Introducing KWM’s Going Natural Wine Club

by Abi

Introducing KWM’s Going Natural Wine Club

It’s time to join the low-intervention Convention!

This idea stemmed from a slow Sunday afternoon in 2017 where a couple of staff members decided to further explore the world of Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wines. These two started purchasing and trying bottles each Sunday, embarking on a journey that will open their eyes further to the weird and wonderful world of wines. It initially started as a way for the newest KWM employee and one of the non-wine team members to try more wines without limitation, but it soon became something more. It became a way to try these new, exciting and sometimes challenging wines without preconceived notions, opening the minds and palates to those around us. Now it is time for us to extend our hand and welcome you to the Low-Intervention Convention with our Going Natural Wine Club!

What is low-intervention?

Low-intervention is a style of winemaking that involves very little additions/subtractions from the wine, while also following biodynamic, permaculture or minimal intervention agricultural practices in the vineyard. These winemakers are focusing on the health of the vineyard’s ecosystem while producing delicious wines! Biodynamic, natural, minimal intervention and raw wines are all part of this category!

Why should we be excited about Low-Intervention wines?

In this day and age, a lot of people are realizing the realities of the world. We see unnecessary chemicals added to products, no transparency with certain productions, agriculture that is depleting ecosystems, and massive corporations that are just profiting on all of this garbage.

These Low-Intervention wines are created in a way where you know what you’re drinking, there is transparency between you and the winemaker, there are environmentally healthy practices behind each label, and each winemaker is focusing on bringing you the best wines without having to add colour, flavouring or anything else to the wines.

What can I expect from Kensington Wine Market’s Going Natural Wine Club?

To enjoy delicious wines! That’s basically it. We could go on to say that supporting these types of wine producers will help the environment in small ways, or that drinking fewer chemical flavouring agents will probably be better for your health but it is not just about that. It’s about drinking what you love and trying new things! Each month, we will select two wines that we are excited about. One will be white and one will be red. We may throw a sparkling wine or some rose in, who knows! We will have them listed in their tiers and will provide tasting notes. We will also be curating blog posts each month to keep you informed of the ongoing conversations in the low-intervention wine world. It will be at a cost of $60-75 per month, with the wines discounted to fit the price. Given the nature of the wine club, cannot fulfill any customizations or switch-outs.

Our Three Tier Classification

Now, we’ve all heard that Low-Intervention or Natural Wine has to taste extremely funky and sour to be part of the category. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, there are the weird and wonderful wines, but there are a lot of Low-Intervention wines that are created to be those easy-drinking, patio-crushing sips.

A lot of Low-Intervention wines available are more accessible than you may think!

Starting with the goal of creating the best experience for all of us wine lovers, we have created a three-tier classification for the wines included in our Going Natural Wine Club. This way, you have an idea of what to expect and when might be best to drink these wines.

First Tier – In-Law Friendly (GREEN CIRCLE)
This one is pretty self-explanatory. These wines are those that show the typical wine characteristics. You could fool those ‘I hate natural wine’ people into drinking this stuff because it’s a delicious wine that just so happens to be Low-Intervention! You could easily take this over to your in-laws without them calling you a wine snob for bringing something ‘too thought provoking’.


Second Tier – Goldilocks’ Natty Sips (BLUE SQUARE)
As Goldilocks would say: these are the wines that fit ‘just right’ between tier 1 and 3. They’re the group that is going to eschew a bit of easy-drinking style in favour of more complexity. They make you think a little, yet you can still chill out and sip these while watching Great British Bake Off. They may show a touch of haze, or a kiss of funk, or a breath of zesty tang, or they are just unique expressions of a familiar grape. Yet they remain comforting and easy to delve into. Let’s say they’re an introduction to the funky side of the wine world, while still holding onto classic characteristics that turned many of us onto wine in the first place. A perfect in-between.


Third Tier – Volatile Acid Trip (BLACK DIAMOND)
These wines are in it to win it and thumb their noses at what we think of as traditional wine conventions along the way. These are the bottles that will make you go ‘Woah’ and they will send you on a funk-tastic voyage unlike any other. Think of these as seriously low-intervention wines that have taken the road less travelled on the way to your glass. Natural yeast? Probably. Full of farm-y funk and his buddy volatile acidity? Almost certainly. Unforgettable in style? Absolutely. These are wines that demand your attention. Even if there’s a little more effort needed (like pairing or decanting) this category will change the way you see wine as a whole, and will potentially make you question what wine is supposed to be. Seriously cool juice!

We will be releasing the first Going Natural on June 15th and sign-up starts on May 1st. We have limited spots, so sign up before they’re gone! Plus, we are hosting a Cheese Please, Going Natural tasting on May 28th to welcome the Going Natural wine club!

Questions? Comments? Get in touch with me!

Pip pip, cheerio,
[email protected]


Posted in Gift Club, Going Natural Wine Club, Store, Wine | Comments Off

Scotch Malt Whisky Society of Canada April 2021 Outturn

by Evan

After the crazy-high ABV and Sherry-driven outturn we had in March, it would be understandable if the bottles we saw in April were a little bit… tamer in comparison. Well, the average cask strength may be lower in April, but this Outturn definitely does not lack flavour!

In our lineup of seven bottles, one of them is already sold out but we still have stock of the rest thus far. The bottle that is sold out went fast because we had limited stock and it was a (Highland Park). It was good, but in my opinion, it was not among the most interesting bottles in this month’s lineup. Here is what we do have to look at:

68.41 – HILL-WALKING HAPPINESS is an especially strong start in the order. Blair Athol is not a distillery that gets mentioned a lot (or at all, really) when you ask somebody (anybody, really) where their favourite bottles of Scotch come from. HILL-WALKING HAPPINESS shows very well, though and was a revelation the second time through the order in our online tasting after it had time to open up in the glass. This is a wonderfully expressive bottle and worth a look, given the price, and also given that the SMWS Canada chapter is donating all profits they make from this bottle to the Canadian Cancer Society.

