Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Best of 2019 - North American Edition

One of the fun parts of being a whiskylassie is getting to know people from all over the world. I often get contacted through social medial platforms or simply by email sometimes with pictures of bottles people have "found" in a cellar (usually after a family member has passed on). They are looking for an opinion of how much the bottle might be worth and if they should keep or sell it. I would have to say that the majority of the time, the bottle is not very old or the market is still quite saturated so it isn't getting much at auctions.

My best USA whiskey discovery of 2019 was through one of those emails. A very good friend contacted me to ask whether or not a couple of bottles he knew about were worth anything. I asked for photos from all aspects including the cork area (they often have seals with more information). I immediately started doing research and found that this one was a "nugget"... and I was quite excited.

The bottles (there were 2) in question were Old Ezra 15 year old bourbon, 101 proof. At first I wasn't finding much about it but started talking to people like Chuck Cowdery and a few others. Internet research likely showed it was distilled in the late 50's and bottled in the 70's. One bourbon expert was positive (due to the Wisconsin tax sticker) that it was indeed distilled circa 1958. I WAS ECSTATIC! I went back to my friend and announced the good news. A little while later same friend came back to me and asked if I knew anyone that might like to buy them. Just so happens I know plenty of bourbon fanatics so I immediately said yes for sure but then I had a "moment".  I decided then and there (even if I'm not a big fan of most bourbons) that I was going to be one of the two people buying those bottles. (BTW: My friend Benoit later clarified it was likely bottled in the 80's so not as old as we had initially thought.)

I bought it in February of 2019 with the intention that it would sit in the whisky room for quite a long time. You know... the usual - well I'll open it for some special occasion nonsense we sometime make ourselves believe.

However, as fate would have it... a friend came over on April 30th for supper and she announced that her legal separation process had officially started. What better reason to open a good bourbon, and open we did. She and I sat there, in awe of the beautiful bottle we just opened. Heaven... in a glass.

Nose: Hot apple pie right out of the oven: Fruity with hints of cinnamon. A little more time in the glass reveals date squares, a bit nutty too.

Palate: Sweet, spicy with lots of caramel.

Finish: Long, silky and then dry. 

If I didn't know better you would think this bourbon matured in a sherry cask?!

As with many good/fine whiskies I open I have a tendency to share them with the people I know will appreciate it. So to Adam, Chris, Chris, Chris, John, Tom, Amanda, Benoit, Sean, Igor, Mike, Cameron and so many more...  thank you for helping me finish the bottle off by November 22nd of this year. She was a beautiful bourbon that was worth every penny I paid.

NOW... the Canadian whisky discover of 2019 goes to something completely different. Also received in February, this one comes from a recommendation of a fellow whisky writer/blogger Jason Hambrey (@jasonhambrey). Now I'll attach the following disclaimer: Many smaller distilleries that have recently popped up across Canada (not all but many) source their whiskies from a larger one somewhere west and then sell it as their own. This usually leaves me skeptical from the get go because a) bad marketing or worse b) they decide to add an extra "finish" by putting the sourced whisky in a cabernet sauvignon or virgin barrel or... whatever...  All I can is GAH...  There have been some really horrible whiskies (IN MY PERSONAL OPINION so don't write me hate me please) that have recently come out on the Canadian market. However, Jason was pretty much on the ball with this recommendation and I was quite grateful.

Signal Hill Canadian Whisky, 40% ABV.

What surprised me about this one is that it's 95% corn / 5% malted barley and even more of a surprise is that the sourced whisky spends some time in virgin white oak barrels (I'm usually not a fan).  This one, I really liked. The price point is quite affordable and it's an easy sipping Canadian whisky. I received a bottle at the end of February and it was empty by March 28th.  Yah... it's that tasty! 

Nose: Pleasant, very aromatic (doesn't smell like what I know Canadian whisky often smells like), a bit of spice, not aggressive.

Palate: Spicy, oak but not over-oaked. Reminds me of hot apple cider with oranges/cloves in it. Very lovely.

Finish: Medium, mellow but then a big finish of peppery.

