France’s Cru Levels

As I have discussed in the past, French wine labels can be rather puzzling since they indicate the region where the wine was produced rather than the grape varietal contained inside the bottle.  Also, the label will often contain such words as “Grand”, “Premier” or “Cru”.  Even though premier means first in French, you will often find grand appearing on the better quality wines.

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The simple translation for cru is growth.  However, in the world of French wine its reference is for the geographic terrain, specifically the soil type, climate and altitude where the grapes are grown.  It gets complicated by the fact that cru is not applied in the same manner throughout all the wine regions of France.  Further complicating things is that the term cru is also used in Germany and Italy where there are additional variations in the meaning.

In the Burgundy region of France, the classification of cru is rather simple.  Cru designates a vineyard as being of a certain level of quality.  The classifications originate back to the 12th century and the Cistercian and Benedictine monks in the Côte d’Or.  Every vineyard in Burgundy is classified in the hierarchy where Grand Cru is at the top followed by Premier Cru and then “village” wines, with the generic Bourgogne category at the bottom.

There are 33 Grand Crus with each having its own appellation.  Only Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are grown here, but most appellations only permit one or the other varietal to be grown; very few allow both. Premier Cru wines are less expensive and are often a better value, though their long-term aging potential is typically less.

Chablis has one Grand Cru appellation that includes seven vineyards. These vineyards overlook the town of Chablis and benefit from a southwest exposure that helps ripen the grapes.

The Bordeaux region applies the term cru in a much different manner. Grand Cru Classé classification system forms the basis of the rating system and it’s tied to a specific chateau or estate, rather than adjacent vineyards. It was created in 1855 and is comprised of only left bank chateaus in Médoc, Graves and Sauternes, ranked from first to fifth growths, based on their value at that time. The first growths are called Premiers Crus, while second through fifth growth crus are called Crus Classes.

On the right bank Pomerol isn’t classified but Saint-Émilion is.  St.-Émilion has three chateau-based quality classifications. At the top is Premier Grands Crus Classés, of which there are 18, followed by Grands Crus Classés which contains 64 chateaus. The appellation’s third category is not tied to a specific ‘classed’ chateau or geographical subzone. Wines labeled “St.-Émilion Grand Cru” merely have more stringent production rules.

The Alsace region uses the term Grand Cru in similar fashion as the Burgundy region. Fifty-one vineyards have been designated superior, or Grand Cru, and wine from those vineyards can use the term on their label. There is a great deal of diversity in Alsace’s Grand Cru wines.  There are four grapes approved for use, as well as a wide variation in soils.

The Beaujolais region is where Gamay grapes are grown. Here cru is applied to villages rather than vineyards. There are 10 villages and the wine produced from these villages is called Cru Beaujolais.

The Champagne region also classifies entire villages as Grand Cru or Premier Cru. The Champenois created a system referred to as échelle des crus, or “ladder of the growths” in the early 20th century to fix grape prices for both farmers and buyers at Champagne houses.

At each harvest a price is set and growers with land in one of Champagne’s grand cru village receives 100% of that price. Grapes from the premier cru villages earns from 90% to 99% of the set price, while the rest receive from 80% to 89%.

There you have it; a little more of the puzzle of French wine resolved.

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An Introduction to Scotch Whisky

Scotch whisky is produced in over 130 distilleries and comes in a wide variety of flavours, types and price points.  It can be overwhelming to be surrounded by similar-looking bottles, only to find that they are very different from each other, particularly in how they taste.  The flavour will be dependent on a variety of factors such as whether the scotch is peated or non-peated; the type of barrel used during the distilling process, whether that be a plain oak cask, sherry cask, bourbon cask, etc.; or whether the Scotch is a malt, blend or single grain.

I have congregated my list of suggestions and recommendations based on my own research acquired from visiting a number of Islay, Highland and Speyside distilleries, as well as from trying a variety of assorted whiskies.

