5 More Gifts for the Whiskey Lover

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1) Each high-quality dram in the Whisky Advent Calendar is hand-selected, individually labeled and wax sealed—we just could not resist putting this on our list! It may be a little late for December, but you could always just count down until Greek Orthodox Christmas (or simply play “catch up” and double up on missed days). ($234.59)

2) We have the pleasure of knowing the lovely woman behind East Van Jam—and know that she too enjoys indulging in a glass of scotch after a long day. Sir Pear of Islay is a “bold jelly” featuring Okanagan pears and single malt Islay scotch—sure to put a smile on any scotch lover’s face! ($11)

3) Really, who wouldn’t want to pour a glass of scotch from a stag head decanter? The Pottery Barn carries these hand-blown-glass beauties, which are also available with monogramming. ($119) 

4) We love to entertain—especially during the holidays. These gorgeous serving boards from Union Wood & Supply Company are made from reclaimed wood rafters “of a local brick and mortar that was once used as a police horse stable/livery…and dressed up with distressed steel handles”. Rustic, yet refined, these boards unquestionably jazz up any cheese plate, and each board is unique! ($80)

5) What kind of whiskey blog would this be if we didn’t recommend a scotch? If you’re feeling a little fancy, we suggest picking up a bottle of the Johnnie Walker Blue Label. We recently enjoyed a dram of this elegantly smoky-smooth amber liquid and can’t get it out of our heads. ($299)

5 Gifts For the Whiskey Lover (or you…)

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1) Take a tour through the wonderful world of whiskey with this fabulous infographic from Pop Chart Labs. Celebrating over 200 kinds of whiskey from America and Canada to Scotland and Ireland, “from scotch to bourbon to single malt to moonshine”—this is a must-have for our walls! The Many Varieties of Whiskey is available as both a limited edition whiskey barrel-inspired wood engraving, or as an 18” x 24” poster chart. ($29; $185)

2) For the globetrotting whiskey lover in your life: turn their airplane experience up a few notches by letting them bartend at 30,000 feet with the Carry On Cocktail Kit! The carry-on friendly kit comes with everything you need to mix up two old fashioned cocktails, including detailed directions, bitters, cane sugar and a muddler. Even in coach, you’ll be riding ‘first class’. ($24)

3) What liquor-loving fashionista wouldn’t love this chic stainless steel flask bangle from Cynthia Rowley? The covert flask holds approx 3oz of booze—and since “arm parties” are all the rage, why not stack a few on each wrist? The bracelet that will not only have you looking great, but feeling great too! ($365)

4) Elegance exists in simplicity, and these Brass Lift Coasters embody both. Of course we prefer these sculptural gems with a tumbler of scotch atop, but they add a sophisticated touch to any tabletop all on their own. ($68)

5) While we always prefer our single malts neat, there are times that a chilled (but not diluted) whiskey is called for. Ice cubes knocking against your teeth and watering down your beverage are never enjoyable, but thankfully the Whiskey Wedge is bringing us joy this season. The set includes both a Double-Old Fashioned Whiskey Glass and a silicone mold—simply add water to the glass, insert the mold and freeze—resulting in glacier-shaped ice that clings to the side of the glass and melts much more slowly than traditional cubes. ($14.95)

Vancouver’s Craft Distilleries

 

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Though steeped in tradition, whiskey has certainly garnered a ton “buzz” recently—especially small batch whiskey. Trying new types of whiskey is, of course, one of our favourite pastimes, and when we came across this piece from All Things Considered on NPR it definitely got us thinking. Now, that’s not to say that our enjoyment of these varieties is lessened in any way! It’s simply a reminder to be aware of labeling practices and, if you’re interested in the origin of your whiskey, to do some research.

That being said, we have been loving the distilleries popping up around Vancouver lately, producing (truly) local small batches of whiskey…and more!

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The Liberty Distillery: Situated on Granville Island, the Liberty Distillery proudly handcrafts their spirits from quality BC ingredients using traditional artisan distillation methods—from the fermentation of the grains to the triple distillation process in handmade copper stills. In addition to their vodka and gin, two white whiskeys are currently available—including one infused with Chilliwack River Valley Wildflower Honey—and an aged whiskey, made from 100% BC organic barley is anticipated for a 2016 release. Experience Liberty’s spirits at their 110yr old antique bar (1494 Old Bridge Road) or enjoy a distillery tour to witness the process up close. thelibertydistillery.com

Odd Society Spirits: Located in East Van, this craft distillery ferments and distills small batches on site, using 100% BC agricultural products. They also offer the unique opportunity to privately own a cask of Canadian Single Malt, matured at the distillery for three years before being bottled for you. Visit them online—oddsocietyspirits.comand check out their tasting lounge at 1725 Powell Street.

