Munitions grade dram (up to $50): At around $30, you can’t go wrong with the Aberlour 12 Year Double cask in my opinion but if you are buying for the more big brass ballz kind of whisky drinker the Laphroaig Select 750 might do you better at just under $35 it’s a steal. Knappogue Castle 12 Year Irish Whiskey would be a welcome site under my tree this year and is well priced at a hair under $45 at the moment.
Sipper dram (up to $100): On the reasonable end of this group I’d put in the Compass Box Spice Tree Blended Malt. Yea, John is an old friend of the 3DC, but I’ve always had a fondness for this particular expression. Yellowspot 12 Year Pot Still at around $90 is an excellent choice for the Paddy lover on your list.
Special occasion dram (up to $300): The Compass Box Hedonism is a bit more pricey that used to be, but at just over $100 it’s still a good value for money in my opinion. At a wink under $200 this dram’s price keeps crawling up there but it’s the only dram by this maker I actually like so I’ma toss it on the list, Balvenie 21 Year Port Wood Finish.
Stupid money ($300+): Save your coin. I love whisky as much as the next guy, but who the hell you buying this for anyway. Unless your are hanging with the Maharaja, buy a couple bottles for some closer friends instead. 😛
Out of the box thinking: Pricey for a sake at just under $40, but I do love this one: Masumi Hiyaoroshi Hiyaoroshi Ginjo Sake “Sleeping Beauty”
Book: Here’s one I’d like to get myself actually. We might know the author of this one so there’s that caveat, but he knows his shite so I don’t mind shilling for him. Robin Robinson’s book, The complete Whiskey Course: A comprehensive Tasting School in Ten Classes is available on a variety of retailers from at least Amazon to Target, at just under $30 (B&N has a deal on it right now though).
The 3DC Vegas Invasion of 2012…. February 18th & 19th to be more precise.
The 3DC had arranged two events coincided with an SCA event happening in Boulder City, NV just 30 or so miles from the strip. The first of these was a 6 dram paired tasting at the Ri’Ra’ (Mandalay Hotel/Casino), and the second night was to be a visit to the Freakin’ Frog’s Whisky Attic to take advantage of the 850+ drams Adam Carmer has sitting on the shelves just waiting for folks like us.
To that end, and having had a grand time swishing and a poking all day at the Practicum of the Sword event. It really has no comparission, we both have a good amount of experience on sites like online-casino-sverige.se but playing live is such a thrill! Jeff and I (Raz) trundled back to the Hotel in Henderson to get cleaned up and grab a light snack to prep our tummies for the drams that were to follow. After doing so, and courtesy of Melissa’s kind offer of transport and Stephen’s equally generous offer to be the designated driver for the weekend, we set off from Henderson. With Saul at the wheel we charged down the 215 to the Ri’Ra’ and valeted our golden chariot, then strode into the hotel lobby and, via a misstep past one of the worst bar bands in living memory, we made it to the bar about 45 minutes early. Scott (Ri’Ra’s manager) met us at the front door and showed us right back into our own private side room. It was kind of like a toss back to the 1970s stylistically but had it’s own wee bar staffed by our own wee Irish bartender. A round of cider was ordered to whet the palate and we had great conversations with folks as they trickled in. In the end we numbered a scant 8 actually participating, but Scott was OK with it since they haven’t done more that a couple tastings before and were looking at our event as a way to gain more experience. 3DC luck plays out in out favor again it seems.
To the meat of the matter then, the pairings:
Dalwinnie 15 and the Irish Salmon. The dram was better than I’d remembered it. Personally I didn’t like the salmon at all, which is no surprise to me at least, but those who actually like salmon said it paired well and was quite tasty.
Macallan 12 and the (lamb) Sheppard’s pie. A wonderful smelling dram (ended up dabbing a bit on as a cologne) and paired quite well with the pie. The pie itself was spectacular. There was some extensive conversation around whether the dram helped the pie or if it was the other way around. The consensus around the table came out in favor of the influence of the dram this time.
