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Drinks: Warm up with a Scotch

Johnnie Walker strides on. The latest Scotch from the popular, venerable producer is Johnnie Walker Double Black.

This is a peatier, smokier relative of basic Johnnie Walker Black, one of the dependable whiskies in the distiller's colorful repertoire, which goes from populist red to regal blue.

Johnnie Walker is blended whisky, not a single malt, bringing together the qualities of many grain whiskies. About 40 contribute to Johnnie Walker.

Double Black benefits from charred, old oak casks and delivers a drink a bit more extreme than the smooth, single Black. It won't remind you of the distinctive, assertively peaty, Islay single malts, such as Laphroig and Lagavulin. But it's a lush introduction to the style, aromatic and very accessible.

A bottle of Johnnie Walker Double Black is about $40.

From the far north of Scotland, near John O'Groats, comes Old Pulteney, a single malt. The amber-hued Old Pulteney 12 Years has a diverting, slightly saline taste. Old Pulteney ages in bourbon and sherry casks, and you'll detect a suggestion of sherry in the flavor. The 12 Year is about $40.

And from Ireland, there's Clontarf 1014. Clontarf is named for an 11th century battle, when the Irish beat the invading Vikings. The undemanding, easily enjoyed golden-amber whiskey is newly packaged; the taste, pleasingly the same, with traces of spice and caramel. The 1,000th anniversary of the big fight merits a toast. A bottle is about $21.

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