Tight Wad: Junk and Juice

by Brianna

Wine has a wonderful yet sometimes pretentious reputation to be accompanied with fancy five-course meals or food that is equally expensive. Well if you’re like me sometimes all you want to do is sit in your pj’s watching reruns of The Office, for the millionth time. What affordable snack and wine would go well with this perfect evening, you may ask? Oh, how about some sparkling Vouvray with Chicago mix or Mac n Cheese with Chardonnay. These are the types of ideas we explored and sampled at the Junk and Juice tasting.

The oh so fancy pairing; Domaine des Aubuisieres Vouvray Brut with Chicago Mix

My goal was to find a snack of whom we’re all familiar with but give it a partner to elevate its stature. The caramel and cheese combination is genius! Giving us all what we crave, the sweet and salty. Paired with the delicate effervescent of the Vouvray refreshes after every sip. Therefore, if you need a break from the fistful of Chicago mix, Vouvray Brut will do the trick! This was the 3rd favourite of the evening.

Spice up your life pairing; Kuentz Fleur D’Alsace with Veggie Samosa

Every once and a while we crave a snack that challenges us both emotionally and mentally. However, it must not challenge us physically. That is why I chose a veggie samosa for our next pairing. Samosas can either be gorgeously handmade at a restaurant or something frozen you pick up in aisle 6. Kuentz Fleur D’Alsace went beautifully with the satisfying yet slightly spicy samosas. This white wine has the following bouquet; Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Blanc. Together they created a slightly off-dry wine with a complex floral yet spicy notes. This pairing was one of two favourite picks tonight. When pairing spicy foods with wine keep it simple. Try to find a wine with little to no tannin or a little sugar to help calm those taste-buds.

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Canadian Whisky Rising

by Evan

The Canadian Whisky scene as a whole can be described as three or four Goliaths plus a few dozen or so (with more on the way) Davids. Many of these Davids are up and coming Craft Distilleries, a few of which are featured in this tasting. You have a few that have been operating for nearly a decade and sometimes more like Two Brewers, Shelter Point, Still Waters Distillery (Stalk & Barrel), and so on. Then you have the newest generation in which I would include Eau Claire, Burwood, Last Best, Victoria Caledonian, Dubh Glas, and many more. Some of these now have actual, bonafide whisky that they have produced themselves and released. Others are in hurry-up-and-wait mode when it comes to whisky, with nothing in a barrel that has reached the three-year mark needed to legally qualify, biding their time selling vodka, gin, and aged spirit releases.

The “Domestic” and “Import” Beer industry has suffered a thousand cuts over the last decade or more, as many customers flock to the many craft beer producers that continue to pop up. The industry of Big Beer is nowhere near close to dying, but whole swaths of beer lovers have essentially written them off. In my opinion, the main reason for this is that a lot of consumers have decided flavour and variety are king. When you can have a new seasonal or one-off beer in your hands every day of the week, do you really need to go back to the Molson, Labatts, Heineken and Stella of the world?

It could be that we will see the same thing happen on the whisky side of things. I would argue we already have – at least on a smaller scale. We have more choice in Canadian Whisky then we have ever had before, and as more distilleries get closer to whisky-age, this will continue. This and other influences already seem to have pushed the big companies to innovate and offer more new releases – many at the higher than bog-standard 40% ABV. You also see a greater push for more flavour, usually through more experimentation with barrels and/or a push for more flavourful grains and casks to be used.

Hopefully, that continues as well. A decade ago, it would have been easy to write off the Canadian Whisky Industry as a whole as stagnant and homogenized; happy to blend away the flavour with neutral casks and bland, bulk whisky. With the single malt boom and the current rye resurgence, things are shifting.

The best part of all of this chaos? More choice for us whisky lovers! That, and I can pour an eight-deep lineup of Canadian Whisky where NOTHING is stuck at the dreadfully low 40% ABV…

Curious about the lineup? Read on!

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Natural Wine Battle

by Dave At our recent Natural Wine Tasting, we were lucky enough to have Erik Mercier from Juice Imports and Andrew Stewart from Vino al Vino Wine Imports going head to head for 4 rounds of wine vs wine battle. They tried to pick wines that had similarities, with selections focused on minimal intervention style wines or “natural” wines.

I personally have a very hard time with the term “natural wine”. First and foremost it is because there is not a set or agreed upon definition of what it exactly means. It can mean one thing for one person but something different for someone else. The other unfortunate part is that a lot of wine that has been termed as natural may potentially sell quite a bit even though it could be just a faulted wine.

