Whiskey Obsession: 12 Tastes

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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!

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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!

SpiceTreeExtravaganza

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.

Kozuba

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.

Glengoyne

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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Clergyman Standing at the Bar…

Welcome to the eighth installment of my 10-4-10 series of interviews. Ten people who are swirling winningly in the wide world of whisk(e)y answer ten questions. This month Reverend Christopher I. Thoma – www.angelsportion.com, whisky writer extraordinaire, blesses (haha) us with a view into his whisk(e)y world.

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  1. Please share with the readers a bit about your whisky background.

I’m not paid to do what I do. And I’m no expert. But I am an enjoyer who has discovered a passion, and maybe even a certain level of discernment, for the particulars of whisky. Now, having said this, I am certain that my whisky past was ordered by the Divine. My fleshly fabric is German, and therefore, I drink beer. Well, I used to drink beer, but not so much anymore. Some time ago, over the span of about eight years, I was doing some summertime teaching in places like Russia and Lithuania, and on return from one of my first visits, I managed to wander into a little whisky shop in London being manned by a kindly fellow who was more than interested in providing for a proper introduction to the “aqua vitae.” It’s there that I met whisky—good whisky—and, oh, what a pleasant friend she has become. You can read the fuller story here. Anyway, my life has indeed changed, and since this notable enlightenment, I’ve taken up the mantle of preaching the whisky truth to the masses through my blog, books, and even a few guest appearances here and there. And I definitely have a hook. These days, it would seem that when a clergyman walks into the room, the atmosphere of any gathering changes a bit. A clergyman standing at the bar—especially one who knows his booze—changes the gala in even stranger ways. Quiet topics become a little more open. Reserved glances make way for intrigue and eye contact. It’s really quite fun to be that clergyman, and to be there when these things happen.

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  1. You have published a number of books, two as The Angels Portion. Tell us how they came about and if you have any in the pipeline at the moment.

I always have something in the pipeline. I feel like I have a disease—a writing disease. I’m always scratching at it. The Angels’ Portion volumes came by way of suggestions from some of my followers that I should take what I’ve written and put them into book form so that they were accessible to some as a handbook of sorts. I jumped on the idea because, in the end, my reviews are not your typical expandings. I tell stories. Stories belong in books. And what I’ve found is that the stories I tell find their way across so many demographics. They reach people who wouldn’t normally read a whisky review or choose to follow a whisky blog. I get messages from folks all around the world who tell me that they never would have considered trying whisky until reading one of my narratives. That means a lot. It means that they were swept into the story, not as readers, but as participants, and they have been convinced and want to give a go at what the characters are enjoying. I mean, if Darth Vader likes the whisky, it might be worth checking out.

As far as my other books, I’ve written several that aren’t whisky related: Feeding the Lambs: A Worship Primer for Teachers of Children, Kids in the Divine Service, The Homiletical Canvas: Poetry in Service to Preaching, and lastly, one of my favorites, Ten Ways to Kill a Pastor. I also have a book of poetry entitled Where Dreams Ponder People, and I’m always tapping away here and there at a yet-to-be-published fantasy novel called The Heroes of Ganchimi.  Oh yeah, and I’m working with an illustrator at this very moment for a children’s book entitled There’s a Bug on the Floor. I expect that to be in print by the end of the year.

Aside from Angelsportion.com, I’ve been keeping another blog at type1confessional.com. It is a rather provocative attempt at displaying the innards of a pastor who finds himself quite frustrated with God because his daughter has Type 1 Diabetes. I write it as a discussion between myself and the Creator. It’s a young blog, only 20 or so posts, but all very visceral and very therapeutic.

I should also mention that besides writing about a hundred sermons a year, I also do a lot of writing for the Church/LCMS, and I write a lot of political op-eds, give papers at conferences, and so many other things. Essentially, I’m doing a whole lot in a so many different areas. At some point, I’d love to get a writing gig with a magazine or something like that, but until then, there’s always something in the works and there’s plenty to keep me busy.

  1. Your affinity with Star Wars is apparent, but how did that develop for you when writing about whisky?

I’m just weird. That’s all. No development. Just weirdness. I sip a whisky, consider the contours and discover the story inside. I never plan a story. I just start typing. Something always shows up.

