Friday, 29 November 2013

PDT Cocktail Book - A must-have for budding mixologists

The PDT Cocktail Book: The Complete Bartender's Guide from the Celebrated Speakeasy is the brainchild of Jim Meehan (Twitter: @Mixography), PDT's operator and mix-master, and superbly illustrated by Chris Gall. With "Black Friday" kicking off Christmas Shopping season, Sukasa Style thinks that this is a perfect book for the budding mixologist and the beautiful illustrations throughout make it a talking piece. The mere fact that it marries two passions -- cocktails and art -- with 304 recipes replete with vibrant illustrations make it an ideal gift. It was, in fact, a gift for a close friend earlier this year and he can vouch for it.

Waiting for a bull market?
Here's the cover

Mix it well
Sukasa Stars: 4.5 / 5

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

D'Arenberg d'Arry's Original Shiraz Grenache 2010

"Winter is Coming" but Sukasa Style doubts that the characters in the George R.R. Martin's The Game Of Thrones enjoyed the quality of the wines available to us all given our global marketplace: case in point is this week's Wine Wednesday pick - D'Arenberg d'Arry's Original Shiraz Grenache 2010 - hailing from McLaren Vale, Australia available at LCBO (VINTAGES 942904) for $19.95/ bottle.

This is more expensive than the wines we have reviewed recently but the quality in vintage after vintage remains consistently good; it is an exceptionally friendly wine that will please a Christmas crowd accustomed to sipping yet serious enough to pair with rich food and balanced enough to lay in a cellar for another decade. The blending of syrah and grenache has been mastered in the Rhône wine region but here is a characteristically bold and powerful Australian take on the blend courtesy of Chief Winemaker Chester d'Arenberg Osborn and Senior Winemaker Jack Walton.


Made in: McLaren Vale, Australia
By: D'Arenberg Wines
Red Wine 14.4% Alcohol/Vol.
Style: Full-bodied & Smooth
Varietal: Shiraz and Grenache Blend
Sugar Content: 6.2 g/L  | pH: 3.37  |Sweetness Descriptor: D - Dry

LCBO Tasting Note 
(53% grenache and 47% syrah this vintage): Vivid ruby. Intense red and dark berry aromas complicated by notes of rose, white pepper and licorice. Explosive black raspberry and cherry compote flavors are firmed by a touch of bitter chocolate and show very good depth. Dusty tannins give grip to a long, focused finish. This wine acts like a mullet in reverse: party in the front, business in the back. Score - 91. (Josh Raynolds, International Wine Cellar, July 2012)

Sukasa Tasting Notes
The nose reminded me of... Christmas Pudding
The nose remains a mixture of sweet and savory reminding your reviewer of a flaming plum pudding after Christmas dinner while the intense cherry red colour is inviting.
Having enjoyed this wine for a number of years the consistency of the vintages remains remarkable despite changes in weather patterns and harvests. The high alcohol, often a trademark of full bodied Australian reds, gives the initial tasting some heat that isn't necessarily off putting because there are smooth tannins courtesy of the shiraz and slightly firmer tannins courtesy of the grenache on the palate. If you have the time then decanting is always recommended. The mouthfeel is concentrated and may feel a bit fruit forward but this isn't the case throughout as the spice and leather comes through later and there is enough acidity to pair bite through holiday fare.


Takeaways:
Food pairing: Prime rib, duck, cornish hen.
Serve at 17oC
Cellar for up to a decade.
Decant before serving -- this can be a crowd pleasing sipper and a terrific food wine.

Sukasa Stars: 4.55 / 5
QPR (Quality Price Ratio) : Very Good - Excellent

(Reviewed by Arijit Banik for Sukasa Style)



Sunday, 24 November 2013

Bowmore 12-Year Old Enigma #ScotchSunday Review


Bowmore Duty Free Line
It is a known fact and a reality of life that Canadians pay significantly more for life's epicurean pleasures than our American neighbours: purchasing power parity (the law of "one price") only exists in textbooks, not real life. So when the opportunity arises to purchase a single malt whiskey south of the border we jump at the chance. Which brings us to this week's SukasaStyle Scotch Sunday pick: Bowmore 12-Year Old "Enigma" made specifically for the duty free / travel retail market.

Bowmore Duty Free Line

A short video from Bowmore with Master Blender Iain Macullum is provided below:

For more videos related to Bowmore go to www.bowmore.com and single malt generally, check out SingleMaltTv


Sukasa Tasting Notes
For those looking for a characteristic Islay replete with "enough peat that one could eat" this dram may disappoint; that definitely wasn't our view though.