26.149 – HEILAND COUP D’ETAT was the first Clynelish we have seen from the SMWS Canada since September of 2020′s 26.136 – CANDY FLOSS AND CAROUSELS, which is also a sister cask that was filled on the same date. CANDY FLOSS was a solid, refreshing dram, but the newer HEILAND COUP D’ETAT shows a lot more of the waxiness on the nose and palate that makes Clynelish such a hit with fans. The amount of waxiness is especially impressive given it is only 8 years old. Many Clynelish that I have tried don’t show quite like this in their youth. This was a favourite of many that attended our Online SMWS Outturn Tasting.

Up next was 35.275 – A DESERT ISLAND DR(E)AM, sporting the special black and gold livery. This is a curious and exciting dram that spent its entire 25 years in a 1st fill Toasted Oak Hogshead. I love its Bourbon-like style that had some in the tasting guessing that it was either a Single Grain or something else due to the sweet oak influence that gives it a more up-front sweet nose and palate. We have seen Glen Moray in this style from the SMWS in the past, but not for a while. If you are a long-time SMWS Member, you may have fond memories of long-gone SMWS 35′s such as 35.114 – A SOUTHERN GENTLEMAN, 35.138 – MISS AMERICAN PIE, and/or 35.181 – TO INFINITY…AND BEYOND! Even if that is not the case you should take a close look at A DESERT ISLAND DR(E)AM.

Our fourth in the lineup is another Blair Athol! The SMWS Canada does put two bottles from the same distillery in an Outturn every once in a while if they feel there is enough of a contrast in style between the two. 68.28 – MONKBERRY MOON DELIGHT definitely shows differently than the 68.41 we started the tasting with thanks to being matured in a re-charred hogshead that I think may have been a red-wine cask of some sort based on the nose and palate. MONKBERRY MOON DELIGHT is one of those drams that is probably unlike anything else sitting in your cupboard right now. Balance may not be the name of the game with this one, but it will have you listing a greater variety of aromas and flavours in your tasting notes than you would have thought possible for one dram to show. Given the price, it might be worth nabbing a bottle to see what I am talking about.

I won’t spend too much time talking about 4.257 – GOING THE EXTRA MILE(S) since it is already sold out. Suffice to say it was a solid and sherry finished Highland Park. One member mentioned he thought it showed much better than the current official releases from the distillery and that may have had something to do with how popular it was.

We then ventured further into peated territory with 66.176 – JE SUIS BUCHERON ET JE VAIS BIEN. My french is terrible, but after running the phrase through Google Translate I found it roughly means “I AM A LUMBERJACK AND I’M OKAY” in English. Any bottle that references Monty Python is worth the cost of the purchase in my book, but this Ardmore would have been worth it even without that.

Last but not least we have 53.239 – INTENSE SEASIDE EXPERIENCE. What can I say about this one? It is a Caol Ila, and it is wonderful and it shows the distillery character in all of its oily, salty, citrus, seaside and sweet barley-driven glory.

There you have it, that is your SMWS Canada Outturn for April of 2021. If you want to peruse what we have available from the lineup without my own silly notes you can check them here. If you want to see what else we have available in the way of these awesome green bottles you can see our entire stock online here.

See you all in May!
[email protected]
Twitter and Instagram: @sagelikefool

This 11 year old from the Highlands was matured in a 1st fill hogshead and comes in at 54.8%.
Flavour profile: Spicy & sweet.
Outturn: 295 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “A clean, fresh nose of cereal and wood (tea chests, polished wood, cardboard, straw, weaving looms and ‘my outdoor gear cupboard’) – then sugared almonds, donuts and chocolate raisins to balance. Our palates tingled with ginger snaps, cinnamon stick, leather and nutmeg – plus chocolate toffee éclairs, vanilla and cinnamon swirls.
Adding water, our noses found burlap, dried herbs, liquorice root, orange oil and putty, with ice-cream wafers and Tunnock’s Snowballs (chocolate and coconut-covered marshmallows). The palate now became sweeter – toffee, walnut whip, spun sugar and apple crumble topping; with wood spices, beeswax, white pepper and lemon cough drops to finish.”  GIVING SPIRIT BOTTLE – read more about this program here.

This 8 year old Highlander comes from a 2nd fill barrel and is 58.1%.
Flavour profile: Oily & coastal.
Outturn: 252 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “We found this one superbly fresh and full of fabrics, smashed seashells, wet rocks, surf-drenched beach pebbles, chalk, bitter lemon and limoncello with soda water. Lots of white coastal flowers, sandalwood and scented waxiness. Classical and effortlessly brilliant. Reduction elevated the coastal freshness. Lots of dried lavender, lemon peel, pink grapefruit, citrus oils, watermelon liqueur and some tart gooseberry acidity.
The mouth opened with overflowing fruity abundance. Pineapple, bubble gum, blue raspberry popsicles, cream soda, and illegally sweet Irn Bru candy bars from the 1990s. With water there was fennel, lime curd and a generally more savoury, umami and punchy herbal quality. Putty, waxes, limestone and green pepper warming the aftertaste. Makes you excited for the future of whisky; a revolutionary spirit!” $155

This 25 year old Speysider was matured in a 1st fill hogshead and is 59.6%.
Flavour profile: Juicy, oak & vanilla.
Outturn: 180 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “‘Spectacular opulence, irresistible, luscious luxury and a simple wow’ were just a few of the ‘useful’ descriptors from the Panel members. A classic French loaf, pain d’épices, full of warm, comforting aromas thanks to the generous amount of honey and mixed spices (ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, mace and cloves) in the bread’s batter.
The taste neat had a fiery temper with plenty of exotic wood spiciness but at the same time that deep rich sweetness of a steaming cup of camomile, honey and vanilla herbal tea. A drop of water and it turned very juicy and very fruity – a desert island dr(e)am! Final comment “goddammit it is good”!”

