This is the most beloved time of year for most people. We start counting down the days till Christmas on November 1st. My family has a tradition of calling the days from the day after Thanksgiving till Christmas Day as “The Yule.” It is honestly just a reason to celebrate everyday whether it’s with a gathering of friends, food, or a cocktail. It’s a great time to revisit the drinks, wines, or whiskies you found in the past year or introduce them to some friends. In that spirit, here are few spirits I’ve become a big fan of in the last year.

Slane Irish Whisky is a new offering from Brown-Foreman(Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, etc.). The great folks at Boyne Valley, where Slane Castle and the Slane Distillery are, had several working distilleries once upon a time but, over time, they all shut down. With the new partnership with Brown-Foreman, they’ve been able to incorporate a new barrel program that has produced an incredible end product. I suggest this for Irish Whiskey fans or anyone looking to get into whiskey but isn’t sure where to start.

I’m a huge tequila fan. I used to think it was either rot gut or too expensive to even try with no middle ground. A big name in the Tequila business that has grown over the last couple of years is Casamigos.  For the money, their Anejo (aged) Tequila is probably one of my favorites. It sips like a fine whiskey but offers deep flavors of agave, baking spices, and a silky finish. Don’t make a margarita with this. Enjoy it in a snifter or with an ice cube.

Old Forester 86 Proof is one of the best value driven whiskies you can get for the money. I’ve always been a fan of Old Forester but now I’m a fan boy. Besides their 86-proof entry tier, they offer multiple varieties from their Whiskey Row series which is a celebration of milestones in American Whiskey history to their highly coveted Birthday Bourbon. Old Forester 86 is great for cocktails or just sipping.

Rum is kind of a weird area for me. I’ve not really a traditional rum drinker like a rum and coke. I’ve seen Rum rise as a spirit in cocktail culture like Tequila has over the years. One that I’ve enjoyed making cocktails with has been Bacardi Anejo Cuatro, an aged Rum, not a spiced rum. I think people get confused on that. Aged rums are aged in barrels and spiced rums have added spices to change the taste. And everybody knows Bacardi Superior or Bacardi Lite. Again, this is different. It’s aged for four years and has vanilla, clove, honey, and oak flavors without the sweetness of traditional rums.

I hope you try something interesting from this list. These are all readily available in most spirit shops. Just a little reminder that the holidays are a wonderful time to celebrate and spend time with family and friends so I encourage you to enjoy responsibly. There are too many rideshare (Uber & Lyft) options available to not be. Happy Holidays!

Judd Smith is a local wine enthusiast and creator of