Quite a nice sipping whisky indeed! Available throughout Canada, Illinois US and some shops in the UK.

If you want to know more: 

So those were two of my most favourite North American whisky discoveries for 2019. Next week: My top 10 whiskies of the year. Have a lovely holiday (whatever one you celebrate)

Cheers from


Monday, December 16, 2019

Dementia, beaches and top rum discovery of 2019

At the end of May 2016, my father and I celebrated our individual milestones:  He turned 80 and I was soon turning 50. I wrote a blog and the last thing I mentioned was: "May you live another great 20 years as well as dance with me when I turn 70". Less than three months later, dad was in an assisted living home, on my 52 birthday he didn't know who I was anymore and on January 3 2019, he passed away peacefully in his sleep. Fuuuuck….

Look at those smiles: Nora, Lisa, Donna and Johanne
As mentioned before, this past year rocked me to the core of who I thought I was and "what" life was supposed to be. I felt vulnerable, scared, angry but most of all I felt robbed. During the shit storm I forced myself to find the positives: Moving into my own place, learning to cope with things I can't control or change and connecting with some positive and very strong women (AMEN MY GINJA SISTERS)! And of course Miss Maci Michelle Romaniuk. My goodness if ever you need to move out of a hellish depressive state, hang out with little people!

So back to January 3rd 2019. Calling my brother to tell him dad had passed away - hardest thing I've ever had to do (tears in my eyes just writing that...). Everything that comes after death, albeit a mind numbing exercise, moves you forward: Dad's last wishes, what funeral home to call, cremation, calling his brother and sisters, my mom, my kids, what to do with his things, donations, obituary, etc... Two days later, everything was in place, decisions made, and that... was that... I retreated (as I always do) in the solitude of my own pain. I didn't want anyone telling me how sorry they were, I didn't want hugs or any kind of human connection. Then came writing the eulogy. My father was not an easy man to be around. My parents separated when I was 9. He was an alcoholic who floated into and out of my life for many years. How do you write those things in a eulogy!? I write, it's what I can do really well (I think anyway...) so I did, and did it truthfully.

January 10th 2019 - the boy took me to Varadero, Cuba. Smartest thing he could have done. Within a few hours I had shed my winter garbs and I was in shorts/flip flops. We lazed, sat by the pool, danced, ate and toured but most of all I woke up early every morning and watched the sunrise on the beach alone. It gave me that complete solitude I desperately needed. At first it was simply some self reflection. The ability to look back at the year and say: WHAT THE FLIPPING FREAKING FLYING #@*&! But as the week moved on, my mornings were more like: Breathe, wow, I'm good, blessed... "we" got this.

Now, I recall telling the boy about a week before we were leaving for Cuba that I wasn't much of a rum drinker nor was I a cocktail/drink all day next to the pool kind of person. Varadero and our resort was amazing. The day trip to Havana - stunning! My highlight; however, was visiting a sugar cane plantation and tasting local rums. I'm not talking bar rail. Small batch (Not 10,000 bottle releases), Cuban "Ron". The country has about a dozen rum distilleries, The better known would be Havana Club, Perla del Norte, Santero and Santiago de Cuba just to name a few. 

My first rum was enjoyed in a coconut milk, nutmeg pineapple something something (Literally drank that at a small little shop on the side of the road), then after that I went all IN, trying every single different rum I could find at the resort and anywhere we went. We stopped at "La Casa del Ron" where the majority of the rum was Havana Club, which of course employees were giving out free samples of. I turned that down politely and started asking questions about the other rums they had up and behind the counter. They literally let me try about 7-8 of the different rums and retrieved their "top rum" guy. He and I chatted and sipped beautiful Cuban rums for the next 45 minutes. I was in RUM heaven. So of course what does a whiskylassie do when she's found another delicious spirit to enjoy: She buys 5 bottles!!!

Rum cocktails became a "poolside" delight back at the resort: Cubata, Rum punch, Mojito, Canchanchara, Daiquiri, Pina colada and my favourite in the evenings - just served on ice to sip at. I think I only had one scotch the entire trip and don't ask me what it was as I have not a clue. RUM was queen on the island and I was more than willing to learn, relax and enjoy her companionship and beauty.

