Summer Spirits by Tod Stewart

This is a guest article by Tod Stewart.

Adapting to the new not normal has meant (among other things) adapting to the concept that the home bar is now the only bar (though as I write this, things are gradually changing). But this doesn’t mean that you are limited in variety in any way. There are loads of fabulous wines, spirits, beers, ciders, and all other tipples more difficult to categorize out there to discover. Also, with home delivery becoming the rule rather than the exception, an increasing number of wine and spirit agents (and now even restaurants) are more than willing to bring their wares to you. Here are a few of the palate pleasers from the spirits department I’ve sampled lately.


Appleton Estate 8 Year Old Reserve
Pretty much the name in Jamaica rum, the Appleton lineup underwent some changes for 2020, including a package redesign and the addition of this 8 Year Old Reserve bottling (effectively replacing the former Reserve Blend). This new version features (as the name suggests) a blend of rums of a minimum eight years of age, as well as a bump in the alcohol level from 40 to 43 per cent ABV. So much for the technicalities; what you’re given is rich, warm, and superbly balanced spirit that features the expected Appleton profile (including notes of orange marmalade, spicy oak, vanilla, treacle, and a dash of wild honey both on the nose and palate). Sure, you can mix this if that’s your thing, but I find this rum to be rich and smooth enough to sip purely on its own.


Tromba Blanco Tequila
Named after the bursts of heavy rainfall (La Tromba) that soak the Jalisco agave fields, this is a clean, pure blanco, with well-defined cooked agave aromatic notes that at the same time tend to play down the vegetal/earthy components and accentuate the fruity/citrus/vanilla aspects (with a dash of cracked black pepper). In the mouth it’s quite refined and elegant, with no sharp edges or harshness. There even seems to be a slightly sweet note, but this could be the fruit component showing though. In any case, there’s enough spice to stop things from getting cloying. If there can be a “crowd pleasing” style of tequila, this is probably as close as it gets.

Tromba Reposado Tequila
As with the blanco version, Tromba’s reposado is crafted in a smooth, approachable style, with some additional complexity being imparted via some “resting” in oak barrels. On the nose there’s a suggestion of eucalyptus and pine needles intermingled with some slightly smoky/toasty notes. In the mouth it’s warm, ripe and smooth, with flavours of mild caramel and subtle, black pepper nuances interlaced among the herbal agave flavours.


McPink Blended Scotch Whisky
As much as the single malt elitists like to pooh-pooh blended Scotch whisky, when done right, they can be every bit as captivating as single malts. Case in point: this new arrival from the House of McCallum. Comprised of a blend of 60 percent single malts sourced from 16 individual distilleries, and 40 per cent Edinburgh grain whisky, it is finished for two years in Port casks. The end result is an engaging whisky, with fragrant, mildly fruity aromas bolstered with hints of chocolate cherry, strawberry compote, mild honey, marshmallow and cedar. Soft, round, warm and complex in the mouth, with flavours leaning towards cherry, nougat and mocha. One of the more engaging blends I’ve come across.

The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Years Old
Single malt aficionados would be pleased to know that The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Years Old expression has returned to the Canadian market. Aged in hand-picked sherry seasoned European oak casks, this is a warm, plush, hedonistic malt that sports and engaging aromatic profile hinting at sultana, fudge, vanilla, dried apricot, and polished wood. Super smooth in the mouth, with a supple, viscous feel, and flavours of dried fruit, toasted nuts, raisin pie, and mocha.


Northern Keep Vodka
From Alberta Distillers (who bring us some of Canada’s finest rye whisky) comes a new vodka that not only proudly uses all-local Canadian rye and winter wheat, Northern Keep has also partnered with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), and every bottle sold will help to protect five square feet of ecologically significant land in Canada. Clean, with subtle citrus and spice notes on the nose, it has a fairly rich, viscous mouthfeel and a distinct shot of rye pepperiness on the finish.

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