Winter is upon us and so is Whisk(e)y season! I always start daydreaming when I sit cozy by the fire snug in my house with the snow and wind whipping outside. I have my family close and many bottles of all types of whisk(e)y to drink at my whim. But what if I had to choose to save one and not the other? What if only one could survive and I had to sacrifice all others I held dear. I’m talking about bottles of whisk(e)y here, not family members (just wanted to clarify that before the e-mails start arriving on my Editor’s computer). There I would be with only one whisk(e)y to savor, while I was snowbound!
That is the scenario I posed to several friends. Here are their answers, but before you read on let me make it clear – I take no responsibility for the quirkiness or the graphic nature of their responses, they are my friends and that is burden enough!
First up is Randall Bird, Co-host of “It’s The Liquor Talking” which can be heard on WCRN AM830 Every Saturday at 11:00am www.facebook.com/itstheliquortalking
Snow plus Spirits always reminds me of the St. Bernard rescue dogs bounding through the snowdrifts with their restorative cask of Cognac strapped to their collar. I was so enamored with St. Bernards as a youth, I even tried to take the St. Bernard name as my Catholic confirmation name, but was forbidden through a stern rebuke from my priest. Instead of Cognac (Alps appropriate) I am substituting a 16 year Lagavulin in the St. Bernard’s collar cask. Lagavulin- a campfire in your belly with aromatic smoke, a big phenolic (peat reek) note and a lasting, warming burn down my chimney to stake off whatever Old Man Winter may be throwing at me! Plus, if the weather is really bad -there is a big bonus dog that I can hollow out the guts from and crawl inside of (like that weird kangaroo steed in The Empire Strikes Back).
Second is Sean Barry, owner of Four Seasons Wine & Liquor in Hadley, MA www.FourSeasonsWine.com
Ryan’s scenario is a New England twist on the classic question, “If you were stranded on a desert island, what…”. My requirements for such a whisky would be;
One, I need a whisky higher than 80 proof, but not cask strength. The whisky will need to help keep me warm without dulling the senses too much. A person must keep their wits about them when stranded in a snowbound cabin. Ravenous black bears or sultry snow bunnies on snowmobiles could appear at any moment. Two, it must be older than 10yrs. The nose must be as complex as the palate. I want to be able to spend as much time nosing the glass as I do savoring the long lingering finish. Once again allowing me to stay level headed should I have any previously mentioned visitors.
Finally, it must be sherried. The depth of character and added complexity of a sherried whisky pairs perfectly with being snowbound in a cabin in New England. The combination of oak and maple burning in roaring fireplace and the maple sugared fruit with a hint of smoke in the whisky is a match made in heaven. With all that being said, my choice for such a whisky is Glendronach 15yr Revival. Bottled at 46%ABV. The nose is tremendous. It is one of the few whiskies I truly enjoy smelling more than drinking, but would never consider doing one without the other. Aromas of chocolate covered cherries, spiced oranges and warm maple syrup. The rich and creamy palate is filled with chocolate, dried fruits, brown sugar. The long extensive finish is laced with vanilla and salted caramel. An exquisite whisky that I could spend a great deal of time exploring and dissecting while waiting for those snow bunnies to arrive. Enjoy!
Third is Uncle Charlie! Charles Tower has retired twice, once from the Navy and once from civilian government work. He is now “living the dream” as a Brand Ambassador for an independent bottler of single malt Scotch whisky. Charlie also does whisky tastings and seminars and can be reached at email@example.com
Only one whisky? Out of several thousand expressions currently available? Well, here goes…
It would have to meet the “Sensuality Test”, thus have a major appeal to each of the five senses.
SIGHT: great, rich color and long, smooth legs as it eases down the side of the glass
SMELL: memories of the aroma of rich chocolate and cherry desserts from mother’s kitchen decades ago
TOUCH: lingering soft, smooth, warm enveloping of the tongue and palate
SOUND: “Aaaaaaaaah, soooooo nice!”
TASTE: Sweet, but not overly so; the richness of stone fruits and raisins; hints of cinnamon and clove; so much more
More than one whisky might measure up to this test, but the one which does it for me is Aberlour A’bunadh.
Last, but not least is yours truly! If you don’t already, follow me on Instagram @whiskyjourneyman
I’m standing outside the front door shivering as I’m trying to shake some of the snow off my hat and boots before entering. The chill that was in the air has worked its way deep into my bones and I really could use some warming up, not just on my skin but deep inside my core. Once inside, after removing my warmest hat, coat, gloves, and boots, I eagerly pour myself a nice hot cup of … tea? What am I thinking? A fine Single Malt will do better and NOT EVERY WINTER MALT HAS TO COME FROM ISLAY! Sure, smoky and peaty whiskies are in high demand and many distilleries are making smoky versions of their regular malt – but not every winter malt worth its salt is from Islay.
The malt I would reach for if I were snowbound would be Deanston 12, from the Highlands just north of Glasgow Scotland. I’m a big fan of many of this distillery’s bottlings, but in this case the twelve year old would really be a perfect fit. Even though the strength is 46.3% , it feels like much more on the palate. There is some sweetness, with a honeysuckle finish– so much so that it reminds me of Christmas Cake! Plus I like that they are one of the very few to use 100% Scottish Barley that is available in the United States. I take one sip and I feel it go down my throat and into my stomach, warming me all the way. Then I take another sip and it’s downright hot in the cabin. By the tenth or so sip, I really don’t care how much snow is outside. Dig me out in the Spring!
Well there you have it, four superb choices for whiskies to bunker with in this snowbound dilemma! However, in classic James T. Kirk style, alia “TheKobayashi Maru Scenario“ (yes, I’m geeking out) I’m re-writing the programming! I’m kicking all of them out of the cabin and now I have four whiskies to drink and keep me company until the thaw! CHEERS!