Wednesday, November 1, 2017

It takes a small town to raise a festival - Devour!

Picture this, Wolfville Nova Scotia October 217. It’s a sunny Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market. It’s also day four of the Devour food and film festival. I am standing outside the main door next to a tent where the Grills, Culinary School Takedown event is about to begin. It's a challenge to the students from the Nova Scotia Community College, George Brown College Chef School and the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts and they are taking turns grilling on Big Green Eggs. I'm standing in the lineup of people waiting to try “Cornairs” a strange but addictive twist on a Maritime favourite. DELISH! As I walk around inside with a cup of locally roasted coffee in one hand and a fresh peach and cheese Danish in the other I am mesmerized by the diversity of food stalls, how friendly everyone is and the amount of festival goers doing the same as me; simply taking a little time to truly enjoy the Farmer’s Market experience. Wolfville only has a population of 4200 people but during the festival close to 16,000 individuals are staying, eating and shopping, yet it still feels comfortable if you know what I mean. It's not overcrowded, people are super pleasant and the locals are truly happy to see us all here. 

I had a chance to sit and chat with Chef John Higgins who was attending his second Devour Festival. He is currently the Director of the George Brown Chef School in Toronto Ontario. He feels festivals like Devour are the grass roots of what cooking is all about. “We need to get back to teaching our children basic kitchen skills – how to sharpen and use a knife properly, use local ingredients to create simple but flavourful meals and how to cook using staples.” As he walks around the farmer’s market, fans stop him to take photos or tell him how much they enjoy watching him on Chopped Canada.  He has fallen in love with the people of Wolfville, their generosity and how dedicated they are to the success of the festival. “The greatness of this festival rests on the shoulders of all the volunteers that make it happen year after year. It’s because of the local merchants, the venues and the size of this town that Devour has this winning combination. I can’t even imagine trying to have something like this in Toronto, I just don’t think it would possess the same charm or magic as it does here in Wolfville. Interesting factoids about chef Higgins: He's from Glasgow, cooked for the Queen at Buckingham Palace when he was 19 and his comfort food is Indian cuisine. (No wonder I loved meeting this guy! :)

Another chef I had the opportunity to chat with is the owner of the Gannet Restaurant in Glasgow - Chef Peter McKenna (Are you noticing a trend here? I do love their accents, hehe). This was his first Devour appearance and it was an honour for him to be chosen as one of the celebrity chefs preparing the five course dinner to commemorate Jacques Pépin’s film, The Art of Craft. “I was quite taken aback with the friendliness and positivity of the people of Wolfville. I instantly felt at home and truly welcomed into the community. A festival like Devour is extremely important as it brings so many people together may it be culinary students just starting their own adventure (I remember how difficult that can be), festival attendants, volunteers or people from different industries which, for me is an opportunity to share my own personal experiences with people, because we all have something in common: A love for food and drink”. 

After Graham and I are done presenting sold out workshop: "Old Scotland to New Scotland in 6 glasses", we are off to the local pub called the Library. A couple of pints, a few laughs and a hearty meal for very affordable prices. 

Matt Jones was at the festival again this year and we attended his "It's 5 o'clock somewhere cocktail class. I'm not usually a fan of cocktails but Matt has changed the way I feel about those. Two in particular were made with a new to NS gin - Sipsmith London Dry Gin which I really like a LOT, so much so, a bottle came home with me! 

It’s now late Saturday night or early Sunday morning as we close down the Festival Lounge Gala. We walk back to our car parked on Elm Street when we notice some of the festival organizers and volunteers carrying boxes into the Farmer’s Market. “Preparing as much as we can for the luncheon tomorrow, hope to see you all there.”, one of them tells us with an enthusiastic grin. It’s 1:45am!? These people are truly devoted to the success of this festival and it shows.

I’m not sure if Michael Howell and Lia Rinaldo, Executive and Managing Directors, knew what they were actually creating seven years ago but what I do know for sure is that foodies and cinefiles from around the world are certainly grateful they had the vision to conceive a place where the two intertwine and creates one of the best places in the world where you can watch a great documentary, learn how to make homemade pasta then enjoy a star lit pop up cocktail party at a winery all in the same day. As another year of Devour comes to a close, we can only hope the organizers and town of Wolfville continue to raise the festival to new heights. 

Devour was the Michael and Lia's brainchild back in 2010. They chose Wolfville due to its proximity to Halifax but also because of its stunning backdrop, venues and historic theatres. Devour is now the leading international festival that not only showcases some of the best documentaries, short films or dramas the world has to offer but also the opportunity to experience hands on sessions through cooking demos, interesting food panels or delicious dinners with some of the best of the culinary world.  

This was my first Devour food and film festival and I really loved it. Don't get me wrong, going to whisky festivals is always exciting to me but having been to this type of festival opened my eyes just a little broader to the depth of people that are open to different and unique workshops. Wolfville and all it had to offer over the course of the 5 days was simply a cool place to be for 5. It had a little bit of everything with my passion peppered in there which is probably why I really did enjoy it so much. With several pop-ups taking place in the next few months, keep your eyes open all over the globe for Devour. 

