Posts Tagged ‘scotch

Five Calgary whisky events to get you through winter’s chill

- January 29th, 2014

Fill your glass with some fine whisky.

Calgary has a fantastic whisky scene, with a number of clubs devoted to the drink, and major liquor stores making it a key focus of their business.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise the calendar is chock full of good events featuring the best in scotch, bourbon, Canadian whisky, and more.

Overall, it’s part of a larger jam-packed calendar on offer in the city, with something happening nearly every night of the week.

And even when you think you’ve found every kind of event, stores manage to give you something new, whether it’s a bacon and booze event, or a poutine and wine tasting.

Peggy Perry, the VP of purchasing and marketing at Willow Park Wines and spirits, says they’re always trying to keep things fresh and appeal to emerging trends.

“We sit around as a group and put our heads together,” Perry says of cooking up the store’s new events calendar.

“Bacon and poutine are two food categories people are into these days.” There was such good response to the bacon event that it sold out.

Watch for my picks in beer and wine events over the next couple of days (hint: I can’t resist poutine), but without further ado, here are my top five whisky events on the winter calendar:

1. Scotch Festival: Willow Park has a big whisky shindig every fall, but they also put together a good one to get scotch fans through the cold winter months. “We started with a mid-winter scotch festival,” Perry says. “The scotch festival is super popular.” This event will showcase more than 65 whiskies. Nothing like a little variety, right? The night also features pipers, Highland dancers and gourmet catering. The event goes at 7 p.m. Feb. 12. Tickets are $50.

2. Ancient Malts: Why limit such a good event to just one seating? Kensington Wine Market hosts two nights of this event, which features rare whiskies between 30 and 40 years old. It will also feature the Glendronach Recherche, the oldest ever bottling of Glendronach, which retails at $4,800. The whisky lineup is the same for each night. Tickets are $200 apiece, but worth it when someone pulls out the big guns. March 20, 21, 7 p.m. Kensington also hosts a Rare Malts event earlier in March featuring whiskies 20 year old or older, with tickets going for $80.

3. Pairings with Irish Whiskey: Coming up to St. Patrick’s Day, there is no shortage of events highlighting Irish beer and whiskey. Both Willow Park and Kensington have events planned as well. I like what Crowfoot Wines & Spirits has on tap with Irish whiskey and food pairings. Who doesn’t like food? Tickets are $40 for the March 15 event.

4. Great Amaerican Bourbon: Bourbon comes a close second behind scotch in my list of favourite whiskies. On Saturday, March 1, Co-Op Wines Spirits Beer will run through a flight of bourbon served neat, but will “also explore classic cocktails and modern twists” featuring this iconic spirit. The evening goes from 7-9 p.m. at the Crowfoot Tasting Centre. Tickets are $40.

5. The Great Macallan Vertical Tasting featuring M (NEW DATE): The Macallan 1824 M is the ultra-premium offering at the top end of the 1824 Series. A six-litre decanter recently sold at auction for a record of $628,205. Kensington Wine Market is hosting a vertical tasting  of the Macallan, including the M. “As soon as we heard about it, we had to open one, so we’ve booked the Southern Alberta Pioneers Hall for a special tasting,” the event listing states. This event goes March 5 at 7 p.m. at Kensington Wine Market. Tickets are $175.

Celebrate Robbie Burns Day with a dram, or two

- January 22nd, 2014

Raise a glass to Robbie Burns this weekend. Have a dram or two, and enjoy some haggis in honour of Scotland’s most famous poet.

When it comes to famous Scotsmen, there’s none more so than Robert Burns.

The country’s best-known writer is loved the world over, and every year, Canadians from coast to coast mark his birthday with a celebration of his life, his work, the iconic haggis and, of course, whisky.

Calgary has a strong Scottish tradtion, and a strong whisky scene, so it’s not surprising to count no fewer than five Robbie Burns events in the city this weekend.

Fionn MacCool’s will break out the haggis and whisky Friday at its Eau Claire location and Saturday at CrossIron Mills. Anyone named Robert, or Rob, Roberta or any other iteration of the namesake, will get a free order of mini-yorkies.

