Even Steven: Sherry Bomb vs Peat?

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On occasion the whisky tastings that I lead are purely for my own very not-so-scientific analysis. My palate swings wildly through the whisky spectrum, though I tend to experience a bit of ho-hum with a number of the Highland Region whiskies. Anyway, discovering where guest whisky tasters’ preference lands fascinates me. This past week I served thirteen guests as part of a fundraising event. The group was eclectic… male, female, some new to whisky, some experienced, and some who were willing to drink anything regardless. Chef Peter Davis, of Henrietta’s Table in Cambridge MA, donated delicious appetizers and served through out the evening, keeping us all smiling from ear to ear!

 

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Delectable nibbles leading up to pulled pork sliders! Yum!

The line up included four distinct whiskies, all of which I enjoy and keep in my scotch cabinet: Jack’s Choice, Single Cask Nation Westland 20 YO, The Enduring Spirit, and Lagavulin 16 YO.

The opener and closer for the evening was a rare Irish gem: Jack’s Choice. My intent was to learn if tasters felt the same about the Irish after tasting four other whiskies.

 

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Simple bottle: complex whiskey

Jack’s Choice is an 11 YO, 40% alcohol, finished in Sauterne casks. Aptly named “Jack’s Choice” by Jack Teeling, son of original Cooley owner, John Teeling. The expression was bottled by Vom Fass using Cooley stock that remained in the Teeling Family portfolio after Cooley was sold to Beam Suntory. Yes, a rare whiskey.

Description: Big burst of flavor, sophisticated and spicy. Light as with most Irish, wonderful on its own. the sauterne shows in the finish. For more on this whiskey, see an earlier blog that highlighted the Cooley products.

The formal part of the tasting began with the Westland 2 YO. This expression was bottled by Single Cask Nation (Jewish Whisky Co.). As many are aware Westland was recently purchased by Remy Cointreau. To me, the purchase is an obvious signal that Westland, an American Distillery from Seattle Washington, is a solid whisky with room to grow.

Description: At 60% alcohol, and aged in 1st fill Oloroso barrels this whisky is a sherry bomb that blasts at the palate.

Tasters defined the taste: from dirty caramel, rubber, smoke to honey, wood, dark heat

 

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Tasters ready for their drams

The second pour, The Enduring Spirit, comes with a knock out storyline. It is the re-creation blend of bottles found below the ice that belonged to Shackleton’s failed expedition to the South Pole over one hundred years ago.

Description: Grassy, spicy, with thoughts of a Lowland whisky

Tasters defined the taste: clove, spice cake, smooth, pecan butter, fruit

The third pour was a marked shift from the first two. Jura Superstition, found most everywhere, is a constant.

Description: Distilled on the Isle of Jura, just a stones throw from Islay. This is a no age statement 43% alcohol, aged in ex-bourbon barrels. The peat is evident immediately but doesn’t overpower. The spice controls the peat.

Tasters defined the taste: cinnamon, butterscotch, burnt sugar, cinnamon then peat

The fourth pour is my personal longtime favorite to introduce those new to whisky – the Islay classic Lagavulin 16 YO.

Description: 16 YO 43% alcohol, aged in oak casks. Rich and deep with lingering and intense peat that is both smooth and warm.

Tasters defined the taste: from paint, chemical to marshmallow dropped in ash, peat and orange blossom.

Now my not-so-scientific analysis. Tasters used a whisky flavor wheel to help them determine the profiles they experienced. The score sheets were handed out, with some more completed than others. Whisky drinking does bring out the les serious side of note taking!

The Jack’s Choice, the outlier, showed its purity both before and after the formal part of the tasting.  As a side note:  A point to keep in mind, is that I highlighted the fact that this is a hard to find independently bottled whiskey. “Specialness” and “uniqueness” and “high cost”, in my experience, influences tasters thoughts and oft their tasting preferences.