I think Chef Higgins summed it up best when he said: “Respect tradition but embrace the future” so I can't wait to see what Michael and Lia have in store for next year.


A more well rounded and appreciative Lassie

Friday, August 11, 2017

Into the light once more.... Lassie writes about Wiser's Dissertation

A little bit of honesty here: With every passing day as I stared at the screen that stated I hadn't blogged since March 3rd 2017 I grew more and more indifferent about ever doing it again. Day after day - spending time flipping through twitter then deleting the mindless amounts of PR emails that I receive about NEW and INNOVATIVE spirits coming to market. I attempted at times to read other blogs or websites but many simply seem to regurgitate the PR emails I deleted the day before.
Another round of: "Meh... Why do I bother, nobody reads these anymore anyway... or worse - I've really got nothing to say or add to the #whiskyfabric anymore. That last one likely hit me the hardest. Do people even care about stories, real reviews or crazy whisky adventures?" The following week I would read twitter, delete more emails, read a blog, sigh and then walk away from the computer yet once more.  Meh... Meh... Meh... Repeat... Meh...

Over the last five months I've travelled, done lots of sailing, had some fabulous and mind blowing adventures, drank some great whiskies, spent time with friends and family. These filled most of the nooks and crannies of my life. Writing, however, was an itch that wasn't getting scratched at all. Something needed to kick start my ass again but I wasn't sure what that was. In late May I received a package while I was at work. Graham, my wonderful partner in most of my crimes, sent me a message on his lunch hour about it so I casually said open it and let me know what it is. He wrote back: "Holy shit Jo!" Ok, so now he has my attention. I stare at my phone waiting for another message. Nothing...  "Errr, yes?" I write quickly. Nothing...  "Hello?" I type, now with a bit of impatience and annoyance. Nothing like getting click bait messages from your husband :) Then the photo comes in: A copy of Don Livermore's dissertation: "Quantification of oak wood extractives via gas chromatography - mass spectrometry and subsequent calibration of near infrared reflectance to predict the Canadian whisky aging process". Now, if you are a regular reader to this blog (poor attempt lately my apologies) or a new one who doesn't know who or what that means to me - Dr. Don Livermore is the brilliant and creative master blender at the Hiram Walker & Sons distillery in Windsor Ontario Canada. 

I know the adrenaline shot through my entire body when my brain registered what I was looking at and unless you are a full out whisky or chemistry geek like myself you may simply giggle at the thought of someone getting an adrenaline headache, her heart skipping a few beats and maybe suffering from a bit of hyperventilation as a result of seeing a photo of a paper about infrared sensors, barrel charring levels and whisky. Let me elaborate just a little (indulge me here...) = This is a PhD paper that demonstrates how the quality of a barrel can be determined by using infrared technology.

The other great thing that came of his dissertation was 114 barrels of whisky. A bi-product of the research and experiment really but also thankfully product that might be quite interesting to release on the market so Don chose 78 of them, blended the whisky which ended up creating Wiser's Dissertation. Released to the LCBO in Ontario as an exclusive bottling, 10,000 bottles hit the stores right before Father's Day. Cost $64.95.

I've really become a fan of Don's and many (MANY) of the whiskies he has created since taking the helm of Master Blender in 2012. I had a copy of the dissertation now I had to try the whisky. May 30th I stepped on a plane, hopped the Go train and headed directly to a liquor store in downtown Toronto where I purchased 2 bottles. (It's important to do a lot of trials - spoken like a true chemistry nerd!) I didn't make it back home to Saint John until June 21st but a few days later I quietly popped the cork while sitting on the boat. It was nice to simply enjoy it, no note book, no pictures for social media. Just me, the sunset and the whisky. It was glorious. I loved everything about it as many of you know I often say sometimes the whisky is simply the backdrop to the memory that is created. Over the course of the next 5-6 weeks anytime I opened my copy of the Dissertation, I also poured one (always made me smile when I did this!). I can't even begin to explain the satisfaction I had knowing that I was reading about Don's work and sipping the whisky that allowed him to successfully acquire his PhD.

Monday August 7th, my daughter Erica's birthday. She turned 27. I can't get a hold of her as she's off having an adventure (apple doesn't fall too far from this tree) but a great reason to pour myself a dram! Except this time, I'm drawn to my notebook. I open the page and the last notes taken on March 4th stare back at me. Halifax, whisky show - Bowmore Vault 1st Edition. Scribbles, my friend Celinda's name with a big happy face - Nice, salted with butterscotch sweet notes. I flip back a few pages, many more descriptors - most almost looking foreign to me now. Scented potpourri soaked cedar shavings (Won't mention the name of that whisky but good God it was horrible!) Yeah, I miss doing this. Maybe I needed the time off or away from writing so that I could appreciate how much I do love whisky?

Here goes, let's see how rusted my olfactory memory and taste buds really are? I have to say I was almost a bit nervous and scared to do this whisky a disfavour but like every other muscle that has memory, the nose did not fail me. Bicycle-schmicycle!?