I recommend starting with a less expensive malt or blend but at the same time not the cheapest one on the liquor store shelf.  Keep in mind that you get what you pay for.  Also, I suggest starting with a non-peated Scotch, as the flavour will be less intense and less smoky.

Not all varieties are available all the time.  Some whiskies, especially those from smaller distilleries or special batches, are only available outside of Scotland in limited quantities a few times each year. Therefore, to avoid disappointment when starting off, it may be best to try those whiskies that are more consistently available.

Based on all these criteria, here are my suggestions of whiskies to try when first exploring the world of Scotch:

  1. The Glenlivet 14 Year Old Single Malt ($80 CDN)
  2. Bruichladdich (pronounced “Brook law dee”) The Classic Laddie Scottish Barley ($86 CDN)
  3. Glenmorangie Original Highland Single Malt ($73 CDN)
  4. The Glenlivet 12 Year Old Single Malt ($70 CDN)
  5. Tomatin 12 Year Old Single Malt ($70 CDN)
  6. Glenfiddich (pronounced Glen fiddick) 12 Year Old Single Malt ($70 CDN)
  7. Chivas Regal 12 Year Old blend ($83 CDN)
  8. Johnny Walker Black Label blend ($70 CDN)

As with wine, to enjoy the optimum tasting experience, the whisky should be served in the correct glass.  If drinking your whisky neat or with a splash of water, a tulip-shaped whisky glass is ideal. If you elect to enjoy your whisky with ice, then a rocks glass is optimal.

Have fun exploring the whiskies of Scotland!

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Shining Those Wine Glasses

Streaks and water spots can make your stemware look dirty even when it’s not. It can be frustrating and difficult to get wine glasses clean and worse, if not done properly, odors can penetrate the crystal and interfere with the aroma and flavour of your wine.

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According to many experts it is perfectly safe to put your crystal stemware in the dishwasher.  They claim that the reason people fear doing it is because traditionally crystal often had a gold rim or other decorations that made it unsafe for machine washing and that reputation has stuck.  However, it is still important to remain cognizant of the length of any stems on your glasses.  Many a glass has been “de-stemmed” by either the machine’s rotating spray mechanism or the top of the dishwasher when the tray has been slid back in.

If you do elect to use the dishwasher it is suggested that you wash the stemware on its own to minimize the risk that a dish or utensil may shift during the wash and crack a glass.  Also use the air-dry setting as heat drying can dull glasses over time due to miniscule detergent particles that will be contained in the steam.

Those who oppose cleaning crystal stemware in the dishwasher claim dishwashers can cause hard water stains to appear on the glass.  They also say that some detergents can etch the surface of the glass.  Lastly, there is a possibility that vibration of the dishwasher can cause a piece to shatter.

If you wash your glasses by hand the experts recommend you hold each glass by the bowl, not by the stem, which is the most fragile part of the glass and may easily break.  Using hot water, swirl the water over the whole glass and use only a minuscule amount of dishwashing liquid on the outside, including the rim.  Then rinse inside and out with hot water to remove any soap. 

Once done, dry the glasses immediately in order to avoid water spots.  For best results it is recommended that you use microfibre towels, one in each hand.  This will void any spots, lint or finger marks being left on the glass.  Use two towels; hold onto the glass’s base with one towel-covered hand and the bottom of the glass’s bowl with the other. Then turn gently in one direction and rub lightly on any water spots.

No matter which method you choose for washing your glassware, immediately following use be sure to rinse the glassware in hot water to remove any leftover wine or sediment.

My own experience has been that wine glasses can get broken using either method.  My only word of caution is I would avoid putting any family heirlooms in the dishwasher.  Most of today’s crystal manufacturers will indicate whether their product is dishwasher safe.

