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Our mission at Chambers Street Wines is to connect people with producers who make delicious, enjoyable wine, but who also support the health of the land and environment from which it comes. To that end, we believe our spirits selection should reflect the same. In last decade or so, people have become more conscious and deliberate about what they consume. The popularity of organic foods and farmer's markets has been on the rise, leading to a rise in popularity for naturally made and grown wines. The spirits industry, however, still seems a bit further behind. Just as we ask "where and how was this grown?" when referring to grapes, should we not also be curious about the grains/ingredients used as the base of our spirits? Are additives being used in the final product, like coloring or sweeteners, that we would otherwise shun in a natural wine?
Today, I would like to highlight and celebrate several spirits producers that have a great respect for the ingredients they use and the land they come from; seeking terroir, a sense of place, from their products in the same way we expect from our favorite winemakers. Years ago, when I was first learning about the beverage world, I was recommended an excellent book, "By the Smoke and the Smell" by Thad Vogler, which opened my eyes to a world of craft distillers. His focus on culture, tradition, and provenance inspired me to inquire about the same whenever I look for new spirits and I have been well rewarded. (We have a few copies of it available if your interest is piqued!)
Catskill Provisions is one such operation, creating spirits utilizing their beekeeping operation and local grapes and grains. Their ingredients are grown without pesticides, and their entire operation is committed to protecting the local environment, including devoting a portion of their proceeds to organizations that help save bees and other pollinators. The Beespoke Gin is made with a base of Finger Lakes grapes, and a small amount of their own honey, infused with bee –friendly and butterfly-attractive botanicals. Though the aroma is softly sweet, this remains a dry gin, with no sweetener or other additives included post-distillation.
I knew from Thad Vogler, that my search for grower-producers of Scotch was going to be a challenge. He mentions Kilchoman in the book and I have always been a huge fan of their whisky even before I knew about their operation. On a trip to Scotland, years ago, I wandered into “The Pot Still” and asked for a recommendation. A dram of Kilchoman Machir Bay is what the bartender poured for me, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Balanced, notes of both pepper and salt, and just enough smoke presence to know it must be from Islay. Even better that the people making it were dedicated to the production of their whisky from beginning to end; growing the grain, floor-malting, pot-still distilling, aging and bottling.
When I searched for more whiskies following their lead, I ended up a bit further south at the English Whisky Co., which sits along the Eastern coast of the Midlands of England. It turns out much of the grain and peat used in Scottish whisky comes from England, so it seems only natural that there is excellent whisky to be made on south side of the border. That’s why it was surprising to discover that The English Whisky Co. is the first whisky distillary to open in England in over 120 years. The Nelstrop family has a long history of farming English soil going back to the 1300’s, so it made sense that the current generation, keen on opening a distillery, would use their own barley (and even cut their own peat for the “Smokey” bottling). The Classic, which is unpeated, is salty, nutty, a little herbaceous, a perfect sipper neat or on the rocks.
Though I have extolled their virtues before, it feels worth mentioning again, my love of eau-de-vie, especially for it’s ability to express the purity of a fruit and a place. Laurent Cazottes is the epitome of good stewardship with regards to his vineyards and orchards used for an array of brandies. He converted the family land to biodynamic farming, and took over his father’s mobile distiller, deciding to focus on producing his own eaux-de-vie and fruit liqueurs. Each one a tiny production, and each exquisite. There’s even a savory-sweet tomato eau-de-vie that I can think of as no better a pairing for grilled cheese and tomato soup!
There are many great examples of farm-to-bottle spirits amongst the rums of the Caribbean. Almost all of those from Haiti are small-batch operations made from traditionally farmed sugarcane without agro-chemicals. Here, Clairin is king; a pure, unadulterated Haitian rum, made with the juice of unhybridized varieties of sugarcane, fermented spontaneously, distilled and left unfiltered. The powerful aroma of Clairin Casimir speaks to its rustic, tropical orgins and the addition of local citrus in the fermentation leads to a higher ester content in the finished product.