For this tasting, we were lead by two very knowledgeable and resourceful agents that we work with quite a bit who both focus on minimal intervention wines. This basically means that the people who produce these wines use little mechanics, don’t add anything to their juice, use minimal interference when producing their wines and also have low to no sulphur added. Some of the wines that they represent are some of the best and most sought after in the world and we are fortunate enough to be able to taste them here in Alberta.

To start the night we went off with a bang of face ripping acidity, Riesling vs Riesling. Both of the Rieslings were from the new world. One from California and the other Australia.

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Scotch Malt Whisky Society of Canada July 2019 Outturn

by Evan

July is here, the Calgary Stampede is underway, and it is raining outside as I type this. I am sure we could use the rain (as long as it doesn’t lead to flooding), and I personally prefer when the temperature doesn’t go above 20 degrees Celsius outside. It may bum out most everybody else, but at least I am happy!

In the summer months, the Scotch Malt Whisky of Canada releases six new bottles instead of the typical seven. At KWM, we add a returning SMWS bottle to the lineup that was featured in a previous Outturn. July’s bottle is 72.57 – CHEERFUL SOUL, which was originally released as part of the December of 2018 Outturn. Regularly priced at $126.99, the price has been dropped on the few remaining bottles by 15% off to $107.94!

What are the new six bottles in the July Outturn? Here is a quick rundown:

  • We start with two solid, summer-ready sippers, including one of my favourites from the lineup: the first release we have seen from Distillery 88 in Canada. The saltiness in the dram was enticing…
  • The second dram offers an exciting mix of sweet notes and oak. Like the 72 featured above, the distillery that produced this bottle of 71 also plays a prominent role in the Ballantine’s Blend.
  • The SMWS Canada chapter had saved a Bourbon with a Stampede-ready name for this Outturn. Bucking Bronco is the second Bourbon we have seen in a green bottle in Canada. Both have been from B3 – a young distillery in Little Rock, Arkansas. Looking for a cask strength Bourbon with wood, fruit, and a lot of other notes going on? Check this one out.
  • We finished the lineup with three straight cask finishes. Each one was wilder than the last. First up was my favourite from 135, which hails from the most versatile distillery in Scotland. It was finished in a first fill Sauternes cask, but it is unlike any other Sauternes cask finish I have personally tried…
  • Next comes what is a contender for best recent SMWS bottle name: SPEYGERMEISTER! Not only worth checking out for name alone, this guy is a crazy px cask finish that doesn’t just go for syrup and sweetness in style.
  • Last but not least comes our only foray into peat, but not from Islay. Great Fun comes to us from the Highlands workhorse distillery that is featured in Teachers Blended Scotch. Finished in what might be called an STR cask by other companies. It is a wild twist on this distillery’s typical style. Continue reading
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A Night in Reims (Champagne Tasting)

by Abigail

Champagne is a drink of beauty; It’s delicate, yet unapologetically powerful in its elegance. It’s a wine style that should be celebrated more, any day of the week, not only consumed on special occasions.

Champagne became known as a celebratory wine during its popularity in the Belle Epoque, a period of time between the end of the Franco-Prussian war in 1871 and the beginning of World War One in 1914. It was an era filled with optimism, regional peace, economic prosperity, and innovation.  During this period, Champagne was consumed in plenty and became part of the celebration myth that it is still wrapped up in today.

We open a bottle on new years eve, at graduation and weddings, yet it’s not widely consumed on other occasions. This tasting was to show the beauty of Champagne, to see it as versatile as other wine styles, and to show how unique champagne can be.
In this tasting, I wanted to pour everything we have to the shelves, but unfortunately, I couldn’t. Instead, I decided to show Champagne in a few different stages and styles; Aperitif, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Vintage. The reason for doing this was to exemplify the difference between each and every style of champagne, without pigeonholing into one characteristic.

Here is the lineup that we tasted our way through!

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Scotch Malt Whisky Society of Canada June 2019 Outturn

by Evan

HEY SMWS CANADA MEMBERS: Have you been to the revamped SMWS.CA website yet? The website was just makeover, and it has a new option included for how you would like to receive the quarterly Unfiltered Magazine.

All SMWS Canada members now have the choice between receiving the magazine by mail as usual, or opting out and just reading the online version available through SMWS Canada’s website. Choosing not to receive the physical version of the magazine will get you a discount on your annual membership renewal.

The online version of Unfiltered Magazine can be viewed as long as you remain and SMWS member, and the online archive allows you to view a decade of past issues as well. It is definitely worth a login to check out if you have not already.

 

Hey… I know those guys!

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Rum Runnin’

by Shawn

Oh boy do I love rum! The rich -and at times unfortunate- history, the variety, the international penetration, and of course the drink itself! Just as I did last time I put on one of these, I wanted to create a lineup of interesting rums from a variety of countries and styles, and of varying qualities, and I think I succeeded in just that. Some newcomers and some old favourites, and natural, because this is Kensington Wine Market, some real rarities!

