A Tipple at the Dentist

 

Lagavulin3bottles
Three’s a charm!

 

June is a significant month in many ways – the year is half over, weddings abound, winter is clearly in hindsight for us Northeasterners; and for me especially it is time to visit the dentist and have a whisky tasting. Yup. OK, so it is actually the end of July and I am behind in posting this blog. Another casualty of summer distractions.

Dr. Paul and I have been scheduling my appointment at the end of the day for about seven years now. Doesn’t everyone drink with their dentist at the end of their appointment?

 

Dr.Paul
Dr. Paul

 

 

Over the years with Dr. Paul I have expounded my everlasting love for Lagavulin 16 YO, but for some odd reason we have never shared a dram. With that in mind I brought three different Lagavulin expressions to taste. The intent was to bring the full Lagavulin experience to him. As I was packing the bottles, I realized that I have NEVER tasted three Lagavulins together. This ramped up my interest.

Dr. Paul brought a few familiar bottles, just in case – Highland Park 18 YO, Hakushu 12 YO, and the Irish Glendalough.  The Hakushu was the only one I secretly thought worth sampling along with the Lagavulins. My peat and smoke preference was rearing its spoiled head.

 

bottles with cups
Dentistry glassware

 

The Lagavulins were cracked and the first pour, the 200th Anniversary 8 YO, was offered…in dentistry rinsing cups no less…one must make the best of available “glassware”. My plan was to say nothing and let Dr. Paul give his opinion without any slant from me.  He said there was a sweetness and no burn and that he didn’t get a lot of peat until the finish.  He commented that he would drink this one straight up.

I mentioned that this time I was going to take a few notes when he commented on each whisky. He jumped up to rinse his mouth, which he never did during our tastings before, because he said he wanted to give a clean opinion of each whisky.

The 16 YO was next. Besides noting the deeper color, his expression completely changed after the first sip. I knew he was hooked. He immediately said it was smoother, with some caramel and rounded out edges. He went on, “You want to sip this to get the after taste where the smoke adds to the taste. The 16 is proportioned better than the 8. I definitely like this. I’ll buy it.” He quickly copied down the name and year.  His perfect scenario was to buy a bottle and enjoy it while sitting in his library with a good book.

The third taste was the 1991/2007 Distillers Edition double matured Lagavulin. Richer in color still, due to the maturation in Pedro Ximenez casks, Dr. Paul only found a subtle difference in this whisky compared to the 16 YO. He remarked that it didn’t overpower and he admitted that five years ago he wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the nuances of any of the three expressions. I felt a tingle of pride knowing I had a hand in bringing him not only over to the Islay side but to an awareness of tasting and appreciating the differences in whiskies in general.

The Hakushu 12 YO was poured to see how it stood up to the Lagavulins. It didn’t stand out but it managed to stand alongside them.  That surprised me. Some of the delicate smoke of the Hakushu was lost but it still presented itself overall well. (More on the Hakushu on my upcoming blog about six Japanese whiskies poured for a local fundraiser.)

While we were finishing the Hakushu, Tommy, I assume a patient, came in and handed some cash to Dr. Paul. Tommy joked that it was his bookie money. We offered him a “glass”. Tommy first read all the labels, stated that he was a Jameson guy, and went right for the Glendalough, poured and drank it right down with a big thanks to follow. Then off he went. Not quite our usual ending of the tasting day.

I came away thinking the Lagavulin 8 YO a disappointment after the 16 YO and the Distillers Edition. Actually, how could this have been a 200th Anniversary special bottling? It is drinkable, but lacking and not up to Lagavulin standards.

 

Lagavulinglass
Now that’s a glass!

 

The 16 YO shines brightly for me again and again. My comfortable shoes, the sunset over the ocean, all the warm and fuzzy things in life – constant and consistent. The Distillers Edition provides a campfire smoke that sets it apart from the 16, not better, not lacking, simply well worth a good pour.

I raise a glass to quiet moments sharing a few special drams…even if it is with a dentist. See you in December Dr. Paul!

 

 

 

Advertisements

Even Steven: Sherry Bomb vs Peat?

bottles

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!

 

food
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.

 

jackschoice
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

 

tasters
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.

 

metasters
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

 

img_6096
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.

 

img_6099
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.