This 8 year old Highlander comes in at 58.1% after maturing in a re-charred hogshead.
Flavour profile: Deep, rich & dried fruits.
Outturn: 283 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “This one noses beyond its years with an initial wealth of figs, shoe polish, old school cream sherry, new leather shoes, plum wine, five spice, wine cellar must, cognac spilled on old furniture and coconut cream. Water brings out more tertiary complexities such as strawberry wine, paper ash, dry earth, sawdust, old toolbox, metal polish, blueberry cheesecake, black forest gateaux and a creamy pint of stout.
The mouth opens on bourbon biscuits, grape must, liquorice, milk chocolate, black tea, wasabi dusted biltong, pencil shavings in apple juice and blood orange. With water there’s pineapple upside-down cake, caramelized demerara sugar, poached peaches, apricots and hints of fruity red chili and hot paprika.”

From Orkney, this 15 year old spent 13 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead before being transferred to a 1st fill Pedro Ximenez hogshead and comes in at 56.6%.
Flavour profile: Deep, rich & dried fruits.
Outturn: 256 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “We imagined finishing the Camino de Santiago trail that leads to the shrine of the apostle St. James in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in NW Spain. As we sat on a pew, ‘tired but happy’, the giant incense-burner started to swing. On the palate we were going the extra mile(s) to the coast, to Finisterre, the end of the known world in the Middle Ages.
After a drop of water we had very old sweet wine extremely concentrated, sweet, sour and smoky – but all perfectly balanced! This we had with Idiazabal cheese, lightly smoked with a smooth and nutty flavour as we watched the sunset over the Atlantic. After 13 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead we transferred this whisky into a 1st fill Pedro Ximenez hogshead.”
$219.99 SOLD OUT

This 14 year old Highlander spent 12 years in a bourbon hogshead before transfer to a 2nd fill red wine barrique, and is 60.1%.
Flavour profile: Lightly peated.
Outturn: 264 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “The panel noted a boisterous and playful aroma full of poster paints in an artist’s studio, old oxidatively aged wines, smoked blackcurrant, sautéed frog legs in butter, miso broth, mushroom powder and black peppered biltong. With reduction, we encountered a lumberjack’s woodshed, full of cold axe heads, freshly split logs and oiled chainsaw. Add to that roof pitch, freshly laid tarmac and fermenting lemons.
The palate was surprisingly saline with salt-baked venison, caviar, salted pistachios and sheep wool oils. Water brought the warmth of horseradish, English mustard powder, Belgian farmhouse ale, duck eggs, pickled ginger and sweetened cough medicine. Matured for 12 years in a bourbon hogshead before transfer to a 2nd fill red wine barrique.”

From Islay, this 12 year old comes from a refill hogshead and is 56.5%.
Flavour profile: Peated.
Outturn: 287 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “A myriad of aromas: peat smoke drifting towards the harbour, seared scallops and salted prawns, treacle tart, Big Red gum, antiseptic cream and Olbas Oil. The palate is that classic combo of intense sweet and smoky flavours, with salt and pepper savouriness, followed by liquorice and bonfire embers on the finish.
The reduced nose gets seaside swimming pools, ship timbers and tarry ropes, but with liquorice Allsorts and Jamaica cake sweetness, and pulled pork with barbecue sauce (including the barbecue too). The palate becomes sweeter and easier (though still mouth-drawing) – blackberry jam, cinnamon swirls, hot cross buns, kippers, ash and soot.”

Posted in Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Tastings, Whisky | Comments Off

Scotch Malt Whisky Society of Canada March 2021 Outturn

by Evan

The lineup chosen by the SMWS Canada for March is insane.

Feel free not to take my word for it – I am an unabashed SMWS fan and I should not be trusted. Regardless – by bottle stats alone you know that this Outturn is going to be a wild ride. Of the seven bottles new bottles for the month, FOUR of them are higher than 60% ABV. Of those, THREE are North of 64% ABV. Now, take a look at how many bottles in the lineup have some sort of sherry cask influence imparted on them. Go ahead and scroll down to the SMWS info below my own tasting notes – I will wait.

Now, do you see what I mean? You may have also noticed that one of the bottles in this Outturn isn’t filled with Scotch Whisky. Instead, it is the first time we have seen an SMWS bottle from a Swedish distillery. Fun stuff!

Read on for my own tasting notes on these bottles.

On the nose, I get some typical grassy and floral notes for a Linkwood along with the hint of waxiness, lemon bonbons, cotton candy and spicy ginger. The palate shows waves of orchard fruit including green apples, yellow pears, apricots and yellow plums along with juicy fruit gum and an earthy, peppery, grassy note. It all balances nicely with a surprisingly smooth finish.

The nose on this Glenlossie shows golden raisins, dried apricots, coconut shavings, lychee. The palate goes toasty and shows some nice maturity with wood spice and waxy notes plus a bit of stroopwafel, shelled sesame seeds, Marcona almonds, and a tinge of minerality and a slight oaky dryness on the finish.

Bodega indeed – the sherry is strong in this young and bold Glentauchers! The nose starts with fruit leather and keeps going right into full-on leather hyde notes along with pipe tobacco, pancake syrup, and full-on Shirly Temple mocktail notes, grenadine, fake maraschino cherry and all. The palate is, in a word, RICH. Deep notes of dates, dried blueberries, Chambord and Cassis liqueurs, and blackberry jam. Delicious stuff!

