Last week, VinePair released its second annual list of the 50 best spirits of the year. After tasting hundreds of bottles since January, our editorial team is excited to present the best gins, vodkas, rums, whiskeys, and tequilas perfect for any holiday gift or to stock on your bar cart.

On this episode of the “VinePair Podcast,” hosts Adam Teeter, Joanna Sciarrino, and Zach Geballe discuss what listeners can expect to find on this year’s list. They are joined by Tim McKirdy, VinePair senior staff writer and host of “Cocktail College,” who provides insight into the year-long process of tasting, deliberating on, and ranking the list.

Tune in to learn more about the best spirits of 2021.

Listen Online

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Listen on Spotify

Or Check Out The Conversation Here

Adam Teeter: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter.

Joanna Sciarrino: And I’m Joanna Sciarrino.

Zach Geballe: In Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.

A: And this is the “VinePair Podcast.” What’s going on?

Z: We are here. It is the end of the year; it feels very real to me today as we record.

A: Why today?

Z: Well for me, there’s all these things that signify December is coming. It’s my wife’s birthday tomorrow, as we record. We’re getting deep into Hanukkah; my son is complaining about his lack of trucks. He’s 3 and a half, so this is the first Hanukkah where he really anticipated it and had some opinions about what he should get. Last year, he enjoyed getting presents, but now I’m getting the full, unadulterated, sh*tty 3-year-old in my face, and I can’t take it. So that’s why it feels like the holidays to me. He wants to know when VinePair list of top 50 truck toys is coming out.

A: Never. We don’t rate trucks. Does it feel like December? I guess it does.

J: It feels like December. It feels like there’s a lot going on.

A: There are still a lot of leaves on the trees in my park, so it’s not full-on December. But I guess we’re getting there.

Z: It’s just always dark. That’s December, dude.

A: I hate when it gets dark early.

J: We get it, you’re a summer person. We know.

A: I like summer. I like early fall.

J: No, you don’t. You’re a summer baby.

Z: Duh, summer’s the best season. We’ve already heard you expound upon why the entire world revolves around Adam Teeter’s birthday.

A: Here’s the deal, it falls around me. So let’s keep continuing on, speaking of other people on the podcast: Joanna, what did you drink this week?

J: I actually had quite a magical Saturday night for New York City dining. We got some dinner and drinks with a few friends who are in town, and we walked into Buvette at 7:30 on a Saturday night.

A: That never happens.

J: We were four people. The guy was like, “Yeah, we’ll just push two tables together.” I didn’t ask any questions. I think the last time I went to Buvette, because it’s so hard to get into, was for breakfast. So I didn’t realize they have a very extensive cocktail list. All classic cocktails, I had a Martinez for the first time. And that was very good; I enjoyed that a lot. After Buvette, we just walked right into Katana Kitten, and it was amazing. They were like, “Yeah, sure, we have a four-top right here for you.”

A: These are the benefits of staying in New York City. This is why you stay in New York City for Thanksgiving.

J: I had a Boilermaker at Katana Kitten with Toki Whisky.

Z: Nice.

J: So it was a good drinking weekend for me. What about you, Zach?

Z: I actually had a pretty good drinking weekend, too, I suppose. Solomon was up visiting the grandparents for the weekend, so Kaitlin and I were able to go out to dinner. I bought a bottle of ‘05 Produttori del Barbaresco ‘Muncagota,’ which is one of their single-vineyard Barberesco bottlings. It was delightful. We went to a restaurant I used to work at here in Seattle and it was really nice. We had been planning to go out one of the nights that Sol’s gone, and then we just left it. It is a lot easier to get a table in Seattle than it is in New York. So it wasn’t a magical thing that we were able to get a table. But we went out to dinner and took Lilah, who is now 2 months old and slept through basically the whole meal, thankfully. So it was really nice. And then the other thing I had that I’ve been playing around with at home is a cocktail that I’ve been really intrigued by, and I like to just kind of experiment with my home bar a lot. We had a drink out somewhere not that long ago that had a black pepper syrup. It reminded me that I really like pepper in cocktails if it’s applied correctly. So I’ve been playing around with that at home: an ounce and a half of rye whiskey, three-quarters of an ounce of dried Curaçao, and three-quarters of an ounce of amaro. Then, I stir that and serve it in a rocks glass with a large cube and then just crack a little bit of fresh black pepper over the top. It’s really good. I love pepper and whiskey since they go really well together. There’s something about a fresh crack on top that gives you more of the aroma of the pepper that I really like. How about you, Adam?