 

img_6102
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!

img_6097

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.”

 

img_6103
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.

 

img_6104
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.

img_6107

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.

 

 

10-4-10: Interview with Turner C. Moore

Throughout 2016 my blog will feature interviews with ten people closely involved with the world of whisk(e)y. Not all will be “famous” but all will be true enthusiasts with passion and insights that add to our knowledge and foster our enthusiasm for the ultimate spirit.

Turner C. Moore is the force behind the hugely successful Whiskey Obsession Festival in Sarasota, Florida.  I have attended this festival the past two years and will certainly be present this year.  As far as I am concerned, it is a must attend event this spring.
SunsetatBeach

1.       How or why did your whisk(e)y interest begin?

I went to college in Virginia and we tended to drink a fair amount of bourbon, with quantity rather than quality as the goal.  A few years graduation, friends introduced me to Oban and Glenlivet and I started to develop an appreciation for fine whiskies which continues to grow.  Aside maybe from wine, there’s no other drink in the world that is as simple, pure, yet complex.  A great whiskey needs nothing except an occasional drop of water, and the range of flavors especially in single malt scotch is unmatched.    

2.       Do you now or did you have a whisk(e)y mentor? If so describe your mentor’s role.

Not per se, but attending as many tastings and festivals as possible over the years has been very meaningful because it’s allowed me to connect with fellow enthusiasts as well as a huge number of industry professionals, including many iconic distillers and global brand ambassadors.  Magazines like Whisky and Whisky Advocate are great sources of current market trends.  There are some great books out there too.

3.       If you are put on the spot, like you are now, what would be your three go to whiskies and why?

This is a familiar question, and not easily answered.  First, I really appreciate the range of world whiskies.  I wish we could see more from Tasmania and other parts of Australia available here in the U.S., as well as bottlings from  Sweden.  I love Japanese and Irish whiskies, and American rye.  But if I could only have three bottles forever, I think no whiskies have the depth and continuum of flavors and aromas that exist in single malt scotch.  So I’d take one deep sherry bomb like Macallan, Aberlour, or Glendronach.  I’d have one peaty monster like Ardbeg, Lagavulin, or Laphroaig, and one more delicate spirit like Glenmorangie, Balvenie, or Bunnahabhain.  Or better yet, all of the above.

4.       What do you think about the “no age statement” trend?

The industry is a victim of its own success and popularity.  I buy certain NAS whiskies, Aberlour A’bunadh for example and Ardbeg Corryvreckan and I think as long as the product is good, why not?  But the key is that the price should be reasonable.  Sadly, the price for some 18, 21 year and older whiskies has gone up 50% or more in the last few years, and the trend is dragging up prices the in the lower end of the market too.

(Linda)Yes, both are always tucked nicely in my scotch cabinet. Robust flavors, each with its own distinct flavor profile, that never disappoint.

5.       Do you have a whisk(e)y collection? Whether yes or no, why and what is the focus?

Hmmm. This is a very good question.

6.       Do you follow any specific whisky experts or authors or bloggers or tweeters? Tell me a bit about some of them and why you follow them.

I’m a member of a few online whiskey groups where people share tasting notes and news, but I think one of the best, most entertaining and thoughtful whiskey journalists is Mark Gillespie and Whiskycast.  He’s everywhere covering the whole world of whiskey all the time.  He’s a great host and interviewer with incredible access.

7.       What was the impetus for starting a whisk(e)y festival in Sarasota?

By 2012 I had attended the Kentucky Bourbon Ball, New York Whisky Fest and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society Extravaganza near Ft Lauderdale and I was constantly searching the internet for other whiskey events, especially in Florida.  Since we have multiple wine events in Sarasota like Forks and Corks, Florida Winefest, and Wine, Women, and Shoes, I decided we needed a whiskey festival at home too.  Using all the contacts I had made at those other events, I got commitments from brands and distributors, as well as a few ambassadors and distillers, and I held the first Whiskey Obsession Festival in April 2013.  We had thirty one vendor tables and around 175 whiskies. By comparison, this year we’ll have forty nine vendor tables and 250 whiskies, plus many more industry dignitaries leading master classes, the panel discussion, and a cigar pairing.  I’ve now been two several dozen whiskey festivals around the country and have only seen a similar industry presence in Las Vegas and New York; Whiskey Obsession has become a first class festival and one of the biggest in the Southeast United States.  I’ve got great relationships with the brands, they really support the event and value connecting with this market.  Plus being in Florida in the spring isn’t bad either.          

