Mav Wine and Spirits Awards 2015

By / Magazine / August 23rd, 2016 / 6

Every year the editors of Quench choose the best assemblages, single varietal, beer and spirits from around the world. Tasters are Rick VanSickle, Tod Stewart, Silvana Lau, Sean Wood, Ron Liteplo and Tim Pawsey.


Single Malt

Highland Park Thor 16 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($250/700 ml)

The first in Highland Park’s Valhalla Collection, a four-expression limited release line of single malts commemorating the Norse influence on Scotland’s Orkney islands. Each whisky takes its cue from the characteristics of the Norse God namesake. No surprise, then, that Highland Park Thor, bottled at 51.2% AVB, offers up some pretty powerful aromatics, with smoke, spice, toasted walnut, cocoa, sultana, lemon and a bare whiff of wood polish. Big and brawny, with flavours leaning toward baking spice, dark chocolate, vanilla and dark berry. The finish is intense, spicy and, well, thunderous. (TS)


Nikka Whisky Single Malt Yoichi 12 Year Old ($130)

Japanese malts are appearing on the radar screens of whisky aficionados with increasing frequency because of their complexity and high quality. This one, from the Yoichi distillery in the northern tip of the county (at the same latitude as Toronto, in fact), is no exception. Part of what makes this dram unique is the direct heating of the stills using finely powdered natural coal — a traditional method rarely practiced anywhere today. Complex and fragrant, with peat smoke, heather, and buckwheat honey notes that reappear on the palate, combined with an ultra-long, silky smooth finish. (TS)



El Dorado 3 Year Old Demerara Rum ($26)

The latest addition (at least in Ontario) to the excellent (and growing) line of Guyanese El Dorado rums. Oak aged for 3 years in ex-bourbon casks to mellow it out, then charcoal-filtered to render it colourless…but certainly not flavourless. Hints of vanilla, tropical/citrus fruit, coconut, cocoa and nutmeg. Very supple and smooth on the palate with traces of chocolate, caramel, vanilla and spice. A great mixing rum, bot not too shabby neat, either. (TS)


Parce 8 Year Old Straight Colombian Rum ($40)

South American rums are giving those from the nearby islands a run (rum?) for their money. Parce’s father-and-son blending team’s lineage traces back to the legendary Spanish house of Domecq. Sugarcane is sourced form both local and island fields, sorted for quality in Panama where it is distilled and aged, then shipped to Colombia for aging and final blending. The result is a rich, fruitcake and caramel-laden spirit that’s ultra smooth, warm, and laced with flavours of dried fruit, toasted nut and caramel. (TS)



Broker’s London Dry Gin ($28)

10 natural botanicals combine to deliver a very fresh, clean, and balanced gin. Top notes of juniper, pine needle, citrus, cardamom, sandalwood, and anise segue to a very crisp and elegant style with flavours of fresh herbs, citrus, and some peppery spice on the finish. Try in a Winston Churchill Martini (4 oz Broker’s Gin shaken over ice while looking at a vermouth bottle; garnish with an olive or lemon twist). (TS)


Tequila and Mezcal

Espolón Reposado Tequila ($45)

Freshly cooked agave on the nose with whispers of toffee, cinnamon, some citrus, wet slate and mown hay. Vanilla, citrus, pepper, wild herbs, mineral, and some smoky/charred wood notes. A versatile tequila that would mix well, but can be enjoyed neat. A blanco version is also available. Funky “Día de los Muertos” label! (TS)


Del Maguey Vida Mezcal ($80)

If there was any doubt, Del Maguey’s range of single village mezcals proves — in a rather dramatic way — that the Mexican agave-based spirit that typically plays second fiddle to tequila can be every bit as complex and nuanced as its more famous brother. Perhaps even more so at times. Mezcals tend to have a distinctive smoky quality, the result of the agave piñas being cooked for several days in an underground, covered pit lined with volcanic rocks. Certified organic and bottled at 42% ABV, Del Maguey Vida offers up a mélange of intricate aromas including smoky blackberry nuances, white pepper, and exotic flowers. Intense flavours of lavender, jalapeño, and dark fruit, with a subtle undercurrent reminiscent of Thrills chewing gum (if anyone is old enough to remember that stuff). (TS)


Del Maguey Chichicapa Mezcal ($120)

This stunning single village mezcal takes its name from the village of Chichicapa, (actually, Chichicapam), located just south of Oaxaca. Certified organic, it sports an engaging and complex nose with earthy/vegetal/tobacco notes, cocoa, smoked meat, and an elusive “something” hinting at freshly poured concrete. Spicy and warm in the mouth, with cocoa, fresh herbs, a smoky tobacco leaf on the (very) long finish. Expensive? Yes. But also one-of-a-kind and completely different than anything you’ve likely tasted. (TS)



Frei Brothers Chardonnay Reserve 2013 ($24)

This Russian River Chardonnay pushes all the yum buttons without being soft or gloopy. Warm baked apple and baking spices hit you up front, along with more typical aromas of melted butter and vanilla bean. Rich and full, with a creamy/silky mouthfeel and a toasty, slightly spicy finish that sings of apple compote and pear drops. (SL)


Stag’s Hollow Viognier/Marsanne Kiln House Vineyard 2013, Okanagan ($25)

