The Whisky Explorer Magazine | Issue 1 - Fall 2023

We are ready to embark on this journey with you, explore the very wide world of whisky, cocktails, adventure, and tourism through the eyes of the many passionate storytellers and enthusiasts. If you care to join us, pour yourself a dram and let’s get started. We really do look forward to raising a fine glass to the remarkable thing that connects us all - “whisky”.

Taiwan. Culture. Whisky. The Road Less Travelled

Meet the Whisky Explorers

Whisky FOMO

The Devastating Grip Special Releases Have

Spirited Spending

Whisky Chronicles

Whisky Sales in an Uncertain Economy


Contents ISSUE 1 | FALL 2023

The perfect fall cocktail 22

Bitters - the home bar edition 42

Les débuts du monde 20

Bitters - the home bar edition




A new way to celebrate our global whisky passion

Exploring the wide wide world of whisky - Taiwan

Challenging the status quo - The InchDairnie Distillery Spirited spending - Whisky sales in our uncertain economy

What’s happening across Canada 06 Meet the contributors 10 No place for the pompous 16

Don’t go chasing unicorns 28




Yet another whisky magazine?

51 The last sip 53


Let’s chat Irish whiskey

Escape into the world of whisky and cigars



La randonné - Les débuts du monde

Cask curation series – The Dalmore unveiling in Canada

The perfect fall cocktail 22


Coming to Canada soon


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A New way to celebrate our Global Whisky Passion

In a world filled with niche publications and digital media outlets, why would I want to launch a new whisky magazine? Well…


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A New Way to Celebrate Our Global Whisky Passion BY MIKE BRISEBOIS

Whisky is = From the Scottish Highlands to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, from Japanese Distilleries to the emerging craft whisky scenes in Canada and New Zealand. It’s a spirit steeped in history and tradition that has captured the hearts and palates of enthusiasts everywhere which isn’t confined to any one region or culture. It truly is a global phenomenon that has persisted for many decades. Enthusiasts are = A diverse and passionate group that come different backgrounds, cultures, and walks of life, yet they all share the one common bond—the love for whisky and its unique ability to bring people together, fostering a sense of camaraderie and shared experience. Storytellers are = Writers, photographers, and adventurers who are deeply passionate about whisky, the people who see it as a journey, a story just waiting to be shared and like myself, believe it’s not just drink. Versatility = Is the ability of whisky to be exquisitely sipped neat, on the rocks or playing a starring role in countless cocktails.

Within the pages of the Whisky Explorer Magazine you will find: • Unique stories that connect whisky lovers from all corners of the world. • First hand personal experiences that will span distillery visits, uncover hidden gems, craft unique cocktails and embark on whisky-inspired global adventures. • Exploration of the mixology world, where coast to coast professional and at-home mixologists share their recipes, techniques & insights by inviting our readers to experiment and create their own innovative or classic whisky-based concoctions at home. • A tribute to our whisky heritage that celebrates our iconic Canadian whiskies and embraces the vibrant cross Canada craft whisky scene. So, that’s why… We are ready to embark on this journey with you, explore the very wide world of whisky, cocktails, adventure, and tourism through the eyes of the many passionate storytellers and enthusiasts. If you care to join us, pour yourself a dram and let’s get started. We really do look forward to raising a fine glass to the remarkable thing that connects us all - “whisky”.

Canadiana is = An integral part of our whisky history, culture and the huge renaissance happening right now.


Mike Brisebois, Founder The Whisky Explorer Magazine Mike Brisebois


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What’s Happening Across Canada: Whisky Event Itinerary

Answer: Agencies (representing distilleries and brands) heavily scrutinize the level of interest produced at whisky events which in turn, influences and impacts how worldwide brands increase/decrease their allocations to the Canadian market.

Whisky shows are back and I wanted to share my personal take on the importance of getting out and supporting your local events.

Question: Many of you ask why we don’t get more selection compared to other countries.


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For as large of a country Canada is, we are but a small piece of the whisky demographic puzzle, especially if you compare us to the United States, Asia or Europe. Canada has coast to coast whisky events happening again and the only way to influence change or demonstrate that we should get more allocations is to prove how serious we

are about whisky so show your support: attend local whisky events, get out to the pubs and of course shop at the establishments.


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November 2023

Charlottetown, PEI

Nov 10th

PEI Spirits Festival

Nov 10-11th Whisky Calgary

Calgary, AB

26th Annual Raise Your Spirits

Nov 14-18th

Fredericton, NB

coopwinespiritsbeer. com/grape-escape

Nov 17-18th Grape Escape

Calgary, AB

Hopscotch Festival of Whisky, Beer & Spirits

Nov 20-26th

Vancouver, BC

Dec 1-2nd Banff Whisky Experience

Banff, Alberta

December 2023

January 2024

18th Annual Victoria Whisky Festival

Jan 18- 24th

Victoria, BC

Halifax Cocktail Festival

Jan 20th

Halifax, NS


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February 2024

Moncton Spirits Festival

Feb 16-17th

Moncton, NB

Whisky Wonderland

Feb 22-24th

Hammond, ON

Mar 1-2nd 11th Annual Winnipeg Whisky Festival

Winnipeg, Manitoba

March 2024

If you’d like to send us any festival dates you feel should be included, please email with the details and we will ensure it’s listed in the proper edition.


