When it comes to flavor, I am drawn to the Old World. I like liquor with hard-to-define tastes: the bitter complexity of Italian amari, the ancient herbs of Chartreuse, the primal maltiness of Dutch genever. And I’m also drawn to the wilder, untamed parts of the New World: the agave bite of real tequila; the earthy, rustic edge to Brazilian cachaca; the strange, dry conundrum of Peruvian pisco. I don’t know why. I guess it’s the same reason I like stinky cheeses, funky wines, wild game and yeasty beers. I’m of a similar mind to A.J. Liebling, who wrote in his classic food memoir, “Between Meals”: “I like tastes that know their own minds.” Whatever it is, this impulse, this search for flavor is in response to the relatively bland tastes that defined my upbringing. There is much more going on in the glass when we sit down to drink a particularly profound spirit: a smoky 1928 rum from Fidel Castro’s cellar; a cognac that was bottled before the 19th-century phylloxera plague destroyed acres of Europe’s vineyards; one of the only vintage Calvados to have survived the German occupation of Normandy. And it’s about more than just being rare and obscure for the sake of being rare and obscure.

more from Jason Wilson at the Washington Post here.