Wiser's Dissertation Blended Canadian Whisky, 46.1% ABV

Nose: Explosive rye profile. Spicy, rich, lots of early fall night orchard smells like apples still fresh on the tree, grass that was hot all day but cooling in the autumn air, wild flowers like purple clover and evening primrose. The nose is big and beautiful.

Palate: Just a hint of fresh oak, pink grapefruit cheesecake with a caramel sauce (not kidding). Super creamy but mildly sweet in nature. Quite complex.
Finish: Smooth, not overly hot more like spicy like cinnamon heart candies. Nice but a bit short especially compared to most of the other whiskies I love from Corby's.

Overall I think Don hit it out of the park yet again with this one. I put it directly behind Last Barrels which I loved immensely in 2016. Review written, blog done = Lassie happy. With only about 25% of the stock left, when this one is gone, it's gone for good so if you are in Ontario or know someone who lives there, I recommend you get a bottle or maybe two.

Just three little things to add:

a. 46.1% is what Dr. Don decided to bottle this at, which also (not by coincidence) is the molecular weight of ethanol (CH3CH2OH) -> Squeals with geeky excitement.

b.  Maybe you noticed that I stated Dr. Livermore used 78 of his PhD research barrels to make Dissertation a reality. I hope that leaves you wondering, just like me - what will happen to the remaining 36? Can't wait to see what creative idea he comes up with for those.

and c... BIG thanks to fellow Canadian whisky judge, chosen brother and very good friend André Girard, for being the kick in the pants I needed to finish this one and reminding me about the one thing that brings friends, happiness, adventures and great memories into my life: Whisky.

It was quite refreshing writing a blog for the fun of it. It's nice to be back and I'll do my best to keep writing about what this Lassie does, thinks and experiences after all why should I keep all the crazy and weird things that I get to do locked up in my head ;)

Cheers from Saint John Canada wherever you may be.


Friday, March 3, 2017

When whisky and poetry slam!

My wish for 2017 was that I would "do" more. I made a promise to myself that I would give back as much as was given to me, that I would expand my life experiences until I felt I was bursting because I would say yes, without hesitations, to the opportunities being presented to me.

In January I donated my time to a great fundraiser in my hometown called: Bolder taste for Boulder Art. It was quite the experience to link how a sculpture has the same humble beginning as a grain of barley. In the end both end up creating masterpieces for people to enjoy.

February came along and the Regional Library approached me to do a lecture series about whisky. No actual tastings involved, just a series of information sessions about all things whisky. I thought to myself, I can't imagine people would want to come to a whisky talk without whisky being poured? But... I was wrong. Completely wrong! It was the largest turnout the library had ever seen with their speakers series and I truly loved it.

Here we are March and my friend Matt Jones and I were scheduled to be presenting at the Nova Scotia Festival of Whisky from March 1-4. One late evening as we were talking about upcoming events and what our itineraries were like for the next couple of months and he mentioned that a few friends were getting together for an evening of Spoken Word, graciously sponsored by Maker's Mark Bourbon. YES, without hesitations. There we are Thursday March the 2nd at the Company House in Halifax Nova Scotia. Intimate setting, candles, tables and plenty of other people there to listen and experience poetry. Sounds a bit floopy I'm sure to most, because I mean really how does whisky even remotely fit when it comes to poetry. To that I would say you would be mostly surprised how one really did go hand in hand with the other.

Let's start with the definition of Slam Poetry: An intense blend of written verse mixed with stage performance - and a stop watch.  There are no props, no music, just a speaker on stage with their own voice and words. There is authenticity, rawness and it takes time to not only compose each piece but to perfect it.  Sound familiar to whisky?  I think so in many ways...

The evening began with a young, somewhat shy but humorous man by the name of Andre Fenton. Wise beyond his 21 years of age. He was one of only two participants from the east coast to attend the National Slam Poetry Competition in Vancouver in 2016. Andre, stepped up to the microphone, apologetic in nature as he seemed to stumble on his own words to introduce himself. "I wrote a book", he almost whispered, "I'll be launching in March 31st across the street at Alteregos Café on Gottingen Street". I couldn't help but smile as I thought to myself, ahhhh we are starting with an up-and-comer who is still quite green behind the ears. Then... he began. The clarity of his speech, the cadence of his language and the movement of his body so in sync with the spoken words. I found myself leaning in, listening more than just intently, listening with purpose. This was not a young man of 21 years of age standing before us under a bright spotlight on a dark little stage at the Company House. This was an old soul who had lived, and seen and experienced life more intensely than most of us could ever imagine.

Mr. Andre Fenton - East coast poet
His book, Ode to Teen Angst, is a 43 page compilation of 10 of his favourite poems. My favourite of the evening was clearly the letter to his 10 year old self. Witty, dirty, truths about growing up, truth about depression, being bullied, being scared about the changes to come but with the advice to always hang on, dream big and trust that it's all good.

I read in the interview where he stated: "Some of the topics in the book aren't really relatable to everybody". I would tend to disagree somewhat. He talks about the life in the "customer service" world, he talks about life lessons, love and mental illness. "Like I'm running through a grass field with the girl of my dreams or like I'm looking through at the stars trying to solve all the galaxy's mysteries".  His poem Unapologetic is an eye opening piece about racism. Something I have never experienced in my 50 years of my life. I will never understand how that feels or looks like but through Andre's eyes. I see the un-relatable side of his teenage years versus mine...

