The Big White Wave

Not all that is transparent lacks depth

The last few years have been all about gin. And not just straight forward gins but gin in all its creative myriad forms—floral ones, gins with earthy flavors, fruity gins, gins made with exotic and sometimes even bizarre ingredients. All in all, the category has had an unprecedented unchallenged run and many people have wondered if ever there will be something else similar.

Well, the one biggest thing gin managed to do was dispel the notion that white spirits have to be bland and flavor neutral. And if they ever are imbued with a flavor, it will usually be a fruit and overdone to the point of being repulsive. I’m looking at you vodka! With gin, people came to appreciate white spirits with a distinct and pronounced flavor profile, so much so that even the staunch whisky and rum lovers didn’t mind giving in to the joy of a cheery white spirit spritzer now and then.

Well, what happens after? If gin is in, who will next begin? If you can pardon the corny rhyme, here are some other white spirits which have been gaining traction the world over and now would be a good time to invest in building up a small stash.

Tequila: By far the most popular category which has managed to shed its shoot-with-lemon-and-salt infamy and rise to the ranks of a top performer in a cocktail bar. The advent of so many international superstars racing to acquire a Tequila brand certainly helped with the popularity even if a lot of it got panned as cultural misappropriation. Made from 100% Blue Agave and coming from a demarcated region that covers no more than three small villages in Mexico, this is a drink that can be had unaged (Blanco), mildly aged (Reposado) or proper oak aged (Añejo). It retains a lovely piney-smokey fruity character in all variants and in spite of the flavor being recognizably uniform, still allows for plenty of variety. Patrón, José Cuervo, El Jimador are some great brands. The (originally) Hollywood backed ones are-Casamigos (George Clooney), Casa Noble (Santana), Teremana (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson), and 818 (Kendall Jenner).

Mezcal: The reason why Tequila can never be the as big as gin is because of the limited area (in) and the limited plant (from) which it can be made. This is something that doesn’t limit Mezcal, which can utilize many more agave varieties and come from practically anywhere in Mexico. Over time, what was considered the country cousin to Tequila has now come into its own. Mezcal to me is always earthier / smokier and makes for a solid strong base in cocktails. Contrary to times past, Mezcal brands are no cheaper and some may even outpace many Tequila brands. Del Maguey, El Silencio, Los mantes, Sacrificio, Bozal, Montelobos, Ilegal and Yola come first to mind.

Pisco: The grape-distillate from South America which is made in Peru and Chile is another top flavourful white spirit. Without inviting any controversies around who made it first, safe to skirt such and clarify that both countries make some excellent stuff although both have a very different set of laws and ideologies governing their respective manufacturing ageing and labelling processes. The essence of a good Pisco is either neat, on the rocks or shaken into a lovely Sour. My pick of the brands: Barsol, Encanto, Mistral, and the quirkily named, Macchu Pisco.

Rum:I saved the biggest category for last. The most infamous of white spirits, one with a history involving high seas, big sugar trade, and pirates, it is no coincidence that the word rum (allegedly) derived from ‘rumbullion’. There are many versions, each popular in their own right and geographical context, from the Agricole rhums of the French islands and the Indies to the molasses-based ones found all over Asia. As a category there is no single rum which is popular, and they are famous in their unaged, oak-aged and even spiced versions! The most popular way (popular, not best, for that is surely subjective) to enjoy a rum is possibly muddled into a Mojito considering that this remains the most ordered cocktail around the world, to date. Another contender for this top spot was rum n’ cola. Come to think of it, it is surprising that rum has had to wait for gin to shine the way for its advancement into the next era. Brands like Dictador, Rhum Clement, Plantation, Diplomatico, and even Bacardi are the ones to look out for.