Branca Aguardente de Cana Rum Agricola da Madeira

Pours clear and colourless. Old barn, mouldy cedar mustiness on the nose with brief hints of tropical fruit. Definite alcohol burn on the palate (there’s a reason they call this ‘moonshine’ in Portugal) with a finish that warms all the way down that approaches smoothness during it’s lengthy persistence. Not for the faint of heart. Interesting to try but a larger bottle won’t be making its way into my liquor cabinet.

“The Braveheart”

If you’re still awake and looking for your next taste sensation may I humbly suggest the cocktail my father invented. A Braveheart consists of equal parts Scotch and Tawny Port served neat or on the rocks. In this case I used Té Bheag Blended Scotch Whisky and Warre’s Otima 10 Year Tawny Port. Enjoy, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Aberlour 12 Year Old Double Cask Matured Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Lovely deep golden amber. The nose is soft and sweet with hints of butterscotch and new oak spiciness. Starts light on the palate moving into a medium body of biscuit and cereal with a heavy alcohol presence. The finish is a good length and is warm with plenty of oak presence. A big thank you to Juan Algarin for this bottle and introducing me to a great scotch.

Stalk & Barrel Single Malt Whisky Cask 1, Bottle #67 from Still Waters Distillery

Up until several months ago I was completely unaware of Still Waters Distillery and the larger grain-to-glass craft spirit movement in general. Fortunately my ignorance ended when I met Still Waters’ co-founder, Barry Stein, at the Summerhill LCBO where he was pouring samples of their vodka.

I’m embarrassed to say that I wasn’t really expecting much. I mean, come-on, the phrase “distilled in Ontario” doesn’t really engender much confidence. Or that’s what I thought until I sipped one of the smoothest vodkas I’ve ever tasted.

Standing at the tasting bar, trying to conceal my shock at the unexpected quality of the spirit I’d just sipped, Barry hit me with the follow-up punch that in a few months they would be releasing Ontario’s first ever single malt whisky.

Fast-forward to a morning in early May and I’m driving around a nondescript industrial park north of Toronto looking to drop $100.00 on a bottle of whisky that was mashed, fermented and distilled by-hand right here in Ontario.

Unfortunately, getting buzzed into the closet-sized room that serves as Still Waters’ storefront will never cause the same goosebumps one would get passing through the gates of a centuries old distillery in Scotland. But the service is friendly and it’s what’s in the bottle that matters.

And what’s in the bottle has a lovely golden amber colour. Cedar and honey notes on the nose, with a hint of paint thinner (in a good way). At 62.3% a.b.v. its no surprise that there is also plenty of alcohol—nose hair singeing on deep breaths. But, honestly, I could keep my nose in this glass all day. On the palate the cask-strength alcohol content warms without the burn and settles down for a lengthy finish that has salty hints at the edges.

Hard to believe it slept for only three and a half years in ex-bourbon casks nowhere near the North Sea.

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