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WHISKY!!

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I've got two bottles of Glenlivet going, one a 15 year old and the other a 12 year old, both down to the last mouthfull. I'll decide what to replace them with when I get to the LCBO.

Generally though, Oban is my favorite Scotch. I like Lagavulin also.

I'm also running pretty low on my bottle of Wiser's Reserve (2 inches left on the bottle). I think I may replace it with a bottle of CC. It's been a while.

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Nice Topic Brad.

I've just polished off an 18-year old Talisker that I bought at the House of Scotch shop in Heathrow. It was acceptable but way way way too smoky for my taste. I'd previously had some 10-year talisker and bought this vintage because I'd thought the smoke would mellow but in fact it was really strong.

When I was in Ireland I tried a couple of Irish whiskeys - nothing too exciting but maybe I didn't hit onto the right thing.

I keep Glenmorangie around the house for general consumption but I'd love a few suggestions (Brad, anyone) for something with an aggressive nose but that's not as woody and smoky as what I've had in Talisker.

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I've just polished off an 18-year old Talisker that I bought at the House of Scotch shop in Heathrow. It was acceptable but way way way too smoky for my taste. I'd previously had some 10-year talisker and bought this vintage because I'd thought the smoke would mellow but in fact it was really strong.

I saw a three-pack of 200mL Taliskers, one each of three different variations (10-year-old, 18-year-old, sherry finish; something like that) that I've been meaning to pick up, as Talisker isn't one I have in my cabinet right now.

I keep Glenmorangie around the house for general consumption but I'd love a few suggestions (Brad, anyone) for something with an aggressive nose but that's not as woody and smoky as what I've had in Talisker.

The Balvenie Double Wood is nice. There are also other Glenmorangies you can get, like a port-finish (i.e., the last couple of years of aging are in old port wine casks), sherry-finish, and (IIRC) a Medeira-finish. If you like Glenmorangie, you might try one of those for something that's based on what you like, but is a little different from it at the same time.

Aloha,

Brad

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I've got another Bruichladdich on the go right now: distilled 23.3.79, bottled 2.96. Compared to the 28-year-old, it's a little harsher/sharper, with a more medicinal quality to it. This would be a really good "intro" Islay malt, I think, as it's not as much of a peat bog / seaweed / smoke assault as, say, Lagavulin is.

Aloha,

Brad

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I saw the port/madeira/sherry finishes the other day at the rideau LCBO, I might give those a try.

Where can you go to sample some of these brands before buying? I noticed that the manx has a pretty good selection of scotches...anywhere else in town?

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The 1979 Bruichladdich (bottled 2.1996) is my new favourite; if it were more readily available (which it isn't; it's a Signatory bottling), I might make my preferred default whisky. (It's a little thinner, a little sharper, than my usual favourte, Lagavulin.)

Aloha,

Brad

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Which of the two mass-market straight-malt whiskies, Glenlivet and Glenfiddich, does everybody prefer? I think Glenfiddich is a little "fuller" tasting, but the Glenlivet has a nice "sharp" edge to it.

Aloha,

Brad

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from the G&M– sacrilege if you ask me but whatever, I'm not one for "cocktailing":

I expected tartan, tassels and heady aromas at the single-malt "nosing" last week. What I didn't expect was mint juleps.

"These are very good," said a kilt-clad Charles MacLean, the Edinburgh-based author of nine whisky books, as we chatted over cocktails prior to his Scotch whisky tutorial at Toronto's Massey College. "You can really taste The Glenrothes." The Glenrothes would be the single-malt brand whose local agent helped sponsor the evening, held partly in support of the Scholars-at-Risk program, which assists academic refugees in Canada.

Single malt sitting in for pedestrian U.S. corn "likker" (aka bourbon) in a mint julep? Charles MacLean's imprimatur? It turns out Massey College, a Hogwarts-meets-1960s-modernism residence for University of Toronto graduate students, was - perhaps for the first time - on trend.

Scotch, in case you haven't noticed, has doffed its kilt.

"There's a trend in using whiskies, even malt whiskies, in cocktails," said Mr. MacLean, who had just returned from China, where he said the craze is to drink Scotch with chilled, sweetened green tea.

There is a resurgence in Scotch mixology and it's not limited to faded classics such as the Rob Roy and Scotch and soda.

Bill Sweete, a veteran Toronto sommelier who, with a partner, recently opened Sidecar Bar and Grill on the College Street strip of Little Italy, unveiled this week what he calls "Scotch marmalade," a homemade infusion of cardamom, star anise, cinnamon and orange peel in a base of Johnnie Walker Red Label.

"It infused beautifully into the Scotch and the Scotch flavour comes through," said Mr. Sweete, who recommends it on the rocks or, for a more diluted drink, as a highball with club soda.

And whisky makers have predictably jumped on the Scotch-tail bandwagon - or race car, as the case may be. During last weekend's Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, Diageo, the multinational whose bestselling Johnnie Walker brand sponsors the McLaren-Mercedes Formula One racing team, borrowed a page from the vodka marketing playbook.

Its featured drink at numerous venues around the city and at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve was the Johnnie Walker Black Mojito, a variant of the Cuban highball traditionally made with lowly white Caribbean rum, only in this case using its, gulp, premium Black Label whisky.