Andre's book is available by contacting him at

The $15 is not only worth every loonie, it's like the best little book a teenager should read, in my opinion. Nothing speaks louder than the words of someone else going through the exact same thing as yourself.  Thank you Andre for putting those words to paper and allowing the world to look in and share those moments with you.

Up next Martha, "just" Martha... no last name. The little wisp of a long haired woman with nothing more than her cell phone in hand. An ode to a grandmother who had recently passed away. Her grief, love and respect poured out for all to see. Touching, special and meaningful to many in the room as I watched how they nodded when certain words tugged at their own heart strings. How stupid we are in our youth to not realize the importance of our elders. It is all too late that we see how they shape and mould us into the adults we become. Her poem about marriage is where I found myself nodding incessantly, smiling under my breathe. How lost a woman can feel when she sees friends around her marrying, meanwhile deep inside she thinks but what about "me"... Who is this me, and why do I have to rush into what society sees as the only goal for making it in the world. A husband... to have and to hold. Why, can't I simply have and hold myself until I know what it is I want? Wouldn't that make me a better partner in the end? Martha stood 7 feet tall on that stage and I, gracefully sat in her shadow and basked in the words. Again, baffled by the depth and grace that were beyond her years.

And then Mona Mousa steps up to the stage and the electricity is felt through the crowd as she unleashes immediately a foray of words from the hip and soul. Clever, polished and melodious. I watched as the body language was one with the spoken words. Ohhhh she's a veteran at this, and you can tell she loves how standing that the microphone transforms Mona to "The Poet Mona". She runs the gamut from powerful, sassy to vulnerable. Speaking words of frustration, defiance and then love. No pauses, no frills... Just a woman, her life and her ability to share those awkward and sometimes scary moments that all of us feel but would never have the guts to share, especially on stage in front of strangers.

"Picture this: There is a man that plays the piano like it's his job. To remind people that music is brutal and real love will make you sick. This man plays the piano like it's his lover."

"Kentucky: It's 3:27am in Lexington Kentucky, the night that taught me that I am not everything I know, she is 67 headed to a city made of towering skyscrapers for the first time. She said to me: She can't blame her because ain't nothing changes in Kentucky but the weather. She looked at me and said: Darling, I can tell you're hurting because no stranger to the south comes to Kentucky unless they have a bourbon craving, broken heart. Honey you can decorate abstinence whatever you want but it's still going to be obvious what's missing."

Her entire spoken album entitled Bourbon Darling is available online at

Mona.. Spoken word poet, motivational speaker, comedian, heavily active in community, advocate for the empowerment of youth and whose mission in life is simple: Education and tolerance, no exceptions. Brilliant!

As the night wound to an end I came to a few quick conclusions about it all...  Poetry is not defined by age, nationality or content. What appears before you is nothing more than the outer shell and it's not until you let it open up that you discover the contents and the meaning inside. Some poets come in small unassuming packages where others are bold and exciting. There are some that you immediately are drawn to and you think to yourself, now... that was special.

I think you can see where I'm going with this. It's super easy to link my evening back to whisky for almost all the same reasons. Whisky, like poetry is art in most cases and it speaks to my heart and soul. I, once again, find myself speechless in how whisky has changed my life for the good, the best years of my life. I am, truly blessed.

At the end of the night, I went over and introduced myself to Andre. I didn't tell him how much his poetry touched me but I did buy his book. I have no doubt that thanks to people like Mona who believe and support the next generation of artists like Andre and Martha, these young and very talented people will continue to grow, excel and become the eloquent poets of tomorrow.

Huge thanks to Maker's Mark (cue the product placement joke - that's a personal one for Mona who does this part ooooh so well! ;) as well as Matt Jones for such a great experience. It was added value to the Nova Scotia Whisky Festival that I'm attending this week in Halifax.

What's next for this Lassie... a little adventure in whisky and chocolate pairings! Cue the moaning and giggles, errrr that was from me, not the people in the class (hehehe!)


The enlightened Lassie

Thursday, January 12, 2017

That's the last of 2016, I swear - Runner ups!

When January 1st rolls around, I don't purposely set out to break records. What I mean by that is, I don't set a goal and other than taking photos and keeping a spreadsheet I don't go out of my way to try and supersede previous years numbers. For 2016 I tried 397 NEW whiskies. To the average person this may sound like a crazy number but when you start to talk to other enthusiasts, I'm not even considered hard core... yet!

I like picking out whiskies that really stood out as my top 10 or 12 of the year. I make notes, put little stars beside the ones I think were most memorable and for what reason. I've had a few people say: "Wow, I'm surprised you picked (that) whisky". So again, I'll explain that sometimes it's about the memory the whisky created, or the moment itself. For instance: Benromach 35 and how it transported me back to a time when my grandfather was still alive. How magical is it to sit there, close your eyes and be inundated with memories of someone who was very special. (Just the thought of that day as I sat there nosing that whisky and remembering pepere Mossey brings tears to my eyes as I type this). That is powerful indeed.