A: So I did not have a magical Saturday. I was home, and it was the Auburn-Alabama game, otherwise known as the Iron Bowl. So I did go out and do a little bit of tailgating, and I had two beers I really liked. One was obviously a mainstay for me, which is SweetWater IPA, which was very good. l also tried Wicked Weeds hazy, which was pretty good as well. And then I, too, have been doing some cocktail experimenting as well. But I have been doing so in consultation with the host of VinePair’s “Cocktail College,” Tim McKirdy, in which I have been trying to recreate — and I think I have — the coldest Martini in New York City. I’ve been playing with the gins I’ve been using, the vermouth, and the dilution. It’s been really delicious.

J: What are your gins?

A: I’ve been playing with a bunch. I use Plymouth and Citadelle. I’ve yet to use Monkey 47. But I have to consult with my partner here, Tim, to see if I should use it.

J: Do you lose any of the flavor because it’s so, so cold, right?

A: That’s why you have to use a gin that has a lot of in-your-face botanicals. What you gain is this incredible viscosity. The texture is incredible, and it just makes it way too easy to drink. When I’ve been playing with them at home the last few times, I made enough that everyone can have one. So that you’re not like, “Oh, that was easy. I’ll have a second.” But yeah, it’s really delicious. So that’s what I’ve been up to.

J: Speaking of Tim…

A: Yeah, it’s time to welcome him onto the show. So today we’re gonna talk about VinePair’s Top 50 Spirits of the Year list, which we dropped this week. The person who is really integral to putting that list together every year is Tim. So Tim, what’s going on, man?

Tim McKirdy: How’s it going? Thanks for having me.

A: Of course, man. He was sitting here the whole time I was talking about him.

T: Am I supposed to ignore that I heard all the banter or what?

A: No, you heard it all. But Tim, why don’t you talk to us a little bit about the list and how it gets put together every year? You did post a meme saying there’s all the bangers.

T: All bangers, all the time, all 50 bottles. Thank you, Kendall Roy, for approving of this list. Waystar Royco approved.

A: It is Waystar Royco approved, although he’s not going to be a part of that for much longer.

T: Probably not much further.

Z: This is not a truck podcast or a “Succession” podcast.

A: That was a rough episode, though.

T: Anyways, to answer your question, this is a top 50 list.

J: It’s the second time we’re doing it, right?

T: Yes. I think that maybe came into play with a few things that we can talk about. But to run through the list by the numbers, this is by my calculations: 331 days in the making between the start of the year and the end of the year. Hundreds of bottles tasted, and that’s not hyperbole. We’re talking closer to a thousand than 500, but hundreds of bottles tasted throughout the year. Ultimately, we have our very long shortlist, bring those into the office, and taste them all together as a group multiple times. Then, we settle on the top 50 and work on the ranking. It’s a big undertaking.

A: I was a part of creating the list, but you lead this endeavor. This is a list created for all of our readers, but it’s being created in the United States. So there are taste references there. Do you feel like it always defaults that No. 1 is going to be a whiskey?

T: Good question. I think that is influenced by the fact that we are based in the United States, and the majority of our readers are here. But I think that could probably be true in so many places, just because there’s such a broad range of styles with whiskey in general. When you want that No. 1 bottle, you want to be able to drink it on a number of different occasions. And whiskey really stands up for that, right? It’s going to be very hard. I’m not saying it will probably never happen in the future, we look forward to it happening. But I think it’s going to be very hard for a clear spirit to make No. 1 one day.

