Top 50 innovative spirits launches of 2023: 10-1
In the final chapter of our countdown, we crown the most innovative spirit of 2023.
There were three agave options in our top 10, but not a single Tequila – as well as a wind tunnel-trialled whiskey and an expression combining gin, shōchū, and koji.
Keep scrolling to see the fifth part of our top 50 innovative spirits launches of 2023, counting down from 10 to one.
10. Selva Negra
Agave spirits are no longer confined to Mexico, with distillers in the US and Europe putting their own innovative spins on the category.
One such producer is Germany’s Selva Negra Spirits, which created the ‘first’ agave-based spirit to be produced in the Black Forest. The company imports the organic extract of the Salmiana agave, which has a delicately floral and sweet taste, into Germany from Mexico.
The spirit is created using a wine yeast that allows the Salmiana extract to ferment into an agave wine. The wine is then distilled, and infused with the smoke of the local Black Forest spruce.
9. WhistlePig Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel
The third release in WhistlePig’s PiggyBack Legends Series was tested in racing team Alfa Romeo’s wind tunnel in Switzerland, before heading to the Vermont distillery to endure varying levels of G-force – a process the producer claims has accelerated the interaction between the whiskey and the wood, thus ‘staying true to the physical nature of Formula One’.
Inspired by Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese Formula One driver, the rye whiskey was finished with lychee and oolong tea.
It is bottled at 48.38% ABV (96.77 proof), as a nod to team driver Valtteri Bottas’s racing number, 77, and the ‘precision of racing’.
The combination of gin, shōchū, and koji make for a unique combination.
Japanese product Sasshu is a blend of Japanese botanicals, koji mould, and sweet potato-based shōchū.
The use of koji results in the liquid being fruitier and more flavourful, and is harmonised with Japanese botanicals in a way that elevates its use for cocktail-making.
Clocking in at 45% ABV, the gin is available in 700ml bottles, and contains Honkaku imo shōchū as the base spirit, with botanicals including juniper, sour pomelo, shikuwasa (citrus fruit), rose petal, sakura chips, yomogi (mugwort), biwa (loquat) leaves, alongside seven other ingredients.
7. Brockmans Agave Cut
Brockmans Gin continued its efforts to be ‘disruptive’ as part of its ‘properly improper’ brand ethos by branching out into agave spirits.
The expression is made using Brockmans Gin cut with agave spirit, and takes its inspiration from bartenders in New York, who would cut gin cocktails with agave spirits.
Sitting at 41.2% ABV, it mixes the botanicals of Brockmans Gin with the flavours of Mexican agave, which are then ‘subtly enhanced’ with a hint of ‘natural’ pink grapefruit flavouring. Only 9,000 bottles of Agave Cut were released.
American single malt Oakpacker became the world’s first whiskey infused with air-harvested water when it launched in June.
The American single malt whiskey uses air-harvested water to reduce reliance on traditional sources and promote sustainability, according to producer Kamiki Drinks.
OakPacker uses innovative technology to collect pure, clean water from the atmosphere. The non-chill-filtered whiskey is made from the ‘finest American single malt whiskeys’.
The name of the brand pays homage to the role squirrels play in growing oak trees, as they bury acorns that later sprout into oak trees. OakPacker is bottled at 46% ABV and is available in 750ml bottles in the US.
5. Absolut paper bottle
Vodka brand Absolut teamed up with The Paper Bottle Company (Pabaco) in 2019 to launch a paper bottle, which was finally available to buy in the UK in June as part of a three-month pilot test.
The launch in UK supermarket chain Tesco marked the first time a paper-based bottle will have been sold commercially in shops by a global spirits company.
Unlike previous pilots for the Absolut Mixt ready-to-drink product, which had a lower ABV of 5%, this 500ml bottle was tested using Absolut’s higher ABV of 40%.
These first-generation single-mould bottles are made from 57% paper and recyclable plastic. Absolut owner Pernod Ricard said paper bottles were eight times lighter, and were easier to carry, than standard glass bottles.
4. Brother Justus American Single Malt Cold-Peated Whiskey
Minnesota-based distillery Brother Justus revealed an innovative cold-peated whiskey, created using the Aitkin County Process, a patent-pending method.
The Brother Justus Whiskey Company submitted patents in several countries, including Scotland and Ireland, for a whisky-making process that uses peat in the finishing process, instead of smoking the malted barley before distillation.
When used in finishing, the cold-peating process filters out the impurities while infusing the flavours of the terroir.
As the peat is not burned, the resulting liquid is a ‘delicate peat expression’, rather than being smoky, and is said to be unlike anything on the global market.
Described as the world’s first non-alcoholic ‘spirit’ made with Blue agave, Almave was the result of a collaboration between Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton and Mexican spirits group Casa Lumbre.
Almave has been made in a similar way to Tequila, using the same raw materials, but the fermentation process has been skipped.
“While Almave Distilled Non-Alcoholic Blue Agave Spirit is not a Tequila, we are immensely proud of how we are leading the non-alcoholic category in staying true to the production and craft of making Tequila, specifically the use of real agave and distillation,” said Casa Lumbre co-founder and master distiller Iván Saldaña.
“While there are faster ways, we could not imagine a worthwhile non-alcoholic ‘spirit’ without it.”
As a Tequila fan, Hamilton wanted to create an alcohol-free version to allow him to “live a busy life without restraint”.
2. Talisker Glacial Edge 45-Year-Old
Isle of Skye-based Scotch brand Talisker headed to Canada’s ice fields for the final release in its ‘wild’ whisky-making series.
Talisker Glacial Edge 45-Year-Old was finished in ice-fractured oak, a new experiment in whisky craft, and a first for the Diageo-owned brand. The company took 12 heavily charred American oak casks to a specialist cooper in Canada who removed the ends of them. They were then exposed to sub-zero temperatures and Arctic winds for 96 hours, which fractured the wood.
The process increases the surface area of the casks, which the whisky then interacts with during the finishing period in Scotland.
The barrels brought an ‘unexplored richness, complexity and a unique untamed flavour’, and ‘spicier and sweeter aromas’.
The journey to the ice fields was a partnership with environmental organisation Parley For the Oceans.
1. The Glenlivet Twist & Mix
Taking the top spot in the Most Innovative Spirits Launches of 2023 is The Glenlivet Twist & Mix.
The Scotch brand’s first move into the ready-to-drink category uses a new patented Vessl cap closure and mixing technology that “bursts cocktail flavours into The Glenlivet single malt”, said Yogesh Gandhi, global head of Scotch whisky portfolio innovation at Chivas Brothers. The technology works by twisting the cap, which brings an outburst of ‘natural’ cocktail flavourings from a reservoir in the top into the liquid, essentially mixing up a cocktail in seconds, which can then be served chilled or over ice in a glass.
The aim is to change how people consume Scotch whisky and break down stereotypes associated with the category. Gandhi said the company looked at how it could “elevate the at-home entertainment experience by giving people access to effortless, premium, bar-quality cocktails in their own homes with the simple twist of a cap”.
After a trial in November 2022, the product went into production in 2023, before launching in the US in August. The product took three and a half years to develop, Gandhi added. “The Glenlivet Twist & Mix was a first of its kind in Scotch and the broader spirits category,” he notes.
The two variants, Old Fashioned and New Manhattan, were chosen for being “iconic and well-loved cocktails”.
“We have plans to broaden The Glenlivet Twist & Mix product line, but we’re currently in the test, learn and optimise mode,” Gandhi added.
“Our goal is to create flavours that consumers will love, so we won’t take a new product to market until we know we can deliver something great.”