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23 Jan 2023 | Jeremy Dugan


A tale as old as time; January is here, people have December credit card statement shock and tell themselves "I need to slow down on spending". But that doesn't mean you can't drink well while being on a budget! While I am always a proponent of drinking spirits, when looking to stretch that dollar I would say it's the best way to do so. A bottle a wine can last you a day or two, but a bottle of Vodka, Gin, Whisk(e)y or Agave is going to last you at least a week. Remember, 6-8oz of wine is the same as 2-4oz of hard alcohol.  

Smoke Lab Classic Vodka, India. - $21.99 per bottle

Smoke Lab’s Classic not only fits in the “bang for buck” category, it also fits in unique and interesting when people are looking for “something different” in the Vodka category. This rice-based Vodka has a creamy mouthfeel that helps with a smooth finish. Easy for cocktails or on the rocks.

J.J. Pfister London Dry Capitol Gin- $28.99 per bottle

London style with California roots, J.J Pfister Gin has enough depth to be enjoyed in any Gin based cocktail. All California botanicals, light juniper floralness, lemongrass and violet. A clean finish, very easy drinking.

Willett Distillery Old Bardstown Straight Bourbon- $29.99 per bottle

Willett Distillery is known for making high end Whiskies that is worth the money. They also have a nice little Bourbon here that has a classic Bourbon flavor profile and won’t break the bank. Caramel and toffee coat the palate. Vibrant baking spices and subtle roasted peanuts on the finish.

Redwood Empire Emerald Giant Rye- $34.99 per bottle

I will admit I am a little biased when it comes to any of the Redwood Empire Whiskies, but I carry the flag for the Emerald Giant more often than the rest. I just love how much flavor you get for less than $40 here. Bold rye and anise up front. Toasted toffee with shortbread cookies and hints of vanilla. Candied fennel and vanilla on finish.

Amai Kuchibiru Japanese Blended Whisky- $31.99 per bottle

The one thing I can say all Japanese Whiskies have in common is that there is an elegance to them that can’t be regularly found in other Whiskies from around the world. Even when you’re on a budget you can find that elegance. This whisky has a lot of layers. Toasted toffee and butterscotch give the spirit some big richness. Malted chocolate with baking spices and toasted vanilla on finish add to the almost decadence of the Whisky.

Islay Mist 8-year Blended Scotch- $23.99 per bottle

It’s hard finding age-statement Whiskies right now. So being able to find an 8-year-old Blended Scotch that has real peat flavor and not big notes of iodine is a win in many people’s book. The peat is present but not overpowering, brings a nice smokiness but doesn’t blow out the palate. Tea leaf and light hints of vanilla create a fun combination of savory and sweet. Floral spice on the finish helps pull out some more of that peat smoke.

The Irishman Founder Reserve- $23.99 per bottle

While this Whisky has the classic coating mouthfeel Potstill Whiskies are known for, there is a liveliness that is less expected. Vibrant baking spices and dark coca. Hints of vanilla bean add depth, coca lingers on the palate.

Cihuatan Ron de el Salvador Jade- $25.99 per bottle

While it’s no surprise that a Rum has some richness to it, the amount of flavor you get out of this White Rum is a little surprising. While I wouldn’t use this for any cocktails calling for an Agricole White Rum, you can use it in place of a lot of Light Rums or even Whiskies. The biggest standout to me with this Rum is that it has a chocolate shake quality. Milk chocolate with creamy vanilla coats your palate and gives it a frothed milk mouthfeel. Delicate coffee helps balance out some of the richness, chocolate does linger.

Gustoso Aguardiente Dark Rum- $27.99 per bottle

Coming from Michoacan, Mexico you wouldn’t really expect some of the Agricole Rum characteristics that are present. Spending time in multiple barrels has really given this Rum some depth. Aged for 3 ½ years in Sherry and Whiskey barrels. Creamy mouthfeel, melted caramel, vanilla bean and banana fosters.

Banhez Joven Espadin & Barril Mezcal- $33.99 per bottle

It’s really hard to find a Mezcal for under $40 that is made with more than just Espadin. While Banhez Joven is mostly Espadin, that bit of Barril they add really helps with the depth and longevity on the palate. Light floral smoke throughout. Earthy with notes of pepper and soft peach. Savory finish with minerality. 

Libelula Tequila- $25.99 per bottle

80% Blanco, 20% Reposado, this is a nice find for Cristalino lovers. It has some richness but still maintains refreshing agave flavor. White pepper with soft toasted vanilla and coca creates a delicate coating mouthfeel. Subtle oak spice on the finish.

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