A review of the Louis de Sacy Brut Rose Champagne and the Talisker 25 year old Single Malt Scotch Whisky bottled in 2005.
By Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon
Washington Jewish Week May 15, 2013
We recently had some reasons to rejoice and, as our readers would expect, there were a few bottles opened with family and friends. With a wide range of excellent wines available at all price levels, choosing the best celebratory wines was a bit of a challenge.
We started by considering a few wines stashed away for “special occasions” including a couple of vintages of the Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, several wines from Domaine du Castel, Capcanes and Adir as well as some kosher Bordeaux wines. We then looked at some of our favorites from the past year from Golan Heights, Hagafen, Recanati and Dalton. After much contemplation, we ended up opening a bottle of sparkling wine.
Sure, it is a bit of a cliche. And we have long bemoaned the tendency to save sparklers for merely special occasions. Their variable flavor profiles range from sweet to bone dry, from light to full-bodied and from fruit forward to more restrained – all of which make sparklers some of the world’s most food-friendly wines. Since we enjoy sparkling wines throughout the year (try a “blanc de blanc” with an omelet), it seemed okay to pop open an exceptional one to celebrate our blessings.
The Louis de Sacy Brut Rose Champagne is produced by a family that has farmed grapes since the 1600s. The winery is named after a distant renowned relative whose bewigged portrait serves as its logo. This non-vintage, gracious and elegant wine opens with strawberry, cherry and floral aromas. The complex frame of spice, green apple and raspberry is accented with minerals, hazelnuts, citrus and blackberries and leads into a bright, long and satisfying finish.
Spirits-wise, we had the same dilemma: what to crack open for that special occasion? The immediate answer is, really, anything that underscores that notion of “special” or “distinguished” will service nicely for the moment. So, really, anything that is not your usual libation.
If you rarely drink a l’chaim, then having one marks the occasion as special. (Though if you rarely drink a l’chaim, you are probably NOT still reading this.) As we’ve said a great many times before, greater expense does not necessarily translate into better distilled spirits. The higher price-tag does, however, constitute a distinguishing or even elevating characteristic to the spirit, if for no other reason than that the price tag means neither you nor your guests are likely to drink such a whisky all the time. Expense, thus, can instantly convey special status to your beverage simply because the cost takes it out of the sphere of normal or usual.
Sometimes the price tag is all about marketing (such as with the more expensive Macallan single malt Scotch whiskies-these are uniformly good whiskies, sometimes even great whiskies, but they are marketed as “luxury” whiskies and priced accordingly). Sometimes the price tag is high to cover the high costs bringing the beverage to market, such as the production or importation of rare spirits or spirits from far away places.
If you shop wisely, the high price tag will acquire you something truly special in every sense. Single cask single malt whiskies, for example, are usually the best way to spend a few extra bucks when it comes to whisky. As we’ve noted before, absolutely fantastic single cask, single malts, with minimal marketing nonsense, can be had from the membership-based Scotch Malt Whisky Society (smwsa.com) and from the membership-based Jewish Whisky Company’s Single Cask Nation (singlecasknation.com).
In this particular instance, one of us had an addition to the family. As Judaism is simultaneously a family-centered as well as belief-centered religion, a simcha for one Jew is a celebration for all of the nation of Israel. So in this case – the birth and naming of a daughter (Miriam Chaya Tzivia London) – everyone gathered had reason to rejoice.
So with seemingly endless options, spirits-wise, we opted to make our decisions based on a mixture of mood, consideration for what our kith and kin would most enjoy, and the firm conviction that more is actually better when it comes to offering our guests distilled spirits.
For distilled spirits, unlike wine, will stay fresh more or less indefinitely even once opened. Once a bottle of wine is opened, by contrast, it wants drinking up. In general, unfinished wines stay good for at most a few days before they’ll turn to vinegar, sometimes just a matter of hours. Spirits, on the other hand, are much heartier. Even those aficionados who insist that spirits also deteriorate once opened will concede that the decline takes months, not days or hours. Further, distilled spirits simply will not turn to vinegar – at worst they will become flat or flabby, as the water slowly evaporates out of the alcohol over the passing months (quicker if left exposed to direct sunlight or extreme temperature fluctuations).
On offer for this occasion were a variety of delicious single-malt Scotch whiskies, including the Talisker 18, the Laphroaig 18, the anCnoc 16, the Macallan 18, the Glenmorangie Signet, the Single Cask Nation Kilchoman and Arran, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society 29.67 (a 16-year-old Laphroaig), a stupendous but now entirely impossible to find 27-year-old, single-cask Cardhu single malt from Scotland’s Speyside region (from Duncan Taylor’s Cast Strength Rare Auld range; bottle 69 or 179 from cask #2879), and the following wonderful whisky:
Talisker 25 year old Single Malt Scotch Whisky, bottled in 2005, from the Isle of Sky (57.2 percent abv; these days selling for $300+ if you can still find it): This golden-colored whisky is earthy, rich and pungent, with bonfire smoke, apple brandy, oak, and some pepper, changing to softer, more floral notes as it breathes. On the palate it starts big, firm and strong, with a complex mix of spice and herbs (including pepper, fennel, bay leaf, and thyme), malt and floral notes, with plenty of that characteristic Talisker pepperiness, traces of peat smoke, a touch of sweetness. The finish is absorbing, lingering and deeply aromatic. L’Chaim