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Bottles to Get in Europe?

Greetings, fellow Hounds!

I hail you now from that lovely stretch of land called Europe. Naturally, when I think 'travel', that other part of me chimes in with 'alcohol'. So now I'm in Europe, travelling around with a near-empty suitcase dedicated to alcohol. Thus far, I've purchased:
-Talisker 10 for a whopping €27
-Becherovka for an equally cheap price
-an unnamed '12 yo Black Rock Distillery Barbados Rum' that a small shop in Salzburg was selling out of a new oak cask.

Those first two are being taken home for me by a friend, which is why I purchased them in the first place. The suitcase is reserved for rare and exotic liquors. Problem being, I'm not sure what to get or where to find it. I'm headed to France soon (currently stationed in Germany) in the hopes of finding something worth bringing home.

So my question to you all now is this: What's worth getting? Also, it would useful if you could mention price and how much I'll have to hunt for it.

P.s.- As for the rum, how does finishing in a new oak cask influence a spirit? She said they only stay in for a few months at a time.

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  1. You can pick up some Picon. Not sure on availability or price, but you definitely won't find it in the US. You may be able to get a good deal on Cointreau, as last time I was in duty free I was able to pick up a liter for $20.

    Not sure on any other rare bottles, but I imagine there are schnapps in Germany that you can't get here, and Armagnac, Calvados, and Eau de Vies in France.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nickls

      Picon's definitely something I'm thinking about. It's only 11€ for a litre in Paris.

      I got some schnapps in Austria but I'm hesitant on Armagnacs and Calvados just because I don't have any experience with them so a good bottle and a great bottle will seem the same to me.

    2. Do a search on the France board to find varied great producers of absinthe. Remember any liquor over 70% is illegal to bring into states.

      1. Simple: bottles you cannot buy here.

        Although I've done it from time-to-time, I've never really understood the idea of buying in duty free. Most of the spirits or wines available are also available here at home, maybe for $5 -- even if it's $10 less -- makes no sense. The ONLY time I've done this is IF (and it really is a big "if") there is nothing else I've purchased, nothing else I want. But normally, if I'm in Europe, I'm buying bottles that I can't find at home for love nor money -- that, to me, makes it worth carrying back. Saving $5-10 is nice, but it's not that big of a deal. Bringing home something I can't find in the US? That IS a big deal.

        Obviously, YMMV . . .

        4 Replies
        1. re: zin1953

          Actually there are many items sold in duty free that you can't get in the States.

          1. re: JMF

            Camus, but -- generally -- not much else.

            Just came through international airports in London (Heathrow), Lisbon, Porto, Barcelona, and Bilbao . . . there were a couple of bottlings of Porto I'd not seen before (but one was a rosé, which -- other than the shock value -- I wasn't interested in), I could pretty much find everything here in the US. The size might be different -- 70cl in the duty free versus 75cl (750ml) here -- but that was it.

            OK, strictly speaking, I would agree with you, in that the same bottlings here may contain a different level of alcohol than in the duty free (say, 40% abv versus 35%), but if "Castle Quid" 12 year old Scotch Malt Whisky has a different alcohol level in the duty free than the "Castle Quid" 12 year old Malt sold in the States -- for me, the imbiber but non-collector of spirits -- I'd consider that the same.

            1. re: JMF

              Could you offer some insight into my postscripted question? It's something that's been niggling at me and you seem to have the distilling knowledge to answer it.

            2. re: zin1953

              Naturally. The only reason I got the Talisker was because it was about half of what I'd pay in the States. The Becherovka was something I wasn't sure could be purchased at home and wanted to try.

            3. You might find a calvados you don't get here, Huet etc.....the great Huard, Groult + Dupont are all available in the states. Rum is another good thing, the French especially have a fine selection of rum in the better shops.

              5 Replies
              1. re: MOREKASHA

                I would disagree . . .

                A visit to Famile Dupont revealed at least a dozen different bottlings of Calvados not imported to the US . . . besides the ones which are. A similar situation exists at many, if not most, other distillers and wine producers (based upon personal experience). For example, there were 15 and 24 year old bottlings available at the estate when I was there, whereas I've only seen "Hors d'Age" and "Plus 10 ans" bottlings here in the US.

                There website lists the following bottlings of Calvados: Original, Fine Reserve, Reserve, Vieille Reserve, Hors d'Age, Plus 12yrs, Plus 15yrs, Plus 20yrs, Plus 30yrs, Plus 40yrs, and single vintage bottlings from 1989, 1986, 1980, and 1969 . . . PLUS all kinds of cider, liqueur, and others . . .

                Robert Kacher imports only four.

                1. re: zin1953

                  Ah, I didn't know that bout DuPont. When I visited Grout they had pretty much what you can now get in NYC. 10 years ago, you couldn't get any but not it's a different story. There are seem great French ciders that are not sold anywhere outside of France to my knowledge.

                  1. re: MOREKASHA

                    FWIW, I used to work with the importer who brought in Famile L. Dupont Calvados *before* Bobby Kacher. Hence, when I was in Normandy in 2006, I made it a point to stop there -- even though any commercial association was long past (1980s). I purchased and carried back the 15 and 24 year old bottlings -- and take note, these weren't even listed on this website! See http://www.calvados-dupont.com

                    But, as I said above, this is true for *most* producers -- especially the smaller ones. Even so, Macallan sells a version of their Malt in Italy far younger than anything available in the US (or at least they used to, according to the late Michael Jackson . . . no, the other one).