With 397 whiskies to choose from there are bound to be some that I initially say: Oh yeah - top 12 indeed but then as the year rolls on they get bumped by others. When I created my list this year, I noticed two things:

1. There wasn't one single American whiskey that even made the top 30!? As I surfed my photos it made me wonder. Is it because, here in Canada we don't really get to try many new/interesting USA whiskies or is it because I simply gravitate toward other whiskies in general. Hmmm...  Goal for 2017: Try more American brands.

2. As I went through the spreadsheet it became very apparent that the whiskies I did seem to gravitate toward in 2016 were independent bottlings. Again, it made me ponder: Was I naturally inclined toward those or did I somehow have more access than usual to these types of whiskies?

If you look at my list of honorable mentions you'll see for yourself. Here are whiskies number 30-13.

30. SMWS 59.49 - Celebration in a glass (Thanks Ross)

29. SMWS 1.196 - Sunshine, motherhood and apple pie (Thanks Blair & Clare)

28. Canadian Club 20 year old (Celebrate Whisky festival Halifax)

27. Douglas Laing Rock Oyster (Celebrate Whisky Festival Halifax)

26. Deerstalker Braeval 20 year old (Celebrate Whisky Festival Halifax)

25. SMWS 9.84 Playing "Sea battle" in the garden (Club whisky tasting) 

24. Cadenhead Mortlach 26 year old (Thanks Dave W)

23. Cadenhead Caperdonich 39 year old (Thanks Mark W)

22. Balvenie 25 year old Triple cask (Thanks Ian M)

21. Gordon & MacPhail Macallan 1958, 11 year old (Thanks Richard U)

20. Balvenie 1966 (HUGE thanks to Jill B - my birth year!)

19. The Cask of Yamazaki 1990 Sherry Butt (Thanks Martine N)

18. Highland Park 1968 (Thanks Nicolas V and Dan V!!)

17. Two Brewers Yukon Single Malt, Release 2 (Thanks Lydia!)

16. Wemyss Malts 1988 Kirsch Gateau (Thanks Jacqueline)

15. Sansibar Tomatin 18 year old (Thanks Igor K)

14. Springbank 12 Rum Wood (Thanks Frank S)

13. Adelphi 1988 Cambus 27 year old (Thanks Jonathan B)

It's always an amazing journey and you'll likely also notice that the majority of whiskies on this list were shared by friends in one form or another. 

You can make fun of me all you like but #whiskyfabric truly is a weave of personalities, friendships and connections that I am truly grateful for. We share moments, we create memories and best of all: We love whisky!

Now, if you'll excuse me I'm off to make some room on my sample shelf: Thanks Benoit B for the latest rounds of drams I can't wait to try!

Here's to 2017... may the list of new whisky discoveries, friendships and adventures be long and good for all of you!



Monday, January 9, 2017

Helping out a newbie.... points you may want to consider - PLEASE!!!!

My first scotch, courtesy of my father in law George was an Ardbeg 17. Tastebud suicide or brilliant move? Well in my case a little of both. I choked, sputtered but added ice, finished the dram and... continued to try peated whiskies.

Please do not consider this my first rant of 2017 however there are some points I hope will be considered!!!

Here it is January 9th and already four times this year I've either seen or been included in the following request: "Hey I'm new to scotch or bourbon, so what would you recommend I try".  

Key words number 1:  I'M NEW
Key words number 2: WHAT SHOULD I TRY...

Here is what baffled me...  I know people are simply trying to be helpful and start sending out all sorts of recommendations to this "newbie" immediately -> WITHOUT asking any questions what so ever. I received private messages on 3 of the 4 occasions saying: "Thank you for taking the time to talk to me a little, the rest of that stuff was crazy overwhelming and not very helpful!?".

So... think about this for a minute. Would you do the same if someone asked you to recommend a type of dog? What about a car? "I love my Subaru - Buy one". Errrrr, ok... why?

In my opinion (and this is how I've done this for years) - There are several points to consider when someone asks you to recommend something to "TRY"...

1. Where do they live?  If you live in South Carolina USA and someone from the UK asks you to recommend a bourbon... WHY would you recommend something that is only available in South Carolina??? 

A: Do some research - Where do they live and what is available there... Don't recommend something they can never buy.

2. What is their price range? Why... would you recommend a bottle of scotch that costs $150.00 to someone who is brand new or has little experience with it? If they go by your recommendation and they hate it, they have just spend $150.00 for nothing more than: a door stop.
3. What do these people like? Why.... would you recommend all the things you like? Whisky is subjective as subjective as everything else in our lives. "I like the colour purple - you should wear purple too". Errrr... no.

Take a few moments to see what types of flavours they like. Easy questions such as:

A: What whiskies have you tried so far? Or what ones did you really like?
B: If they have never really tried whisky: Do you like sweet? Do you like the bitterness of coffee or chocolate, what about wine - do you like white vs. red? Beer? Rum? Super easy questions that will help you determine where to possibly point them in the right direction.

