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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.

The Macallan "M"

The Macallan M- Box Open.jpeg"Conspicuous consumption or classic construction?" 

This is what I pondered hustling downtown on a typical Toronto November night. Frankly, I was a touch surprised, albeit pleasantly so, to be invited back to another event for The Macallan after what many have called a rather scathing indictment of The 1824 Series. While I stand resolutely by those statements, I must confess that the concept of the evening makes sense, and is something that I genuinely feel should become more common in our local and national experiences.

Rather than stepping into a bar, cellar, or restaurant surrounded by the typical trappings of whisky tastings such as old wood, leather seats, and dim lighting, Ryan and I stepped into Harry Rosen's store in First Canadian Place in the heart of Toronto's financial district. Known for being Canada's carrier of top-end men's attire, this co-branding exercise was designed to launch The Macallan Lounge experience.

The core concept: enjoy a fine dram while shopping for fine clothing, thus simultaneously achieving sartorial and sensory advancement. Aside from the obvious gender-specific intent of the marketing, I must say that the idea of imbibing while shopping is one that appeals to me on a personal level, as well as making great business sense. After all, what better way to add value to the act of shopping while also loosening a man's financial restraint mechanisms to aid in the sale of a Canali suit?  

For those of you looking to enjoy The Macallan Lounge and its "Scotch and Shop" experience, it runs daily at the First Canadian Place location until November 21, 2014 each weekday from 3pm to 6:30pm. For those looking to find out what it's like to indulge the pinnacle of the 1824 Series, read on.

Recap: Whisky Live 2014 Toronto

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On Saturday, October 18, 2014 I attended Whisky Live Toronto at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel. The all-inclusive event featured dozens of booths pouring several whiskies each, a delicious buffet, live entertainment and masterclass sessions available for purchase. The well-attended event seemed mostly geared to those who are new to the world of whisky but there were a few gems available on-site for long-time whisky enthusiasts.

Gordon and MacPhail Tasting at The Dock Ellis

Back in February, when it was obviously too cold to upload pictures to the internet, ScotchBlog hosted a very special tasting led by Derek Hancock and Richard Urquhart of Gordon and MacPhail.  Attendees were treated to Benromach and excellent G&M selections available at the LCBO as well as a cask strength Caol Ila and a spectacular Glen Grant 1966 vintage.  The Dock Ellis chef, Trish Gill applied her sublime talent to the pairings for each glass.  

Please enjoy this photo gallery of the evening. 

Whisky 101: Thursday, December 12, 2013

Have you ever wanted to explore whisky but didn't know where to start? Habits Logo.jpg

Are you a fan of whisky but struggling to figure out which ones will satisfy your taste buds? 

Did you know that whisky can be successfully paired with food so that the dish and the dram compliment each other? 

If you have ever pondered these or any other questions relating to the enjoyment of whisky, then perhaps you should join us at Habits Gastropub on Thursday, December 12th at 8pm as together we will explore 5 different styles of whisky from 5 different countries. Each whisky will be paired with an amuse-bouche custom made by the team that recently won Now Magazine's Readers Choice Award for Best Gastro-Pub and the tasting will be guided by us, but please don't let that scare you. 

Advance tickets are $55 after tax and tip and are available directly from the fine folks at Habits, who can be reached at 416-533-7272. Seating is limited, as are the whiskies, so if you, your friends, or your family are interested then I would recommend picking up the phone sooner rather than later. 

Here's hoping that we see a few friendly faces and many new ones on the 12th, and to everyone regardless of your availability: Slainte! 
On October 31st, 2013 along with The Balvenie distillery and PMA Canada, hosted a tasting at The Spoke Club.

Guests were treated to seven whiskies from the distillery, delicious food pairings with each one, as well as a discussion on cask production and restoration by Ian Macdonald, William Grant and Sons' Master Cooper.

Whiskies sampled were The Balvenie 12 year old DoubleWood with warm dates stuffed with walnuts, the 14 year old Caribbean Cask with wild mushroom strudel & truffle oil, the 17 year old DoubleWood with a grilled cheese sandwich made  5 year old aged cheddar, the 15 year old Single Cask (arguably the belle of the ball) w/ prosciutto wrapped scallops and a roasted apple chutney, the 21 year old PortWood w/ lamb chops, and finally two cask strength barrel samples (1 sherry, 1 bourbon) w/ 85% dark chocolate wrapped cheese cake.

Ian was kind enough to bring a set of cask-making tools to the tasting to aid in describing the processes necessary to keep casks at The Balvenie and Glenfiddich in Dufftown in top whisky-making condition.

A very special thanks to the distillery, Beth at PMA for guiding the tasting, Ian for showing us how casks are kept up, and finally The Spoke Club for providing a beautiful venue and truly fantastic food pairings.

Please enjoy this photo gallery of the evening.

Ontario launch of Highland Park's Loki

On October 29th, 2013, ScotchBlog members attended a tasting of the newest release of Highland Park's limited release Valhalla collection, Loki. The tasting took place at The Loft, located in Toronto's Distillery District. The 10, 12, 18, and 21 year old expressions were also on offer, along with a delicious spread of fine cheeses, warm finger food, and even desserts dressed up as miniature burgers and hotdogs.