From Jamaica the rums from Hampden Estate also maintain this tradition by growing their own sugarcane and processing it with their own sugar mill. All of their rums are created via pot-still in order to collect as much concentration of those flavorful esters as possible, and no additives are used; the result is rums unmistakably of the Hampden Estate. They have recently released the second iteration of their only blended rum, "Great House Distiller's Edition" which is in short supply, so fans of Hampden should not delay! Michelle DeWyngaert
**Please be advised we can only ship spirits within NYS - some items are marked for arrival later this this***
Created by beekeeper-turned-distiller, Claire Marin, the Beespoke gin highlights local grapes from the Finger Lakes (a blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Gruner Veltliner) bee-friendly botanicals, and a bit of honey provided by their apiary. The grape base gives this gin a richer, creamier mouthfeel and despite the faintly sweet aroma, the gin remains dry on the palate as there is nothing added post-distillation. Michelle DeWyngaert
100% corn vodka from out friends at High Wire Distilling in Charleston, South Carolina. We've always been impressed with the care that goes into sourcing the raw materials at High Wire, and the hard work they do with local farmers, and we're very happy their wonderful vodka is now available in New York. Very similar to Tito's, but 100% handmade! Oskar Kostecki
Historically, amari were made as a way to make full use of the harvest by macerating leftover herbs, botanicals, and fruits in distilled spirits. This of course means everything was grown locally, resulting in a myriad of different styles depending on where you were and what crops were planted. And while there are other American amari on the market today, it’s hard to think of one that truly capitalizes on its bountiful, regional raw ingredients. Most are based on traditional Italian – or even Scandinavian – recipes, which are delicious, but rely on herbs and botanicals that may or may not be native to where they are made. Enter High Wire’s Southern Amaro. Using a base of neutral corn spirit, they macerate Yaupon Holly (America’s only native caffeinated plant) and gentian root, along with wild mint, local Dancy tangerine, and Charleston Black Tea (the only colorant used), among other botanicals. It is then sweetened with neutral cane syrup which they make themselves from local sugarcane. It is wild and intriguing on the nose with brown sugar, sweet spice, and zesty citrus balanced by deeper aromas of black tea leaves, pine resin, smoke, and hints of brine and celery. The palate is quite lifted and herb-forward with a balanced sweetness, and it is here that the tangerine and mint really shine along with a touch of black cherry. Reach for this after a fantastic meal! Tim Gagnon
Kilchoman is the first new distillery on the famed island of Islay for 124 years. The concept is a "farm distillery" that houses every aspect of the production, from growing the grain to bottling the barrels. The results are fantastic with soft peat and salty citrus flavors. This bottle is a vatting of three, four and five year old whiskies, with meticulous barrel selection giving the scotch a more mature profile than one may think. JR
Scotland seems gets all the credit for great whiskey these days, but these days, much of the barley used its coming from England. The English Whiskey Co. Established the St. George's Distillery in 2006, 100 years after the last English distillery had closed, and now the oldest in the country. Their grain and water is all locally sourced, and their casks are aged on site, and bottled without coloring or chill-filtration (something that cannot be said for most Scotch whiskies). On the nose are notes of sweet vanilla bean, cinnamon, toasted cereal, fresh herbs, and roasted nuts. The palate has a medium-weight with notes of honey-drizzled pear, salty caramel, and toffee coated peanuts. A lovely single-malt for sipping over ice, for those who aren't a fan of too much peat. Michelle DeWyngaert
Coppersea Distilling is on a mission to create truly farm-to-bottle whiskies, because it's about time the spirits world caught up to the food and wine world! One of the few distilleries in the US to actually grown much of their own grains with a 75-acre organic farm, and sourcing the rest from other trusted farmers in the Hudson Valley area. They were also the first NY distillery to do all of their malting in house, and they by using open-top fermenters they are entirely reliant on indigenous yeasts making this spirit a true Hudson Valley product. This bottling is unique in that the mashbill is 100% malted rye. This gives it an extra toasty, caramelized flavor compared to most rye whiskies. It is twice distilled in a direct-fired, copper alembic still, and barrel aged at a lower proof of 105 to require less dilution at bottling. Rich and enveloping on the palate with notes of roasted nuts, toasty cereal, caramel softening the peppery spice of the rye. Michelle DeWyngaert
