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November 2006


WINE & SPIRITS

Highland Fling
By Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave

AS FALL BRINGS A NIP IN THE AIR, DARKER SPIRITS TURN UP THE HEAT

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I'm a fickle sipper. I approach my liquor cabinet as I do my wardrobe, swapping and shifting with the changing seasons. Come summer, light rum and cachaça—the raw materials for tart caipirinhas and minty mojitos—move to the front of the shelf. In the fridge, it's all about rosé, both still and bubbly. But in the fall, as I begin delving into Beaujolais and Burgundy, warming dark spirits find pride of place. The chill in the air calls forth certain images: a fur rug, an oversized armchair and single-malt Scotch sipped by the fire.

Nothing quite shakes off those autumnal blues like a pricey dram of the very good stuff. A recent trip to Scotland introduced me to the perfect bottle to go with my cozy fantasy scene. Ardbeg, distilled on wind-swept Islay in the remote Hebrides isles, will sap the chill from your bones. It's the world's smokiest, peatiest, headiest dram, which might explain the cult following it has garnered lately.

The Ardbeg fan club, or the "Committee," as it is known, boasts some 63,000 devoted members. Every year they wait with baited breath for the special releases. Ardbeg released the most special vintage of all this past summer, 260 limited-edition bottles of a 1965 malt. Despite a $4,000 price tag, they sold out overnight. This fall, a somewhat more reasonably priced new release hits the American market, a $115, 16-year-old malt dubbed "Airigh nam Beist" (that's pronounced "aargh-nah-beast").

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