A vodka made from ‘wonky’ fruit and a rum inspired by fried chicken rank in the penultimate chapter of our most innovative spirits launches list.
Irish whiskey also shone, with the creation of the country’s first 100% rye whisky and its most heavily peated expressions ever.
Keep scrolling to see the fourth part of our top 50 innovative spirits launches of 2023, counting down from 20 to 11.
20. Powers Irish Rye
Powers shook up the rye whisky category when the brand produced the world’s first 100% Irish rye whiskey. Experimentation was carried out in Midleton Distillery in Cork, Ireland, and the resulting liquid – bottled at 43.2% ABV – is said to balance the earthy, peppery character of rye with the sweetness from maturation in American oak casks.
19. World Whisky Day 2023 Mexico
In celebration of World Whisky Day (20 May), Edinburgh’s Holyrood Distillery unveiled the second in its series of new make spirits inspired by countries. 2023’s edition drew from Mexico, using Mexican lager yeast and Distilamax TQ for a taste associated with Tequila and mezcal.
18. Sapling Raspberry & Hibiscus Vodka
English producer Sapling Spirits continued its fight against food waste by creating a wonky fruit range, the first release being its innovative Raspberry & Hibiscus Vodka. The expression made fresh use of raspberries that have been bumped, crushed, or squashed.
17. KFC x Dead Man’s Fingers
Dead Man’s Fingers linked up with fast food chain KFC for an out-of-the-box innovative collaboration that saw the two create a spiced rum. It blended KFC’s secret 11 herbs and spices with Dead Man’s Fingers Spiced Rum, bringing notes of caramel, vanilla, treacle toffee and nutmeg.
16. Waterford Peated: Lacken, and Peated: Woodbrook
Waterford Distillery launched two whiskeys believed to be the most heavily peated Irish expressions ever, as part of its Arcadian Farm Origins series, which “revels in the old ways of whiskey production”.
By harvesting barley from Lacken and Woodbrook farms, and combining it with Irish peat from the ultra-deep inland of Ballyteige in Kildare, Waterford Distillery has created ‘rich, distinct and complex flavours’, each of which is said to display the nuances of their respective terroirs. Lacken and Woodbrook are bottled at a rate of 57 PPM (phenol parts per million) and 74 PPM respectively.
15. Belvedere 10
Belvedere 10 is made from a single harvest of organic Dankowskie Diamond rye, which was planted in August 2022 in one field of the Bartężek estate, in Poland’s Masurian Lake District.
The liquid is said to follow a 10-step creation process. Crafted annually in small batches, the liquid was rested for 10 months to ‘enhance the liquid’s velvety smooth mouthfeel’, and was distilled four times.
The new expression was inspired by the brand’s production process in 1910, when the distillery was established. “With Belvedere 10, taste, vision and mastery collide in one flawless performance,” said Francois Xavier Desplancke, president and CEO.
14. Pod Pea Vodka
UK brand Ten Locks launched its first vodka, made with 100% British peas, in the hope of creating a ‘planet-positive’ spirit.
Becky Davies, head of commercial at Ten Locks, explained: “People, planet, and purpose sit at the heart of Pod Pea Vodka, and this thinking helped shape how we chose our primary ingredient – the pea. It was chosen for its flavour characteristics, but also for the fact that peas are quintessentially British, growing plentifully right here in the UK.”
As well as using peas – which are a sustainable crop – the vodka is bottled using transition glass, which is glass before it is turned into flint (clear glass). Skipping this step allows for less waste and gives each bottle unique imperfections. The labels are printed on wood-free paper, with no plastic or foil.
13. Buí 43 and Glas 55
Chartreuse herbal liqueurs have been created by Carthusian monks in France since the 18th century, but, in 2019, the religious order decided to scale back production to focus on their monastic lifestyle.
To keep up with demand – driven by an increased interest in at-home mixology during the Covid-19 pandemic – Dublin’s Stillgarden Distillery has created its own Chartreuse-style liqueurs.
Buí 43 is a yellow herbal liqueur created with botanicals such as Irish honey, lemon balm, cloves, anise, and other herbs.
The green-hued Glas 55, meanwhile, has a lemon balm, peppermint, and sage base.
12. Jägermeister 9556 Nights of Exploration
Herbal liqueur brand Jägermeister released its first ultra-premium expression, based on a one-time experiment by Dr Günther Findel, the late son-in-law of the brand’s creator, Curt Mast.
The expression comes from a single barrel, with only 2,500 bottles created.
Unlike the brand’s core liqueur – which is aged for a year – 9556 Nights of Exploration is matured for nearly 26 years, with its name referencing the number of days it spent ageing. The liquid uses the brand’s original recipe of 56 botanicals.
The resulting liquid carries an aroma of caramel and vanilla with spicy herbal flavours, sweet fruit notes and aromatic woody notes.
11. El Cielo
In an attempt to ‘break boundaries’ in the Tequila category, Bacardi-owned Patrón created El Cielo, a blanco Tequila that has been distilled four times.
El Cielo was made using a ‘first-of-its-kind’ distillation process, and a balance of cooked agave that is rich in sweetness and citrus notes.
Patrón master distiller David Rodriguez said: “For the first time ever, we developed a prestige Tequila with a fourth distillation – a process that is extremely rare in the industry – using the smallest copper pot still at Hacienda Patrón.”
According to the brand, it took more than 150 tasting sessions to perfect the final flavour profile.