By the numbers: Nine tasters completed their score sheets. Four tasters either gave all the whiskies a four or a one – so these score sheets were not included in the results.

Scoring:  1 = never buy this  2 = Honey, buy this for me, maybe  3 = Yes, buy this for me  4 = Yes, honey buy me two

Westland = 18 points   Lagavulin = 21 points   Enduring Spirit = 22 points   Jura = 24 points

Interesting analysis beyond total points:

  • Westland and Lagavulin either thrilled or insulted tasters.  Both received four “1” scores
  • If a taster gave Westland a “4”, then they gave Lagavulin a “1”. Same for the Lagavulin vs the Westland. Either they loved or hated the peat or sherry. Therein lies the Even Steven!
  • The Enduring Spirit did not receive any “1” score, or any “4”. Steady!
  • My score, not included in the numbers and in relation to each other: Lagavulin = 4 (no surprise), Westland = 3, The Enduring Spirit = 3-, Jura = 2+.

As an added bonus – with the intent to raise more money for the Nahant Council on Aging, I offered tasters a dram of Octomore 1.1 – Yes, the inaugural bottle. Now opened! This beautiful expression wowed the group with its over the top 131 ppm. Jim McEwan during his tenure at Bruichladdich was so far ahead of the curve.

 

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Crack that Octomore 1.1

 

What a delightful evening with enthusiastic tasters and wide range of whiskies. Donations exceeded our expectations, and that my friends fills me with heartfelt thanks.

Tis the season for giving. I raise a glass to those who donate in support of non-profit causes. For me, The Nahant Council on Aging is irreplaceable on our tiny island. Gotta take care of our seniors!

 

 

 

Islay Only Islay

 

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Stars of the evening!

 

My go to whisky is always a dram from Islay…the peat, the smoke, the frothy sea brine. Something about that first true love stays with you, doesn’t it!

I have the good fortune to lead an annual whisky tasting sponsored by an up and coming financial firm at the Union Club in downtown Boston. Under the golden dome of the state house, the Union Club dates itself to the Civil War. Born out of Union patriotism, the club has survived these one hundred fifty years plus by embracing its rich history as well as by staying current with the times. An exquisitely appropriate venue for a whisky tasting.

 

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All smiles with Robert Edmunds and  Peter Nee of Wellesley Private Advisors

I wonder what whisky was served in the 1860s? Perhaps some research is due, but for now lets focus on the whisky tasting at hand! Yes, the theme this year was Islay only Islay, which included four bottles that would showcase the range of styles, taste, and the heavenly peat.

 

Twenty-five guests/clients, give or take a few, started the evening with a full compliment of hor d’oeurves and beverages. Once the festivities began, two bottles of each of the four Islay beauties were opened and ready to go. There would be generous pours and drams to come back to at the end of the evening, no bottle would be left for the heel slayers.

 

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Prelude noshing

 

First up was the Kilchoman 100% Islay 6th Edition, bottled this year.  At 50% alcohol, it is lightly peated and fruity at the same time.  Guests were enthused and comments ranged from “I found hints of Armagnac” to “sneaks up on you” and finishing with “made my insides tingle.” Hell, who doesn’t like tingling!

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More warm hor d’oeuvres were passed to cleanse the palates and the room was anxious to keep the tasting going.

Number two shifted gears a tad with the 200th year anniversary Lagavulin 8 YO, 48%. While for us Lagavulin 16 YO lovers, there is no parallel, many have not had the pleasure of the Lagavulin experience. One guest nailed it on the head when he said of the 8 YO, “a different bite.” It was found to be “enjoyable but not distinctive.”

 

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Is that wine in his hand? Who let him in? No matter, more whisky for the rest of us.