  1. As a follower of your blog, I have read how the occasional naysayer points a finger at your reverend collar and its relation to whisky drinking. Would you give a brief synopsis of your comments to said naysayers?

I’ve written quite a few posts about how I feel about the pietists who walk among us. Perfect examples would be my reviews of the Speyside Cooperage 10-year-old or The Dalmore 12-year-old. In fact, I do quite a few radio interviews here and there. You might take a listen to the one I did on a Christian radio station in Detroit. You can listen to all three of its parts here, here, and here. I was, sort of, caught off guard by the host who wanted to discuss the very topic. He didn’t do it in a mean way. In fact, he was in agreement and he set up for a great discussion. I just wasn’t ready, and so my response, I think, was one that was very honest and from the gut, and in the end, rather informative for people who may be looking at the mandates of the Bible from the wrong angles.

Thomas with bottles

  1. What are your current favorite whiskies as well as the not-so-much whiskies?

I’m struggling these days to say I have favorites. I used to land on The Balvenie when that question was asked—and I suppose I still might—but I’m finding so many that I wouldn’t want to be without should the zombie apocalypse ever befall us. In the ashes of civilization’s collapse, while everyone else was out looking for food, I’d be searching for guns and Scotch—editions from The Balvenie, Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Auchentoshan, Glengoyne, The Dalmore, Glenmorangie, and so many others. I’d also be grabbing a few bottles of various Bourbons that I’ve grown quite fond of. There are, however, some whiskies I’d only use for treating wounds, campfires, and Molotov cocktails—namely the likes of Scoresby, Lauder’s, and number of the mass-produced Bourbons and Canadian whiskies.

  1. Have you found that over time some of your favorite whiskies have fallen out of favor with you? If so, why?

Not really. I’ve only found an increase of my arena of favor.

  1. What do you look for in a “good” single malt?

I’m going to tiptoe into this question. What makes a whisky “good” is somewhat relative, and with that, I find that bringing a formula to the experience lessens my ability to find and tell the story. I only find the good whiskies because I took from them what they offered and I allowed them to tell me why I should consider them as such. In one sense, you could liken my approach to a theological exercise—exegesis versus eisegesis. Exegesis is to take from the Scriptures what is already there. Eisegesis is to impose one’s opinions on the text in order to find what you want, to make it fit your expectations. I’m an exegetical guy—not only as a clergyman, but as a whisky drinker—and this has made it so that even my expectations with regard to certain editions from certain distilleries that may have betrayed me in the past with a rotten dram, have found redemption in the presentation of something better. I really try to keep the process very honest.

  1. Are you a collector of any particular whiskies, or books, memorabilia, etc.?

I collect all kinds of strange things. Here’s a good place to get a taste of my very old clutter. As far as whiskies, I’m also into historical study and valuation. I’ve quite a few posts on various editions and their dating. As far as my whisky collection, I think I have about 200 or so bottles in my various cabinets throughout the house. There are some that I don’t intend to open, mainly because I plan to keep them until their bottling dates reach the 100-year-old mark. I have a few from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. If I don’t sell them at some point, and if I’m still alive, I’ll probably drink them. If I’m dead, I want them mixed into the embalming fluid. But whatever. We’ll see.

  1. Who do you follow on social media and/or do you have whisky authors who you recommend?

I follow you, of course, and I love your book Whisky Tales. Lots of wisdom in there. In fact, I keep it on top of my stack of “Whisky Magazine” editions right next to my desk in my church office. As far as social media folks, I keep in touch with guys like the Scotch Test Dummies, Scotch Trooper, Mark Gillespie (who wrote the foreword for The Angels’ Portion Volume II), and Mark at Whisky Whistle. In the end, there are so many that I enjoy conversing with throughout the whisky-sphere. All good folks. The #whiskyfabric is a grand expanse of knowledge, vision, and passion. I enjoy being a part of it. At least, I hope I’m a part of it… in my own little way.

  1. Any whisky goals for 2017?

Nope. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. Although, I would expect The Angels’ Portion Volume III will start taking shape next autumn. Working with Grail Quest Books has been a pleasure. Good people running that operation. Anyway, we’ll see. Life has a way of setting my goals for me. There’s always something new on the horizon, and I’m always ready to tell the story.

