Spiced whiskies spice up the holidays


So what’s with all this spiced whisky stuff that’s coming down the pike? Spiced rum we have, and in abundance: from Trinidad and the U.S., Sailor Jerry, Captain Morgan in spades and various sizes, even a white “Silver Spiced Rum”. But spiced whiskies are relatively recent on the scene. They work very nicely when it’s cold outside: a little shot in your morning—or evening—coffee is nice.

Brandies are good too, and some of those cream liqueurs. I guess Baileys got the ball rolling there, sparking the whole stream of Irish creams. Baileys even does a turnabout version called “Baileys with a hint of coffee”! Haven’t tasted that one yet.

Here’s a selection of recently tasted coffee improvers for making spirits bright and adding a bit of glow to your cheeks. In no particular order…

Tap 357 Canadian Maple Rye Whisky
$34.99, specialty
Despite its relatively pale colour, this packs a sweet punch and really works in strong black coffee. Their story: “Blended small-batch whisky…a marriage of two purely Canadian flavours—rye and maple…aged at least three years and up to seven”. Very smooth and lovely; made for mixing with coffee ’cause it’s too sweet (for my palate) on its own. They’ve created a new all-Canadian cocktail with it—the Montreal—described as “a riff on the Manhattan”; the recipe is at tap357.com/.

Revel Stoke Spiced Whisky
$28.99, specialty
Yes, the name is two words: it’s an American brand, made in Minnesota, although it’s described on the bottle as a “Canadian original”! Very sweet (the Tap above is less sweet), fine for dessert and in dessert, like for a last-minute trifle: soak the ladyfingers in it before assembling with the fruit and cream.

Canadian Club has a spiced whisky (Dock No. 57) for $25.75; there’s also Spicebox ($25.99), White Owl ($39.99), and Wiser’s Spiced Vanilla ($27.49). To the best of my knowledge, there are no Scotch malt whiskies available here that are “spiced”.

Carolans Irish Cream Liqueur
One of several by Carolans, including a “Light” at 15-percent alcohol (the regular is 17 percent). Tipperary’s proud export wants very strong coffee (espresso) to ameliorate the considerable sweetness and slightly medicinal finish.

Brandy does it best for me. Here are a couple to try.

St-Remy Authentic French Brandy VSOP
Light, strong, and perfect for dark-roast coffee. While the Reserve, below, is mellower and richer, it’d be a shame to pour that in your cuppa.

St-Remy Extra Old Reserve Privee
$39.99, new listing—specialty
Darker, most mellow, and very appealing. Matured in French oak, and hence sweeter and softer. Well worth the extra cash, but why waste it in your coffee? Sip it on its own, after dinner—it warms all the way down.

There are many others, spiced and not; you’ll enjoy trying them out to see which suit your palate best. But it helps if you have a sweet tooth or two: the spiced whiskies and the cream liqueurs tend to overwhelm the taste buds; the brandies do it best.

Happy post-Christmas, and a toast for a great new year.

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