A Shot with a Beer Back: The Famous Grouse Gold Reserve & Tree Hop Head Double IPA

Each weekday this week, I’ll be posting a pair of mini-reviews covering selections from the latest additions to the LCBO’s Whisky Shop premium whisky program, and the products in the LCBO’s Spring 2011 Specialty Beer promotion. Today’s picks are a blended whisky that surprises, and a hotly anticipated beer that lives up to the hype.

The Famous Grouse Gold Reserve (LCBO 220764 – $39.95/750 mL)

At first glance, including a less-than-$40 blended whisky in a line-up that features primarily higher-end single malts seems like an odd move on the part of the LCBO. But just as the standard Famous Grouse is one of the best entry-level blended Scotches available, the Gold Reserve is a fantastic mid-level blend that rivals some single malts in complexity and quality. It offers a nice balance of flavours, with fruit (especially apricot) and spice off the top, peated grain and sherry wood in the middle, and smooth caramel notes in the finish. A really great whisky, and an amazing value.

Tree Brewing Hop Head Double IPA (LCBO 209346 – $5.35/650 mL)

As one of the first American-style Double IPAs to ever be widely available in Ontario, the anticipation among Ontario beer geeks for the arrival of this beer was such that it’s been selling out almost instantly as it hits the shelves, which means it might be hard to track down. But if you do manage to get a bottle, you won’t be disappointed – assuming you’re looking for some red-hot hop action, of course. Reddish copper with a thick and creamy off-white head, it throws off a delicious aroma of pine resin and candied citrus peel, with caramel malt notes playing second banana. In the flavour, the malt comes forward a bit more, giving some balance to the big hops that sing out with pine, spruce and grapefruit. The full body gets a little syrupy as it warms, but not to the point of being cloying. Fantastic stuff, and if you want to see how it stacks up against a great Double IPA from south of the border, grab some Southern Tier Gemini (LCBO 211425 – $9.00/650 mL bottle) which is also part of the Spring release.

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