 

It was time to bring on the big boy of the night…The Octomore 7.4 bottled 61.2% by Bruichladdich at 167ppm, a peat level not for the weak at heart. By now the guests were relaxed and snippets of buzzing floated through the air. After the first taste,  the change in room was immediate. The big boy was making a statement. As is my style when in a large gathering, I walked the room and talked with the small clusters of guests. The  comments ranged from “too big for me” to “couldn’t feel the roof of my mouth but in a good way” to “the real deal.” Surprisingly or maybe not so surprisingly was one outlier comment – “drank like a bourbon and honey.” What? Hey, everyone has their own sense of taste. Love it.

 

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This must be the outlier!

 

To renew the palates, we finished the evening with the consistent Bowmore 18 YO, 43%.  The Bowmore takes the peat down quite a few notches and soothed the rush from the Octomore. A gentle but effective massage.  A classic Bowmore.

Hmmm. My ranking of these Islay: Top – the Octomore, the guests’ clear winner as well, followed by the Kilchoman and Bowmore – different but both very drinkable, lastly the Lagavulin – somewhat disappointing, not that I would refuse a dram.

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Another night at the Union Club complete…the first of three starkly different tastings to be held within a week. Suffer as I must, and on to tasting number two coming soon to a dramgoodwhiskylady blog.

I raise a glass to Islay…always in my heart and most often in my glass!

Psst….my book Whisky Tales: Tastings and Temptations is still for sale through amazon.com.  Christmas is coming and this is indeed a blatant sales pitch.

 

 

Laphroaig Threesome

 

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Why is the Cairdeas bottle clear?

 

What is one to do on a Friday night with three expressions of Laphroaig? Well, when you are staying at a condominium development with the acronym  BOTL, drinking comes to mind. Knowing that there is a small but regular group of residents creating their own Friday night happy hour in the club house, I packed up my bottles and headed over. Once I pulled out my stash, a group of four quickly agreed to participate in a Laphroaig tasting. The rules were simple: using the supplied whisky wheel as a guide, each participant would describe the nose, taste, and finish. Then when the tasting was completed, rank the order of whisky preference.

An interesting side note is that Laphroaig was new to three of the four tasters. The same three were not generally whisky drinkers but very willing to give it a go!

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First up was Laphroaig Cairdeas Port Wood 2013 Edition at 51.3%. “The expression has enjoyed a double maturation in bourbon and port wood casks to create an exceptional balance of our signature peat flavor with tangy citrus fruits and a floral finish.” (On the bottle.) The golden color a perfect tone for whisky.

Immediately there were “Ohs” and “Wows” amongst the tasters. A few who were watching asked to smell it.

  • Nose: Chemical; Earthy/dirt; Buttery/earthy aroma; Smoky
  • Taste: Smoke and Peat; Medicine at first; Buttery; Jasmine, burnt sugar
  • Finish: After the burn, sweet; Strong to sweet; Hickory/woodsy; Strong/burnt sugar

Next up was the Laphroaig Triple Wood at 48%. “Triple matured for peat, oak and subtle sweetness.”  (On the bottle.)    The color is deeper, richer.

  • Nose: Rubbing alcohol; Light; Woodsy; Sweeter than Cairdeas
  • Taste: Woodsy/earthy; Full bodied; sweet/fruity; spicy pepper over fruit
  • Finish: Clean, antiseptic, good aftertaste; Roasted; Fruity; woody

Last up was the Laphroaig 18 YO at 48%. The bottle states “As the smoke fades, the flavours of nutty oak,, toffee, and wild heather merge in perfect harmony.” The group noticed the lightness in color compared to the previous expressions.

  • Nose: Earthy aroma; Mild; Sweet; Pure smoke
  • Taste: Spicy cloves; Fruity; Fruity; Citrus, Medicinal
  • Finish: Smooth and mild; Subtle; Smooth and buttery; Gentle smoke

The descriptions stated on bottles fascinate me – distilleries weave poetic and on and on.  Whereas, my little group kept it short, succinct. Somewhere in between hides the descriptive balance. Perhaps.

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My little tasting group had no problem deciding their favorites:

  • Two voted the 18 YO as tops
  • Two voted the Triple Wood as tops
  • All four liked the Cairdeas the least.