On the one hand, those new to Islay malts should remember that Bowmore is neither a mild  nor heavy peaty malt: it is middling on the peat and smoke scale but, on the other hand, this product is a hybrid in the truest sense with a deep, dark colour and a medicinal, peaty nose which is not characteristic of what follows -- is this the inspiration for the namesake "Enigma"?

Those who view the products of eastern Islay distilleries Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardberg and Caol Ila as true Islay malts must remember that what makes the world of single malt scotches enticing is that each distillery has it own characteristic inputs and the resident malt master play a further hand in the resulting output.

The 12-Year Enigma's palate was one of dark chocolate, caramel, and salt. Adding water brings out the sweetness further, multiplies the smoothness and doesn't shorten the already lengthy finish. The medium body and oily character along with the initial nose could mislead but in the end we felt that this was a superbly balanced and smooth dram suitable for a winter's eve.

At the LCBO the traditional Bowmore 12 Year is priced at $55 for a 750 ml bottle.
The Bowmore 12 Year Enigma at duty free sold for ~ US $45 for a 1L bottle.

Pairing: Fine cigar, smoked salmon, scallops, oysters.

Sukasa Stars: 4.6 / 5
QPR (Quality Price Ratio): Outstanding





Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Tilia Cabernet Sauvignon 2012


This week’s Wine Wednesday post goes back to the value segment of the wine market as we travel to Argentina, home to the world’s best steak, best soccer player and best malbec.

But today’s Sukasa Style pick isn’t a malbec, it is a reasonably priced cabernet sauvignon from Bodegas Esmeralda (under the Tilia brand name) in eastern and southern regions of Mendoza.

Tilia Cabernet Sauvignon (2012)
TILIA CABERNET SAUVIGNON | LCBO 163428 | Price $ 12.95 / bottle
Made in: Mendoza, Argentina  By: Bodegas Esmeralda
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Style: Full-bodied & Firm
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Sugar Content: 9 g/L
Sweetness Descriptor: D - Dry

This review covers the 2012 vintage and the only suggestion we have is that that wine may be a little young –hence the full-bodied and firm descriptor by the LCBO—so decanting would be recommended.

Up front the nose is blueberry and we felt it was more on the medium to full side of the body spectrum. The palate reminded your reviewers of a great Chianti: full of acidity yet balanced with flavours of plums and a hint of minerality (that we would normally associated with a Chablis), coupled with some tobacco flavour ultimately leading to a good finish.

This tasted like an expensive wine that could do with another couple of years in the cellar, but at this price point it would also make for a terrific house wine option. Buy a few bottles, one to drink now, and the rest to cellar, and we believe that you will be rewarded without spending a lot.

Food pairing: Spaghetti Bolognese, gourmet burger, braised short ribs.

Suggestion: Decant before drinking now, cellar for 2 years to get full benefits.

Sukasa Stars: 4.4 / 5  (expect rating to improve with age)

QPR (Quality Price Rating): Excellent

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Balvenie 12 Year DoubleWood #ScotchSunday Review

Speyside Distilleries
This Scotch Sunday, Sukasa Style travels to Speyside and reviews The Balvenie 12 Year Old Doublewood. Given the concentration of distilleries in the region it is perhaps not surprising that names like Balvennie, Macallan and Glenfiddich are amongst the best known and loved single malts internationally. As the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival website attests:
Playing host to over half the distilleries in Scotland, Speyside has the greatest concentration of malt whiskies compared to the other whisky-producing regions – the Highlands, the Lowlands and the island of Islay.


The concentration begets competition and competition begets marketing. Balvenie and Macallan are arguably amongst the finest practitioners of the art of persuasion and Balvenie engages its audience, actual and potential through various media channels.
Case in point: below is an appealing video for The Balvenie 12 Year Old Doublewood featuring Sam Simmons, the brand's Global Ambassador, and David Stewart, the distillery's Malt Master for 50 years.




Furthermore, the website describes the tasting notes in the following manner:

All tastings are ultimately subjective but the here is what we took away from the famous malt, aged 10 years in a traditional American oak whiskey cask and then another 2 years in Spanish (ex-sherry) oak casks.

Nose: Fruity and inviting minced pie, reminiscent of a Dickensian Christmas where the upper classes enjoyed the sweet treat replete with sugar, raisins, cider and vanilla.