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The End of an Era for B.C.’s Harper’s Trail

Earlier this month it was announced that, after 16 years, British Columbia’s Harper’s Trail Winery will be closing by June of this year.  Owners Ed and Vicki Collett will open their tasting room in May for one final month before retiring and moving on to the next stage of their lives.  Along with the current vintage, Harper’s Trail will now be releasing an exclusive collection of library wines.

Having previously visited both Australia and Chile’s wine regions and seeing how similar their climates are to that of the Thompson River Valley, Ed recognized the possible success of starting a vineyard in the Kamloops area.

The Colletts were the first participants in the development of the Thompson River Valley wine region, even though they had no previous vineyard or winemaking experience.  The couple relied on advice from several industry veterans who helped set them on the right path.  As a result, the Thompson Valley wine industry emerged and developed into an official wine appellation.

The Colletts purchased the property in 2007, planted the first vineyard block in 2008, and opened Harper’s Trail, which was Kamloops’ first winery, in 2012.  Since then, Harper’s Trail has become a 5,000-case producing winery that generates 100% estate grown wines on the vineyard’s 25.5 acres.   The winery has earned many top honours in prominent national and international wine competitions.  Most recently, at the 2022 National Wine Awards, Harper’s Trail won a gold medal for its 2019 Chardonnay Sparkling and a silver medal for their 2020 Silver Mane Block Riesling.  At this past year’s All Canadian Wine Awards, Harper’s Trail received gold for their 2019 Chardonnay and silver for their Field Blend White.

In preparation for their pending retirement, the Colletts hope to find a successor to purchase the winery and further enhance it.  In case you have a desire for taking on such a challenge, the winery is listed with realtors Cushman & Wakefield. 

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The Mystery of French Wine

In France the varietal of grape a wine is made of is seldom indicated on the label.  Instead, the French tend to identify flavour by the region from which the wine was produced.  Because of this, people often shy away from buying French wine.  However, the mystery of French wine can be solved by simply knowing which grapes are grown in each region.  To assist you, most wine and liquor stores arrange their French wines by region.

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The Alsace region is located in the northeastern region of France between the Vosges Mountains and the Rhine River.  Historically, Alsace was part of Germany, which influences the types of grapes grown in the region. It is home to single varietal white wines including Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sylvaner.  The wines cover the spectrum, ranging from dry to sweet.


The Beaujolais region is known for growing the Gamay grape, which has bright acidity and low tannins.


Bordeaux is France’s largest and most renowned wine region.  It is known for its red blends highlighting Cabernet Sauvignon on the Left Bank and Merlot, Pomerol and Saint Emilion on the Right Bank.  The white varietals of Bordeaux include Barsac and Sauternes grapes.


Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, referred to as Chablis, are the standard grapes grown in the Burgundy region.


The Champagne region is renowned for its sparkling wines produced from one or more of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier.


The Loire Valley stretches from the Auvergne region to the Atlantic Ocean.  It produces most of France’s white wine. The white varietals of the Loire include Chenin Blanc (called Vouray), Sauvignon Blanc (referred to as Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé) and Muscadet.  It is also known for the red varietal, Cabernet Franc.


Provence is the oldest wine region in France.  It is the only region that specializes in Rosé wines.


Syrah and Viognier are the highlights of the northern part of the region while Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre are prominent in the south.  Mourvèdre is the dominate grape in Châteauneuf -du-Pape.  Blending of the grapes results in rich reds and vigorous whites and rosé.

Final Thoughts

Once you know which regions grow your favourite grapes, it is much easier to find a suitable bottle of French wine to enjoy.

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Hot Toddy

The recipes for a Hot Toddy seem to be as numerous as the legends telling the tale from which it originated.  One suggestion is that it began in Edinburgh, Scotland where pubs began mixing Scotch whisky with a splash of hot water.  The water was said to have come from the largest well in the area, Tod’s Well, thus supposedly giving the drink its name. This form of Toddy was very popular during the 18th century when it was often used to help counter the cold weather.

