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Picking up good libations

BY Will Nicholls Nov 21, 2019

Every year the Nation shows up at La Grande Dégustation de Montréal. It’s a great show for the budding connoisseur, as it introduces them to a lot of different products from wines to hard stuff.

You don’t have to spend a lot to try out a few drinks. If you’re worried you might get a little carried away, you can do what I did this year, use the spittoons. And I bet you thought they were just in cowboy movies for a bad guy to spit out his tobacco juice. Well, wine and spirits tasters do the same so they don’t get carried away – literally. Another thing I did was to pace myself and only stayed for a certain amount of time.

Hopefully you’ll take these tips with you during the holidays so everyone has a joyous and safe time.

In the meantime, as with every year visitors can learn about a wine region, a wine variety and any of the featured products on display from the 200 booths at the show.

This year’s wine highlight was Portugal. Too be truthful, I only tasted a few and wasn’t impressed enough to write about them. Now if it had been Porto, it would have been more interesting. Rosés from that country though aren’t bad when paired with fish or light grilled meat.

Really cool this year was the fact that over a third of the booths were eco-friendly with organic offerings. Many were quite tasty and the interest in the way a product is created seems to have reached the producers. Many of the Scotch, whiskey and vodka companies have switched to older, more sustainable methods of product development. It certainly made for more interesting tastes.

I learned that the only difference between whiskey and Scotch is the name. Scotch apparently is just a whiskey that comes from Scotland. Being partly of Scottish ancestry I believe that it is the other way around. The Scots made everyone else call their drink whiskeys.

One of my favourites was the Glengoyne. A fantastic cask strength Scotch that has a sweet bite until I added a touch of water to the 59.8% drink. Remember, regular strength is around 40%. Despite its strength, the Glengoyne didn’t burn but had a pleasant warmth that spread throughout your body.

Tamdhu was another of the special ones to try out. Done in the old style, it made for an interesting blend of tastes. A touch peppery but with great beading and aftertaste. Beading refers to the way a sip of something will spread quickly and evenly through your mouth, and often give you a nice scent. Tamdhu did all that and more.

Glenfarclas, a 17-year-old single malt Scotch whiskey, was all that its age indicates. It has some sweetness tempered with the beginnings of a more complex mature flavour. A true prize to honour a special person or occasion.

If you want something a little older, then there’s the 18-year-old Balblair. A true treasure to anyone wanting to check out a great Scotch. Hide this one from your friends! Of course, if they discover you’ve been holding out, you may lose a few of them. A true bargain at $199.95. I’m told a lot of editors appreciate this type of gift.

After the Scotch, the next thing to wet my whistle was Cherry River Vodka, made in Quebec. A nice simple vodka that is great addition to any home for $44 at the SAQ. Homegrown spirits are making great strides these days.

Then there was the Green Spot at $81.25. An Irish whiskey that might have you do a jig or two after a few sips. I guess this was made in a special spot on the Emerald Isle and will gift you with a touch of blarney when ordering a refill.

But back to Scotch for a moment – Douglas Laing & Co. specializes in artisanal whiskeys and had quite the line-up. Rock Oyster was great. Scallywag made me think of being one and Timorous Beastie brought out the poet in me. Didn’t dare try the Big Peat.

Jack Daniel’s was on the scene again. Need I say more. Well, yes. They have more to offer than the usual bottle you see in the SAQ. Go online and you’ll see something you might want to try out. I did and was pleasantly surprised.

What about the wines? Never having tried a South African wine I stopped to check out Survivor. I wondered about the name having watched Survivor South Africa on TV. So many questions crossed my mind as I tried this light white wine. At $19.95, Overhex Wines can expect this wine to survive and prosper with those who like a glass or two of something decent.

Thalvin wines from Morocco were amazing, especially considering the country only boasts one winery. Their Syrah was a great taste and had just a touch of tannin. It was so nice I made it my last stop of the day before heading home.

Of course, it wasn’t all drinks as a few food booths made the scene. The olives were wonderful. PersiMom had a great display and their fare would look good at any gathering. Partner them up with GS (Gastronomie d’Espagne) and you have one of the nicest settings ever for a break during a conference or meeting.

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Will Nicholls is a Cree from Mistissini. He started his career off in radio and is still one of the youngest radio DJ’s in Canadian history, having a regular show on CFS Moosonee at the age of 12. Will was one of the founding members of the Nation, and has been its only Editor-in-Chief.