Z: I was going to say it makes sense to me that you could eventually end up with a different barrel-aged spirit as the No. 1 because of the preponderance of different use cases for it. But it is true that for most people confronted with a clear spirit, it’s probably going in a cocktail. They’re probably not sipping it neat. That said, there are a couple on here that I think are really, really exciting for sipping beverages more than mixing beverages. I’m particularly curious, this is a list that has a strong representation of mezcal which can range in terms of its color. There is a little bit going on with some barrel-aging in some cases of mezcal. But to me, that was the surprise category when looking at the numbers. Tim, does that speak to something going on right now in mezcal? Is it just the availability, or why are we just living through this period where mezcal is so exciting?

T: I think this also ties back to Adam’s point and question before, which is that we want the list to represent quality, represent bottles that we absolutely stand by and would love for people to go out and buy or give to people. But ultimately, it should also represent what’s happening right now.

J: Yeah, current trends.

T: You hit on a good point there, Zach. Mezcal is very hot right now. The hype surrounding it is probably bigger than the actual volume and dollar sales, but people are very excited about it. Because of that, there’s been a lot more investment in mezcal. So it’s more widely available.

J: And it’s found more on the market.

T: Yeah, so there’s more on the market, and we’ve definitely tasted more mezcal this year than any other year.

A: This has been an issue with tequila for a while, but I really felt like in 2021 you saw — especially from the beverage community — this massive backlash against the celebrity rush into that category specifically. It hasn’t happened in mezcal in the same way. There are great tequila brands — and one of them that’s No. 3 on our list — that are still very much absent from their association with celebrities. But there was just so much of it this year, from The Rock to Kendall Jenner. A lot of people who are like, “You know what? Casamigos actually sucks.” It’s great that people like it, but it’s actually just sugar water. A lot of people were just like, if this is where tequila is going to go, we need to try to find the other agave spirit that feels much more authentic and true to its sense of place. Because what has always excited beverage people about agave is that it really does give a sense of place where it’s grown — whether it is being used in tequila or whether it’s being used in mezcal. So if people are going to rush in and start creating, for example, bourbon tequila or Coca-Cola tequila, people will say f*ck that. I think that really happened a lot in 2021.

Z: More than just the sense of place that you can get from mezcal, you also have the incredible, almost infinite variety of agave species that can be used to produce mezcal. While Espadin is the biggest and is very closely related to blue Weber — which is what’s used for tequila — you do have that possibility for all these different expressions owing not just to place but to type of agave or whether it’s a single type or a blend. You’re never going to have a unified idea of what mezcal should taste like, which gives a lot more room for differentiation and makes it harder for there to be a few behemoths in the marketplace, because no one is going to be able to dictate what the equivalent of blanco tequila is like in mezcal.

T: I think mezcal is the Armagnac to tequila’s Cognac.

Z: Interesting, but more popular than Armagnac.

T: Probably. It’s the next big thing, Armagnac.

A: Who said that?

T: A “Sopranos” episode, 20 years ago. The next vodka, they said. Still hasn’t happened.

Z: Check back in 2022; maybe Armagnac will crack the list.

A: Tim, the other thing I was curious about when we were creating this list is, how much do you bring your own personal preferences of what’s coming in? There’s a good amount of gin and you’re British. I just gotta know.

J: I was actually going to bring up gin because that was the most surprising and enjoyable part of the tastings for me. All the different gins that we had on the list. Can you talk a little bit about trends in gin that you saw that we’ve reflected in the list?

T: To the point before, this is a water-tight process because I can recommend as many bottles as I want to bring this shortlist together. But we’re tasting this as a team multiple times, so my preferences can’t sneak through there.

A: That’s true, we don’t let them.

T: But yeah, tasting gin is a highlight in the calendar year for me. Only in recent years have I really enjoyed gin. But then when I fell, I fell hard. It’s one of those dates of the year that I look forward to doing that roundup. And the selection is always growing. Joanna, you mentioned this as well, but this is our second time publishing this list. If you look at last year’s list, we covered a lot of the classics in gin that we think were amazing and continue to be amazing. But something about this is that if it appeared last year, it’s not going to appear this year. That gave us great scope to explore more craft offerings or something a little bit more esoteric.

