Are you serious?

I recently tried this lovely red table wine from Italy- 2012 Amarone Monte Zovo. Here’s what the back of the bottle reads:

“With an intense, stylish personality and a sturdy harmonious body, Amarone della Valpolocella DOCG is an imposing wine with generous heart and a complex fragrance, emanating a wealth of nuances and sensations. From the finest grapes and hand-crafted by the Cottini family like a sartorial dress, its velvety smoothness makes it the perfect attire for important occasions.”

 

This is really one of the most delicious wines I’ve tasted in a long time but the writing is simply ridiculous and in my opinion, pompous.  The description sounds more like a guy I once fell in love with and less like a wine. Maybe the intent was to be poetic but seriously, the wine itself is poetry with its aroma of violet, dried plum and spice.  In the Boston area, I paid $29.00 US dollars and it’s worth every dollar.

 

Just lose the ridiculous fanfare and be real about the special aromas and flavors in this wine.

 

Love you all,

Karin

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Mourvèdre moves me… {closer to} The Wine Century Club

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Click on this YouTube link to enjoy some music while you read on.

So… when this post was written, I had 47 more grape varietals to taste before I submitted my application to The Wine Century Club. Here is a link if you haven’t heard of this club:

http://www.winecenturyclub.com.

🙂 Here are some facts about the wine and the grape Mourvèdre (also on my FAV list).

2011 Domaine Mas du Bouquet Vacqueyras, Rhone, France ...Grape varietals are 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre (moo-VED-ruh).

Grenache – Syrah –  Mourvèdre  blended wines – commonly known by the acronym GSM – are the particular specialty of the southern Rhone Valley in France. A group of producers along California’s Central Coast calling themselves the Rhone Rangers began to promote GSM in the 1980s, making wines in the spirit of the southern Rhone. Grenache contributes spice, red fruit and alcohol to the blend. Mourvèdre gives tannins, color and length to the wine. Syrah, with its structure and dark fruit, is very much a French variety and is the mainstay of the northern Rhone Valley. Wine historians suspect that the variety is of ancient origin, perhaps introduced to the Barcelona area of Spain by the Phoenicians in 500 BC.  After the sixteenth century, the variety was brought to France. The grape is thought to have arrived in California in the 1860s.

Vacqueyras is a French wine Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in the southern Rhône wine region of France. Until 1990, Vacqueyras was one of the Cotes du Rhone Villages, but the consistent quality of its wines (particularly the concentrated, powerful reds) earned it an upgrade to an independent AOC.

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Mourvèdre can be a difficult grape to grow, preferring “its face in the hot sun and its feet in the water” meaning that it needs very warm weather, a low leaf-to-fruit ratio but adequate water or irrigation to produce intensely flavored fruit that is not overly jammy or herbaceous. The vine is susceptible to many viticultural hazards such as powdery and downy mildew as well as overly vigorous foliage. Due to a strong concentration of anti-oxidants, the wines age well. They are often used for blending with wines more prone to oxidation, such as Grenache.

 Mourvèdre  Wine Characteristics

The wine I tasted is around 14.5% alcohol, opaque, a bold deep red wine with tannins that tickle the roof of my mouth. The winemaker suggest decanting this wine. I suggest pairing this wine with a roasted chicken with lots of butter tucked under the skin along with fresh sprigs of herbs such as sage, rosemary and especially thyme.

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FRUIT: Blueberry, Blackberry, Plum
OTHER: Black Pepper, Thyme, Violet, Rose, Smoke, Gravel, Meat
OAK: Usually medium to long oak aging.
TANNIN: High
ACIDITY: Medium (+)

Avocado, pasta and Rosé

A delicious and healthy pasta recipe for summer: do you love avocado?  I found this pasta recipe on http://www.purewow.com. I paired it with Belle Glos Pinot Noir Blanc 2014 Sonoma Coast but I think it would go well with a Sauvignon Blanc too. I hope you enjoy it. The avocado, scallion and parsley and garlic are full of nutrients and alkalizing. An alkaline diet promotes excellent health.

