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Month: March 2016

Spring into Whisky | Blog #121

What an amazingly nice Winter we have had here in Alberta and it feels like we are in for an early Spring this year. My thoughts always start turning to time on the deck and some delicious drams paired with a great cigar. Almost time for me to put away the Islay for a few months and reach for those dreamy drams that promise floral, honey and sweet spices.

I truly love all the diversity that whisky brings and am constantly on a bit of a crusade to help others experience all that whisky/ey is.

“I wanted to talk about a home grown Alberta distillery but will hold off until I can have a sample in front of me to review.”

This week, I want to delve a little into what a versatile drink whisky is and why you should have it around your back bar not just for drinking straight but also for mixing and especially for Cocktails.

A lot of whisky friends I know shy away from Cocktails but having experienced how mind boggling they can be, I am always experimenting with ways that I can incorporate good whisky into something new.

I had a recent trip down to One18 Empire at the Calgary Marriott Hotel. They are on a quest to be one of the best whisky bars in Calgary and their Bartender Mike is shaking up a storm when it comes to whisky based cocktails.

One such cocktail that has become a favorite of my wife, he calls the Brilliant Basil. It captures all that is great about more herbaceous and floral whisky and then compliments it in a drink that screams springtime.

Take a couple of ounces of your favorite Rye, preferably Canadian and 100%. Canadian Rye even at 100% tends to be lower on the spice scale than the Southern styles. Add 2 to 3 ounces of simple syrup that has been infused with fresh ginger and pour them both into a cocktail shaker.

“Easy way to make ginger simple syrup is as follows:

8 oz fresh organic ginger root (2 pieces, each about 10 inches long)

2 cups organic sugar – raw sugar is fine although your simple syrup will be darker

2 cups water


Peel the ginger root with a vegetable peeler, and cut into thin rounds.
Bring the sugar and water to a boil over medium high heat.
Add the sliced ginger and bring the mixture back up to a simmer.
Remove from heat and allow to steep for at least 30 minutes.
Strain syrup through fine mesh. Keep ginger in a container for adding later.
Keep the syrup for a month refrigerated in an airtight container.
After adding the simple syrup fill half of the shaker with ice and then add an ounce and a half of fresh lime juice (can be 2 ounces if you want it a bit more zesty)

Now add 3 stalks of organic basil leaves to the shaker and 3 or 4 of the ginger rounds.

Shake the crap out of it as you are effectively muddling the basil using the ice. The more shaking the more basil infusion.

You can now either loosely strain using just the shaker and have small basil bits as part of it (yummier this way) or use a fine strainer for a cleaner looking drink.”

Cindy drinks her Brilliant Basil out of a Samaroli Whisky glass but any long stemmed cocktail glass will work.

Garnish with one basil leaf and away you go.

Just the ticket for that first day outside enjoying the fresh Spring air.

Whisky is truly a versatile drink and I love it in so many forms.

Until next week let me know if you tried a Brilliant Basil and how you liked it.


The Romance Continues | Blog #120

Continuing on with their themed festival bottling’s the guys at Jewish Whisky company collaborated with the Westland Distillery in Seattle (very fitting). These festival whiskies have now become very sought after and collectible and with only 150 bottles available of this expression I know it will go fast.

“This whisky was designed as a follow on from the New York Jewbilee Westland Single Malt which was a vatting of 4 casks using 100% Washington Barley, Peated barley and Westlands unique 5 barley mashbill.”

At the time of bottling  for New York Westland filled 100 liters of the vatting into a 1st fill Bourbon cask where it has been aging for a further 9 months bringing all the complexity together. One thing for sure the Jewish whisky company guys really think ahead.

Westland Single Malt – bottled at the cask strength of 58.1% and only 150 bottles available.

Colour:     Deep reddish hue

Nose:     Sweet smoked beef jerky and pipe tobacco, makes me long for a cigar on the deck by the BBQ. A big tray of sugared fruit jellies sits in the background.

Palate:     Soft earthy tones and rich dark chocolate swirl around layers of heavy fruit syrup – the kind you have left over after the jar of preserved peaches are gone. It coats the tongue in the same way and is unctuous and chewy.

Finish:     Lingering on with some glazed pineapple and a touch of ginger along with canned mandarin pieces and the continuous hint of underlying earth.

This is a fabulous dram and shows the Westland distillery as a major contender in the craft distilling stakes in the US.

As those of you know that read my blog regularly I love unique whisky/ey and this is a great example of a small distillery making something with care and attention to detail. A big departure from the Chicago bottling which was really crazy but good this Westland harkens back to a somewhat more traditional single malt composition albeit with a unique combination of different barley.

“If the Jewish whisky company continues to nail these fun festival whiskey’s I will be lining up to get my bottle.”

Next festival is the New York original now in it’s 5th year on the 15th June. If you have the chance make sure you get your tickets early as it is always sold out.

With the Single Cask Nation launching into Canada some insider information from a reliable source mentioned that the new new Jewbilee festival could be held in Alberta in 2018. Stay tuned for more.