8.       What are some of the more interesting surprises that you have experienced during the festival – for example: the whisk(e)y ambassadors, and the patrons of the whisk(e)y courses, and the patrons actual grand tasting night?

Fortunately we’ve never had any negative surprises.  I hire a variety of police, security, and staff to make the evening safe and enjoyable for guests.  I strongly encourage guests to take a friend and Uber.  I spend four months working on the event so at the panel and grand tasting, I can actually relax and have fun.  I’ve got a few key helpers who have worked with me before so for me the festival is like throwing the world’s best party.  It’s just that before and after it I’m exhausted.  

9.       Have you considered leading a festival in other regions of Florida?

There’s a new whiskey festival in Orlando that’s having its second annual event a couple of weeks after Whiskey Obsession (I hope to attend their Pappy Van Winkle class).  And there’s a craft spirits festival with a related whiskey event in Miami also in its second year, plus the Scotch Malt Whisky Society Extravaganza near Ft Lauderdale.  So, our state is well covered at the moment.  Fortunately for me, Whiskey Obsession has a few unique features: on site package sales with bottle signings, classes and panel discussion led by dozens of distillers and ambassadors, and a very broad range of spirits from Japan, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, France, and the United States, including a bunch of small craft distillers.  Few other events across the country have the people, product, or experiences we have at Whiskey Obsession.  And none of them are in beautiful Sarasota! 

10.   What advice would you give to someone who is a complete whisk(e)y novice and is going to attend the 2016 Whiskey Obsession Festival?

Bring friends and book your hotel rooms now!  If time permits, arrive Wednesday March 30 and join us for the whiskey dance party with special musical guest Brothertiger.  Thursday night is the fantastic Panel of Whiskey Experts with eight distillers and ambassadors presenting sixteen whiskies in a unique interactive tasting and discussion.  The main event is Friday and with so many whiskies, it’s helpful to have a plan.  All the whiskies will be published on the website www.whiskeyobsessionfestival.com a few weeks ahead of time.  Don’t try stuff you already drink at home, walk around a bit and try a few that catch your eye, and talk to all of the people working the event – they live and breathe these products every day.  The event is three hours for general admission guests and four hours for VIP guests so there’s plenty of time to go back and sample.  Drink a few sips of water every time you rinse your glass and enjoy the wonderful buffet.  Many guests take notes so they can remember what they liked and didn’t, and all the selections are printed in our program.  And if there’s a line at a table, maybe there’s a reason and they’ve got something really good!  

Check out the Whisk(e)y Obsession videos, photos, website and like it on Facebook. Grab a few friends and join us at the 2016 Festival. March 30-April 1.

Many thanks to Turner for his thoughtful and informative answers. I raise a glass! See you at Whiskey Obsession Festival.

15 on the Ready: Buy, Drink, Share

15

I read an interesting blog by angelsportion.wordpress.com this past week which focused on his Top 15 whiskies for under $75 that should be in one’s whisky shelf. A blog worth reading – I found it stimulated my curiosity. Do I have a similar list lurking in the house? My first stop was grabbing a copy of my new romp of a book Whisky Tales: Tastings and Temptations. The book covers more than 100 whiskies that I offered at whisky tastings for charities, friends, and private events. They are all on my like list. At the end of the book I proclaim my Top 10 favorite single malts but don’t offer a list of “should haves” under $75. Ok, I needed a plan to work this list out. I checked to see how many of angelsportion’s bottles were mentioned in my book – eight of the fifteen are discussed. Yet, the only whisky from his list that I have not tried is the Glengoyne 17 Y.O. Hmm, what bottles to pick, such a dilemma.

Book in hand, I opened my scotch cabinet and super-secret hiding places and began the quest for the Top 15 under $75. The under $75 wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, though a few of my list sneaked towards the $100 mark. And, being a little left of center on most everything, I veered off the single malt course and proudly added a blend and an Irish, a Japanese, and an American whiskey.

