For those of you who are interested, here is some of our background and what we do.

Geographic: We live in Rochester, New York, which is about 300 miles (500 Km) away in actual physical distance but light years away in terms of surroundings, shopping, and politics from New York City. I am actually closer to Niagara Falls and Toronto, Canada than New York City.

Spirits Review - Chris Carlsson

Christopher Carlsson, CEO

Professional: I was brought up with an appreciation of wine, beer, and spirits at an early age. My mother caught my father putting scotch and water in my bottle at age six months (he has since said I was always trying to drink his Manhattans, too). I grew up with wine at the table since about age five or so and had my own wine cellar at 15. My father traveled extensively in Europe and knew people from Alexis Lichine and Charles Fournier to Dr. Ferdinand Porsche. In addition, he traveled through the southern and western United States. Through his contacts and the things he brought home. I became acquainted with all types of alcoholic beverages and met quite a few people over the years.

I have been an ‘Ardent Spirit’ (to steal a term from Gary Regan of ) or at least a connoisseur of all things alcoholic for years. I was also brought up in a rare bookstore, so I had a love of reading and access to thousands of books of all different types. Through these, I have tried to learn the ins and outs of tastings and evaluation of all types of food and beverages coupled with, of course, practice. One cannot learn cooking, martial arts, or tasting from a book. You can learn techniques and ideas, but practice and guidance are essential.

To that end, I have been tasting on my own and going to tastings held by various groups for years. I like to think of it as an apprenticeship. I have been a professional judge at a number of professional spirits competitions, teach classes on spirits, bartend, and write articles on spirits and mixology for numerous publications both online and in print.
I also develop cocktails for spirits, cocktail menus for restaurants and bars, source barware, interior decorations, and equipment, both vintage and new, train and educate bartenders on spirits, and bring all my myriad resources to bear for clients.

Through the years, I have forged contacts and friendships with a good number of people in the field who have been very generous in their sharing of knowledge and time. In addition, I also work for various liquor stores, bars,  (and the occasional individual person) to act as their “Spiritual Advisor” to help them find new and different (to them anyway) spirits -especially those that are standouts in quality and/or price for the quality.

My job is to find those spirits and who distributes them so a shop can have interesting (if not unique) selections of high quality alcohol. For individuals, it is much the same, and I also act as a personal shopper for them to help locate different spirits either for themselves or as a gift.

This seems to work particularly well for people like doctors or lawyers (or their wives/husbands, depending ) as many of them have most of the easy-to-find things, and I help find new spirits for their collection.

Personal: When I am not writing and reviewing beverages for this webpage, I am working in the family rare bookshop. I also enjoy skydiving, BASE jumping, and other stupid things to do for fun, along with antiquing (especially anything to do with alcohol!), Sci-Fi, movies and music (Tom Waits is a favorite!).

Joan Brenner, Editor, Photographer, 

Professional: Editor and Photographer for Spirits Review, I keep things on track and literate. I also do a lot of the photography and photo editing to make sure we get good photos and layout.


What We Do: We review distilled spirits, bitters, beer, wine, mixers, garnishes, etc.. We evaluate both overall quality and a price-to-value ratio. We also have sister sites,  (under Construction) and which review bar ware and equipment of all types – both for home and commercial use and books on spirits, cocktails, and alcohol-related subjects, respectively. We also travel widely as photojournalists to photograph and write about distilleries, breweries, and bars, along with cocktail and spirit events, to show people where a product is made, who makes it, and where best to consume them. was launched in January 2005. The webpage was started by me after years of frustration trying to track down information and actual bottles of various alcoholic beverages here in upstate New York. One of the first problems was reliable information both in books and magazines, about what was out there and what it was like. Most of the information that was out there was dated, expensive, or influenced by advertising/cash. The second, even thornier problem, after identifying what I wanted, was actually laying my hands on it.

Due to a ugly confluence of Byzantine regulations on behalf of New York State as regards to alcohol, and the utter incompetence of a number of distributors, it was damn near impossible to find a lot of things. When it came to new products, I have gotten into arguments with distributors who will steadfastly deny they sell the product I am looking for. Only by confronting them with an invoice will they go back and look in their stocks for something.

I have learned that if you are new to the market and not paying a lot of commissions to have your product pushed, you get zero attention. Even a lot of big brands don’t get a lot of mention from sales or marketing people. has over 5000 links to other web pages and counting, along with links to over 450 blogs and newsfeeds. I am aiming for this page to be THE reference site on the web for alcoholic products, so I have assembled a large links library sorted by category and actively exchange links with other sites to gain wider readership and coverage.

I am particularly looking for new products that come onto the market, especially by new people or small producers. I want to be different and cover a lot of different products that are not widely covered elsewhere. However, I also like to review and write about the mainstream large production products to give people benchmarks.

I want this webpage to be honest, relatively simple, and straightforward. One of the more unique features is the price/value rating I use. I try to identify not just a best buy but a relative scale of value for the money spent on all the products I review.  I also try to use fairly simple tasting notes that, while not as rigorous as some, convey what I think of a given product. So, after I do some reviewing, I can take the rest of the samples and try them out on some of my clients and report back to you!

We also travel extensively to find, photograph, and review products and where they are made to give people a feel for where a spirits comes from and the feel for it’s place of origin. Please check our Adventure Section.

Please see our Samples and Disclosure statement for more information on how we do business.

Due to increasing costs to run this page and keep new content coming in, we are swallowing our pride and asking for donations. Any amount is appreciated.This will in no way affect our reviews or ratings in a positive or negative way. We will continue to be independent and give unbiased reviews. See our disclosure statement and sample statement for more information.Thanks!

Sort reviews by: