Any airport duty-free shop can help you max out your alcoholic beverage allowance with the most popular Champagne, wines and spirits available, but those ubiquitous labels are unlikely to remind you of a specific getaway. Instead, Christopher Waters has compiled a guide to hyper-local gems and hard-to-come by limited releases that deserve a spot in your (checked) baggage.
Despite its popularity, Aperol isn’t the only Italian amaro that fuels la dolce vita. Amaro San Simone’s distinctive black and gold bottle has pride of place on the counters and backbars of bars and cafés throughout its native Turin. Originally produced for pharmacies, San Simone’s recipe of 39 selected herbs and plants from the surrounding area shifted from a medicinal elixir to a social libation.
Amaro San Simone 70 cl single premium pack, €18 through amarosansimone.com.
Pronounced “a-nock,” this fragrant and flavourful single malt is produced by the Knockdhu Distillery, which was founded in 1894 in the remote village of Knock in Scotland’s Aberdeenshire. The current operation has been running since 1989 and produces a memorable portfolio that includes this complex and aromatic spirit that was aged in old sherry casks and American bourbon barrels.
Ancnoc 18-year-old highland single malt scotch whisky, price on request through ancnoc.com.
Interest in cider continues to grow, especially in limited-release products from artisanal producers such as Oliver’s, a leading independent U.K. producer located in Herefordshire. This cloudy, lightly sparkling cider is made primarily of Yarlington Mill apples, a flavourful bittersweet variety, with a small per cent of Foxwhelp apples to round out the spicy and floral beverage.
Oliver’s Yarlington Mill Cider 2021, £8 through oliversciderandperry.co.uk.
GRAIN TO GLASS
This is a delicious reminder that bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States, including Columbus, Ohio, where Midwest started commercial production in 2010. Michelone Reserve is crafted from locally grown grains including yellow corn, winter wheat and rye. This spicy and warm whisky is aged a minimum of four years in American oak barrels before it’s bottled at cask strength.
Middle West Spirits Michelone Reserve Straight Bourbon, US$46.99 through middlewestspirits.com.
The Dominican Republic’s largest rum producer has been in operation since 1888. Part of its strong influence on Dominican culture is attributed to the fact that the country’s road signs are made by the distillery’s workshops in Puerto Plata. Made to sip on or as the base for a rum negroni or elevated old fashioned, this rich dark rum is a milestone of its own.
Brugal 1888 Doblemente Añejado, price on request through brugal-rum.com.
There wasn’t much glitz and glamour in California’s wine scene when Ridge started producing in 1963. Even as Napa’s star ascended, changing the landscape from purpose-built wineries into cathedrals of cabernet, Ridge never lost its original character and knack for producing compelling wines including this remarkable zinfandel blend from its estate in Sonoma County.
Lytton Springs 2020, US$103/1.5-litres through ridgewine.com.
One of the founding wineries in Margaret River, Vasse Felix made its name with succulent and balanced cabernet sauvignons. Not to be overlooked, this beautiful white wine ranks as one of Australia’s greatest chardonnays. The flavours are ripe and intense, with remarkable tension between the tropical and lime zest notes. It’s a wine to cellar and savour in five to 10 years.
Heytesbury Chardonnay 2021, AUD$110 through vassefelix.com.au.
Winemakers Chris and Andrea Mullineux helped elevate the reputation of South African wine with regal syrahs and chenin blancs made in Swartland. With business partner Analjit Leeu, they added an operation in Franschhoek, which produces exceptional chardonnays and cabernet-based blends including this one made with grapes from some of South Africa’s oldest vineyards.
Leeu Passant Dry Red 2019, R1,120 through mlfwines.com.
The Argyros family is the leading producer of assyritiko on Santorini, one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea. The average age of the family’s vines is 70, but this vintage is made from grapes grown on the island’s oldest vines, which are over 200 years of age. That results in a remarkably vibrant and juicy white wine that’s a taste of history.
Estate Argyros Cuvée Monsignori Santorini 2019, price on request through estateargyros.com.
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