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The English from the times of Charles Dickens also seem to lay claim to the origins of the Hot Toddy, with images of cozy firelit parlors in Dickensian London, as well as flu remedies being conjured up by little old grandmothers in shawls.

Yet another theory is that the Toddy was invented by an Irishman, Dr. Robert Bentley Todd, who, according to legend, had a cheerful view of medicine, prescribing his patients a mixture of hot brandy, water, cinnamon and sugar as a general cure-all.  If nothing else, his patients were most likely a happy lot.

Although these all make for great stories, the history of the toddy can be traced to India and a 17th-century Hindi drink called “taddy” that is made from fermented palm sap. The oldest record of the recipe is from 1786, where it was described as liquor mixed with hot water, spices and sugar.  British Food History suggests that taddy was used by British officials in India to water down expensive imported English beer. Over time, spirits, sugar, ginger and lime were adapted into the mix. The recipe then seems to have traveled to Scotland and England, ever changing along the way.

Today there are many versions of the Hot Toddy.  Here are a couple to consider:

Traditional Hot Toddy

  • Hot water
  • 2 ounces whisky or rum
  • ½ teaspoon sugar (or more or less to taste)
  • Scrape of nutmeg (optional)

Heat water to boiling.. Measure whisky into a tall mug. Fill to the top with hot water and spoon in sugar, stirring to blend. Grate some nutmeg on top if desired. Drink hot.

Classic Hot Toddy

  • 1 shot (25-30 ml) whisky (or rum or brandy)
  • 2 tsp honey or sugar
  • Juice of quarter of a lemon
  • 75-100 ml hot water (or tea)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 1 slice of lemon
  • Freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

Put whiskey, honey or sugar, lemon juice and most of the hot water, or tea, into a small glass or coffee cup. Stir with a cinnamon stick or a spoon to dissolve the honey.

Taste and see if you need to add more water.

Garnish with a lemon slice, the cinnamon stick and a few rasps of freshly grated nutmeg.


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Spain’s Sherry Region

One of the more notable wine trends during the last few years has been the resurgence of fortified wines such as sherry.  Sherry is no longer viewed with the stuffy Old-World sentiment as it once was.  I personally remember as a child seeing sherry being served in tiny ornate crystal glasses to elderly visitors.

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Sherry is a unique wine that is exclusively produced in the wine-growing region of Jerez, Spain, located in a triangle of land formed by the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María.  Sherry has been produced in the region since the 8th century but it was the British who began exporting it after conquering Cádiz in 1587.  They called it sherry since it was easier to pronounce than “Jerez”.

The process of producing sherry is very complex. The wine is fermented and placed in a ‘solera system’ which are barrels that are stacked up on their sides in a pyramid-like shape. Yeast develops on the wine, known as flor, which stops the wine turning to vinegar and adding extra spice and flavour to the wine. The wine gets transferred from the top of the Solera system down through each layer over time, blending with older wine each time to create a complex ageing process. Alternatively, sherry can be aged oxidatively, by being left in contact with the air.

The ancient ageing process combined with the diverse fortification methods and the microclimate within each town is what creates the different sherries. Most dry sherries use the Palomino grape variety, where the sweet ones tend to use Moscatel or the Pedro Ximénez grapes. Below are the most famous sherry styles.

Dry Sherry Wine

Dry sherries are good to drink as an apéritif and should be served chilled. The dryer the wine, the cooler the temperature should be. Finos and Manzanillas generally remain around five years in the ​solera ​system, whereas Amontillados and Olorosos spend ten or more years.


Fino is the driest of sherries. Fino sherries have a light body and a low alcohol content, which ranges between 15 to 17%. It tends to lose its flavour after it’s opened, so it’s best to drink it straight away and is best chilled.

Fino pairs well with salty foods such as olives, almonds and Spanish jamón. It also goes well with seafood and sushi.