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Contributors Our contributors come from all walks of life as well as levels of experience. From coast to coast and sometimes beyond, they will bring you stories, experiences or simply the joy of reading about all things whisky (and sometimes maybe more...)

Alex Hendry @drinksdistilled

Alex comes to us as a “Come from away” living on beautiful Prince Edward Island. Over the last 20 years, he’s been a barback, doorman, bartender, menu consultant as well as a passionate spirits consumer. His love for sharing whisky and cocktail knowledge fits in perfectly with the vibe of his chosen island. No matter if it’s drinking a peaty scotch at an Islay distillery, relaxing in a NYC hotel cocktail bar or a shot and beer at a dive in rural Ontario he’s happiest surrounded by good conversation and enthusiasm. Fun fact: Alex once crashed a scooter in Fort Lauderdale Florida, bandaged himself up at a veterinarian clinic and headed straight to the legendary Elbo Room.

Dan Vienneau @hopscotchbarsj |

A born and raised New Brunswicker, Dan is as east coast as a lobster boil on the beach. He’s just as comfortable strumming a Stompin’ Tom song at a kitchen party as he is slinging drinks behind the bar. Dan’s church is Hopscotch Whisky Bar in Saint John NB where he’s been converting people into whisky fans one by one since he opened the place in 2016. His attitude toward whisky is one and the same as music = if it’s good, then it’s good, period!


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Davin deKergommeaux @davindek | | Books: The definitive guide to Canadian distilleries, Canadian whisky – The new portable expert Davin’s dedication to all things Canadian whisky is but one aspect of his worldwide recognition. His explorations have taken him to four continents where he visits local distilleries, shares and pours Canadian whisky. He’s a renowned spirits judge, public speaker and freelance writer with three award-winning whisky books to his credit. In 2016, the Globe and Mail named him one of the 50 most influential Canadians in food and drink and soon thereafter the New York Times stated that his significance in the revival of Canadian whisky could not be overstated. Davin is Canada’s whisky expert.

Evan Eckersley @sagelikefool

Evan has spent most of his adulthood either thinking, reading about or admiring whisky bottles. He even tastes the golden liquid from time to time. After finally coming to the realization that his spouse was tired of hearing him talk about whisky most of the time, he really had no choice but to go work in a shop that sells the stuff (and other adult potables occasionally). Believe it or not, he does have hobbies outside of whisky like using big words that he doesn’t actually grasp the meaning of (or pronounce to our editor’s dismay) and speaking about himself in the third person.

Johanne McInnis @whiskylassie | Books: Malt Whisky Yearbook 2023 & 2024, Contributor By day a civil servant, mom, sailor and fantastic cook but with one quick trip to her walk in closet she turns into the Whiskylassie. She has worn out many business cards: Tasting society president, story teller, master class presenter, judge and published writer and now she proudly adds Contributing Editor. She is a passionate whisky enthusiast, teacher, mentor and friend. Fun fact: Johanne sometimes experiences synaesthesia when nosing/tasting spirits.


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Josh Ward @knowyourwhisky | @WhiskyHeathens

Josh is our resident whisky troubadour who loves to scamper his way through a world that’s full of tasty pleasures. Surrounded by tobacco smoke and peated scotch he’s a tall bottle of Ledaig or perhaps a Famous Grouse. Sitting in the pews while he stands at the pulpit are many a malt fanatic or bourbon drinker alike who all gather in fellowship. Don’t mistake his sermons for the rambling of a madman (although his look sort of fits the part) because this whisky heathen has a devotion worth noting through the golden stories he shares.

Kyle Revait @rosecity.whisky

Kyle has been enveloped in the sweet smell of grain in the air and Windsor’s rich whisky culture (home to one of the largest distilleries in North America) since birth. His journey started similar to most with “rye” and gingers in his twenties and shots at the bar, but 10 years ago his love for whisky turned into a healthy obsession. Kyle is one of the founding members of the Whisky Explorer Society who reviews and provides tasting notes for all the expressions at their events. He’s also a passionate at home bartender who makes exceptional cocktails with his own syrups, infusions and bitters (his wife still laughs at him because he’s a self-proclaimed maker).

Lew Bryson @LewBryson | Podcast: Seen Through A Glass Books: Whiskey master class: The ultimate guide to understanding Scotch, Bourbon, Rye and more, Tasting Whiskey: An insider’s guide to the unique pleasures of the world’s finest spirit Lew Bryson started writing about whisky back when you could get a bottle of Macallan for under $30 (bourbon was essentially free in those days). As an editor and writer, he’s helped shape and mentor whisky writing for almost 30 years, and he’s had some influence on beer as well. Now he reckons it’s time to sit back, yell at clouds, and keep people off his yard.


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Mike Brisebois @thewhiskyexplorer | Mike is Canada’s go-to whisky expert, offering knowledge, education, recommendations, and hosting tasting events for whisky enthusiasts nationwide. With six years of experience in the whisky industry as a brand ambassador and as a judge for the Canadian Whisky Awards, Mike bridges the gap between brands and consumers, both virtually and in person. Serving as a bilingual consultant for emerging brands and whisky festivals, he strives to elevate products in the Canadian market. Mike’s ultimate mission is to craft unforgettable experiences, showcasing the brand narrative, the whisky itself, and the people behind the distillery, making each brand truly exceptional.

