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FrontRunners: From The Robb Cellar

During the final year of the 1970s, much occurred that, through the clear lens of hindsight, we are apt to regard with a mix of embarrassment and confusion. Still reeling from the shock of Watergate and the first three-quarters of the Carter regime, we were subjected to the music of the Village People (who, that year, became the defendants in a libel suit brought by the YMCA), the hostage crisis in Tehran, the nuclear power accident at Three Mile Island, Pa., and an inspired invention spawned by the increasingly socialist mode of capitalism practiced in those days: $1 billion in corporate welfare for Chrysler Corp. One of the few experiments of the time that makes perfect sense to the present day, however, was the installation of two new pairs of copper stills in the Glenrothes Distillery, which was celebrating its centenary. Typically, the Speyside distiller’s production goes into the Cutty Sark blend, with only a few vintages (16 in its 128-year history) being selected for bottling on their own. Single-cask releases have been rarer still: Two single-cask whiskies were released in 1966, another two in 1967, and one in 1980. Glenrothes Single Cask 1979 No. 13458 is one of three casks from that vintage that malt master John Ramsay has chosen for this distinction. Deep amber red in color, this mesmerizingly complex whisky exudes a potpourri of dried fruit—cherry, orange peel, and apricot—vanilla ice cream, and allspice. The palate incorporates these essences as flavors, all of them coated in a rich caramel cloak of lingering sweetness. ($1,000) www.theglenrothes.com

One does not readily associate NASCAR with fine, small-production wine, yet Randy Lynch, owner of Bennett Lane Winery in Calistoga, Calif., has made it his business to do so. In addition to the winery, which he and his wife, Lisa, purchased in 2003, he owns a NASCAR West racing team that bears the winery’s logo. This fearlessness in the face of what some might consider a risky strategy for a boutique brand—particularly in the high-end wine industry, where mystique is often an asset on the balance sheet—has been forged over the course of a 20-year career in mass media. Lynch’s firm, RW Lynch, pioneered television group advertising sales for attorneys, and he has brought the same winning spirit to producing wine, as demonstrated by the Bennett Lane Primus Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2003. Racy, powerful, and built to go the distance, this high-octane Cabernet also exhibits subtlety and finesse, giving off aromas of ripe cherry, plum, and sweet black tobacco. Be prepared to take several laps around a flavor profile of blackberries and black cherries before crossing a finish line of bittersweet chocolate. ($85) www.bennettlane.com

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