Forager’s Surprise

I log every bottle I buy. The expression, the location where I bought it, the cost and my tasting notes. No specific reason, it’s just what I do. In July 2013, when my wife and I were in Frederick, Maryland, we visited the local liquor store. The selection was not terrible broad but I found a Cragganmore 12 year for $51 CDN. Sure, not a hard to find bottle or a particularly bold purchase but the store we visited had a fairly limited selection and I like Cragganmore, and I liked the price. Yes, yes, the exchange rate, I know. Back then the Canadian dollar was close to par with the US dollar so really it was a good buy. When we got home to Toronto, I dutifully logged the bottle and left it at that. That bottle of Cragganmore is long gone, sacrificed to a cottage weekend with the guys but, apparently, the visit to that particular store wasn’t.

We recently celebrated our anniversary, our 12th anniversary. To my surprise I was presently with the following:

Macallan 12



My wife had, very stealthily, bought this at the same store where I bought the Cragganmore and tucked it away for three full years with the intent of giving it to me for our 12th. Yes, I was very surprised. This was the real Macallan, not  the sorry NAS version we are relegated to here in Canada, and the rest of the non-USA portion of the world for that matter. It’s sort of a standard expression against which all other Speysiders are measured and, most will agree, vastly superior to the rather tepid ‘colour’ range and the 1824 range of NAS releases that are now Macallan’s core in most of the world.

Regular reader of this blog know that when I have recently visited the US, Pennsylvania in particular, I have been buying Yamazaki 12 because I can. I had pretty much overlooked this gem and cannot say how happy I was to receive this wonderful bottle from an even more wonderful woman. To all the gentlemen out there reading this post, please feel free to share with your significant other. I’ve got a really, really good one.

Happy foraging!





This Christmas, Pennsylvania Islay Lovers Are on Santa’s Nice List

Ardbeg Winter
Islay Christmas – a little snow on the casks.

It’s true! And Santa the PLCB is treating them to some great prices. And for those of us that might be travelling to Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, there are great opportunities for buying whiskies at great prices, or for finding great whiskies unavailable in Ontario, or both!

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has cut prices on a ton of whiskies, and compared to LCBO prices, the Islays in particular are a steal.

PLCB prices shown do not include 6% PA sales tax but savings calculations do. Prices valid until Jan3 2016. Currency conversion uses 1 CAD = 0.74 USD.

Whisky                                 PCLB (USD)           LCBO (CAD)       Savings

Kichoman Machir Bay            59                             104                       $19/18%

Laphroaig 10                              46                              81                        $14/18%

Laphroaig 18                              75                              179                      $71/39%

Ardbeg 10                                    48                             100                      $31/31%

Ardbeg Uigeadail                      75                              171                      $63/37%

Ardbeg Corryvrekan                90                             189                      $59/31%

Looks pretty good! And I should also point out that even though it appears as an active item on the LCBO website, for the last year or more there has been zero inventory of Laphroaig 18 in Ontario.  No supply and a great price make this the clear pick of the litter.

And speaking of no supply, here are a couple additional non-Islay whiskies that are not -and probably never will be- available in Ontario that merit serious consideration as adds to the collection.

Whisky                                 PCLB (USD)           Price (CAD)       LCBO (CAD)

Macallan 12                                58                             78                              n/a

Yamazaki 12                               85                             115                             n/a

There’s very little Yamazaki 12 left in PA so as I’ve written before, I’d consider it a last call of sorts. Regarding Macallan, as they phase out their core age statement expression, just as what happened with the Yamazaki age statements, we should see the prices rise. But for now, $US 58 is a great deal.

Happy foraging!


Tasting: Crown Royal Northern Harvest

My first tasting post, on account of the Jim Murray-fueled scarcity of this whiskey.

Northern Harvest Tasting

Crown Royal Northern Harvest 45% ABV

Canadian Whiskey; Gimli, Manitoba, Canada

Colour: Rich Orange.

Body: Syrupy. Clings to the glass with an iron grip.

Nose: Restrained. Sherry, woody and cinnamon like from French oak, slightly sour but soft cereal notes. Candied orange peel. Opens up significantly with just a couple of drops of water.

Palate: Very oily. A sweet wash of stone fruits, mostly apricot. Dusty. Remarkably smooth with little heat. Hard to believe it is 45% ABV.

Finish: Warm spices, nutmeg, ginger, and a little cherry as if from a bourbon. Very long. The alcohol is felt here but still feels far less than the ABV suggests.

Overall: Did someone get Macallan in my Crown Royal? The harmony of the flavours here elevate this Crown Royal offering to, ahem, regal heights. Even though the mash bill is 90% rye, the rye character of this whiskey is subdued, resulting in something quite unique.

So…’Best Whiskey In The World’? Truly I think it’s foolish to say that for any whiskey. This is an excellent whiskey, with a rich and unique character. It is rye-like, scotch-like, and bourbon-like, nurturing traits of each of these great whiskies. It is though greater than the sum of its parts and should be enjoyed for the unique character it offers.

Happy foraging!