Four distinct whiskies, paired with cheese and chocolate, all presented as the winning silent auction experience to benefit Massachusetts’ Silver Lining Mentoring. I provided the whiskies from my personal collection, after all I can’t drink it all and it is nice to share.
The tasting was set up for eight guests and four whiskies, but the host and a few early guests were offered a tasting of the fairly new Israeli Milk and Honey Distillery‘s Young Single Malt Whisky. It is not every day one has the opportunity to sample a whisky not yet distributed locally, but hosts who support quality youth mentoring deserve big time kudos and a generous pour.
The four whiskies were selected to highlight variation in taste, locale, access, and stories. The cheese pairings, purchased at the Cheese Shop of Salem, were based on the 2016 Whisky and Cheese Infographic. Dark chocolate, ranging between 52% and 85%, rounded out the experience.
Following my simple ranking scale, below, the tasting and scoring began.
1 = Don’t buy 2 = Buy, maybe 3 = Honey, buy me this bottle 4 = Buy me two, please
I slipped in an outlier for this single malt tasting as a surprise element and exposure to a whisky many might not be inclined to purchase.
Kavalan: The Symphony. Distilled in Taiwan, cask strength at 58.6% APV with no age statement, it is a special release. For my money, The Symphony a prime example of the quality whisky produced by this distillery. The Kavalan was paired with Isle of Mull cheddar, complimenting the whisky’s fruity and honey notes. The chocolate, which was the hit of the night, was Fin Carre Noir Dessert 52% from France. The Kavalan scored a solid “2” average.
Aberlour A’Bunadh Batch 53: Highland Region, Scotland. The thrill of A’Bunadh is the every changing notes as each new batch hits the shelves. This 59.7% APV whisky burst forth and exploded, amazing guests with the stark difference from the Kavalan. Strong, rich, sweet honey, burnt sugar and raisins noted the guests. Napoleon, a sheep cheese from the Pyrenees, France, paired well with the A’Bunadh, bringing out the sherry notes with its own richness. The Fin Carre and Hebert chocolate (MA produced) held their own. The A’Bunadh scored a tremendous “3+” average.
I shifted gears with the final two expressions. Islay peat and smoke does not appeal to everyone, but does offer a glimpse to the far end of the whisky notes spectrum.
In a salute to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Ardbeg‘s Galileo, Islay, Scotland, was the third dram of the night. Originally bottled (1999-2012) in honor of Ardbeg’s own launch of whisky in space, this special edition has long since left the shelves. It spent time in both marsala and bourbon barrels, resulting in smoke, pepper and a hint of fruit. Wilde Weide, a gouda from the Netherlands, is strong and complex and grabbed the attention of the guests. Turtle Alley Wicked Dark Chocolate 70-85% made in Salem, MA paired perfectly with the Galileo and the fourth and final whisky of the night. The peat overwhelmed some of the tasters resulting in a “2” score for most but a whopping “4” for one.
Another nearly impossible to find whisky, the Bruichladdich Port Charlotte PC6, Islay, Scotland was poured. After hearing about the 40ppm peat level, and leery after the peat in the Galileo, a few guests tentatively tried is sip, a few went all in. The impression was one of “I’m glad I had the chance to taste it, but…” Not for everyone, nor for most, this limited edition is one of the rare over-the-top peat giants. I love it for that reason. England’s Colston Bassett Stilton, while silky and smooth had the bite to work with both the Galileo and the PC6. The Wicked dark chocolate was right there, too. Needless to say, the PC6 was the least favorite – not a peat leaning crowd. Yet, the Stilton and the Wicked dark chocolate were gobbled up.
Congratulations to Aberlour A’Bunadh Batch 53 for wowing everyone! The guests were surprised to know it was also the least expensive of the foursome. Once again reminding all of us that price alone does not signify quality. In my humble opinion, personal preference of flavors has the biggest impact. Tasting and comparing elevates not only whisky knowledge but development of a whisky palate and personal preference.
However you prefer your whisky! Enjoy!
I raise a glass to all who actively support youth mentoring, either through financial donations or becoming a mentor to a young person.