This is made in the “orange” wine style with skin contact, co-fermentation, low sulphur, wild fermentation, unfined and unfiltered. Such a powerful nose of lemon, peach, citrus, spice and marmalade. The look of the wine might throw you for a loop with its burnt orange colour and slight cloudy appearance but it’s a knockout on the palate with peach puree, lemon rind, ginger, papaya and evident tannins. Wow. (RV)


Lagaria Chardonnay Vigneti Della Dolomiti 2013, Trentino, Italy ($14)

A great value Chardonnay that took me a bit by surprise. Some northern Italian Chardonnays can come off a bit like Pinot Grigio (which can come off a bit like tap water). Not this one. Vibrant white flower, almond and nougat aromas lead to a surprisingly full palate with some tropical fruit and mineral notes. Nice label, too! (SL)



Bodegas Beronia Tempranillo Elaboracion Especial 2012, Rioja, Spain ($20)

Lovely sandalwood, vanilla bean, nutmeg, smoky plum and bright black cherry waft from the glass. On the palate it’s super smooth and silky … sexy, even, with layers of baking spice, cedar, vanilla custard and sweet chocolate cherry. Textbook modern Rioja. No bull! (SL)


Franciscan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($30)

I recently wrote about the pleasures of “lighter” wines … but sometimes you just want a big, fat mouthful of chewy, juicy red — the carbohydrate of the wine world! This black cherry/plum/currant perfumed Lotus Land Cab also dishes out violet, cedar, nutmeg, and new leather aromas. In the mouth, some toasty/spicy oak notes combine with the lush black fruit flavour. The good news is that everything hangs together beautifully. (SL)


Santa Alicia Carmenère Reserva 2013 ($13)

Wow! Some serious value here for those looking for big statements without a big price tag. Loads of ripe cherry, blueberry, coffee, vanilla, mild smoke, and tobacco leaf, on both the nose and the palate. Rich and supple, but with remarkable structure and balance. And for the last time (I hope); Carmenère is not Merlot! (SL)


Black Hills Alibi 2013, Okanagan ($25)

A classic blend of 75% Sauvignon Blanc and the rest barrel-fermented Sémillon. It has an elegant nose of grapefruit, grilled pineapple, citrus and baked apple with lightly toasted spices. It has wonderful mouthfeel with rich flavours on the palate that are bolstered by oak-derived spice notes. (RV)


Averill Creek Foch Eh 2014, Vancouver Island ($24)

A fun approach to much maligned Marechal Foch yields lively up front red fruit berries on the nose before an approachable light to medium bodied, quite fruit driven palate with a slightly herbal rather than foxy edge with just a touch of tannin. Like many a lighter red, a few minutes in the chiller makes all the difference. (TP)



Benjamin Bridge Brut 2008, Nova Scotia ($45)

Made in the Methode Classique style, it’s a blend of old-world Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with new-world (Nova Scotia) L’Acadie and Seyval with a brilliant nose of lemon chiffon, peach and saline minerality that is piercing and inviting. It shows a gentle mousse on the palate with a ripe citrus, peach tart and mineral attack that adds subtle spice through a long and vibrant finish. (RV)


Soutiran Cuvée Signature Brut Grand Cru NV, Champagne, France ($60)

Not too long ago, I had an amazing opportunity to sample seven “boutique” champagnes at Toronto’s swanky Boulevard Club (and had a great dinner to boot). All were terrific, including this Soutiran Cuvée Signature. Great complexity on the nose, with those toasty/biscuit aromas that denote a great (to my palate) sparkler, along with some ripe apple and lemon zest. Beautifully balanced, with a creamy mousse, toasty, lemony flavours, and a gorgeously long finish. Lovely stuff. (SL)


Santa Alicia Tierra Sur Rosé ($18)

Yeah, Italian Prosecco might be all the rage, but for me, it’s just too wimpy. Don’t get me wrong, I like lighter wines, but “light” shouldn’t equal “bland.” This strawberry/ herbal rosé fizz manages to retain an overall lightness without any flavour dilution. Lots of strawberry/cherry-tinged fruit wrapped around fine bubbles with just a hint of the bready notes typical of authentic “traditional method” sparklers. (SL)


Tatamagouche Brewing Co Hippie Dippy Pale Ale, Nova Scotia ($4/473 ml)

Organic and unfiltered, this is a well-balanced Pale Ale with citrus, floral, malty and spicy aromas. Some citrus notes show up on the palate with nutty light bitterness on the finish. Easy-drinking style with some character. (SW)


Churchill Graham 10 Years Old Tawny, bottled 2013, Portugal ($27.67)

Clear, medium-deep crimson. Complex aromas of caramel, orange marmalade, apricot and nuts. Very full-bodied with a velvety mouthfeel. Cherry, plum and mocha flavours lead to a long, warm finish. Drink now. (RL)*


Warwick Estate The First Lady Unoaked Chardonnay 2012, South Africa ($14.67)

Clear, medium-deep lemon-zest yellow. Somewhat reticent nose of Granny Smith apple and apricot. On the palate it is indeed lady-like: fruity but dignified and well balanced, tasting of peaches and melon with lemony acidity. The second glass stays interesting despite the absence of oak. I enjoyed this accompanied by a simple grilled Camembert sandwich with crudités. (RL)*


Aldo Parise is the publisher of Quench Magazine. After running 4 magazines, including Riot and men's magazine Under Pressure, he's settled nicely into his role as top drinker and food yummer guy. You can see him in the pages of Quench, Food and Drink Magazine.

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