To those who don’t know me, I’m a big fan of brandy and whisky. With a million of these delectable elixirs to choose from, it can sometimes feel a little overwhelming to make a decent, informed choice. There is always good old Google, but I find word of mouth is always better. You feel more reassured (or that may just be the old school streak in me) when someone physically tells you. I feel it carries more weight, as if it somehow means more… no? If you’re really stuck, I recommend you visit your local wine store. I’m lucky, in that Weavers Wine Merchants is a short distance away. I discovered this delightful store last year, when I ran in to take cover from the crazy hailstone weather. I’ve been a keen visitor ever since.
I love Weavers, which has that olde worlde charm reminiscent of Olivander’s a la Harry Potter. Floor to ceiling glass cabinets chock full of miniatures, dusty boxes in cosy rooms, a knowledgeable wine, brandy and whisky merchant (Pete I’m looking at you) – what’s not to love?
I have been sipping some very tasty tipples, all picked from Weavers. Here’s my pick of the best, I hope you enjoy. I picked up miniatures, and prices are average online RRP. What’s your go-to whisky or brandy? I’d love to know. Cheers!
Top Tipple: Frapin VS Grande Champagne Premier Grand Cru 70cl
£40.80; ABV 40%
This stunning amber brandy is mellow and smooth. There is a distinct fragrant aroma of toffee and ginger, which carries through a few seconds after swallowing. The warming notes of cinnamon and sandalwood come whispering through, giving it a clean, spicy finish. Distilled according to traditional methods, this Grande Champagne evokes the perfumes of flowering vines in the month of June and the flavour of fresh grapes during the autumn grape harvests. Its short stay in Limousin oak barrels gives it its beautiful colour, and it is also perfectly balanced on the palate, making it one of the most traditional Cognacs I have ever tasted.
£14.40; ABV 43%
This superbly hand-crafted whisky from Speyside’s smallest working distillery uses only the finest Scottish malted barley and the purest spring water from the nearby Romach Hills. Its sweet, fragrant finish laced with toffee and butterscotch is down to having been matured in hand selected sherry and bourbon casks. There is a definite hint of zingy green apple and spicy cardamom, whilst the warming spice notes makes this a perfect tipple on a cool autumn evening or on ice in high summer.
Chateau Du Breuil
£90; ABV 52.2%
Aged for 14 years, this is a gorgeously racy and genuine Calvados. It has a wonderfully complex flavour of apple pie, white blossom and honey on the swallow. After five seconds of sipping, you will taste subtle notes of hazelnut and a gentle hit of cinnamon, along with succulent pear. This is a high quality French apple brandy from prominent producer Chateau du Breuil. It is smooth to drink, and the unique bottle design makes this one drink to covet and display in your drinks cabinet. Not only is this beautiful drink vigorous and refreshing on the palate, but also a stunning and rare example of Calvados best sipped and savoured neat at the end of an evening.
Cognac Leyrat VSOP
£47; 70cl 40%
This French Cognac hails from the vineyards at Domaine de Chez Maillard. When you first sip it, there’s a pronounced hazelnut flavour, with continued hints of almond in the background. If you close your eyes to heighten senses, you’ll inhale the deep scent of toffee mixed with some woody herbs – think a mash-up of rosemary and thyme and you’re halfway there. After the herby hit, I tasted a smidgeon of ginger, followed by a hint of treacle. This is one rich, luxurious, multi-layered drink, and one of my favourite go-to cognacs.
Frapin VSOP Grande Champagne Cognac
£49; 70cl 40%
This is the second entry from the Frapin stable, made with eau de vie, which is a colourless slightly fruity flavoured brandy. The double distillation gives it an excellent clarity, which accentuates the smoothness of this drink. The standout bottle is just one thing that I love about this Frapin, whilst the honey, rose and vanilla undertones makes this one very moreish tipple indeed. It is extremely well balanced and elegant – but I prefer its more mature cousin, Frapin VS, due to the latter’s aromatic sandalwood scent. One to watch for sure.
£33; 70cl 43%
One of the stronger flavoured whiskies on this list, this one hits home as you dream of warm toast with a tang of yeasty malt on the swallow. A lovely little tipple, that is one of the nuttiest with a whisper of peat on the inhale. It’s a good daily drink that won’t break the bank. I also think it tastes better with a little mineral water, as the honeyed sweetness is dispersed on the palate. It works great as a mixer too, so it’s win-win on all fronts. The fruity maltiness, reminds me of sherry, which would also make the perfect Christmas drink. An all rounder, smooth drink, good for all seasons.
What do you think of these choices? I’d love to know!
*Images courtesy of: eng.winestyle.ru / benromach.com / whiskyexchange.com