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.