Taste: Very smooth with a bit of nutmeg and caramel. The sherry influence was definitely apparent in our estimation.

Finish: Uncomplicated
Parting thoughts
  • Pair with dessert and think of this dram is a good digestif. 
  • Drink neat as adding water will dilute the flavour
  • Short finish: this is not a single malt you want to leave in the glass and let linger as doing so will diminish the taste.
  • A single malt to introduce to a beginner, it is also appropriate for the palate of someone who is first and foremost a wine lover.
  • Not for the lovers of peat
  • A quality dram that spurred a legion of imitators

THE BALVENIE 12 YEAR DOUBLEWOOD | LCBO 387316 | Price: $ 84.95 / 750 mL bottle
Made in: Speyside, Scotland, United Kingdom by: Wm. Grant & Sons Ltd  | 40.0% Alcohol/Vol.

Sukasa Stars: 4.5 / 5
Quality Price Ratio: Good




Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Wine for food is food for thought: Bodegas Lozano Oristan Gran Reserva, 2007

This Wine Wednesday your friends at Sukasa Style review a Tempranillo (~65%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (~35%) blend from Spain's Bodegas Lozano in La Mancha.

Here is what you should know up front: this is, in our view, a terrific food wine. At first blush, this may be underwhelming news since the palate of many modern drinkers are shaped by exuberant fruit forward tastes that are more conducive to sipping alone, and more importantly for the wine industry, score well on Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate, place well during tastings at competitions, and as such sell well at liquor store by virtue of the aforementioned high scores and prizes.

The 2007 vintage may not do that but what it can do is pair superbly with food.
Gran Oristan 2007 Gran Riserva

This is not an over-oaked entry despite spending time in French and American oak "barricas" -- no, there is a subtlety to that meritage. To the eye it has a classic claret colour (red-violet on the spectrum), while on the nose it is a reminder of various berries and toffee. However, the palate is where treat lies with a hint of prune, toast, and cigar balanced with tannins and a peppery finish. The winery describes it as "Elegant and well balanced in the mouth" and we could not agree more.

 Drink now or be rewarded for your patience by putting a few bottles in the cellar for a few years.

Food pairing (courtesy of a superb dinner at Marben restaurant)
Pedro Ximenez Sherry Glazed Braises Beef (with truffle-pea puree, baby beets, beef bacon)
Radicchio and Serrano Ham Risotto (with scallops, slow roasted park belly, leek, apple)
Charcuterie board

Serving temperature: 17 - 19  oC

Prices: Typically ~ $12 / bottle at US retail  | $21.85 / bottle from B&W Wines earlier this year (minimum order 12 bottle) | $60/bottle (Marben restaurant)

Sukasa Stars: 4.5 / 5

QPR (Quality Price Ratio): Very good (based on Ontario price per bottle that is at a 83% premium over typical US retail prices).



Sunday, 10 November 2013

Laphroaig 10 Year #ScotchSunday Review

No Scotch Sunday would be complete without a tip of the hat to "The Queen of the Hebrides", better known as Islay, and today Sukasa Style reviews the entry level 10 year whiskey from Laphroaig.



When you open Laphroaig's characteristic lime green bottle you immediately smell the salt in the sea air and the seaweed washing on the shore, and perhaps you also think of "the beautiful hollow by the broad bay" (its Gaelic namesake) with its characteristic peat. Whatever the first impression, the salt and seaweed is always paired with a medicinal character and you sometimes get a waft of smoke competing with the iodine. The medicinal flavour was a reason that it was among a select group of Scotch whiskies permitted into the United States during Prohibition -- yes, you could get a doctor to give you a prescription for this dram! As your Sukasa Style reviewers can attest, it is far more effective at curing what ails than a smoother malt.


If you love the nose then you won't be disappointed with what remains in the taste: seaweed, salt, some sherry that is wrapped in smokiness and a surprising bit of sweetness.

Why you should buy it: consider what else is at Kildalton and you have neighbouring Lagavulin and Ardberg, fine distilleries in their own right, and you will be paying $20 more per bottle in Ontario. (Granted, all prices in Ontario are at a hefty premium to those across the national border, but the Laphroaig discount remains).

The finish is big, long, and reminiscent of the salt air. 

For an evening of single malt drinking, please be sure to drink this dram last lest you want everything to taste of Laphroaig.