I raise a glass and offer a rowdy cheer to Rev. Christopher Thoma for taking the time to share his world of whisky with us. Yes, people take it to the next level and read his The Angels Portion’ whisk(e)y books!

Whiskylassie goes 10-4-10

This is the seventh installment of my 10-4-10 series of interviews… Ten people who are swirling winningly in the wide world of whisk(e)y answer ten questions. I am thrilled to present prominent Canadian whisky persona – the Whiskylassie to my readers.

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1. Tell the reader a bit about “Whiskylassie”.

Whiskylassie is the alter ego of Johanne McInnis. She is the superman to Johanne’s Clark Kent and has been for about 8 years. Whiskylassie writes a blog that is candid, funny at times and she is definitely passionate about sharing her crazy whisky adventures. She loves to travel around the globe visiting friends, distilleries and getting into as much whisky trouble as possible. Lassie was one of the three people who coined the term #whiskyfabric which has been used worldwide on social media to describe the very tight knit and interesting whisky community that exists.

2. While many have read your blog and/or follow you on other social media, some might be unfamiliar with all your writings.  What one or two pieces would you recommend that really speak to who you are when your Whiskylassie hat is on?

My two most favourite posts are the ones that seem to also resonate the most with my readers:

I think the posts demonstrate two sides to the crazy but sometimes very poignant whisky lassie 😉

3. What are you up to these days in the whisky world?

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Well, Johanne is super busy as she writes many freelance articles for some fantastic magazines such as Cask & Still, Whisky Quarterly, as well as a few websites such as Scotchwhisky.com and Tapsmagazine.ca  whereas Whiskylassie is booked at many whisky shows where her classes are sold out. The blog is not as active as usual as a result, but she’s working on a special little piece about a very interesting head to head experiment she conducted over the course of a couple of months. Stay tuned for that one.

4. What was the first whisky you tasted that stands out to this day? Why?

My very first whisky was a Canadian icon – Gibson’s 12. It’s what my dad drank, so there is a bit of an emotional attachment to that one. It’s still one of the best little whiskies on the Canadian market and I love it to this day.

5. How many distilleries have you visited? Which was the most informative?

At last count, I have visited over 75 distilleries in the UK, Canada, the United States and France. I would have to say that my first visit to the Hiram Walker Distillery in Windsor Ontario was so exciting that I literally walked away with an adrenaline headache. My educational background is chemistry so the tour which was provided by the master blender Don Livermore was a whisky geek’s dream come true. I highly recommend going if you are near Detroit or Toronto. Stupendous and super educational.

6. Do you have a wish list of whiskies that you want to taste this year? And they are?

I have what I call a unicorn whisky list every year. I have made it a point for 2017 to accomplish two things: 1. Canada its 150th birthday, so I’m going to try and taste as many new Canadian whiskies that I can get my hands on including one that Wayne Gretzky’s distillery produces. The other goal, is to venture into a category that is still pretty new to me: Bourbon. I’m going to be attending the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in September of 2017 and I am super excited about that.

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7. If you were setting up a home bar at an “average Joe” cost, what would you include? 

Setting up a whisky bar, I would include the following: 

  • 2 Canadians: Stalk & Barrel Rye and JP Wiser’s Last Barrels.
  • 2 Bourbons: Basil Hayden and Buffalo Trace.
  • 10 Scotches: Auchentoshan three wood, Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 year old, Tomatin Portwood 14 year old, Benromach 15 year old, AnCnoc 16, Scapa 16, Oban Little Bay, Springbank 15, Lagavulin 16 and Ardbeg 10. 
  • 4 Irish: Teeling Small Batch, Redbreast 12, Writer’s Tears and Bushmills Black Bush.
  • 4 World Whiskies: Hibiki Harmony (Japan), Brenne 10 year old (France), Three Ships 10 year old (South Africa) and Macmyra Single Malt (Sweden).
  • 4 Blends: Compass Box Spice Tree, Wemyss The Hive, Chivas Regal 12 and Monkey Shoulder.
  • 4 Independent bottlings: Gordon & MacPhail Mortlach 15, Cadenhead’s Clynelish 1992 (heavenly), Samaroli Altt a Bhainne 8 year old, Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) Bumblebees by the Sea (Clynelish) and Wemyss Marmalade Appeal 1988 (Glenrothes).

