Spirited Offerings

WineAlign Spirits Review
by Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

At this time of year distilleries release some of their best new offerings to augment perennial favourites and capture the holiday gift market. The good news for spirit enthusiasts is that this year’s catch is better than ever.

For the scotch connoisseur, The Macallan Edition No2 is sure to excite. It’s the result of a collaboration between their master whisky maker Bob Dalgarno, and the Roca brothers, founders of El Celler de Can Roca in Spain, twice voted the best restaurant in the world. It combines flavours handpicked by each collaborator to represent their own distinct personality sourced from the best Macallan casks.

The Glenlivet Cipher is a limited-edition whisky deliberately shrouded in mystery. The Cipher packaging contains no tasting notes, cask information or age statement – instead it challenges the buyer to find the secret flavour hidden on the bottle label and to visit www.TheGlenlivet.com/Cipher to decode the full tasting notes. Luckily what’s in the bottle is full of personality.

Mccallan Edition No. 2The Glenlivet Cipher Speyside Scotch Single MaltLagavulin 8 Year Old

To commemorate its 200th anniversary, Lagavulin released a Lagavulin Limited Edition Eight-Year-Old bottle based on a style from the 1880s and in honour of Britain’s most famous Victorian whisky writer, Alfred Barnard. Half the age of the Islay distillery’s flagship 16-Year-Old, it nonetheless still has plenty of the typical Hebridean peat, brine, and smoke.

Irish whiskey is on a roll with more and more distilleries opening up. Bernard Walsh, Managing Director of Walsh Whiskey and Chairman of the Irish Whiskey Association told me that six years ago, there were 3.5 distilleries in Ireland (he called Kilbeggan half a distillery at the time as it was recently restored and only operating part time). Now there are 16 distilleries with another ten expected to open in the next two years. Irish Whiskey is the fastest growing spirits category in the world, up 220% in the last ten years. www.irishwhiskeyassociation.ie

Walsh Distillery, which is number five in size after the big four (Irish Distillers with brands Jameson, Powers, Paddys etc. owned by Pernod Ricard, Bushmills owned by Cuervo, Tullamore DEW owned by William Grant and Cooley Distillery owned by Beam Suntory) has 12 products under its umbrella including the very successful Writer’s Tears Pot Still. In time for Christmas, they are releasing Writer’s Tears Cask Strength. For St. Patrick’s Day in Canada, Red Head is coming. More about that and Irish whiskey when we’re nearer to that date.

Power’s Gold Label Irish Whiskey, was released early this year and until the end of December has a two buck off LTO and bonus Air Miles at the LCBO.

Writers Tears Pot Still BlendWriters Tears Limited Cask Strength Irish WhiskeyPowers Gold Irish WhiskeyToronto Distillery First BarrelsJ.P. Wiser’s Union 52

Toronto Distillery Co Ltd has just released their first bottling of straight Canadian whisky, First Barrels. A blend of 40% wheat, 40% rye and 20% corn, its 100% from organic grains. J.P. Wiser’s Union 52 is a fall treat available exclusively at the BCLS – Canadian whisky with 4 per cent 1964 Highland Single Malt aged in Canada.

Cognacs and other brandies are perennial favourites at Christmas. This year try Cognac Park VSOP, from Maison Tessendier, fourth-generation Cellar Masters producing since 1880. It’s a superior VSOP at a good value price. Courvoisier VSOP, is aligning its brand with its Parisian history, with new labels evocative of the Eiffel Tower on all the Courvoisier collection. The initiative recalls Courvoisier’s role at that time, when it won gold medals at the 1900 Exposition Universelle and was served to celebrate the opening of the Eiffel Tower in 1889.

Cognac Park VSOPCourvoisier V S O P Fine ChampagneMartell Medallion V S O P CognacHine X O Antique Grande Champagne Premier Cru Cognac

Martell established in 1715 is one of the oldest of the great cognac houses. The great grandson of the founder Frédéric Martell crafted Martell VSOP in 1831. Corby Spirit and Wine re-introduced the brand to the Canadian market this year. For serious cognac connoisseurs, Hine Antique XO Cognac is an ultra-premium product all from the finest Grande Champagne region.

There are many other great products out for the holiday season. Stay tuned for my next column later in December. Cheers.


Margaret Swaine

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Park Cognac VSOP