                  1. re: MOREKASHA

                    Yep. Got a bottle of HSE Rhum Agricole VSOP.

                  2. I'd agree that you may find some interesting calvados that you may not find here. Also, it is increasingly difficult to find a decent variety of armagnac here. On the pure liqueur side, I don;t know if you'll be going to Fecamp - but that is the home of Benedictine (and they even have a very campy visitor center/museum in the style of maybe a Ripley's Believe it or not) one thing you can get there that you can't get here is single cask benedictine.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: kagemusha49

                      Don't shoot since it's been asked many a time, but could you please recommend some good Armagnacs (at an affordable price)?

                    2. Came up with a couple more ideas. There is Krauterlikor in Germany if you like the strongly herbal digestifs. My friend used to always bring back some Bullenschluck, which was pretty good stuff. Looks like Ratzeputz and Heidegeist are other brands that might be easier to find.

                      You may also be able to find genepi in France, which I hear tastes somewhat like absinthe.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: nickls

                        Those German names just make me smirk. It's a character flaw, I realize.

                        1. re: nickls

                          Any idea where (specific stores) I should check? I can only seem to find very standard bottles at all the stores I've perused thus far.

                        2. France?
                          I'm thinking Van Gogh slicing off his ear after a night binging on absinthe.
                          Get the green fairy.

                          1. Any of the rare Chartreuse bottlings that aren't available here, e.g. the 1605.

                            Nikka from the Barrel, and outstanding Japanese Whiskey.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: ChknNWafls

                              Thanks for the Nikka suggestion. I keep seeing that and wanting to taste it.

                              1. re: alphanumeric

                                Nikka's just announced they're going to begin U.S. distribution later this year, so you might hold off on this unless you want it right away.

                            2. Chartreuse Elixir Vegetal - I'm not sure the going rate. It would definitely be interesting to have in a collection.

                              Green Spot Irish Whiskey - A must for Whiskey lovers as it's one of the few 100% pot-still Irish whiskeys left. Should only be around 35 Euro a bottle. You'll probably have to go to a dedicated whiskey shop for this, La Maison du Whiskey in Paris always carriers it. Not imported into the United States and, in my opinion, blows Redbreast out of the water for the same price.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Klunco

                                If you go to La Maison you are also right by Lavinia and Au Vergers du Madelaine and Auge. Between them ya gotta find some great stuff.

                                1. re: MOREKASHA

                                  Thanks for the recommendations. Lavinia was definitely a treat. Tons of rhum, which hadn't been what I was intending on leaving with but I am pleased that I did.

                                2. re: Klunco

                                  I think La Maison had it for 50€. I know that I checked several spots and the lowest I found was 47€. I got it anyway since I've got a bottle of Redbreast and would like to compare.

                                  1. re: alphanumeric

                                    Wow, it's getting up there. Even at 50Euro though, still definitely worth it! Hope you enjoy.

                                3. Orange Vermouth made by Cizanco - only avaliable in Europe


                                  G. Miclo Eau de Vie de Poire William

                                  Makes a great drink I had to Rules, a Golden Negroni - Masters of Malt will ship these to the US, but the freight on them makes it very expensive and not worthwhile

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Dapuma

                                    Just as a heads up, the Orange Vermouth is available north of the border in Canada... British Columbia at the very least.

                                  2. Whenever you are traveling through small towns, see if there is a distillery. Tour it and take home the local spirit. I'm thinking of local fruit brandies (plum, cherry, apricot, apple, etc.). Grappa, if you're in Italy.

                                    They also had some of these lovely fruit brandies going through customs. (I'm thinking between Austria and Slovenia ten years ago.) Most countries surrounding Germany now are part of the EU now so I can't think of any nearby customs you would go through on the continent.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: shoo bee doo

                                      In Austria, and got an apple brandy. Fingers crossed that it's good, although I can't shed too many tears if it's not, seeing as I haggled it down from 18 Euro to 15 dollars.

                                      Thinking I'll try to grab an apricot or pear as well.

                                      Any brands of grappa you'd recommend?

                                    2. Anything labeled Korn to drink along with your beer German style. I can't remember if you can get them in the Class VI store, but you can definitely get it in any German grocery store.

                                      1. I grabbed a couple bottles last time I was in Europe, for some reason all of them liqueurs:

                                        -Noyaux De Poissy is a great almond-ish liqueur that is scarce in the US.
                                        -Carlshamm's Flaggpunsch is a long-standing swedish punsch that I like prefer to Kronan

                                        1. Cuban rum? A buddy of mine who was over there for his honeymoon snuck back a couple of bottles of Havana Club.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: The Big Crunch

                                            I've been toying with the idea. My only concern is that it's more hype than quality. Care to refute?

                                            1. re: alphanumeric

                                              The main value of havana club is it's difficulty to acquire in the US. I've seen more than a few 'speakeasy' bars keep a bottle on their back bar for that reason. It's not a spectacular rum, although I am pretty fond of a 50/50 mix of havana and banks in a daiquiri.

                                              1. re: ChknNWafls

                                                And thank you a second time (actually, forgot to thank you further up).

                                                1. re: ChknNWafls

                                                  I dunno... I've been lucky enough to enjoy a good bit of it the last few weeks thanks to some friends who brought some bottles back from France and Hungary, and I gotta say, it is tremendously smooth and tasty stuff.