Sarah Renau-Céré @sarahmarinesila | @theweeclan_whiskyclub

Native des Alpes, c’est après ses études d’œnologie que Sarah s’est jetée tête la première dans le royaume d’Écosse où le whisky est roi. Élevée au biberon par Glenfarclas puis Gordon & MacPhail, elle n’a ensuite pas pu résister à l’appel du Grand Nord canadien où on lui a confié l’élaboration du whisky de la distillerie Menaud au Québec. C’est dans ces contrées plus sauvages qu’un carcajou grognon que vous la croiserez, crapahutant sur les hauts sommets avec toujours sa flasque de whisky prête à être dégainée si d’aventure, elle rencontre d’autres épicuriens.

Sean Kincaid @darkcloudwhisky | He is DarkCloud = Whisky consumer, podcast host, writer, smile maker and thought provoker. But it doesn’t end there. Sean, as his spouse calls him, makes no bones as to how opinionated he is while still listening and examining all sides because it enhances constant exploration. He welcomed the whisky world unabashedly with a vigor hardly matched and is proud to share his knowledge and journey with others.


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Terri Lam @unbottlingwithterri

Terri comes to us from the west coast and is an experienced Scotch trotter, international whisky distiller and independent brand ambassador. She suffers greatly from curiosity and has a healthy obsession with production so it’s no surprise to find her absorbing grain to glass knowledge, up to her elbows distilling fancy porridge, nose deep in yet another cask or geeking out blending samples. She hasn’t quite decided what she wants to do when she grows up but definitely knows it will dive deeply into the continued exploration of the environment and resources that impact the final product we call whisky.

Yvonne Langen @tasteandtipple |

Pardon the pun, but Yvonne is the high spirited content creator behind the popular blog: Taste & Tipple. Her cocktail skills are top-shelf pristine but she also writes about them with equal parts humour, style and curiosity. You can find her hosting her Virtual Happy Hour on YouTube and Instagram, educating viewers on classic drinks and the fascinating people that make them or appearing on CBC radio and CTV. Yvonne truly knows how to take the intimidation factor out of cocktails and help others approach the bar with confidence. @ tasteandtipple is where you can find her.


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No place for the pompous

“I like drinking whisky, cocktails and smoking ci- gars, sure, but what I like most is being a f*cking pre- tentious prick about it”


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No Place for the Pompous


“I like drinking whisky, cocktails and smoking cigars, sure, but what I like most is being a f*cking pretentious prick about it”, my since deleted 2010 twitter account proclaimed. For years that fleeting sarcastic thought has been cemented somewhere at the back of my mind, illuminating a subconscious belief that everyone seems borderline neurotic about who, how and when we should enjoy whisky.

Does the average person still picture an elderly white male sipping an expensive single malt Scotch, staunchly defending his penchant for drinking single malt Scotch exclusively, until hypocritically making an exception when his similarly pretentious bourbon drinking buddy has a $1200 Pappy Van Winkle he can taste? I often invite friends or people I don’t even like that much over for a whisky and am often met with: “Oh no I don’t know anything about that, it’s much too fancy for me”. There are still numerous whisky and cocktail bars instituting dress codes, judging patrons’ appearances, and fostering that elitism atmosphere that scares away potential whisky imbibers. Whisky has become so high brow and judgmental that the history of farmers and moonshiners making it for trade/selling purposes (and maybe the occasional before the Friday night dance dram) seems to have been forgotten. At what point did someone think because they had a basement full of whisky that their opinion was more significant than a person dipping their toes into that luscious pool for the first time? Do they not both have a unique perspective on whisky, accordingly wouldn’t a refreshing newcomer opinion be just as beneficial? I’d rather hear how whisky reminds somebody of their Grandpa’s woodshed or Oma’s Christmas cake than watch

someone shoot back their rare and expensive dram.

Look, I’ve been there. It’s fun to belong to something special. I was snobby when I first starting pouring whisky because I wanted to feel important and impress patrons with my level of knowledge but the reality is I knew dick all. Yes I understood the process, knew the cost of each bottle, which ones were marketed with wooden

luxury watches or those we used for bar well. I gladly sprinted and shouldered my way to the front of the line at whisky shows when an expensive bottle was opened. The words from the guys wearing designer suits waving tons of cash held more weight than the girls at the tables pouring the drams – not my proudest moment. I’ve also seen my share of

men disregard a female server’s suggestion and ask for mine (the 22 year old male with just 2 months behind the pine) without the slightest consideration that she might have one of the best palates in the game and knew infinitely more than just about everyone at the bar.


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of authenticity and education. I’m sincerely encouraged to see more and more whisky fans subscribing to the idea that the best whisky is one you like AND you can do whatever the hell you want to your whisky may it be add ice, water, or serve it as a single malt cocktail. I’ve met those who embody this idea. One night at the bar I served a gentleman carrying a book of whiskies of the world with dots and notes next to the ones he tried. He settled on a $70 birthday dram of Port Ellen. I braced myself for a scoff when he asked me if I had tried it and I replied no. Instead of belittling my lack of experience he grinned and requested a second glass. My assumption was that the second glass was to taste it with water, however he meticulously poured exactly half of the dram, slid the Glencairn toward me then suggested we try it together. It was a humbling and fantastic lesson in hospitality from the other side of the bar: Welcoming, sharing, and non-judgmental. Another person who emulates this sense of authenticity is Bry Simpson, a whisky enthusiast then but now the National Brand Ambassador for Ardbeg and Glenmorangie. I met him at the Caledonian while he was going back and forth from Toronto to Glasgow. Not only has he helped create several special whisky experiences for me but has consistently been the type of person who takes the time to answer questions or connect the people who share a whisky passion regardless of their experience or level of knowledge. Let me impart one last example from my 2017 trip to Scotland when four of my friends and I arrived hungry and thirsty but without a reservation at an Islay pub just before the kitchen closed. The owner, suffice to say, was a bit of a grump when he made it clear that spending the night with five young Canadians seeking whisky wasn’t how he wanted his night to go. We somehow managed to convince the servers to feed us and him to give us a round. Chatting with some friendly locals who knew him well led

