The Whisky Extravaganza came to Boston last week and for once I was not out of state. And with the advent of Uber and boutique hotels, I planned to stay in the city for the night. Party on!
I rarely attend Master Classes at whisky festivals because they are usually scheduled at the same time as the grand tasting – can’t be cutting into my schmoozing and drinking time. Fortunately, the Master Classes were held before the general doors opened. I signed up for the class led by Holly Seidewand, aka HerWhiskyLove. The theme was “Get Handed the Scotch Menu” or as she stated in the promo “as women and young professionals in business, we need to take control of that whisky menu!” Interestingly enough the class was about 50-50 men and women.
At the class participants were given the whisky list for the grand tasting along with a description of Holly’s pours and a pocket notebook to help keep track of our tastings and notes. With the whisky list in hand, it was time to be strategic and scope out which were the whiskies to target my tasting. My goal was to try ten new-to-me whiskies, primarily scotch. This would be in addition to the six pours in the class. To ease the palate, four of the whiskies I simply poured into one ounce bottles for tasting at a later date. I prefer to actually taste the nuances of all the whiskies tasted and for me that takes will power to pace out the drinking and these days to stop completely at about ten pours. Granted the pours are small but it is still easy to get carried away with enthusiasm for the 200+ different whiskies available throughout the evening. Nourishment along the way slows down the pace and the whisky going straight to the veins! Yes, Whisky Extravaganza smartly provided a full buffet of hot and cold foods…even dark chocolate truffles that paired wonderfully with my last of the evening pour.
For those of you new to my blog, I am all about tasting several different whiskies – flights so to speak – to experience a better impact of flavors. It’s discovering the contrasts, the highlights, and nuances. Often, for me, surprises swirl out of the pours and unexpected favorites emerge. Plus it is just more fun.
The Master Class offered three new-to-me pours, along with three that already grace my scotch cabinet – Red Breast 12 YO, Kavalan Symphony, and Yamazaki 12 YO. The bottles were prime examples of the variation of whiskies from around the world. The India Paul John Brilliance was an easy drinking, not overly expressive dram. The nose, what there was of it, held a bit of earth, while the palate was sweet and fruity with a sprinkle of lemon, the finish, well, not so much there. Overall it was a surprise and a very pleasant one at that. Gordon and MacPhail Miltonduff 21 YO private cask brought on barley to the nose, a quick fruity tingle to the palate and a long sweet finish that expressed the American Oak cask. Huh, I preferred the Brilliance. The finale was a Four Roses Single Barrel – 8 YO OESF. I couldn’t get past the alcohol on the nose while the palate was a rush of toffee and rye. I do like rye!
On to the big event! First stop was the snack bar for a mix of appetizers to re-engage the palate and somewhat fill the tummy. Somewhat satiated I did a walk around the two rooms to feel the room and to see if there were any whiskies I missed on the pour list. Knowing that my “must try” list was apt to change as the night progressed I proceeded to the never-heard-of distillery, the New Zealand Whisky Company. Now defunct and turned into a parking lot, I was told that when it’s gone that’s it. So I decided to try two of the four offerings – The 21 YO Single Grain High Wheeler and the 25 YO South Island Single Malt. The High Wheeler was soft and slightly sweet, good actually. The Single Malt was richer, better. Neither I would say compares to what was to be tasted later in the evening, but it was a decent start.
The American whiskies – the ryes and bourbons – tried to sway me to their side of the ocean but there were too many single malts still calling my name. I really enjoy rye and an occasional bourbon and I appreciate all the effort going into USA small distilleries. I promise myself to have them be my main focus at one of these festivals soon. Really.
I wiggled my way to the crowded Highland Park table and snagged a pour of the Magnus for a punch of smoke and sea. Felt good. It was then time for some roast beef and potatoes and a re-look of my must try list.
Loch Lomond has been hitting the air waves for a while now and I haven’t seen any bottles on the shelves yet, making that table my next stop. Forbes McMullin, the VP of Sales-US, poured a Loch Lomond 18 YO and a Glen Scotia Double Cask in my take-away bottles, whilst I tasted the Glen Scotia Victoriana at 51.5% alc. This Campbeltown was big on the alcohol but not overpowering. Forbes claims this is what whisky tasted like during Queen Victoria’s era. Made me think of the Shackleton that was reproduced from the bottles found in Antarctica about ten years ago. The Shackleton, a blend, does not have the same punch, much more subtle.
At this point I was closing in on ten pours and had not yet found the new-to-me Japanese whisky, Matsui Kurayoshi 12 YO. I finally realized that Bikram Singh of Norfolk Wine and Spirits was offering the pour. He said it was so new to him that he hadn’t tried it. I found it completely different than anything else I had tried during the evening. At first I thought of Talisker but then it switched over to a fruitiness. This one I would like to try again with a fresh palate.
I capped off my tasting with some of the decadent dark chocolate flourless truffle of pure goodness with a Port Charlotte Scottish Barley, Heavily Peated. Wow but not overpowering. I do love me some peat.
Whisky Extravaganza Boston met all my expectations, from the Master Class with Holly Seidewand, to the full range of whiskies available, to the management of the room. Bravo. So what was my favorite of the evening….perhaps the Kurayoshi 12 YO, not because it was the best but perhaps because it was the most different and interesting.
I raise a glass to those who put the event together!