1. Willett Striaght Rye Whiskey, $36
Never heard of Willett? You’re not alone. But it’s a very old and connected distilling family down Kentucky way, with a track record of stellar bourbons — like Black Maple Hill — that they’ve long produced under the guise of K.B.D. or Kentucky Bourbon Distillers. Willet’s Pot Still Reserve Bourbon, in its still-shaped bottle, is a lovely soft sipper, but the recent release of a four-year-old, single-barrel rye, at strengths hovering right around 55 percent, or 110 proof, is the serious deal for cocktails. That extra oomph stands up gallantly to dilution, delivering a strong clear spice, lofted on wood and char. Let the winter drinks parade begin: Manhattans, old-fashioneds, sazeracs, boulevardiers, vieux carrés. …
2. Enlightenment Wines
There’s wine and there’s wine, and then there are the dark pyrotechnics going on in a tiny barn in upstate New York at the hand and whim of Raphael Lyon of Enlightenment Wines. What this Brown University graduate does in his winery, the smallest registered one in the state, is much more akin to creating esoteric fermented cocktails than to making wines, which is perhaps what keeps me coming back to his incredible locavore concoctions. Effectively, he ravages the markets and fields near his winery for anything comely: apples, dandelions, currants, grapes, honey, cherries, elderberries, maple syrup, chrysanthemums, roses, spices and herbs galore, and makes cuvées out of them, very deftly and in amounts so small it has made him something of a cult figure in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where he lives. He sells them on a long-closed C.S.A. basis, and these are usually impossible to get ahold of without begging them off of Lyon directly, but he has just opened up a Web site to slightly increased trade. Dazzle that jaded oenophile you’ve been trying to impress.
Case Study | Cups of Good Cheer