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Year in Review: Best of 2013

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And here we are to bid 2013 adieu. Lots of interesting products launched this year, the local craft spirits movement continues to boom, and we're poised to have an even more impressive showing for 2014. As many of my readers are aware, this year was predominately focused on fresh local products and new-make whiskies. Next year my focus will change a bit. My hope is to visit some of the newer distilleries here in Houston and bring those experiences to you. On to my top ten favorite products and events of the year.

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10.) Bird Dog Peach Whiskey - A balanced whiskey that really emphasizes its peach characteristics aptly, Bird Dog Peach Whiskey deserves to be in this list. I definitely enjoyed this one over a bit of ice with my friends during this year's sweltering summer.

9.) Ole Smoky Cherry 'Shine - A traditional corn moonshine recipe bottled with real cherries? Where do I sign up? At your local spirits emporium of course. Just be careful eating those cherries. They'll getcha.

8.) Waterloo Texas Gin - What happens when a group of folks in Austin decide to distill a London Dry gin? Brilliance. Waterloo won me over with its boisterous Texas pride, terrific botanical notes, and refusal to infuse them the easy way. I hope to review a few other products of theirs this year, specifically their aged gin and Bourbon.

7.) Rogue Dead Guy Whiskey - Taking the unhopped base of their excellent Dead Guy Ale and distilling it turned out to be quite an interesting experiment as Rogue's product competes well with a bevvy of other modern malt spirits on the market. I would love to see this one with extra aging in a future release.

6.) Blaque Rain Vodka's Product Preview - Although it was only a product preview rather than a launch, this event over at the Cigar Time Shop in Missouri City was an excellent launch pad for what I believe will be an excellent product.

5.) Red River Rye Whiskey - It is no secret that rye whiskey is making a resurgence. There are so many new products in this category in fact, it is difficult to keep up. Instead of getting swept under the rug by all of the products coming out of the old Seagram's plant, Red River holds its own as an expertly crafted whiskey.

4.) The Macallan 15 Year Fine Oak Single Malt - Even though it was not declared a good buy this year due to being priced so closely to the in my view superior cask strength variant, the 15 Year Fine Oak whisky is still very delicious. That said, what else would you expect out of Macallan?

3.) White Hat Premium Texas Rum - An intriguing hybrid product of sorts, White Hat's rum blurs the lines between neutral spirit and unaged rum. It is equally at home in a Cuba Libre or a Bloody Mary. Believe me, I know from experience.

2.) Jack Daniel's Unaged Distiller's Run Tennessee Rye - Jack Daniel's has always been known for some of the best aged whiskey in America. It should come as no surprise that they are also masters at unaged whiskies as well. This product as good as it already is will only get better when it is release as an aged whiskey in a few years.

And my favorite pick of 2013 is....

1.) Yellow Rose Rye Whiskey - For two years in a row, Yellow Rose has taken the top spot of this Examiner's end of year list. And that's of course for good reason. Those guys consistently make unbelievably high-quality products that define the category rather than fit into it. Their rye whiskey is quite frankly unparalleled. Now, that's not to say that several other craft spirits distillers aren't also making incredible products as well. It only means that Yellow Rose is regularly doing it better than them, plain and simple. I doubt any other rye whiskey will dethrone this one from its title as the best rye whiskey on the market right now, but I hope that other distillers take this as a challenge, rather than disrespect. Please get yourself a bottle if you enjoy this style of whiskey. And when you are sitting back and sipping on it, remember who sent you to buy it.

As we conclude this list, I want to take a moment out and sincerely thank each and every person who is a regular reader of this page. You have been so kind to me and as of today, I am the #2 ranked Food and Drinks Examiner nationally! Here's to shooting for that coveted #1 spot in 2014. You all will see me again soon.

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