Whisky Envy Appeased

I was listening to a news broadcast the other day in which millennials were being slammed for being self-absorbed, in need of immediate gratification, impatient, and so on – none of which sounded very good.  Then I realized that is me – though the age difference is substantial – when it comes to my wanting to have all the whisky I read about, hear about, dream about, and taste. Social media has created a monster in me!  I am following a number of whisky enthusiasts, experts, fans who write about their experiences in a manner that would make my 7th grade English teacher proud. Although, she was a Catholic nun and more than likely frowned upon imbibing any spirits, unless it involved the Holy Spirit and mass on Sunday. I digress. This same group of whisky folks seems to always have hard-to-find whisky on hand, or just delivered, or be in the throes of visiting a renowned distillery. Imagine! The next thing I know, low and behold the whisky monster in me begins to rear its envious head.  Poor me. I am alone with my collection of 160 + bottles. I have nothing. See, the broadcast was not really talking about millennials but me.

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Julio’s Liquors has a fantastic tasting room in Westborough, Massachusetts. The room oozes whisk(e)y!

Just when the veil of gloom and doom was about to surround me and pull into the well of despair, Julio’s Liquors Whisk(e)y Roadshow 2015 appeared in my inbox. I can get to the Roadshow! I don’t have to be so dramatic! I scoured the list of participating distilleries/distributers and found at least a dozen that I have been wanting to taste. Two of us jumped into the car Saturday afternoon and took off. Tippling time!

Brenne waiting for her moment\

Brenne was in the house.  A tease before Allison Patel’s appearance on September 30th with the eagerly anticipated Brenne 10.

I scanned the room and  narrowed the must try list down to six, I did have to drive an hour plus to get back home. The pours were small but enough to get a sense of each whisky. I managed to scribble simple, quick tasting notes.

My system goes from 1 – never buy, don’t drink, 2 – fair, 3 very good – buy it, 4 – OMG, must have at any cost (well almost any cost.)

Gordon & MacPhail (GMP) Benromach 15 YO

Although this is a Speyside whisky, revitalized by GMP, I am always inclined to call it a Lowland whisky due to its lighter presentation.  This 15 YO is no different, I think of a light medium keel, middle of the road and safe whisky.  I’m an Islay fan so my opinion always slants in that direction. I give this a 3- because it is a safe whisky to have on hand for those who are new to the spirit.

GMP Benromach Peat Smoke

After my lips regained their feelings, and the punch of peat subsided from blasting the inside of my mouth, I chased the taste with some water and ended up amazed that Benromach could deliver like this. The numbing of my lips tilted me towards awarding a 2+ score.

Glendronach 15 YO Tawny Port

Yes, I did say I am an Islay fan, but the rich, thick seek port eased itself into my heart. The full and fruity finish lingered ever so nicely.  I gave this a 3+ only because I was hoping to find a 4 during the afternoon.

Glendronach 18 YO

Although the 18 YO comes with a bigger price tag – almost twice as much as the Tawny Port, I was disappointed. I felt thinner somehow. I should have tried the Tawny Port first. I give it a 2+ with apologies.

The Maltman Linkwood 18 YO

Not my cup of tea. I got that soapy burn that seems to pop up now and again. Sadly 2-.

The Maltman Ben Nevis 17 YO

The sherry cask presents itself nicely, then fades. Decent with a 3- score.

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Unfortunately, lately Ardbeg only brings the 10 YO, Corryvreckan, and Uigeadail to tastings.  All excellent, and the Corryvreckan is a 4 for me, but I want to try something different from their portfolio. It’s not like they don’t have any other expressions. Geez!

To round out the day, I jumped the figurative ocean and decided to try a few American products. I rarely mix single malt and bourbons at tastings but we had  burgers and fries provided by the Roadshow that acted as buffers between the two styles of whiskies.

Heaven Hill Distillery has been making bourbon for a very long time and is well respected by bourbon drinkers.  Along with four other whiskies, they offered the Henry McKenna 10 Single Barrel Bottled in Bond. Bottled in Bond labelling has begun to hit the labels again. It dates back to the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897. It’s bottled at 100 proof, aged at least four years in a USA federally bonded warehouse and produced in a single distillery season at a single distillery. I could sip this bourbon and never have to make a cocktail with it to mask its flavor. Show me a 3.

Lastly, I wanted to try a local distillery, somebody just starting out and producing a whisky that is distinct.  I found the New England Distillery, founded in 2011 and producing rye, gin and rum in Portland, Maine.  Gin and rum is big in the New England region – lots of rum runners dating back to pre-Revolutionary days who seem to have inspired a new flock of distillers. Tim Fisher, the head distiller (no lofty title here), offered me a fine pour of his Gunpowder rye. Spicy, fresh, hints of chocolate.  I found my 4.  OK, rye is not single malt but damn it still tasted mighty fine.

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I do love my Swally Shirt. Whisky fans are always commenting on it.

Along the way I met Jeff Robertson, owner of Caledonia Fine Arts Co. Tours, looking dashing in his kilt.  Made me want to sign up for his tour right then and there.