"That's what consumers are saying, 'Surprise me,' " said Michele D'Angelo, director of brown spirits for Diageo Canada. "In order to stay current, in order to be relevant, in order to fit in people's lives, you have to surprise consumers, and definitely part of that is cocktailing." The makeover appears to be working. The Edinburgh-based Scotch Whisky Association recently reported that Scotch exports reached a second consecutive record high in 2007, at L 2.8-billion ($5.6-billion), up 14 per cent from the previous year. And not all of that growth is coming from emerging-thirst markets in Asia and Eastern Europe, nor from rarefied single malts, which still make up a small fraction of demand.

The brightest spot is in deluxe-blended whiskies, superpremium extensions of bestselling, smooth-drinking big label brands such as Johnnie Walker. They include a foursome of Johnnie Walker whiskies - Black, Gold, Green and Blue Label - as well as several high-end bottlings of Chivas Regal, itself a status blended Scotch at $40-plus for the regular 12-year-old. Many of the deluxe brands cost as much as, or more than, the average single malt. Johnnie Walker Blue, for example, costs $239.95 in Ontario and $229.95 in British Columbia for a 750-millilitre bottle.

Chivas Regal 18 Year Old costs $84.45 in Ontario, $89.95 in British Columbia.

"There is definitely a resurgence in premium blended whisky," said Stephane Cote, director of sales for Corby Distilleries Ltd.

for Ontario, whose brands include Chivas. "We have seen it especially over the last three years." Tapping the trend is a brand launched in the United States last year called Chivas Regal 25 Year Old, set to cost about $330 when it gets its Canadian launch in Ontario this fall. Officially, the inspiration was to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first shipment of Chivas whisky to North America in 1909. That first whisky was a 25-year-old.

Dewar's also added a superpremium blend called Signature several years ago for about $200 a bottle.

Blended Scotch, though sometimes dismissed by newbie malt aficionados, represents more of a difference in style than quality. Single malts are made exclusively from malted barley, which is moistened to the point of germination and eventually dried using smoke, which imparts flavour. They're also made in small batches in a single distillery.

Typically, single malts have an assertive, individualistic flavour.

Blended Scotch, by contrast, can be made from unmalted barley and usually contains a mix of lighter-tasting grains, such as wheat and corn. The result, typically a combination of whiskies sourced from up to several dozen distilleries, is almost always a smoother, softer, rounder beverage, but arguably just as complex.

Single malts continue to fetch the most stratospheric prices, however. Today, for example, in time for obscene Father's Day gift-giving, the LCBO in Ontario is releasing a mere 12 bottles of something called The Glenlivet Eclipse. Guaranteed not to be sold anywhere else except at the distillery in Scotland, the single-barrel, 300-bottle rarity, aged 21 years, is named after a solar eclipse on May 31, 2003, that was visible from the distillery. Price: $1,000 a bottle.

If single malts are analogous to the highly individualistic red wines of tiny Burgundy domaines - all made from just one grape, pinot noir - blended Scotches are more like red Bordeaux. In Bordeaux, the chateaux typically produce much larger quantities of wine blended from a variety of grapes, including cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc.

Personally, I would take a smoky Islay single malt such as Lagavulin or Ardbeg most days over a blended brand, just as I would a red Burgundy over a Bordeaux. But that's just me.

"I drink blended whisky for pleasure," Mr. MacLean told me. "Malt whisky for me is something of a job. I would have a malt whisky if I was entertaining, usually at the end of the meal, and maybe pull out three or four to demonstrate differences and for a talking point. But if I'm just drinking for pleasure, I would drink blended whisky by and large." ***** Drams for Dad THE GLENROTHES SELECT RESERVE 59.45 in Ontario; as high as $86 in British Columbia The attractively pudgy, medicinal-style bottle alone will make an impression. From a large distiller in Speyside considered top class as a supplier to large blending houses, this single malt - pronounced glen-ROTH-ehz - delivers characteristic Speyside sweetness.

Aged partly in sherry casks from Spain, it's round and weighty, with assertive fruit supported by a rich cereal base and a big note of vanilla. Think Raisin Bran with rum instead of milk. WHYTE & MACKAY 13 YEAR OLD $42.60 in Ontario New to Ontario, this so-called "double-marriage blend" is made using an old-style method. A selection of 12-year-old malt whiskies spend their 13th year "marrying" in sherry casks. After the 13th year, the malted whiskies are "married" again, this time to a selection of grain-based whiskies. If Dad is on his second wife and has a sense of self-deprecating humour about it, this Scotch could make a fun and decadent gift. Rich and fleshy, it's a buxom blend showing hints of wood spice, nuts and fruitcake. Attractive silver label on a classic-looking bottle.

JOHNNIE WALKER GOLD LABEL $89.95 in Ontario; $90.95 in British Columbia Aged 18 years. Bold character for a blended whisky. Notes of smoky peat, heather and spice. The distiller has been promoting an unusual serving method for this whisky: Put it in the freezer, then try with dark chocolate or, as whisky writer Charles MacLean suggests, chocolate pudding. But give it a good, long chill of about 24 hours.

The spirit will get thick and syrupy without freezing. Serve it in freezer-chilled shot glasses, preferably ones with stems.

Beppi Crosariol

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On the advice of my brother, I picked up a bottle of the 8-year-old Dun Bheagan Islay (LCBO product code 576397). It's really good, maybe not as rich and balanced as, say, Lagavulin, but it's only $50/bottle, whereas Lagavulin is $125/bottle.

Aloha,

Brad

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