to a wager – if we made him smile they’d buy us a round. We started telling every joke we knew and after about an hour, he finally cracked. To our surprise, the next day our Caol Ila tour guide was one of those friendly locals and he let us crack open a 23 year old sherry cask – bliss! I think I speak for many when I say all we want is for people to explore whisky without elitism, snobbery or the fear that they are not good enough to drink such a “fancy drink”. If you happen to be a snob now, perhaps consider not being one anymore because as kitschy as this may sound, if we all simply stopped putting so much thought into what a whisky drinker should be and simply clinked our glasses with anyone, maybe just maybe whisky could be experienced with a complete lack of ego, attitude or the presence of antiquated pretentious pricks.


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Les Débuts du Monde


Près du village de Saint-Aimé-des-lacs, Québec, il y a une montagne vertigineuse dont les falaises escarpées plongent abruptement dans une vallée sillonnée par l’eau. Un vent calme et chaud m’accompagne à mesure que j’arrive au sommet de ce dôme surnommé l’Acropole des Draveurs.

souffle. Je reste là, assise sur le rocher façonné et poli par le temps avec encore et toujours la même émotion: comment la brutalité des éléments a pu créer une telle beauté? Comment est-ce possible qu’après tant d’épisodes chaotiques, d’ères géologiques traversées, ces paysages respirent autant l’harmonie? Et nous ne sommes qu’au début de l’expérience des cinq sens. Ce moment de contemplation m’émeut mais

Me voilà sur la cime, tour d’horizon d’un paysage à couper le


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ne me ramène jamais entièrement à l’instant présent. Pour cela j’ai besoin de mon palais. C’est donc l’heure de sortir ma chère flasque de whisky! Récompense de tout l’effort déployé lors de l’ascension et élément qui me raccroche à la réalité, l’instant vécu. Alors que je dévisse le goulot, le vent s’estompe, s’apaise, presque à devenir silencieux. Moment précieux et teinté d’impatience. Un sip et me voilà à 100% ancrée dans le pa- ysage, vivant le moment. Ce whisky me raconte une histoire, l’aventure des hommes qui ont foulé et travaillé cette terre, le récit des éléments, du feu, de l’eau, de l’air, du vent. Les paysages sont une source d’inspiration inégalée mais on ne les “goûte” pas. L’utilisation de quatre de nos sens, la vue, l’ouïe, le toucher et l’odorat est assurément une expérience fabuleuse. Mais s’il nous est permis d’ajouter à cela le cinquième qui est le goût, alors l’immersion est totale. C’est à ce moment-là qu’une tempête se lève, aussi sou- daine que brève, exaltant une bourrasque de vent qui n’en finit plus, tel l’orage qui fulmine au fond de cette gorgée. Je sais que l’univers y goutte avec moi. Ce whisky que j’ai choisi me raconte l’histoire du paysage que je dévore des yeux. Je plonge profondément dans l’ex- périence et la sérénité. Il est un vieillard, tout comme l’est notre chère planète. Ils ont traversé des âges. En bouche j’ai ce chocolat amer et pourtant tendre qui me ramène à la terre, au sol. Ce n’est pas un whisky qui cherche à impres- sionner les foules. C’est un diamant brut. Il est entier, hum- ble, il sait ce qu’il a dans le corps: du cuivre, du caractère, de la douceur et à la fois de la puissance. Il existe, il est là, fier d’être. C’est un whisky à l’image du peuple écossais. Il goûte le vrai, il goûte les éléments de la Terre et de son commencement. Il est le Glenfarclas 15 ans d’âge, réconfort- ant comme mon grand-père. C’est alors avec le cœur nourri d’une nouvelle chaleur que je m’en retourne chez moi, le sentiment d’avoir partagé un moment précieux auprès d’un vieil ami.



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The Perfect Fall Cocktail BY DAN VIENNEAU

Fall is here and in many parts of Canada, this season can be almost painfully short. Let’s celebrate it while it lasts eh? If you’re perusing the pages of this magazine, there’s more than a good chance you’ve sipped a few Old Fashioneds over the years. It’s still the reigning king of the classic cocktail craze we’ve been witnessing for the better part of two decades now. For this cocktail we replace bourbon with: rum. I’m a scotch guy myself, like some of you likely are, however I’ve developed an appreciation for rum over the years, particularly Jamaican. We are using Appleton Estate 12 Rare Casks for this recipe because of its famous trademark Jamaican “funk” which adds a new layer of depth to an Old Fashioned due to its oak aged complexities (you can substitute your favourite rum). Allspice is a staple in Caribbean cooking so for the sweetener, let’s swap out the traditional white sugar cube for an allspice flavoured brown sugar/molasses syrup. I recommend using Angostura bitters as they work the best with these island flavours and every Old Fashioned needs a cocktail cherry. Our bar uses a dark cherry soaked in bourbon, brown sugar, and baking spices. If you don’t want to make your own you can use a Luxardo, or other commercially available cocktail cherry. For a bit of added funk (if you have it on hand) we float some Wray & Nephew Overproof rum on top, and finish the autumn cocktail with the requisite orange peel. When the family comes over for Thanksgiving dinner, serve one of these with their slice of pumpkin pie – I bet they will be quite impressed.