A true Bourbon of New York, all of the ingredients from the grains to the barrels used come from the Hudson Valley, with much of their grains being grown on their own 75-acre organic farm. From here they malt in house, use only indigenous yeasts by employing open-top fermenters, and then distill directly over flame which creates a richer mouthfeel, and barrel at a proof of 105 to allow them use only a small amount of water when proofing for bottling. The mash bill for the Excelsior Bourbon is 60% Corn, 30% Rye, and 10% malted barley, bottled at 96 proof creating a well balanced, flavorful, and unique spirit. Michelle DeWyngaert
This single vintage, single cask Armagnac from Domaine d'Aurensan is a thing of beauty! Bottled in November of 2020 after 30 years in casks it is showing splendidly. I hate to be unnecessarily hyperbolic, but my first tasting note is "divine." The Domaine consists of five hectares of vineyards on clay/limestone soils, and are now transitioning to organic and biodynamic farming. In the cellar and distillery they are similarly-minded, using only indigenous yeasts for fermentation, no sulfur, aged in local Gascogne oak barrels, and in the finished product, absolutely no additions, not even water. A whopping 65% is given up to the "Angel's share" bringing this down naturally to a 40.3% ABV. Notes of slow-roasted, cinnamon-crusted street cart nuts (in the best sense), baked apple, cedar box, dried figs and creme brûlée. Michelle DeWyngaert
Jacky Navarre is a testament to the undeniability of great Cognac. He farms his own vineyard by hand, in this case using 100% Ugni Blanc, ferments with indigenous yeast, and allows this spirit to age for 30 years before release. He never uses color, caramel, boise, or even water; preferring to let evaporation bring the spirits down to proof. His barrels are employed used so as not to overwhelm the palate with oak spice. The flavor is both powerfully concentrated and delicate simultaneously. Notes of flan, vanilla bean, red apple linger on the palate, and at 45% ABV, I recommend drinking this neat. Michelle DeWyngaert
Laurent Cazottes is undoubtedly one of the finest distillers in the entire world. Farming grapes and fruit trees biodynamically in the Tarn department in Southwest France, he is crafting some of the purest expressions of fruit brandy that I have ever tasted. This beautiful greengage plum (Reine-Claude in French) brandy comes from a small .7 hectare grove of ancient trees, and Laurent hand peels and de-seeds the fruit before fermenting and distilling. I've never had the pleasure of tasting greengage plums, this old heirloom variety is nearly extinct in the US, but this exceptionally crafted distillate more than makes up for it. A wonderful way to finish a meal, and a real treat! Oskar Kostecki
The ladies at Hunter Moon are doing their best to bring back eau-de-vie (otherwise known as 'unaged brandy') with this delicious example. This is truly natural wine-making distilled, a rarity in the spirits world. The base for their brandy comes from Farrm Wines on the North Fork of Long Island, a Demeter certified vineyard, with a blend of 80% Petit Verdot and 20% Cabernet Franc, fermented entirely with native yeasts. It is then distilled in a hybrid copper/pot still, rested in glass, and then bottled at 50%ABV. Notes of honey, cherry blossom, and fresh herbs on the nose, with a soft, lush texture on the palate. I think this makes a killer Vesper variation, but it would also be great as a base for tinctures or bitters! Michelle DeWyngaert
Bacanora is finally getting some attention here in the United States! This is a mezcal from the Sonora region of Mexico and has been around for over 300 years. Rancho Tepua uses the Agave Pacifica variety (once, the only type permitted now the designation has expanded), harvested by hand, cooked for three days in a brick pit and then fermented with native yeasts. Currently in the hands of Maestro Bacanorero Roberto Contreras, the Rancho Tepua distillery has been in the family for over five generations. Notes of sweet cherry blossom, chicory, and fresh herbs on the nose, and on the palate a balance of sweet and savory spice, roasted banana leaf, and a crushed stone minerality that lingers after each sip. Enjoy this neat or with a small ice cube to cut the heat. Michelle DeWyngaert
Boukman is a classic Haitian 'clairin trempè' or spiced rhum honoring the great Dutty Boukman who led the enslaved people of Haiti to freedom in 1791. The base is fresh sugar cane juice from two of the best sites in Haiti, Croix des Bouquets and Cap Haïtien. It is fermented with indigenous yeasts, distilled and then blended with seven botanicals, many native to the island, making this a true expression of Haitian terroir. There is no sugar added, but the addition of whole and extracted vanilla, clove, and cinnamon give it a warm, sweet spice on the finish. If you notice the stain on the front label, that's there, as Voodoo tradition dictates, to ward off evil spirits. This may be a part of why I enjoy it so much in hot toddies when I'm feeling under the weather, but this is also delicious on its own as a digestif. Michelle DeWyngaert
