Stock Your Bar With Value: Ten Award-Winning Bottles of Booze for Under $30
Photos by John Kiely This bourbon may have escaped most people's attention, but taste experts know what you should be drinking: This.
I've walked out of Oscar-winning movies, and switched off a thousand Grammy-winning songs, but never have I stopped drinking a winner of a San Francisco World Spirits Competition Double Gold. The competition, founded 14 years ago by Anthony Dias Blue, doesn't judge all spirits -- just the ones that are entered -- but you can rely on the Double Gold (for winners that have received unanimous gold medals from all of the judges) to ensure that you're buying a quality bottle of liquor.
Here are ten winners, listed in no particular order, that can be found and purchased in the Houston area for under $30. You may think of this as a holiday gift-shopping guide, but with time off and a house full of relatives, you may need a drink or two.
10. W.L. Weller 12-Year-Old
Can't find any of the highly coveted Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year Old? Not many people can, but even company president Julian Van Winkle III recommends the W.L. Weller as being very close to the taste of Pappy's. You won't have to search around or stand in line for this 2006 Double Gold winner, because it can be found at Tony K's Home of Fine Spirits (2720 Bissonnet) for about $28.
A very common and cheap ($21 at Tony K's) spirit that is the most versatile London dry gin you can have in your bar. It's a classic for martinis, the best choice in a Negroni, and it works very well in any other gin drink that requires a strong presence of juniper. Beefeater won the Best Gin Double Gold in this year's competition in March.
I would never ever never try this if it didn't have a Double Gold.
8. Rain Organics Cucumber Lime Vodka
Would you be inclined to buy a bottle of Cucumber Lime vodka? Normally I wouldn't, but this one received a Double Gold for 2009 and 2010 in the flavored-vodka category, so it would certainly merit a $20 gamble at Spec's, for curiosity's sake.
7. Ron Abuelo 12
This rich, dark spirit is an often-overlooked rum from Panama. Made from sugar cane, Ron Abuelo is a great mixer for just about any rum cocktail, from a daiquirì to a Cuba Libre. It's beautiful to sip straight or on the rocks, so don't go pouring it into the eggnog. Ron Abuelo won the 2006 Double Gold, and made it onto another impressive list this year.
6. McClelland 12 -Year-Old Single Malt Islay Scotch
Most of the expensive Scotch whiskies such as Talisker, Lavagulin and Glenlivet also won Double Golds, but this bottle can be found for $23 at Spec's. Maybe you don't want to give the gift of cheap Scotch, but this 2009 winner is a low-risk introduction to Islay Single Malt Whisky.