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Pasta sauce
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Start to Finish: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
12 ounces spaghetti
2 avocados–halved, pitted and peeled
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 bunch scallions, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup chopped parsley, for garnish

Directions
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, 6 to 8 minutes.
2. While the pasta cooks, make the sauce: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the avocados, garlic, scallions, lemon juice and olive oil until smooth.
3. When the pasta is tender, reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the reserved water to the avocado mixture and process until smooth.
4. Add the sauce to the pasta and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. To serve, portion the pasta onto plates and garnish with parsley.

Food and Wine Pairing. Let’s talk successes but also failures: both are excellent teachers

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Most blogs I’ve read, including mine thus far, review successful pairings of food and wine. Today, I am taking a new approach, success and failure. This time it took 3 attempts to get it right. Sure, I could’ve read the wine maker’s notes or researched the grape first then picked a food pairing. But, I’m an Aquarius (aka: rebellious tendencies and when channelled appropriately can be fun, not destructive). I like to challenge myself sometimes, not all the time. 🙂

Onward———– and at the end of this page you’ll find a general guide to pairing food and wine.

Here’s the wine: 2013 Librandi Ciro White Wine, Southern Italy, Grape is Greco. Alcohol level: 12.5%. and I paid $12 a bottle. (45 grapes to go for wine century club and those of you who follow my journey of tasting 100 grape varietals)

Winemaker’s notes:  Food pairings: Excellent as an apéritif, and with fish or vegetable starters. It matches well with egg-based dishes, fish soup; crustaceans (either roasted or with sauces) and it enhances all grilled fish dishes, especially swordfish.

Greco wines are some of the most popular white wines to consume in Southern Italy during autumn months, when the grapes are in full harvest. Greco Bianco (or simply Greco) is an ancient, light-skinned grape variety. As its name implies, Greco originated in Greece and was transplanted by Greeks to southern Italy around 600 B.C. The grape flourishes in southern Italy due to the area’s volcanic soil and favorable meteorological conditions, which bring out Greco’s intriguing aromatic flavor.  Armed with excellent acidity and a fresh, clean flavor profile, Greco wines are best consumed young. The simple island wines of Capri are predominantly Greco.

This wine is made from 100% Greco Bianco. After a soft pressing, the must is fermented in stainless steel tanks to keep its freshness. Refined briefly in tanks and bottle for a few months for extra finesse, Cirò Bianco is ready to be enjoyed upon release. The name Greco relates to both white (Greco bianco) and black (Greco nero) grape varieties. While there is more land area dedicated to Greco nero, the Greco bianco is the grape most commonly referred to by the shorthand “Greco”.

After World War II, the fate of Greco was in peril. The wartime devastation of vineyards as well as the mass migration of Italian vine growers from agriculture to urban industries in the cities and abroad, ushered in a period of general decline for viticulture in the region. As plantings declined and vineyards were ripped up, many varieties were on the verge of extinction. The efforts of family winemakers and heritage winemaking projects such as the Villa dei Misteri project headed by Piero Mastroberardino, helped sustain the existence of the Greco vine in southern Italy.

Greco bianco wines are noted for their aromatic qualities similar to Viognier. Greco pairs well with delicate fish such as sole and catfish, especially when served in a light lemon sauce. It is wonderful with savory foods and can go well also with baked, roasted or fried fish. Another flavorful combination is Greco with a light appetizer or salad. Non-vinegar-based dressings work best to bring out the full flavor of the wine.

Tasting Notes
Aromas of peaches and citrus fruits complement undertones of herbs and flowers, some fresh green foliage notes. On the palate, zesty acidity and a long finish showcase this wine’s hints of toasted almonds and macadamia nuts.

Here are my experiences of the 3 pairings…    “3rd time’s a charm”

#1 pairing with pasta – ziti cooked with lots of garlic, broccoli, butter and chicken. The dish remained delicious and the wine did not diminish the taste of the food. The food overpowered the wine, making the finish of the wine much shorter and the complexity of the wine disappeared.

