BY GERALD GLAVOTA

During these times, the appreciation of really good scotch, the kind not usually available at a local bar or restaurant, becomes even more of a luxury. These are stressful times for us all. Who knows how the world is going to look post-pandemic?

Related: Hunter Laing Toronto tasting event shows off the luxury of optimally aged scotch whisky

My recommendations here are for the real scotch connoisseur, self-isolating, perhaps enjoying some family time, relaxing around the home, reflecting on where you are and where you’re going. Pour a scotch, and sit back with a good cigar, maybe, sitting in your favourite chair, staring outside as winter finally turns to spring.

These five recommendations are from distilleries all over Scotland and are all available at the LCBO. Drink well and enjoy!

The Balvenie 26 YO Dark Barley Single Malt (LCBO $1,698.55)
The Balvenie launched the Stories Range in 2019, truly inspiring single malts. For this recommended release the story revolves around the arrival at the distillery of a batch of dark roasted malted barley. Look for the malty notes, with vanilla, toffee, honey and a bit of spiciness on the nose, and toffee, vanilla, citrus, and some smokiness on the palate.

Tomatin 36 YO (LCBO $1,499.95)
Tomatin has seen its fair share of ups and a few downs and has moved on from being a producer for blends to single malts. The 36-year-old is matured in a combination of Bourbon barrels and Oloroso Sherry Butts. The latest is batch 5, but when I tasted batch 4 back in November it had tropical fruit notes on the nose, notes of dried fruit, tobacco, and leather on the palate.

Laphroaig 25 YO Cask Strength (LCBO $639.70)
Fans of peated whisky are no stranger to Laphroaig. At an age of 25 years, this whisky is described as marriage of sherried, oaky flavours from second fill European Oak Oloroso sherry casks, with sweet vanilla notes from American white oak bourbon barrels, bottled at casks strength. On the nose you’ll note sweet vanilla, smoke, bacon, and dried fruit. On the palate you get some pepper, spice, iodine, saline and smokiness.

Bunnahabhain 1997 Palo Cortado Cask Islay (LCBO $624.70)
Not all whiskies from Islay are peated. I found an interesting quote attributed to master blender Ian MacMillan: “Bunnahabhain was peaty until the early 1960s and only changed because they didn’t need smoky [whisky] for their blends …” After spending 19 years slowly mellowing by the sea in traditional oak whisky casks, this delectable Bunnahabhain was then finished for almost two more years in rare Palo Cortado sherry casks. The nose is fresh berries and cream, pecan and walnuts, rich oak with vanilla, hints of dried fruit with sweet dried fruit, rich oak, roasted nuts, subtle hints of cocoa on the palate.

Auchentoshan 1988 (LCBO $749.35)
If you’re not familiar with Auchentoshan, it is a lowland whisky that is triple distilled. This release is described as being matured for 29 years in Spanish Oak Butts and seasoned in Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks. The nose is described as cooked nectarine, sweet and oily. There are hints of maraschino cherry liqueur, rich toffee and caramel, rose petals, cinnamon and a hint of scented wood and tannic rioja. Taste: grapes, rich dark chocolate with Seville oranges.

(Gerald is a whisky and spirits connoisseur who has been writing and educating readers on the topic for over five years. He’s travelled to whisky distilleries in Scotland, Ireland, Canada, and the U.S. In addition, Gerald has attended many whisky and spirits festivals across Canada and the U.S. You can also find him on social media, @g2whisky.)