Rum Old Fashioned 1 SERVING 2 ounces (60 ml), Appleton Estate 12 Rare Casks ½ ounce (15 ml), brown sugar/molasses syrup (recipe follows)

2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters Cocktail cherry & Orange peel ¼ ounce (8 ml) Wray & Nephew Overproof

Brown Sugar & Molasses Syrup (1 CUP APX.) ½ cup (106 g), brown sugar ½ cup (118 ml), water ½ tablespoon (7.5 ml), fancy molasses 6, dried allspice pods In a small sauce pan - Over low heat, combine the brown sugar, molasses and water. In a small non stick pan - gently heat the allspice pods until they release the aromatics, then add to the liquid mixture. Simmer (5–10 minutes) - remove from heat and let cool. (Syrup will keep in your refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.) Fill a rocks glass or tumbler with ice then add the Appleton, syrup, bitters and cherry. Stir. Using a spoon, gently “float” the Wray & Nephew Overproof on top, garnish with a fresh piece of orange peel and serve.


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The Wide Wide World of Whisky: Exploring Taiwan BY DAVIN DEKERGOMMEAUX You likely know Davin de Kergommeaux as the leading expert on Canadian whisky, so it might surprise you to learn that for more than a quarter of a century, he’s also been chasing other whiskies and their stories across 6 of the 7 continents because it’s never too far for a great dram…

It’s a long haul from Ottawa to Taipei. Nearly a full day in planes and airports ends with an hour’s train ride downtown from Taoyuan Airport. For the dedicated whisky lover though, it’s a good use of time, and not just because of the renowned Kavalan distillery ninety minutes away in Yuanshan Township, Yilan. Vibrant whisky scenes in Taipei, Taichung, and beyond include specialty bars, knowledgeable bartenders, Taiwan-exclusive whiskies and a strong connoisseur community. They take whisky seriously here and they know the good stuff. More than that, palates cultivated on local fruits and vegetables, seafood, stinky tofu and sublimely blended teas easily detect nuances that others might miss in their drams. Whisky shops in both cities offer rare and exclusive Scotch, Japanese single malts and American bourbons at reasonable prices.

and watching their reactions. “Elegant,” exclaimed iconic barkeep Steven Lin, eyes popping at his first taste of Canadian Rockies 10. “Slowly matured into a yin and yang that reconcile bourbon, oak,

vanilla, and toffee. I must be getting old,” he went on, “I like the 21-year-old even better.” The whiskies’ complexity and depth of flavour continued to impress Lin, whose L’arrière- cour (Backyard) bar tops the A-list for Taipei’s whisky elite. There, bartender Silence Chen pours hundreds of fine and rare old drams, from St. Magdalene to Kininvie.

One of Taipei’s most respected whisky connoisseurs, Lin knows his whisky. Still, could his enthusiasm for a 10-year-old Canadian whisky spring from a desire to please a Canadian visitor? Sensing my uncertain take on Lin’s and other connoisseurs’ unilateral enthusiasm for these whiskies, my host patiently explained, not with words, but by demonstration.

“Slowly matured into a yin and yang

that reconcile bourbon, oak, vanilla,

and toffee. I must be getting old”

Launching Canadian Rockies whiskies in Taiwan meant pouring Canadian drams for bartenders

Returning from a street vendor’s stall with a bag of local fruits, he offered one after another,


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noting how bland some seemed at first, yet how their gentle flavour nuances rewarded careful tasting. It was an aha moment that suddenly advanced our appreciation of our own whiskies too, while furnishing another demonstration of how new tasting experiences increase the joys of whisky. That stinky tofu, for example? Its aromas dominated the market air at least a block on either side of the stall, and not necessarily in a good way. “Think of it as Taiwanese blue cheese,” my host suggested as I reluctantly popped a bite into my mouth. Although strange, unusual, even odd, it turned out to be a gustatory wonder and another data point in my flavour bank. Kavalan - If whisky lovers know one thing about Taiwan, it is Kavalan distillery, which began as a special interest project of King Car founder Tien- Tsai Lee. When the root beer business he founded in 1979 proved unprofitable, Lee switched to coffee, launching the hugely successful Mr. Brown brand. And though the distillery began much later, it now welcomes more than one million visitors a year, with its whiskies drawing international acclaim. The self-guided tour, however, is a bit of a bust. At best, visitors peer through Plexiglas to see a still- life of distilling equipment, described not by a tour guide but on plaques. Things don’t liven up until the end when they exit into Kavalan’s restaurant, clearly intended to accommodate travelers from fleets of bus tours. Visits to the warehouses are rare and even more guarded. Nevertheless, there are other things to learn about whisky. Hikes to distillery water sources, for example, are common, particularly in Scotland. However, it is unheard of for a whisky geek to venture beneath the water source itself. Nevertheless, on the road to Kavalan, when Freeway 5 abandons the verdant mountain landscape to enter the Hsuehshan Tunnel under Xueshan (Snow Mountain), that is exactly what it does. Thirteen km later, the tunnel emerges onto the coastal plain where Lee began

