Food + Drink

Smooth spirits to enjoy this February

Classic and flavoured spirits to add to your liquor cabinet this winter

by Michael Pinkus

The dark days of February are here, and this winter it’s not all about wine. This year, the trend seems to be riding the flavour train: flavoured whisky, flavoured rum, flavoured tequila, you name it. The flavour seems to be on parade in all your favourites. I tasted through a number of those tipples to give you a list of some of the best to enjoy, along with some straight-up, tried and true spirits.

Classic Spirits

  • Georgian Bay Vodka
  • $34.95, Canada; LCBO 446559
    A spirits company established in 2013, for vodka this one comes across as almost creamy, easy and smooth. It’s straight drinking vodka but you can also mix it in your favourite vodka-based drink if that’s your thing.
  • Grey Goose Vodka
  • $51.95 / 750ml, France; LCBO 95935
  • What I said about Bombay Sapphire Gin you can say about Grey Goose Vodka:  It’s clean. It’s clear. It has no aftertaste. It has a great finish. Sure it’s fairly non-descript, but that’s the whole point of great vodka, it’s not supposed get in the way, it’s there to enhance. There’s a reason it’s popular and has won so many awards.
  •  Georgian Bay Gin
  • $34.95, Canada; LCBO 448597
  • Total juniper nose with clove and cinnamon on the palate. “I like it,” said one of the gin fanatics I tasted this with, warm and lingering with a lemon zest finish.
  • Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin
  • $30.95 / 750ml, England; LCBO 316844
  • This is one soft and very drinkable gin; lovely floral notes and really clean drinking. There’s a reason why this gin is in everybody’s liquor cabinet.
  • Romeo’s Gin
  • $39.95, Canada; LCBO 635466
  • Lovely orange peel and subtle floral notes. Pleasant with hints of cucumber and spice. Yes, the juniper is there, but it’s almost like it’s playing a backing role to some of those other notes.
  • Guy Lafleur No.10 Gin
  • $47.95 / 750 mL bottle, Canada; LCBO 22887
  • Tons of cedar and juniper notes. This is a mixing gin for the Montreal Canadien fan in your life (and this year they need to drink even more); but it’s more Pat “Burns” than the smoothness of Lafleur’s locks— there’s also quite a spicy linger.
  • Georgian Bay Canadian Whisky
  • $34.95, Canada; LCBO 13909
  • There’s a nice little butterscotch note here with some heat or “burn” as they say; but there’s also some spicy vanilla notes that sit on the finish and make it great for drinking straight.
  • Glen Moray Speyside 15-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
  • $74.50, Scotland; LCBO 644104
  • Not as peaty as I would expect from a Scotch, but my understanding is that the Speysides aren’t really known for their peat. Smooth and silky with nice herbaceous notes, there is a slight peaty-ness (if it’s really there at all). Delicate herbs, nice spice, this really is a pretty single malt.
  • Aberfeldy 12 Year Old Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
  • $63.95, Scotland; LCBO 255281
  • Smooth entry, still with a little note of that peat and smoke, but there’s also a little bit of peach pit on the finish and that helps prolong the linger and alleviate the “burn”.
  • Lewis Royer Cognac VSOP
  • $79.75, France; LCBO 18004
  • Cinnamon and dried fruit with some spiced-buckwheat honey and clove—this one is complex from beginning to end.
  • Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • $79.95, USA; LCBO 21465
  • This is a Kentucky straight bourbon finished in port wine barrels. Vanilla and smoky, with cinnamon/clove and other spices. It has floral undertones, but it’s “awesome” according to many, and I enjoyed it as well, and I am not one who enjoys the bourbon “burn”, so that is saying something.
  • Patron Tequila: Silver, Raposado & Anejo
  • $34.95, Mexico; LCBO 21860
  • All three of these are fantastic … but the Anejo is just a step above. It doesn’t even feel like you’re drinking Tequila. A great way to choose your favourite Patron.

Flavoured Spirits

  • Spicebox Gingerbread Spiced Whisky
  • $16.45 / 375ml, Canada; LCBO 438846
  • Quite a lovely warming effect with brown sugar, caramel and delicate spice. Really gingery finish which helps deliver on the promise of gingerbread.
  • Wolfhead Apple Caramel Whisky
  • $17.92 / 375ml, Canada; or the distillery
  • Red candy apple with a caramel centre delivering on the promise of what it says on the label. I really wasn’t expecting much from this one, but it over-delivered on my expectations.
  • Bombay Bramble: Blackberry & Raspberry Gin
  • $31.95, England; LCBO 19388
  • This is a layered gin with a juniper-raspberry start, then a little violet and sherry in the mid-palate with some blackberry on the linger. Not sure what to use it for, but I’m sure you’ll find something.
  • Bacardi 8-Year-Old Reserva Ocho Rum Sherry Cask Finish Limited Edition
  • $36.95, USA; LCBO 19837
  • Very floral with kind of a Pedro Ximenez (sherry grape) note on the finish. I would say this is a straight drinking rum, especially for those who like sherry as well. Lovely long finish.
  • Spicebox Original Canadian Spiced Whisky
  • $29.45, Canada; LCBO 258954
  • This multi-layered offering has vanilla and cinnamon, but it’s the vanilla that really takes centre stage. There’s a subtle “burn” on the finish, but this is really simple stuff … And on the second sip the burn is gone, replaced by caramel and vanilla. Yum.

Cream Liqueurs

  • Vodkow Cream Liquor Gift Set
  • $54.95 (4 x 250ml), Canada; LCBO 21616
  • A four pack with their classic cream and chocolate cream included with the two listed below. They are all good, but these two were worth the purchase all on their own:
  • Coffee Cream Liquor
  • With a good mocha-coffee core and lingering coffee finish, this is perfect to add instead of Bailey’s to your morning cup of Joe—if you’re into that kind of thing.
  • Maple Cream Liquor
  • This one’s quite maple-y. The flavour is definitely there, but it’s delicate and not in your face as some of the other maple creams that I have tried.
  • Sortilege Maple Cream
  • $29.95, Canada; LCBO 352021
  • Maple seems to be all the rage this year and putting in cream never hurts either. This is smooth and silky. Nice whisky base, but it has maple to spare, which hides the whisky well.

  • Magnum Scotch Malt Whisky Cream Liqueur
  • $35.95, Scotland; LCBO 561720
  • Coffee and chocolate with a hint of maple butterscotch, creamy and smooth. This is really tasty stuff; The packaging is really cute too. Looks like an old-time metal milk jug; could give Bailey’s a run for its money.
  • Bacardi Coquito
  • $24.95, USA; LCBO 22069
  • One of my tasters thought it tasted like Ferrero Rocher. Vanilla and creamy with a subtle cinnamon note … But there’s also plenty of toasted coconut (after all, its name means “little coconut”). If you’ve ever had Rumchata, this is it’s equal.
  • Tequila Rose Strawberry Cream Liqueur
  • $29.95, USA; LCBO 382747
  • This one, quite literally, tastes like macerated strawberries in cream and then dashed with tequila. If that’s what they were going for, that’s what they got. Dangerously tasty.

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