It was a drink that for my parents generation (Boomers who got hooked on fine wine and good beer) reminded them of their parents, the Mad Men era when housewives poured Scotch for their hard-working husbands.
Spirits fell out of favour with these folks and the beverage industry took a turn as wine and craft beer began to fly off the shelves. Over time spirit segments have done an overhaul on their image; Bacardi used Ricky Martin as its poster boy to showcase the best beverage for the beach, and Absolut offered artistic ads that made the fruit flavoured vodka martini a trendy thing.
In recent years whiskey producers have made a concerted effort to market themselves to the millennial marketplace. Just last year I attended a Scotch tasting in Toronto where hundreds of 20-somethings were taught to swivel and sniff before sipping, a Bourbon bacchanal where American mixologists celebrated Kentucky pride, and even skipped through an interactive tour at the iconic Bushmills Distillery in Northern Ireland with a bachelorette party.
Whiskey: The Definitive World Guide (DK Publishing, 2017) is a comprehensive resource for the whiskey fan on your holiday hit list. Discover the secrets of whiskey’s unique aromas and flavours, the stories behind iconic distilleries, and expert tasting notes in this new edition of one of the most highly respected whiskey books ever published, Michael Jackson’s bestseller Whiskey – The Definitive World Guide, which has now fully revised to represent today’s whiskey world.
From grain to glass, Whiskey – The Definitive World Guide begins by outlining everything you’d ever want to know about whiskey, from storing and serving, to creative cocktail creations, and how to pair whiskey with your favourite food. The updated edition also includes recent names in whiskey today, a new section devoted to American craft distilleries, and the addition of new distilleries from across Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.
After reading Whiskey – The Definitive World Guide from cover to cover it became clear that in order to truly understand the spirit segment I had to sample a few bottles. I whispered around town, inviting a handful of friends to partake in an educational whiskey tasting where we would sip through a parade of bottles to pleasure our palates.
My goal was to showcase the diversity of the whiskey world using this updated edition of Whiskey (a James Beard award-winner who changed the face of beverage writing, Michael Jackson passed away in 2007 and this book has been lovingly updated by writers who keep his legacy alive) to navigate the best Bourbon, serious Scotch, icons from Ireland, and home-grown Canadian heroes
Almost every region in Scotland is home to a distillery: from the islands off its west coast to the Lowlands and Borders, and from the tip of Kintyre to the central Highlands. Scotland’s great geographical diversity helps shape the remarkable variety of single malt whiskies it produces. If you’re new to Scotch you can buy a humble bottle for under $75, or if keen to create a collection there are plenty of top notch bottles which you can throw your hundred dollars bills at.
Sipping Suggestion: I like to enjoy Scotch as simply as possible, poured neat with a few drops of ice cold water. Just a small drop disturbs the molecular composition of the whiskey, and can open up aromas and flavours.
Ardbeg: initially licensed in 1816, the infamous Islay distillery offers hints of liquorice, ginger, and spice.
Bruichladdich: a product of the Victorian Scotch whisky boom, the distillery was constructed in 1881 by the Harvey family of Glasgow and its bottle offers hints of baked apple and linseed.
Craigellachie: the iconic Speyside distillery offers a 17 year aged bottle offerings hints of burned matches, toffee apples and hazelnuts.
Tomatin: located in the heart of the Highlands, this Japanese owned distillery in Inverness offers a 12 year aged bottle with hints of under-ripe melon, pineapple, and white pepper.
Glenmorangie’s Bacalta: one of the best-known names in the world of single malt Scotch whisky, Glenmorangie famously boasts the tallest stills in Scotland. It’s Bacalta bottle offers hints of caramelized oranges, marzipan, and creamy fudge.
Ireland was once the greatest whiskey-producing nation, shipping the drink to a thirsty export market – from its many ports. The technique that revolutionized the art of distillation, the column still, was perfected by an Irishman, Aeneas Coffey, in the early 1800s.
Sipping Suggestion: enjoy as a classic Old Fashioned featuring your choice of Irish whiskey with a dash of Angostura, one sugar cube, a whisper of water, and freshly peeled orange rind.
Green Spot: the first Irish whiskey to be finished in Bordeaux wine casks, after aging in new American oak, Oloroso sherry casks, and bourbon barrels featuring hints of orange, apricot, and subtle spice.
Powers: this fave from Dublin highlights the character of the distillate, rather than the wood featuring hints of peppermint, nuts, and cereal grains.
Canada and the US both share a rich whiskey heritage which gets interesting once you study the Prohibition era and American Civil War. Stare at a map of North American whiskey distilleries today and you’ll find a muddling of big names and small-batch craft producers.
Sipping Suggestion: enjoy as a classic Manhattan featuring your choice of Canadian whiskey or Kentucky Bourbon with a splash of sweet vermouth, dash of your favourite bitters and a maraschino cherry.
Forty Creek Copper Pot Reserve: this micro-distillery in Grimsby Ontario offers hints of soothing toffee, searing chili peppers and sweet citrus.
J.P. Wiser’s Last Barrels: this century-old distillery in Windsor Ontario offers hints of green apple, cherry and caramel.
Wild Turkey: at 134,000 square feet it’s one of the biggest distilleries in North America. The classic Kentucky bourbon offers hints of vanilla, spice and oak.
Ezra Brooks: the first new distillery to be featured on the bourbon trail in nearly two decades, this charcoal filtered bottle offers hints of honey, white pepper and cedar.