Talisker Distiller’s Edition and the Irish Cheddar. The dram hit the table ahead of the cheese so we sipped on it. This was powerful and full of brine like an angry sea. The table seemed to agree that we wouldn’t likely be getting all the way through this one. It really was grabbing us by the balls after the Speyside in the last pairing. The cheese showed up and was very salty and very tasty too. That’s when the magic happened. This was the paring that most surprised everyone. The greatest impact one to the other of any of them on this evening. The conversation about which was the greater influence reared it’s ugly head again, this time falling in favor of the cheese. Far from not finishing the dram as it turned out, we ran dry before we’d finished the cheese. I’d give this one the award for most astonishing pairing of the evening.
Jameson’s Gold and Pork Belly / spinach. The fist pairing of the evening to fall a bit short. Partially, at least, in the execution. The dram itself was quite good, full of spice and vanilla as would be expected. The pig however was a bit cold and underdone. The fat did not pair well with the dram; contrarily the few burnt end pieces actually did pair quite well with it adding complexity not originally in the dram. The spinach was actually more complex than the dram so that kind of took away from it. All in all, it was kind of nice to have this pairing not work as it showed us both possibilities. A huge improvement in #3 to a degrading of the dram here. I think if the belly was end pieces or even proper Irish bacon it would have worked much better.
Tullamore Dew 12 and a creamy tomato soup. This also did not pair well though not because of the execution. The tomato soup may possibly have been the best I’ve ever had. A truly wonderful concoction. Paired with the dram though all kinds of acid and sharpness was present. An utter failure of a pairing. That being said the soup was far too good not to eat, so I shot the dram, had a sip of water and enjoyed the rest of the soup at my leisure.
Compass Box Hedonism and dark chocolate cake with a dollop of fresh cream and a thin shaving of strawberry. This was likely the best pairing of the night and I was so very glad to end the pairing menu on this instead of #5. This was a wonderful cake and a wonderful dram that when paired together was ecstasy. I can’t recommend this pairing highly enough, but it was a pretty safe bet.
We ended the event with more great conversations and another cider. Not sure how, but no one really was all that tipsy. This was a grand evening and we learned so much.
Special thanks to Melissa for taking notes as we went along so that I could reference back to them here. A huge thanks to Stephen for getting us home safe. Another huge thank you to Robin Robinson and Compass Box for the bottle hookup. It really saved our tasting.
Sunday, after another fun day of swinging swords about, we met the gang back out in front of our hotel and opted for dinner at Freakin’ Frog’s ahead of meeting up with Adam in the Whisky Attic. A moment to further endorse this little off strip dive bar, the food was really good. I would warn you against to the nuclear hot chilli fries unless you are looking for that kind of experience. The Dogfish Head Sah’tea beer I had with my dinner was amazing. Ask Saul if you don’t believe me. I’d ordered it blind from seeing just the top of the bottle not realizing it was a 750ml bottle so I needed the help. My new favorite beer EVAR!
Sometime just after 8PM we told Adam we were ready and we scaled the stairs passed the velvet rope up into the wonderland that is the Whisky Attic. By the time the evening was done we numbered a pleasant 13 or so in our group. Adam was a wonderful and quite funny host. Normally he runs structured seated tastings but given our reputation, he opened up the bar and let us wander around the shelves each picking drams willy-nilly. Jeff stumbled onto what was probably the best way to do a freestyling trip to the Attic. He picked a dram and then asked Adam where he should go next. Adam put together a 4 dram journey of flavors building in intensity and ending in an unexpected far off land. I however, arrogant as I am, knew what I wanted: drams to which I don’t normally have access.
I started with the best whisky in the world (to my palate) the Bunahabhain 25. It’s like the 18 but +100 points for, oh I don’t know, everything. An expensive dram to be sure but as someone who generally doesn’t necessarily appreciate the more pricey drams over munitions grade fare, I was blown away.
