Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Wine Connextion: Whiskey & Spirits

From Wine to Whiskey.

The Wine Connextion, a discount wine shop in North Andover, has recently expanded its offerings to include high end whiskey and other spirits. The Wine Connextion opened in 2009 and I raved about it then, praising its low prices. Since then, it has continually been one of my favorite discount wine stores, Now that they offer discounted spirits too, there is even more reason to journey to North Andover to check out this store.

As you wander down the aisles of their wines, you'll see some New Hampshire Price Buster signs, indicating the lower prices found at the Wine Connextion compared to the New Hampshire Wine Outlets. And as you see, the price difference can be significant, such as the $9 on the Stag's  Leap Cabernet Sauvignon.

In the rear left corner of the store, they have broken down the wall and added a small room where they display high end wines and spirits. They still have another, smaller room for some high end wines but this has expanded their space.

These shelves contain a variety of spirits, though heavy on the whiskey, and the prices are definitely better than you will find in most regular liquor stores. I saw plenty of my favorites, from Blanton's Bourbon to Balvenie Scotch. There is vodka and mezcal, vermouth to rum. As this section is still relatively new, I bet they will add even more products in the near future.

This new room also contains a number of large format wines, and Wine Connextion has the largest collection of large formats that I have seen at any other local wine shop. And you probably won't find better prices on these large formats either.

I checked out the new addition on the evening that they held a special East vs. West Whisky Tasting event. They sampled 12 whiskies, pitting 6 Scotches against 4 Japanese and 2 Taiwanese whiskies, and offered some meat, cheese and bread to help cleanse your palate and offset the alcohol. The tasting was well attended, plenty of people intrigued to taste all of these different whiskies. This may have been the store's first whiskey tasting but I'm sure it won't be their last.

The Asian whiskies included the Nikka Coffey Grain ($56.99), Nikka Miyagikiyo 12 Year Single Malt ($94.99), Nikka Taketsuru 12 Year Pure Malt ($58.99), Nikka Taketsuru 17 Year Pure Malt ($129.99), Kavalan Single Malt ($74.99), and the Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask ($74.99). Check out my prior review of the Nikka line as well as my prior review of the Kavalan Whiskey. The Nikka Taketsuru 12 Year Pure Malt remains one of my favorites, especially at its price point.

The only new whiskey to me was the Nikka Taketsuru 17 Year Pure Malt and it impressed. Silky smooth, complex and with a lengthy finish, the whiskey presented intriguing flavors with plenty of spicy notes, some red berry flavors and caramel notes. Highly recommended.

For the Scotch selection, they offered the GlenRothes Select Reserve ($47.99), GlenRothes Alba Reserve ($47.99), GlenDronach Single Cask ($84.99), GlenDronach 15 Year (($89.99), BenRiach 10 Year ($54.99), and the BenRiach 16 Year ($78.99).  Of these six, my two favorites were the GlenDronach Single Cask and BenRiach 10 Year.

The GlenDronach Single Cask, which is cask strength, is a powerful Scotch, with strong spicy notes, caramel and chocolate flavors, and a lingering, satisfying finish. It benefits from the addition of a little water due to its high alcohol content. This is something to slowly savor with some good friends. The BenRiach 10 Year is a peated whiskey, and I loved its smoky aroma. The peat is prominent but doesn't overwhelm, adding an interesting smoky aspect to its flavor, complementing its nutty notes. It is smooth and alluring, complex and bold.

Check out the Wine Connextion for both their wines and spirits, and find some of the best prices in the area. Attend one of their weekly tasting events, such as the Run for the Rosés on May 2 or Zins & Sliders on May 23. Maybe I will see you at one of their upcoming events.

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