#2 pairing with sliced carrots (recipe seen in earlier blog on Pecorino wine)  dressed with a vinaigrette of apple cider vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, oregano, parsley, white pepper and lastly salt infused with floral (petals of rose, lavender, calendula, and cornflower). This pairing was ok, not bad, not wow. The finish of the wine was longer than in the first attempt at pairing. The almond aromas of the wine did shine through. The herbal flavors of the wine paired well with the oregano and parsley. Although not intentional, the pairing of the floral salt with the floral notes of the wine was clear and complimentary.

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#3 pairing with homemade salmon cakes :  flaked pink salmon (which is a very light flavor) mixed with panko bread crumbs, egg, floral salt (as described in #2), pepper, cooked shallots and parsley. Once cooked, salmon cakes were drenched with freshly squeezed lemon juice. I served the cakes with sautéed green cabbage. This pairing allowed each participant to shine. The salmon was front and center, the wine complimented with its bouquet of citrus and herbs. The cabbage being light and green agreed with the green notes in the wine.

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Food and wine pairing guidelines I learned in the WSET training at Napa Valley Academy:

The best pairings take advantage of the effects of food on wine and the effects of wine on food so that each offer more taste pleasure. People have different sensitivities to flavor and aroma components, meaning one person may be more sensitive to a particular flavor such as bitterness, sweet, sour, etc. The foods below don’t literally  change the wine but rather they change your perception of bitter, acid, sweet, fruity and the body or mouth feel of wine.

Sweetness in Food: This will increase bitterness of wine, decrease the fruitiness of wine, increase acidity of wine, decrease the sweetness of wine and the body of wine. Pair with a wine with at least as much sweetness as the food or the wine will seem more bitter.

Umami in Food: considered a savory taste and is often seen with other tastes (with saltiness in MSG). Taste a raw button mushroom and you’ll taste umami. It increases bitterness of wine, increases acidity of wine, decreases body of wine, decreases sweetness and the fruitiness of wine. Many foods considered difficult to pair with wine contain higher levels of umami, like eggs, mushrooms, asparagus, some ripe, soft cheeses. Pair with a more fruity wine. Stay away from more tannic wine because the bitterness will be emphasized. Merlot, a more fruity with medium tannin and medium to fuller body, is a classic pairing with mushrooms. A favorite is sparkling wine with Chinese food (known for the MSG).

Acidity in Food: Increases body of wine, increases sweetness of wine and the fruitiness of wine, decreases acidity of wine. Pair with a high acid wine or the wine may taste flabby. Acidic foods might be salad with a vinaigrette dressing.

Salt in Food: Increases body of the wine, decreases bitterness and the acidity of wine. Pair with high acid wine or wine may seem flabby. For example, pair Sauvignon Blanc (high acidity) with salty food will make the wine seem less acidic. One of my personal favorites is Chinese food paired with sparkling wine, generally considered to have high acidity.

Bitterness in Food: Increases bitterness of wine. Pair with low tannin red wines or white wines. Bitter foods might be charred steak or roasted red pepper and of course bitter greens. Try a spicy Syrah, pairs well with grilled meat, spicy meats or cured meats.

Chili heat in Food: Increases bitterness in wine, increases acidity in wine, decreases body, sweetness and the fruitiness of wine. Pair with low tannin red or a white wine. Try a wine that’s very fruity because once paired with this food, the fruitiness will decrease. A failed  pairing would be Cabernet Sauvignon which is a high tannin, high acidity wine. Using these principles, the chile heat would make the wine more bitter and more acidic, and ruin an otherwise beautiful wine.

A few more considerations: It’s typically best if the flavor intensity of the food and wine match, as you read in the pairing experiments above, one could overpower the other. Acidic wines pair great with fatty or oily foods as the wine cuts through the fat. Many people enjoy pairing sweet wine with salty foods, like a port with blue cheese but this is a subjective experience.

Lastly, the more structural components (meaning tannin, high acidity, high alcohol, complex or layered flavors) in a wine, the more possible taste interactions occur. Depending on the pairing, this may mean an exceptional experience or a displeasing experience. Simple unoaked wines with little sugar won’t change much with food. Therefore the food and wine pairing may not be particularly interesting.