planning Kavalan in 2004. In the semi-tropical climate of Taiwan, whisky matures quickly, and the water source for that first Kavalan whisky, released just four years later in 2008, was Xueshan, just as it is today. Kavalan makes its whisky from unpeated barley imported from Scotland and Finland, and ferments it using unique yeast strains that imbue the spirit with those same elusive Asian fruit flavours that Steven Lin found so appealing in Canadian Rockies. The distilled spirit matures in American oak barrels coopered at the distillery. And just for fun, whisky makers at Kavalan followed David Stewart’s 2001 lead at Balvenie by filling an early batch into barrels from Islay. Mmmm. Smoky! Taiwan, it turns out, is a whisky lover’s heaven. Not only does exquisite whisky abound, but rather than spending a fortune on one outrageously expensive bottle or joining a consortium to afford one, you can sample the rarest whiskies dram by dram in well-stocked bars. And if you visit, before you bid your final adieu, do drop by the airport duty-free shops. Their selection is truly astounding.


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Don ’ t go chasing unicorns

“There it is, Fear Of Missing Out enveloping you in its grip, once again. Why does loving whisky have to be this complicated?”


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Don’t Go Chasing Unicorns BY EVAN ECKERSLEY

This is my first magazine writing gig and yet I am excitedly looking forward to being replaced by AI shortly!

Seriously! It’s an opportunity to be brave, explore whisky shelves and try something that IS staring you right in the eye. Are they really limited FOMO releases? If one million of something is produced and one million and one people wanted it then I guess, technically, that makes it limited, right? What makes them so frustratingly difficult to obtain? Let’s explore two distilleries that are most surrounded by FOMO right now: Springbank: Has dwindled from readily available to once-in- a-blue-moon allocated releases that don’t even hit the shelves at all. Why? Springbank is a never-changing yet inconstant anachronism which seems almost intentionally operated as inefficiently as possible. It’s a low production, no shortcuts or modern wizardry utilized distillery that produces: Hazelburn (3X distilled/unpeated), Springbank (2.5X distilled/lightly peated) and Longrow (2X distilled/heavily peated). No bulk malted barley is purchased, they instead use their own floor maltings equipped with tools that haven’t changed since the turn of the 19th century. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if their accountants refuse to use unproven technology like calculators since they never have to replace batteries on their abacus.

So stay with me on this one: You are browsing your favourite liquor store’s or least favourite liquor board’s new product/ special release listings when up pops that latest shiny release from distillery X. But wait, it’s not as easy as dropping it into the shopping cart icon, no… First, you have to register by jumping through hoops for one chance to be chosen to buy it. Damn, it’s a lottery bottle! Your frontal lobe spasms and FOMO kicks in. You immediately enter yourself in the lottery. Then enter your spouse. Then your neighbour who vaguely understands why you are using their name and personal information, and since you have already gone this far - you sign up your dog and maybe a few long-deceased relatives. Justification = they ALL would want you to have this bottle. Next thing you know you are seeking out if other shops are running the same bottle lottery and repeat the entire process. Sure, you are quasi-rigging the system, but you NEED that bottle because you started collecting this distillery’s whiskies back when they sat unloved on dusty shelves, right?! There it is, Fear Of Missing Out enveloping you in its grip, once again. Why does loving whisky have to be this complicated? I feel you, or at least I used to. I am here to tell you that not being able to get these bottles is a good thing.

Alternatives: If you are fixated on the Campbeltown style, these might be worth checking out:

• Glen Scotia (the other, “other” Campbeltown malt) – killing it with their releases over the past half-decade or more, and if you can find one of their indie bottlings, even better. • Loch Lomond 12 or 18 year old (from Glen Scotia’s sister distillery) – if you aren’t easily scared and like a bit of variety to your dram. • Benromach 10 or 15 year old – Not exactly Springbank but both styles have light peat, touch of coastal notes plus fruity and leathery sherry cask influences.


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Ardbeg Special Releases: These boast a rabid fan base that exponentially increases in numbers and clambers over every special bottle that Ardbeg puts out with evangelistic fervour. Owned by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey and often considered the most Islay of all Islay whiskies; to love peated whisky is also to love Ardbeg. It is unapologetically rugged, heavily peated, briny and coastal. However, dig beneath its smoky exterior and you will find fruit and citrus put together with as much intention and craft as a luxury handbag or bottle of Champagne. Like a bearded hipster, Ardbeg contains a multitude of facets. Put it in a plaid shirt and it is just as ready to rough it out in the woods, go crazy at a metal concert, or grab a latte on the way to the office. Alternative: This is a tough one because their releases change in style with each new iteration, which is great since variety is the spice of life. However, many of their special releases are akin to Barbie dressed in this year’s latest fashion. Disclaimer: I only make this analogy because my daughter once wanted every new Barbie she could get her hands on. It has nothing to do with how much I enjoyed dressing her dolls up myself, I swear! What was my point? Oh yes… Ardbeg Day releases are all variations on a theme, and that theme is Ardbeg. So, aim for the core range. These bottles are (mostly) readily available and the quality tends to be top-notch - often eclipsing the flavour of the week limited release you can’t get. • Ardbeg 10 year old is one of the quintessential flagship bottles from any distillery, let alone Islay itself and don’t let the younger An Oa or Wee Beastie 5 year old scare you, it packs a hefty Ardbeg hello. • Islay alternatives that might scratch your peathead itch - Kilchoman Sanaig, Port Charlotte or Bunnahabhain Toiteach A Dha. • Further would include the approachable Ledaig 10-Year- Old, Talisker Port Ruighe and releases from the newer but already impressive Isle of Arran Lagg Distillery. I won’t be offended if you disagree with some of these suggestions. Better yet, I hope you have your own FOMO alternatives that you seek out, purchase and preach to others. Seriously though, the thrill of the hunt for the elusive unicorns can be exciting at times, however, don’t let it limit your ability