I chose as my second dram I picked the Sheep Dip 1990. A hefty dram to be sure. Not subtle at all but not harsh either.
For my last dram of the night I let Adam pick for me and he gave me Heart Brothers bottling of a Glen Turret Cask Strength 10 year. A surprisingly soft and smooth dram for a cask strength dram. Down the Speyside road for complexity.
A very nice way to end my visit with Adam and all in attendance seemed to have had a great time and we all learned a lot and had things we didn’t know existed.
Adam wrote me a note thanking us for the visit and saying how much he enjoyed our group and that he’d love to see us anytime. I’m thinking next year we let Adam set up a tasting for us and I’ll coordinate it with the SCA event. I’d be interested to see how Adam runs a structured tasting. I’m sure I could learn a lot.
Thanks to all the 3DC and friends there of who came out and played with us. The great conversations I had each night were what makes all this worthwhile for me.
OK Whiskies lovers, we can finally give out some more concrete details of our “3DC Invade Las Vegas” events on President’s day weekend 2012:
First excursion: Paired tasting at the Ri’Ra’ (Mandalay Bay)
When: Saturday, February the 18th, 8PM
Pairing 1. Dalwinnie with Burran’s Smoked Salmon from Ireland
Pairing 2. Macallan 15yr with Shepard’s pie (lamb)
Pairing 3. Talisker distillers with Kerry gold sharp Cheddar Cheese from Ireland
Pairing 4. Jameson Gold with Pork Belly
Pairing 5. Tullamore Dew 10yr with Tomato Basil Soup
Pairing 6. Combass Box (Hedonism*) with a Dark Chocolate Desert – details pending. *Confirmation outstanding
$60.00, “all in” (includes taxes and gratuity)
Dress: Something stylish would be appreciated.
**Note: Food portions are sample sized and the drams are 1oz ea. We are limited to 25 seats at this event (cause that how many 1 oz drams you get in a bottle) but we need have at least 12.
Second excursion: Field trip to the Whisky Attic at Freak’n Frogs
When: Sunday, February the 19th, 8PM
What: Field trip to the Whisky Attic at Freak’n Frogs and Adam’s 750+ expressions just waiting for you to choose from.
Open format. We can bring as just about as many people as we’d like so the more’s the merrier.
$?, pay as you go for the drams you order. The education you get from Adam is free. 😉 Dress: It’s a dive bar downstairs, your call…
Please email Raz at: email@example.com with your RSVP in the affirmative. No negative RSVPs are needed.
The official 3DC hotel is the Fiesta Hotel Casino, Henderson if you feel inclined to grab a room near us. (This as chosen as a convenient compromise location between another coincident event for the SCA that many of us are attending as well.)
***Note: This, as all 3DC events to date, is a not for profit venture. You pay for what you get and we don’t take a dime. Also note, to your advantage (should you attend) +Compass Box Whisky has been kind enough to comp their bottle for the tasting. Thank you very much to Robin Robinson of Compass Box for making that happen for us.
Stop 4: Freakin’ Frog’s. Nestled in a strip mall a couple miles off the strip and just across the street from UNLV, almost hidden, is a little bar. A very special little bar to be sure.
