Monday, June 29, 2009

You don't make a wee bit of sense!

Not really whisky related, but I nearly pissed myself laughing.

Link to YouTube

Thursday, June 25, 2009

On Peat and Smoke

At this point in my Scotch... voyage, I find that I know very little about peat and smoke. What I DO know is that I crave it (Laphroaig and Ardbeg: once great enemies of mine; now great friends)! I actually miss my sensitivity to the peat though.

Early on, when there was smokiness, I just assumed it was peat. Later, I discovered they are two distinctly different aromas/tastes (yet not mutually exclusive from one another). Worse yet, there are many discernible types of peat and smoke. All the while my peat sensitivity is being flushed down the toilet.

I believe it is still possible to tune one's peat and smoke senses, but not without education. If I ever learn, I'll be sure to share.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ardmore 10yr

This is perhaps my most favorite budget whisky (can be had for around $40). Several of my non-Scotch drinking friends have commented on the wonderful aroma of it.

The bottle isn't particularly informative however. Sure, there's a cool embossed eagle in the glass. The label looks no-nonsense and straight forward, but where does it tell you how old it is (I had to find out from the retailer when I bought my first bottle)? There's also little information regarding what type of cask it was aged in other than it being finished in a "traditional cask". It does tell you that it is non-chill filtered and bottled at 46% ABV.

Appearance: The whisky appears fairly dark when you have a new bottle which would lead you to believe caramel coloring was added. However, once it is in your glass, it's a much paler yellow (or when the bottle is near empty). It is also fairly oily. When you add water, it does get quite cloudy, true to its word.

Nose: Probably the best part. Starts off with woody sweetness, a tiny bit of fruit, slightly herbal, and a fair amount of alcohol. Lightly peated. After adding water and allowing it to open up, the buttery caramel goodness starts wafting through the air and stays with the glass long after the whisky is gone.

Taste: A lot of the aromatic elements are also found in the taste. There's a modest amount of peat, maltiness, and spice. The caramel sweetness coats your mouth and lingers for quite a while.

Murray McDavid Highland Park

My next whisky... "focus of attention" is a bit off the beaten path... an independent bottling of Highland Park. It's the 2nd independent bottling of Highland Park I've tried (the other being a Signatory) and apparently there are quite a few others.

I like what most independent bottlers do with well known Scotch Whiskies. They do something a little unique (like bottle from a single hand selected cask or finish the aging in a special cask like this Murray McDavid), skip the chill-filtering and coloring, and possibly bottle it at cask strength (in this instance, the Highland Park was bottled at 46% ABV instead of the usual 43%). It's definitely something special for the Highland Park enthusiast.

Another benefit to these bottlings is the informative label. From it, we gather that it was distilled in 1989 at Highland Park Distillery on Orkney, aged for 18 years, bottled at the Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay in 2007, aged in Bourbon casks, finished in Port casks, and was limited to only 900 bottles which makes your chances of trying it... not very good. Doing a little research of my own, Murry McDavid waters down the whisky from its cask strength to its 46% ABV with Bruichladdich's Islay water source.

And after all that special treatment? It still tastes like Highland Park to me.

Appearance: Quite dark for being a natural colored whisky. Influence of the Port casks perhaps? Slightly more oily than Highland Park's 18yr bottling to my eye judging from the legs/tears.

Nose: Immediately sweet (not sherry, not toffee... perhaps more influence of the Port casks? I don't know... I don't drink Port). Malty. Moderately peated. Nicely balanced... just like Highland Park.

Taste: A delicious, yet sweet Highland Park. For me, it needed a splash of water. As the whisky opened up, the citrus and woody notes really came through.

Something Special

I was in the middle of writing about independent bottlers when I was invited to join my friends for a drink earlier tonight. Despite having the contents of a pulled pork sandwich dropped on my kicks TWICE tonight, this was an absolutely AMAZING evening for Scotch appreciation. I'll try to recount my mental notes, but many drams went back and forth throughout the night.