Z: The spirit has definitely entered a period where there is a lot of esoteric gin out there. On the list, you have a gin from India, which I think would probably come out and surprise a lot of people. There’s obviously a long association with gin in India, but I think we so often think of gin as a British Isles thing or even an American thing now. But we don’t necessarily think about the incredible range of gins that are coming from, frankly, all over the world.

T: I think that’s really been inspired more by Japan. A lot of people have seen the success of Japanese gin and turned around and said, “OK, we can emulate that.” That particular Indian gin is really good, it tastes very strongly of turmeric. But it’s distinctly Indian, and if you’re going to put an Indian gin on the list, that kind of makes sense.

Z: I was actually surprised at how few gins were on the list. Quite honestly, I think of it as a category that’s as dynamic and exciting as any in the spirits world. In a totally different way than the mezcal conversation a moment ago, you have this infinite palette of flavors. It’s not the base material in this case, but the botanicals and whatnot that are used to infuse and create the flavors. Whether it’s with Japanese gins, Indian gin from Southeast Asia, gins from all over the world, people are really looking at their local ingredients and saying, “What can we add to this classic gin formulation that makes it unique to our place?” Which is super cool and super exciting. Yet, I have this question for you that comes back to the top gin on this list, Fords Gin. All of these explorations of gin are fascinating and interesting. But are they in some ways limited for what they can do in cocktails and especially the kind of classic gin canon?

T: 100 percent; that’s a great point. When we sat down trying to configure the ranking and trying to figure out which gins out of all of them we preferred, those other styles that you mentioned really do stand out when you taste gin side by side because they have one or two hero botanicals that make them unique. But that’s really not how we drink gin. You alluded to that before when you spoke about clear spirits. We drink gin in cocktails, and ultimately Fords — the No. 1 gin — is a gin that time and time again, when you drink it in cocktails, it really just performs amazingly. One thing I always say, I just can’t believe the price out there, those two things together.

J: If you’re going to have one gin in your bar cart, it’s going to be this gin.

T: That’s the gin you go for. If you want to try something a little bit different, here’s what Scottish gin tastes like. I think there’s two or three on there for you to try.

A: There’s a fair amount. We taste a lot of these spirits throughout the year. Are there a few that when you taste it again, you were the most surprised by? Something you thought would be in the top five, but tasting it again, maybe I’d put that lower. Or were you like, “This is just as good as I remember it?”

T: There’s a number of bottles that didn’t make the list that definitely applied to that. But I think that’s something that’s very interesting, too. Throughout the year, we do all these great roundups and huge tastings. If you taste 60 bourbons side by side, one might really stand out, and you might be like, “Oh, that’s an interesting outlier.” Then you bring it into this context where it’s going up against some amazing Cognac or Scotch or gin or mezcal. And suddenly, you’re like, “‘I’m not quite sure why that one stood out for me so much before.” It does just because it’s tasted against similar spirits from the category. So that happens quite a lot.

A: What about something that when you taste it again, you’re like, “That’s just as amazing as before.”

J: Crown Royal?

T: Crown Royal is a great one. Anything in the top 10, but Crown Royal is one that you come back to. It’s very accessibly priced.

J: It’s $73.

T: And we’re talking about a North American 16-year-old whiskey. We’ve definitely written about this a lot in recent times. Crown Royal is doing amazing with flavored whiskeys and RTDs. This is a brand that’s experimenting. They’re not going after solely prestige collectors. So something like that, you do want to taste a couple of times. You feel like the aficionados or the dogmatic people out there might go after you and question Crown Royal being on the list. Yes, this is absolutely amazing and does live up to all the other times we tasted it throughout the year.

A: It is really crazy that it’s that affordable for that age statement. Tim, you and I talked about this. When you look at Boss Hog, which is an amazing whiskey as well and was on the list last year, but is much more expensive.