4. You are part of a HUGE #whiskyfabric!!! 

What about offering to put them in touch with someone you know near them for help? Or better yet... what about sending them a few little samples after you've determined what they think they might like to try? A try before you buy sort of deal? What a great introduction to the #whiskyfabric and what we are all about!

Now, maybe it's because you've been a whisky enthusiast for many years and you've forgotten how overwhelming and scary venturing out into buying your first few bottles really is? Either way, you may want to consider the points I've mentioned above when someone throws the "What should I try?" question. If you do, a few things will happen:

A. You'll be a trusted source that this person will rely on or refer other friends to. 


B. You'll really get the hang of recommending whiskies to suit the person and not the other way around.

Like I said, not a rant...  just some advice from a whisky enthusiast who remembers standing in front of the large wall of whisky and worse... being led down the wrong path because someone simply didn't take the time to get to know me just a little. Please feel free to add the list of points you are trying to lend a helping hand.



Sunday, January 8, 2017

Lassie's number 1 pick for 2016 - JP WISER WINS 2 years in a row!!!

It's not that I've fallen out of love with scotch but I have spent time these past two years trying to discover more Canadian distilleries and whiskies. , I would add I have done that successfully. Proud to be from this country and since day one of my social media adventure, I've been a proponent of Canadian whiskies and dispelling that it's no better than "brown vodka" by sending samples as far as New Zealand. I have also had some pretty fantastic mentors and people who have helped me understand and appreciate the whiskies that are being made from coast to coast. 

@CDNWhiskyDoc - Twitter handle
Last year Don Livermore, Wiser's Master Blender, and in my opinion the Steve Jobs of Canadian Whisky is the mastermind of some really great whiskies coming to market. Well educated, passionate and looking to change the face of whisky he has made it his mission for 2016-2017 to introduce the world to Canadian whisky. 

I had the chance to visit him in April of 2016 where he took the time to spend 5 hours with me teaching me how his creative nature and microbiology background guide him in his vision of what Canadian whisky can become. I experienced my very own university 101 whisky chemistry class and given the opportunity to try my hand at blending.  A "whiskylassie" blend was created as well as recipe written down. You never know, maybe someday after I pass away, there will be a Whisky Lassie whisky!? (Dream on Johanne, dream on... hehehe) Don and I went to lunch and we discussed many aspects of what is to come for Wiser's. 2017 is going to be one hell of an exciting year... albeit I am sworn to secrecy as to what will be released. 

After lunch, I assumed my day was done but no...  
Don says: "So do you want to go to the warehouse?" Lassie beams! We did a walk about, and then opened a few casks for sampling. Lot 40, Red Letter and the 18 - All at CS. I stood speechless (I'm sure that surprises many of you) and I said not a word for 5-10 minutes. Simply amazing straight out of the barrel, that is all. Back to the distillery and down to the archives for about an hour. I rummaged, searched and discovered pieces of Canadian history that day that simply blew me out of my boots. How sorry do I feel for people who simply think Canada makes brown vodka!? If only you knew the long history and story behind what we have here in this country. 

One last surprise for the Lassie - JP Wiser's Last Barrels. I was allowed to try a sample, take a photo but again sworn to secrecy as to saying anything until it was revealed in June 2016. 

My experience in full... why I love this bottle even more and why you should really get one bottle if you can.

At the Victoria Whisky Festival on January 20th, Don Livermore will reveal four new whiskies for 2017. I won't be on the west coast but I'll certainly be first in line here on the east coast to sample and buy them.

I'd like to thank Davin de Kergommeaux for introducing me to Don Livermore and of course a huge thank you to Don for being the passionate mad scientist who believes in what Canadians are capable of on the whisky scene.

Canada celebrates 150 years in 2017 and my mission and commitment to prove how proud I am - I'm going to sample, buy and write about as many Canadian whiskies as I can. Let's see how many this Lassie ends up trying!!!  Place your bets now boys and girls, place those bets. Bring on the Canadian whisky adventure!



Saturday, January 7, 2017

Lassie's Top 12 countdown to 2016, the runner up and in 2nd place!

Graham: "You should call this reveal - dropping the deuce".  Me about an hour later: "HEY!! I just googled that!?" Graham: "Nothing but maniacal laughter"..   BOYS!!??

Needless to say, we are calling this one my 2nd best moment and whisky for 2016 for a few reasons. First and foremost, a visit to this distillery has been a stellar one EVERY time. I've been going for 3 years straight now. It doesn't matter who is there, I always get the same level of customer service, great information and better yet: Some pretty interesting and delicious whiskies! If you haven't yet been, please make a reservation and don't forget to take a photo of the #whiskyfabric cask.

This year was no different. On my trip to Scotland for 2016 I actually ended up visiting the distillery twice. Once with Jo Lawson.. well because we needed a loo... (what better place to stop)... and it was a pleasure to introduce Jo to Graham Eunson, have a quick coffee and a bit of shopping. 

Then a week later, I revisited with Crystal Coverdale and we had a full tour of the distillery. It was pretty much my last chance to grab something different to bring back home for Graham so I decided upon an ex-bourbon cask, cask strength, straight out of the barrel. 

