January 2015 Archives
I received this bottle of GlenDronach 15 year old Tawny Port Finish as a birthday gift from the SB crew. They know my tastes well, so when one of them saw the label notes describing a "fruit laden whisky to enliven the tastebuds" and dessert flavours:dried fruits, fine dark chocolate, "fruit shortcake drenched in vanilla custard;" there was no doubt that this would be my b-day bottle.
Released in 2011, this version was designed to replace the 20 year old variant and, as of last year, was replaced by the 18 year old edition. Suffice to say, there's been some experimentation with this finishing technique. Matured in European oak and finished in "the finest tawny port casks," the whisky is non chill filtered, of natural colour, and bottled at 46% A.B.V..
Since 1826, GlenDronach has produced scotch whisky in Forgue by Huntly near continuously with just a short, 6 year, break between 1996-2002 despite changing ownership half a dozen times. In 2008, the distillery was acquired by BenRiach whose Master Blender Billy Walker now performs double duty for the two distilleries.
This past Saturday, January 24, 2015 I attended a Robbie Burns Day celebration hosted by Johnnie Walker at Toronto's majestic modern-day castle, Casa Loma. Upon arrival, guests were treated to 2 varieties of Johnnie Red-based cocktails with an inspired collection of hors d'oeuvres. Just before dinner, a pipe band struck up a tune and lead the procession of guests to the dining room where we were entertained by a troupe of Highland Dancers.
As Emcee for the evening, the knowledgeable Mortlach Brand Ambassador Georgie Bell introduced each course and provided some tasting notes on the whisky pairing. Before long, the haggis was piped in followed by a toast to the "bard" and more dancing. We finished off the evening with a decadent chocolate course paired with my personal favourite of the Johnnie range, Gold label.
I had a great time revisiting the Johnnie line, mingling with guests and, as you can surely tell from the pictures, the food was delicious. Thanks to Amy at North Strategic for the invitation.
During a three month period early last year, I'd been stopping by my local Liquor Control Board of Ontario store weekly, waiting patiently for new whisky releases. Each time I surveyed the shelves I was let down, finding that not only were there no new products to be found, but also that the shelves under the large words "single malt" were slowly becoming bare.
These sad few months inspired me to embark on a quest to understand why we in Ontario have the dubious honour of both paying some of the highest alcohol prices in the world as well as being unworthy of having year-round accessibility to unique and interesting whisky products. Let me start by saying that the results of my investigation have left me fuming over the disadvantaged position Ontarians are in.
While the LCBO is proud to show off the upsides of having a crown corporation provide booze to the citizens of Ontario, there can be no argument that consumers are losing out; both regarding the money from their pockets, and the products on the shelf. Full LCBO privatization is not something that any government has been receptive to. As such, the solutions presented within this article are focused on working with the current system to build and improve upon it.
To illustrate this, let's compare LCBO operations to those of privatized specialty alcohol retailers in other markets. I recently had the fortune of interviewing Andrew Ferguson, Co-Store Manager and Whisky Expert at Kensington Wine Market (KWM) in Calgary. As a private retailer, he has much less clout in the industry than a behemoth like the LCBO would, yet KWM outshines even the best LCBO store in numerous ways.