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December 2007


WINE & SPIRITS

The Classics Redefined

(Page 2 of 2)

We moved on to sensuous Lasanta, aged in sherry casks. "Think of dessert," Lumsden said. "Chocolate-covered raisins, honeycomb, creme brulee, rum ice cream, hazelnuts, walnuts." We added our water, which brought out more flavors of raisin and spice.

Nectar D'Or, the final, most precious of the cask-finished whiskeys (and the most women-friendly of the bunch) stays two years in former sauternes barrels. As we sipped, Lumsden told us to envision a French patisserie, catching aromas of ginger, coconut, nutmeg and lemon meringue.

Though not part of the wood-finish range, the tasting concluded with the priciest Glenmorangie on the market, the $850 bottle of 25-year-old elixir, which is just being introduced to the U.S. for the very first time.

While I've fallen for single-malts lately, I've also learned to appreciate fine blended whiskey—in particular the highly prized Johnny Walker Blue. Recently I had the privilege of attending a dinner to announce the release of a limited edition upgrade in the Blue Label range, the new super- premium, $600-a-bottle King George V edition.

International master of whiskey Jonathan Driver led the pre-dinner tasting on a penthouse balcony at the new Rockefeller Center Hotel. Like Lumsden, he identified aromas only a seasoned palate could detect. I didn't need much prompting, however, to fall in love with this rich, fruity, super-smooth whiskey. Though Driver refused to reveal the ages of the rare whiskeys comprising the secret proprietary blend, he did hint that some had come from casks more than a century old. Some barrels, he said, had been taken from the famed Port Ellen distillery on Islay. Though it closed down years ago, its aged whiskeys are still highly prized.

My autumn whiskey mania also took me closer to home. I found myself at another high-end launch, from huge-selling Crown Royal of Canada. The Manitoba-based whiskey producer rose to prominence during prohibition with its moderately priced basic blend, but lately has been skewing high-end. At an unveiling at Manhattan's Hudson Hotel, master blender Andrew MacKay offered up the first tastes of the new $100-a-bottle Crown Royal Cask 16. Made with more than 50 different aged Canadian whiskeys, this unique blend is finished off in former cognac casks made from Limousin oak. The result is a rich whiskey with notes of butterscotch, vanilla, raisin, peach, pear and spice.

So gentlemen, the next time you pony up to the bar, look out for the whiskey-drinking woman and perhaps send her a drink. The woman with whiskey—not the pinot grigio—is the adventurous one.

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