Since my return from the UK in mid- October, I have been busy with many whisky events.
From full six course dinners with the Tomatin range of single malts, to whisky & cheese pairings and many in-store promotions.
A question asked for many years is what’s the best age to buy a single malt? I am convinced its 18 years old and actually many are better than an older expression for a fraction of the cost we pay for the old and rare malts available.
If you are a collector its fine to have thirty or forty year old whisky in your collection and if you don’t open the bottle a sound investment. However, most of us would like to drink our whisky and especially over the holidays.
The only problem buying an 18-year-old is seeking value for money. My top four based on global pricing and quality value ratio are:
Tomatin 18 $ 130 Top quality Oloroso sherry butts 85% 1st fill 15% refill.
Taste: Honey, chocolate, citrus and sweet finish.
Glenmorangie $ 135.82 Matured in both ex bourbon and sherry casks, this is a much fuller and creamier a malt than the 10-year-old. Taste: Exotic fruits, creamy and honey.
Bowmore 18 $ 139.99 Taste: Dark fruits, peaty smoke, orange and a touch of chocolate.
Glenfiddich 18 $ 149.98. Matured in ex bourbon and oloroso casks. Taste: Dried fruits, toffee and ginger.
I see no reason to go over $ 150 in Nova Scotia for a fine 18-year-old single malt and you should find this is true in most countries.
Happy Holidays everyone.
Yes, you can enjoy Gin all year round!
While gin & tonic still makes up 90% of gin sales, that is slowly changing. If you live in Spain where gin is king, one can enjoy a G & T anytime. However, here in Canada or the UK, where winter can be so cold a warmer drink is far more enjoyable. The answer – change the tonic for a good Ginger Ale or Ginger Beer depending on the cocktail.
One of my favorites is ” The Buck.” See picture above.
Make the same proportion you do with a G &T with a good Ginger Ale. Fever Tree EG or a less expensive Ginger Ale would be Sussex made in New Brunswick. Add a slice of lemon and try it with the traditional predominately Juniper London Dry Gins.
Beefeater would be fine or if you prefer craft gins, Sipsmiths or Portobello Road would work well.
Also, experience with various styles of gin with food. I like lots of curries in the winter and either a gin neat or a mixer with ginger ale would be a great paring for curry.
I had the pleasure to visit the Ginstitute in London recently. It was a Saturday which means market day down Portobello Road. It’s been quite some time since I last saw so many thousands of people one on street and making my way to # 186 Portobello Road took some doing weaving through the lines of tourists.
The Masterclass began with a presentation on the history of gin and follows quite closely to my Gin Experience classes. I did find more G T’s and cocktails than mine however, we didn’t have the opportunity to nose and taste the gin neat. Not a problem in this instance, since they would of course be pouring exclusively their very own Portobello Road, which is so versatile with any cocktail. This gin has become very popular in Nova Scotia.
Part two of the class was creating your own gin and this is was the highlight of my visit. I had no idea how one could blend their own gin in such a small amount of time.
They distill batches of the four base botanicals that should be in all gins and predominately junipers along with Coriander, Angelica Root and Orris Root.
They have 24 more botanicals to choose from which are broken up into categories. Citrus, Spice, Floral and Herbs.
The amazing part here is all 24 have been distilled separately to 52 ABV and you nose and taste each one and decide on your favorites to be added to the four base botanicals. A hard job, but someone has to do it!
I had gone with a recipe in mind, which we all decided on from the Gin Experience classes. However, the choice and surprising taste of this wide variety of botanicals made me change my mind quite often through the process. In the end I had my bottle and the group all got to sample. To be honest, I think it’s the nicest gin on the planet and my recipe is a secret. LOL.
I will say its quite traditional, while there is an unusual element of citrus, the spices give a hint of Turkish Delight on the back of the palate and there is a soft floral nose. Finally, something very Yorkshire shines through on the mid and back of the palate.
I highly recommend you make a visit next time you are in London and of course book my gin tour in September, which includes this remarkable gin experience.
I had the opportunity to present six amazing gins at my first full Gin Dinner earlier this month. The Watch that ends the Night Restaurant, in Dartmouth, offers a wide selection of themed dinners. I had the pleasure of hosting a whisky dinner for them back in May.
With each course, a gin cocktail and a sample of each gin was provided for guests to sample and experience each food pairing.
