By Alison Bailin Batz
Have you ever found yourself mesmerized by the unique shapes, sizes and colors of liquor bottles behind the bar? Though what’s on the inside counts the most, a well-designed vessel can leave a lasting impression long after the bottle is empty, and can even be the reason you buy it in the first place. Here are some finds that taste as good as they look.
Ocean Vodka is the only vodka in the world distilled from organic sugar cane and blended with deep ocean mineral water. The spirit is crafted in Maui and made with water that originated from a glacier that melted near Greenland more than 2,000 years ago. Once the water is brought to the surface on the Kona coast, it is organically purified and desalinated through a proprietary, natural filtration process. The bottle, which is crystal blue and looks almost like one you would find on an island with a message in it, is a clear homage to the spirit’s namesake: the ocean itself. It retails starting at $39.99 and is currently behind the bar at Base Pizzeria.
Known for its abundant character and balance, Deleón Tequila is comprised of agave hand-selected at harvest for high-quality and peak ripeness. Slow roasting of the agave in traditional brick and clay ovens, combined with slow fermentation, enrich the depth and complexity of the agave’s natural sweetness, creating a remarkably nuanced character. It is displayed in a stunning bespoke-style bottle made from fragrance-grade glass and is boldly tattooed with the distinguishing mark of the Deleón brand. Fine-line detailing accentuates the crowning – an ornate metal closure – which was meticulously hand-carved by a jeweler from a one-pound sphere of sterling silver. It retails starting at $32 and is currently behind the bar at Steak 44 and Dominick’s Steakhouse.
Glenmorangie Pride 1981
This is Glenmorangie’s most sublime single malt whisky to date. Characterized by the longest extra-maturation period of any Glenmorangie variation, Pride 1981 is a rare, limited-edition liquor with only 1,000 bottles available. Laurence Brabant, a French designer, teamed up with fine crystal glassware company Baccarat to create a round vessel with glass on the front and back and a circle of wood sandwiched in between. It retails for $3,600 and is currently behind the bar at the Scotch Library at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa.
Hennessy Paradis Impérial
Inspired by a blend of rare cognacs ordered by Tsar Alexander I of Russia’s mother as a birthday gift for him in 1818, Hennessy’s master blender Yann Fillioux created Paradis Impérial, which is a refined and elegant cognac with floral, orange and jasmine notes as well as a subtle smoke and spice. The bottle was designed by Stephanie Balini, an award-winning Baccarat designer. The silhouette of the stunning crystalline glass decanter is the iconic Hennessy shape, with a luxurious crystal cabochon that tops the 18-karat gold and silver collar. It retails for $2,700 and is currently behind the bar at AZ88, W Scottsdale and Mastro’s Steakhouse.
I.W. Harper Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Reviving a classic, I.W. Harper Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is sweeter up front with grain and corn immediately apparent, then moves onto notes of oak, raisin, caramel, spice and vanilla. Aged 15 years, the finish leaves a long and lasting mouthfeel perfect for enjoying as bourbon on the rocks or whiskey neat to truly appreciate the full flavor profile. The bottle is cut glass and a modern take on a classic decanter style. It retails starting at $75 and is currently behind the bar at Pig & Pickle, The Gladly, Donovan’s Steak & Chop House, Fox Cigar Bar and Torch Cigar Bar.
Volcán De Mi Tierra
Volcán De Mi Tierra (which translates to “volcano of my land”) pays homage to and is named after a real volcano that sits in the lowlands of Jalisco, Mexico, called Volcán de Tequila. A resemblance of the volcano can be found at the base of the bottle. An expression of that local terrain, this 100 percent blue agave tequila blends herbal, citrus and spice notes indicative of the lowlands with fruit notes of cherry, pear and peach from the highlands. It retails starting at $40 and is currently behind the bar at Casablanca Rooftop Lounge and Sandbar.
Don Julio 1942
Produced in small batches and aged for a minimum of 2 1/2 years, Don Julio 1942 is handcrafted in tribute to the year that Don Julio González began his tequila-making journey. The rich caramel and chocolate nose gives way to a warm oak and vanilla taste with hints of roasted agave. The bottle is reminiscent of an agave leaf and hard to miss. It retails starting at $100 and is currently behind the bar at Blanco Tacos + Tequila, El Hefe and Diego Pops.
Don Julio Real
While 1942’s size is striking, it would be remiss not to also note Real, one of the few extra añejo tequilas available on the market today. With a taste that can only be described as exquisite, its rich aromas and incredibly smooth, sophisticated flavor make this tequila truly a one of a kind. The bottle features silver agave fronds on each side and a beautiful silver piña stopper that can’t be found anywhere else. It retails starting at $300 and is currently behind the bar at Sol Mexican Cocina, Barrio Queen and Cien Agaves Tacos & Tequila.