Loki's nose features citrus peel with a strong floral character, candied pear and apple, butter cream icing lightly spiced with cardamom, and ginger. No smoke or peat is detectable.

On the palate, Loki shape-shifts to meaty earthy smoke and damp musty leaves, candied fruit sweetness with white pepper and a hint of citrus. No heat and a medium mouthfeel at 48.7% abv.

Finally, the finish is long with woodsmoke, the dried fruit continues, bitter and dry.

Only 50 bottles are available in Ontario at just short of $300. Our attending members were divided in opinion. Loki is a multifaceted expression better sampled in a quiet space over a long period. Its character will evolve, given time in the glass, and different folks will have different opinions. The very brief tasting made Loki difficult to recommend, especially with regard to its price point.

Legacy Lost: The Macallan 1824 Series


Glasses from above.jpgInnovation and diversification of product lines are an integral part of operating any successful business or brand. Careful consideration with thousands of hours of planning, product development, and preparation go into roll-outs, redesigns, and revamps. These are immutable facts for any successful product launch, and steps which must have surely been taken in the lead-up to the unveiling of The Macallan 1824 Series. What leaves me scratching my head is how the entire company and their affiliates could have possibly managed to get it all so very, very wrong

This series is meant to be The Macallan's way forward; replacing their age-statement whiskies and their Cask Strength edition, ultimately becoming the new identity of the brand. However, there is absolutely nothing about this move that smells, tastes, or feels like a step in any direction but backwards. I understand and agree that there is indeed a need for whisky makers to capitalize on the exploding popularity of Scotch whisky by removing age statements to bulk up the amount that can be produced, and therefore sold, by using younger whiskies. What I cannot comprehend is why any whisky maker, let alone one with the global reputation of The Macallan (the validity of which is not being discussed here) would allow such clearly inferior products to bear its name while simultaneously removing the very products that were the foundation of it.

On Thursday, June 20, 2013 we were invited to Toronto's gleaming new luxury hotel, The Shangri-La, to sit down to tuck into Macallan's new line-up of Gold, Amber, Sienna, and Ruby for an evening hosted by their Canadian Brand Ambassador Marc Laverdiere and Stuart MacPherson, Macallan's Master of Wood. 

What could possibly have gone so wrong? Allow me to enlighten you.

Kentucky Trade Mission Bourbon Roundup

This past Wednesday, June 5, we were fortunate to attend a "Celebration of bilateral relationships in trade, investment and travel between Kentucky and Canada." Hosted by the United States Consul General for Toronto, Jim Dickmeyer, and the Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Steven Beshear, the event was a wonderful opportunity for us to connect with the Kentucky Distiller's Association and sample their extensive wares. 

On March 7th, 2013 along with Forty Creek Distillery hosted a tasting at Quinn's Steakhouse and Irish Bar.

Guests were treated to some of Canada's finest whiskies created by local distiller, John Hall, at Forty Creek Distillery in Grimsby, Ontario.

The tasting started with three single-grain whiskies: 100% rye paired with spiced fruit, 100% barley with sharp Guinness cheddar, and 100% corn with spicy corn dip and tortillas. None of these whiskies are available for sale as John insists of selling only blends.

The tasting moved on to Forty Creek's bottles: Barrel Select paired with a sweet and sour beef meatball, Copper Pot with chili orange toffee and figs, Confederation Oak Reserve with smoked pork belly and raspberry bbq sauce, and finally the very limited Port Wood Reserve with a custom R&R dark chocolate ganache with rum-soaked raisins.

John led nothing less than a masterclass on how he makes his whisky, his motivations for establishing the distillery, and ruminations about the industry in general.

A very special thanks to Kelly and Quinn's for the expertly prepared food pairings!

Thanks very much to all who attended. Please enjoy this photo gallery of the evening.

And Now for Something Completely Different...


It has been over a month since our last guest tasting and reader meet-up, so the time has come to break this streak. On Thursday, March 7th we will be hosting another special evening of whisky and food frivolity, and this time we're going home. 

A week from today, we and our guests will have the privilege of getting to know Canada's premier independent distillery in much greater detail as the one and only John Hall takes us on a deep dive into all that is Forty Creek. Now many of you may be thinking: this is ScotchBlog and that's not Scotch whisky. You're right, and that's the point. Over the past few years this distillery has been one of the leaders of the resurgence of Canadian whisky at home and abroad, so we felt it was only fair that if we were going to see what all the hype was about, that we should share it with as many people as we can. 

So next Thursday 40 people will be treated to 7 whiskies including the raw components that John uses in creating his signature expressions. As always, each whisky will be paired with food selected to accentuate the flavours in the glass and the cost will include the whisky and the food. 

Just what is the cost? Merely $42. 

How do you secure your spot? Well, to your right you'll see how to "Contact Us" to let us know that you want to attend. 