All Dressed Up, Sake, No Sake

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Saturday night, I dressed in my skinny jeans and a white t-shirt, my glittery navy blue pumps I bought a year and half ago and looked forward to wearing them for the first time. I completed my classic, simple, sexy outfit with my genuine Chanel earrings and long strand of faux gray pearls. I looked good and I felt confident.

I strutted my way to a meetup dinner at Feng Shui. Meetup(s) are an easy way to meet new people in a group setting and do fun activities with others when you have no friends 🙂  I’ve never met these people and I’ve never been to this restaurant. The group of people who attended were super fun! We really had silly, simple fun at this hibachi dinner. The whole evening was a joy  🙂

Prior to the dinner, I reached out to The Passionate Foodie, a friend of mine and a professional food and wine writer. I’ve never had Sake before and he is a master Sake Educator, I think one of a very select few in the U.S.

Anyway, I copied/pasted the online Sake menu from the restaurant and sent it to him (with what I  planned to order for dinner) for his opinion on which Sake would best pair with my dinner choice. He responded promptly and recommended the Kimoto- dry and umami, which would go well with my choice of strip steak and lobster. Oh man, was I excited to go try this Sake with dinner. I have a lot of experience with wine and food pairs but Sake is new and I get excited to try new things!

Seated at the hibachi table, menu in front of me, I happily and eagerly searched for my Kimoto to order. Ugh, there was no Kimoto and the Sakes on the menu had descriptions with no mention of umami.  I asked the server about the Kimoto, she had no clue. I asked her if they had changed their Sake menu and she answered no, they had not changed the Sake menu.  Her Asian face stared back at me,  confused by my request for Kimoto and discussion of the Sake menu.  I showed her the Sake menu from their website, that I copy/pasted on my phone, she was clueless. She grabbed my phone out of my hand and said she’d bring it to the manager to see if they had this Kimoto! Off she went, my iPhone in her hand, before I could say Sake.

OMG, now this turned into a huge deal and she had taken my phone!

My table mates found this quite entertaining and teased me that I was needy 🙂 and we had a good laugh. She returned and informed me that they in fact did change their Sake menu and I had the “old menu” listed on my phone. She left again. She returned – brought me a bottle of some random Sake and asked me if this is one I would want to have ” Many customers order this one” she told me, yet she was unable to provide any information about this Sake. Now mind you, I had already told her I know nothing about Sake and therefore know not which one to order. This random bottle she showed me meant nothing to me. Huh? Now, my confused face  stared at her. I asked her if she’d tried any of the Sakes on the menu. She answered she doesn’t drink 😦  I wondered- was this server even 21 years old?

For the love of God! now what? I found this all quite hilarious but at the same time, I really wasn’t looking for this absurd drama.

Wanting my new-found meetup acquaintances to see my kind and thoughtful side and a quick ending this server drama, I thanked her for the time and effort she put into this, but assured her I would figure it out.

In the end, I ordered a scorpion bowl, which is a safe bet and always a pleaser.

FS chel

#49 and counting down… The Wine Century Club

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So…en route to becoming a member of The Wine Century Club a few years ago, I researched 100 grapes and tried many wines. The entry level requirement is 100 grape varieties. There are higher levels as well.  Here is a link to the club website: winecentury.com.

Please check out the poll found in my earlier post titled The Wine Century Club.

Here are some facts about the 2 wines (both are now on my favorites list) and a couple of grapes that were new to me.

🙂 🙂

2013 Colomé from Valle Calchaquí, Salta, Argentina… grape variety is Torrontés.

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Salta, Argentina

Torrontés has quickly risen to become Argentina’s signature white-wine grape, and one of the most widely grown. Torrontés wines range in style from light and fresh to heady and intensely perfumed, often expressing spicy character and aromas of white flowers. The cooler climate here helps with the retention of acidity, yielding a light, refreshing white wine with tones of jasmine and orange blossoms. The wine I tasted had a longer finish, good acidity and floral notes. It reminded me of a Viogner or a Gewürztraminer, both noted for floral a bouquet.

Salta, in the far north of Argentina, is home to some of the world’s most extreme vineyard sites. Many sit at lower latitudes and higher altitudes than anywhere else on Earth. Interestingly, these two factors balance each other out; the cold temperatures associated with high altitude are mitigated by the high temperatures found at these latitudes, producing bright, intensely flavored wines.