Friday night, Ginger wasn’t feeling all that great and wasn’t of a mind to explore and was considering a nap so I struck out on my own. I walked right up to the front of the Trop and hopped in a cab and asked him to take me to Freakin’ Frog’s on Maryland Blvd. He had no idea where it was. I said the major cross streets were Tropicana and Maryland and if he’d start off I’d pull the addy from the web. He dropped me off in this dingy little strip mall (after passing the place up and having to make an illegal U-ie to get me there) and (despite feeling a bit uncomfortable on the inside) I girded up my loins and put on a smiling mask to the tatted up bouncer and full of 3DC confidence walked on into the bar. It was soul music night and the place was about 3/4 full locals as the show was just getting started I slipped in pretty well unnoticed. This place was definitely a toss back to the 70’s. I noted a set of stairs that (very non fung sui) lead straight up to what looked like an office / store room excepting the fact that there was this old set of theater line poles and a dingy padded rope hung between them barring access to them. The bar itself might as well have been a biker bar, save the clientele was a fairly well mixed set of locals. The bar staff looked pretty tough too, though most seemed on the other side of questionable decisions one might make in one’s youth. I slid down tot he end of the bar by the stairs and asked if there was any way I might be allowed a peak at the Whisky Attic. The barman said I’d need to talk to Adam about that but he didn’t think they were taking anyone up there tonight. He said he’d ask though. He went out and talked to a guy clearing tables and generally being the kind of active engaged manager I can appreciate. He returned and said if I’d wait, Adam would take me up in 10 minutes or so after the room was set for the show.
About half way through the first song. Adam walked on over and said “let’s go”, dropped the rope at the bottom of the stairs and we climbed on up. The room at the top of the stairs was about 15′ X 40′ with a table and chairs to the left and a bar about sectioning off about a third of the room to the right. On the far wall and all the walls beyond the bar were oak shelves. On these shelves were bottle after bottle of different expressions. 750 or so Adam told me and he indicated he had another 300 hundred or so in the office he’d not yet been able to shelf. I asked if I could take pics and he said I could, though in hind sight I think I only took 3 pics in total, so awe struck was I by the selection all around me. He invited me back behind the bar to get a better look at it all as we talked about the 3DC and what his goals were for this collection. I’m not going to go into all that we spoke of, you’ll just need to go talk to the man himself to get all the details.
After looking about and reeling from the realization that I was amongst several hundred drams I’ve never had, I noted a selection from the same distiller / bottler from India and he said he had a special on those, a flight of them for $100. I think I said, “let’s do it”. He then said he intended to change the way I tasted whiskies. Adam, you see, is a professor over at UNLV as his day job and has spent a significant amount of time thinking about the subject. His rationale is that the reason we look, smell, then taste harkens back to our caveman days when we were just trying to suss out whether or not what we were about to ingest was poisonous and that the fact that we acknowledge that he was not intending on killing me and that mankind has thousands of years evolving since those times that perhaps there may be a better way to go about such things. I encourage each of you reading this and that have even a passing interest in whiskies to go and meet and learn from this man on your own or in groups as your druthers dictate, but do so. I don’t expect to be able to do justice to describing his method of tasting, but I will say it works better for me than the 3 or 4 methods I’ve used to date and had a great time with my Yolo Sex Toy attraction, they help to release your mind and have pleassure. That and I intend to be using as my primary technique going forward. If you hit me up in person, I might be able to show you, but I don’t have the words to put it to paper so you’ll have to be content with this much.
The flight was 6 bottles from Amrut and we’re all pretty darn spectacular. (I’ve found out that since March some of these drams have started making their way onto American shelves.) I’d heard so many bad things about Indian Whiskey that admittedly my expectations were pretty low, but there was no need for that. 2 were cask strength and 1 of those and 1 other were peated as well. Not a bad dram in the bunch.
For the details of the Whisky Attic: 4700 S. Maryland Pkwy Las Vegas, NV 89117 By reservation only, call 702-217-6794 to speak with Adam B Carmer and make an appointment.
Late last month Ginger and I took a trip to Las Vegas. I’m kind of getting over the whole gambling as entertainment thing these days, but I thought I may take advantage of the town, and the wife being occupied at the games, to explore some dram spots I have heard of in the interim as well as confirm a few that were old favorites back when the dinos walked the earth. Understand that I’ve not been to LV is quite some time, likely 7 years which is like 150 years architecturally in any other town in the world.