Grand Total:  30 whiskies even if the average person could only afford 1/3 of these, they would end up with a fabulously stocked and envied whisky bar. 

8. Do you have a special or funny experience that you would like to share?

Special or funny experience…  Hmmm, easily the first solo trip over to the UK that I took. I had been over for about 4 weeks and was running out of clean laundry. I asked the lady of the house where I was staying if I could use her washer as I had only brought two pair of pants for my 7 week trip. She looked at me in complete disbelief and replied: “Whaaaa?” To which I continued, it’s not a big deal, because I can wear them for 3-4 days before they really need washing and there’s some days where I don’t wear pants so it’s fine really. Her eyes became even wider and she said: “I’m thinking in Canada the word pants must mean something else!?!” So I picked up a pair of pants from my pile of clothes on the floor. To which she started to laugh uncontrollably…  and said: “Those my dear are trousers”. Still not quite getting it I said: “What are pants then?” to which she explained in the UK, pants are your underwear…  I can see why now she was mortified if she thought I was wearing my underwear for 3-4 days until they “really needed washing” or worse, walking around without any underwear at all…  Oooopsy!

9. Do you spend much time exploring bourbon or rye? Any favorites?

As stated in an earlier question, I’m just starting to really dive into the bourbon category. Here in Canada, the availability was limited for quite some time, so it’s going to be a great year of bourbon discoveries for this whisky lassie. As for rye – or yes!!! I love ryes. My favourites at the moment are: Stalk & Barrel, Lot 40 and Michter’s.  All fabulous examples of how tasty rye whiskies are.

10. And most importantly, from this New Englander, how did you come to be a Patriots fan? Go Pats!

How did I become a Pats fan… Well, way back in 1978 when I had just turned 12, two of my best friends loved watching football. Living on the east coast of Canada, we were very limited in what the NFL broadcast this way so naturally on Sunday’s the ritual became go to Kenny’s house and watch the Patriots. The AFC playoffs were against the Houston Oilers. I remember the game being quite brutal, the Pats defense was hitting them hard but by half time the Oilers were leading by 21-0, then in the last quarter the Pats came back with 14 points and we were on our feet. Then with about 5 minutes the Oilers intercepted and that was pretty much the end of the game. It was a pretty exciting event and I was hooked. I remain (Still) a hardcore Pats fan so of course the win this year was pretty cool, sort of looked like that very first game I watched 39 years ago 😉 and was even more exciting that I could have imagined.

Thank you Johanne for participating. I am going to have to work my way through the whisky list for the “Average Joe” bar! Suffer as I must for whisky knowledge…..All the while continuing my obnoxious in-your-face celebration of the NE Patriots Super Bowl LI comeback win.

I raise a glass to Whiskylassie and #whiskyfabric community!

Group Tastings…Insightful?

For anyone who has taken the time to read my blogs during the past few years it is obvious that I prefer group tastings over my own drinking alone of one sample of whisky at a time. Besides the fact that I lead a number of tastings during the year, over time I have come to learn more about whisky nuances in group settings where four (sometimes more) whiskies are sampled and compared.

So, you say, what are the benefits here? Well, my palate has dulled with age, sad to admit. My whisky vocabulary does not flourish like a bouquet of wild flowers – a skill that many of the bloggers and whisky tasters that I follow excel at. I know what I like when I taste it and what flavor profiles tend to bore me. The benefits of group tastings, broaden my world, and are many:

  1. Discussion about whisky with a group of tasters is stimulating, social, and informative
  2. Comments on the nose, palate, and finish expands and gets each taster thinking and evaluating his/her impressions
  3. No two tasters have exact descriptions
  4. Individual preferences are fascinating to learn about
  5. Comparing a few whiskies side-by-side highlights strengths and weaknesses of each whisky
  6. When a group does not know the price of a whisky and simply compares several, I find, the impressions more honest.
  7. As someone who enjoys writing about whisky, the information culled at group tastings gives me more to write about. Some of the best fun is hearing the stories a few glasses of whisky brings out in tasters.