Faubert Casimir is considered one of the best distillers in Haiti! His organically farmed sugarcane estate is interspersed with banana, palm, and lime trees to maintain biodiversity, and he never cuts down the entire cane crop at once, only selected those that are completely ripe. A tradition amongst some of the distillers in the Barradères area is to incorporate local citrus and herbs into the fermentation to raise the acidity and create a more powerful aroma in the finished spirit. The fermented juice is distilled in an old copper pot still to 55% ABV, and is then bottled non-chillfiltered and with nothing added. The nose is entirely unique, a mix of fermented pineapple, button mushroom, and lemongrass, and the palate is rich and full-flavored. Michelle DeWyngaert
Michal Sajous makes this wonderful clairin in the small town of Saint-Michel de L'Attalaye, situated on a plateau surrounded by mountains, about a hundred kilometers north from Port-au-Prince. He grows several different varieties of cane, with the Cristalline being used for this particular bottling. Fermented in stainless steel with all indigenous yeast, this a beautifully mineral expression of fresh-pressed sugarcane juice rum, more effusive and intense than anything I've had from Martinique or Guadaloupe, but still carrying a similar flavor profile. Perfumes of dried flowers, tropical fruit, and the hallmark green grassiness is supported by the more herbal and dense aromas of tea tree oil and eucalyptus. There is an undercurrent of salinity, and the pronounced acidity keeps this fresh and lifted. Drink this neat or make the most phenomenal Ti' Punch. This is the second batch to hit New York, this one coming in at 54.3%! Oskar Kostecki
The tiny Isle of Marie-Galante, a part of Guadalupe, devotes 20% of its land to growing sugarcane, and for great reason; the rum is delicious! This is a very traditional rhum agricole made at the oldest distillery on the island, with one of the oldest stills, with all estate and locally grown sugarcane (red, white, blue, and grey). The farming here is all by hand, without chemicals or fertilizers, and as a department of France, they are actually subject to regulated wages and fair labor laws. This bottling, a whopping 59%ABV is actually the standard on the island. The fresh cane juice is distilled in creole column stills and then slowly proofed down over 10-15 in old foudres. I can think of many ways to enjoy this rhum, but I highly recommend you try it as it is utilized most often on the island; in a ti'punch, just a splash of cane/simple syrup, a hefty pour of rhum, and a small disc of lime. Michelle DeWyngaert
Our friends over at a fellow retailer sometimes just put "!!!!!!!!!" in product descriptions, and I'm tempted to copy them on this one, as there are almost no words to describe Rum Fire. Clocking in at a huge ester level (over 500 ppm) and bottled at 63%, it might rip your face off and kick you in the privates, but you know, you just might like it. Untamed and bombastic, this is funky rum at its finest, guaranteed to take you on a journey. A hate it or love it scenario. An angel-demon from bygone days shredding sweet and funky heavy wattage straight to your soul. I can't help myself, I'm utterly in love. Oskar Kostecki
It’s not often that I consider the “flavor” of vodka. Typically the best vodka is the most neutral, but occasionally a spirit like Pollinator Vodka comes along that is both clean and delicate, but also has an inkling of its origins. In this case the base is their own wildflower honey and non-GMO sustainably farmed corn, distilled and then proofed down with local Catskill Mountain spring water. On the nose is the faint aroma of beeswax and wildflowers, and the palate has a nice density and richness to it. This is a vodka I would gladly sip over ice or enhance with a bit of dry vermouth. Michelle DeWyngaert
From the incredible mind and biodynamic farm of Laurent Cazottes comes this sweet and savory tomato liqueur. The 72 refers to the (now more than) 72 varieties of tomato that go into this treat. A true labor of love to dry the tomatoes, remove all of the stems, seeds, and skins, macerate the fruit in a Folle Noire eau-de-vie, then remove the tomato, press and distill the the juice from it and then add that back into the infused brandy, sweetened slightly by Folle Noire grape sugar. A unique and delicious pairing for umami dishes, and absolutely perfect with grilled cheese. Michelle DeWyngaert
This is the second edition of the only blended rum in the Hampden Estate lineup. This bottling is a mixture of 80% OWH from 2013, a lighter batch, with 20% "Diamond" H from 2017, a powerful high ester rum. Though the majority of the blend is from the lighter batch, this is still full of quintessential Hampden aromas of the tropics and sweet spices. As with all of their rums, the sugar cane is estate-grown and processed, fermented with indigenous yeasts, only local spring water is used in the process, and it is distilled in their heavy pot-stills. All of the aging takes place on the estate, and additives are never used. Just pure, delicious, Jamaican rum.