Manzanilla is a type of fino made exclusively in the town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The ageing process is similar to Fino, but the proximity to the sea and the humidity results in a paler wine with salty notes. It should be served chilled and within a day or two after opening.

Recommended food pairings are similar to Fino.  It goes well with olives, almonds, Spanish jamón, fried fish and seafood such as shrimp or raw oysters.


This wine begins as a Fino, ageing first under the ​velo de flor​ (protects the wine from air and imparts its own crisp, saline flavour) for four to six years and then through oxidation. This last stage allows the wine to develop more nutty flavours such as almond and hazelnut. The wine has an amber colour and it can vary between dry or medium-dry if mixed with a small amount of Pedro Ximénez grapes. It has an alcohol level of 16% to 18%.

​Amontillado will pair well with pork and rabbit or bird meats such as chicken, turkey or quail.


This sherry has more of a full body. It has a dark golden colour and notes of dried fruit and spices. Olorosos spend about six to eight years in the solera​ and has an alcohol content of between 18% to 20%.

It pairs well with grilled red meats, game, aged cheeses and mushrooms.

Palo Cortado

Palo Cortado is a rare kind of sherry that usually occurs by accident.  It begins as a Fino and then develops more like an Oloroso. The result is a dark-coloured wine with great body. It has an alcohol level of between 18% to 20%.

Suggested food pairing include the same foods that compliment oloroso or amontillado, as well as game meats, nuts, vegetables and blue cheese.

Sweet Sherry Wine

Regarding sweet sherry, the name of the grape is often used along with the word “crema”. Sweet wines can range from pale cream, which is sweetened Fino, to cream, which is sweetened Oloroso.  There’s also “medium” which is usually referring to a sweetened Amontillado. All these wines contain around 15.5% to 22% alcohol.

Sweet sherries pair well with desserts, foie gras or mature cheeses such as blue cheese.

Within the sweet sherry realm, there are two other sherries, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel (also spelled Muscatel), which are named after the grapes used in their production.

Pedro Ximénez

This is a sweet sherry with a honey-like consistency. It is the product of 85% of Pedro Ximénez grapes which are dried in the sun for about a week. It is considered to be a dessert wine and has an alcohol level of 15% to 22%.  It will pair well with blue cheese, almond tart or vanilla ice cream.


Like Pedro Ximénez, Moscatel sherry will consist of a minimum of 85% of Moscatel grapes. The grapes are dried in the sun before being pressed and added to a solera​.  Moscatel goes well with ice cream or a fruit tart.

Sherry wine cellars are referred to as bodegas.  Some of the best bodegas are located in:

Jerez De La Frontera

  • Bodegas Fundador: Established in 1730, it’s the oldest bodega in Jerez. 

  • Gonzalez Byass:​ Also known as Tio Pepe.  It began in 1835 and produces a variety of sherries, but it’s renowned mostly for its Fino styles with salty and citrus notes.

  • Emilio Lustau:​ Lustau is a large bodega in Jerez founded in 1896. It produces a wide selection of sherries.

  • Bodegas Tradicion: The wine making process follows traditional guidelines, with sherries kept in their natural state, without additives or filtering.

Located in Sanlúcar De Barrameda

  • Barbadillo:​ This bodega has existed since 1821.

  • Hidalgo: ​Sherry has been produced at Hidalgo since 1792, and since then the business has been passed down through the same family.

In Closing …

It’s time to move on beyond the former stereotype that sherry is only for our elders.  It is in fact a drink for all.

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Pizza and Wine

Pizza is one of the most versatile dishes.  It can be presented gourmet style at a dinner party to discriminating adults, served to a group of rambunctious kids at a birthday party, munched on as finger food in front of the television, or eaten cold from the fridge as breakfast.  The styles vary greatly as well, spanning from micro-thin Roman crust to Chicago-style deep dish.  Complicating things further is the broad range of toppings that can adorn the pizza; a variety of flavourful meats that will have a wide range of spiciness; vegetables that range in the level of heat; an assortment of cheeses with varying levels of saltiness; the possibility of anchovies or pineapple; and finally, the type of sauce.  Complicating things even further is the option to have a variety of pizzas at one time, giving guests several choices to indulge in.