I have bought many other rums since that glorious holiday in January 2019, my whisky room is a little more diverse now. I've also acquired a few rum books, highly recommend Dave Broom's: Rum, the Manual and have learned to master several fabulous cocktails. It's an interesting journey that I find myself on. I highly doubt that I would have ever really even liked rum like I do now had it not been for the boy's desire to get me out of dodge for a week. I've learned that everything does really happen as it's suppose to and that like every other great spirit I've discovered over the last few years, rum was meant to be part of my "repertoire" and to my wallet's dismay yet another rabbit hole I was meant to fall gracefully down!

My rum discovery pick for 2019 is Ron Santiago Anejo Superior 11 year old. It is a molasses based rum and even though it's colored I find it quite tasty in a rocks glass on ice. After a discussion with a barman at a local hotspot in Varadero, I saw this bottle up on the shelf and asked him if he had ever tried it. I was advised that although many of the locals would recommend it, it was far too expensive to buy a full bottle on their salaries. So, I bought he and myself a dram. His shift was ending soon, so he thanked me profusely and I watched a little later how he simply sat with it at the end of the bar, savoring every sip. I do love to share even if not through #whiskyfabric...

Nose: Spicy gingerbread pudding with lots of brown sugar notes.

Palate: Explosion of Bananas Foster, cinnamon and ripe golden pineapple.

Finish: Warming, silky and a touch of peppery.

Only bad thing: Not available in Canada (the 12 is in Quebec) but can be found on a few UK web sites.

I really do enjoy Cuban rum. It's a staple in my collection and I love introducing it to people. As of late I would also like to thank Dan Vienneau at Hopscotch Whisky Bar in Saint John New Brunswick. For the first time in my life I tried a rum soaked (errr I mean spiced) eggnog and it was fabulous! One of my latest favourite rum recipes that will certainly be enjoyed over the Christmas holidays. Cheers Dan!
Here's to January 2019, to my dad (wherever you are dear sir) and to the white sands of Varadero. The biggest thank you goes to the boy (Chris), for taking me away and starting the new year with much needed rest, reset and memories that will last us a lifetime.



Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Phoenix... and I don't mean the Snow one

Today marks a special anniversary. Not once but twice. Both, unfortunately, negative in nature. 

However, I digress...Number 1 question from January 2018 to October 2019 = Why are you not blogging anymore?!  I would often answer: "Nobody reads my blog, I don't have any added value, there's plenty of other blogs that have way more to say than mine, etc..."  The reality though was everything around me had come crashing down and being "whiskylassie" was the last thing I wanted or needed to do.

Quietly I moved through the motions of what ever this thing called life... is. It took lots of smiling on the outside but also closing the doors sometimes and focusing on what was really important - simply surviving the next 5 minutes or the next three hours or the next day. I lost people that I truly loved in my life, some to death and some due to divorce. I changed jobs (Stressful when you are on the back nine and see the retirement goal post on the horizon). I relinquished things I thought I needed in my life: Car, house, boat, etc...  And all I could say for the better part of that first six months of chaos was: Here I am starting all over again. FUCK was a word I had come to use as easily and likely more often then spoon or toothbrush.

But as with all descents into the darkness we all go through as humans, so exists the flip side of the sine wave. Grand daughter arrived, my "own" boat materialized, friends I didn't realize I had were not only my safety net but became family to me. The job change ended up being the best thing for my career and in hindsight so was the divorce. Slowly the scars, the hurt, the stupidity and the need to close that door and swear until the air was blue simply faded away. I have a new "puzzle" to put together and instead of fearing the fact that I have no idea what the fuck is going on most days, I embrace the joy of the unknown and have learned to simply "b". Then one day, I think it was October 11th 2019 - when I found myself getting back in the car after touring the Waterford Distillery in Ireland, I felt giddy and inspired. As I started to make my way back to my hotel room I suddenly found myself writing an article in my head as I drove. I literally stopped the car on the side of the road for a moment and cried. Whiskylassie may have been going through the motions, hosting classes and attending festivals but again - SMILES EVERYONE SMILES!!!! (For those of you too young to get that - Google Fantasy Island). For the first time in almost two years, I felt lassie'ish…  Coquette in nature, yet somewhat ready to write about whisky once again. Wow... and about time.

