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- Pear and tellegio cheese soup paired with a Speyside single malt
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- A mini Scotch egg using a quail egg wrapped in in-house smoked trout paired with an Irish whiskey
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- By calling them directly at 416-533-7272 and using your credit card over the phone.
- By going to the venue and paying in person.
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...
Although this doesn't really come as a surprise, two British gentlemen have put to the test whether a new make spirit, fresh from distillation has enough energy to actually power a car. They use a Bruichladdich x4 distilled spirit to power a high-performance race car. Their results are demonstrated in this YouTube video
We arrived to a narrow gallery space nearly filled with people. Between pours of Knob Creek, Baker's, Basil Hayden and Booker's we learned from Matt that the new edition of Maker's is made by placing the spirit in modified finishing barrels containing 10 charred French Oak staves for an additional five to eleven weeks.
On my final day in Boston last week I had the great fortune to stumble upon a place at least equally worth a visit as any of the historical sites the city has to offer. Especially if you are a fan of whisky or wine.
Located at 29 State Street (near the corner of State and Congress Street), and tucked into a corner of the building, Federal Wine and Spirits is a tiny shop that most would dismiss when just looking through the window. Aisles that at first glance appear too tight, shelves that look ready to give way due to the sheer volume on them, and a nearly hidden staircase to the wine cellar in the back give the impression that you might want to keep walking. Do not give in to this impulse in any way!
Once inside I had further luck in meeting manager Joe Howell (a man even more unassuming than the fantastic vault he curates) and begin a near 90 minute discussion of all that Federal had to offer. After a brief chat about what we all must suffer through here in Ontario with regard to the LCBO's monopoly on the market and big-box store view to overall customer service, Joe proceeded to offer up a quick 3 dram tasting flight to aid me in my decision making.
Beginning with a Springbank 14 year old, it's peaty-citrus smoothness was just about the perfect warm up dram given that we'd just gone past noon. After mentioning that I was on the hunt for something from a closed distillery and a little more on the upper side of 15 years old, Joe treated me to a 21 year old Mortlach from Gordon & MacPhail. Beginning with the faintest sherry nose, a couple minutes of hand warming spurred the whisky to explode into cereal, honey, and leather with a spectacularly long finish. Although delicious, this Mortlach was not quite what I was looking for.
While sipping my way through these first two, I began to realise that any solo attempt to navigate the selection on offer would be nothing short of daunting. Carrying well over 200 different single malts, most of which are precariously perched on the upper shelves thoroughout the store, it is without hyperbole that I can assert that this is Boston's single malt Mecca. With that in mind, I strongly encourage anyone planning to take the time to dig through the selection in house to first call ahead and chat with Joe and to plan your visit in advance during off-peak hours. For, as much as I wish it would be, this is not the place where one can go "crate digging" the way we used to when hunting for a rare record.
After finishing off the Mortlach, and still pondering my next move, Joe presented me with the option I would ultimately settle on: a 1991 Gordon & MacPhail 17 year old cask strength Rosebank. Sipping on it now while writing this, I can say that I am thoroughly pleased with my decsion to make the purchase without sampling it and, fear not, the review will be up in the not too distant future.
Now just because I'd settled on a purchase, one might assume that my time in the store would end. But no. For while discussing the wine selection, the mechanics of operations, and all of the different tasting events offered, Joe completed the trifecta by offering up a sample of Laphroaig's astonishing 30 year old expression. Now I'm a big fan of the peaty, smokey Islay malts, and I'm obviously prone to being overly verbose at times, but this was just ... wow. Stunning. Find it. Buy it. Enjoy it. I cannot wait to have it again and if it were not for Canada's customs limits on bringing back spirits, this bottle would have come with me.
After finishing off this idol of Islay, I took a few more minutes to discuss and explore. Some other elements of note at Federal Wine and Spirits:
- Pre-ordering whiskies prior to their arrival is not only an option, but encouraged.
- Wednesday nights feature regular free wine tastings. Be sure to call ahead.
- The wine selection is both hidden downstairs and astonishing
In closing, I must say that Boston was already one of my favourite cities in the United States due to its fantastic food, incredible history, and the delightfully friendly demeanor of its denizens. But now, I've got one more reason to return as soon as possible.