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So how do you ever decide which wine to serve with all these variations and possibilities?  Should the wine be paired with pizza sauce and toppings in similar fashion as with a plate of pasta? What if there are multiple pizzas or a pizza that is half one type and half another type? Should Italian wine be served in recognition of pizza’s origins, even if you are serving pineapple and ham topped pizza?  How can the simplest dish be so complicated?

A number of experts agree that pretty much any wine can go well with pizza. It can be fun to pair your favourite pizza with the perfect wine but you may feel that pizza wine is a mood. The trick is to find wine that celebrates rather than competes with what’s on your mind and your plate.  In other words, the perfect pizza wine is in the eye of the beholder.

When serving one type of wine with a variety of pizza, choose a versatile bottle that will appeal to as many people as possible.   If you decide to serve more than one type of wine, be sure to highlight this fact and encourage your guests to try the various combinations of wine and pizza.

However, for those who prefer to match specific wines to a particular type of pizza, here are some suggestions for you.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

The smokiness and sweetness of the barbeque sauce will pair well with Pinot Noir, Dolcetto, Merlot, Chardonnay or Rosé.

Hawaiian Pizza

A reasonably sweet Riesling, Prosecco or Sauvignon Blanc will pair well as a counterbalance to the saltiness of the ham and the flavour of the pineapple.

Margherita Pizza

Featuring the simple and classic flavours of tangy tomato, creamy mozzarella and fragrant basil, a margarita pizza lends itself to light/medium-bodied wines. Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese or Rosé would all be good choices.

Meat Lovers Pizza

The intense flavours of Meat Lovers needs a wine with a higher amount of tannins, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Shiraz or Malbec.

Pepperoni Pizza

Because of the spiciness of pepperoni, a wine with rich, fruity flavours like a Sangiovese, Barbera or Nebbiolo would pair well.

Vegetarian Pizza

With Vegetarian pizza it is important to have a wine that won’t compete with the mix of vegetables on the pizza. An unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Prosecco or Rosé are all good choices.

Final Thoughts

Whatever you decide to do, whether it be pair your wine to the type of pizza or take a more generalist approach, there is an old theory that says, “What grows together, goes together”, which means that most any Italian-style wine will go well with whatever pizza you serve.  My personal preference is Sangiovese but Chianti, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Nero d’Avola, Fiano or Vermentino pair well too.

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Wine Diamonds

Occasionally you may come across a bottle of wine that contains tiny crystal shards that could appear as tiny pieces of broken glass. These are tartrates that are often referred to as wine diamonds. Although they may cause a slight gritty texture on your tongue, they are harmless and safe to consume.

These wine diamonds may occur if the wine has been exposed to temperatures below 4°C, when potassium and tartaric acid, both naturally occurring products of grapes, bind together to form a crystal.

Tartaric acid is used to maintain a wine’s body, character and colour but many wines contain a surplus of the acid, which accounts for the appearance of the wine diamonds.  Potassium, which is another big component in wine, binds with the acid and creates a salt called tartaric bisulfate, which separates from the wine and creates the crystals that are found at the bottom of the wine bottle or on the underside of the cork.

The colour of these crystals is dependent on the pigment of the wine. In red wine they will often appear brown or dark red. In white wines they will often look brownish or resemble glass.

It is difficult to predict which wines will have high levels of tartaric acid and thus have wine crystals.  Weather, region, soil nutrients and grape varieties all play a role in determining the amounts of acid present in a particular grape.

Older wines are more likely to form crystals or sediment once the cork is removed. As wines are constantly evolving during the aging process, elements within the wine are constantly interacting with each other. As such, some chemical bonds that are formed in the bottle are denser than the wine itself, causing them to sink to the bottom of the bottle. This is part of the aging process.