During the months of December and January I led six tastings – three formal and three more casual with family and friends. Here is an example of one that falls in between the formal and the casual. The setting was a holiday dinner get together. There were five of us and we all planned to stay over at the host’s home to alleviate driving late at night. No driving takes the pressure off the tasting. Really.

The whiskies chosen were all open bottles that I had in the scotch cabinet and were slated to be on the heel slayer list. Obviously, because I owned them, they were whiskies that I enjoyed at one point or another during the year. Several may have popped up at other tastings,  but what would tasting them side-by-side reveal!

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The order of the four whiskies: McCarthy’s Whiskey (USA), Single Cask Nation Westland 2 YO, 1st fill Oloroso Barrel (USA), Benromach 15 YO (Speyside), Aberlour A’bunadh Batch 28 (Highland). No one knew the price of the whiskies and except for me, hadn’t tasted any of them before.

The two West Coast American whiskies were up first. My thinking was that they would be lighter than the two Scotch single malts. The notes are a combination of each taster’s comments.

  • McCarthy’s Nose: roasted, earthy, butterscotch
  • Palate: earthy, leather, charcoal, not too much peat
  • Finish: lingers but with alcohol, dryness, works well with the lemon pound cake dessert
  • Westland’s Nose: floral, buttery, vanilla, shouts out butterscotch, cinnamon, maple syrupy
  • Palate: spice and burn, black pepper, more cinnamon, more complex, softer with a drop of water –  less harsh and brings out some vanilla
  • Finish: buttery, better with the water
  • Benromach’s Nose: sweet, cinnamon
  • Palate:  alcohol up front, dirt in the butterscotch, kiss it up to God, hint of soap, nutmeg, smooth, give it the three second rule
  • Finish: all agreed “doesn’t linger”
  • A’bunadh’s Nose: cherries, black licorice, fruity,, rich and smooth, decadent
  • Palate: cinnamon with sherry, a bite to it!, rum raisin and figs
  • Finish: spice cake, sweet sherry, lasts and lasts

The results – preferences from favorite to least favorite:

  • Taster#1               Taster #2             Taster #3            Taster #4           Taster #5
  • McCarthy             Westland             A’bunadh           Benromach       A’bunadh
  • Westland              A’bunadh            Benromach        A’bunadh          Westland
  • A’bunadh             McCarthy             McCarthy           McCarthy           McCarthy
  • Benromach          Benromach         Westland            Westland           Benromach

Reviews the results of tasting scores always intrigues me. If I was to go shopping based strictly on the results, I would purchase the A’bunadh and not the Benromach. Perhaps tasting this combination together diminished some of the individual high notes, maybe not. Maybe I don’t enjoy such and such as much now. How can indivudal preferences be all over the place? Makes me wonder….and that is the tickle to group tasting for me!

By the way can you guess which taster I am?

I raise a glass to tasting new whiskies as well as tasting open bottles and comparing each with a group of friends!

Did someone say March is less than two months away? How did that happen?

 

 

 

 

2016: One new taste per week!

2016 is winding down and there is a momentary lull in the holiday activities. Perfect time to look at my world of whisky.  I’ve been telling folks that this has been a quiet year for whisky and me, but now that I have crunched the numbers…..quiet…..not so much.

I don’t receive any samples from anyone anywhere and unfortunately did not travel out of the United States during 2016, all of which limits access to many whiskies on my wish list.

Yet, with more than 200 bottles of whisky of various types spending time in my home, one would think that there is always enough whisky at hand to quench any thirst. Wait! There is more to discover, swirl, compare and share. You are reading this blog because you drink whisky, subsequently, you easily relate to the “more” factor.

More for me this year resulted in my leading or attending sixteen whisky tastings during eight of the twelve months. Not too shabby, right? During the four quiet months, my own whisky along with a few new purchases filled in the tasting gaps quite nicely whenever the dramming mood struck.

Breaking down the numbers even further reveals…

  • 78 different whiskies were tippled at the sixteen tastings
  • 50 of the whiskies I tasted for the first time
  • 17 of the remaining 28 previously tasted are in my scotch cabinet

There is a small number of the 50 whiskies that have found their way home with me. My favorites – and the order of which is my favorite of the moment changes with my mood – as of this writing  are:

  1. Islay, Scotland: Bruichladdich Octomore 7.4
  2. Texas, USA: Balcones Brimstone
  3. Cooley stock by Teeling, Ireland: Vom Fass, Crystal Malt 23 YO
  4. Highland Region, Scotland: Aberlour A’bunadh Batch 52
  5. Nantucket, USA: Triple Eight Distillery Notch 12 YO (Bottled as Scott’s Notch)

What are the 78 you might be thinking….

