December 10, 2012

'Tis the season ~ Single Malts on the shelves, a celebratory Scotch Tasting and an Ottawa Hogmanay

Hogmanay Party in Ottawa!!!!!!

I'm very excited about the recently inaugurated Scottish Society of Ottawa, whose mission is to excite people about the idea of Scotland; its past, its present and its future!
The Society’s inaugural event is set for New Year’s Eve 2012 – a Hogmanay street party at Ottawa City Hall that aims to replicate the excitement of Edinburgh’s world famous Royal Mile as the clock strikes midnight and we enter the New Year. It's just been announced that The Barra MacNeils are the headline act. You won't want to miss this party! Year end festivities also include a tutored tasting by Davin de Kergommeaux on December 30th. This will be a great tasting of wonderful Scotches, at an amazing price. Click here for more details

This year, for various reasons, we'll be spending Christmas on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Dinner might include turkey, almost certainly won't include Christmas pudding, will definitely include Israeli wine; and the after dinner Scotch will be Bruichladdich Valinch, the only one that I'll be lugging from France to Israel. With its unusual maturation in a Calvados cask, it will be just the thing to raise a toast to friends and family.

Single Malts on the LCBO shelves

But despite being geographically displaced from Ottawa, I've had a look at the Single Malt Scotches on the Ontario liquor shelves, and there are more than a few to recommend - for the Scotch lovers on the shopping list, for family and friends dropping by, to raise a toast to 2013, to share around a crackling fire..............
This is not an exhaustive list - there are close to 200 to choose from, although not all available in every store. So, if your favourite doesn't appear here, it doesn't mean I don't like it!

Elegance in small packages

Small, 200ml bottles of Lagavulin 16 year old are on sale at $25. This is a wonderful Islay whisky and the format is ideal if you're not sure, or just want to try one of the best. Of course, you can always buy the full bottle as well.  Read about my trip to Lagavulin.

18 is a great age

Something magical seems to happen to Scotch whisky, after it's been  quietly maturing in oak barrels  for around 18 years. There's a lot of debate about the perfect age for whisky, and the reality is that there are splendid Scotches of every age, including some quite young spirit. But, in every barrel, a wonderful combination of chemistry and magic seems to take place over the years. For those looking for rich,  integrated, well-balanced, multifaceted Single Malts, there are some splendid 18 year old products on the shelves. These aren't in the "budget buy" category - but for someone special, including yourself..........

Aberlour 18 year old 

Around $148, rich dried fruits, toffee, full bodied, (no peat/smoke), beautifully balanced. My favourite Aberlour.

Bowmore 18 year old

Around $127, rich, smoky, spicy, dried fruits, I had a great visit to the distillery in September. 

Laphroaig 18 year old

OK, I have a soft spot for smoky whiskies. Laphroaig 10 year old ($80) is an absolute Islay classic and one of the best for that crackling fire previously mentioned. For further richness and additional flavours and elegance, the 18 year old is a gem - $180. While I'm on about Laphroaig, I never tire of Quarter Cask - $70. The newer Triple Wood at $90, is like Quarter Cask with an extra maturation in oloroso sherry casks. Click here to read about my Laphroaig distillery visit.

Highland Park 18 year old

Around $150. I love this whisky from Scotland's most northerly distillery in Orkney. Rich, great balance, just a  tiny bit of peat presence.

Ten is a good age, too

Ardbeg 10 year old

Around $100, a peaty, Islay classic. Read about my distillery visit.

Talisker 10 year old

From the Isle of Skye, around $80, different peat character from Islay

Glenmorangie 10 year old

About $67, good whisky for a new Scotch drinker, nice to drink anytime, a hint of mint toffee.

If you're travelling and can find a bottle of Glenmorangie Signet, this is a remarkably fine Single Malt whisky, created from some very old whiskies, featuring some roasted chocolate barley malt and some very fine maturation casks, presented in a  beautiful bottle. I tasted this last month and it is exquisitely beautiful. Using words like rich, roasted nuts, chocolate orange, full-bodied and delicious seems inadequate. This is one very, very  fine whisky if you can find it.

A couple of Glenfiddichs

If you're in the Toronto area, with $26,000 to spend, that bottle of 50 year old that I mentioned last year, is still on the books.
If your seasonal travels take you through a duty free shop, pick up a gift box containing the Glenfiddich 125th anniversary Single Malt. It's wonderful, and is designed after the original style made by the distillery, back in the day. There's some nice peat in this bottle. No age expression, but probably about 14 years. I picked up a bottle in Edinburgh for 70 pounds (Sorry, can't remember the code for my pound character). The gilt tin box will be splendid for storing mince pies, Christmas cookies, black bun and the like!

More elegance

The Macallan Fine Oak 21 year old is not cheap at $380, but, oh my, this is a nice whisky. I tasted it again most recently at Whisky Luxe in Edinburgh - a great event.

And a few more

Glenfiddich 15 - great value, delicious, sweet, unique solera system $65
Glendronach Revival 15 $95
Dalwhinnie 15 Highland whisky of good character, nothing overt, very drinkable $90, from Scotland's highest distillery
Cragganmore 12 $85
Glendronach 12 $60

Sample some fine Single Malts in April

I'll be leading a public tasting at Divinos in April. There will be fine Scotches, great food, good fun, friendly conversation and some education. Makes a great Christmas gift! Meanwhile, drop us a line if you'd like to inquire about private or Corporate events.
A parting story from France..... Although we're in an area near the Alps, with great views of Mont Blanc, there usually isn't much snow on the ground in the village. Not so this year, where we've had a steady stream of snow and ice with melts in between, resulting in sidewalks that would rival the canal above. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any public salting service that I could see. My husband had a spill, did some damage to himself and was carted off in an ambulance. He's on the mend, so no worries, but it was interesting to observe, during the 10 hours or so in emergency, that almost everyone appearing for treatment had fallen and hurt something. It made me appreciate the abundance of salt and grit in Ottawa. The irony of it all was that the ambulance ride was complimentary - a public service!

Happy Christmas,
Very best wishes for an outstanding 2013