Travel by glass: Explore the world through spirits

Tulchan gin is made in Scotland, with the blue bottle evoking the River Spey. Courtesy of Tulchan

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Tulchan gin is made in Scotland, with the blue bottle evoking the River Spey. Courtesy of Tulchan

Every bottle tells a story. Just as ingredients and spices can highlight the cultural roots of a dish, spirits also can take you on a flavor journey to faraway places. Here are a few suggestions for sipping neat or adding global flavors to cocktails.

Tulchan gin. The area around House of Tulchan, located on one of Scotland’s most prestigious estates, is surrounded by hills and glens. Distilled in copper pots, this small-batch gin comes in a blue bottle that is evocative of the sky and the River Spey, and is wrapped in an embossed tartan pattern. The top is stamped with a Scottish thistle. The aroma is bright with candied orange and lemon grass, and on the palate it bursts with the flora of the estate grounds: sloe berries, blackberry leaves, elderflower and white asparagus, along with traditional juniper and angelica root. It has a soft finish, with a hint of licorice root.

45% alcohol by volume, 750 milliliters, $35, tulchangin.com

Iichiko's Silhouette is a bottled ode to cherry blossom season in Japan. Courtesy of Daniel Schwartz

Credit: Daniel Schwartz

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Credit: Daniel Schwartz

Iichiko Silhouette shochu. You could take a train ride from Tokyo to Oita prefecture, located on Kyushu, Japan’s third-largest island, but, instead, you could just sip on a shochu made there. Iichiko Silhouette is a single-distilled honkaku, made with 100% two-row barley and water naturally filtered through 1,000 feet of volcanic rock. Japan’s southernmost island is known for clean air, lush greenery, mountain terrain and dense cedar forests. Silhouette has fruity aromas and faint sweetness, with hints of lychee and an elegant body. “Iichiko” translates to “it’s great,” and it is, especially with food. The limited-edition Hana bottle comes with a label bearing an image of the emblematic cherry tree.

24% ABV, 750 milliliters, $27, iichiko.com

A bottle of Chinola offers the bright flavor of Dominican Republic passion fruit. Courtesy of Chinola

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Credit: Handout

Chinola. A bottle of Chinola supposedly contains at least six large passion fruits, grown in the fertile valley between the mountains and the sea along the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. You can’t quite bottle the experience of the island’s turquoise water, sandy beaches and tropical flora and fauna, but Chinola comes close. The artisanal fruit liqueur is a lush balance of tart and sweet. Its citrusy floral notes can provide a tropical margarita riff, but it is just as refreshing over ice.

21% ABV, 750 milliliters, $32.99, chinola.com

Botanicals from Italy blend together in Engine's tin, which is reminiscent of a container of oil. Courtesy of Engine

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Credit: Handout

Engine gin. Created by spirits and fashion entrepreneur Paolo Della Mora, this gin comes packaged in a unique tin vessel that is evocative of an oil container during the classic age of automobiles. But it’s not all about the snazzy vessel — a sip transports you to Italy, where the organic wheat alcohol draws flavor from lemons grown in the eastern part of the Tyrrhenian coast of Palermo, licorice roots from Calabria, spring water from the Alps, juniper berries from Tuscany and sage from Langhe in Piedmont. It’s almost balsamic on the nose, with citrusy lemon and savory, sage-balancing juniper. It’s versatile, working in a martini, as well as a gin and tonic. Cin cin!

42% ABV, 750 milliliters, $34.99, engine.land

Bayou Rum XO Mardi Gras is distilled from Louisiana sugar cane and is aged in bourbon barrels and sherry casks. Courtesy of Bayou Rum

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Credit: Handout

Bayou Rum XO Mardi Gras. You can taste the bayou in a bottle of Mardi Gras rum. The recipe uses sugar cane, grown in soils of the Mississippi River delta, and molasses produced in the oldest sugar mill in the U.S. It is distilled twice in copper pots and aged in bourbon barrels and sherry casks at the distillery in Lacassine, Louisiana. A rich mahogany in color, it is woody and floral on the nose, and layered with stone fruit, dried fruit and subtle sweetness on the palate. There’s a slight (but good) funk from the fermentation with cane yeast, and a long, dry finish accompanied by honey and spice. It makes a terrific daiquiri or rum Old-Fashioned. Bayou also has barrel-aged reserve and single-barrel expressions.

40% ABV, 750 milliliters, $75, bayourum.com

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