Personal tastes and preferences run the full range of whisky expressions. Thank you whisky distillers! There is indeed something for each of us.

The good news is that I still have some of each of the Laphroaig bottles so I can continue to conduct my own tasting and I don’t have to wait until Friday night!

I raise a glass to Laphroaig for continuing to offer smoke and peat and damn good whisky!

 

 

10-4-10 Interview with Carey Jones, Author of Brooklyn Bartender

Brooklyn Bartender: A Modern Guide to Cocktails and Spirits author Carey Jones is the focus of this installment of my 10-4-10 series. Ten people involved an some aspect of the spirits industry responding to ten questions.

Brooklyn is experiencing a renaissance that is magical and Carey expertly captures the essence of this now widely popular borough of New York City. Here we go…

 

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Photo by Lucy Shaeffer

 

1.Congratulations on your book. It’s so much more than the usual list of cocktails. I’m dealing with Brooklyn envy at the moment! Tell us a little about your book, perhaps what you consider the highlights.

Thanks so much! The idea with this book was to capture today’s vibrant Brooklyn bar scene — not just in terms of the drinks themselves, but the amazing men and women behind them, their beautiful establishments, tricks of the trade and bartender lore. The book contains 300 recipes from bars around the borough, all tested and arranged by spirit. The idea is that everyone, from a novice to a professional mixologist, can find drinks at their level, and recipes they’ll want to make again and again.

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2.Have you spent time behind the bar either professionally or while working on the book? If yes, tell us about it.

I’ve worked service jobs but not behind the bar. That said, my husband is an accomplished bartender, who has run cocktail programs for many New York bars of a similar caliber to the establishments in this book. (None in Brooklyn, though!) Having first watched how he works, then collaborated with him professionally — we do a weekly cocktail column for the Food & Wine website, and a monthly cocktail video for the Saveur website –has offered me a real insight into the craft. I’ve learned a lot of the mindset that goes into creating cocktails, understood the industry from a pro’s standpoint — and I’ve now got my own stirring and shaking technique down!

3.Single malt scotch is my go-to spirit, do you have a go-to spirit or cocktail?

I will never say no to a properly made Negroni. In fact, I might go make one right now…

4.What cocktail and/or spirit trends to you see building currently?

It’s amazing how quickly trends pop up — if you’d told me a few years ago I’d be writing about cocktails made with activated charcoal or blue Curaçao, I’d have thought you were insane. What I find more interesting, and more enduring, is the very slow process by which drinkers at large become more comfortable with a spirit. A decade ago, very few people thought of tequila as anything other than a shot or a margarita; now, even casual cocktail drinkers know that there’s a whole world of high-end tequila. I see a similar process happening with rum, and though this isn’t a spirit, sherry.

5.Do you have a favorite cocktail bar outside of Brooklyn? Outside of the USA?

Oh boy. Ward III in Tribeca is my enduring favorite; Bar Goto in the Lower East Side, my current obsession. The most surprising cocktails I’ve had recently were in a tiny bar called Bar Trench in Tokyo. The drinks are unbelievably intricate and when you read them, or even see them, you might think they are too complicated — that drink comes inside a birdcage?  It as how many ingredients? — but every drink is focused and balanced and just so, so on point. Surprising flavors that work beautifully.

6.Is there another cocktail book in the pipeline?

Working on the proposal now — I’ll be thrilled to share more info when I can!

7.I recently created an infographic on the pairing of single malt and cheese. Have you discovered any interesting pairings?

Interesting! I think pairing food with spirits can be incredibly difficult — wine and beer are inherently more food-friendly. But I’m always game to try. Green Spot whiskey with an aged Irish cheddar is my idea of a perfect dessert, so I can see how Scotch would work as well!

Oh, wait — half an ounce of a single malt like Bowmore 12 poured over an oyster, and done as a shot, is brilliant — the salinity of the Scotch and the oyster all in one go.