2011 Kanonkop ” Kadette” from Stellenbosch, South Africa… grapes varieties are Pinotage 57%, Cabernet Sauvignon 26 %, Merlot 14%, Cabernet Franc 3%.

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Stellenbosch, South Africa

Pinotage grape is a native product of South Africa, developed in 1925 by Abraham Izak Perold, the first professor of Viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch. Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and the more obscure Rhone varietal, Cinsault, was born in South Africa. The professor hoped to combine the virtues of the two grapes. Pinot Noir is  recognized for its aromas and flavors, but can be difficult to grow. Cinsault yields an abundant crop and is resistant to disease. Pinotage typically produces deep red wines. Some have been criticized for sometimes smelling of acetone. The wine I tasted had no aroma of nail polish. Pinotage tends more toward dark fruits, tar, tobacco, and chocolate; sometimes touches of banana have been noted. The grape also tends toward high tannins and low acids.

Pinotage is easy to grow and ripens readily. Plantings didn’t really get started commercially until the 1960s, and, despite a few successes, acreage dwindle from then until the 90s and then the end of apartheid  and end of international boycotts on South African products. Interest in South African wines was high, and Pinotage in particular as it was unique to the country.Kanonkop’s Pinotage vines were some of the first commercially planted Pinotage to be established in the Cape and most are over 50 years old. Hardly any irrigation is needed due to the ideal soil type and location.

Kanonkop is a fourth generation family estate, which was originally purchased by JW Sauer, a cabinet member in the parliament of the Union of South Africa. The name Kanonkop was derived from a kopje, something from which a cannon was fired in the 17th Century to alert farmers in outlying areas that sailing ships had entered Table Bay for a stopover at Cape Town.

Psychology of Wine

One of my mentors recently shared an article written by Jancis Robinson December 2014. The title is The Feminisation of Wine. This article points out gender divides such as men are expected to know more about wine than women. Who has not experienced the waiters’ offer to have the man at the table taste, before pouring the wine? Historically, society expected men to know about wine and women were not expected to know about wine. Jancis Robinson continues to write about a European wine bloggers conference that titled a session ” We Don’t Need More Women in Wine.” Women have long been excluded from the world of wine.

Change is inevitable, would you agree?

Women are the most powerful economic force in the wine marketplace. One stat showed women in the U.S. make up 59% of all regular wine purchasers (thesis written by Felicity Carter). Women have surpassed men in scores on some of the most well-known, well-respected and internationally recognized wine exams across the globe.

I recommend a terrific book written by Ann Matasar, Women of Wine. For centuries, forces kept women away from the world of wine through biases, traditions, religious practices, superstitions, physical characteristics and social stereotypes. Gender distinctions permeated wine in areas such as production, consumption, distribution and appreciation.

Matasar writes that jars of wine were placed in tombs of upper class Egyptian men so that life after death would continue to be comfortable but no such comfort in the after life for Egyptian women. It was thought that the women would become drunk and act promiscuously in the after-life.

Matasar continues to amuse the reader with more history: Ancient Greece established the first male drinking clubs with women only allowed in to serve the wine. The Romans also had such exclusionary clubs, focused on No Girls Allowed and in fact didn’t even allow women to serve wine. Later years brought male-only taverns and cabarets in France. As wine culture spread to the New World, the collegiality, intellectual sophistication and learning associated with wine consumption remained associated with male only establishments.