Whisky #2 for 2016: Tomatin 12 CS, ex-bourbon cask #2592, 62.3% ABV. The bottle made it home and sound and we opened the bottle on November 11th, my 50th birthday. I've since shared it a few times (as I always do...) and enjoyed it immensely. I love Tomatin whiskies as I feel, so far, every single bottling I've ever tried has followed the same recipe (so to speak): Lovely nose, great palate, strong finish. BALANCED.  What I thought was really interesting about 2016 was the fact that my palate seemed really tuned into ex-bourbon casks. This one is exceptional and truly is a great definition of what this type of maturation is all about. 

I knew this whisky would be in my top 10 and once I had my list, quickly placed it in the top 3. When the Scotch Test Dummies asked if I would do a live tasting with them, I quickly said hell ya and we schemed that I would reveal my number 1 and runner up whisky of the year.  I learned a few things that day:

1. The boys really love Tomatin Cask Strength whisky.
2. A 30-45 minute video session with Bart & Scott easily turned into a 75 minutes of laughter and debauchery. 
3. Never feed cask strength whiskies to the boys... again  (hehehe....)

I'm thankful to be in the position to visit distilleries in many different countries, I'm even more thankful for the friends and whisky community that has grown exponentially these last few years. I hope the Scotch Test Dummies and I make this an annual event and I certainly hope that Tomatin keeps hitting them way out of the park.

Buy great whisky, share it with fabulous friends... 

May this be the motto of 2017.

Cheers -> Lassie

Friday, January 6, 2017

Lassie's top 12 countdown for 2016, TOP 3 - Must have bottles!

I've often heard many whisky enthusiasts say: "I'm not allowed to buy anymore whisky until I get rid of a few bottles" or "My wife says I'm not allowed to build a bigger storage area". I have to say that having a partner who is just as passionate as I am leads us completely down the other path. I look at Graham and say: "There's no more room in my bookshelf". He scratches his head and builds me shelves. He looks at me while we are on vacation and says: "Do we want this bottle", and I don't even look over. "You want it, get it".  You can see the dilemma right? There is... NO VOICE OF REASON! 

Now mind you we do try to have limits (try...) so our spending habits have changed slightly in the last few years. We are more selective with our whisky purchases and have many less bottles open then we did 5 years ago. Looking back at 2016 and what we bought, I was quite satisfied with our choices and only had one small disappointment overall. Not bad, I say...  

As mentioned in a previous post when tasting the whiskies in the advent calendar, I knew I was going to be in trouble and promised myself I would limit my purchases to 3. Many of whiskies in the Secret Spirits calendar were pretty stellar but I managed to narrow it down to the ones I really wanted a full bottle of. Wemyss Marmalade Appeal, Glenrothes 27 year old. 

Number 3 on my top 12 of 2016 easily slides into this position for two reasons:

1. These bottles are rarely available in Canada and I usually have to wait until a trip to Scotland or the kindness of #whiskyfabric to get these, so I'm super excited to have this one in our collection.

2. This whisky was truly a stellar dram and next to Velvet Fig (which I miss very much), this is the best of the Wemyss Malts I've ever tried. 

Serge Valentin (Malt Maniacs) as well as rates this particular bottling 4 stars. (I highly respect his opinion).

My review was here as part of the advent fun I participated in:

Whiskies that make the "world" stop for a few minutes are a rarity. I come across these every once and awhile and absolutely cherish them. There were very few bottles of this Wemyss (688 I believe)... and I consider myself extremely lucky to be getting one. 

To Emma, Karen, Jacqueline, Ginny, and the rest of the team that works extremely hard at Wemyss Malts: Keep up the good work. Every whisky enthusiast should be so lucky to own a few good bottles from this independent company. 



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Lassie's top 12 countdown of 2016, Number 4 Best value for $ whisky of the year

I was wandering around the Celebrate Whisky Show in March in Halifax Nova Scotia. I had tried everything I wanted and was mostly making conversation and taking a few photos. Graham came over and said: "Have you made it over to the Canadian whisky tables yet?". I looked down at my list, apparently I had overlooked two that I was looking to try that night. We headed over in that direction. First one I tried wasn't bad but it wasn't quite my style. I found it a bit too oaky for my liking. I was a bit worried as I headed over to the second table. When I arrived there was nobody at the table (Geeez I hate that...) and I asked for a pour. What followed was great conversation with the distillery owner, a trip to the distillery twice since then and many, MANY bottles purchased.

Caldera Hurricane 5 blended Canadian whisky caught my attention and blew me out of the water. Why you ask? Because it's a great sipping whisky for an extremely affordable price! In a world where some of these price hikes have stopped us dead in our tracks from buying some of our favourites, this was a breathe of fresh air. When I asked why this was so "cheap" he stated: "Because I want everyone to be able to drink good whisky at a great price". Well, wow... honest and not looking to gouge the public! Can you say I'm a client for life!?

I wrote about Caldera earlier this year:

Graham and I have gone through 4 bottles of this since March, we've also ensured friends in Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec get bottles. It's truly a lovely whisky that is well worth the price tag. He's working on getting this available across Canada and it's just been released in some part of the USA as well.

