Whiskey Obsession Festival in Sarasota celebrated its 5th anniversary this past week. It did not disappoint with more than 250 whiskies on hand for tasting. Turner C. Moore the founder and visionary for the festival has expanded the offerings each year. This year there were tasting lunches, dinners, panel discussions, a bartender academy and several VIP master classes. The number of American bourbon and rye distilleries at the Grand Tasting has been steadily growing – and trying desperately to call my name. Maybe next year I will switch to these rising stars. Truly there was something for everyone.
I also appreciate the effort to remind tasters to bring a designated driver companion, use cab or limo services or stay at local hotels. To keep everyone hydrated and tummies satiated, plenty of fabulous food flowed all evening long from the host site – Michael’s on East. Class production all around!
Past experience guided my planning…where to begin so as to come out the other side coherent. Before purchasing my ticket, I started with reviewing the general admission list and compared it to the VIP early admission list. Single Malt scotch is my preferred drink and the VIP list called my name. My goal was to taste only whiskies that I have never experienced. I highlighted ten single malts, to start the night off, then added a few from the general list.
I arranged for a ride to and from, gathered my list and five empty sample bottles. Not sure if I would be able to use the sample bottles, I kept them in my Whiskey Obsession bag.
At the end of the evening, I had tasted twelve whiskies – more than enough for my palate to handle. During each taste I took a few notes, had a brief conversation with the folks behind the bottle and managed to bottle five samples. Yet, since then I have circled around my notes and the samples. For the first time in a while I tasted mostly impressive whiskies with no particular standing above or way below the crowd. While several of the tastings did reinforce my penchant for peat, my usual 1 to 4 ranking seemed to be out of place. What a dilemma – drinking damn good whisky!
The weaker tastes, but by no means terrible:
- AnCnoc 24 YO, a Highland from Knockdhu: A bit “tinee” on the spice. Just not much there to pull me in.
- Singleton 18 YO, a Speyside from Dufftown: Very light, a hint of spice. Nothing there for me, a peat freak.
Most interesting tastes and better than expected:
- Kozuba Limited Edition Single Malt – Prologue, made in St. Petersburg, Florida. What is that on the nose, is it off? No, it is birch, not peat but birch smoke. The taste is birch and spice. Fascinating. I plan on visiting the distillery soon as it is in the general area; blog to follow.
- Bastille 1789 French Single Malt Whisky – I didn’t expect to like this edition. It’s different mind you than Scotch Whisky, but intriguing.
Whisper that these are special, no hitting you over the head:
- Glencadam 25 YO, Highland: Light dances with dark cherry spreading across the mouth. Distilled at a 30 degree angle. What?
- Glengoyne 25 YO, Highland: Sherry bomb. The poster claims “Worth the Wait”…slowly distilled 12-15 liters per minute as opposed to the average 5 liters per.
Quick kick, share with friends:
- Douglas Laing Rock Oyster, Blended Island Malt: All that it claims – sea and salt.
- Glenmorangie Bacalta, Highland, this year’s annual edition: Surprise, but not really, I tend to enjoy the yearly editions. I tasted after the Glencadam and the madeira notes jumped right out. Yum.
Stands out on its own, a hidden gem:
- John Milroy, Bunnahabhain 25 YO: Spicy, rich, hint of Islay peat. Damn good! (website is under re-construction)
I’m in my comfort zone; I need my peat!:
- Lagavulin Islay 12 YO, 200th Anniversary Edition: OK, I’ve tried this bottle, but by the mid point of the tasting I yearned for peat to sooth my soul. Geez.
- Douglas Laing Big Peat, Islay Blended Single Malt: The name says it all. My first impression on the nose and palate was Ardbeg 10 YO.
Now that I have only ever so slightly reviewed the twelve whiskies, it’s time for me to commit to my number one choice. My top three – Glengoyne 25, John Milroy Bunnahabhain 25, and simply because the Lagavulin Anniversary 12. From sherry bomb, to hints of peat, to the big boy. I purchased the Lagavulin to keep in Florida and will seek out the other two upon returning North. And if anyone wants to gift me a bottle…….
See, that’s what happens to me when surrounded by such interesting and diverse whisky… selecting a favorite ends up being three! Guess I’ll keep on drinking and searching for the next wow factor…all while re-training my palate and my expanding my repertoire of adjectives.
I raise a glass to Turner C. Moore and his festival – I am obsessed with it. Save the date people, April 11-14, 2018, Whiskey Obsession returns for its Sixth Annual Event.