The clocks have changed. It's that time of year - big sweaters, cosy fires, long evenings, rich stews, puddings. And a wee dram to warm you up.
Whether you're looking for something different to try with friends, ideas for gift shopping, or good value whiskies, listen in and read on for some suggestions. Of course, there are thousands of whiskies out there and hundreds in the LCBO, although not all in one store, so these are just a drop in the ocean and not an exclusive list of everything I like. As with any food or beverage, personal taste is a big factor, but have fun investigating!
Listen in to hear some GrapeScot chat on CBC Radio One In Town and Out on Nov 5 2011.Scotch Interview Nov 2011 by GrapeScot
Some of the whiskies mentioned have interesting cask finishes - port, Sauternes, claret, Jack Daniels. I'm highlighting Glenmorangie, one of several distilleries where there has been much experimentation in this arena. I've given some aromas and flavours that I find in the whiskies. You might detect something completely different. What fun! Almost all are available in selected stores throughout Ontario, but you might have to check out the online LCBO website to find supply,or pop into your local and they'll tell you where to find them, if they're out of stock.
- Glenmorangie Nectar d'Or, finished in Sauternes (delicious Bordeaux sweet wine) casks, notes of lemon meringue, spices, candied citrus and sultanas. About $92
- Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, finished in port casks, marmalade and after eight mints meet Turkish Delight. About $82
- Glenmorangie The Astar, finished in Jack Daniels casks. Not available in the LCBO, but if you're travelling, it's worth finding. Cask strength, elegant and lots of great aromas and flavours - fruitcake, cloves, oranges, toffees and candy.
- Springbank Claret Wood, 12 years old with 3 of those years in Bordeaux casks. Only about 9000 bottles were produced and there are only about 100 left in Ontario, so a bit of a collector's item. Perhaps there will be another bottling in due course. Another cask strength Scotch, with a definite and not surprising reddish tint, juicy and spicy, nice berries and dried fruit, quite different. Springbank is Scotland's oldest independent distillery and one of the few that still malts its own barley. Great whiskies and worth supporting. About $100.
- A tasty, blended whisky, with a high percentage of malts in the blend - Te Bheag $37
- A pure pot still Irish whisky with notes of honey, fruit, vanilla and spice - Redbreast 12 year old $47
- The only blended malt Scotch in the Johnnie Walker collection - 15 year old Green Label, nice balance, light smoke and much more. $75
- Amrut Fusion Single Malt Whisky - big flavour, big strength, a gem from India. Lots of it in Ontario, not so much in Ottawa. $69
- Glenfiddich 15 year old - an elegant whisky, with soft fruits, vanilla, orange and fudge, all the more intriguing because of it's final maturation in a solera vat system which is never emptied. $85
- Aberlour a'bunadh - cask strength and a cognac like quality, this will warm you up on the coldest of nights. $94
- For the peat lovers - Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Special finishing in small barrels changes the taste of an Islay favourite. Laphroaig with toffee! $65
Amber gold in colour. Outstanding nose – a lovely peaty smell, like sitting by a fire in an Islay cottage – gentle though, not overwhelming or medicinal; a slightly salty sea smell; then malty sweetness, scrumptious fruitcake, caramel toffee, dates, smooth sherry, mead, leather, sandalwood. The taste is smooth, luscious and fiery. Initially sweet, with fruit cake, toffee and molasses, followed by smoked, barbecued food. Warm and deep with a spicy kick. The finish is endless - luscious, full bodied, sweet and dry, with honey and molasses. A beautiful balance of malt and peat. Exceptional. With water, more earthy, boggy and peaty on the nose and palate. A dram to remember! Look out for it if you're travelling.
And here's another one to seek out in Duty Free stores. From the most northerly mainland distillery in Scotland, this one was Jim Murray's pick for World Whisky of the Year 2012 - he drinks ahead of time! Comes with an ill fitting stopper but, as you can see by the amount left in my bottle, that shouldn't be much of a problem. A distinctive dram from a great distillery.