Your dad, uncle or brother has every tool, tie or t-shirt a fellow could need or want.
He has sophisticated tastes and you’d like to add to his collection of scotch, whisky or bourbon, but aren’t sure what to buy.
Canadian spirit expert Davin de Kergommeaux, author of Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert and the e-newsletter Whisky News, says let the recipient’s tastes be your guide.
Mad for single malt
Advising you to do a little investigative work, de Kergommeaux says you’ll have to discern what is your scotch lover’s fave. “Find out what their taste is. Do they love peaty scotches? Some love them and others not,” he advises.
Those who are endeared to the peaty variety will appreciate receiving Lagavulin or Laphroaig. One who enjoys a Speyside spirit will enjoy Aberlour or Glenfarclas.
These are good choices for someone who is newer to scotch collecting, but de Kergommeaux exhorts you to push the boundaries when choosing a gift for someone with a more extensive collection.
“Be a little more adventurous and purchase single malts that are made in countries other than Scotland. They have the familiar flavours but with a local twist,” he says, adding you’ll win points for originality by gifting them with a bottle made in Taiwan, Japan or India.
“These are carefully crafted scotches,” he adds.
To enhance the experience, proper glassware, such as Glencairn glasses, is always appreciated by true aficionados, says de Kergommeaux.
Barmy about bourbon
Bourbon, or American whisky, as he calls it, is having a wonderful year, according to de Kergommeaux. “Ten years ago, the top bourbon makers started to take their products seriously and also started paying attention to marketing, so now we have excellent products to choose from.”
Three bourbons he names off the top to add to someone’s array of spirits, or help them start a quality collection, are Maker’s Mark 46 (which he calls “spicy”); Woodford Reserve (“It has lot more body”); and Basil Hayden 8 Year Old (“This one has big flavour and fills your mouth”).
Bourbon differs from whisky made in Canada because it is aged in different types of barrels. Bourbon is aged in new oak barrels that have been charred, lending it a distinct character, while its Canadian cousin is aged in barrels that have been previously used to age other types of spirits. “There are other differences, but the main taste difference is due to the type of barrels used,” explains de Kergommeaux.
He says bourbon drinkers are less fussy about glassware because of its broader flavours, so a set of nice crystal tumblers would be the perfect complement to a bottle of this spirit.
Crazy about Canadian whisky
Canadian whisky makers are really picking up the pace and de Kergommeaux couldn’t be happier about that. “This year the lights went on in all the distilleries here. Everybody has come out with something new that is really good. Canadian whisky makers are becoming more confident about the quality of their products and it shows.”
He cites Lot No. 40 as one to buy. “This is very bold, using 100% rye grain, with 10% of that malted; it has rye bread flavours. They are just going to say, ‘Wow,’” he says.
Another favourite is Alberta Premium Dark Horse. “I’ve been pouring this a lot; it’s inexpensive and everyone loves it,” explains de Kergommeaux.
Canadian-owned Forty Creek is offering two bottles de Kergommeaux recommends: Portwood Reserve and Confederation Oak Reserve.
He adds the Portwood is a limited edition and it will sell out quickly. “It won’t be around next Christmas,” he predicts.
Canadian whisky drinkers, like their Scotch-sipping brethren, favour Glencairn glasses to fully appreciate the nuances of their favourite spirits, so a set would be a nice gift.
All who long to know more about the world of spirits would appreciate the gift of de Kergommeaux’s book: Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert. Published in the spring of this year, it’s the most definitive volume on the subject.
“It’s the first book that has a comprehensive look at Canadian whisky,” he says, “The book covers its history, a look at where the flavours come from, stories about the individual distilleries and tasting notes on a 100 different products. It’s really about how to enjoy all kinds of whiskies.”
It is available across the country in Chapters and on Amazon.
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