Long Table Distillery: Having the distinction of being Vancouver’s first micro-distillery, Long Table’s selection of premium gins, vodkas and “seasonal spirits” are produced from organic, natural and often foraged ingredients, focusing on local and sustainability. Small-batch whiskeys are part of a long-term plan for the company. Their tasting room is open Wednesday-Saturday at 1451 Hornby Street—we recommend trying the Bourbon Barrelled Gin! Find more information at longtabledistillery.com.

Central City Brewers & Distillers: Their award-winning craft beers have been local favourites for years, but Central City entered the world of craft distilling this year with the launch of their small batch vodka and gin. They’re also focusing on putting Canadian whisky back on the map with their 100-percent rye whisky, currently in the works. Find out more at centralcitybrewing.com or in person at 11411 Bridgeview Drive, in Surrey.

Yaletown Distilling Company: This latest venture by the Mark James Group also brings artesian distilling to Vancouver, utilizing 100% BC ingredients—all milled, washed, fermented and distilled in Yaletown. Current offerings include herbal-infused gins and vodkas, with whiskey production next on the agenda. The distillery offers guided tastings and tours five days a week, at 1132 Hamilton Street. ytdistilling.com

The Whiskey Companion You Can Keep in Your Pants

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Sure, we have our tried and true go-tos, but we are certainly not ones to discriminate—every un-tasted bottle is a potential new favourite!

The Distiller app is a fantastic resource, whether you’re new to the world of whiskey, an aficionado, or looking for a gift. Simply answer a few questions (including mood, price range, how adventurous you’re feeling) and Distiller provides a suggestion by matching your tastes to the unique characteristics of each bottle. You can also browse their database by region, price and type, and each result has a thorough description and easy-to-decipher flavour profile chart.

flavorprofileDistiller employs a panel of “whiskey Iron Chefs”, each with regional expertise (American whiskey, Scotch, Irish and other global varieties) to individually rate and review the bottles in its database. You can also create your own profile to track and review drams you have sampled, plus find, follow and share opinions with other whiskey lovers. Rating whiskeys through the app will provide you with recommendations specifically catered to your tastes.

We find this all pretty awesome. If you do too, go indulge in something new and share what you discover with us at @TheWhiskyChicks.

Still Sipping…but we’ve missed you!

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We may have been slacking on the posts the past few months (sorry for the temporary abandonment!) but we pinky-promise there has still been a good deal of what we like to refer to as ‘research’ going on.

Most recently, we have been working our way though a bottle of Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban. This delicious edition spends ten years in white oak barrels before being transferred and finished in port casks from the Quintas—wine estates of Portugal—for another two.

Unlike many other port-finished Scotches, the Quinta Ruban is at a price point that won’t hurt your wallet, making it a great find for the scotch lover on a budget—particularly because this beautiful, dark, sumptuous amber treasure truly makes you feel like you’re drinking something more expensive.

The nose is citrusy and fruity, mixing with bold notes of nutmeg and walnut, and once the smooth liquid hits your tongue, the velvety dark chocolate mint flavours emerge, and mellow out with more sweet orange.

Although the Quinta Ruban may not have the smokiness that we’re often most drawn to, it is certainly a delightful scotch that is sure to be a crowd pleaser—and definitely has us coming back for more! Another strong bar cart addition.

A Storm We Don’t Mind Being Hit By…

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Last year, one of our favourite single-malts, Talisker, expanded its portfolio with three new releases: Storm, Dark Storm (matured in heavily charred casks) and Port Ruighe (with a port finish). We recently tried Storm and couldn’t agree more with one review describing it as “…everything that you love about other Taliskers, with the settings turned right up.”

Storm has a bold aroma and flavour, achieved by using a mix of refilled casks and rejuvenated casks. Rejuvenated casks are casks that have been de-charred and re-charred to give them a second life. Although Storm doesn’t carry an age statement, its smooth finish and mouthfeel would never betray a true age.

Golden in colour, with a buttery, smoky nose and teasing notes of vanilla and black pepper, there is no mistaking that this is Talisker. While we can’t decide which Talisker we like best, we certainly agree that with a similar price point to the 10yr, Storm will definitely be a welcome addition to our bar cart.

Hold the phone! You assumed we were going to order what…!?

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Upon rejecting the offer of a cocktail menu at a Yaletown watering hole recently and instead each requesting a glass of Talisker, neat, these two Whiskey Chicks received a look replete with disbelief and intrigue from the bartender.

“Sorry,” he said, “I was just surprised. It’s refreshing to have a couple of women come in and order something other than a vodka soda or a Cosmo.”

Far from the first time we have received this response, we’re commonly faced with raised eyebrows and a look of surprise from both men and women when ordering our tipple of choice. And while we certainly don’t aim to shock with our taste preference, we’re okay with not fitting a stereotype—particularly one that emerged in the late 90’s courtesy of the Cosmopolitan-swilling ladies of Sex in the City (which, nonetheless, will forever be a show close to our hearts and never far from our DVD players).