Jarret, I very much look forward to trying other products as you evolve as a distillery. Thank you so much for Hurricane 5. For as long as we can buy it, it will be our "boat" whisky...  guaranteed!



Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Lassie's top 12 countdown of 2016 - Number 5, well worth the hype?!

After seeing Rogue One last week, I have to admit I wasn't overly impressed. Cue diving into the camera in slow motion while massive explosions go on, cue the sappy heart string music when Jyn's father dies in her arms. Well, at least she got 10 seconds with him after not seeing him in 16 years. Bla bla bla... Hollywood has ruined so many movies for me these last few years.

Many whisky enthusiasts will tell you that Marketing bullshit was likely just as rampant in 2016. In some cases I would say they were well justified so when Diageo came out with Lagavulin 8 for the 200th anniversary of the distillery, I'm sure a few people rolled their eyes as the marketing team gushed how Alfred Barnard had enjoyed an "exceptional 8 year old" back in 1880 something or other. Of course, others immediately started to complain about the price as well. Me, well... I'm about trying it at least and then making my decision on whether or not what is inside the bottle is worth the money. But, that's me ;)

I landed in London on April 22nd and went directly to my "big brother" Dave's house. After a short nap, a huge feast thanks to Kiat (MY GOD THAT WOMAN CAN COOK!?!), we settled in for a few drams, a proper catch up and a game plan for the next couple of days. When Dave asked what whiskies I wanted to ensure I bring home, first on my list to try and then buy if I liked it was the Lagavulin 8. Try and buy I DID! I didn't open it until June, after I got home where we brought it down to the boat. It was gone by August 1st. IT IS... that good. I want you to also consider the fact that we don't usually drink peated whiskies in the summer either.

Lagavulin 8 year old, 200th anniversary edition bottled at 48% ABV. 

Colour: Barely there, wisp of yellow

Nose: Delicate but the style of Lagavulin is there. More soft on the vanilla and hardly any cereal notes. The peat is not overly aggressive (that was my fear). After it sits in the glass for a few minutes, unripened pears or bananas. There's a bit of "green" in there but it's not unpleasant.

Palate: Alive! This is where the peat comes in. It's organic though, not overly smoky. It reminds me of a wet forest - damp earth and moss. A bit more time in the glass and it does become a bit more shortbread "cooky'ish".  Very nice, oily/buttery.

Finish: Eucalyptus, gingery with smoky overtones. Sweet, peat reek!  Lovely.

We made sure to share this with as many friends as we could over the 2 months we drank it and when it finally made its way to Canada in November, there was a lineup to get a bottle. Luckily, we got ours and it's now safely sitting in the collection. My only regret: Not getting 2, because here in my province it's already all gone....

Highly recommend getting a bottle of this if you haven't already. It may be Lagavulin 16's little brother but my goodness how I wish they would consider keeping this one in their regular line up because this is another Lagavulin done right.



Monday, January 2, 2017

Lassie's top 12 countdown for 2016 - Moving along to number 6!

When I was asked to be the guest writer for the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar this year, I was quite excited. I wasn't necessarily worried but hoped "life" wouldn't get too much in the way and that I'd be able to write, review and post every day for 25 days. Other than one small technical glitch, I was successful. 

I did a bit of research and looked at the previous years for this particular advent calendar. My initial thought was: "Wow, if it's half as good as year 1 or 2, man I'm in for a treat". Sure enough, the whiskies did not disappoint. My only dilemma - > WHAT whiskies do I want to try and buy!? I have no self control when it comes to these things sometimes. ;)

So, I narrowed it down to 3...

Whisky #6 on my countdown is quite a memorable one indeed for a few reasons. A) It was really a great dram, B) It's one of those rare whiskies that many people have yet to try and C) I had the chance to visit the distillery last spring (it's not usually open to the public). Maybe it's just me, but once I've visited a distillery it makes the whisky all the more special, in most cases (except for Penderyn, hehe but that's a whole other story). 

What's interesting with regards to this distillery visit was that I had the opportunity to walk around with Ian Logan (International Brand Ambassador Chivas Brothers/Pernod Ricard) which, that in itself was a huge honour as there are not many of these great experienced ambassadors left in the industry. He and I had a really great conversation about the fact that things are changing so quickly in the industry right now. The people coming in are team leaders or process managers. They get shifted around to many different distilleries so that they can learn all aspects of the companies, etc...  Not to say this is a bad thing by any mean because it does make for a more rounded distillery manager down the line. The people that are retiring right now have a wealth of knowledge and stories that will soon be lost. It made me consider writing a book of some sort, but I haven't quite put my finger on what exactly I want to write about. I'll take 2017 to ponder that a bit and come up with a few ideas for sure!

So back to the whisky you ask.. what is number 6?!

It was the Samaroli Allt a Bhainne 8 year old:

I very much look forward to getting a bottle of this whisky and sharing it with as many friends as possible. It's a fantastic whisky.

Thanks to Jonathan for introducing to Samaroli's and an even bigger thanks to Ian for being a wealth of knowledge and making that day in Speyside a very memorable one indeed.  Cheers gentlemen!