As improbable as it seems, the cool weather is quickly descending upon us. So a much needed respite from the chilly air for me is undoubtedly, a fine glass of whisky in hand. But I'll be the first to admit that it took time for me to appreciate the velvety coil of flavours that unravel in each varietal.
And I'm still learning.
What certainly helped in my progression was a whisky tasting hosted by Corby Wine and Spirit. They assembled a league of experts and ambassadors to explain each whiskey's inception; but more importantly, how detect and savour each type.
Of the six types I tried, there were two majestic standouts I recommend you have on hand for upcoming holidays and gatherings.
The first was J.P. Wiser's Hopped ($28.95 CDN, available now in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.) .
Dr. Don Livermore, Master Blender, (J.P. Wiser's, Hiram Walker Distillery - Gooderham & Worts, J.P. Wiser's Double Still Rye and J.P. Wiser's Hopped) was particularly helpful in navigating the varietals he champions.
With its lustrous amber colour, to me, it was the rebel of the bunch for its astonishing taste. That is, bravo hops (yes, typically used for beer) is added to the blend and provides an undertone of bitterness that rounds out the grain blend: the corn for sweetness, the salty/spice kick from the rye, and the sourness from the mash. The flavours on the tongue were reminiscent to a soft chocolate malt. Like a bouquet, as it blooms, you transition from citrus notes to the coffee-chocolate flavours. If you're new to whisky, this is an ideal choice because it is not too aggressive on the palate. It's also party friendly (think of Thanksgiving) and definitely a conversation starter.
At the opposite end of the spectrum -- and for purists out there -- my heart also lingered over the 12-year-old Aberlour ($59.95, at the LCBO). A sunshine hue with traces of ruby, it is a sensuously silky drink.
Frank Biskupek, Scotch whisky brand ambassador for the Glenlivet Founder's Reserve and Aberlour 12YO, cites that Aberlour's flavours stem from the soft spring water it gets from the River Spey. Aberlour then takes its single malt and utilizes double cask maturation. The whisky is divided; one is matured in ex-sherry butts and the other in ex-bourbon casks. Once aged separately for a length of time, when it's time for bottling, they are melded together. What results from the blend is a sophisticated melange of flavours and textures. At first, you get a vibration on the tongue with a delicate apple fruitiness. Then it is followed with a lingering finish of chocolate, toffee and warm spices. It's downright sublime. Also, Biskupek says that you are allowed to take the edge off with a bit of water (added directly to your drink), if desired. If you choose to tame the alcohol, you can detect the flavours more prominently.
Some additional take home points about key ingredients used in whisky from Dr. Don Livermore that I feel are worth mentioning:
- Rye brings forth warm spices and that heat you get in your chest. It's commonly found in Canadian whiskies.
- Corn, which is typically found in American Bourbon, adds a sweet & bready component to whiskies.
- Citrus notes comes from the yeast used to create the whisky.
- Barley is typically used in single malt scotch; malted barley must only be used to receive the designation of a Scotch whisky.
As Jon Snow would declare, "winter is coming", so I suggest you arm yourself with these liquid libations.
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