 Laphroaig

Once the whisk(e)y list met my own criteria – an opened bottle that I drink regularly and that I proudly offer to guests – I went back to see how many were in the book. As with angelsportion – eight of the fifteen are discussed in the book. Yet, angelsportion and I only have one duplicate whisky on our lists – the Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Just goes to show that personal preferences are key, availability is crucial, many, many price points are still under $75, and most of all there are still ever so many whiskies from Scotland and around the world to discover, taste and share.

 Lagavulin label

For the record, here is my Top 15 whiskies to have around the house and not hidden in the super-secret places. One more deviation – I have ranked my Top 3, the remaining twelve are by country and region, if applicable. My preference for any of the whiskies is dependent on mood, weather, fellow imbibers, time of day, what/who I am reading, tweeting. All these ingredients keep every dram fresh and exciting!

Scotland – my Top 3

  1. Lagavulin 16 YO – Islay
  2. Ardbeg Corryvreckan – Islay
  3. Springbank Madeira 11 YO – Campbeltown

Scotland

  • Bruichladdich The Laddie Ten, Islay
  • Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Islay
  • Highland Park Dark Origins, Orkney
  • Aberfeldy 12 YO, Highland
  • Aberlour a’bunadh, Speyside
  • Glenfarclas 17 YO, Speyside
  • Glenlivet 18 YO, Speyside
  • Oban, Western Highland

Blend

  • Grand MacNish 15 YO, Sherry Cask (makes a great Rusty Nail)

Ireland

  • Bushmills, 16 YO

Japan

  • Suntory Yamazaki 12 YO

United States

  • Westland Single Malt 2 YO 1st Fill Oloroso Barrel, Seattle, Washington (totally buzzed by this one)

Westland

Early on I realized that I needed to have a ranking system for the whiskies I tasted. My system is simple: I number each whisky from 1 – never buy, to 4 – must have. Detailed reviews are not my thing. I am not an expert on using all the monikers that describe the sweet, spicy, savory, subtle, smoky, sherried, candy, etc. flavors of whisky. I leave that to others. Obviously, my list above does not include any “1s”, my Top 3 are definitely “4s” the rest are in between somewhere.

Not to make it sound like a blatant sales pitch, but my book reveals all my wows and hmmms and recommendations for enough whiskies to give readers a sense of who I am and what I prefer. Just saying.

Thank you angelsportion for an inspiring article. I raise a glass!

 

 

There is no traffic congestion on the straight and narrow path.

There is no traffic congestion on the straight and narrow path. Tommy Dewar

Tommy Dewar

My young daughter Carrie wanted to buy me glasses for Christmas the winter she worked after school at a kitchen and gift shop. She told her co-workers that she wanted the glasses because “My mother belongs to this group that drinks.” It sounded like it was a club of debauchery and alcoholics anonymous drop-outs. The co-workers looked askance at her. A clarifying explanation was in order!

Well this Mom still drinks but the story is so much more than debauchery. As I start off Chapter 1 of my book, Whisky Tales: Tastings and Temptations: it is all Amanda’s fault. Really. She was the one who suggested that a group of us get together and have our own whisky tasting. Being the great followers, we eagerly said, “Sure.” The rest is more than history, more than a deviation from the straight and narrow path.

six classic malts

My ever expanding love of whisky and blossoming collection, has taken me on a journey that was never envisioned during that first tasting. I like to give credit to the shocking preference I had for the Lagavulin 16 Y.O.  We were sampling the then “Six Classic Malts” whiskies which were sold as a gift set of nip size bottles (so wish they were still available.) Yes, they are all mammoth-corporation Diageo owned whiskies but they give a fairly good range of flavor profiles. But during that first tasting all I knew was that they were “scotch”; something I thought old men drank. The six expressions included:

  • Glenkinchie 10 Y.O.
  • Dalwhinnie 15 Y.O.
  • Cragganmore 12 Y.O.
  • Oban 14 Y.O.
  • Talisker 10 Y.O.
  • Lagavulin 16 Y.O.