Both Jancis Robinson and Ann Matasar offer that women perform more precisely in tasting experiments. Two olfactory sensitivity studies, one at the University of Pennsylvania and the other at the University of Cardiff, showed women consistently out-performed men in odor identification and sensitivity. Yale School of Medicine established 3 categories of tasters: non-tasters= 25% of the population, medium tasters=50% of the population, super tasters = 25% of the population. The group of super tasters had the most taste buds and was made up of predominantly women. Check out this Wall Street Journal video ( click on link to watch brief video)

http://www.wsj.com/video/do-men-and-women-taste-wine-differently/2F0A6CA2-36F7-4197-B417-4E9621D3BBCC.html

Women are now wine makers, wine growers, wine critics, sommeliers, wine writers and the list goes on. I thank the women who have paved the way: Importer Martine Saunier who once said “There were no women in the wine business then, we were supposed to marry and shut up.” Her French charm is front and center in her role as star and producer of wine documentaries. A Year in Burgundy premiered in 2013 and A Year in Champagne premiered in February 2015. Let’s remember Lalou Bize-Leroy, who established herself as a businesswoman in the Burgundy wine business in 1955 when she took over her father Henri Leroy’s négociant business and finally  let’s also thank Barbe-Nicole Clicquot (of the French Champagne house Veuve Clicquot) who lived during the French revolution era. I recommend a very good book on her life written by Tilar Mazzeo titled The Widow Clicquot.

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Scotch and Meaning : part 2

Here are the next two Glenmorangie Scotch from my taster pack. Glenmorangie is in the Highlands, which is the largest whisky producing region in Scotland. I find Glenomorangie to produce more full-bodies whiskies. There are 5 other regions producing Scotch, each with its own character. Most of my posts have been on wine, wine regions etc. and it’s well known that the flavor and aroma differ greatly depending on the region. Same goes for Scotch.  Some may be more peaty, others may be more smokey, yet others more full body vs light body. I find it interesting and there’s so much information to share: I’m keeping my post short these days, so, I encourage you to have fun exploring on your own and learn about the regions of Scotland. Maybe one day, when things settle down here at home, I will have time to write more frequent posts and include some details for you.

The Glenmorangie Original was like any other regular old Scotch, not impressive or complex in my opinion, but decent and good. This Scotch has a place color, a bit of an abrupt finish like many Scotches.  It’s aged in American white oak. Simple. Expected.

The Lasanta,  a deep apricot color, on the other hand, was very good, nice round long finish and a slight sweetness but still had that Scotch tingle we expect on the lips and at the back of the throat. I really enjoyed the Lasanta. It’s aged in sherry casks, giving it warmth, a little spice and nuttiness. This was an unexpected but close second to the Nectar D’Or reviewed in my previous post.

Scotch and Meaning

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Hello Readers!

It’s so nice to have a few minutes to write to you. My dog Elvis is improving but we still have a long way to go. I celebrated two things over the weekend. The first and most important- Elvis started bearing weight on his affected hind leg. The second- I have an appointment with a local school department to discuss writing and teaching a curriculum for the kids on Self Love and Self Care.  Afterall, so many people have to re-learn how to really love when they hit adulthood. So, let’s teach them young, when it really makes a difference for communities and families.

So, in celebration, I bought myself some Scotch. I will be writing on each one I taste in the upcoming posts. The posts may still be brief as I’m still dealing with a lot at home right now, but I do like to share my experiences with you whenever I can jot down some quick notes. I hope you’ll give this Scotch a try and leave a comment if you have tried it. Enjoy!

Below you will find a photo of the cutest little tasting pack from Glenmorangie. I spent $25 US dollars and the tasting pack has 4 different bottles, each one is 100 ml.

I’ve tried one, which is also shown below in the photo. This is Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey, aged 12 years in Sauterne barrels. It’s called Nectar D’Or. It is a gem, for sure. The choice of barrels , along with  the aging of 12 years really provides a smooth finish, not too smokey or peaty at all.  There is a viscosity to this one.  I enjoyed this gold-colored scotch on the rocks. It’s silky and ever so slightly sweet.  Scotch from Highlands is less smokey compared to Scotch from the Isle, which is more smokey. This Nectar D’Or is Luscious!

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Glenmorangie’s website reveals this interesting tidbit: “The Tarlogie Springs, Glenmorangie’s own water source and most prized asset, is the product of rain that has been forcing its way through layers of limestone and sandstone for a hundred years. These natural minerals give it its ‘hard’ water qualities and provide Glenmorangie with a raw ingredient unique amongst Highland distilleries. Our ancient ancestors drank here, considering the pure, mineral-rich waters of the Springs to be sacred”.

 

scotch pack