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Getting In The Spirit

Getting In The Spirit

4th December 2023

Whisky and wine are two delectable drinks at opposite ends of the spectrum, yet both are enjoying a small batch resurgence. IYC has partnered with two specialist companies —  TopWhiskies and Wine Access – who offer an insider’s perspective on storage, tasting and what to enjoy when exploring aboard your superyacht.

In the world of artisan spirits, it’s all about full flavor and specialist distilleries. Ed Leigh, founder of TopWhiskies, stocks a range of limited editions, many of which are single cask releases. The rarest bottle in his inventory is a Macallan 1989 bottled by Samaroli which retails for £6,000. “It’s one of the most prestigious distilleries aged for over three decades and bottled by one of the most prestigious bottlers,” he says.

Located in the heartland of Northern California’s Napa Valley, Wine Access founded by AJ Resnick stocks a collection of wine curated by master sommeliers and international wine judges, as well as direct imports from prominent Champagne growers. “Terroir is everything when it comes to wine and those grown in very limited production in desirable areas with limited availability drive demand,” he says.

Regardless of preference, protocols should be observed when cruising into sipping season. 


There is no right way to consume whisky. Enjoyed the world over in craft cocktails, paired with a mixer or savored as a peaty dram, whisky is an adaptable spirit. However, there are structured tasting suggestions that can fine tune the taste and experience. Using a glass with a narrow top will help to concentrate the aromas, while holding the glass will bring it to room temperature.

“Allow the whisky to breathe for a few minutes before tasting, especially if it’s the first pour,” says Leigh. “Keep the whisky on your tongue for a few seconds or some say a second for every year it’s spent aging in a cask.”

The first step in appearance. Look at the color and viscosity. Lighter colors may indicate a more youthful whisky in an ex-bourbon cask. Darker colors may point to an older whisky or one that’s been aged in a cask style, such as sherry. Next is the nose.

Smelling a whisky helps to detect aromas – just a soft inhalation, not a deep snort. Give the glass a swirl to open the flavors and look for ‘legs’ – the number of droplets that form inside the glass. How quickly they run will indicate the alcohol content; the thicker the legs, the more potent the whisky.

Hold the first sip in the mouth and move it around the palate to determine the texture or viscosity – is it sticky or thick? The second sip is to determine flavors. Common ones to look for include cereal, fruity, floral, peaty, caramel, woody and winey. Then it’s all about the ‘finish’ or length of time that flavor profiles are detectable. Fleeting flavors are a short finish, lingering ones are long and can evolve as they fade.

Adding water, especially to cask strength whisky, will help mitigate a burning sensation. Some prefer to add ice, though it’s best avoided when sampling, says Leigh: “It will cause the flavor molecules to contract and make it harder to discover its full profile.”


From Chateau d’Yquem to Louis Latour Corton Charlesmagne, the volume of attention-grabbing wine is growing by the day. But vintage varietals are almost being outdone by the creative wine cellars commissioned to store them. In the dizzy world of superyacht design, the line between functional storage and sculptural art is a steely shade of gray.  Examples of inventive solutions include three-meter floor-to-ceiling glass-fronted ‘wine walls’ and integrated display units that expand forwards and upwards.

Yet transparent glass cellars can create issues around UV exposure, not to mention noise, vibration and humidity. Climate control measures are important factors. Whether red, white or sparkling, the ideal storage temperature is between 53°F (12°C) and 59°F (15°C). What really matters is the temperature the wine is consumed at.

Top tips for oenophiles looking to create bespoke wine storage on the high seas include an air-conditioning expansion unit in case the main HVAC system shuts down. Neoprene-lined shelves that sit at a seven-degree slant to keep the corks in constant contact with liquid, and they can help to keep bottles “sea fastened” too, even during choppiest of ocean passages.


The superyacht life brings many opportunities to enjoy time spent on board just as whisky and wine provide the perfect pairings for all occasions.

WHISKY suggestions by Ed Leigh of Top Whiskies

‘Nip and nibbles’ on the aft deck: When relaxing post-watersports enjoying a drink before dinner, pair a nip of Mac-Talla Mara, an Islay whisky named after the sea, with a few nibbles, such as cheese, chocolate and nuts. It’s the perfect coupling.

Partying with friends: Whisky and a beer can be an enjoyable combination bringing a ‘short’ and ‘long’ drink together for the best of both worlds. Consider trying both complementary and contrasting styles and do it with a measure of Brig O’Perth 125th anniversary release. It’s a great example of a high-quality, old style blended malt that won’t break the bank.

Cigars in the snug: Whisky and cigars are a popular match, especially when cruising colder climes. A dram of Ferg and Harris – a top quality single cask – is sure to hit the spot.

WINE suggestions by Amanda McCrossin, host of the Wine Access podcast ‘Unfiltered’

Deck time and steak sandwiches: Made in partnership with NBA Star Josh Hart, a bottle of 2021 Bank Shot Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley needs nothing but a glass and some great weather, though pair it with a Wagyu ribeye sandwich and a side serving of caramelized onions and it will amplify the sweet vibrancy of the California fruit.

Caviar, Champagne and French fries: A glass of Grumier Solera – from a grower-producer that’s making their wine in the rarest of ways – and a plate of fries is the perfect pick-me-up pre-dinner snack when the salt air has taken the wind out of your sails.

Casino Royale: Fancy a little wager on board? With two of Bordeaux’s most heralded wines from legendary vintages, there is no loser, but the table must choose between a 1982 Margaux, a first growth in its prime drinking window, or a younger, perfectly seasoned Pontet-Canet. On theme, pair them with two rival classics - a Beef Wellington with black truffles and Dover Sole à la Meunière.

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