*Tasted for the first time = 50 new-to-me whiskies, +Favorite of the new-to-me whiskies

  1. Single Cask Nation (SCN) Westland 2 YO
  2. The Enduring Spirit (The Shackleton Expedition Reproduction)
  3. Jura Superstition
  4. Lagavulin 16 YO
  5. Octomore 1.1 Inaugural Edition
  6. McCarthy’s Whiskey
  7. *Benromach 15 YO
  8. A’bunadh Batch 28
  9. *Kilchoman 100% Islay 6th Edition
  10. Lagavulin 8 YO
  11. *+Octomore 7.4
  12. Bowmore 18 YO
  13. Laphroaig 18 YO
  14. Kilchoman Machir Bay
  15. *Kilchoman Sanaig 5 YO
  16. Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2015
  17. *Kilchoman Cask Evolution
  18. *Kilchoman 2016 Tour Bottling – Machir Bay Cask Strength
  19. *Kilchoman 2008 Vintage 7 YO
  20. *Deveron 12 YO
  21. Springbank 15 YO
  22. Highland Park Dark Origins
  23. Ardbeg Corryvreckan
  24. *+Triple 8 Distillery Notch 12 YO (Private Bottle as Scott’s Notch)
  25. *Silo Aisling Wheat
  26. Vermont Spirits No.14 Bourbon
  27. *Provisional Light Grain Whisky
  28. *Appalachian Gap Ridgeline
  29. *Kilbeggan 2Gingers
  30. *+Mad River Distillery Rye
  31. Copper Fox Rye
  32. Ryan and Wood Rye
  33. Westland Peated Whiskey
  34. Laphroaig Cairdeas Port wood
  35. *+Balcones Brimstone
  36. *Gordon and MacPhail (G&P) Glencaden 21 YO
  37. *G&P 2016 Highland Park 24 YO
  38. Highland Park 18 YO
  39. *+Irish Yellow Spot 12 YO
  40. Ryan and White Single Malt
  41. *Rebecca Creek Whiskey
  42. Aberfeldy 21 YO
  43. Bulleit Bourbon
  44. *Benriach 16 YO
  45. *Benriach 16 YO Single Cask 1998 PX Finish
  46. *Glendronach Revival 15 YO
  47. *Glenglassaugh Torfa Peated
  48. *Glenrothes 1998 Vintage 30 YO
  49. Blue Hanger 7th Edition
  50. *Kavalan King Car
  51. Nikka Pure Malt
  52. *Old Potrero Rye
  53. *+A’bunadh Batch 52
  54. *Glen Grant 16 YO
  55. *SCN Arran 13 YO Oloroso Cask
  56. *SCN Glen Elgin 18 YO
  57. *SCN Tobermory 10YO
  58. *Tullibardine 500 PX Sherry Cask
  59. *Forty Creek Barrel Select
  60. *Forty Creek Confederation Oak
  61. *Forty Creek Double Reserve
  62. *Forty Creek Copper Pot
  63. *Kinahan’s Irish 10 YO
  64. *Hibicki Harmony
  65. *Haig Club Single Grain
  66. *Crown Royal Northern Harvest
  67. *Teeling Small Batch
  68. Bushmills 16 YO
  69. Laphroaig Triple Wood
  70. Ardbeg 10 YO
  71. *Yahara Bay Distillery – American Bourdon
  72. *MacSpey, Stewart Laing Blend, Vom Fass
  73. *The Gentlemen, Hunter Laing Blend 35 YO, Vom Fass
  74. Jack’s Choice – Cooley Barrels 11 YO, Vom Fass
  75. *+Crystal Malt – Cooley Barrels 23 YO, Vom Fass
  76. *Redbreast 21 YO
  77. *Irish Green Spot Bordeaux
  78. *Talisker Storm

That’s it. Time to get back to cookie baking.

I raise a glass to all my whisky friends for a healthy, happy, whisky filled 2017!

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.