East Meets West with this first-of-its-kind bourbon that melds Kentucky distilling tradition and Japanese blending expertise. It has an amazingly forward citrus note akin to orange oil and lemon zest. Distinct floral notes (spring blossoms?), some chocolate, pine, and even herbal (cilantro, maybe?) components are also present. The more typical sultana, treacle, and toasted nuts also appear. In the mouth it is rich and super smooth, with citrus fruit (orange peel again), mild spice, and suggestions of fruitcake and caramel. Long and beautifully structured, belying its 47 per cent AVB octane. A very unique addition to the bourbon world. (BTW, pronounced lee-gent.)
Floral and fruity on the nose with a touch of toffee and vanilla, flavours of stone fruit, spice, nuts, honey, cocoa and citrus peel with an elegant, soft finish.
Venerated winemaker Klaus Reif first dreamed up this spirit in the ’90s and served it to family and friends, who loved flavour. But for 20 years the recipe sat on the shelf, and in the mind of Rief. After a few minor tweaks, Vinea was launched earlier this year. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and brandy (plus some secret ingredients), it’s silky smooth with a nice balance of acidity and sweetness. Whiffs of liquorice, fresh orange blossom and a touch of cotton candy sweetness and a pleasant, light bitterness at the swallow. Sip it on ice. Available at the winery and online.
Japan’s whiskies went from unknown to insanely coveted to unavailable seemingly overnight. Apparently this even caught Japanese distillers off guard. Stocks of aged whiskies literally evaporated, leaving producers with a void to fill; a hole that has been plugged largely by malt and grain whisky blends. This, however, is not a bad thing, as Japanese blends are more approachable - in both price and profile - than age-specific single malts. Suntory’s Toki is a good example. This is a complex, fruity dram, with herbal notes; Asian pear, green apple, sweet grain, mint, and vanilla nuances. Impeccably balanced, with toasted grain, ripe pear, subtle honey, and a gentle smoky note. Blended whiskies often get ignored. Don’t ignore this.
Nordés translates to the name of the wind that brings good weather. Turns out, it brings good gin, too. Using an Albariño wine base (kinda cool), this unique gin combines the usual flavour suspects (juniper, cardamon, etc.) with sage, laurel, eucalyptus, mint, glasswort, and lemon verbena. It’s very fresh, with herbal, menthol, red berry and pomegranate notes. Soft, clean, savoury, mildly spicy and quite complex. A bit off the beaten track, but that’s where gin seems to be going these days.
“Vermouth is super trendy now,” Rocío Osborne told me while on a recent trip to Spain. So much so, it turns out, that her family’s company — sherry vintners since 1772 — has crafted one of its own. With a base of Medium and PX sherries and locally sourced wormwood, dittany (look it up) and bitter orange peel, Osborne Vermouth treads a perfect balance between sweet/bitter/spicy/herbal notes. Try on the rocks with a thin orange slice, or use in your favourite cocktail. Hopefully you’ll see it in your market soon.
A relatively new Ontario craft gin that’s already garnered critical praise (and a slew of medals) since first hitting the shelf. Quite fragrant, with aromas suggesting mild juniper (not surprising), with some pine needle, lemon zest and herbal undertones. Very well-balanced, with all elements in check, it’s smooth and viscous on the palate, with flavours of subdued juniper, lemon zest, mineral and fresh herbs. Try in a dry martini with a rosemary sprig garnish.