Updated: Sep 10, 2019
by Alexis Buxton-Collins
As winter sets in and the cold takes over, it’s easy to bemoan the shorter days. But those who choose to look at the glass half full will see that the colder months offer the perfect opportunity to fill with a warming winter tipple.
The days of cheap port and dusty old liqueur bottles are long gone, though – here are a few winter drinks worth setting aside an evening to discover.
Limeburners Darkest Winter
There’s no better way to combat the winter blues than sitting by a roaring fire, and if you could distil that feeling into a bottle, it would take the form of a smoky peated whisky – Limeburners Darkest Winter.
Australia’s best example is this appropriately named drop, which uses peat from a bog near the distillery in South Western WA for an extended smoking process. After being aged for 3-8 years in bourbon barrels resting in the gentle maritime climate, it’s bottled at cask strength.
Master Distiller Cameron Syme describes the result as “a lovely warming single malt whisky with rich peaty notes and a long, long, finish” and others agree – Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2018 named it Best Whisky in the Southern Hemisphere.
It’s perfect for a cold winter’s night, and on the longest night of all Limeburners organises Winter Solstice parties in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide. And if you’re enjoying Darkest Winter at home, Syme suggests pairing it with smoked salmon and soft cheese on lightly toasted rye bread.
Belgrove Ginger Hammer
Image: Belgrove Ginger Hammer / belgrovedistillery.com.au
Ginger Hammer has its roots in a ginger beer Peter Bignell made for a festival a few years ago. Using lots of ginger root alongside yeast, sugar and a little chilli, he crafted a batch he was very happy with and when there was a little leftover, he did what any distiller would do and put it in the still.
The double distilled results have a huge kick thanks to the ginger and chilli and he warns that “if you don’t like ginger, don’t drink it”. Alongside those dominant flavours, you’ll find notes of lime and cumquat, apples and warming winter spices and if any drink could ward off the flu, this is it.
Lobo Apple Brandy
Image: Lobo Apple Brandy / supplied
Made in the style of Norman Calvados, Lobo Apple Brandy captures the essence of the fruit specially picked by a fifth generation apple grower.
First, it’s turned into cloudy, preservative-free cider, which is then double distilled into an eau de vie before being aged for three years in re-toasted barrels. Each step concentrates the flavours further and the result is a rich, complex brandy with spicy oak notes and a lingering flavour.
It’s a far cry from the brandy in your grandma’s cupboard, and like calvados, it can be added to coffee or drunk from the warm cup once you’ve finished.
Pot & Still Spiced Fig Gin
Image: Pot & Still Spiced Fig Gin / potandstill.com.au
Closer to a liqueur than a gin, this sweet golden spirit of Pot & Still’s Spiced Fig Gin begins with estate grown figs that are gently poached and added to a gin base. There’s a hint of gin on the nose, but the palate is all spicy, jammy fig flavours.
At 29 per cent, it’s on the lower end of the alcohol spectrum and in many ways resembles a sticky fortified wine more than a spirit, making it the perfect after dinner drink, and of course one of the top winter drinks.
Husk Triple Oak
Image: Husk Triple Oak / supplied
With a newly opened cellar door, Australia’s premier rum distillers are about to get a whole lot more visibility. And that means you’ll need to get in quick to nab a bottle of Husk Triple Oak, a premium sipping rum, as there are less than 1,000 bottles available.
It begins with pure first press juice from sugar cane grown, hand cut and crushed on the property. These flavours are concentrated in a copper pot still and the spirit then spends five years resting in ex-port, ex-bourbon and new American Oak barrels (hence Triple Oak). The resulting flavour is a rich blend of dried fruit, toffee and oak flavours with a hint of port. It’s a drink that is meant to be savoured and is best enjoyed neat, but if you’re going to use it in a mixed drink, head distiller Quentin Brival recommends “a cocktail that will showcase the rum such as an old fashioned.”
2017 La Linea Mencia Red
Image: La Linea Mencia Red / lalinea.com.au
Michael Andrewartha calls 2017 La Linea Mencia Red “the winemaker’s grape,” adding that “out of all the varieties in the Adelaide Hills, you can guarantee this is the variety that the winemakers will pick up off our shelf”.
As the owner of Adelaide’s East End Cellars, he should know. Taut rather than overpowering, this stunning example of the Spanish varietal boasts freshness and complexity with an array of deep, brooding flavours, tannic grip and a well-balanced palate that has hints of white pepper, red cherries and red flowers.