Time to bring out some of your treasured stash, or stock up on ones to try.
For sure, these are not the only drinks you could have. But we went for those that had Christmassy flavours or were a good bet with Christmas birds, log cakes and other treats. Best of all, we imagine these tipples to be great company on their own, best slowly savoured, whether you’re roasting chestnuts by the open fire or tucked away in a sky-high apartment. Here are some top drops to enjoy come celebration hour.
Good Taste by Design
Four Pillars Australian Christmas Gin ($135) was born three years ago when Cameron MacKenzie distilled Christmas pudding with a base of juniper, cinnamon, star anise, coriander and angelica, and further blended it with gin aged in century-old former William Grants whisky barrels, Classic Rutherglen Muscat, and a touch of Muscat maturing in barrels previously ageing Pedro Ximénez. The result, say the makers, “smells like gin but tastes like Christmas” with aromatics of juniper and cinnamon that is sweet and rich on the palate.
While the gin remains the same, the label changes. This season, the contrast between the geometric, pastel-hued bottle label and the liquid gold it holds caught our eye immediately. The artwork titled Basking in the Sun is done by artist Stephen Baker, whose less-is-more style stirs the heart. It perfectly captures the sunny vibes of an Australian summer, but for all joyous Christmas intents and purposes, it promises good cheer at any year-end party. Best enjoyed neat or poured over Christmas pudding.
Available at EC Proof and elsewhere.
Revival of a Revival
Rachel Barrie, master blender for The GlenDronach, BenRiach and Glengassaugh distilleries in Scotland was in town recently for the Southeast Asian launch of this year’s Glendronach Revival 15-year-old ($299). Only 60 bottles of this drink are available in Singapore. She shared that the Glendronach distillery uses saxophone-shaped stills to make whiskies which are then matured in Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry casks. The old-school Highland whiskies produced are rich and complex, with taste profiles that go the full range from brambly dark fruit to hints of tobacco and leather.
The Glendronach Revival 15-year-old in particular was discontinued in 2015. Even before its official comeback a few months ago, it received a double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2018. Still at 46 per cent alcohol and non-chill filtered, this version matured in Oleroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks has a “clean depth of dark chocolate and the clarity of mint”. Barrie explains that the dark chocolate, mint notes, sweetness and clarity of the 15-year-old was already there. She only worked to amplify its qualities and give it more finesse. As a result, it is “beautifully rich on nose, with notes of dark Manuka honey, maraschino cherry, angelica root and traces of leather in the background, with a taste profile that has a delicious fruitiness and elegance and a clarity of finish with depth, body and sweetness”.
Exclusively available at The Grande Whisky Collection, #05-01, 2 Orchard Turn ION Orchard. Tel: 8809 0038
They are not the only retailer of Barão de Vilar Colheita port, but gastro wine bar Ma Cuisine has the full range at their disposal. If co-owner and sommelier Anthony Charmetant had to pick a great port to end the year with, it would be the rare and top-of-the-range Barão de Vilar White Colheita Port 1940 ($2000), exclusively available at Ma Cuisine, which is a blend of Viosinho, Gouveio and Malvasia fina grapes from the Douro. Though it is a white port, it is very dark in colour. Says Anthony, “it is a wine that has great complexity, intensity and concentration, and has a perfect balance between acidity and sweetness. It is a powerful white port with an intense finish.”
But if the price tag is a little too lavish to contemplate, consider the Barão de Vilar Colheita Port 1977 ($660), which is among the top four vintages—1947, 1963 1970 and 1977—of this port. A blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cāo grapes, “this port is smooth and round, with aromas and flavours of caramel, vanilla, mocha, and a touch of torrefaction (notes of roasted beans),” says Anthony. “It is rich but delicate and subtle with great complexity and finesse. It would go well with cheese, chocolate, and definitely fruitcake.”
Available at Ma Cuisine, 38 Craig Road. Tel: 6224 1838
To Have and to Hold
Most of the wines that Penfolds makes, not least their legendary Grange, has the long-view in mind. They bid you to cellar it for several more years while the fullness of the wine’s intensity and complexity ripens. The 2014 Grange, a jewel in the crown of The Penfolds Collection 2018 is no exception, but we can attest that even if you can’t resist and decide to drink it now, the elegant and complex wine’s intense savoury notes unfurl and deepen with each sip and leaves a long lingering finish. Definitely one that will please the palate or be a party gift that leaves the host beaming.
Available via RedMart and elsewhere.
There are your Moët & Chandons and your Veuve Clicquots, but given the rise of English sparkling wine in recent years, consider trying a bottle of Nyetimber, Demi-Sec NV ($98) this year. One of the most promiment English sparkling wine producers from Sussex, England, Nyetimber has won a number of awards, namely, head winemaker Cherie Spriggs’ Sparkling Winemaker of the Year award by the International Wine Challenge 2018, the first awarded to a winemaker outside Champagne. The medium-sweet Demi-Sec NV is made with 100 per cent Chardonnay grapes, and has aromas of lemon, acacia honey and tangerine. On the palate, notes of lemon curd are balanced by crisp acidity and a clean pure structure. Zofia Bakowska from the wine’s local partner KOT Selections recommends pairing it with honey roast gammon or turkey; and if at dessert, a meringue or light fruit-based desserts.
Available at Analogue Wine Merchant and habitat by honestbee.
In 2004, Norwegian entrepreneur Alexander Vik chose Chile and the mountainous region of Millahue, meaning ‘place of gold’ in the Mapuche language, to start Vik winery. In keeping with its sustainable, high-technology, ultra-modern winery building, Vik’s winemaking philosophy seeks to merge nature, science and art. Its vineyards are spread across 12 valleys with different types of soil. Grapes from each block of vineyard are individually cultivated, harvested, aged in new French oak barrels and later used to create wines such as La Piu Belle 2011 ($85). Awarded 91 points by Robert Parker, this is a blend of 51 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 34 per cent Carménère, 8 per cent Cabernet Franc, 6 per cent Merlot, and 1 per cent Syrah grapes. The ruby-red wine, adorned by a striking bottle artwork by Chilean artist Gonzalo Cienfuegos, is reminiscent of berries, wildflowers and spices and oak on the nose, and on the palate, fresh and fruity with a burst of cranberries and a long finish. Christmas meats such as roast beef or lamb are just some accompaniments that could go with this wine.
Exclusively available at 1855 The Bottle Shop.
If sake, the Japanese rice alcohol, is one of the drinks on your list to get better acquainted with, adding them to your Christmas party inventory might not be a bad idea. One suggestion is Kitaya Junmai Daijingo Shizuku Shibori ($78). As a Junmai Daijingo, it is a top-end sake made with rice only, without alcohol further added. It also uses the premium sake rice Yamada Nishiki, polished down to 39 per cent. Sakes with a high polishing rate typically have highly fruity aromas, and this is no exception, with a flavour profile that is rich and fruity. With the added treatment of Shizuku Shibori, a process where sake mash is left hanging in bags, allowing the liquid to drip naturally, the sake that results is elegant with a clean finish.
Available from Whistler Wine and Spirits Pte Ltd.
Make it on Your Own
In our climes, it’s not exactly a must to have a warm drink at-the-ready during Christmas time, but it’s still nice to rustle up something warm and comforting that you can give everyone a ladle of. Have a go at it with this recipe by Chef Stephan Zoisl from Chef’s Table by Stephan Zoisl.