These Four Distillers Are Driving Terroir-Driven Spirits Forward | Wine Enthusiast
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These Four Distillers Are Driving Terroir-Driven Spirits Forward

Over the years, writers and distillers have debated whether the concept of “terroir” can be applied to spirits, given that distillation typically strips a lot of nuances away. However, recent projects have demonstrated the impact of microclimate and soil on various spirit expressions. With these terroir-driven spirits, the proof is in the bottle—and on the palate.

Barley Wine

Waterford Whisky

James Ellickson, one of the distillers, making the cut
James Ellickson, one of the distillers, making the cut / Photo by Caolan Barron

Waterford Whisky, an Irish “barley-­forward” spirit, partnered with Oregon­ State University to demonstrate that barley from different farms had distinct properties by lab-testing single-­farm expressions.

Hook Head field, one of the global SFO releases, in the Spring being sown in 2020 for a future SFO bottling / Photo by Caolan Barron
Hook Head field in the Spring being sown / Photo by Caolan Barron

Additionally, on each label you will find the name of the farmer and a code to access valuable information, including the weather the day of harvest.

Desert Bloom

Flor del Desierto Sotol

Photo Ricardo Gutierrez

Made from a wild succulent related to agave, Sotol is on the next-big-thing-in-Mexican-spirits short list, thanks in part to Flor del Desierto, a brand that offers unique expressions from different regions of Chihuahua. Flavor profiles range from an herbal and earthy bottling from the Sierra Nevada­ mountains to a lively selection from the desert that tastes like bright citrus,­ salt and pepper.


Avallen Calvados

Avallen Calvados
Photo courtesy of Avallen Calvados

Although the philosophy that drove the creation of Avallen Calvados was more about sustainability, capturing carbon and saving bees, this light and fruit-forward spirit also manages to highlight Normandy apples. Commonly, the core ingredient is often lost in the finishing process, largely due to the addition of sugar, caramel and boisé (oak syrup) that is frequently added.

A distiller tasting at Avallen
A distiller tasting at Avallen / Photo courtesy of Avallen Calvados

Avallen complicates the Calvados narrative and defies expectations with a crisp, fresh aroma and flavor that is less apple pie and more eau-de-vie.

Cane Juice


Harvesting sugar cane for Clairin
Photo by Ayasha Media

Rum can have serious label-transparency­ problems, which makes The Spirit of Haiti’s Clairin project even more refreshing. Each label represents one of several artisan distillers who make this clear spirit with fresh sugarcane from local fields in various parts of Haiti.

What makes this traditional agricultural commune project especially interesting is that this island’s cane is known for its biodiversity, which is on full display in several expressions that range from ripe tropical funk-bombs to grassy and fresh.

This article originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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