8.Are there any public engagements coming up for you during the next few months?

Not planned at the moment, I’m taking time to focus on my next book proposal.

9.Following up on your comments about the Food and Wine website, how did your career as a food and drink writer get launched and where do you want to take it?

During my college years I knew I wanted to be a writer, and interned for several media companies, then began writing freelance while still in school. After graduation I pursued writing full-time. When you’re just starting out, every article you write is a result of a pitch you sent an editor (even if it’s one assigned article for every 50 pitches.) So it focuses your attention pretty quickly — nearly all of my pitches were about food, drink, or travel, which told me quite a bit! I was lucky enough to land a full-time job at the food publication Serious Eats, first as the New York editor, then the managing editor, a positon I held for a number of years. By the time I left, I was looking forward to turning my focus from running a food site to writing about topics across a broader range — food, spirits, cocktails, and travel.

To me, the most rewarding projects are long-form — whether books, or writing more substantial articles than the average one piece. I’d like to get to a point where I can wholly focus on one project of my own choosing at a time, whether solo, or a collaboration with my husband. And we wouldn’t say no to a television show!

10.How can readers keep in touch with you?

I can be found on Twitter @careyjones, Instagram @carey_jones, and Facebook at writercareyjones.

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Special thanks to Carey for sharing her road to the Brooklyn Bartender! Now I want to find the time to test the 300 recipes – what a goal to strive for.  I raise a glass to Carey and the thoroughly enjoyable Brooklyn Bartender.

 

 

 

10-4-10 Series Interview with Kilchoman’s James Wills

kilchoman-bottlesThis is the fifth installment of my 10-4-10 series of interviews with people who are swirling winningly in the wide world of whisk(e)y. Up this time is James Wills, son of Kilchoman’s founder  Anthony Wills.

I had the extreme pleasure recently to partake in tasting a selection of Kilchoman whiskies at Federal Wine and Spirits in Boston during Kilchoman’s Land Rover driven East Coast Tour. Two expressions found their way home with me…the wallet does have, unfortunately, its limits.

Thanks again to James for taking the time to provide detailed and thoughtful answers to my ten questions, and here goes..

1. For those who are unfamiliar with Kilchoman, tell me about its history and what sets you apart from other distilleries.

Kilchoman was the first new distillery to be built on Islay for over 124 years when my father established it in 2005. We call ourselves Islay’s Farm Distillery, the idea behind Kilchoman was to mirror the grass root traditions of Scotch whisky production, we do that by producing some of our whisky from barley grown and malted here at the distillery, producing our ‘100% Islay’ single malt at Kilchoman, from Barley to Bottle. We are a family run operation, my entire family is employed by the distillery, myself and my two brothers are the sales and marketing team, my mother works in the admin department and my father is the founder/Managing Director.  We are the smallest distillery on Islay, we produce about 180,000 litres each year. At the moment, all of our expressions are peated.

2. How would you characterize the Kilchoman whisky style?

I would say our style of single malt falls between the big heavily peated Islay associated with the likes of Laphroaig and Ardbeg whiskies and the lighter styles such as Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain.

3. Where do you see Kilchoman in five years?

That is a very hard question to answer, so much as changed over the previous five years it’s impossible to say what will happen next but I hope our whiskies will continue to grow in popularity….and I’m still in the job.

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4. You are currently on the September-October East Coast Tour. How much time do you spend on the road promoting Kilchoman whiskies?

I have never tallied up the number of days spent on the road but getting out and about, meeting people and promoting Kilchoman face-to-face is a big part of the job and we enjoy it. The whisky industry is full of interesting people and when I tell my friends I’m off on a promotional tour of the US East Coast I don’t think they feel sorry for me!

5. 2017 is not far away, do you have any specific festivals or events that you will be attending in the United States during the year?

2017 is still quite far away in our book, this is the busiest time of year for us, once we hit the end of November we will start to finalize plans for next year. The best thing to do is check our website, all our tasting tours and events are published well ahead of time.