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But when exactly did scotch become “a man’s drink”? This recent article in Esquire references several historical events and movements involving whisky, with women at the forefront. Yet sometime between women calling the shots during prohibition and the modern day, scotch became a measure of manliness.

Even if you are a woman (or a man, for that matter) who does enjoy the occasional fruity beverage with an equally fruity name—Flirtini anyone?—there’s no reason to shy away from a bold, peaty monster of a scotch. Or perhaps your palate is tempted by something lighter and more floral.

That’s one reason why we love the amber nectar so much—the wide range and depth of flavour profiles offers endless opportunities to discover something new and deliciously enticing, and also means there’s likely a scotch out there with just the right notes to delight those with even the most discerning of tastes. And it doesn’t hurt that even if you happen to indulge in more than an ounce or two, you aren’t faced with quite the same drunken affect as with other liquors and rarely will you have a hangover afterwards…

#YouStayClassySanDiego

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 Besides, let’s be honest, there’s something just plain sexy about a glass of scotch. The smooth texture—heavy and viscous, but not syrupy—the rich amber colour, the immediate warmth that spreads through your body as you roll it over your tongue and it trickles down your throat. There’s an air of romance around it. It’s a drink that insists that you slow down, that you savour it. We like it for its attention-seeking boldness—the way it asks you to be aware of it with each sip, and consider it.

This anthropomorphization of whisky made us laugh:

Whisky doesn’t care. That’s what makes it cool. The only other liquor that’s anywhere near as cool is Tequila. But Tequila’s always been too crazy to really be cool. Tequila will cut you for looking at its woman, then laugh while the cops drag it off to jail, and spit at you during the trial. And trust me you don’t want to pick on Vodka either. Dude doesn’t have much of a personality, but I swear he goes to the gym twice a day. You want the nerd of the liquor crew? Try Gin. You can give Gin an atomic wedgie and the worst it’ll do is scream that his daddy will have you banned from the yacht club. (source)

I mean…it’s kind of true. And that’s not to say that you’ll never find us tossing back a tequila shot (or two, or three…), or a vodka-something-or-other. But we have a true love affair with good scotch that only continues to grow stronger every day. And this is one love affair that won’t end up with any broken hearts.

Prime Find of the Week: Daneson Single Malt Scotch Whisky Toothpicks

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Daneson is a Canadian company manufacturing small batches of toothpicks. Made from premium northern white birch, they are available in flavours like salted birch, lemon, cinnamint and, our personal favourite, Single Malt.

What really makes these toothpicks stand out is the barrel-aged Islay Signal Malt Scotch— from a 200 year old distillery—that they’re soaked in, and the kiln drying process which leaves behind a delicious peaty flavour and deep, wood notes.

We recommend these tasty little treats for scotch lovers like us, who enjoy the finer things in life.

To Chill or Not to Chill…

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CHILL FILTERED WHISKY
     Chill filtering is a process of removing residue, such as fatty acids, esters and proteins, from whisky prior to bottling. Purely cosmetic, chill filtering clarifies the whisky, preventing it from becoming hazy or cloudy when ice or water is added and also preventing the formation of sedimentation in the bottle.
In order to do this, the whisky is cooled (to around 0°C for single malts and colder for blends) and passed through a series of filters. This allows producers to dilute the whiskey to a lower proof and have it remain clear both on the shelf and in the glass.

NON-CHILL FILTERED WHISKY
     The substances that are removed during the chill filtration process are also components that contribute to the flavour, aroma and texture of a whisky. Removing them may improve clarity, but many connoisseurs feel this alters the taste and other characteristics.
Some feel strongly about “preserving the integrity of the whisky” and the traditional craft, preferring a non-chill filtered whisky. The number of distilleries offering non-chill filtered products is growing to satisfy this demand, while some distilleries, such as Bruichladdich, do not filter any of their products.

So…To Chill or Not To Chill?
     This has been a hot topic in the whisky industry lately. Those against chill filtration are convinced that the bouquet of the whisky is altered during the filtration process, resulting in a less than superior product. Those in favour of it maintain that the taste and texture of the whisky remain intact and that filtration simply provides a clear, well-balanced dram.
As always, we feel that the best way to determine your preference is to taste and compare both types of whisky on your own.

Here are some a few non-chill filtered selections, at different price points, to get you started:
Ardbeg 10yr unfilltered
Tasting notes: sweet vanilla counter balanced by lemon and lime
Finish: long and glorious with sea salt caramel and beach bonfire smoke
Aberlour’s A’bunadh
Tasting notes: orange, black cherries, dried fruit and ginger
Finish: robust and intense with bitter sweet notes of spices
Macallan Unfiltered Cask Strength (MC)
Tasting Notes: orange and light, spicy wood resins (clove & ginger) with smoky oak
Finish: intriguing and complex; layers of citrus fruits and a hint of vanilla sweetness