T: We’ve tasted those side by side. I think the Boss Hog retails for $500. It’s a great whiskey, and I think it definitely has a couple of extra finishing touches or whatever. But if you were to tell me where the $430 gap is between those, it’s very hard to find. I guess that’s just another sign of quality, isn’t it?

A: Yeah, it’s really crazy.

J: We have a lot of really nice ryes on this list. That was also a really enjoyable part of the tastings for me. Whereas I found bourbon and Scotch to be very challenging. It all tastes the same.

Z: Controversial statement from Joanna.

J: But the ryes really blew me away.

T: What was it about the ryes in particular that you enjoyed?

J: It’s because you curated very unique ryes for this list. We had the Danish rye, which was amazing and really tasted like Danish rye bread. We had the Barrell Craft Spirits Rye, which is so complex and unique. That really stood out to me as well. So I thought the ryes were great. I liked the bourbons and the Scotches, of course, but those tastings are really hard.

T: Yeah rye is a really exciting category. Like you say, there’s a number of different profiles that rye can take on anyway, depending on how much rye is used in the mash bill.

Z: Also the variety and when it’s harvested. There’s a lot more variability there than maybe in corn, at least that we’ve seen and in spirits production to this point.

T: Also, people opting to go 100 percent rye where maybe 5 percent of that is malted so that you can actually get fermentation going and sustain it. But we’re not seeing 100 percent or 95 percent corn whiskeys that blow us away. Whereas it really does in rye. But yes, it’s an exciting category. We’re seeing a lot of good things. I’m very excited for rye releases next year and to see how that evolves.

A: Tim, you mentioned a little bit about the top 10. I was hoping you could talk a little about the top five. I know we’ve mentioned one of them already, but if we could talk through those and why we all felt like they were the ones that should be where they are. I’m sure Zach will ask towards the end, what sleeper hits are here? But everyone scrolls to the bottom. Because everyone wants to see what made one through five. So I’m curious what you think each of them says about what’s happening right now in all of their categories.

T: Happily, yeah. No. 5 is Fords London Dry Gin, which we’ve spoken about. Just to recap there, gin is a cocktail spirit, and Fords just performs and comes in at an amazing price point. Maybe you’re not going to get a $14 bottle of something in the top five, but if something performs that well at $25 within its category, that’s just amazing. Fords is probably one of maybe three or five gins that would be on my bar cart. That would definitely always be there. At No. 4, we have the Old Forester 117.

A: This is hard to find, right?

T: This is impossible to find. You can’t get this.

J: It’s so devastating, too, because I love, love, love, love this bourbon.

T: And this was one that made it very difficult for us. We had a lot of conversations about this bottle because you can’t buy it. This is a bottle that retails at the distillery exclusively when they release it for $50 for half a bottle. We’re already seeing it going online for $400 to $600.

A: For half a bottle?

T: For half a bottle.

A: Wow.

T: Typically, people go after Old Forester’s birthday bourbon. To me, this stood out as being incredible quality. The master taster, Jackie Zykan, worked on this. This is her first solo release and I was personally blown away by it. So then the question becomes, “Just because you can’t find it, does that mean that this person, distillery, or product should never get recognition?” Or can we put it on there and we can say, “Congratulations, we’re blown away by what you do; we’re watching for next year.” It’s like, let us know when the next one’s coming out and we’re coming down to Kentucky. We’re waiting. We’re coming to the distillery, and we’re buying them. But that’s interesting because I personally thought that might not make it onto the list because of that.

A: It was really amazing.

T: Yeah. No. 3: El Tesoro Blanco Tequila. That just speaks to what’s happening and what I think agave aficionados care about right now and more people should care about. Which is just pure, authentic agave flavor. Dare I say clean? El Tesoro takes it to the next level and delivers flavor notes that you can get in very few, if not any other tequilas. And again, it’s $46. This is maybe a clear spirit that I would sip as well.

A: It’s delicious. Really, really good. Makes great cocktails, too.