to consider other unique bottles. Just remember that whisky is meant to be uncorked, shared and drank with the intent of making memories of the times it was experienced.

Plus: if you don’t open those special bottles, the ones I am hoarding will never increase in value.

Until next time, I remain… Evan – “former” unicorn chaser


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Another whisky magazine? Why? And the world may well say…


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Yet Another Whisky Magazine BY LEW BRYSON

Here we are with a new whisky magazine, wobbling on its new legs, standing for the first time. The team is assembled, the words are arranged, the images have been carefully chosen to enhance the stories, and we’re pushing the baby out to meet the world. A fair question, and one I echo whenever I consider writing another book. Why? What can we possibly hope to add to the body of whisky knowledge when there are already magazines, websites, blogs, Instagram accounts, podcasts, video series, whisky club newsletters...a steaming jungle of information about whisky! Do we really need another dead tree? Of course, it wasn’t always this way. Would you believe, back when I crawled out onto the shore and first breathed the damp, whisky-scented air, there were no whisky magazines. There were a few ancient texts, some mutterings around the fire on primitive online chats, and a shaman: Michael Jackson. Other hatchlings crawled with me, but in the way that evolution happens – cruel, heartless chance – I found a lucky patch of clover: Whisky Advocate magazine (née Malt Advocate), the first true whisky magazine. For the next 20 years, it was my

home. I learned about whisky, and did my best to share that knowledge with the people of the world. Well, the ones who paid for a subscription, anyway. There were other whisky writers, and we gathered them in. Other magazines found their way into the vein we were mining, and whisky journalism prospered. Magazines and websites focused on specific segments of the whisky world came into being: bourbon magazines, Japanese whisky websites, Scotch specialists. Bloggers, Indie explorers, thrived in short-lived profusion, and a few grew to permanence. The ecology of whisky words matured and broadened in complexity, imitating its subject. Because whisky was growing, in symbiosis with whisky enthusiasm; a relationship that changes with the years. Whisky gets boring (or whisky drinkers – your parents – do), and people leave it; too much of one kind of whisky leads to other whiskies looking for somewhere to thrive. Folks come back, and find new flavors to celebrate; more whiskies appear, in places they’ve never been before. Rare and ancient giants are found in distant, forgotten warehouses and liquor stores, and are hunted to extinction.

If the drinkers are hunters, lone wolves or Facebook-linked packs, then whisky writers, both professional and amateur, independent and organized, are the scouts, the explorers, out on the borderlands or deep in the forgotten haunts of territory deemed to be settled years ago.


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If the drinkers are hunters, lone wolves or Facebook-linked packs, then whisky writers, both professional and amateur, independent and organized, are the scouts, the explorers, out on the borderlands or deep in the forgotten haunts of territory deemed to be settled years ago. We stoke the evolutionary hothouses with discoveries and rediscoveries, with histories that fire the imaginations of drinkers and distillers alike. We retrieve and revive ideas, we wonder on the whens, the whys, and the always important why nots. When did we decide corn was bad? Why did we decide blending was suspect? Why not try this traditionally 80 proof bottling at cask strength? Why not try this in a cocktail? When did that process become a requirement, and why? Why are warehouses built that way, why not try different sizes of barrels: bigger, smaller, lots bigger. These can become evolutionary dead ends when new ideas become too tightly focused or recursive. When every whisky magazine is talking about the same ‘new’ thing, reviewing the same whiskies, it starts to look like Darwin’s finches: all the same bird, just different beaks. One for Scotch, one for Irish, one for American...but the same stories. So perhaps we need a new whisky magazine like the world needs a mutation of species, or some catastrophic change that upends how everything interacts. Or maybe it’s more like a deliberate corrective action: clearing the air, pruning back invasive species, reintroducing species to a former range. A real change that has the potential to reorder the world. Is that a realistic expectation? Consider the first whisky writer: the venerable Alfred Barnard. He traveled in Scotland and Ireland in the 1880s, visiting distilleries and describing their equipment and the landscape around and between them. He clearly had fun, he admitted getting a bit spiffed at times – shock! – and he did it all without modern transportation, and often without modern plumbing. That was world-changing, because no one had ever systematically written about whisky before. Writers call back to Barnard all the time. I took part in a seminar about it, and we surprised ourselves with how much that’s true.