Stop 1: An old favorite, the Bellagio. This hotel casino has always been one of the better places on the trip to get a selection of whiskies and the journey to it while I enjoy playing online games like live blackjack online or others which you can check this out, without a doubt in my mind make it one among the essential moments of my trip. Not a remarkable selection, but they have more that any of the other major casinos put on the shelf and for that I recommend them more than anyone out of my comparison list of new sites and casinos I like. Any old whisky was not what I’d come for thought, I came for a dram of Loch Dhu (the black whisky). They’ve changed the layout of the casinos over the years and it took a while to find the little bar between the hotel lobby and the theater I have been sending people to for years to get a dram of this quiet still expression. You see back when it first was released to the US Market, Loch Dhu was very inexpensive, something like $25 if memory serves, and the bar manager liked it and bought a pallet of the stuff. Not too many years later, the distillery was bought by the French in order to get another expression and the black whisky fell out of production entirely. You could not buy a bottle today for less than $250, a nice turn if you were an investment collector. I’m not and I’m partial to this dram so I sit down and order one. The tender pulls the bottle and pours the last bit, just about a full shot, into a snifter and tosses the bottle. I then do what I’ve done every time I’ve gone and done this at the Bellagio, I ask if they will sell me a bottle. He says that they can’t do that because that was the last of it and they aren’t expected to get any more. This being the case, and me getting the last dram of the last bottle from that pallet of Loch Dhu, I tell him the story about how many 3DC over the years I’ve sent in to have a dram of this stuff and ask if I could have the bottle he tossed. Needless to say, it’s sitting in a place of honor on my shelf.
Stop 2: Nine Fine Irishmen at New York, New York Hotel Casino. This is a finely appointed Irish pub with the obligitory imported pub fixtures and furnishings. I was there for lunch and they were piping in a very good selection of Irish Drinking tunes. Everything from the Clancy Brothers to the Pogues so that bit was very good. The selection of whiskies was better than average and fairly competent in the Irish category. The bar had that tight confined space that usually makes a pub feel right and that you don’t generally get on the strip in Vegas, but alas, something seemed off a bit. I sat at the bar, ordered a Bushmill’s 16 and a corned beef sammy on rye. The food was tasty the dram fine but something was off in this place and I’m pretty sure I know what it was. The bar staff. Sure they were nice enough, but they didn’t seem to know how to run an Irish Pub. After gabbing with them a bit and unavoidably listening to two of them lightly bitch about their schedules, I discovered that the NY rotates the bar staff around the casino daily so they don’t really get to know each bar’s eccentricities and high points. Hell at one point they asked if I needed anything else and I said I’d have some vinegar for my fries if they had any and he responded “what kind?”. In a moment of shock and ill-composure I responded, “I’m sorry I thought for a moment I was in a pub.” He smiled and said “Malt vinegar, right.” That pretty sums up the Nine Fine Irishmen. It’s been managed into a bad place. A dedicated staff and a manager who knows what an Irish pub should be like could fix this place in a heart beat. As it is, I won’t be back unless I hear something to suggest they fix the management issues.
Stop: 3 Ri’Ra’ at Mandalay Bay Hotel Casino. Now this is a fine Irish Pub. A little plastic Paddy, but in a good way. The North wall of the main pub was a series of glass cases filled with a veritable cornucopia of whiskies. Scotch, Irish, American and more. There had to be over 150 expressions (I didn’t bother to count) and the feel of the place was outstanding. The food was great and the Knappogue 1993 was a perfect paring for my lunch. This place had a more open feel despite the main bar being a long strip that lead back into a larger hall, the ceilings were high and the decorations did not mantle over you like a vulture. There is a side room behind the bar that has a very club like feel to it and would seat around 40 comfortably. The reason I mention this is that the idea has bee floated that in coincidence with the upcoming Practicum of the Sword next year. To that end I spoke with the assistant manager, who said I should speak with Mark McElkerny (who was on vacation) on the topic but that it may be something they would be interested in hosting for us. It would likely be more costly to go this route, however it may be worth it as they could provide the food and the whiskies to our direction, leaving us with just showing up and enjoying our own event. I’d likely still want to blather on about something or another regarding the drams etc, but I’m good with that. There is fairly easy access to this location from 6 of the strip hotels via a tram as well giving people a wide choice of hotels to stay in. Something to think about. More on that later I guess.