The nose on this Glen Moray shows that we are continuing into sherry territory on this one. Fresh wood varnish, bananas flambe, wood spice, cashews and Mackintosh Toffee all show up aroma-wise. The palate starts big and gets bigger as time goes on with notes of yogurt-covered raisins, polished oak, dates, dried apples, and walnuts.

Big sherry again on this Macduff, but going more into balsamic and cherry cider notes as well. The nose also shows maple syrup glaze, fruit leather, strawberry jam, cherry cola, and hot buttered rum mix. The palate gives spicy cinnamon and ginger in a boozy fruit cake plus a touch of dark chocolate and cinnamon chewing gum.

The nose shows chicken soup with barley, lemon and acetone scented cardboard, Galliano liqueur, and lemon zinger tea. On the palate, this peated Loch Lomond gives us a salad consisting of smoky thyme sprigs, sliced fennel bulbs, small yellow tomatoes, quinoa and basil and a drizzling of olive oil.

This first bottling from High Coast Distillery in Sweden shows notes of black forest cake on the nose along with lavender potpourri and eucalyptus, whipped butter with sage, and Dettol. The palate is a mix of spearmint Tic Tacs and Thrills gum, lox, dill and capers on top of herb-infused cream cheese spread on a poppyseed bagel, finishing with peppermint and licorice tea.

That is all from me for now. Don’t forget we have plenty of past releases you can browse anytime our Scotch Malt Whisky Society Pages.

[email protected]
Twitter and Instagram: @sagelikefool

This 13 year old Speysider is 59.1% after maturing in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead.
Flavour profile: Light & delicate.
Outturn: 311 bottles.
Panel’s tasting notes: “We found a nose bursting with stone fruits, soft fabrics, burlap and the precision of clean, knife-edge cereals. In addition we noted Turkish Delight, waxed canvas, pressed wildflowers and marjoram, vase water, tomato vines in a greenhouse and lemon zest. With water there was a renewed abundance of fresh flowers such as daisies, dandelions and geraniums. Also grassy notes, under ripe apples, blueberry muffins, fresh wool, snapped twigs and potting sheds.
The neat palate displayed the tartness of green apple with sunflower seeds, trail mix, rapeseed oil, unsweetened granola and a rather gravelly minerality. Water gave us chamomile tea, chopped chives, digestive biscuit, flapjacks, lemongrass and Edinburgh rock. Enchanting stuff!

This 22 year old Speysider spent 20 years in ex-bourbon wood before being transferred into a 2nd fill Spanish oak PX hogshead, and comes in at 53.1%.
Flavour profile: Deep, rich & dried fruits.
Outturn: 232 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “Slightly restrained, the nose slowly divulged barley sugars, chocolate profiteroles, maple candy and bourbon biscuits – digging deep, we found earthier elements (pipe tobacco, rhubarb, nutmeg, cappuccino, seasoned oak). The palate offered sugar-coated fennel seeds, clove-flavoured brown sugar, camp coffee and roasted parsnips – ginger, cumin and cardamom on the finish.
The reduced nose gave us creamy toffee, Crunchie bars, dark chocolate with cherry pieces and coffee and walnut gateau. The palate now had blackcurrant cough sweets, liquorice, moist tobacco leaf, ripe gooseberry and a dry, seasoned oak finish. After 20 years in ex-bourbon wood we put this into a 2nd fill Spanish oak Pedro Ximenez hogshead.”

From a 2nd fill sherry butt, this 7 year old is 66.2%.
Flavour profile: Deep, rich & dried fruits.
Outturn: 602 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “Unashamedly lavish aromas of raisins and sultanas plunged into the oily opulence of walnuts, olives and Serrano ham whilst a background funk encapsulated strong black tea and the warm air of Jerez. A mouth-coating swirl on the palate engulfed us in a world of root beer and strawberry wine with heavy juniper berries, prunes and leather as a tingle arrived from wasabi peas.
Water revealed hidden secrets in a bodega as dark chocolate melted over Brazil nuts with brown sugar and liquorice. A heightened complexity now drew us into soy sauce and balsamic glaze with truffle oil and brandy butter. Touches of salt remained on the tongue with a lasting warmth that suggested cognac, calvados and even dark navy rum.”
$134.99 SOLD OUT

This 11 year old Speysider was matured in a refill Oloroso puncheon and is 64.9%.
Flavour profile: Spicy & dry.
Outturn: 621 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “The first comments were ‘wonderful’, ‘warm’, ‘embracing’ and ‘a Sherry lover’s dream’! We were further captivated by the aromas of walnuts, dates, raisins and tamarind, and when we took a sip there might have been the slightest hint of a struck match. What followed was truly superbly nutty, like a bone-dry Amontillado sherry with walnut cake, leather and even the slightest hint of smoke.
Diluted we prepared a pork schnitzel with onions, bell peppers and mushrooms in a paprika spiced sauce and we washed it all down with a glass of Icelandic Björk birch liqueur – certainly for the more adventurous souls!”

After 5 years in an ex-Oloroso butt, this 7 year old Speysider was transferred to 1st fill Pedro Ximenex butt, and it’s 65.2%.Flavour profile: Spicy & sweet.
Outturn: 585 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “A fantastic deep amber colour was followed by an aroma which transported some of us to Jerez eating a slice of jamón Serrano next to a bowl of black olives, while others were in the Caribbean sipping rum and eating dark chocolate. Strong, powerful and fierce like flamenco with the feisty rhythm of percussion and guitar – a belter of a dram!
With water we could sense the stomping of the dancer on the floor while the tune on the palate now more like a rumba – elegant and breathtakingly beautiful. After five years in an ex-Oloroso sherry butt we transferred this whisky into a 1st fill Pedro Ximenez sherry butt.”

