launch of two Japanese whiskies finished for six months in apple brandy wood.

The commemorative single malts celebrate the 100th wedding anniversary of the brand’s founders, Masataka Takesturu and Jessie Roberta Cowan, who married in Glasgow on 8 January 1920. The husband-and-wife team have since become known as the mother and father of Japanese whisky.

Only a limited number of the whiskies were made available globally.

For more information, click here.

37. Courvoisier Avant-Garde Bourbon Finish

Described as the first of its kind for Cognac house Courvoisier, the new Avante-Garde Bourbon Finish is a VS expression finished in Kentucky Bourbon casks.

Due to Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) regulations, the Bourbon barrel ageing process does not allow it to be classified as a Cognac, and as such, it is labelled a ‘spirit drink’.

The innovative bottling was created to attract both Bourbon and Cognac drinkers.

For more information, click here.

36. Bardstown Bourbon Orange Curaçao

Kentucky’s Bardstown Bourbon Company continued to expand its Collaborative series of barrel-finished bottlings in 2020 with a whiskey finished in Destillaré Orange Curaçao barrels.

The new whiskey is made using nine-year-old Tennessee Bourbon finished for 18 months in Destillaré Orange Curaçao barrels from Louisville-based distillery Copper & Kings.

The 50% ABV bottling is the sixth collaboration with fellow Kentucky distillery Copper & Kings.

For more information, click here.

35. Johnnie Blonde

Blended Scotch whisky Johnnie Walker sought to appeal to new drinkers with the launch of a ‘sweeter’ expression that can be mixed in long drinks.

The new Johnnie Blonde expression is made using wheat and fruity malt whiskies, and was matured in sweet American oak. The Diageo-owned brand said the whisky can be consumed in long serves, including mixing it with lemonade, cola or ginger.

Diageo said it planned to test launch the whisky in several markets from March 2021, including Monterey, Mexico; Curitiba, Brazil; Bangkok, Thailand; Sofia, Bulgaria; and Houston, US.

For more information, click here.

34. De Kuyper Ol’ Fashion Liqueur

As consumer seek to up their game when it comes to at-home cocktail making, drinks firm De Kuyper has made it easier to craft Old Fashioneds with a new liqueur.

The new De Kuyper Ol’ Fashion Liqueur offers a “two-step solution” to making the classic cocktail by simplifying the method to combining its new liqueur with Bourbon and stirring.

The expression is bottled at 30% ABV and aims to help consumers replicate the “complicated” Old Fashioned at home.

For more information, click here.

33. The Lakes The One Orange Wine Cask


English spirits producer The Lakes Distillery expanded The One Collection last year with the launch of a whisky finished in orange wine casks.

The One Orange Wine Cask was finished in first-fill American oak casks, seasoned with Vino de Naranja (orange wine). This ‘rare’ wine is made exclusively in Huelva, Andalusia, on the southern coast of Spain.

Bottled at 46.6% ABV, only 2,994 bottles of the expression are available to buy.

For more information, click here.

32. Angostura Cocoa Bitters

Rum and bitters producer Angostura revealed its latest innovation in August 2020, a bitters made using Trinidad and Tobago’s own Trinitario cocoa beans.

The move to include the ingredient is part of Angostura’s bid to promote its local cocoa across the word. The addition of the cocoa is said to add a ‘sweet and elegantly balanced flavour’ to the product.

The bitters was launched after years of continuous research and trials, and aims to ‘push the boundaries of flavour’.

31. Charles Merser & Co Double Barrel Rum

London-based gin producer Hayman’s made its first move into rum with the launch of Charles Merser & Co Double Barrel Rum.

The rum was the inaugural release from gin producer Hayman’s new rum blending house, Charles Merser & Co, the first in London in more than 100 years.

The expression is a blend of rums from Barbados, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Panama, which are married in London for six months before being bottled at 43.1% ABV.

For more information, click here.

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