Good Libations: Five of the best liquors to lift your spirits this October

Rob Crossan

8 October 2020

From bold Panamanian rums to acai-infused Brazilian gins, a slew of new spirits allows you to taste your way around the world this autumn

8 October 2020 | Rob Crossan

Bumbo XO Rum

The supposed ‘year of rum’ hasn’t really materialised has it? Chiefly because calling rum ‘the new gin’ is a bit like calling sleeve tattoos ‘the new fly fishing’. The taxonomy is so different as to make comparisons redundant. Nonetheless, this new release from Panama (not a noted rum producing nation but certainly in the right geographical zone) is a bottle of wonderfully louche machismo. The matte black finish and tarnished silver ‘X’ on the bottle make it look like the kind of spirit the late Alexander McQueen may have designed. The taste is a blowsy, rain-lashed, sun-sodden miasma of hot, sultry afternoons in the tropics; coffee, pepper and orange zest notes make this an uncompromising rum that has a swaggering, not unjustified, self-confidence.


McQueen and The Violet Fog gin

The world of bespoke gin is not far behind craft ales when it comes to conjuring up bizarre, pun-heavy names to mark them out from the insanely crowded marketplace. McQueen and The Violet Fog may sound like one of Jack White’s new musical side-projects, but the backstory is genuinely unusual. For this is a gin that comes from Brazil. Yes, Brazil. So what does the land of bossa nova and rampant deforestation know about juniper? Quite a lot as it happens. Claiming to use six botanicals not found in any other gin on the planet, the result is an uncommonly smooth creation with subtle notes of fennel and acai, a purple berry widely found in the hills of Jundiai in South Eastern Brazil. And, as you might expect from the country that gave us Oscar Niemeyer and Gisele Bundchen, the bottle is just as striking on the eye, featuring a crowned eye logo in metallic copper. ‘Brilhante’- as they say in those parts.


Black Bowmore DB5 1964

Drink driving regulations mean you’re unlikely to see Daniel Craig sipping a fine single malt before getting behind the wheel in the much-delayed new Bond movie. But that wasn’t the case back in 1964 when an Aston Martin and a young, slightly tipsy Sean Connery would have been the very essence of vaguely inebriated sophistication. This new collaboration between the vaunted car maker and Black Bowmore is a pretty special one. Coming with the piston from an Aston Martin DB5, the whisky is an ultra-rare release of Bowmore’s 1964 vintage (the same year that Dr. No was released).

It’s only the sixth time that Bowmore has let go of anything from that year, considered to be its finest ever vintage, dating from the first year that the distillation process used steam rather than coal. I’ve no idea what this tastes like (primarily because the 25 available bottles are retailing for £50,000 each) but the packaging is genuinely beautiful, with the piston and bottle coming in a case made of string-grain calfskin with a custom solid brass latch and hinges plated with nickel. Frankly, this is so good that there are probably even a couple of Bond’s who aren’t worthy of it. Sorry Mr. Lazenby.


Oliver Peyton’s Unknown Pleasures

Phoebe Waller Bridge’s Fleabag has been responsible for a lot over the last few years (nobody looks at young priests or foxes in the same way) but her character’s devotion to gin in a tin has taken the humble readymade spirit-and-mixer beyond ironic hipster status to something that is a de rigour element of any half-decent house party. Chef Oliver Peyton (he of the Great British Menu TV show) has just released his own range of canned cocktails that, delightfully, go easy on the sugar rush and are impressively potent and adult in taste and strength. His canned espresso martini in particular is a triumph; complete with the creamy head and long finish that is hard for mixologists to create even in bars, let alone confined to a tin.

Espresso Martini, RRP £23.40/6x250ml,

Rome de Bellegarde cognac

The sweet trolley arriveth. And with a quite epically coquettish wiggle of the hips, we welcome Rome de Bellegarde. If you know anything at all about cognac then this name will automatically come with a concomitant hushed reverence. Made since 1725, it’s a brand synonymous with the most precious blends, created with rare aged Eaux de Vie. Aged for up to 30 years (far longer than its premium competitors), the new XO varietal is a pulchritudinous joy imbuing all the heat, richness and smoothness of the very finest cognac you will probably ever taste. Though, if you have to ask the price for a bottle, it’s sadly guaranteed that you probably can’t afford one.