Isle of Jura 14yr

A special bottling of Isle of Jura quite unlike the 10yr or 16yr, this was bottled at 46% ABV and unchill-filtered. When my order arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find it served in a Glencairn glass and natural colored!

Appearance: A light cloudy yellow. Obviously non-chill-filtered without any additional caramel coloring.

Nose: A delicious sweet vanilla wafer aroma with hints of citrus, salt, spice, and peat. After opening up, the citrus notes really come alive.

Taste: Surprisingly full bodied. Stronger emphasis on the salt, malt, spiciness, and peaty notes (although not as bold as a Talisker). A tiny splash of water helped the sweetness round out the whisky.

Signatory Port Ellen 26yr

Perhaps the most special whisky I've had to date. This is an incredibly rare independent bottling of a vintage Port Ellen (distillery ceased operations back in 1983 so getting ahold of ANY Port Ellen whisky is a rare treat). Port Ellen was an Islay distillery and it certainly shows.

Appearance: A light cloudy yellow once again. A non-chill-filtered, natural colored Signatory bottling at cask strength which probably accounts for the fairly oily consistency in the glass.

Nose: Immediately tobacco. Then very distinctive Islay notes of peat, camp fire, and sea air. Also hints of sour fruit and apples. The fruit and tobacco lingered well after the whisky was gone.

Taste: An undeniably full bodied, full flavored Islay whisky. Many of the same elements as the nose, but a heavy dose of tobacco, malt, peat, and sea water. Very little of the flavor is masked by alcohol, even at full cask strength. A couple drops of water brought the apples and fruit way forward.

My hat is off to the individual who covered the Port Ellen.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

WhiskyFest San Francisco

A couple colleagues and I are registered. Buy your tickets before Monday and waive the handling fee using the coupon code SFDAD

Link to Malt Advocate

FYI, it's the evening of Friday, October 16.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ardbeg Uigeadail

Thank goodness the bottlers often include pronunciation guides with the harder to pronounce Gaelic-named Scotch Whiskies. I couldn't even imagine how badly I would have butchered this (Oog-a-dal).

Anyway, I'm starting off my blog in the deep end of the pool. I recall tasting the Ardbeg 10yr when my taste preferences favored lighter and more delicate whiskies. It was my first experience with an Islay whisky and I remember thinking it was possibly the most horrible liquid I ever put in my mouth. The peat was absolutely overwhelming... not to mention the seawater flavor and consistency. Surprisingly, after beginning to crave the Islay peatiness, my perception of Ardbeg's flavor profile hasn't changed much. It's still intensely peaty, but not nearly as devastating as my first run in with it.

Ardbeg Uigeadail. Bottled at cask strength at a whopping 54.2% ABV and seemingly corrected the shortcomings of the Ardbeg 10yr.

Appearance: Pours quite dark if this is indeed a natural colored whisky. I immediately noticed how much more oily it was in my Glencairn glass compared to other Ardbegs.

Nose: Ardbeg. This, the 10yr, and the Nam Beist all have that unmistakable Ardbeg scent of peat, a campfire with an old tire roasting on top, seawater, and what I'm guessing is Iodine. Unlike the other Ardbegs, this one sizzles your sinuses with its alcohol vapors. After a healthy splash of water, something different comes alive. It's sweeter, creamier... more toffee.

Taste: Intense. Peat explosion. Coats your mouth and will also numb it without water. Sweet notes like toffee and fruitcake. Mouth-feel is more rich and creamy than the 10yr. Flavor is less medicinal. Finish is a drying campfire.

The only Ardbeg I've tried that I'd buy again. If you're having a session with friends, finish with this one otherwise all other Scotches will taste like water.

First Post

I am not a Scotsman nor am I an ancient Japanese warrior (nor any combination or derivation of the two). I am simply an enthusiast of Scotch Whisky. Saying I am a connoisseur would suggest I have something valuable to say on the topic which simply isn't true.

Friends and colleagues alike have mentioned from time to time that I speak on the topic passionately and should start a blog. I think I just speak too much. Anyhow, here is the aforementioned blog!