From the Highlands, this 14 year old is 53.3% after maturing in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead.
Flavour profile: Lightly peated.
Outturn: 277 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “Thick plumes of black smoke bellowed from the glass, epitomising the very essence of ‘burntness.’ Through the heavy smog came notes of rosemary and thyme and substantially charred wood coated with linseed oil. The palate was chewy and scorched, wrapping rich gravy around eminently maritime components that embraced fishing nets and fishermen’s rain coats in a ship’s engine room.
With water we found ourselves at the harbour sipping on cappuccinos among the lobster nets and fish baskets, as puffs of smoke from a tug boat blew in the sea air. The palate had sweetened and ventured into roasted chestnuts and toasted pine nuts, dotted with seaweed and a sprinkling of chimney soot.”

This 7 year old from Sweden comes from a new oak barrel and is 60.6%.
Flavour profile: Peated.
Outturn: 231 bottles.
Panel’s tasting note: “We felt like walking through fields of purple heather at sunset with the sky matching the ground in terms of colour (a lovely pastel hue), but then there was a smoking fire disturbing the tranquil scene. We took a sip from a hipflask – wow! Delicious, searingly sweet smoke was joined by venison carpaccio with caramelized walnuts.
With a drop of water, we discovered additional fruity apple smokiness next to stuffed Greek vine leaves with currants and pistachio called dolmades. The palate now had plenty of sweet smoky fruit flavours like baked apples and red cherries balanced with a slightly menthol and herbal finish.”

Posted in Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Tastings, Whisky | Comments Off

Book Review: Wine Simple

by Abi

It is easy to get lost in the delusion of wine. Everyone including your grandmother has their own opinions and their own unrequested suggestions of what you should drink. Points this, points that. Bordeaux’s Out, Burgundy’s in. Natural wine is just a phase of the millennial youth best paired with locally sourced toast and avocado spread. Shiraz is where it’s at.

Ugh. All of these opinions can be confusing and tiring, to say the least. But why? Why do we need someone else to give us opinionated advice on wine when we just want to try new and delicious things? We don’t! We know what tastes good to us, we just need to figure out what that means!

Many people have shied away from learning more about wine because they simply feel as if they will never know enough to enjoy wine because let’s face it, it’s daunting. It’s daunting as all hell! Even us, the wine professionals get overwhelmed with all the information! I’ll be the first to admit, I know a lot but I also do not know anything at all. Wine is one of those humbling experiences, where the more you learn, the more you understand that you will never be able to take in all there is to know. And plus, I get paid to be confused, navigating my way through mountains of wine books and articles to help you guys out!

Still, wine should be an approachable subject, right? I mean, most people drink the juice, so why isn’t it? Maybe it’s the institutionalized class-system, or maybe it’s the egos and the snobbery that sometimes go along with it. Who knows. Whatever it is, we are seeing more and more push back against much of the confusing and polarizing information. We are also seeing more bright spots in the wine world shine light on more inclusive approaches to wine. One of these stellar objects is Aldo Sohm.

Wine Simple: A Totally Approachable Guide from a World-Class Sommelier is as simple and as approachable as the title suggests. This is a book designed for people who simply just want to know more, so when they go to a restaurant or visit a boutique shop, they can be confident in what to look or ask for. It’s an extremely well-put-together guide that teaches you the best jargon to use when you’re looking for a great glass or bottle.

One of his first notes is that “it’s my job to help them find the perfect glass. But I can’t do it without them.” Speaking the truth there, Aldo! Us wine professionals love to offer help and our ideas on what you should be drinking, but you are the only person that knows exactly what you enjoy. That is why we sometimes ask those annoying questions of ‘what do you like? What’s your go-to wine?’ and so on. This book is an easy way to learn how to answer these questions, allowing you to find that delicious bottle!

Aldo Sohm is a Master Sommelier, who, unlike other wine writers, is constantly bouncing around restaurants assisting customers. And it’s not just those customers who are looking to spend a chunk of change at Le Bernardin, a 4-star restaurant in NYC, either. He also helps casual folk find perfect $11 glasses at Aldo Sohm Wine Bar. This, for starters, is someone that you can learn from. He is working with a diverse array of people each day, where he is constantly honing his knowledge and refining his approach to help everyone find their perfect bottle of wine. You can see this in his writing. There isn’t any forceful language of “you should like this, or you shouldn’t drink this.” He knows that people aren’t looking for that, they are looking to drink the shit they like!

This beautifully curated book will teach you basic geography and basic know-how of wine in a simple, yet artistic way. Not only does he inform you of the basics of each region, but he also gives you tips and tricks on how to order from a wine list and how to shop for wine! But, he takes it a step further! Want to learn how to open a bottle? Also has a section on that! How about taking a sabre to that champagne? Aldo has got you covered! Confused about what glass to serve it in? Turn to page 204. Need a great pairing for your favourite Nordic dish? He’s got your back! It’s honestly incredible how much USEFUL information Aldo has crammed into these pages.

I could go on and on about how useful it is, or continue to rave about the approach that is taken on those pages, but you should see for yourself. This is a great book to add to your bookshelf and will be a great reference for any wine lover whether it is a new passion or a long and happy marriage. If I’m being honest, I wish I had a book like this when I first started to learn about wine. The extremely approachable way it reads makes it far more fun than picking up that thick wine encyclopedia or dry tome of wine scores any day of the week!

Posted in Wine | Comments Off

Scotch Malt Whisky Society of Canada February 2021 Outturn

by Evan

For now, you can read on for my take on the bottles in the February 2021 Outturn below. Quirky (and possibly kinky) bottle names ruled the month in homage to Valentine’s Day. Maybe you will find a new love for yourself or somebody else within this list!