Next week we will have a taste of something new to Alberta.

Have a great week!


Springtime Seattle Sipping | Blog #119

Heading to Seattle for the inaugural Whisky Jewbilee was an exciting prospect. Especially when you consider that Washington State and particularly Seattle is fast becoming a major whisky hub in the US.

“Over 20 distillers just in the city limits meant that we were sure to experience some innovative and delicious drams during the course of the night.”

Checking into the amazing Arctic Club Hilton Doubletree were we availed ourselves of the fantastic bar and a great selection of local whiskey including J.P. Trodden Bourbon. Wow absolutely delicious. Watch this space.

Held at another cool warehouse district space “Within Sodo” the Jewbilee event boasted 200 whiskies and the best event catered food lineup that I have ever experienced. Cindy and I didn’t have enough time to get around to all the tables but were able to really spend some great time with a few.

Arctic Club Seattle Photo by Kirk Mastin Arctic Club Seattle Photo by Kirk Mastin

Heritage Distilling right in Seattle had some really interesting drams including a 90% Rye aged in a barrel used for aging Vanilla. Really cool stuff! Seattle Distillery had their whiskey front and center and also sneaked their really lovely gin under the table for a lavender infused smoothness that had to be tried to be believed.

With St Patrick’s Day coming up it was apt for us to spend some time at Tullamore Dew table and try out their new release Trinity. Really balanced and delicious, something Cindy instantly loved. Would be a pleasant sipper and make some brilliant cocktails.

A hidden gem under the table by Chris Uhde of JVS was probably the winner of the night. A 24 year old Littlemill from Exclusive Casks. I’m glad that it was my first dram of the night so that I could truly appreciate the depth of this whisky. Thanks Chris! 🙂

“No Jewbilee festival would not be complete without a trip to the Single Cask Nation table where Jason was holding sway with a never ending lineup of festival goers.”

 The Festival bottling was a Single Malt from the Westland Distillery and of course like every other festival bottling there is a real story to be told. Stay tuned next week as I get in depth with it and fill you in on the background and my own tasting notes. Thanks to Jason and Joshua for the bottle as a matching pair to go with my Chicago festival book end. A sherried Bruichladdie and an undisclosed Islay were both new releases (coming to Alberta soon) and both outstanding single casks.

Time to whip upstairs for a cigar from San Juan Cigars of Seattle. Hand Rolled, pressed and dried from premium tobacco these cigars are excellent. We were able to watch a Robusto being made and then added to the press. Unlike other events where people can smoke a freshly rolled cigar that San Juan Cigars considers “unfinished” at Jewbilee they had plenty of options to try these exquisitely made cigars after going through all the stages of careful crafting.

Next time I am in Seattle I might need to grab a box.

“Antiques, crafts, chocolate cherries and of course the amazing seafood and fresh produce found at the markets make a strong case for returning as soon as possible.”

With the whiskey event complete and another day to fill in Seattle Cindy and I checked out some great foodie spots at the Pike Place Markets including World of Spice Merchants (a must visit). Lunch at Place Pigalle restaurant overlooking the sound with some of the best serving staff I have ever experienced was a treat. Fresh Mussels always leaves a good impression.

World Spice Merchants World Spice Merchants

We wrapped up a perfect visit with dinner at the Pink Door where we were entertained with a prohibition era trio that were incredibly talented.

The Pink Door Restaurant The Pink Door Restaurant

Thanks Jason and Joshua for including Seattle in your Jewbilee schedule we are hoping we can make it an annual trip.

Next week as promised the Westland festival bottling by Single Cask Nation.

Until then…


Cover photo by Scott Gardner

When whisky is just not enough | Blog #118

“My wife Cindy and I recently came back from what is becoming the most intense and fun few weeks of the year.”

The task of choosing 25 unique whiskies for our Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar just got more exciting with the addition of a new product this year that required some additional hard work for the old taste buds.

“The time spent with our friends at Wemyss, A.D. Rattray and Malt Whisky Company to mull over the carefully selected lists of amazing drams was a treat.”

Our journeys took us from London to Edinburgh and then across Scotland to Glasgow, Kirkoswald and Stirling.  We are adding some extra sources for whisky this year and all will be revealed as we get closer to the release date. I must say that it’s fun to have some time behind the wheel on the left hand side of the road and despite the odd torrential downpour the weather was very kind to us as we wove our way through the lush green Scottish landscape.

Some real highlights this trip included time with our amazing bottler’s Craigton Packaging. Lugging my kilt all the way back to its birthplace was well worth it as Cindy, dolled up in an exquisite gown accompanied me to the Ben Charity dinner in Glasgow with Rachel and Kevan. A grand evening of hobnobbing ensued, with industry legends aplenty and the regaling of side splitting tales detailing the unique lifestyle in Glasgow.

