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One bourbon, one scotch, one beard (and two beers)

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As Festival du Voyageur draws to a close and the Winnipeg Whisky Festival gets underway, I find myself at a crossroads — namely, that I'm attending the whisky fest but also have to make an appearance at the Festival's beard-growing contest in the same night.

That's right — it'll pretty much be the manliest night of my life. 

I'm the Free Press entrant in this year's media category, so for 10 long weeks I've been nurturing this poor excuse for a beard. It's my third time entering the competition — the first year there were six entrants in the media category, of which the top three got prizes. Let's just assume I came in fourth.

Last year I got going pretty well, but a weeklong trip to Portugal in warmer temperatures, added on to an eight-hour flight home, meant I walked in the door of my house feeling more than a little scuzzy. Combined with the fact I worked a night shift at the Free Press on the night of the beard-growing competition judging (poor planning on my part) meant that after eight-and-a-half weeks, I sheared the damn thing off.

Third time's a charm, right? Here's hoping. Regardless, it's an interesting exercise in patience  — both for me and my family. And while my intentions are to give this unruly beard a simple trim and maybe keep it around in a more restrained format, chances are good come Monday it will be completely gone. Yes, look at the picture at Week 9 — the beard is a bit of an exercise in frustration (although I look a bit miserable in the Week 1 pic as well).

Either way, I'm also collecting pledges in conjunction with the beard, with proceeds going to the Manitoba Heart and Stroke Foundation. I've surpassed my initial goal of $200, so tweaked my objective up to $300 and am currently sitting at $250. If you'd like to make a contribution you can do so by clicking here (opens in new window).

Anyway, here are a few reviews – one bourbon, one scotch, and two (local) beers, to riff on the iconic George Thorogood song...

Half Pints Saison de la Ceinture Flechée (Winnipeg - $5.67/650ml bottle, Liquor Marts)
Pale copper and hazy with a white head, there are all sorts of fresh wheaty, yeasty notes on the nose as well as a hint of citrus and some modest hops. As in previous incarnations, it's fresh and creamy, with soft effervescence and plenty of bright yeast and wheat notes, a hint of bite from the modest hops and a dry finish. This is a drink-now type of beer that continues to be one of my faves among Half Pints' seasonal offerings.

Fort Garry Big Bison Extra Special Bitter (Winnipeg - $6.55/650ml, Liquor Marts)
The newest entry in Fort Garry's mostly excellent Brewmaster Series, this ESB is made with English malt and hops, and brings 45 IBU on the bitterness scale. Medium copper and slightly hazy in colour, the Big Bison offers plenty of toasted malt, modest hops and hints of red apple skin and caramel on the nose. It's dry and has that bitterness, but with more body and complex caramel and toasted malt flavours than a hopped-up IPA — in other words, it's much more drinkable.

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon (Lawrenceberg, Ky. - $59.46, Liquor Marts)
This Kentucky bourbon whiskey is fairly fruity on the nose, with apricot, honey, vanilla, spice and pear notes coming through nicely. The spice shows well on the palate, as do the vanilla and dried fruit notes, and there's a nice touch of pepper to keep things lively in there as well. It's 45 per cent alcohol, but it doesn't come across as markedly hot or overpowering - rather, it's a smooth but intense bourbon that delivers that typical bourbon sweetness as well as spice.

Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or (Tain, Scotland- $85.82, Liquor Marts)
This single malt scotch is aged for 10 years in bourbon barrels, then matured for another two years in Sauternes casks. The nose here is quite expressive, showing aromas of spice, peach, toasted nut, honey, reedy and marmalade notes. It's a fairly light, crisp scotch, with bright spice, toasted nut red apple, peach, white pepper and ginger notes and no trace of peat. There's good length to the Nectar D'Or and just a shadow of sweetness as well. Excellent stuff.

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About Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

When he wasn't bashing on a drum kit in local punk rock bands, Ben spent the mid '90s hucking cases of wine around to pay for two English degrees. Now he's the Winnipeg Free Press wine columnist and blogger.

The extent of Ben's wine experience in the mid-90s was memories of accidentally leaving a bottle of White Zinfandel in the freezer overnight, and the ensuing mess he was left with. Between 1996 and 2005 Ben absorbed all he could about wine while working at wine shops to pay for school. Meanwhile, he was churning out papers for his BA and MA in English (from the Universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba, respectively).

Ben became the Winnipeg Free Press' weekly wine columnist in 2005, and two years later joined Wine Access magazine as a contributor, a member of their national tasting panel and a judge at the Canadian Wine Awards and International Value Wine Awards until the magazine closed up shop in 2013.

In 2013 Ben joined the Winnipeg Free Press as a copy/web editor.


Blogs that Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson follows:

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