Citadelle, Ungava, Portobello Road, Gin Mare, The Botanist and Aviation were the super six gins with an array of dishes from shrimp salad, roasted bone marrow to white chocolate and lavender.
One of the unique gins and an absolute super star was Gin Mare paired with Beef Tartare, herbs and apricot marmalade.
Gin Mare is made in a small town in Catalonia, Spain and really is an authentic Mediterranean style gin. From the local botanicals including olives to the slow distillation style, Gin Mare captures this special part of the world.
The botanicals are macerated for up to one year either separately or in combinations prior to distillation. and finally blended together.
The nose is predominantly rosemary, basil and thyme before the junipers appear. On the palate citrus fruits wrapped around a variety of herbal notes, with a hint of marmalade on the finish.
Gin Mare is almost sold out in Nova Scotia however, it will be back and available in many stores in early 2019.
Don’t judge a book by its cover!
Ungava is a golden color, which is quite unique in the world of gin.
However, its not a compound gin like the flavored gins of the past nor do they add artificial flavorings at the end of distillation.
So many new gins today have taken a new direction away from the typical London Dry Gin Style. Basically, to be considered a London Dry it must be predominately Junipers with nothing added after distillation.
Hendricks were one of the first to move away from this style with Cucumber and Rose Hips being infused after distillation.
Today, many from North America are not your typical gin.
Ungava gin is quite similar where they use six artic plants in their botanical recipe and are included both before distillation and infused after which gives the gin the wonderful golden color.
Ungava is incredibly smooth with lots of fruit, sweet spices and a hint of tea from the Labrador tea plant in the botanicals. Nordic Junipers, Labrador Tea, Crowberry, Cloudberry, and wild Rose Hips are part of the botanical recipe
If you prefer a sweeter gin and tonic, then this will work although I would prefer with a Negroni. 2 parts Ungava to one part each of Campari and Vermouth.
The Ungava peninsular is so far north and close to the most northern point of Quebec and home to the Inuit people.
The artic plants are handpicked and distilled at Domaine Pinnacle distillery in Quebec. This is truly an all Canadian product.
Available in most NSLC stores at the affordable price of $ 34.99
I often describe the location and the local characteristics of a distillery in my whisky tastings, where its possible to detect the local elements and nuances, in each glass.
Could this be true with certain gins?
I believe Glendalough from Ireland is a gin that really captures the scenic beauty of their location in the Wicklow Mountains, south of Dublin and known as the “Garden of Ireland.”
Glendalough made our Fab Four finalists from over 18 gins tasted in the Gin Experience class series. This had to be in part due to our love of floral notes on gins and this is at the top of the floral scale, along with the likes of The Botanist from Islay.
All the botanicals are hand-picked in the area close to the distillery and up in the mountains.
Fresh spring notes on the nose with Junipers, citrus and subtle pine. The palate is an array of summer flowers including heather and elderflowers, with autumn fruits developing and a tad of spice and liquorice on the finish.
This would fall under Modern Traditional.
Sipping: 5.0. An absolute stunner! Add four drops of water, close your eyes and imagine smelling that first spring shower, where all the flowers in your garden wake up from the winter.
G & T: 4.0 Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic will be a perfect match. A lemon garnish or pink grapefruit.
I had the pleasure of visiting Compass Distillery in Halifax this past Sunday.
My goal was to listen to the guy that actually makes gin! No matter how many courses, research and sampling one can do in our busy lives, having a perspective from the creators is always icing on the cake.
The first thing that struck me was their pot still. They have a column still to make vodka, which is far more authentic than many distilleries that buy neutral spirit in bulk. In fact, the UK must do this due to some alcohol tax law!
So, once they have vodka, a portion of the distillate can be used for making gin. At 95% ABV it will be reduced to 31% with water and the botanical added. Except in the case of their Hybrid still not all the botanicals will be steeped.
Some will be placed in the vapor basket. This is fairly unique and much like a combo of traditional gin making with an element of Bombay Sapphire distilling techniques.
On top of the onion style still was a short column still leading to the vapor basket. All of this produces a well-balanced gin with finesse. They will take their cut at approx. 75% ABV however, its done more by smell rather that the ABV reading. Finally, it will be brought down to between 40-45% and bottled for our enjoyment.
After the first hour in the still room it was time to move to the tasting room for a wide variety of gins. Along with their regular gin, which uses Italian Junipers, the Wild was available to taste with a good dose of Junipers on the nose & palette all picked in Nova Scotia.