If you end up on the waiting list, don't panic. There are always a few last minute shuffles as life often tends to throw a few plans askew, and for those of you that don't happen to make it, but want to be added to our "advance notice list" for future events, that would also be the way to get on that list. Our advance notice list always receives the first right of refusal for seats prior to these posts, and I promise you: we don't send spam emails. 

On behalf of everyone at ScotchBlog, we look forward to sharing a memorable night of Canadian whisky wonder with you. 

On January 24th, 2013, along with Gordon & MacPhail hosted a tasting at Quinn's Steakhouse and Irish Bar.

Guests were treated to five single-malts casked and matured by Gordon & MacPhail, two made by the company's distillery, Benromach, and finally their whisky liqueur, Dunkeld Atholl Brose.

Single malts included Bladnoch '93 with a spicy chocolate, Allt-A-Bhainne '96 with an orange BBQ pulled pork slider, Craigellachie '93 with a Thai vegetable rice wrap and chili dipping sauce, Mortlach 15YO with oxtail truffled mash sheppard's pie, Benromach 30YO with a coconut shrimp and spicy dipping sauce, Aultmore '00 with a vanilla poached pear, and Benromach 10YO with a raisin and cashew butter tart.

The tasting was led by Gordon & MacPhail's managing director, Michael Urquhart, who provided some of the most in-depth distillery and expression discussion we've ever experienced. The evening could only be described as a master class.

Thanks very much to all who attended. Please enjoy this photo gallery of the evening.

Wednesday November 7th, 2012, along with the Bruichladdich distillery hosted a tasting at Quinn's Steakhouse and Irish Bar.

Guests were treated to six single malt whiskies made by Bruichladdich including the Octomore Comus 4.2, the worlds most heavily peated whisky, and the Black Art 2. Each whisky was paired with a dish including a lamb and Ermite blue cheese poutine, and a Mincemeat tart.  

Thanks to everyone who attended and made it such a pleasure.  We hope you enjoy this photo gallery of the evening.

Alberta Premium Dark Horse Launch at Turf Lounge

Alberta Premium Dark Horse
On October 3rd, ScotchBlog was invited to celebrate Alberta Premium's launch of their new Dark Horse whisky. The location for the event was the appropriately selected off-track wagering restaurant Turf Lounge in downtown Toronto. Mingling with the crowd after arriving, we were treated to cocktails of Alberta Premium with fruit juice and orange bitters. A seemingly unending parade of hors d'oeuvres followed, and a waiter was even so kind as to make an extra cocktail for one of our members who felt that one just wasn't enough. We also had a few minutes prior to the tasting to have a brief chat with our tasting guide for the evening as well as author, Davin de Kergommeaux. Davin has recently released a book titled Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert which provides a detailed, authoritative, and well-written resource on all things Canadian Whisky.

Once seated, we had the opportunity to sample the standard Alberta Premium expression quickly followed by the star of the evening: Dark Horse. Visually, the Dark Horse is extremely interesting: A dark brown with a reddish hue. This sparked a discussion as to whether colouring had been added. While we didn't find out the answer to that specific question, we did find out that an extremely small percentage of the make-up of this whisky is actual sherry, allowed due to a little-known regulation that permits Canadian whisky to have up to 9.09% of its content composed of non-whisky additives. There is also a small amount of bourbon-style corn whisky added, but the bulk of this heavy hitting drink is rye - a staggering 91% rye in fact. While it's rare to see a Canadian Whisky with a rye content that high, it also gives the taster a unique insight into the rich, bold flavours that the grain can impart.

On Thursday July 12th, 2012 Habits Gastropub, in association with, hosted a whisky tasting. Five whiskies from four countries were paired with a delicious assortment of gourmet dishes. The menu can be seen here.


Recent Comments

  • Gerald Eddy commented on McClelland's Single Malt Scotch Whisky - Islay:

    I've read many reviews if this whiskey that condemn it as an unfavorable dram. I agree that as a peated Islay it can't compare to a Laphroig or an Ardbeg. However, despite the lack of complexities of those great single malts, at a third if the cost it will do nicely if your a Scotch whiskey drinker. It is a bit sweet, but it has peaty overtone to their other malts and has a nice vanilla and banana flavor as well.'s not a great whiskey, but it is palatable on a budget and is better then a lot if blends at a lower price. I would rather spend my money on this the a Johnny Walker Red which lacks any complexity and is far overrated.

  • Blair Conrad commented on Via Allegro: An Afternoon of Fine Food and Speyside Malts:

    Wow. This is amazing.

    I have a hard time pairing whisky with food as I normally just want to taste the whisky. :)

    However this makes me want to try it more and more. By the way that lamb looks like roadkill. That's definitely a man's meal.

    Fantastic blog. Keep it going, we appreciate your work.

  • Michael commented on Craigellachie 13 year old:

    I opened mine many months ago, just for a taste. Found it off putting and bitter for the first couple of samples. Skip ahead to the summer, after a few months of breathing new air, this is a different whisky. I look forward to pouring this one now, definitely worth the patience.

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