January 2012 Archives

Glenmorangie Astar Highland Single Malt


Another rare find from the Glenmorangie is the Astar (gaelic for "journey") which is currently not available at the LCBO, but was brought to me from the UK. The Astar is aged in specially selected and dried young white oak from Tennessee, without finishing in any other type of barrel. It is non-chill filtered and bottled at an impressive 57.1 percent abv.

Nose: Smoky and spicy, cinnamon, fennel and hints of fresh apple, strawberry, and vanilla cream.

Palate: Spicy, floral and smoky, with notes of raisin, bitter chocolate and espresso.

Finish: Quite hot with bold oak and a long sustained finish.

Adding water is advisable to open up such a potent malt, and this produces a sweeter nose of chocolate, vanilla and orange peel. The palate with water is more oaky, floral and creamy.

Overall: This is another impressively complex malt from a distillery that continues to produce unique variations on its distinctive flavour profile of smoke, floral, vanilla and gentle fruitiness. For those who already appreciate some of these malts (such as the Signet, Quinta Ruban, or Nectar d'or), the Astar is very much the bright, bold, "cask strength" cousin and worth snapping up if you are shopping abroad. 

6 Whiskies Paired with Food for Less Than $25

No. It's not a typo. What you're seeing is what's on offer at the next ScotchBlog reader meet-up. 

Similar to last time, we've worked with our fantastic hosts to put together two flights of 3 whiskies each, and once again the chef has paired each whisky with a nibble to highlight the fact that whisky and food do indeed go together. Exactly like last time, there will be full food and whisky menus for a la carte ordering, and no cover. Just pay for what you eat and drink.

This month's edition will focus on the smokier side of the whisky spectrum. Some will be a combination of smoky and sweet, while others will display the classic peat, and all will be delicious. After the flights are finished, feel free to stick around to mix and mingle, as many of us will be going deeper into the whisky list.

The tasting will be held in downtown Toronto this Saturday, January 28th with a start time as close to 3pm as we can manage, as we'll do our best to ensure that we get rolling once everyone is there. So how do you find out where? Well just to your right is the "Contact Us" option that we'd like you to use to email us with your name and the number of guests that will be joining you (we'd love to know their names too!). The reason for this is to provide the chef with a reasonable estimate of the number of flights to prepare. After we receive that email, I will personally get back to you with all of the details.

On behalf of all of us at ScotchBlog.ca, we look forward to seeing everyone this Saturday.

Is a price hike looming at the LCBO?


Last week, I heard a rumour about an impending price increase at the LCBO. My first reaction was typical of the embittered Ontario consumer: a sigh and a resigned muttering: "First coffee, then hydro and now they're going after my whiskey..."

A quick search online yielded a description of the increase in the LCBO's minimum pricing structure and as outlined by the CBC "About 10 per cent of spirits sold by the LCBO and three to four per cent of beers will see their prices go up. A 24-bottle case of the cheapest beer will go up by 55 cents, from $28.80 to $29.35. A 750 mL bottle of a mainstream spirit will go up by 50 cents to $23.90."

"Meh. What's so bad about that?" I can hear you thinking. Small change right?

Well, maybe not...  

Deanston Virgin Oak Highland Single Malt Scotch

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Deanston Virgin OakThis is a non-age-statement bottle from the Deanston distillery, produced by Burn Stewart distillers, which also produces the Bunnahabhain and Tobermory whiskies. Young whisky finished in new American oak and bottled at 46.3%. 

Nose: The nose is bright with lemon, grape, sugar and floral/grass notes. Sweetness, yeast and light oakiness. 

Palate: Honey, vanilla, orange marmalade and grapes followed by caramel, oak and light nuttiness. Adding water brings out hazelnut and light coca flavors. 

Finish: Brief and dry with a slight oiliness as well as hints of fruit and coca. 

Overall: A bright, light, simple and enjoyable whisky. The formula of young whisky, finished in first-fill oak and unchillfiltered seems designed to achieve a sort of minimalism (I am further supported by the slogan on the bottle: "Simple, Handcrafted, Natural") which is admittedly pleasing in results, while also being a shrewd marketing strategy for a somewhat immature whisky. Available at 39.95 at the LCBO, I would consider buying this again, and would recommend it to those who find my tasting notes on it appealing.

Robbie Burns Day Planner

As always, January 25th is Robbie Burns Day, and as usual many restaurants and pubs will be offering up specials on food and drink, poetry, dancing, and more. But what about us whisky fanatics in Toronto? What are we to do? 

In years past I would hum and haw, mulling my options until it was too late to get a ticket anywhere, and ultimately end up at home or a friend's with a bottle from my own collection. Surely there must be a better way right? A short list of venues with extensive whisky lists and their menus, offerings, and prices perhaps? Well, there is now.

This is your Toronto Robbie Burns Day shortlist.  
Our friends over at William Grant & Sons were kind enough to send us samples of their 18 and 25 year old blended whiskies, which unfortunately are not currently available outside the UK. Grant's 18 Year Old blended whisky consists of a mixture of malt as well as grain whiskies which are then finished in port casks. Grant's 25 Year Old is an extra special treat for us, as this is the first batch that has ever been produced. Made up of 25 different distinctive malt and grain whiskies, including Ladyburn and also the first ever whisky laid down at Grant's Girvan distillery in 1963, we were extremely excited to sample this new product.

Grant's 18 Year Old
Grant's 18 Year Old
Nose: This has a very distinctive Speyside nose, very similar to other Grant's expressions. A heavy brown sugar kick along with figs and fruitcake, surely a characteristic imparted by being finished in port barrels. A citrus zest combined with a touch of smoke provide some balance against the largely sweeter characteristics.

Palate: This expression lacks the sourness normally associated with the Grant's Sherry & Family Reserves. Dried fruits including apple and pears sweetened with caramel and rich malt. This is a flavourful whisky which if one peels back, reveals hints of fresh leather with flecks of peat smoke. You'll find that this dram is great to roll around on the tongue - it's surprisingly (and enjoyably) peppery.

Rosebank 17 Year Old by Gordon & MacPhail

Rosebank GM Cask att3.jpg
Mothballed since 1993, and looking more and more like it will be forever closed, Rosebank is a distillery whose whisky is absolutely worth hunting now before the clock truly strikes midnight for the average consumer. Triple distilled in the traditional Lowland style, aged in a refill sherry hogshead, this whisky has been delivered unto to us fans (some may call me more of an obsessive) of closed distilleries by the fine independent bottlers Gordon & MacPhail

Distilled in 1991, bottled in 2008 at 55.3% ABV, and procured at Boston's venerable Federal Wine & Spirits on my trip there in late 2010, this whisky has been testing my restraint and tantalizing my taste buds for over a year now. 

So if you are prepared to hunt this expression, or enjoy vicarious whisky-masochism, please do read on. If not, well, keep your eyes open for it at the finer purveyors of single malts and please read away anyway. 
Bruichladdich 12yr 2nd EditionBruichladdich has recently released the Second Edition of their 12 Year Old Islay Single Malt.  Bottled at 46% ABV and without any colouring or chill-filtering, Master Distiller Jim McEwan has succeeded at producing a traditional, gracefully balanced as well as lightly peated Islay whisky. This expression has been fully aged in quality ex-bourbon casks, hand selected by Mr. McEwan.

Nose: A hint of smoke and vanilla combines with green apples and pears to provide a subtle yet layered nose which I'd recommend the reader let sit in a covered glass for some time to allow this whisky to develop to its full potential. Adding water brings out the Islay qualities - damp leaves, a hint of seaweed and as one would expect, peat.


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