Events at Willow Park Wines and Crowfoot Wines and Spirits are sold out, but there are still tickets available for the Co-Op Wines Spirits Beer party at the Beddington tasting centre, and the Robbie Burns Supper hosted by Kensington Wine Market at Fort Calgary Saturday night.

This is the ninth edition of the Kensington event, and features bagpipes, poetry, haggis  and neeps and tatties, and a selection of six whiskies from Duncan Taylor, an independent bottler that features rare cask strength scotch, including some KWM exclusives.

As of publishing, there were just 20 tickets available on the Kensington Wine Market website, so act fast. The event starts at 7 p.m., and tickets are $99.

Still time to get tickets to Calgary’s MS Whisky Festival

- January 13th, 2014

Fill your glass this week at the Calgary MS Whisky Festival.

Calgary has a wine festival, a beer festival, and a couple of big festivals highlighting all things beer/wine/spirits.

But many don’t know Calgary’s whisky scene has its very own swanky party.

This Thursday marks the third-annual MS Whisky Festival, the an evening of food, music, art, and, of course, whisky, all in support of the MS Society of Canada.

For aficionados, this soiree is a chance to sample from a wide range of whiskies and meet representatives from the distilleries on hand.

The distilleries that will have whisky on offer at this year’s festival include: Macallan, Highland Park, Springbank, Ardbeg, Glenmorangie, Kavalan, Jura, plus many more.

If you are a whisky novice, a festival like this is a great place to learn, and if you’re a little more well-versed, you can expand your palate.

Tickets for the event are $95, and are a great value for your dollar, but if you want a little deeper immersion in the whisky world, there are three Master Classes. Tickets for each class are $20 and offer a chance to sample whiskies not available on the festival floor.

Class 1 features Benromach/Gordon & MacPhail vs. Tullibardine, Class 2 features Highland Park, while Class 3 highlights Tomatin.

Tickets are still available, and I would recommend that if you like whisky, you should buy one while you still can.


The Kensington Wine Market site shows the event is now sold out. But if you are already going, the website shows there are still tickets availble to the Master Classes.

Dave’s picks for the Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival

- October 18th, 2013

One of the biggest parties of the fall is surely the Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival.

And if you’ve been following the election as closely as us media types, you have good reason to drink this weekend.

Tickets are still available for all three sessions — Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday night — and can be found on the event’s website. Once you’re in the door, sampling coupons are 50 cents apiece.

Hundreds of wine, spirits, beer and food samples under one roof, showcasing the best from around the world.

With that much on offer, there’s only so much ground you can cover and not have to be wheeled out of the venue by your friends.

With that in mind, my one piece of advice is to explore. Try something new and unfamiliar.

OK, my second piece of advice, try some of the following:


Big Rock: Yes, I said try something new. Big Rock surely is very familiar to Calgary beer drinkers, with a strong lineup of craft beer. But they have released four new beers this fall alone, and if they have even half of them on tap at the festival,  you’ll be pleasantly surprised. There’s the Life of Chai Ale, the Monkey’s Fist Royal IPA, their Gerstemeister Marzen and the Anthea Wet Hop Ale, which was just released this week. All of them are tasty.

Creemore Springs: Between Creemore’s Premium Lager and Barking Squirrel, I’m kind of ruined for pale lagers. Slightly nutty with good hop balance, it is a easy drinking amber lager.

Hog’s Head Brewing: This St. Albert brewery is relatively new to the scene, but us fast growing. They’re known for a pair of hoppy numbers — the 105 IBU Hop Slayer and the mild (by comparison) 75 IBU Baby Back Hops IPA . Go with the Baby Back for a good dose of hops, and have a taste of their Death By Pumpkin Ale while you’re there.

Granville Island Brewing: I am an unapologetic fan of the GIB Lion’s Winter Ale. If you haven’t had it, you should.

Rodenbach: In a recent interview, Wild Rose brewmaster Brian Smith said one beer he figured we’d see more of is the barrel-aged sour beer. Rodenbach is a Belgian brewery known for this style of beer. So get ahead of the curve.