The presence of wine diamonds is considered by many winemakers as a sign of high quality because it means that the wine was not over processed.

Although wine diamonds may leave a slight gritty texture on your tongue, they do not impact the taste of the wine nor do they pose a health risk.  They are completely safe to drink.

If you prefer not to serve wine crystals in your wine you can decant the wine by simply pouring the wine through a wine strainer or cheesecloth into a wine decanter.

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The Best Scotch for 2023

Today I present to you the amalgamated thoughts of ten different sources – Liquor, VinePair, Gear Patrol, Forbes, Esquire, Punch Drink, Elle, GQ, Men’s Health and Delish – as to what are the Top 5 Scotch Whisky recommendations for 2023.  The results were compiled by the organization StudyFinds.

However, before presenting the list, there are some things to keep in mind.  There are a large number of Scotch Whiskies produced, many of which are not available for purchase outside of Scotland. Therefore, this list just contains those whiskies that have benefited from international exposure and have, in return, received the most attention and the largest number of recommendations from writers and critics.

So, without further ado here is the list.

1. Talisker 10-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($139.95 CDN)

Talisker is created by the oldest distillery on the Isle of Skye.  It is aged in ex-bourbon casks for a minimum of 10 years.  It boasts a rich gold colour.  With a powerful peat-smoke on the nose with just a hint of the sea-water salt of fresh oysters and citrus sweetness, this full, rich-bodied single malt has a rich dried-fruit sweetness on the palate, with smoke and strong barley malt flavours. It has a finish that is long and warm, with an appealing sweetness.

Bartenders favour Talisker 10-Year-Old Single Malt because of its salty, smoky and spicy flavour.  They find it an excellent choice when making stirred drinks and highballs because of its oily texture and weight.

2. Glenfarclas 15-Year-Old ($109.50 CDN)

Glenfarclas is one of the few remaining family owned and operated distilleries in Scotland.

The Glenfarclas 15 is bold and very smooth with aromas of port and sherry followed by a little smoke and leather.  There are flavours of a bit of jalapeno and a little anise and a little smoke, ending with a pepper spicy finish.

3. Ardbeg Corryvreckan ($201.40 CDN)

This one has been getting a lot of press lately.  It was included in my holiday gift suggestion list for the Scotch drinker in December.

In 2010 it was awarded The World’s Best Single Malt by the World Whiskies Awards.  It is an intense, non-chill-filtered whisky with flavours of peat and pepper.  It is aged in virgin French Limousin oak.  At 57.1 percent ABV, Ardbeg makes a great option for a slow sipping Scotch, full of flavour and punch.  It tastes of rich, peaty tobacco with a medicinal herbaceous quality with hints of sweet spice and citrus peel.

4. The Macallan Double Cask 18 Years Old ($470.00 CDN)

Although rather pricy, the experts agree that The Macallan Double Cask 18 Years Old is one of the best luxury Scotch whiskies.  It is aged in oloroso-seasoned American and European oak casks.   There are aromas of golden raisins, ginger, caramel and orange and tastes of dried fruit, citrus and nuts.  The finish is warm with hints of oak spice, ginger and sweet orange.

5. Lagavulin 16-Year-Old ($175.95 CDN)

If you’re looking for a Scotch that’s both high quality and available at most liquor stores, including mine in Gananoque, ON, Lagavulin 16-Year-Old is a good one.  It is one of my personal favourites.  I will always be grateful for having been introduced to it by my wife’s uncle during a trip to Islay several years ago.

Reviewers love this Scotch for its well-balanced, yet complex flavours.  Earth and smoke define its profile, as well as an attractive array of fruit, light caramel and vanilla flavours. Spice lingers on its finish, leaving smoke behind as a pleasant and surprisingly subtle afterthought.

All the best for the New Year.

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