As the chill sets in, we begin to light fires and don cosy slippers, warm woollens and search for flavours that entice us to comfort. After a long summer, the elements are making themselves known through rain and wind.
There’s no need to give up your favourite tipple if you’re a gin lover - savour these earthy, complex botanicals that will bring the wild Hebridean isles close to home. Or melt into rich chewy autumn fruits and toffee of a rich, experimental whisky with our favourite winter spirits for easing into the cooler months.
And with World Whisky Day coming up on May 21, 2022 closely followed by World Gin Day on June 11, 2022 we wanted to be sure you had some of our best selections on hand.
The Botanist, 700ml, 46% abv
Islay may be known for the robust peat bogs that fuel and flavour their iconic whiskies, but the isle itself has much more to offer. The Botanist represents the land and people that make Islay so special – including the 22 botanicals that are foraged by hand from the island itself.
The flavours of The Botanist are herbaceous, sweet, slightly floral, and tinged with menthol – you can almost picture yourself on the island after a fresh burst of autumn rain. The warmth of menthol and earthiness of cassia and coriander opens to fresh citrus before rounding off in the delicate, warming spice of cinnamon, juniper and wood sage.
Take your time and enjoy each and every layer in this gin designed to showcase the natural flavours of Islay. There is delightful complexity in this dry gin that lends itself to slow sipping in classic simple serves like a gin & tonic or in an old-fashioned with marmalade and thyme.
Winter is a time to savour the careful selection of these botanicals and be transported to an island in another time and place – where the wild seas crash against rocks and peat moss but the smell of the forest is sweet.
Glenfiddich Fire & Cane, 700ml, 43% abv
The Glenfiddich distillery is found in Speyside and the name means ‘Valley of the Deer’. It took William Grant a year to build in 1887 with the help of master craftsmen and his nine children. The first drop of spirit ran from the still on Christmas Day that year and since then, Glenfiddich has continued to pioneer the industry in everything from cooperages, to art and design, and more recently, to experimentation with casks and finishing.
This whisky expression was first released in 2018 and pushed the boundaries of traditional Glenfiddich flavour profiles. You don’t find much peat bog in this particular part of Scotland, so Glenfiddich whisky is usually unpeated, but to make Glenfiddich Fire & Cane, the malt master takes smoky peated single malt matured in bourbon casks and allows it to rest in rum casks for another three months before bottling. The result is a golden hued spirit with soft, earthy peat smoke on the nose followed by toffee and zesty fresh fruit.
The palate is full of sweet apple crumble, fresh green fruit and gentle oak before finishing with the gentle hint of sweetness, spice and campfire smoke. This is a sweet and smoky treat to enjoy with chocolate and candied ginger, even a gingernut at the end of a long day.
As we head into the late summer months, it’s a perfect time to update your cocktail cabinet selection with versatile and delicious spirits that can work in cocktails or as slow sippers. We want flavours to help us savour the sunshine, good times, and those garden parties, barbeques and beach days with our friends and families. These spirits showcase some of our favourite summer flavours like tropical fruit, fresh peaches and a hint of chocolate, orange, and sweetness. These inspirations will make the perfect addition to your next gathering.
The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, 700ml, 40% abv
If you’ve previously thought whisky belongs in winter beside the fire, be prepared to make that an outdoor firepit after a great day at the beach. The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve is a perfect summer Scotch whisky to transport you to the tropics.
After maturing in oak barrels, this whisky then rests in ex-rum barrels. This extra finishing allows the whisky to take on the influence of rum, giving it distinctive tropical notes. You’ll get sweet pears, apple, and ripe banana on the nose with rich caramel and toffee on the palate. This whisky is smooth to sip but bold enough to make a whisky sour or even in a Mai Tai with.
It pairs well with tart and bright citrus flavours. Don’t be afraid to drink this whisky on the rocks, with a splash of soda or try mixing it with chilled coconut water for a truly tropical vibe. When it’s hot outside, whisky on ice can be truly refreshing. Choose larger ice cubes if possible, which will bring down the temperature without diluting the whisky too quickly. If you do like to add water to your whisky, just a dash will open up the richness of toffee and syrup in this dram.
Underneath that tropical twist, this is still a spirit that will please the whisky lover in your life with a well-rounded and smooth finish. A definite favourite that I’ll be keeping in stock anytime I want to be transported to tropical paradise.
Hayman’s Peach & Rose Cup, 700ml, 25% abv
If you can’t go past a classic gin and tonic on a late summer afternoon and you love ripe stonefruit, you must try Haymans Peach & Rose Cup. Hayman’s have taken their classic London Dry Gin and added layers of sweet ripe peaches, orchard fruits, and the delicate fragrance of roses in their version of a traditional English Cup. If you could bottle a perfect summer’s day on the orchard – it would smell like this.
On the palate, it’s even better. Unlike many flavoured gins, this is well-balanced, bright, crisp, and not too sweet. The classic London Dry botanicals are still present, offering a backbone of juniper and root spice to balance the sumptuous, juicy fruit. As soon as the bottle was opened it exuded summer, and I kept going back for more. The gorgeous blush of the spirit also looks stunning to serve.
Try mixing this with a softer tonic for a G&T or ditch the tonic altogether! Mixed with soda, it’s a refreshing and fragrant sipper or if you want a touch of sweetness added, it makes a great Spritz when mixed with fresh sparkling lemonade. The subtle citrus notes are easily magnified when you serve this gin in a large wine glass with a slice of citrus to garnish. Make a splash at a garden party by making a Spritz jug or a gin punch. I loved this lower alcohol option to give flexibility to guests. I recommend serving with fresh peaches, of course.
Ratu 8 Year Old Signature Rum, 700ml 35% abv
Continuing our tropical theme, if there is one rum liqueur that’s worth always keeping in stock, it’s Ratu 8 Year Old Signature Rum Liqueur.
This rum is made in Fiji and captures the essence of Fiji in its production and flavour. Fiji is rich in volcanic soil and grows plenty of sugar cane all over the main islands. This sugar cane is hand-cut and then brought to the distillery, where it’s fermented then distilled on a column still, extracting the best flavours from the spirit. The spirit is then aged in Fiji’s warm and tropical climate, in charred ex-bourbon barrels.
The bourbon barrels add flavours of vanilla, spice and zest before the rum is finished with mocha oak chips and filtered using carbon made from coconut shell. You’ll taste a rum that’s sweet but balanced, with spice, chocolate, coffee notes, and zesty orange. It’s smooth on the palate, well rounded with traces of coconut and spice before a lingering citrus finish.
It’s award-winning for a reason; the right balance of sweet and spice and delicious over a big cube of ice or in a Dark’n’Stormy (rum and ginger beer). For something truly delicious, use a brewed ginger beer with plenty of kick as the balance is spectacular. This also works well in hot buttered rum, but we’ll save that for another day!
Tash McGill is an international spirits writer, educator, and judge. One of the head judges for the NZ Spirits Awards, The Drammys and The Junipers, she has been involved in the spirits industry for more than 10 years and loves helping people enjoy great spirits. She is Chair of the New Zealand Whisky Association and co-author of the New Zealand Gin Guide 2021.