In the Spirit
Some news on the spirit front:
Say bye-bye to The Macallan single malts bearing age statements, at least in many markets around the world. They are being replaced by four new expressions with no age statements but rather, with names based on the whisky’s colour (which, in turn, is determined by the types of oak used to mature them). The story is all over the Interweb so I’m not going to retell it. Whether you view this as a calculated maneuver by the distillery to make up for over-extending its market, or an honest attempt to convince whisky aficionados that age isn’t the be all and end all, is up to you. Suffice to say that all of the new expressions are up to The Macallan’s typically exacting standards. Ontario malt lovers, luckily, will be able to purchase all four of the new expressions.
And speaking of The Macallan, it, along with a bevy of other premium spirits, were on display (and thankfully, being poured) at the first (hopefully annual) Beam Spirits Confidential that showcased the entire range represented by Beam Global. Not only were some very fine spirits available for tasting at the event (held at Toronto’s Evergreen Brick Works), but the very fine people behind the production and promotion of the products were also there in the form of Master Distillers, Master Blenders, and Master Ambassadors. (Some people are masters of wines and spirits; I, but a mere slave.)
The event (expertly organized and flawlessly executed by the pros at Praxis PR) not only featured a full-blown spirits exhibition, but also a creative and ultimately very successful “bell ringer” for the trade. Each Ambassador would have six minutes to give an overview of the product they were pouring before the large group (divided into eight small groups – one per table) moved to the next station.
John Cashman from Cooley’s Irish Whiskey was pouring the amazing Kilbeggan 18 Year Old. Rich, mildly spicy, with hints of vanilla and cocoa and an incredible, toffee-laced finish, it is the oldest blend ever released under the Kilbeggan label. If you can find it, buy it.
Also on hand were Simon Brooking from Laphroaig, who introduced me to the latest bottling of the intense, smoky/peaty Laphroaig “Cairdeas” Origin 2012. Sweet top notes on the palate with floral/seaweed nuances, the telltale smokiness came wafting back on the way down. Patrice Pinet, Master Blender for Courvoisier, poured what was easily one of the most intriguing cognacs I’ve ever tasted in the form of L’Essence de Courvoisier Cognac. Fred Noe, great-grandson of Jim Beam himself, explained the unique technique used to create the “Devil’s Cut” bourbon (called “sweating the barrel”). Dan Tullio , representing Canadian Club, talked to me, over a sip of velvety Canadian Club 20 Year Old, about the differing mash bills used for the CC range. Maker’s Mark’s Greg Davis, having assured me that the whole brouhaha behind the distillery’s plan to water down it’s flagship bourbon was now water under the bridge (it ain’t happening), offered a sample of the caramel, marmalade, molasses and marzipan-laced Maker’s 46 bourbon. Don Nelthropp brought a taste of the islands to Toronto in the form of the intense, orange, treacle, nutmeg-smelling Cruzan Single Barrel rum with it’s flavours of fruitcake, candied orange and subtle vanilla. And last but by no means least, the prettiest Ambassador in the room, Karina Sanchez, gave me a blast of Sauza Tequila’s Sauza “Tres Generations” Plata Tequila. As the song goes, “Oh, Mexico, I never really been but I’d sure like to go.” This experience did, however, bring me a little closer.
And finally, have you ever considered using Italian Amaro as the base for a cocktail? If your answer was, “hell, no” (or some perhaps more colourful variant), you might just want to consider it, especially considering the concoctions whipped up at the recent Amaro Averna’s “Maestro Amero” competition at Toronto’s Marché Restaurant (or the restaurant’s MuvBar, to be exact).
Twelve finalists mashed, mixed, shook, stirred, chilled, and poured a flotilla of inspired creations for the judging panel. When the slurping and scoring was done, Charlie Lamont from Rock Lobster walked away with the grand prize for his Bumblebee cocktail.