So let's start with the basics shall we:  What the hell have I been doing? LOTS...  WARNING: I have developed a taste for GIN (My apologies to all whisky enthusiasts who may be highly offended by that statement). I also love rum apparently -> See what happens if left to my own devices?! My boyfriend (yes I have a boyfriend now - but from here on end he will be referred to as "the boy" - FYI. However... my first love is still - ALL things whisky.

Life has been good. It's taken me awhile to feel a sense of normalcy, to feel like I belong again. It's sort of like being the awkward kid that moved away but then came back and everyone says Hi but... it's awkward regardless. So here I am, just a girl, errr I mean woman... errr I mean lassie looking to start writing again just for the fun of writing whisky stuff.  Will it be read - who knows.  Will it be classical disaster chick meets shenanigans meets life as a whisky person - oh hell ya!  Do me a huge favour though don't expect - BORING...  or MARKETING REGURGITATION or SERIOUS - dear God don't expect serious....?!  Read the whisky bible if you are looking for serious ;)
I'm back, that's all that matters for now. I am making a commitment to write a blog every week for the next 55 weeks.  So sit back, read, giggle, share or comment. Whatever it is you feel like doing once you get "here" is fine with me and wherever you are on your own journey - congrats for making it this far. 
Whisky brought me to this place, it's introduced me to a world of places, friends and of course drams that I could have never imagined. I raise a glass (it's only water mind you but I'm raising a glass none the less) to the next 55 weeks.





Monday, April 1, 2019

Mark your calendar for 2020 - Wonderful World of Whisky Cornwall Ontario

 CORNWALL, ONTARIO and the Wonderful World Of Whisky - 4th Edition. In November of 2016 I was presenting at the New Brunswick Spirits Festival when a jovial tall man approached me afterward and introduced himself: Ian Bentley. "I want to put on a whisky show in Cornwall in March of 2017", he said matter of factly.

My immediate thought was 

However after the 3rd very successful wrap up on March 23rd 2019, I'm going to say he and his team are absolute geniuses and here is why:

a. Sell out three years running.
b. People travel from all over Canada to attend.
c. Some of the best and brightest names in the industry are there.
d. Master classes for every walk of whisky enthusiast taking place.
e. Innovative ideas, dinners, classes and very interesting opportunities at this show.

Now, if you've never been to the Wonderful World of Whisky you are clearly missing out because it isn't like most of the other whisky trade shows or festival from across Canada. I personally feel, that at this point the Cornwall event is the second best one happening in Canada and here is why: Many of the shows that run across Canada are a 1-2 day event. Nice if you live in that city, but for those of us that are a come from away - it can be an expensive 2-3 trip to drink whisky for a few hours.

Cornwall is situated 1 hour from Ottawa but also Montreal (give or take a few km) which makes it an easy drive or train ride with two airports to pick from. 

The Nav Center has large spacious rooms, gym, pool, spa, a restaurant, pub, café, several open common spaces for meeting people, fireplace, free parking, walking trails along the St. Laurent river, do I need to go on?  Park your car for 4 days and worry about nothing!

The Master classes (sometimes offered in French) take place in large, comfortable break out rooms. Too many to list (see bottom schedule, but I will thank Gordon Bruce and Gordon Stephenson - one of my favourite classes this year).

"OK Lassie, bla bla bla...  and?"  I know that's what you are thinking as you read this. So here is the kicker for this particular show:

Unlike most whisky festivals in Canada, the Wonderful World of Whisky creates a full experience where the whisky is not the star, it is merely the backdrop. Now this is a concept that is really difficult to explain if you've never been to the show. The show is small enough that newbies won't feel intimidated but large enough that the hard core geeks, diehards and mentors also get what they need out of the festival. The after parties are attended by all - not just the "chosen" few. The jet set pub is full of people from all walks of life talking, sharing and enjoying each other's company (not to mention fantastic beers) and the food...  