6. Since the release of your inaugural bottle in 2009, what has surprised you most about the whisky business?

How friendly and welcoming the industry is, people often expect there is a fierce rivalry between distilleries and there is to a certain degree but no one lets that get in the way of a good time.

7. When I tasted the inaugural bottle while on Islay in 2009, new distilleries seemed far and few between.  Since then there has been an explosion of new distilleries across the globe. How has this explosion impacted, if at all, Kilchoman?

I think it has certainly made people more willing to try single malt from new or different distilleries than those they have tasted in the past. I don’t think that any of the new distilleries have detracted from Kilchoman, that is probably because we are the only new Islay distillery. That looks likely to change and when it does perhaps my answer would change as well but I shouldn’t think so. The real boom in new distilleries has only really been in the last 2-3 years.

8. I have five (actually now seven) different Kilchoman expressions and enjoy them all. Is there one that you are especially proud of? Why?

It’s very hard to pick one, it would probably be either the Inaugural Release (our first ever) or the Inaugural 100% Islay (our first 100% Islay.) There was such a build up to these, all the time, effort and investment had done into getting to that point and it was very rewarding to see the positive reaction.

9. Beyond Kilchoman, do you have a go-to bottle in your personal whisky cabinet?

My go-to is always Kilchoman, of course I drink other whisky but the association I have with Kilchoman makes the drinking of it all the more enjoyable!

10. Pairing whisky with cheese, chocolate or special meals is an interesting way to introduce whisky to newcomers and fans alike. Do you have at recommendations for pairings with any of your varied expressions?

I would recommend pairing lighter flavours such as citrus, seafood, tropical fruits, herbs and soft cheeses for the Machir Bay, 100% Islay and any of our other bourbon cask matured expressions. for our sherry cask expressions of Kilchoman I would lean towards richer flavours such as dried or cooked fruits, cured meats, game, spices, dark chocolate and mature cheeses.

 

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Anthony Wills leading the tasting

 

Bits and pieces shared by Founder Anthony Wills during the East Coast Tour:

  • The Land Rover was designed by Mrs. Wills’ family in 1948, based on Jeep and tested on Islay.
  • Kilchoman does not sell any whisky to blenders.
  • Kilchoman purchases its bourbon barrels from Buffalo Trace because of their consistency.
  • Kilchoman is now in 40 different markets around the world.
  • The distillery produced 50,000 litres in 2006 and will produce 200,000 in 2016.
  • Machir Bay is the biggest volume seller.

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My two new Kilchoman bottles are:

  1. The Tour bottling – a vatting of Machir Bay at 58.9% cask strength. This is a 2008 Vintage with hints of butterscotch. No water need be added to this bottle. $80 price range. I rank it a 4 out of 4.
  2. The 100% Islay, 6th edition – there is peat on the nose, an earthy finish with a lovely fruity and lightly peated palate. $120 price range. I rank it a 3 out of 3.

Many thanks again to James Wills for participating in my 10-4-10 series. I raise a glass to all that is Kilchoman!

Top NOTCH Whisky Weekend on Nantucket

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Simple but typical and relaxing view just outside the town of Nantucket

An American single malt whisky taking top honors at the International Spirit Challenge! You probably read about it months ago. For us self-appointed whisky geeks, we perhaps scoffed at the idea that an American whisky would be so bold as to win single malt awards. And, to add injury to insult this winner is hard to find.  The gold medal winner, the 12 YO Notch from Triple Eight Distillery hails from Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. Do I have a story to tell about this whisky….

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Welcome to Cisco Brewers home of Triple Eight Distillery

It all started in September 2001 during the Nantucket wedding weekend of Eileen and Scott (E&S.)  The Triple Eight Distillery was fairly new and offering barrels of “whisky” for sale as an investment, with the first tasting available five years down the road. Being single malt enthusiasts, the bride and groom thought this would be an adventurous way to celebrate their marriage and connect them long term to the island. Who new that the craft whisky industry would explode and that their purchase would become an award winning enterprise.

