7 of the best whiskies for winter

by W. Andrew Powell
The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old

Winter was made for whisky. It’s my favorite time of year to sit down, relax, and enjoy that sweet nectar of the Scottish gods. Since it’s also Robbie Burns Day this Thursday and then Valentine’s Day, it seemed like a perfect time to talk about one of the most wonderful spirits around.

I’ve picked seven of the best whiskies and excellent Scotches, whether you’re looking for a dram yourself, or want that perfect gift for the whisky drinker in your life. Plus, who says you need bubbly at your Oscar party this year? These are definitely awards-show worthy spirits, whether you enjoy them responsibly straight, or mixed in a cocktail.

Auchentoshan The Bartender's MaltAuchentoshan The Bartender’s Malt | $74.95
I’m starting with Auchentoshan’s The Bartender’s Malt, not just because it’s a great limited edition Scotch, but also because it’s made to be mixed.

Crafted by bartenders, for bartenders, the whisky is beautiful, smooth, and bright. On it’s own, the whisky is zesty and delectable, but in a cocktail it lends its gingery flavour to the mix, which is really delightful in an Old Fashioned, although there are a lot of suggestions for cocktails you can make with the scotch.

Auchentoshan and their American Oak whisky is one of my favorite scotches, and The Bartender’s Malt is a great addition to any whisky-lover’s liquor cabinet.

Crown Royal Blenders Select | $54.95
There is just one catch with Crown Royal’s Blenders Select: this fantastic, delicious whisky is only available in Ontario at the LCBO. It’s priced just right, below what a lot of distillers charge for a good whisky, and it’s one of my all time favorite Crown Royal limited editions to date.

What I love about the whisky is that it’s bold, flavourful, and peppery, but smooth and layered with a little more complexity than other variations of Crown Royal, and that’s thanks, at least in part, to relying more heavily on the incredible coffey still. The spirit tastes like it was made for winter in Canada.

Laphroaig Select | $74.95
If you love a whisky with character, but don’t want to jump into full peated Scotch, Laphroaig Select is the whisky for you. Laphroaig offers some of the best peated whiskies available and Select has a unique style from it’s mix of woods used during the maturing process, with both American and European casks. The best metaphor I could suggest is to imagine a light meal, served on a peat bog by the ocean, as the salt spray washes over you.

The whisky is a bit surprising, because it’s definitely lighter than I expected, and just a touch sweeter and nuttier. Peated whiskies are a unique flavour profile, and Laphroaig Select still has the slightly medicinal finish that you may expect from a peaty whisky, but it’s not nearly as intense as others in this style, and the overall palate is excellent.

Pike Creek 21 Year Speyside Malt Cask FinishPike Creek 21 Year Speyside Malt Cask Finish | $89.95
Life is too short not to enjoy a well-aged whisky, and the Northern Border Collection of Canadian whiskies includes the very special Pike Creek, which is aged 21 years and finished in a Speyside Malt cask. It’s a full, rich whisky that’s smooth, and tastes like dried fruit dipped in a little touch of caramel.

Pike Creek 21 Year Old has a sweet aroma, and a little hint of peat aroma from the Speyside casks. It’s also just a touch spicy, with an oaky finish.

The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old | $99.95
The Macallan makes some of my favorite whiskies, and Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old is incredibly satisfying. This is a great Scotch neat or on the rocks, or with a drop of water to open up the flavours.

Balanced, sweet, with a finish like dried raisins, Macallan Double Cask is also creamy, spicy, with a touch of vanilla, and citrus. It’s a scotch with wonderful hints of other Macallan whiskies that I love, with a whole new flavour profile that’s smooth from start to finish. This is also definitely a scotch that improves with pairings. Try Macallan Double Cask with dark chocolate, and candied orange, or nuts, and cheese–it will open up flavours you never would have expected in both the food, and the scotch.

Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old | $56.95
Johnnie Walker Black Label is a satisfying, yet complex whisky that is unmistakably Johnnie Walker, and a great whisky for mixing or drinking neat. There are hints of chocolate on the palate, spice and wood, not to mention toffee or maybe caramel, with a fruity, long finish.

Johnnie Walker also benefits from being an incredibly mixable scotch, and there are some great cocktails out there, but I enjoy it with a single ice cube, which chills it nicely, and opens up the flavours as it melts.

Dewar's 12 Year Old WhiskyDewar’s 12 Year Old | $47.25
Dewar’s 12 Year Old has a unique approach to blending that helps make it one of the most cohesive. Unlike a lot of whiskies, after the whisky is blended, it’s aged for another 6 months to add to the flavour and depth of the scotch.

Recognized with awards at whisky competitions around the world, Dewar’s 12 is an appealing scotch for Scotch-lovers and novices alike. The whisky has a hint of fruit and floral notes on the nose, and tastes like honey and spice on the tongue before it finishes with a trailing, syrupy statement that’s just a little smoky.

Whisky gallery:

Auchentoshan The Bartender’s Malt
Auchentoshan The Bartender’s Malt
Pike Creek 21 Year Speyside Malt Cask Finish
Pike Creek 21 Year Speyside Malt Cask Finish
Crown Royal Blender's Select
Crown Royal Blender's Select
Laphroaig Select
Laphroaig Select
The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old
The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old
Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old
Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old
Dewar's 12 Year Old Whisky

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