The Whisky Extravaganza: Boston, So Many Whiskies!

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.

Bostonextraglasses

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.

BostonMatsuiKuyayoshi
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.

Bostonportcharlotte
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!

 

 

Advertisements

Boar, Duck, Lamb, Steak & Six Kavalan Rare Sherry Cask Editions. Oh My!

 

IMG_0199There is that occasional opportunity to experience a whisky evening that is above and beyond. Holly Seidewand of Gordon’s Fine Wines and Liquors, Kelly McCarthy of Anchor Distilling Co and Jonathan Schick and Eli Shapiro of the Rail Stop Restaurant and Bar combined their talents and products for a spectacular dining and Kavalan whisky tasting event last week. Really, how often does one taste six high end expressions from one distiller with exquisite pairings?

IMG_0194

Kavalan Whisky – the star of the show –  is fairly new to the whisky world and from an unexpected region…Taiwan. Check out their website for more information. Try their whisky if you can.

IMG_0198

Ok, enough gushing….here are the details.The group of about 28 guests were welcomed with a Kavalan private bottling for Gordon’s (liquor and wines shops located in the Boston area), aptly called the “Symphony”…after the Kavalan Soloist editions. And what a nice beginning it was. The Symphony is silky, vanilla nosed and on the palate with a hint of brine and finished with some fruit notes. A dram to ease us into the evening.

IMG_0197      IMG_0200

 

The order of the whisky was to go from dry to sweeter and all are cask strength. The first course, beautifully presented was a wild boar terrine with apricot, cranberry and pommery mustard. Paired with the Kavalan Fino, which showed raisins and sherry on the nose, followed by a subtle sherry palate.

IMG_0201

The second course, a duck confit, pickled grapes and bitter greens was eaven more heavenly than the terrine. I was contemplating if there was a way I could gnaw on the duck leg and lick the plate. Oh wait, there was a whisky to pair with it! The Kavalan Manzanilla showed its big alcohol on the nose with some sugar cane and salt. The palate offered more salt, a hint of melon said someone, but I found a sweet burn of orange rind.

Between courses, Kelly and Holly spoke about Kavalan in general as well as the individual notes for each of the six whiskies.  The pace of the evening gave the four guests at each table time to enjoy the food and converse about the whiskies.

IMG_0204

The third course was a lamb lollipop, perfectly cooked to a medium rare and tender on the bone. Paired with the Kavalan Amontillado, I found my perfect combination. The Amontillado is more distinct than the Fino and Manzanilla. There is floral on the nose and a deep, rich color. I was surprised to find coconut and nuts on the palate along with some tobacco and earthiness. My way too soon empty glass spoke of lingering cinnamon.

And there was more to come. The Kavalan Moscatel was paired with a beautiful New York strip, potato, and roasted bone marrow butter. I found this dram sharp with fruit notes. The sweetness of the moscatel came through.

IMG_0205

Dinner could not be complete without dessert, meaning (in my world) chocolate. Two chocolate French Macaroons were paired with the Kavalan Pedro Ximenez. Ahhh….deepest color with dancing pears and chocolate wafting their way across the tongue. A wonderful ending.

IMG_0208

The rich food and the rich whiskies tried with all their might to overload the senses. At times they did, but I believe in the end I came out unscathed but completed satiated and with a new appreciation for Kavalan whiskies. The price of the Kavalan Rare Sherry Cask Expressions is not for every day purchasing. The range is from $414 to $584 locally. Egads and holy bat shxxt!

While there is not a poor whisky in the lot, I was able to distinguish preferences amongst them. I did break the bank and purchase one of each of my top three. From favorite to least fav ended up like this:

  • Amontillado Sherry Cask
  • Pedro Ximenez
  • Gordon’s Symphony (only 1/3 the price)
  • Moscatel
  • Manzanilla

An evening well spent is the understatement of the day.  I raise a glass to those who plan and present high end whisky and dinner events. Thanks!