Five years down the road a number of us joined E&S for the celebration and for a peak at the aging whisky.  Rumor has it I appropriated one of the five bottles – but that’s another story, which can be found documented in my book.  I’m innocent! Anyway, we tasted the five year old at the distillery and tasted  again at the evening party.  I expected harsh but was pleased to find light and buttery. Not half bad was my opinion. Time would tell how it aged at the next tasting planned for year 10.

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Official Tasting of the 10 YO Scott’s Notch at the distillery

Year ten brought us back to the island for more hoopla and notch tasting. In the meantime, the distillery released their first expression of Notch as an 8 YO. It was released on 8/8/08 and sold for a hefty $888.  Very tongue in cheek and as a specialty item, it sold. The bottle we tasted, officially named Scott’s Notch, was still very lightly colored, easy drinking with a hint of cinnamon and a touch of salt. The finish reminded me of a slice of toasted bread and nuts.   Oh, by the way, I do have a bottle.

At this point in time conversations between the distillery and Scott began about the final bottling, how many bottled might the angels have left, how many bottles the distillery would want to purchase back, and delivery. Hmmm, conversations can sometimes take a long time.  Final delivery would end up being the 15th anniversary weekend.

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The hooch boxed and hidden behind the sofa! Real safe.

 All this brings us to this September and the 15th anniversary of Scott’s Notch and the bride and groom. To kick off the weekend with a full-on whisky theme I lead a single malt scotch tasting for the group of 13.  The tasting of Scott’s Notch, officially a 12 YO, would be the grand finale.

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Three distinct whiskies for tasting and sharing

 

I displayed three bottles, handed out a description of each whisky, scoring sheets and a whisky flavor chart downloaded from the Internet for everyone to use. (Now, while, I can sling the bull with the best of them, describing whisky with pithy words is not my strong suit.) Each pour had its own glass and water for hydrating and for adding a drop to the whiskies if necessary was set up.

The caterer would provide four different warm appetizers during the tasting. A burrata and pear bruschetta, truffled mushrooms, coconut shrimp, mini beef tacos. A lobster and beef tenderloin buffet would complete the evening. Oh yeah, it was going to be a prime evening to remember!

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Dinner after the tasting

 

The group as asked to score each whisky from 1 to 4.

1 = Please don’t ever buy me this, ever. 2 = I’ll drink it and if I must, perhaps, maybe, buy a bottle, maybe.  3 = Honey, please buy me this bottle. It is fabulous. 4 = Honey, please buy me two bottles, I most likely won’t share it with anyone, I want it all for myself.

In keeping with the 15 YO theme the first pour was a Campbeltown Region, Springbank 15 YO at 46% alc. When preparing descriptors for handouts I usually look at the distillery notes and a few other reviews that best agree with my thoughts. “Springbank has an almost bewildering array of flavors: dark chocolate, figs, brazil nuts and vanilla. some find components of Islay…smoke, leather.”

Next up was the Orkney, Highland Park Dark Origins NAS at 46.8% alc. “Dark Origins is known for its double first fill sherry casks, which bring a richer “sherry bomb” flavor.  Notes of heathered smoke,, peat, caramel, and cocoa beams dominate the palate.”

I enjoy finishing tastings with a bold Islay. This night it was Ardbeg’s Corryvreckan, a personal favorite. At 57.1% it is a big boy! “The packaging states ‘not for the faint hearted’ and it is true.” The palate is deep with cream spices. Masters of Malt call this expression astonishing.”

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Eileen and Scott bring out the Scott’s Notch to taste

 

After a few additional appetizers, a cleansing of the palates. Eileen and Scott presented the 12 YO Scott’s Notch.  The comments included: apricots, caramel, malt, vanilla, smooth, and most surprising several folks agreed that it hinted of a warm rum. For me, the sweetness on the palate leaned it towards a bourbon. As with the whiskies leading up to the Notch, folks went back to compare, and to have a second whirl.