OK, I’ll admit I am no expert when it comes to wine. And given it’s the Rocky Mountain WINE and Food Festival, it would be a lot of learning on my part.

But there are many on the list I like. And some I’m just curious about.

19 Crimes: This Shiraz-Durif blend is quite tasty, easy drinking red from Australia.

Sokol Blosser: This Oregon winery makes the very approachable and inexpensive Evolution blends. The white has been around for years,  while the red is newer on the market. And the red is the one I would suggest (writer’s bias: I prefer red to white most of the time, except when it comes to food. Then I’m more open). A lot of fruit, but with enough balancing tannins.

The Dreaming Tree: Normally I’m skeptical of celebrity wines. But the pairing of renowned wine drinker Dave Matthews,  who has had his own winery in Virginia since 2000, with award-winning California winemaker Steve Reeder has me curious.

Cono Sur: This Chilean wine mainstay, produces a great line of organic wines, and their 20 Barrels range has received high marks in Wine Spectator magazine.

Concha Y Toro: This is another big name in Chilean wine,  but it has done well for itself with accolades around the world. Its Late Harvest a standout, and was a favourite of mine at a past festival.


Glenfarclas: This is a great range of single malt scotch, with a heavy sherry influence. Within a wide range there is an underlying note of demerara sugar. It is a classic.

Jack Daniels Gentleman Jack: If you like Jack, you’ll love the Gentleman. It’s twice filtered through charcoal, and is a great sipping whiskey.

Gordon & MacPhail: I have had the good fortune of trying some of Gordon & MacPhail’s rarest bottlings. This independent company bottles hundreds of single malt whisky expressions from dozens of distilleries. They select from the best of the best casks and age them to their specifications. Make sure to stop by their table.

El Jimador: I first tried an El Jimador in an Earl’s margarita. It is one of Mexico’s top-selling tequila brands and has won multiple awards.

Macallan: The Macallan is one of Scotland’s largest distilleries, producing a delicious range of Fine Oak and Sherry Oak whiskies. New to the range is the 1824 Series, four vibrant 100% sherry wood expressions that impart characteristics of their colours.


When it comes to events like this, it’s hard to find bad food, but I want easy-to-eat food. Two bites or something on a stick. Or a cone. Or a crostini. Anything else gets in the way of drinking.

There is a bounty of fine food on offer, representing a host of international cuisines.

MARKET: Bison Tartar, served on a sesame cone. Bison pairs great with red wine. And the cone makes for easy eating.

Black Betty: Betty Slider. Whether it’s wine or beer, a burger is versatile, and great event food.

Double ELLE Bakery: Double chocolate brownie. Pair it with whisky. Scotch and chocolate go great together, and there’s no shortage of chocolate on the menu at the festival.

Empanada Queen: These are tasty pockets of South American flavour, and easy to eat on the go.

Il Forno Vagabondo — Wood Fired Pizza: Like with a burger, pizza goes great with wine and beer. But my choice would be beer. A malty pale ale.

St Ambroise, Canada

Kensington Wine Market opening Ardbeg Double Barrel for special tasting

- June 11th, 2013

Of the four Ardbeg Double Barrel collections released in Canada, just one is left.

This ultra premium collection — featuring two rare single cask 1974 bottles of Ardeg in a leather gun case with eight sterling silver cups — would be the feather in any collector’s cap. Especially with its $15,210.49 price tag.

But the last of the Double Barrel is being unloaded for a special event tasting hosted by Kensington Wine Market (Canada’s first Ardbeg embassy), in partnership with Moet Hennessy and Ardbeg Distillery.

Just a handful of tickets are left for the Ultimate Ardbeg Tasting Featuring Double Barrel, being held Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Southern Alberta Pioneers Hall.

The event features a tasting from the Double Barrel, plus the Ardbeg 17 Year, Ardbeg 1977, Ardbeg 10 Year, Ardbeg Corryvreckan, Ardbeg Uigeadail and the latest release Ardbeg Ardbog.

Given the rarity of the whisky, the event isn’t cheap. But lovers of the peaty heavyweight will surely enjoy a chance to try the best of the range.

Tickets are $300 +GST and are available through Kensington Wine Market.