A wel­comed part of al­most ev­ery hol­i­day cel­e­bra­tion

Times of the Islands - - News -

Whiskey and Wine

Whiskey and wine—they make a per­fect combo for hol­i­day serv­ing and giv­ing. Fun­da­men­tally speak­ing, wines are fer­mented spir­its made from a va­ri­ety of grapes. Whiskeys and bour­bons are dis­tilled spir­its made from a va­ri­ety of grains. Bour­bon must be 51 per­cent corn and aged in new or charred oak bar­rels. Whiskey can be aged in any kind of bar­rel and made from a va­ri­ety of grains. Both have been hot for years, and their pop­u­lar­ity shows no sign of slow­ing down with small-batch pro­duc­ers con­stantly hit­ting the scene.

Jen­nifer Nick­er­son, co-owner of Tip­per­ary Bou­tique Dis­tillery in Ireland, is on a mis­sion to get her award-win­ning whiskies in the glasses of women. Her tip for a de­li­cious hol­i­day pair­ing is whiskey with choco­late and/or cheese.

Tip­per­ary Water­shed Scotch ($64.99) is aro­matic, al­most fruity and de­fi­antly fun. The slight bit of smoke ini­tially gives way to toasted honey and spice. Nick­er­son’s Knock­meal­downs ($89.99) is aged for 10 years. That ex­tra time in the bar­rel pro­duces a smoother, more vel­vety fin­ish with rich fla­vors of but­ter­scotch.

If you’re look­ing to give a spirit to some­one who has ev­ery­thing, look for TX Whiskey ($37) or TX Straight Bour­bon ($49) from Fire­stone & Robert­son Dis­till­ing Com­pany. Both are brand new to Florida. Made in North Texas from lo­cal corn and wheat, they also use a wild Texas yeast strain cap­tured from a lo­cal pecan. The bour­bon is warm, smooth and feels like the out­doors with cin­na­mon, all­spice and caramel. The bal­anced whiskey smells like the in­side of an ice cream shop. I want to drink this with a hot ap­ple crum­ble topped with vanilla bean ice cream. It’s full of caramel, toast and vanilla with a slightly sweet fin­ish. An un­ex­pect­edly smooth pro­file, this is a good one to drink neat or on the rocks.

Neat means it’s served at room temp with no ice or wa­ter; rocks means served with ice. Large ice spheres or cubes are de­sir­able, as they don’t melt as fast to wa­ter down your drink.

If you’ve tried whiskey or bour­bon neat or on the rocks and find them too strong, try mix­ing with ginger ale or le­mon­ade for a re­fresh­ing treat or cof­fees and teas for a warm­ing one.

An­other new whiskey to lo­cate for the hol­i­days is Prize­fight ($45), a transat­lantic col­lab­o­ra­tion from Steven Grasse (cre­ator of Hen­drick’s Gin) and Ir­ish spir­its in­no­va­tor Flor Pren­der­gast. The whiskey from Ireland is fin­ished in Amer­i­can rye bar­rels for a spicy fin­ish.

Prize­fight is clean with some flo­ral notes and smoke—a com­plex blend that packs a punch with­out a burn. The la­bel com­mem­o­rates a fight be­tween fa­mous Ir­ish-born box­ers John Mor­ris­sey and Yan­kee Sullivan in 1853.

A well-es­tab­lished bour­bon brand you can’t go wrong with is Four Roses; this Ken­tucky dis­tillery is cel­e­brat­ing its 130th an­niver­sary. Four Roses Sin­gle Bar­rel is made from 10 dis­tinct bour­bon recipes, each with a unique fla­vor pro­file. When com­bined, a smooth spirit is cre­ated with aro­mas and fla­vors of cherry, and a fin­ish that leaves you crav­ing the next sip. Oak bar­rels play an im­por­tant role in fin­ish­ing the fla­vor pro­files of bour­bons. Bar­rels also have a tremen­dous in­flu­ence on wines. Imag­ine those al­ready sea­soned from whiskey. More wine­mak­ers are buy­ing these bar­rels, and it’s more than a mar­ket­ing ploy; you can taste the sub­tle in­flu­ences of whiskey-soaked wood in the wine. Mask­ing it­self as bour­bon with la­bel and bot­tle shape is Cooper & Thief Red Wine Blend ($26). It smells like the hol­i­days and looks like them, too, with a deep gar­net color. A weighty blend of mostly mer­lot and syrah, there are smaller amounts of zin­fan­del, petite sirah, and caber­net sauvi­gnon to pro­duce a sweet, jammy fin­ish. The win­ery also makes a bar­rel-aged caber­net and sauvi­gnon blanc. The 2016 Ex­i­tus Red Wine ($25.99) is a blend of zin­fan­del, pe­tit ver­dot, caber­net sauvi­gnon, petite sirah and mer­lot, aged for three months in Ken­tucky bour­bon bar­rels. It smells like cherry and bak­ing spice, with smoky caramel notes on the palate. Ex­i­tus comes in a clear, bour­bon-style bot­tle and la­bel, topped with a tra­di­tional spir­itsstyle rib­bon seal. Gina Birch is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor, a lover of good food and drink, and a well-known me­dia per­son­al­ity in South­west Florida.

Jen­nifer Nick­er­son, co-founder of Tip­per­ary Bou­tique Dis­tillery, is chang­ing the face of whiskey pro­duc­tion in Ireland, where men have dom­i­nated the in­dus­try for decades.

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