Friday, May 27, 2016

Giving dad an iconic Canadian whisky - JP Wiser's Last Barrels

My father was born on Thursday May 28th 1936 into a very large family. His life was never easy and that's now very apparent on his small and somewhat frail 80 year old frame. My earliest memories were of him waking us up early Saturday mornings to watch Bugs Bunny. I didn't know until much later he was coming in off a 12 hour night shift (He always made sure we ate breakfast together every weekend). He also enjoyed watching hockey and having a few tipples. It's because of him that I really enjoy whisky the way I do. I also have his nose, which when I was younger I truly hated, but of course now... I love and cherish. 

My dad and I are entering the next phase of our lives together with a bit of trepidation as he turns 80 tomorrow and I celebrate 50 later this year. His motor skills are fading as are his eyesight and memory. This bothers him immensely and of course worries me a lot. We spend a lot more time talking these days and it's as though he knows he doesn't have much time left. He's trying to make sure I know all of his stories before he goes (albeit, the same stories he's told me since I was a teenager hehe). 

He had to give up drinking about 10 years ago because of the varied medications he needs. As late as last week when we were driving him to an eye appointment he said from the backseat: "Do you know what would taste really good right now, a rum & coke". I laughed because at no point do I ever remember him drinking that. 

Before I left for my annual trip to Scotland this year I spent a few days with my youngest daughter who now lives in Windsor, which so happens is where Hiram Walker Distillery is (totally coincidence I swear). I sent Don Livermore a quick email to let him know I'd be there for a few days and I got the invite to come and see him if I had a few minutes. DO I HAVE A FEW MINUTES!?  

What followed was a sunny Friday morning, coffee, nosing/tasting extravaganza as only Don Livermore could provide. I've said it before, the man is not only brilliant but makes learning about the whisky process so fascinating and interesting that you can't help leaving/feeling like you've just received a very special and insightful gift. Part of my experience (in their almost ready gorgeous visitor center) was creating my own blend which I loved doing. I also visited the warehouses. 

When we came back to the center, I noticed a few whisky bottles at the very back of the tasting room. "What is that" I exclaimed as I approached a new bottle I didn't recognize. Don smiled and started to tell me about Last Barrels. My eyes grew larger and I had to ask: "Is it possible to try it?" Of course he said, but under the condition that you not say a word or post this anywhere. DONE! I took a photo and buried my nose into the glass Don handed me. 

My notes that day:

Nose: Butterscotch, pencil shavings, oaky with hints of tree sap (barn after haying)
Palate: Crisp (surprised), like a tart green apple. Sweet, rich, a bit of clay, slightly peppery with more oak
Finish: LINGERS forever, nice dried chilies/sweetness

If you want to learn more about how the whisky actually came to exist, please read Davin's article on it here:

LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) requested this whisky as an exclusive release for Father's Day. It's not often you'll hear about these sorts of whiskies in Canada. They are few and far between which, of course, only makes them even more rare. Unlike some of the other releases from around the world, this is a very affordable whisky! It's $65/bottle BUT only available in the province of Ontario, which is where I don't live!?? CRAP I immediately thought!

After I came back from the trip to UK, I started looking into getting a few bottles of this. Thankfully because of some really great friends in Ontario and Quebec, I did! I bought 3 for very selfish reasons. One I will open now and share with friends (and maybe one or two little tipples with dad). The second I will open at my father's wake, and the third when I retire (let's hope I make it to 65!)

Whiskies, like some people in my life, can be gloriously special. I'm thankful to be living in a time where Canadian whisky is reclaiming its place in the world. I'm thankful for still having both parents alive and I'm thankful for friends who look out for me in one way or another. 

If you are fortunate enough to be living in Ontario, I highly recommend you pick up at least one bottle of this very unique Canadian whisky (if not two) and if you don't live there, find someone to get it for you. I guarantee you won't be disappointed in your purchase. 

Oh and if you know a deserving dad somewhere who is an unsung hero, get him a bottle too!

Happy Birthday to my dad ->Edmond. I wouldn't be as kooky or "special" without your genes or support. May you live another 20 great years and enjoy a small dram as well as dance with me when I turn 70.

Your loving daughter,

Lassie (Johanne)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The water dram - Deveron 12

Having just come back from a month away in the UK, the smell of 'home' always makes me smile because there is a briny aroma in the air as soon as you step off the plane and you only get that when you live next to the sea (Sorry New York or Toronto...)

The last thing I wanted to do when I got home was drink more whisky!? I was offered a few drams but found myself using the designated driver excuse. It seemed as though I was slightly whisky'ed out! Yes, it does happen...  trust me!

Before I left, back in April I received a bottle of Deveron 12 as a gift. It was a lovely surprise and we immediately opened it. Just so happens we were away, having rented a lovely cottage on the Atlantic Ocean. We spent the whole weekend watching fishing boats, sunsets and relaxing. I told Graham several times how much I thought the whisky was simply perfect for the entire weekend. Then yesterday, unbeknownst to me, Graham packed the Deveron 12, a few glasses in his backpack and we went down to finish getting our sailboat ready for the season. It was a lovely surprise when he pulled it out and it made perfect sense that it be the first dram of the sailing season. Suddenly my whisky appetite was back!

Our friend Peter was working away on his boat so we also poured and offered him a small dram. There we were the three of us, whisky in hand talking about our plans, hoping for fabulous weather, great destinations and many days/nights on the water. 

I didn't spend any time making notes about this whisky. Didn't even so much as take a photo. It was about being in the moment, sharing a great whisky and creating the first memory of my 2016 sailing season. I watched as Graham finished his dram and put the half empty bottle back in his bag. It didn't take long for me to realize how much we both really love this whisky and it's because it speaks to us as people who live next to the ocean. Living on the eastern seaboard molds you as a person. You learn to go with flow, slow down sometimes, not take life too seriously and most of all, the sense of community. As I stood there looking at all the sailboats at our club it was easy to see why I love this place so much.

Deveron 12 envelopes me as the perfect maritime dram should. I'll add it's also excellent value for money since it's still quite an affordable whisky (£26 in UK, $45 US). Graham asked me if I wanted to keep the bottle on the boat to which I answered: "Bad idea, it will be long gone before the end of the season". I thought about that later on in the evening as I was watching a bit of television. Why didn't I want to keep it on the boat? What was wrong with drinking the bottle, it's whisky... that's what we are supposed to do with it. I'm a huge advocate of opening, sharing and finishing bottles so why had I suddenly become a little stingy with this one?

And then I just stopped trying to analyze the situation and accepted the fact that I see Deveron 12 as "our water dram". It's become something special that Graham and I share when the moment calls for it. Forever linked to a weekend away, alone, watching fishing boats, sunsets and relaxation. There is absolutely no shame in not wanting to share that with too many people, now is there?  ;)

Deveron 12, 40% ABV

Nose: Malty, sweet, green apples or pears. Summer orchard.

Palate: Light, delicate with a briny undertone. Sweet, like tinned peaches. 

Finish: Doesn't linger, slightly tannic but still sweet.

This is a very well balanced whisky, that if opened for the right occasion will forever stay imprinted on the memory. It's a lovely dram indeed!

Here's to discovering your favourite drams of 2016, may they be as wonderful as the moment calls for. Slainté!