Stop: 4 (and final) Freakin’ Frog’s Whisky Attic and Prof. Adam Carmer. Next time. This one warrants its own entry.
This store was, while still in a dull grey warehouse, considerable better presented once you were inside than Fiddlehead. They had pleasantly Dim lighting and flowers in glass plates with rocks and water, display on a side table with some of the restaurant house wines they produce and the tasting L shaped cloth covered table with their own label wines on offer this day. (They had a much larger bit of warehouse space that would allow for this but that is neither hear nor there). Over all a nicer atmosphere than the first if you like classy joints, I’m impartial myself. They also had a $10 tasting fee and 5 wines uncorked. The odd bit about this one was that the lady running the store front needed to run an errand and the couple who’d arrived just before me had stopped her from getting in her car, now illegally parked right in front of the tasting room door. Apparently the couple were regulars and after I’d tried my first wine with the proprietor they offered to take over the pour for her and let her run her short errand which the proprietor accepted and scurried off leaving me with the other customer’s in charge. Not the strangest bit of decorum I’ve run into in the spirit industry but still a bit odd with the cash register just sitting there and all.
Since I was not in the hands of anyone working the shop professionally I contented myself with small talk about wine and whiskey and reading/discussing the tasting notes. As it turned out the woman pouring for me had a son who was enamored of whiskey and so I was exchanging my knowledge base for hers. They were heading up to the Portland area in a couple months and so I told them to keep on a look out for the micro whiskey distilleries that have been cropping up up there that Jay has been telling me about though the only name I could recall was Hog’s Head. The wines themselves save the first one, a 2009 Chardonnay – Borgogne Blanc (Blue Label) was the only one I actually liked at all and the others were not worth me noting down, so I didn’t. This company specializes in bottling house wines for various restaurants working directly with them to tailor the flavors to the dishes. Cool and all but I was hear to try something avant garde not what ever W. Puck was putting on the table. These were wines I’d tasted before and the reds were way too full of tannin flavor for me to deal with. This was not the place for me. They did however have a laminated map of the Wine Ghetto on the table which after a quick glance over I saw something of promise; “Flying Goat Cellars“.
I hopped in my car and drove half a block to another equally dull and grey warehouse with a poster depicting a purple square and a black goat jumping off the ground on the door, parked and walked in just 20 minutes before they were to set to close.
Despite my poor timing, the lady running the shop was friendly if obviously short on time and walked me through their 5 uncorked bottles. The decor was relaxed and a compromise between the first two shops. This one the decidedly more rustic of the three and most comfortable as it was at least twice the size of the first. Similar conversations took place as were had at Fiddlehead regarding me not particularly liking wine and preferring whiskey in general but being there to learn and so I did. We fairly quickly ran through the offerings, most of which were quite good to my pallet though my tasting notes seemed to have stopped at the last shop (and the fact that I’d stopped spitting when I got to the Goat Shed) as we were rushing a bit. I ended up getting a bottle of Pinot Noir, Solomon Hills-Santa Maria Valley, 2007 as a gift for Adrian as this was probably the most complex flavor profile of any of the 15 bottles I’d sampled this afternoon and had some characteristics and spice notes that made me think of some Speysides I’ve enjoyed over the years. I got nutmeg out of it, but hey that’s with my poor pallet. She corrected me saying “Cinnamon” but that she respects my pallet. I told her; “My pallet has been calibrated and was broken so there was no respect needed of it.” We laughed and I payed my $10 tasting fee and bottle price. I inquired after the name of the cellars and she said her husband, the blender / bottler used to have dwarf goats who had a tendency to climb up and jump off stuff. That’s a good a naming story as I’d like to have so I said my goodbyes. I went out my car right at her 4PM closing time and buzzed off to pick up Ginger and drive on over to the house to meet back up with the wake.
