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The Dozen - Hard Stuff, Cozy Comforts

Forget for the moment – but not for too long – table wines for turkey and ham, cool cocktails that reflect holiday lights and bubbles that ascend as the magical New Year’s ball descends. We’ll get back to those shortly.

Let’s concentrate for the moment on the night before Thanksgiving when all the kitchen pre-work is done for tomorrow’s feast, or, later, after the tree has been decorated or, later still, once all the stuff that doesn’t fit or doesn’t work has been returned to vendor.

This is the time to sit down in a favorite chair, maybe close your eyes, and sip the nectar of the gods that they concocted once they had quit doing all those stupid things that ancient gods did. That means just you and a glass lightly filled with a spirit (so rightly named) or a fortified wine.

Don’t fight it. It’s that time now.

Ron Abuelo XV Ânos “Finish Collection” Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish ($75). The pride of Panama, this and the two other rums in the collection are all similar in style but distinctive in flavor, thus making them great to purchase altogether in whatever bottle size available. At 40% ABV (as are the others), it is very seductive with a silky strand of liquid light brown sugar running through the dried fruits giving it an almost-mellow presentation.

Ron Abuelo 15 Ânos “Finish Collection” Tawny Port Cask Finish ($75). A lighter, very elegant spirit with slightly sweet figgy and other dried-fruit flavors, but with a nice bitters edges to rein in that sweetness.

Ron Abuelo 15 Ânos “Finish Collection” Cognac Cask Finish ($75). As a Cognac lover, this is my favorite of the three – but not by much. The rum dominates the first part of the taste while the Cognac gives the dried fruitiness of the finish. Is that a hint of rancio I get or am I trying to will it? It’s so smooth, yet firm in body, that you almost forget its potency as it goes to your head.

Callisto California Dry Botanical Rum ($35). A rum that tastes like a gin? Well, yeah. Of course, the choice of botanicals give it a gin-iness at the top of the taste while it’s rummy in the finish. A little minty, with an after-shave aroma, I found it perfectly delightful, very playful on the palate. (40% ABV).

Buchanan’s Deluxe Blended 12-Year-Old Scotch ($33). This has all the best elements of Scotch – a complex, engaging, but not overpowering peatiness blended with savory heath notes – but none of them in excess. (40% ABV)

Rickhouse Cask Strength Straight Bourbon ($35). Whiskies have a dividing line among their aficionados – Scotch lovers will argue over how much peat is too repetitive, and Bourbon lovers will disagree on the amount of dark, caramelized matter that matters. This one – a hefty 51.5% ABV at cask strength – is too dark in its taffiness for my tastes, but my neighbor (fortunately) loved it!

Laws “San Luis Valley” Straight Rye Whiskey ($60). From Colorado at 47.5% ABV, as are the others below, there is a touch of smoke in the nose and notes of freshly milled grain and light blond flavors. Very smooth – the whiskey equivalent of a light custard with a kick.

Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey ($62). Some greenish flavors to go along with the graininess, this is a relatively light-flavored spirit, ideal for a Manhattan up, please.

Laws “Centennial” Straight Wheat Whiskey ($73). Straightforward, not overly complex with lots of vanillin and a long, briny finish.

Laws “Henry Road” 4-Year Straight Malt Whiskey ($73). Very light in body but with a very pronounced wet, cracked-grain taste, almost – and delightfully – like a grappa with a sharp and pungent finish. Just delightful for my palate.

Dow’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port ($39). Very vivid nose and flavors – those greenish yet leathery flavors of a younger aged tawny to go along with lots of lovely dried fruits resting on a bed of vibrant acidity.

Dow’s 20 Year Old Tawny Port ($67). Of yes – as always, warm and generous and satisfying. Yet for all those plump dried fruits and sorghum flavors on the palate, it is still relatively lean and fresh – almost suitable for a table wine. But that would be a waste. Sip it. Slowly.

Prices listed are generally SRP or from

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