44.129 – Based on the colour of the whisky, this 15 year old Craigellachie looks to be quite a bit different from last month’s sherried-high-alcohol insanity that was the quickly sold out 44.117. How will MUSCLE SPROUTS compare? On the nose, it is musty with plenty of tea-like notes as well as shredded wheat cereal, ginger, lemons, lime peel, and a touch of Juicy Fruit chewing gum. On the palate, it has a zingy beginning before broadening into richer – like a sparkling wine changing into a Rieslings in the mouth. It has notes of both, along with more lemon and ginger, thyme, and other savoury notes that I can’t quite put my finger on. It manages to be rich yet delicate at the same time – like a really good Pho broth.

35.263 – The nose of this 12 year old Glen Moray carries much of that winey-oily-fruitiness that the distillery does so well. It also shows plenty of fresh, dusty grain notes as well as buttered whole-grain toast, chalky hard candies, golden delicious apples and ripe grapefruit skin. On the palate, it is bursting with juice and fruit with sunflower seeds, cracked pepper plus a drizzle of olive oil over it all.

12.42 – This is the first Benriach we have seen in a while from the SMWS Canada. GETTING FRUITY IN THE MALT BARN is 10 years old, which means it was distilled during Alistair Walkers’ time in control of the distillery and makes me excited to taste it! The nose shows coconut shavings, jujubes, milk chocolate, an Arnold Palmer (mocktail made from a 50/50 mix of iced tea and lemonade), and toasted almond shavings. The palate is round and creamy with pear pie notes (crust and all), lemon tarts, vanilla and oak tones, and a bit of angel food cake and white icing.

Big Swirl – This is the Blended Malt Scotch with a sherried edge that the SMWS has put together. It has a stated age of 10 years and is bottled at 50% ABV. On the nose, it shows raisins and dried cranberries, a bowl of Licorice allsorts, strawberries in whipped cream, molasses and hints of something more spice-driven. The palate reveals cranberry juice, freshly picked raspberries, a bit of peppermint candy cane, red velvet cake, cherry pie, mint leaves, and the slightest dash of cinnamon. This is a very well-put-together dram. Others might prefer the richer sherry of Exotic Cargo, but this is more to my liking.

7.244 – This is the first Longmorn we have gotten from the SMWS Canada in a while. Like many of you, I am still trying to chase the dragon from an excellent run of 7’s we had a few years ago, which included 7.167 – THE INDIAN SPICE TRAIN. Man, do I wish I had purchased a bottle of that. This WITCHCRAFT will be different than that dram, as it is the result of TWO ex-Bourbon Barrels that were married together in a first-fill PX Sherry Butt. I believe this the first time we have seen this type of ‘single cask’ from the SMWS. The nose is deep and rich with maple syrup, Earl Grey tea, root beer, vanilla pod, dates, and black licorice. The palate is dense, like Christmas fruit cake, but still manages to hit higher notes instead of being stuck in syrupy sherry. I get mandarin orange slices, brown sugar-glazed carrots, licorice tea, cherry juice, raspberry jam, and Twizzlers.

122.31 – 5 years old? Uh oh. But wait! This is a peated Loch Lomond? Now I am excited! Let’s give TARRY TARRY NIGHT a go. On the nose: yes, it is young. It has the peat plus starchy barley and wood pulp/cardboard that Loch Lomond seems to exhibit and that a love so much. It also shows an interesting combination of green tea with lime zest and a menthol cigarette held by some tall skinny model in a magazine advertisement from a 1990s Rolling Stone magazine note to it. Open up that magazine in your memory: it even has that slightly metallic printer ink on glossy magazine paper note to it. On the palate, it is juicier than you would imagine with passion fruit, freshly squeezed lime juice, pineapple slices, coconut water and minty mojitos. Plus, you are now for some reason eating that menthol cigarette advert from the vintage Rolling Stone mag. I love Loch Lomond and the wackiness they create – including this dram.

53.327 – We are back to a more typical peaty dram from Islay for the final sample of the Outturn. This Caol Ila is 10 years old. On the nose, KEEPING THE FIRE STOKED exhibits salty sea air, ozone, clamshells, dried seaweed snacks, and lemonade. On the palate, I get oatmeal with apple slices, a BLT sandwich, grilled scallops, and Fishermen’s Friend lozenges. For all of that, this is a very grain-driven Caol Ila. It has minerality, but it remains smooth and fresh on the nose and the palate.

[email protected]
Twitter and Instagram: @sagelikefool

Continue reading

Posted in Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Store, Tastings, Whisky | Comments Off

Singles Awareness Day

by Tracy

February 15th Is Singles Awareness Day!
Yes, that’s really a thing. Ugh. As if Valentine’s Day wasn’t enough to draw attention to our loneliness, now there’s another “holiday” to remind us of our non-coupleness.

For those of us who are romantically challenged, choosing the right wine is an important part of a single person’s life. It’s okay… I’m here to help you. Unfortunately, I can’t help you pick the right date – you’re on your own for that – but I can ease your mind when it comes to pairing wines for the right mood, occasion or maybe even the right person. Now go put on your party dress and let’s celebrate! Okay okay. Don’t. Go put on your pj’s, grab a bottle of wine and let’s watch reruns of The Golden Girls (thanks, Amazon Prime).

It’s Your Party. Go Ahead, Cry if You Want To
Let’s face it. Breakups are never easy, no matter what the situation is or who made the decision. Breaking up is hard to do. Neil Sedaka even wrote a catchy little ditty about it (thanks, Mom). It’s very important to make sure you’re ready for anything as you pick up the pieces and move forward. If I was you (and, well… I am) I would grab a box of tissues, throw on The Notebook, and make some sweet & salty kettle corn popcorn. Now open a magnum of Champagne. My recommendation: Champagne Dumangin Cuvée 17. Unlike you and your last partner, these two belong together.