LAPHROAIG 10 YEARS OLD ISLAY SINGLE MALT |  LCBO 248997 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 79.95
Made in Scotland, United Kingdom   By: Allied Distilleries Ltd.
43.0% Alcohol/Vol.

Food pairing: Smoked salmon.
Add water to help open up.
Drink last and savour. 

Sukasa Stars: 4.5 / 5
Quality Price Ratio: Excellent


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Grassy never tasted so good

New Zealand's Marlborough Region
Sukasa Style's Wine Wednesday pick is not a hidden gem; it is a wine that should be available to anyone with a taste for Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand's Marlborough region.

In describing our pick, Natalie Maclean has described that "the signature of New Zealand's Marlborough region is evident in the crisp, clean flavours throughout." Of course, we are referring to a winery that makes good wines, year after year, all with the characteristic of Marlborough's terroir. 




OYSTER BAY SAUVIGNON BLANC (V) 
VINTAGES 316570 | 750 mL bottle | Price $ 18.95

Made in: Marlborough, New Zealand
By: Delegats Wines Est Ltd
12.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Style: Aromatic & Flavourful
Varietal: Sauvignon Blanc
Sugar Content: 4 g/L
Titratable Acidity: 8 g/L
pH: 3.2

Sweetness Descriptor: XD - Extra Dry 

Tasting notes
The easiest way to describe this Marlborough classic is grassy and vegetal. The 2013 vintage showed nice acidity and reminded your humble reviewer of cantaloupe on the nose as well as the minerality that is often associated with a fine Chablis.

Pair with smoked salmon, sashimi, shellfish, mango salad, thai grilled salad.

Serve chilled: ~ 10 oC (50 oF)  (Don't let this warm as the flavours drop off)

Sukasa Stars: 4.45 / 5

Quality Price Ratio: Very Good - Excellent

Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013



Sunday, 3 November 2013

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old: incredibly complex, highly underrated

Today's Scotch Sunday review from Sukasa Style centers on an indispensable dram belonging to our core collection, Dalwhinnie 15 year old, and supports the case to steer away from the conventional view that this single malt is not worthy of inclusion in the pantheon of so-called serious single malts, à la Lagavulin or Talisker.
Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

In his indispensable classic "Malt Whisky Companion" Michael Jackson gave Dalwhinnie 15 year old a score of 76/100 describing it as "lightly peaty" and an "aperitif" with a palate that was "remarkably smooth, long-lasting flavour development. Aromatic, heather-honey notes give way to cut-grass, malty sweetness, which intensifies to a sudden burst of peat."

To be clear, tasting a malt whiskey is akin to tasting wine; it is a personal exercise that is arguably more social than it is scientific: everyone's palate is different yet when your humble blogger was introduced to the wonderful world of single malts a decade ago, his knowledgeable friends instinctively understood that Dalwhinnie was an ideal choice for those accustomed to blended scotches yet apprehensive and overwhelmed by the choice of single malts.

In our opinion, the long finish and smoothness of this scotch do not come at the expense of complexity. It is an ever evolving single malt that changes as you drink it in one sitting and over time as you make your way through the bottle. The rich straw colour belies a palate profile that is reminiscent of citrus, dried fruits, honey and grass in varying amounts. However, upon first opening the bottle, it is harsher then expected -- almost medicinal -- before opening up to the characteristic smoothness that it is known for. Is this a result of the geography as the second highest distillery in Scotland (see below)?
The people from Diageo in conjunction with David Broom have provided a useful flavour map (below) which can be downloaded at the link provided here.

Dalwhinnie on the Flavour Map (www.malts.com)
Source: Great Whiskeys (DK Books, 2009)

LCBO Summary
DALWHINNIE 15 YEARS OLD SCOTCH WHISKY  | LCBO 238097 | 750 mL bottle | Price $ 89.95
Made in: Scotland, United Kingdom
By: James Buchanan & Co. Ltd. (owned by Diageo plc)
Spirits, Whisky/Whiskey, Single Malt Scotch
43.0% Alcohol/Vol.
Taste Profile: Medium & Sweet 
Tasting Note: Bright gold colour; soft heather, peat & light smoke nose; medium body, smooth lightly smoky finish
Serving Suggestion: serve with smoked salmon

Our Sukasa Style takeaway is that Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old is a single malt worthy of a special toast or a regular imbibe: you serve it to friends because you like them and they will surely return the favour. We recommend as an ideal single malt to those graduating from blended scotches.

Serve straight.

Sukasa Stars: 4.65 / 5

Quality Price Ratio: Very Good