The highlight for me for 2019 was the
Distell Whisky Dinner with Mike Brisebois, Stephen Woodcock (yes that Stephen Woodcock) and Chef Lucas on Thursday night. Please have a napkin ready before you read the following:

Course 1: Red deer and Wild Boar infused with Deanston Virgin Oak Terrine served with a sour frisée and mixed berry compote.

Course 2: A5 Wagyu Beef Rib Cap with/black currant & Bunnahabhain 12 glaze, fungi croquette with Bunnahabhain 12 fondue fresh truffle.

Course 3: Smoked Bunnahabhain Toiteach a dha salt cured salmon duel sorrel pumpkin pesto with chive yogurt cream (this was stunning for me).

Course 4: 100 day aged Niman ranch rib roasts bathed in Deanston 2008 Bordeaux Cask served with horseradish Yorkshire pudding, smoked tri-coloured carrots, white asparagus and baby red rustic mash with charred goat cheese (SWEET BABY JESUS!)

Course 5: Smoked Black Bottle Chocolate cheesecake with white truffle and candied ginger lemon black bottle sauce (and that's where I died and went to heaven for about 10 minutes)..

When I came to, Mike was walking around checking to ensure we were all still alive, that we had ate enough and I think I saw him passing out a few bottles of Pepto Bismol just in case some of us "over-indulged")... I know somewhere in my delirium we also received a beautiful dram of Bunnahabhain 25 to toast the chef and his wonderful staff...   

AND speaking of chef... I will quote my friend Benoit Bailey when I say this: "This is the only festival in Canada where people stand in line to eat before they go into the main event" and, my friends, with good reason. 

You see, Ian Bentley is not the only madman/genius at this show. This festival also has Chef Lucas McCabe. There is nothing "pedestrian" about any of the food you get to eat while at the Main event or dinners. 

Preparation for the main event starts weeks if not months beforehand and in the wee hours of the Saturday morning when some of us are crawling out of bed to get to the gym (and yes I did...), Lucas and his helpers are outside getting smokers, racks and tons of different meats ready for our very appreciative bellies! It is not only a feast for the palate but for the eyes as you watch the meats cook all day on outside spits and open flames!

I for one, can say, that I have made this one of my "go to's" for Canada and will continue to do so for as long as I can.

So mark your calendar for 2020:  Thursday March 26th to Saturday March 28th. I assure you, you truly can't afford to miss this great show!

Some highlights for 2020 include:

The Glenfarclas Dinner with esteemed guest Mr. George Grant. He will also be hosting a Decades Tasting on Friday and Saturday (tickets will go fast)

The Exclusive Waterford Irish Whiskey North America Introduction with Distillery Manager Ned Gahan (Super excited about this one having been to the distillery in October 2019)The Balblair Experience with Distillery Manager John MacDonald.

My mentor Davin DeKergommeaux will be hosting a class and showcasing his latest book (which is a must have in your collection): The definitive guide to Canadian Distilleries. 

So many of our absolute best Brand Ambassadors who can't be missed:  Mike Brisebois, Ray Daniels, Beth Havers, Jamie Johnson, Cameron Millar, Bryan Simpson and the ever entertaining Bill Somerville.

I do hope you will join us, as this is truly a coast to coast festival with people from BC all the way to NS that attend. Big shout out to that madman/genius.  Looks like the Wonderful World of Whisky 2020 is well on its way to being another amazing and fun show!

Tickets on sale now: 



PS...   If you are still reading and ARE attending the show, please email me at whiskylassie@gmail.com and I'll send you a personal invitation for a special tasting that will be taking place on Saturday March 28th. (IF there are still seats left...  ;)

Thursday, March 28, 2019

How to drink your whisky in 2019


Seriously...  After reading yet another stupid, sexist blog about how men "should" drink their whisky so they can look like Tony Soprano and by the way, good job excluding 40% of the readers who enjoy whisky - women. Pfffftttt.

Don't be a fuckwit...   It's 2019, drink your whisky any way you want.