Think Outside the Box
When it comes to both dating and wine, it’s easy to stick with what you know. Some of you even go back again and again to whatever feels familiar, long after you’ve walked away. You really shouldn’t do that in your dating life, and you sure as h–e–double-hockey-sticks better not do that with wine! There are literally THOUSANDS of options out there for you to try and they are all pleading with you to get out of your comfort zone and take a chance on something new. We tend to go back to the same handful of wines when we browse the shelves while rejecting other fabulous recommendations. Maybe the label isn’t your style. Maybe you’ve never heard of that grape. Maybe it’s from a country you’ve never been to. Try it anyway! You just might fall in love with an unusual – and perfect – addition to your collection. I highly recommend a bold Italian that will make your mouth water. Here’s one: Titolo Aglianico del Vulture 2015. Continue reading

Posted in Store, Wine | Comments Off

Scotch Malt Whisky Society of Canada January 2021 Outturn

by Evan

If you are reading this, then give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. Even better – give yourself a round of applause! Hug your loved ones. Kiss your dog or cat if you are an animal lover. Somehow, you managed to survive the absolute horror show that was 2020. That does call for some rejoicing. How best to celebrate what will hopefully be a happier (or at least more stable) spin around the sun for us all? By tasting through the first Scotch Malt Whisky Society Canada Chapter’s first Outturn of the year, of course! I have seven dram samples in front of me, so I had better get cracking!

A4.1 – The SMWS Canada has chosen to ring in the new year by starting with a dram from their spirits range. Dubbed ELEGANT AND INVITING, this is an Armagnac. I have been a fan of what I have seen for Armagnac from the SMWS so far – any chance you get to try a brandy at cask strength has to be a good thing, right? On the nose, I find this has plenty of wood notes and cherry sauce, along with dashes of cinnamon, orange peel, fruit leather and Christmas cake. The palate is remarkably big and chewy upon first sip – especially for a first dram – before it settles into syrupy sweet notes of dutch liquorice, boozy fruit cake, roasted hazelnuts and walnuts, Grand Marnier and cloves. This is a decadent dram for a number one!

85.64 is next on the docket. This is a specially chosen bottle that the SMWS Canada has  to donate the proceeds from. The cause they will championing for newly launched Giving Spirit campaign will change with a new bottle launch each quarter. The proceeds from BAKED BANANAS AND BURNT BACON will be donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada. I am guessing many of you have already purchased a bottle given the good gesture and cause this supports, but I should give my notes on it anyway, right? The nose offers up toast with marmalade, wine gums, crisp malt, rich vanilla and a nice soft floral note underneath. The palate shows white pepper, chamomile tea with honey, lemon bonbons, plus a waxy and slightly drying finish. This is a tasty dram from Glen Elgin that leaves one feeling warm inside from both the whisky and the supported cause.

93.138 – My heart is all aflutter just with the excitement of having a Glen Scotia in this Outturn. I have really enjoyed the 93s we have seen over the last year or two from the SMWS, so SUSPEND YOUR DISBELIEF has some lofty standards to live up to in my mind. For the nose: Cotton Candy. Seriously. McCormicks Marshmallow Strawberries, confectioner’s sugar, lemon-infused olive oil, dryer sheets, assorted jelly beans, cream soda, and so much more sweet delights. I think I developed a few cavities just nosing this one. Hopefully, my teeth don’t just give up and fall out now, but on the palate, I get watermelon jolly ranchers, a touch of dry oak, saltwater taffy, and more of all of those confections and candy that you loved as a kid but now your doctor and dentist warn you about. There is also just the slightest touch of floral peat. This bottle is absolutely insane!

Okay, now that I am back from brushing my teeth and flossing, it is time to give 68.38 a try. On the nose of this Blair Athol named BUTCHER SHOP QUARTET I notice some buttery and savoury notes such as chicken stock, buttered toast, a touch of dill, dim sum egg custard tarts, and steely, dry Riesling. On the palate, the sweet and savoury combination continues with low sodium bacon, honey glaze, burnt caramel, lychee, and honeydew melon. This is a wild ride, and a fun one at that.

Speaking of wild rides, next up is a Craigellachie at 68.5% ABV(!). Put on your crazy pants and get ready for 44.117 which is oddly named HAPPINESS IS A WARM BUNG. I would give you kudos for not letting your mind slip into juvenile mode when given a name like that to contend with, but I know you would be lying.  I am not sure why the SMWS chose to put a double entendre in the name that could easily be taken as a single entendre if you don’t know that ‘bung’ is indeed a term for cask closure. I guess they are trying to educate us all! On the burning nose hairs, this massive Craigellachie shows chocolate-dipped bacon, maple syrup reduction, walnut liqueur, and molasses. To taste I get much more of the same. That is not a slight – this whisky is just so damn big and sherried that it is hard to pull apart in a quick fashion. There are plenty of dried fruit notes, but they do get a bit buried in the burly, meaty, spicy, syrupy palate. If you find sherry bombs such as Aberlour A’Bunadh and Glenfarclas 105 too light and watered down, then I think I found a dram for you!

Up next we enter in to peated territory with a Caol Ila titled BURIAL AT SEA. On the nose 53.317 shows notes of barbecue pork ribs (I didn’t want to say bacon for the third dram in a row), roasted red peppers, mezcal margaritas, hickory sticks, smoked applewood, burnt apple crumble, and flint striking steel. The palate is salty, creamy and oily with more savoury barbecue notes (must… not… say… bacon…), iodine, overripe lemons, and spicy pad thai.

For the final dram in the Outturn, we have a young, peated Bunnahabhain. 10.190 – MAKE MOINE A DEVIL is sadly sold out as it was a lottery bottle, but let’s give it a try for completeness’ sake anyhow! I usually prefer my young, peated Bunnas to be from ex-bourbon, but this ex-sherry number shows a nose full of grape must, crumbling peat, pepperoni and peppercorns, Worcestershire Sauce, Soy sauce, black olives, and more (Can I say bacon again yet or is it still too soon?). The palate is more sweet and floral than the nose would lead you to believe with thrills gum, dates, dried blueberries, HP Sauce, and chocolate-coated espresso beans. Fun stuff!