T: Joanna, do you remember we had one of our staff members in the tasting as well that when we were sampling this. They were like, “Oh yeah, I’m not sure I want to try because I don’t drink tequila.” Then they had it and were like, “Maybe I like tequila now?” Well done, El Tesoro. No. 2, we might want to talk about this one. I know this is a particular favorite of yours, but it’s a 20-year-old Scotch whiskey. It’s a single malt. If you’ve ever enjoyed Johnnie Walker Blue over the years, this is one of the main blending components in that whiskey for ages. Diageo never released it, but they had the distillery and were making the whiskey there. But they just put it exclusively into Johnnie and maybe some other higher-end blends. The fact that they brought this out in recent years is a gift to Scotch lovers.

A: I think this is going to quickly become one of their most popular single malts. They own the majority of single malts in the world. But this is just an incredible Scotch for basically anyone who likes Scotch.

J: And it’s not peated.

A: It’s not peated. What’s interesting about the 20 is it’s not just a sherry bomb; it hasn’t just been finished in sherry casks. There’s a few other casks they use.

T: There’s some American oak in there.

A: But it’s 20 years old. This blows The Macallan out of the water.

T: I wasn’t going to use that brand name. But yeah, it’s true.

A: Let’s just be honest, that’s what this will get compared to. If you’re into Scotch, if you like The Macallan, then this is definitely your Scotch. This is something you would like a lot more. It has beautiful packaging, it’s very simplistic, a really simple box, and then just a beautiful liquid inside. Everyone we poured this for at the office was just like, “Holy sh*t this is amazing.” And I think that’s something that’s really incredible. When we talk about, is it worth the price? This is worth the price. I know if I give this bottle to someone and they look up the price, they’ll be like, “This is worth what this is worth.” And that’s important.

T: The Macallan 18 is two years younger, and I think it retails for about $50 more. Age isn’t everything, but to some people those numbers do matter.

A: When it comes to Scotch, there are a lot of Scotches that are being released that are old. A lot of them at that age can taste tired. At 20, it’s still so alive and beautiful and rich and absolutely delicious. So, I think that there’s something very special about this. For anyone who is a whiskey lover, this is a bottle you should have to pull out for special occasions. Now for the last one, Tim. It retails for a certain price but probably can be found for a different one.

T: No, I wouldn’t say so.

A: Really?

T: Not yet.

A: You think it’s coming, though?

T: I do think it’s coming, I hope it doesn’t come. But the bottle is Maker’s Mark. It’s the wood finishing series, and this is the first of two releases for 2021. It’s the “FAE 01” one.

J: What does that stand for?

T: Fatty acid esters. But I think Maker’s Mark as a bourbon distillery continues to be underrated. Everyone knows the wax seal bottle; everyone knows it is iconic. But the sheer quality of all of their base liquids is incredible. The thing that’s always perplexed me and other whiskey-drinking friends that I know and people in the industry is the fact that this really hasn’t kind of taken off as one of their series that collectors hoard, because this is a $65 bottle. I even looked at Drizly today. You can get it for $80 in New York — that’s basically MSRP. That’s going for a normal price, and I can still find it. Long story short, they add staves into their already-aging whiskey barrels. This is No. 4 four in the series, and the first time I tasted this, I was blown away. So when it came down to tasting together as a group, I wanted people to like it as much as I did. I didn’t personally know where we were going to put it on the list, but I knew that I really, really liked it and I was worried that people might not. I was worried it might just be me, but I know that it blew everyone else away as well. And again, these are editorial lists, too, and I think it’s important to say as a statement that this series is so good, it deserves more recognition than it has gotten at this point.

A: Yeah. I think what’s really amazing about this is that it’s such an incredible liquid. There are lots of other distilleries. We have a good representation from a lot of other very famous distilleries in Kentucky on the list as well. But what’s interesting is that there’s one distillery in particular in Kentucky that kind of seems to be able to do no wrong at this point with collectors. It’s odd because yes, they also have delicious liquids, but they have some misses that people seem to love. When we taste some of those that are going now for hundreds upon hundreds of dollars against a thing like this Maker’s, and you blind taste it, the Maker’s blows everyone else away. There’s a level setting that’s going to have to happen, you’re going to see it happen in the industry where people are like, “There is quality coming out from a lot of other places.” And Maker’s is a really great example of one of those very historic distilleries. The brand is everywhere; you know the wax dip bottle. So you have this preconceived notion. But a lot of the brands that you’re loving from this other famous distillery were also everywhere a long time ago, and you’re forgetting that as well. So come on.

