Reviews of the Alexander Reserve Cabernet Franc 2009 and several Tomintoul Single Malt whiskies.
By Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon
Washington Jewish Week April 10, 2013
Cabernet franc is one of the lesser-known grape varietals. Aromatic and with a softer feel than its better-known progeny cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc is usually added to enhance aromas and mellow a wine’s structure without sacrificing its ability to age. Cabernet franc, or “cab franc” as it is often called for short, even plays a prominent role in several of the most exalted Bordeaux wines. Cab franc can be excellent on its own, or as the primary or dominant constituent to a blend, and the resulting wines can range from rustic and austere to rich and balanced.
There are several kosher cab francs that meet these latter criteria, including the Alexander Reserve Cabernet Franc 2009. Created from vines planted along the side of Mount Mitzpe in Israel’s Galilee, with just 5 percent of petit verdot blended in, the Alexander Reserve Cab Franc is a delightfully fragrant wine with floral, raspberry and blackberry aromas accented with some spice and tobacco. The flavors that follow include more dark berries and spice along with red cherries, blueberries and plums along with an interestingly pleasant green vegetable component. Consider pairing this with roast chicken, brisket, Italian dishes and other Mediterranean fare.
The Alexander Winery is located on Moshav Beit Yitzhak in central Israel’s Hefer Valley. Founded in 1996 in Tel Aviv by owner and winemaker Yoram Shalom, it moved to its current location in 1999 and only became certified-kosher in 2006. Their grapes are sourced from three distinct vineyards in the upper Galilee and their wines are released under the Alexander the Great, Alexander Reserve, and Liza labels.
Spirits-wise, with Pesach behind us, we thought we’d return to the Speyside region of Scotland and revisit a relatively youthful producer – the Tomintoul Distillery built in 1964. The distillery is situated in the “Strath” or valley between the Glenlivet Forest and the hills of Cromdale, east of the Avon River – the veritable heart of the Speyside region. Despite the beautiful, lush environs and pure spring water source, the site was not really suited for whisky production until modern transport options made distribution commercially viable. Hence the mid-1960s late start. The distillery was named for the nearby Tomintoul village (population 300 or so).
Like nearly all distilleries of the region, Tomintoul was built to produce whisky for blending purposes, and although single malt releases from Tomintoul have been available since 1973, they remained relatively hard to come by until the 1990s. Even still, little was done until 2000 when Angus Dundee Ltd took over and revitalized the place and essentially (re)created the brand. At last word, less than 4 percent of the 3 million liters of whisky produced there annually is destined for single malt release – most still goes to blended whiskies. The distillery’s motto is “The Gentle Dram” and, mostly, this fits the whisky.
Angus Dundee Ltd is a London-based independent bottler and whisky blender. It has been around for more than 50 years and exports globally. Its focus is primarily blends, though it has invested heavily in single malts, buying both Tomintoul and also the Glencadam Distillery in the Highlands. Angus Dundee also produces the great, if hard to find, “Mackillop’s Choice” label of independent bottlings, and the seemingly even harder to find “Montgomerie’s” label.
The man behind the whisky is Robert Fleming, whose family has been making whisky in the Speyside-Glenlivet region for four generations. He oversees all aspects of production, from still room to maturation and bottling. Tomintoul uses both American and European oak and offers a full range of whiskies, from a no-age statement heavily peated (“Peaty Tang”) malt to a 33-year-old sherry-cask limited edition.
One other note of distinction: the whiskies are imported to the U.S. by Medek Wine & Spirits, a division of the Royal Wine Corporation (“Medek” is “Kedem” spelled backwards, a nod and wink to Royal’s original company name and the label of its hugely successful grape juice and kiddush wine brand). Because of Tomintoul’s connection to Royal, it was persuaded in July 2010 to obtain OU kosher certification for several of its single malts (Peaty Tang, and the 10-, 14- and 16-year-old expressions). Also worthy of note, as we mentioned a few weeks ago, Medek was one of those generous companies who very kindly donated to “Rabbi Antine’s 3rd Annual Guys Night Out & Seder Summit” held at Beth Sholom Congregation and Talmud Torah in Potomac.
Here then are several Tomintoul single malt whiskies to enjoy before and after Passover:
Tomintoul Single Malt Scotch Whisky with a Peaty Tang (40 percent abv; $40): With a beautifully pungent, smoky, peaty, earthy nose, this lovely whisky offers additional complex aromas and flavors of toasted oak, copper, pine nut, sweet barley malt, pepper and something slightly floral. Clean, fresh, and full, with a long, slightly hot finish. A delightfully peaty malt whisky.
Tomintoul 10-year-old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (40 percent abv; $35) is an excellent, easy-drinking, delicate, aperitif style whisky with a light, floral, malty, toffee nose, with additional notes on the palate of vanilla fudge, apples and lemon, toasted nuts, honey and malt on the finish.
Tomintoul 12-year-old Oloroso Sherry Finish Single Malt Scotch Whisky (40 percent abv; $60) is basically its 10-year-old whisky that has undergone an additional 18 months or so in ex-Oloroso Sherry casks. This additional European oak finish has added a more profound, fruitcake note to the bouquet, helping to deepen and enrich the whiskies’ otherwise slightly grassy, malty, toffee aroma, and fill out its body. This more muscular, slightly silkier whisky also has a comparatively spicy and chewy oak note to it, in addition to notes of wild berry, soft honey, malt, toffee, dried fruits and a slight whisper of smoke. A rich, creamy and delicious 12-year-old whisky.
Tomintoul 14-year-old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (46 percent abv; $70): This charming, light, subtle yet vibrant whisky offers aromas and flavors of citrus fruits, vanilla, cream, sweet malted barley, various types of honey, spices, and fudge, with a light, elegant, slightly grassy finish. Very hard to put down.
Tomintoul 16-year-old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (40 percent abv; $50): This excellent, medium-bodied, gentle and sophisticated whisky offers lovely aromas and flavors of hay, marzipan, espresso, vanilla fudge, cream, dried fruit, a very subtle hint of anise, toffee, pepper and honey, and with remarkable yet improbable hints of mint. Wonderful and a real bargain for the price.