Tasting this lineup made for a better way to celebrate a new year than nearly anything else I could imagine excluding inoculation. Hopefully, February, March and onward will be just as pleasant. For that I mean life itself – I know the SMWS drams will be!



[email protected]

Twitter and Instagram: @sagelikefool

Continue reading

Posted in Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Tastings, Whisky | Comments Off

Merry Christmas! KWM 2020 Whisky Calendar Day 25: SMWS

by Evan

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

We made it, guys! It was hard work, but somehow we have gone through 24 drams in 24 days, and now we get to celebrate by tasting a 25th! Crack open the longer and larger door on top of your 2020 KWM Whisky Calendar and pull out that special, extra-large 100ml bottle: Today we have a gift from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of Canada: this is SMWS

My reasons for writing these posts for each day are numerous, and they are all selfish. Here are the main ones:

  • I enjoy writing, and I especially enjoy foisting my own silly ideas and opinions on others. It makes me feel important.
  • I especially enjoy the feedback I get from those that read what I say. I am a fragile snowflake and thrive on the accolades and opinions shared with me. It makes me feel loved.
  • If Andrew was doing these posts, I would end up editing them and likely having to write quite a few of them anyhow given the constraints on his time. Why not cut out the middle man?

Sure, those reasons are part tongue in cheek, but there is a ring of truth to all three. Here is the main reason. It is still selfish though, so don’t go thinking that part wasn’t one hundred percent truth:

  • I get to discover and learn about these whiskies along with everybody else.

Yeah, I consider myself somewhat knowledgeable when it comes to the subject of whisky. I should be – it is a big part of my job. But I definitely don’t know everything. I am a whisky enthusiast first and foremost, and I am always looking to learn more.

These blog posts allow me to do a bit of research and learning myself. Like you, I might retain a fact or two after I write these posts, and hopefully, that will give me more anecdotes and ideas to use when helping you or somebody else select their next bottle. Hell, it even helps me pick my next bottle, all while getting to taste another whisky and read a little bit more about the distillery behind it.

I am thankful for all of this, and I am especially thankful that anybody would put up with my words as we tasted our way through the 2020 KWM Whisky Calendar. Thank you very much for joining me in this 25-dram undertaking!

Before I get even sappier, let’s launch into talking about today’s special whisky. Open the door at the top of your 2020 KWM Whisky Calendar and reveal The Scotch Malt Whisky Society 72.92 – A WONDERFUL WELCOME!

Continue reading

Posted in KWM Whisky Calendar 2020, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Tastings, Whisky, Whisky Calendars | Comments Off

KWM 2020 Whisky Calendar Day 24 – Loch Lomond 12 Year Old

by Evan

The End Is Nigh! – on the 2020 KWM Whisky Calendar. When we pull out this bottle we will have opened all twenty-four panels on the front of the Whisky Calendar box, and we will only have the special bottle up top to open tomorrow. What do we have to look forward to today, so close to the holiest of days when we crack into that secret and special SMWS bottle? For Day twenty-four we have the Loch Lomond 12 Year Old!

The Loch Lomond 12 Year comes to us from Loch Lomond Distillery. Founded in 1965, Loch Lomond is a bizarre operation that is capable of making multiple different styles of spirit all under one roof.  The distillery is capable of producing Single Malt, Single Grain, and Blended Whisky entirely at one site. It can and does do this, and it also makes Single Malt in and a wide variety of styles, including both peated and unpeated types.

There are a total of thirteen stills within the Loch Lomond Distillery, however, they are definitely not all the same. Included in this number are your typical swan-neck style pot stills: the type you see at most Scottish distilleries that make single malt whisky. Beyond that though, things get weird. There are also three pairs of straight-neck pot stills, which are sometimes called Lomond stills. One of these pairs has a water cooling system installed on the top of the still that the heated vapour hits before going through the narrowing neck/pipe for collection. This results in much more reflux and leads to a lighter, softer, fruitier spirit being produced.

Last but not least, there is a six-story Coffey/column still that is actually split in two to accommodate the three-story building it resides in. This still is used to distill malted barley, but due to SWA regulations it is still classified as Single Grain spirit. The whisky made with this still is used in their blends, but you can occasional find it bottled as Rhosdhu by indie bottlers.
Continue reading
Posted in KWM Whisky Calendar 2020, Tastings, Whisky, Whisky Calendars | Comments Off

KWM 2020 Whisky Calendar Day 23: Ardmore Legacy

by Evan

Day 23 brings us something a little bit different: this is a peated malt from the Highlands. Today’s mini bottle is the Ardmore Legacy.

Ardmore distillery was founded in 1898 and was purpose built to provide whisky for Blending, as pretty much all distilleries were at the time. However with Ardmore that hasn’t changed much – even today just about all of Ardmore’s still being used for blending, trading stock, or selling.

Only a small portion of Ardmore Single Malt Scotch lands in official bottles released by Ardmore and its parent company Beam Suntory, and the only official bottle that makes its way to Alberta the Legacy that we will be trying. Ardmore does also release three other bottlings, but one of them is duty-free only and the remaining two have yet to make their way to Canada.

Beam Suntory seems to treat Ardmore as the red-headed stepchild in its Scotch Whisky portfolio. When it comes to profile and releases, Bowmore and Laphroaig get plenty of attention, being the Islay darlings that they are. Auchentoshan in the Lowlands gets similar treatment. Even Glen Garioch gets more releases, and that is saying something!

Continue reading

Posted in KWM Whisky Calendar 2020, Tastings, Whisky, Whisky Calendars | Comments Off