Crime in a bottle


Not long ago, the wine world was rocked by crime. Not anything, we hasten to add, as silly as red wine with fish (especially since that actually works in many cases). Rather, the crimes we have in mind are fraud and theft.

A few months ago, Rudy Kurniawan, a collector with a reputation for an impeccably accurate palate, was convicted of fraud, selling fake collectible wines. He is facing decades in jail.

Earlier last month in France, police busted a well-organized ring of wine thieves that were targeting expensive Bordeaux wines. The ring apparently consisted of five professional thieves, and 15 “fences” for reselling the stolen wine.

Last October, a father and son, both working in the wine merchant business, were arrested for making and selling fake bottles of one of the world’s most expensive wines, Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
If nothing else, these episodes of fraud and black-market sales of high-end wines are a reminder that just price alone is no indication of quality, or authenticity. There are great values in much less expensive wines that not only taste good but are also less likely to be fakes.

Consider the Recanati Shiraz 2011 from their middle-tier Diamond label. This sells for less than $20 but has body, flavor and structure well above this price. Spicy and smoky, but not overwhelmingly so, it has red cherry, blackberry and blueberry flavors with good balance and finish, making it a fine choice to pair with grilled foods.

Spirits-wise, sticking with great values, we thought we’d revisit the whiskies of the Speyburn Distillery from Scotland’s famed Speyside region. More of a sub-region within the Scottish Highlands, Speyside, in Morayshire, is geographically fairly small. Yet most working distilleries in Scotland are located there (84 at last count), including worldwide bestsellers like The Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Glen Grant, and The Macallan.

Just outside of Rothes, in the heart of Moray, is the Speyburn Distillery. This is one of five distilleries in Moray – the others are Glen Grant, Glen Spey, the mothballed Caperdonich and the Glenrothes.

Speyburn is a lovely distillery, designed by the great Charles Doig (1855-1918), the then pre-eminent Scottish architect of Scotch whisky distilleries.

Here are two of its four whiskies for your consideration:

Speyburn 10 year old, Single Highland Malt, Scotch Whisky (43 percent abv; $25): This lovely, light, limpid gold-colored whisky, with very subtle amber highlights, offers floral, grassy, fruity, vanilla, caramel, citrus and slightly nutty aromatic notes, with a whiff of cereal grain and possibly even smoke. On the palate, this light-to-medium-bodied whisky is sweet and gentle, with pleasing, at times elegant, notes of citrus fruits, green apples, herbs, and nuts, ending in a most pleasing, lengthy and interesting malted barley dominant finish. Very good malt indeed.

Speyburn Braden Orach, Single Highland Malt, Scotch Whisky (40 percent abv; $20): Gaelic for “Golden Salmon”, which are common to the nearby River Spey, Bradan Orach is a pale, golden-colored whisky, matured exclusively in ex-bourbon casks, exhibiting malty and fruity aromatic notes – the first whiff of which was a tad sour and off-putting, but after nearly a minute in the glass opened up really nicely with additional notes of citrus fruit, honey, vanilla and cream. The cream and citrus continue to develop very pleasantly in the glass. Initially much weaker on the palate, but gentle and warming, opening with just a little passing time to reveal more of that creamy vanilla, and fruity, cereal-grain-centered core, with hints of spice and oak. Nicely balanced and, again, with a pleasing, lengthy finish.

Both of these Speyburn whiskies are good and well worth the wonderfully affordable price. L’Chaim!

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