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Between the two of us we bought seven bottles of whiskies. Not too shabby!

My millennial whisky monster had been appeased by a dram good afternoon.  Between the two of us, we walked away with Glendronach 15 YO Tawny Port, Benromach Peat Smoke, The Maltman Ben Nevis 17 YO, Gunposder Rye, Henry McKenna 10 YO Single Barrel BIB, and somehow a High West Bourbon and a very special SMWS 4.198 Pigs in Plaster.

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This description grabbed a hold of me and wouldn’t let go until I bought a bottle. Well done Pigs in Plaster!

Next week I tame the beast again at a Master Class by Joe Howell featuring Laphroaig expressions. I watched the Laphroaig Live this past week which helped ramp up the excitement level about the Master Class. Stay tuned for tasting notes.

I raise a glass to all the folks on Twitter and Instagram whose whisky passion spurs me on to learn more about whisky and to write about my passion.

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Hindsight or Then and Now

The world of whisky is fluid – both literally and figuratively.  What is popular now may be knocked down from the top tier by the up-and-coming. Personal favorites go from reasonably priced to well out of the reach of most whisky drinkers. Products are made available to certain markets only, UK vs US, etc.  (This is a rant to be blogged soon titled Whisky Envy!) Mega-corporations swoop in and capture distilleries, re-market, scare the consumers, and keep on swallowing-up and ballooning their portfolios. Whisky writers, tasters, update their “guides”, and often influence what we are inclined to buy next, or squirrel away, or avoid altogether.

Those coming of legal age to drink eventually mature and if wise turn their interest to sampling whisky – and not just those mixed with Cola.  In the time these newcomers mature and begin purchasing whisky to stock their bar, the tide of whisky superstars may have ebbed and flowed and fallen off the radar screen.  How many of us dig back five or ten years when doing our research on whisky that meets the flavor profiles that we enjoy most? How many of our favorites have slightly changed or been adjusted to meet current markets or have lost their age statement? Should we be looking backward, thinking forward? What to do?

A well known common term states: hindsight is 20-20. Wonder how it relates to whisky? This brings me to a Sunday afternoon of tweeting and scouring whisky magazines and “guides” that date back to 1994. I want to be fairly conversed about whisky and I need all the help I can get. So I scour. What does hindsight tell me?

PC5 and Octomore 1.1

1994 Bruichladdich, Islay

Michael Jackson, Complete Guide to single Malt Scotch, 3rd edition -“A good single malt for the newcomer to Islay.” The distillery was closed at the end of 1993. Jim McEwan era begins with re-opening 2001

2015 – Jim McEwan retires

Three major ranges: Bruichladdich – with many expressions, Port Charlotte – bring on the peat, Octomore – knock me over with the peat!

 Connemara Locke

1989 – Cooley, Ireland

David Broom, writing for Whisky Magazine, June 2008. 1989 –  John Teeling purchases Cooley, “to see whether his theory of taking on a monopoly (Irish Distillers Limited) was possible. The fact that Cooley is still here suggests he was right.”

Springbank Madeira

2009 – Here today…Springbank 11 YO Madeira Wood 1997

2015 – Gone! (I have one – a personal favorite.)

Cote de nuit

Show me the money! 2010 – The Whisky Shop Whiskeria Magazine. The Whisky Shop for sale: Glenmorangie 1975 Cote de Nuit: £650 ($1017) (I had one, a left over from the Club of Five. Didn’t care for it. Gone now.)

2015 The Whisky Exchange: £1000 ($1565)

Amber

Lastly – 2008 – The Macallan Amber

There is the just completed tweeted conversation about flavored whisky that took a turn to my tweeting about The Macallan Amber – a liqueur of single malt with maple and pecan, at 25% – and as I did not know, only available for the US market. After a short stint on the market it was pulled off the shelves.  I saw the price jump immediately and the bottle vanish from local stores.  Sleuth that I am, I hunted, got way-lucky and found six bottles at the regular price of $26 at an out of the way “mom and pop” store.  Is it worth more than the given price now six years later? Not really – but two bottles still grace my back closet.  The others given to friends. Sometimes it is the thrill of the hunt!

Special thanks to Johanne McInnis @Whiskylassie for tweeting me a blog about Amber at beforeiforget.co.uk (Last Orders – Before I Forget.)

These examples of hindsight are but a miniscule portion of the ever changing world of whisky. We are sadly seeing the disappearance of some fantastic whiskies and retirement or passing of whisky heros. But who’s not to say some of the new whiskies will become the rare and special expressions of the near future.  Should we change our drinking habits – collect more, read more, drink a wider variety of whiskies? For me, awareness is the key. I know what I like and always have an extra on hand if I believe/know a bottle is a special release. I attend a few whisky events a year, and keep in touch with others who have a like interest and who keep growing their knowledge and subsequently mine. At the end of the day, my whisky is for enjoying, exploring and most importantly sharing.

That’s all I got today – and a glass of Bruichladdich Laddie Ten. I raise a glass in honor of the past, savoring the present with eyes toward the future of great whiskies to come.