Dinner at the Dunblane Hydro with the crew from Angel’s Share Glass was a stand out as well. The Kailyard restaurant at the Hilton Dunblane is world class and well suited to such a grand property. Watching master glass blower Tom make us a whisky angel ornament the next morning in their wee studio in Bridge of Allan was fantastic and it will be certain to take centre stage on our Christmas tree this year. Angel’s Share Glass is expanding so fast that they are building a new studio. You can check out their fun crowdfunding campaign here if you like whisky and beautiful glass.

Cindy Kissing the Blarney Stone ... twice! Cindy Kissing the Blarney Stone … twice!

With a couple of extra whisky sourcing visits thrown in our list was looking pretty good by the time we headed for Ireland to visit with the Hyde brothers. Being our first time in Ireland we were blown away by the hospitality and generosity shown to us. Staying at the amazing Hayfield Manor we were spoilt with an outstanding dinner and a tour of Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone. Cindy kissed it twice for good measure and is sure to have double my luck from here on in.

“Tasting their rum finish and the new 1916 was really exciting and we can’t wait to get them both over to Western Canada.”

Touring through the impressive barrel storage we were really impressed with the amount of whiskey that the Hyde’s have aging away for future releases. Tasting their rum finish and the new 1916 was really exciting and we can’t wait to get them both over to Western Canada. The weather in Cork was gorgeous and even allowed for a cigar and Hyde Rum finish combination on the patio after a fabulous walk downtown visiting some great bars . A pint of the local Murphy’s Stout was a must and of course I couldn’t leave without also adding a pint of Guinness as well. Just to top off a great side trip was the opportunity to meet with Jennifer Nickerson daughter of Stuart (Malt Whisky Company) and hear about Tipperary Single Malt Irish Whiskey that will be on it’s way to Western Canada shortly, stay tuned for more.

Fontana di Trevi Rome, Italy Fontana di Trevi Rome, Italy

No whisky (and more) sourcing trip is complete without a visit to magnificent old Roma and an afternoon with the Samaroli boys. It is always such a privilege to visit such an ancient and historic city. Our favourite scene this year was walking to the Fontana di Trevi at 2:00am after checking into our old city hotel. The fountain has been completely refurbished and looks amazing. At 2:00am there is hardly anyone there and taking in the spectacular landmark without the usual crowds was something truly special.

Next week we are off to Seattle for the first Whisky Jewbilee of 2016. Looking forward to trying some really unique whiskies and sharing some fun times with our mates Jason and Joshua.

Until then stay tuned for some delicious whisky reviews and more right here at Singlemalting.com


Timboon Too | Blog # 117

To say that I just had two exciting weeks would be a massive understatement as Cindy and I travelled Scotland, Ireland and Italy to pick whisky and something secret for a new launch this year. Next week, I will let you know all about it, but today I am tasting a whisky that was given to me by a massive whisky fan in Edmonton John Vogrinetz (thanks heaps for the dram). John stumbled into the Timboon distillery on a visit to my homeland and loved the whisky. So ironic that a sample dram comes to me so that I can write about it here in Canada. I will have to make a point of visiting the distillery when I am back in Oz visiting my parents in Victoria.

“The Tim Boon Railway Shed Distillery is located in the small town of Timboon in Victoria Australia. Initially the site of an Ice Cream company called Timboon Fine Ice Cream before the owners diversified into trying their hand at making Single Malt Whisky.”

They have a copper pot 600 litre still that was hand crafted for them by a company in Hobart Tasmania. The Timboon Railway Shed Distillery really brings back some of the history of whisky making in the area as an illicit still ran by Tom Delaney in the 1890’s supplied the locals with “Mountain Dew” before his unfortunate arrest.

Aged in small ex-port casks the Timboon Single Malt has a deep rich colour that belies its younger age.  Bottled at 46% so my guess is that the Timboon Single Malt is not chill filtered. Distilled on the 19 of September 2009 it was bottled on the 28th of September 2015 making it just over 5 years old aged in the considerably warmer climate of Victoria.

Timboon Australian Single Malt Whisky Timboon Australian Single Malt Whisky

Tasted in my trusty Samaroli Whisky glass as I feel that this might be a reasonably delicate dram.

Colour:     A beautiful deep reddish amber and I’m thinking the port cask had extra influence here.

Nose:     Orange blossom with an undercurrent hint of sweet balsamic reduction, dried figs and a deeper blood orange note. Sparkling freshness here and very inviting.

Palate:    Very soft and appealing entrance with orange bitters and a warming tawny note that adds both sweetness and a dark raisin edge. I don’t know what type of Port cask this was aged in but the influence is undeniable.

“The nose is my favorite part of this whisky and it is obviously really well put together in small batches by good people that really care about and love what they do.”

Finish:     Loads going on as that lovely bitterness carries on with swirling grilled orange, apricot and a fading sweetness. The finish is a touch short which could be partly due to me having the sample sitting on the shelf for several months and the fact that it came from a half bottle that had been open for a year.

I will definitely end up with a bottle of this on my back bar as soon as I can get back downunder.

Thanks John for the whisky it is very much appreciated.

Next week we talk a little about our epic whisky hunt this year…