How can we hope to measure up to something that ground-breaking? Well, we don’t really promise that we will. We can only try, with open eyes and questing brains, to do something as vital as Barnard. That’s cutting the line through the thickets of words that have grown up, that have evolved around whisky. We hope, we plan to find species and habitats that are new to us, new to you. What are they? We have no idea, happily! It might be new or rediscovered strains of yeast, or grains. It might be new thoughts on aging, new mechanics or geometries of stills. It might even be new ways of malting; experiments are going on continuously. It’s bound to be new ways and places to enjoy, find or share whisky, and all the new people who are making whisky. It’s a whole world out there, both old and new, and we want to explore it all, right now! Forgotten things are found and new things happen, almost every day. Like the scouts we are, we seek them, we share secrets, we keep our ears open for the slightest murmur of that new thing, waiting to be discovered. Does your favorite whisky news source really cover all of it? Well, neither will we. But with a world of whisky to explore, what we can promise we’ll bring you are things you may never have considered.

Eyes wide, now; here we go!


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Escape Into the World of Whisky and Cigars BY JOSH WARD

When you find yourself in a place where the choices are endless and small batch is nothing more than a marketing term, what makes you like what you like? What draws you to your drink of choice? Often we are surrounded by a plethora of tasty pleasures but yet still gravitate toward a velvety single malt scotch from the Scottish Highlands or a silky bourbon from Kentucky’s finest stills. And why do we so passionately try to convince our Islay hating friends to embrace that peaty deliciousness of funk? Good questions right? Truth is, the reason most of us are drawn to something is we let ourselves get charmed by a captivating and new idea. Triggers to the senses cause a release of dopamine which makes us feel good which in turn compels us to expose ourselves to more of said goodness. The more we learn - the more we subject ourselves to the idea. The greater the enthralment – the greater the onset of expertise. That first whisky might have been intense and scary - do I detect gasoline and burnt cigars? Ahh but since the idea has already captivated your attention, you likely move quickly through the honeymoon phase and are on your way to becoming a full blown enthusiast. You begin to fully embrace the new found interest and learn everything you can. Taste and explore, buy a bottle of Auchentoshan 12 year old, ask your friends and then before you know it, you are visiting a local tobacconist because you want to build a palate for cigars and spirits.

You start gravitating toward folks who are immersed in the culture. Exploring the vast nuances found in each and every puff, examining the smoke as it lingers in the air performing an unapologetic and brilliant dance. It becomes so easy to find which flavours best suit your moods, may even draw you to a specific region and here’s where you start to discover what you love and just as important, what you hate and why? You may even start to hear the term connoisseur or purist being thrown around, often fairly loosely but the only thing truly separating the aficionado from an amateur is time and experience. Where you once found yourself tip toeing through the stability part, you realize you are cruising into committed enthusiast phase and nothing is more beautiful then the sound of the cork being popped. How quickly that anticipation is created as you watch the water of life dance around the bowl of a crystal Glencairn. One gentle swirl causes the viscous spirit to form legs, and with it – opinions. Albeit tempted, you let the nose envelope you, spending as much time as necessary until finally you decide to take the first sip. Instantaneous, the stresses of the day are left behind, magically melted away and the sharp and satisfying sound your V-cutter makes as it slices through a well crafted cigar is as unique as the whisky you had chosen. For some perhaps it’s the smell of cedar sticks or the desire for the calming sensation that is created when the first draw crashes likes waves over the body. For me it is the aroma of


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of cedar and well aged tobacco that greets me every single time I open my humidor. There are days when I choose to be submersed in the delicate and mellow flavours of a good “Undercrown Shade from Drew Estate” because of its ultra classy smoke with beautiful notes of nutmeg and honey. Just as easily though, when the feeling strikes me, my fingers linger on a “My Father’s The Judge” because the mood is perfect for an immaculate draw and dusty smoke. Whatever pleasure we do decide to choose and why we start down these paths is likely very different for each person but in the end we really do all have one thing in common. Whether yours is yoga, reading a book or a hike through the stillness of the forest – don’t be afraid to break loose or try something different. Let the an idea captivate you, trigger your dopamine and allow yourself the joy of the escape.


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Cask Curation Series – The Dalmore Unveiling in Canada BY MIKE BRISEBOIS The Dalmore is unveiling the first of its four-year programme of rare whisky collections. Mike Brisebois shares his experience at the intimate event that took place at the LCBO Summerhill location in Toronto, Ontario.

Earlier last week, I had the pleasure of celebrating with The Dalmore as they launched the Cask Curation Series. From the food, cocktails and ambiance, it was truly an exceptional launch. Louis-Jérome Barbosa Doise, Senior Brand Ambassador and Regional Director for the Canadian Portfolio, always envisioned creating this outstanding experience when he was first hired as a brand ambassador five years ago. After years of influencing his team and partners of making it a reality, it has come to life at the LCBO Summerhill location, which is housed in a Canadian Pacific Railway Station built in 1915. The Cask Curation Series Sherry Edition marks the first release in a series celebrating The Dalmore’s whisky-making artistry and highlighting the important role exquisite casks play in the creation of the iconic Single Malt. Strictly limited to 150 sets worldwide to which only 2 are exclusively available in Canada*. The Sherry Collection is strikingly presented in a bespoke leather finished travel case hand-crafted in Florence, Italy – perfectly framing the trio of new expressions.

Each age statement whisky is housed in the iconic Dalmore bottle adorned with a matching collar, includes the:

• 26 Year Old, finished in rare González Byass 2002 vintage, Cask No. 4 • 28 Year Old, finished in very rare González Byass 30 Year Old Matusalem Sherry Cask • 43 Year Old, finished in very rare González 30 year old Apostoles Sherry Cask


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