Australia’s passion for food and wine, combined with our contemporary, cutting-edge interpretations of the world’s best cuisines, embraces every aspect of the dining ritual. One area that can too often be a little under the radar, however, is the postprandial digestif. When the night’s done, that after-dinner small snifter is a reward for your culinary efforts and social skills. It settles the mind and the spirit – and the stomach too. And, speaking of spirits, there’s a spirituous drink for every taste come evening’s end.
Whisky is basically distilled beer, but what a transformation. From the only distillery on the Isle of Skye, Talisker malt whisky is made with water from a peat spring, thus adding to the peaty, smoky complexity of this outstanding spirit. Iodine and a seawater-like tang combine with malted barley depth, making a rounded yet cleansing distillation. No wonder the Vikings used to land at Talisker all those years ago… It’s also incredibly good value for 10 year old whisky.
Grown and made in the Grande Champagne region north of Bordeaux, this very floral and lifted Cognac has the sort of easy confidence that comes from long ageing – indeed, Courvoisier is aged for at least two years more than many other Cognac brands. Its lighter front palate is corrected at palate’s end with a warm lick of alcohol. Pot-distilled twice, it’s made from otherwise ignoble grapes that – like the ugly duckling – become a beautiful swan via distillation and barrel ageing.
Only 130kms down the road from Cognac, Armagnac is made in column stills, and distilled only once. It’s higher in alcohol than Cognac, and is usually sold by vintage year. Armagnac is also more fruity – more typical of the grapes from which it originally came. And it is more toffeed and caramel than Cognac. It can have a long, long aftertaste, but being only once distilled it is a more charmingly rustic drink than Cognac. Armagnac is for cigars; Cognac for contemplation.
Finally, if a retro blast-from-the-past is what you need after dinner, what’s more ABBA than a Baileys Irish Cream? Sipped with coffee, or poured into coffee, this is a grownup lollie that suits mixed drinks and ice as much as it does a nightcap glass. With Baileys, one is never enough, but two is too many.