Lagavulin label

Taste after taste my face twisted and wrinkled and I thought how could this possibly be pleasurable? Was it supposed to taste like medicine, burn the throat when swallowed, and not have any bubbles? After tasting all six, Amanda told us to go back to the one we liked the best.  I found the Lagavulin wrapped snuggly in my hands. It tasted like leather, iodine, peat and smoke. Astonishing! I embraced my new found love and set out on a quest to learn more about whisky, to seek out bottles that were not the “every day” and to build a collection to share and experience with others. While I have more than 150 bottles and have traveled several times to Scotland, I am still working my way through Ian Buxton’s 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die. So much whisky in the world to taste. It is still a thrill to find a whisky expression not well known or available that awakens the nose, palate and finish! (And is not going to break the bank to buy.)

101 whiskies book

Many of us who use the word passion when discussing whisky – whether it is single malt, a blend, a bourbon, a rye, distilled in Scotland, Canada, America, Ireland, India, Japan – have stories on how the passion was ignited. For me, the fun of it all was behind my taking up the pen and writing my romp of a book, creating this blog, and tweeting out to all who will listen. Connecting through social media and from all points of the globe continues to fuel passion, expand knowledge and the pure joy of experiences with likeminded souls. We are not on the straight and narrow path. We are not trying to be labeled as experts but simply reaching out and sharing our passion and our whiskies. I still belong to “this group that drinks” – fantastically it is a worldwide group!

I thank you Amanda.  I thank you Lagavulin. Whisky drinkers tell your stories!

I raise a glass to my fellow whisky drinkers!

Snippets from the book: Port Ellen 1979

Waiting for the right moment to open up this beauty.
Waiting for the right moment to open up this beauty.

A bit of nostalgia from Chapter 2 of Whisky Tales: Tastings and Temptations…. 2005: After a few days in Rochdale, we hit the road for the historic Eaves Hall for a weekend birthday celebration for our dear friend Catherine. Eaves Hall is situated on thirteen acres of gardens and beautiful Lancashire countryside. After the formal and festive dinner, a nightcap was suggested and the liveliest of the Party People eased on up to the sophisticated lounge and bar.  I eyed a bottle of barely opened special edition Lagavulin sitting innocently on the top shelf and asked if I would be allowed to purchase the entire bottle to share with my friends.  The bartender, young and obviously not well versed in tending bar, thought why not and gave me a price. Deal done. I hope his supervisor never found out about the bargain I received. Don’t judge, the bar made their money back on the wholesale price of the bottle. Absolutely! We didn’t quite finish the bottle that weekend, the remaining gold became a gift for the birthday girl.

During the following afternoon a group of us decided to walk to the Clitheroe town center a few short miles from Eaves Hall.  The word was that Clitheroe had a superior whisky store that we must investigate just in case something had our names on it.  The shop, D. Byrne & Co., was glorious; it was paradise found. It was more whisky than any one underpaid overworked person could ever manage to bring back to the United States or anywhere else for that matter.  What to buy? (My first impulse was to ask for a Springbank 21 Y.O., but they had none.) I settled on a Signatory, 1979, 22 Y.O. Port Ellen for a reasonable price.  Securely packaged in a round metal container, I thought it would be more protected to bring home in the suitcase than the usual cardboard box.  This was post 9/11 and I knew nothing would be allowed with my carry-on luggage.

Whisky in tow, it was time for snacks and window shopping around the town. I found some ice cream to satisfy my sweet tooth and pal Tiffany offered to carry the Port Ellen while I ate.  Some of us were sauntering along and spotted a bench to sit on and finish our snacks.  The next thing I knew I heard a loud clunk. Everyone looked at Tiffany; everyone looked at me.  Yes, it was the bottle that had tumbled out of the bag and hit the sidewalk.  Horrified we all ran towards the precious baby. The container had a dent. Gingerly and with bated breath I opened the  container; were there any signs of leakage? The metal container saved it. All was well with the world. While writing this chapter in 2014 I pulled out the Signatory – as yet unopened, gave it a pat and clicked on The Whisky Exchange web site to see if it was still available and what was the going price.  To my astonishment and delight, The Whisky Exchange was asking about $750 when converted from the British pound. I went back to check while writing this blog and now it seems to be sold out on all  the sites I viewed. Needless to say, I am thrilled to pieces (of course, pun intended) that it didn’t break that day.  My friends and I were still a number of years away from the ultimate whisky trip, but the seeds were sown during this long ago trip and the birthday weekend at Eaves Hall. I raise a glass to fond memories and good whisky!