Wine & Spirits

Wine & spirits: Nighty-night!

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Wine & Spirits

Wine & spirits: Nighty-night!

With the weather at its worst during this time of year, my advice is to go home, or stay in, for a nightcap. A well-chosen one will satisfy the taste buds and soothe the body, mind and spirit. It should leave you sated and ready for bed without knocking you out, and permit you to wake up feeling rested and refreshed, not sluggish and headachy. The liquid version of comfort food, a nightcap can be alcoholic, or not. But if it is, you may want to limit yourself to a small amount of something good. My ideal: a thimble of Inniskillin 1989 Icewine. This vintage put Canadian icewine in the global spotlight by winning the Grand Prix d'Honneur in France's prestigious wine challenge. The winery still has 375 mL bottles for sale. At only $500 each, you'd better hurry—they may go quickly.

Whether you share your wine with a friend or partner or enjoy it solo, you need a special bottle. Here's my philosophy on price: pro-rate your enjoyment on a "'cost-per-sip"' basis. Savouring a very fine digestive in one-ounce shots allows for 25 opportunities from a standard-size bottle. If that bottle retails for $250, the real cost is $10 per shot. Now that's a luxury even I can afford from time to time!

Fine spirits can sit on a bookshelf or sideboard forever without going bad; it doesn't matter if they've been opened or not. Store ports, late-harvest wines and other dessert wines in the fridge for up to a month after opening. Keep young icewines in the fridge for several months after opening, but consume older vintages in a single sitting.

Delicious indulgences
Tawny port may be one of my most beloved nightcaps. With flavours of rich dried fruits, simmered berries and spiced nuts, the rewards in a glass of Graham's 10 Year Old ($28*) and 20 Year Old Tawny Port ($36/500 mL) range from sublime to transcendent. Limiting yourself to just one glass might be the toughest challenge!

If brandy is your candy, the rich, complex and sophisticated flavours of Martell XO Cognac ($200) might remind you of vanilla halvah or a perfect millefeuille. Martell's extra-old luxe brand, Création Grand Extra ($495), is marked by the powerful aromas of dried fruits, roasted nuts and fresh spices. At $100 per one-ounce glass, a gold-topped decanter of L'Or de Martell ($2,500) will look great on the mantel of your new condo in Dubai!

Whisky aficionados can choose from among several new ultra-high-end products from both sides of the Atlantic. Johnnie Walker unveiled a Blue Label King George V ($695) last October. Blended from special reserve stocks, it represents the finest whisky style of the monarch's era. It has a rich, smoky aroma, a taste of toasted cereal with caramel cream, and a subtle aftertaste that seems endless. J.P. Wiser's Red Letter Whisky ($150) was created to commemorate the Canadian company's 150th anniversary. A superpremium blend, it was aged for up to 18 years in standard, charred whisky barrels, then spent the last 150 days in virgin oak. The result? A rich, spicy, strong and raw style of sipping whisky not tasted since the turn of a long-forgotten century. But Wiser's Very Old ($40) whispers the flavours of oak and grain with such grace, I think I prefer it.

Not to be outdone, Cuban rum makers have introduced Havana Club Maximo Extra Añejo ($2,000/500 mL), an aged rum with a taste that rivals the finest spirits anywhere. Blended from the oldest reserves, it's more complex and smoother than any rum I've ever tasted, with hints of caramel apples, molasses, coconut, dried fruit and much more. Readily available flagship brand Havana Club 7 Year Old ($30) is as smooth as a Latin lover. There's none of the fire and rage of younger rums. And if there's a cigar to be lit, this is the ideal partner. (*Prices are for 750 mL bottles, except where listed.)

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Wine & Spirits

Wine & spirits: Nighty-night!