My absolute favorite part of the tasting was the two aged gins. The first had spent four months in new American Oak cask. This would be without any bourbon being matured in the cask however, it would still be charred providing the usual vanilla, toffee tastes one would find on a single malt.
To be honest, I found it lacked presence of a traditional Juniper forward gin and moved on to the lighter colored second gin. WOW! This is the future in gin. Same cask now refilled. Refill casks are used often in aging single malt whisky.
Some of the cask elements had disappeared to be replaced by gin botanicals with just hint of the oak, burnt toffee and caramel.
This was basically a gin with a hint of a single malt whisky and this could quite easily become common practice and enjoyed by many gin enthusiasts in the future.
The final hour was spent with Jordan at the bar. He made and explained many gin cocktails and had the group totally in awe.
What a great Sunday afternoon and thanks to all the staff.
A new style gin from the North-West of the USA. Aviation Gin shines if you don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the “What is a London Dry Gin?”
For centuries the London style has been 90 % or more of the gins we enjoy. One of the requirements under EU regulations is the gin must be predominantly Junipers.
The interpretation of predominately Junipers is rather loose and I prefer the main regulation – nothing can be added once distillation occurs.
While its not my cup of tea, if my mind is set on a traditional gin, I completely understand why this gin is so popular with the new wave of gin drinkers.
Canadian movie idol Ryan Reynolds on drinking his first Aviation Gin announced “this my favorite gin I have to buy the company.” He’s now a major shareholder!
Its priced very well in the Canadian market.
I was eager to detect sarsaparilla, which reminded me of “Sugarfoot” an old western TV series where the cowboy was a Tea- Totaller. Rather than the typical “give me a rye,” he asked for sarsaparilla! I found it on the palate rather than the nose.
Our group either scored it low or high with a 50-50 split.
We found the aroma a tad strong, although its only 42%. Lots of orange and lavender on the nose with only a touch of junipers however, the sarsaparilla and mint appeared on the palate. The finish provided a good dollop of spices.
In my twenty years of being around some amazing scotch enthusiasts that can detect and describe aromas that would boggle your mind, one of our ladies in the group described Aviation with a description I have never heard.
“This tastes pleasantly of plastic, like a new Barbie Doll on Christmas Morning.”
In the Not Really Gin Category
G & T” 4.0 The Mediterranean Fever Tree Tonic with an orange garnish. Now this may not be a thirst quencher on the deck in the summer. However, it will be amazing in the winter and you know I advocate drinking gin all year round!
Martini: 3.5 It would be quite spicy.
Play around with Aviation. It’s a crowd pleaser for the new gin set.
They do say if you love Scotch Whisky you will love and appreciate a good gin. The Grants family (Glenfiddich & Balvenie) seem to agree! A stunning gin from Bonnie Scotland with hints of cucumber and flowers, with a big mouthfeel. The distillery uses two stills for their botanicals recipe. Both identical recipes but, distilled separately in a Cadenhead still and a 19th centaury still. The result is wonderful.
Nose: Fresh & floral, with sweet lime & light spices
Palate: Smooth, with rose & sweet citrus
Finish: Long & floral, with rose
Botanicals: Juniper, Rose Petals, Cucumber, Coriander, Angelica Root, Orris Root, Orange Peel, Lemon Peel, Cubeb Berries, Grains of Paradise, Caraway Seeds, Elderflower, Yarrow, Chamomile
Key Flavours: Juniper, Cucumber, Rose
I put this gin in the “Not really” Category, since the cucumber notes seem more prominent than junipers.
Sipping 4.5: Just add four drops of water for an amazing tasting experience.
G & T. 3.5. I would recommend a Fever tree Elderflower Tonic. Otherwise with regular tonic its not going to balance up too well.
Martini 3.5 I would have the bartender make a more modern cocktail that works better with Hendricks.
While being a relatively new distillery opening in 2009, this gin is traditional with plenty of Junipers and pine cone aromas.
Sipsmiths was very well received at our class last week and almost scored the same as Tanqueray 10.
On the nose and palate, lots of juniper with floral notes and spice. Big creamy mouthfeel.
G & T: 3.5 I would experiment with the range of Fever tree Tonic flavors. The score is based on a regular Indian tonic however, the Fever tree Mediterranean style may push the score to 4.0
Martini: While we didn’t have an opportunity to try this gin with a martini, the group and I are convinced this would be perfect. 5.0