Confession: I am developing a SERIOUS THING for solera-aged spirits. Since "solera" is not a term usually thrown about in drinking conversation, I figured I'd touch on it here to peel back the mystery and encourage you to explore this special category of spirits with me. We've entered a bold new era of distillery experimentation!...
... except that solera aging has been with us for around 500 years. Primer: solera is a Spanish word, actually a name for the barrel (or series of barrels) used to age a variety of liquids both alcholic and non-alcoholic: sherry (originally - hence the Spanish etymology), wine, madeira, beer, whisky, rum, vinegar, and brandy. What makes this different from other barrel aging (aside from the fact that solera barrels or "vats" tend to be enormous) is that anytime a liquid is drawn from the barrel, a sizable percentage is left in to age with the next filling. This means that over time - and some producers have been doing this for decades - you have a very complex, very rich, very old liquid that is unlike anything you get from single-barrel aging and maturation. It's basically old and new all at the same time, like a 1964 Mustang running with modern enhancements.
I just posted a review of a magnificent solera-aged rum over on the reviews section, and it's worth checking out if you're interested in what I believe is the best la sistema solera currently has to offer. If you've been reading the Friday's Finest posts you'll see that I've also recommended Glenfiddich's solera vatting on multiple occasions. It's not hard to find spirits aged via the solera method if you really look (I mean, GOOGLE and stuff); however, I think the two you see below are my favorite "mainstream" offerings.
With the giant push behind craft distillation nowadays, it makes sense that many smaller distillers would seek to distinguish themselves with the "Solera" label. In fact, Hillrock Estate has a solera-aged bourbon that I'm very anxious to try (if only they had regular distillery tours while I was living in Rhode Island). Let me know in the comments if you've found a solera expression that you really enjoy, or if you've found a special expression that you'd like to see me review.