May 2010 Archives

Scotchblog Meets: Ian Millar

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Recently, Scotchblog was fortunate enough to be extended an invitation to a private tasting with Ian Millar, the Global Ambassador for Glenfiddich. Ian is truly a preeminent authority in the world of single malt scotch. Having met Ian a few times before, including at last years Whisky Live in Toronto, this was a rare opportunity to speak directly with the whisky master.

We braved a blustery, wet evening on the way to the Park Hyatt rooftop lounge, a classical and intimate whisky bar on the top floor of one of the cities grandest hotels. It features an outdoor patio which Ian recommends as a choice location to smoke a fine Cohiba along with some whisky. On this day however, we'd be confined to the indoors because you simply can't the take the rainwater out of the scotch.

Our visit began with a tour of the Glenfiddich's popular range of 12, 15, and 18 year old malts. The 12 and 15 remain consistent as ever, and readers will find them discussed extensively in previous articles. This time our sampling of the 18 year old was accompanied by a delicious maple creme brulee which provided a sweet, creamy offset to this deep and mature scotch, and it opened new levels of this otherwise more challenging expression. Once again, the importance of food pairings was underscored as the key to opening subtleties and hidden elements in both new and familiar whiskies. As Ian pointed out, people often take too-direct an approach to pairing food by accompanying whiskies with fare that accentuates the most prominent notes of the whisky, instead of counterbalancing the flavours to reveal a dram's true character.

Thumbnail image for glenfiddich50.JPGWe then moved on to the reason for Ian's visit to Toronto, the Canadian release of an extraordinarily rare 50 year old Glenfiddich single malt. We view it as something akin to the launch of an ultra rare supercar; a benchmark of the peak of craftsmanship in whisky to which others may aspire. Ian spoke at length about a unique contest sponsored by the Glenfiddich in recognition of the 50 year old coming to Canada, called North of 50, in which the entrants will nominate fathers and other great mentors. The prize for the 9 lucky winners and one guest is a trip to the Fairmont Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta and an invitation to an exclusive tasting of the full Glenfiddich range and the new 50 year old, which will sell at over $25,000 CAD. If you know a scotch drinker worthy of nomination, submit your entry at by July 1st.

We asked Ian, what makes the 50 year old a special malt and not just an old one? He replied that the liquid is comprised of two carefully selected 1955 casks to produce just 500 bottles of which they will release 50 bottles per year worldwide, and two of these bottles will come to Canada. The tasting notes describe this expression as a pale gold, harmonious and complex. The nose is vibrant with notes of rose petals, green tobacco leaf, oak and a hint of smoke. On the palate it begins with zesty orange marmalade, toffee and through a depth of layers including aromatic herbs and soft fruits. The finish is described as exceptionally long with dry oak and a trace of peat. Before our meeting was concluded, there were some additional rare treats.

We went on to sample the Glenfiddich 40 year old as well as a very limited private vintage 42 year old, both of which were very impressive, and will each be reviewed on the blog soon.

Thanks again to Ian for his time and Meghan of Jesson + Co. for putting the meeting together, we look forward to seeing you both again.

Old Pulteney 17yr old

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Last week we were treated to a terrific whisky courtesy of a friend's purchase at the Gattwick airport duty-free prior to her return flight to Canada.

Imagine our surprise to see the Old Pulteney 17yr old in all of its amber glory!

As you will learn below, there was no way this bottle was going to outlive the night of its opening.

oldpulteney17.jpgNose: Apple, ripened pear, oatmeal, vanilla and hints of peppermint.

Palate: There is a freshness akin to sea air or crushed mint that leads the palate through a delightful wave of butterscotch, nuttiness, and vanilla.

Finish: A remarkable cooling and dry finish that returns with notes of leather, mint, vanilla and sherry nuttiness.

Overall: A complex and enjoyable medium-bodied whisky that steadily reveals more of itself after each sip. True to the label, it is "intricate, balanced with a delicate mineral-salted spiciness."

Highly recommended.

SP-Allt-A-Bhainne-1996-MMD.JPGLately I've noticed an increase in the amount of Independent Bottlers of Scotch Whisky in the LCBO Vintages section.  Occupying most of the shelf space this spring is the Murray McDavid line.

Last week, Scotch Blog acquired the limited edition Murray McDavid Allt-A-Bhainne 1996 12yr old.

Aged in American Oak and new French Oak the label claims: cereal, nut toffee, ripe grape, mango, pear and mild spice.

We at Scotch Blog found the label a tad overstated upon tasting.

Nose: A light nose of toffee, cocoa and coffee beans

Palate: Cereal maltiness bordering on toasted bread with a hazelnut, cocoa flavour, a peppery spice of heat drives the somewhat thin mouth-feel.

Finish: Not a great finish. Shockingly hot and unrefined for a 12 year old malt. Heavy cocoa and molasses-like sweetness linger with the resonant heat.

Overall: Water doesn't help much with the heat and the dram tastes either like it's over-oaked or over-proof and, judging by the 46% A.B.V., we suspect the former. The fruit aspects mentioned on the label are muted, indiscernible and not worth writing. Finally, the pleasant aspects of the whisky's sweetness are overwhelmed by the intense heat which leads to an unremarkable end.
Since there were only 1500 bottles produced there may be some appeal to the die-hard whisky collector but, at this high price, there are better 12 yr old single malt whiskys.

Source: Toronto Star ( 

You can expect to pay more to drown your sorrows over the 13 per cent harmonized sales tax this summer.

Wine and liquor prices are expected to rise in July even though the business-friendly HST will actually lower tax rates on booze, the Star has learned.

Internal industry research reveals that while consumers will pay the equivalent of an 8 per cent provincial sales tax after July 1 -- instead of the existing 12 per cent on alcohol -- retail prices will not drop.

Nor will drinks necessarily be any cheaper in your favourite pub or bistro, despite the fact bar owners and restaurateurs will also effectively pay 8 per cent, down from the current 10 per cent tax for licensees.

While Premier Dalton McGuinty wants savings passed on to consumers, the LCBO has a policy of "social responsibility" which prevents them from bringing prices down to a level which would encourage alcohol abuse.

"It's counter-intuitive. Tax rates are decreasing because of the harmonization, but the prices on the shelf are actually going to be increased," warned one senior industry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of retribution from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.

"And that's going to surprise consumers. They should be expecting a reduction."

That's because the LCBO has quietly increased its mark-up by 7.5 per cent. On imported wines the mark-up has soared to 71.5 per cent from 64 per cent, and on domestic wines it has risen to 65.5 per cent from 58 per cent.

To keep prices the same, sources say the markup should at most increase just 6.5 per cent.


Recent Comments

  • Isabelle Gurble commented on The Famous Jubilee, Special Edition Reserve:

    This looks amazing, something my husband would love. His birth is coming up soon as well.

  • Ryan commented on Forty Creek Heart of Gold:

    Hi Sherry, I think you might be outta luck on this one. Only 9000 bottles of this delicious whisky were produced and I'd wager most - if not all - purveyors have been sold out for quite some time now. If you're looking to sample it, I'd recommend visiting your local whisky bar and checking their list of Canadian whisky offerings. Your only other option would be to try and track down someone willing to give up their bottle? I've got one 2oz sample tucked away and, sorry, I'm keeping it all to myself! :) Good luck! Let us know if you find a bottle!

  • Sherry commented on Forty Creek Heart of Gold:

    Do you know where I can purchase this item?

    Sherry Boutilier

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