Gifts of the Season

WineAlign Spirits Review
by Margaret Swaine

For the spirit lovers on your gift list this season, I recommend these great picks, some at incredible bargain prices, to suit all tastes. Tis the season to celebrate and here’s how.

Rum is the key ingredient in eggnog, and Appleton Estate Signature Blend of 15 select rums aged an average of four years, makes eggnog bliss. For solo sipping Appleton Estate Rare Blend Aged 12 Years, has good length and intensity. New to our market but not Jamaica, is Monymusk Classic Gold Jamaican Rum, from one of the oldest plantations on the island.

Appleton Estate Signature BlendAppleton Estate Rare Blend 12Monymusk Classic Gold Rum

Brandy can work Christmas miracles whether you pour it over your Christmas pudding and light it up, add it to your coffee along with whipped cream or make a rich, soothing Brandy Alexander. Use bargain priced Small Cask V.S.O.P Brandy made from Ontario grapes and you’ll be patriotic without breaking the bank. 

Whisky is a much favoured gift this time of year. For people who like the full on smoky, peaty, briny tastes of Islay single malts, but not their general cost (often $70 to $90) Dun Bheagan Single Malt delivers the best deal around at just over fifty dollars. Got a Welshman in your family? Give the gift of Penderyn Legend Single Malt Welsh Whisky with its distinctive apple notes. A smooth talking Irish whiskey is Jameson Blender’s Dog – the perfect hair of the dog cure for over indulgence.  Got someone you want to impress. Glengoyne 18-Year-Old Highland Malt made with generous portions of sherry cask aged whiskies is a masterpiece.

Small Cask BrandyIan Macleod Dun Bheagan Islay 8 Year Old Single MaltPenderyn LegendJameson Blender's Dog Irish WhiskeyGlengoyne 18 Year Old Highland Single Malt Scotch

Calvados and Armagnac can impress at under half the cost of top cognacs and whiskies. The minimum age of brandies in Armagnac de Montel Hors D’Age is twelve years, giving an extra smooth rich softness on the palate.  Boulard Grand Solage Calvados Pays D’Auge is smooth and sophisticated with lovely fresh apple notes. Boulard X.O. if you can find it, delivers a cognac like character with smooth depth.

Armagnac De Montal Hors D'âgeBoulard Grand Solage Calvados Pays D’auge

Not everyone likes dark spirits and so vodka, gin and tequila come to the rescue. Victoria Gin from British Columbia is now repackaged in an elegant contemporary bottle perfect for gifting. From Quebec, Cirka Sauvage Dry Gin, inspired by the boreal forests has 30 botanicals in its inspirational taste. Caorunn Small Batch Gin from Scotland uses five wild foraged Celtic botanicals along with six traditional ones to craft its flavours.

When Cirka Distilleries, the first grain to bottle and “on grain” distiller in Quebec, first released Cirka Terroir Vodka the SAQ wouldn’t let the company call it vodka. Made from 100% Quebec corn, and distilled on the crushed grain, the liquor board felt it wasn’t neutral and flavourless enough to be vodka. They have since been educated with tastings of other ultra fine vodkas.

Victoria GinCirka SauvageCaorunn Small Batch Scottish GinCirka Terroir

Olmeca Altos Plata delivers a great flavour packed tequila at a great price – good for sipping or mixing in craft cocktails. Also great in cocktails is Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge – to me the king of liqueurs with its core distillate of cognac. Maynard’s Port Encyclopedia is a gift tailor made for the budding oenophile: open the ‘book’ and inside are six port categories in 60mL tubes, namely white, ruby, Late Bottle Vintage (LBV), 10-Year-Old, 20-Year-Old and 30-Year-Old. Selling at $54.95 (LCBO 464917), it’s both festive and informative.

Finally, to have on hand for any over indulgence, Cynar Artichoke Liqueur is an Italian amaro designed to set up the stomach for a meal as an aperitif or to settle it down as a digestive.

Olmeca Altos PlataGrand Marnier Cordon RougeCynar Artichoke Liqueur


Happy holidays.

Margaret Swaine

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Park Cognac VSOP