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Decently dented 

 

Comments from my not-too-scientific scoring sheet:

  • The Springbank was more enjoyable after trying the Ardbeg and going back to it – the sweetness was more prominent
  • Highland Park – felt a little sting in the back of my mouth, delicious
  • Highland Park – masculine
  • A little water helped the Ardbeg
  • I put a bit of the Highland Park with the Ardbeg and it became a “4”. (Egads!)

Tally totals:

Scott’s Notch 41 (Though I do think the group was biased. Though I am biased towards the Ardbeg.) Springbank 30, Highland Park, 29, Ardbeg 28. Really a neck-in-neck race.

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Am I excited at being given my very own bottle of the 12 YO!

 

What is interesting is that most of the group didn’t drink whisky, or if they had, it was the $30 a bottle type, and then mixed, or with lots of water.  So they did very well working their way through the four bottles.  I was thrilled when several of the non-whisky drinking women scored the Ardbeg quite high. No shrinking violets here.

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My Scott’s Notch Collection. One of a kind and all mine. Note how the color goes from almost clear to very dark. Time in a sherry barrel at the end of its aging.

 

The following day was to continue with the tasting theme at the Triple Eight Distillery for lunch and the Nantucket Culinary Center for an evening with Chef Greg and a five course dinner. Stay tuned for all the yummy details in my next blog.

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I raise a glass to good friends, family and sharing whisky together!

Summer Project: Whisky and Cheese Pairings

Summer-Party

What is it about summer that fosters days explained away by the old school expression “the road is paved with good intentions?” My list of “to-do” is long and as I sip a new single malt scotch I simply ponder scribbling down some tasting notes, writing a review and updating my blog. Ahh. Good intentions abound.

Fortunately, my living as a sloth was interrupted by a request to design and present a whisky tasting as a fall fundraiser for a local Senior Council in Aging. We will all get there someday, so to my mind, keeping the support line for seniors available is a worthy cause.

I have gotten off the chaise lounge and am pumping up the creative juices.  After considering which four whiskies to present I thought about the food that will be served and potential cheeses to pair with each of whiskies. Wait! Why not have a whisky and cheese infographic to have as a handout? Why not spend a few days doing some research and create my own version of a whisky and cheese infographic? Thus inspired, I forged ahead.

The topic is not entirely new to me. I included some suggestions for pairings in my book Whisky Tales: Tastings and Temptations. Over the years I have found whisky and cheese pairings to be an intriguing combination and one that gets tasting participants excited.

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The resulting infographic is set up with five distinct whisky flavor profiles:

  1. Peat and Smoke
  2. Sherry and Fruit
  3. Salty and Peat
  4. Floral and Honey
  5. Spicy and Grassy

I have selected six scotch whiskies that fall somewhere within the parameters of each flavor profile and listed them by region. Most are single malt whisky, a few are blends.

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The cheeses selected also have five distinct flavor profiles:

  1. Strong and Complex
  2. Rich and Versatile
  3. Nutty and Savory
  4. Fruity and Nutty
  5. Mellow and Delicate

Each whisky flavor profile has two or three corresponding cheese suggestions.

Now, keep in mind that, as with any whisky and cheese pairing, individual preferences may swerve away from the suggestions. That is A-Okay. The infographic is meant to be a general guide and offer but a glimpse into the tasting possibilities. I recommend trying out the suggestions and also try your favorites and discover what works best for you.

The infographic may be downloaded here: WhiskyCheeseInfographic8.2016  The sources are also available for your reading pleasure. Sources for the WhiskyCheeseInfographic2

Now, I can either go back to being a summer sloth or go back to my “to-do” list….first in line a whisky and chocolate infographic. Yum!  That research is worth getting up and moving.

I raise a glass to exploring whisky pairings and time to be a summer sloth!