T: It’s really perplexing. And I’m not saying this is the only reason for that other distillery, but I think maybe you’ll find a lot of times people are just buying those bottles, keeping them on their shelves as trophies, and don’t even drink them. So it’s kind of ridiculous.

Z: There are a couple of things that are further down the list that are maybe more unfamiliar to most listeners and readers. Let’s start with, why should someone buy a bottle of Pisco?

A: Oh, I knew you were gonna ask that question. I’m looking at the bottle right now, actually.

T: Pisco Sour: f*cking amazing cocktail. No. 1 reason. Go out. Make it. Skip the egg white, if you’re asking me. The smell in the glass, I don’t need it.

Z: Or you express citrus over the top to cut the odor, but you need the texture.

T: I’ll sacrifice it. The Pisco Sour is an amazing cocktail. But other than that, this is a great reminder that this is a wine-based distillate. You can sip this, and it has a lot of character. It has a lot to offer, and it’s underrated. It’s not that different in nature to tequila and even mezcal. Those are things that have exploded. Obviously, I’m not going to say pisco is the next big thing. But buy that bottle and just really enjoy it for all those things that you get from those other spirits.

Z: How about the vodka that’s not vodka?

J: Yeah, I love the “spirit drink.”

T: It’s called spirit alcohol or something. A geeky side note, the reason that this isn’t a vodka is that 2 percent of the liquid that makes up this blend is malted. That’s pulled off the still at lower proof than it should be. Anyway, that’s just a regulation. But, the malted rye spirit that gets added to what is officially vodka just gives it so much character.

J: This is Belvedere Heritage 176.

T: Great for any Martini. A Gibson would be good. It’s a very rye-toasty bread vodka.

Z: I’m out of questions. I need to go to the liquor store. Oh wait, we have to talk about peach-infused vodka.

T: We can skip the peach-infused vodka because it’s from the Pacific Northwest.

Z: We got to talk about all the many things from Scotland, so you know…

T: That’s a great flavored vodka. Now there is one I would like to shout out. That’s the Calvados at No. 12 Lemorton … I get the feeling, Zach, you probably enjoy drinking Calvados.

Z: Oh, of course I do.

T: This is a bottle that you can sip. It’s crisp, it’s dry, it’s complex. It doesn’t weigh the palate down as much for me as Cognac. It’s a very heavy proportion of pear compared to apple. It’s incredible in cocktails and, most importantly, will transform your Martini.

A: Oh, how so?

T: Do 2 ounces of gin, and I would say like half an ounce or a quarter of an ounce of vermouth and then half or three-quarters of this Calvados. It’s absolutely amazing.

A: Tim is a Martini guy. Awesome. Well, Tim, thank you so much for joining us.

T: Thanks so much for having me.

A: If you haven’t read the top 50 list yet, go check it out on VinePair. You can see all the other amazing bottles that the entire editorial team recommends. It’s such a tough job to lead this tasting. We feel so bad for you.

T: It’s a hard life.

A: Thanks so much for joining us. Joanna and Zach, I’ll talk to you guys on Friday.

J: See you guys next time.

Z: Sounds great.

Thanks so much for listening to the “VinePair Podcast.” If you love this show as much as we love making it, please leave us a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show.

Now for the credits. VinePair is produced and recorded in New York City and Seattle, Washington, by myself and Zach Geballe, who does all the editing and loves to get the credit. Also, I would love to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder, Josh Malin, for helping make all of this possible, and also to Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director, who is additionally a producer on the show. I also want to, of course, thank every other member of the VinePair team, who are instrumental in all of the ideas that go into making the show every week. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you again.

Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.