I’m not all that certain what pirates ate besides limes, so I just asked the lovely Peasant Cheese to throw together tasty boards full of cheese and meat. That works well enough! Well enough for an informative evening of swigging rum and singing a sea shanty at least! Well… maybe there wasn’t any singing, but that’s mostly because I’m not the sort of person to start that sort of thing off. Here’s what was swiggin’ though!

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Scotch Whisky Regions? Really?!

by Curt

The whisky regions of Scotland. A subject bound to raise the hackles of whisky geeks. For those less inclined to delve down into the real nitty gritty of the whisky world, the regions become a simple way to target what they think will be the bottles that suit their palate. Unfortunately, the producers are not so inclined to cooperate. And there’s a good reason why. But let’s save that that for the end of this rambling little monologue, what say? Read on, folks…

This tasting was focused on an issue that is kinda ‘near and dear’ to my heart: the value of regions in defining flavour profiles. On its surface, the concept seems rather ludicrous. It wasn’t always this way, however. There was a time when those regional boundaries (both real and imagined) literally did define some sort of loose-fitting flavour camps. The question for tonight was whether or not our attendees found value in these designations. And whether or not they would at the end of our time together. But let’s come back to that in a moment. (Yes, I’m teasing a bit here. Bear with me.)

Single malt lovers are a rather singular breed. Their passion knows no bounds. And when they fall in love, they fall in love for keeps. Most people find it all begins something like the big bang theory. The great cosmic event, that is, not the TV show. There’s one defining eureka! moment and suddenly an ever-expanding universe of wonder awaits. It grows continually and when you get deep enough into it, you realize that there’s almost an element of time travel involved. Worm holes anyone? Bending the space-time continuum? Suddenly, contemporary malts won’t cut it. Nor will the prospect of upcoming releases. That becomes the point where we start digging into the past. Historic bottlings, closed distilleries, long lost histories. Come to think of it, maybe it’s more of a black hole than a worm hole. Once it takes hold and pulls you past the event horizon, there is simply no going back. Continue reading

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Stillin’ Gin’s Still In

by Shawn

Cheese and gin and cocktails and meat and tonics are all among my favourite things (and commas are not!). Thankfully, a new tasting season means a new round of gins for us to mix up and taste! I’ve said this before, but I feel that the romance behind gin is that it has the ability to showcase the creativity of the distiller. Starting with the base grain, and how clean you want to distill the spirit, you can create a dry and pretty, curvy backbone, or a sweet and grainy base on which you layer whatever flavours you can think of. The weather is starting to warm up, and we’ve already seen a pick up in gin-based traffic. So it was about time to start exploring and find the gin of the season!

I managed to bring together a selection of Gins, each from a different country, and each markedly different from each other. We started off the evening by sampling Eau Claire Distillery’s new Cherry Gin Collins. This ready-to-drink is a straight up Tom Collins (gin lemonade) made with Eau Claire’s Cherry Gin. It’s moderately sweet with ripe cherry flavours and hints of citrus.

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Scotch Malt Whisky Society of Canada May 2019 Outturn

by Evan

May of 2019 brings us one hell of an Outturn (yes, I am biased). Here are some stats:

  • Three of the seven bottles in the Outturn are cask finishes. Two hail from Speyside and just barely in the Highlands. All three are – at the very least – worth a taste. Two of them are my personal favourites in the lineup.
  • This is a peat-heavy month. Four of the seven bottles show at least some peat, with three of those showing smoke and earth in a very pronounced manner.
  • One of these peated malts comes from Loch Lomond Distillery, though it would be labelled as an Inchmoan in style. This is the first Inchmoan I have personally had, and possibly the first to hit the SMWS in Canada. It is also easily the best Loch Lomond Malt that I can remember every tasting, SMWS or otherwise.
  • Even more oddness regarding this 112 bottling: the SMWS Canada originally believed that they would be receiving 112.17. It was a serendipidous mistake that they received 112.27, but I am personally very happy that they did.
  • The ABV for the lineup is pretty tight, with all but one bottle coming in between 57.1% and 59.4% ABV.
  • That one outlier bottle is unique in other ways as well: It is bottled at 50% ABV, which is not cask strength. It has much larger than typical SMWS outturn at 2948 bottles. It is one of the SMWS new line of Blended Malts. This is Batch 003 of Peat Faerie. This is the first batch to come to the SMWS Canada, and like when we received Exotic Cargo last year, it likely won’t last long.

As I said earlier and I will not repeat again for fear of overselling it (at least until next Outturn): this is a very impressive lineup. Enough from me though. Read on below for all of the info!

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