In quick summery; The 3DC tasting notes work quite satisfactorily on wine and I think could readily, without altering any significant alteration, be applied to this segment of the spirit industry. Fiddlehead had the most interesting and compelling expressions and were the most refined on my pallet save the bottle I bought for Adrian at Flying Goat Cellars. Evening Land had the classiest tasting room but lacked inspiration (to my pallet anyway) in the bottles. Flying Goat had good heart and love of the craft that showed through in their expressions even if most were not quite as sophisticated as Fiddlehead but in the end they got my money.
After going to a morning funeral (for a dear sweet lady who welcomed us without hesitation into her family) and associated wake in Lompoc, CA. Ginger was feeling wiped out so I took her back to the motel. The Family headed back to the house and Casey went along with her Grand Parents while I took Gin back. I didn’t need to get straight over to the house and I’d seen on James May’s wine show recently something about a wine ghetto in town. I happened to have seen a sign directing us to where it was on the way into town earlier that morning and I needed to get Adrian a present too. Further I’d been toying with the concept that the 3dc tasting note format should work equally well with other spirits et. al. and I had my notebook with me as I’d not taken it out of the suit case since WOW last year. Thus all things seemingly lined up to accommodate the whim, I decided to give a go at a wine tasting, alone.
I drove back to the other side of town and turned into the industrial complex behind the Home Depot where Hwy 1 dumps into the South Eastern side of town. There in these bland blue-grey corrugated warehouses are around 12 boutique wine makers / blenders / bottlers that are treating the wine industry much the same way John Glaser seems to be going at the Whisky biz. I did not remember the specific one James May visited (though I would have liked to from the interview on the show, as they seem like 3dc peeps) so I drove about and sort of randomly picked a street Packard to follow into a tasting room.
First I went into Fiddlehead Cellars. A very congenial Kiwi stood behind the bar. By bar I mean a simple couple planks of wood on some barrels with the typical wine racks behind him for selling what was on sample in a room about 10′ X 15′. Friendly, but definitely not fancy. He handed me a tasting sheet and let me know that there was a $10 tasting fee and asked me a few questions as he poured me some wine into a glass. The conversation went something like this:
FH-Q: What kind of wine to you like?
Raz-A: I don’t really like wine; I’m a whiskey drinker, but (setting my tasting note book on the bar) I’m hear to learn.
FH: Well we do Sauvignon and Pinots exclusively so we’ll teach you about those.
Raz-A: OK then.
The first glass was the Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from a mix of barrels and stainless steel aging. It was a very sweet wine but not cloying. Not particularly dry, just the kind of deserty drink I usually go for. The second was the Honeysuckle 2005 put in all new oak aging. This was dry and clean, very light and subtle, especially in regards to tannin (which I hate). I liked this one as another deserty, though much dryer drink than the first. The Gooseberry, all Stainless Steel aged Kiwi wine was then poured. this was not particularly to my taste and though sweet and a bit sour was a bit too much like a candy from the 70s (that I can’t recall the name of). Next on pour was the Pink Fiddle Pinot Rose’ thing. Not really to my taste, very dry and oddly tasted “pink” whatever that means. Lastly was the 728, a Pinot. This was about the best of the lot for me personally. Very complex long flavor profile and despite the deep red color the tannins were very subtle. The most subtle tannins of any of the reds I had that day from any of the shops. This was by far the best overall quality, by my standards anyway, of the three shops I popped into.
2009 was a pretty good year for the 3dc despite the down turn in the economy. (Not trying to make any money from something sure takes the pressure off…) We saw more members made and great times had by most. Tastings were thrown hither and thither including a collegiums private homes and wars. Well done all. We’ve been using a new tool to plan for the WoWE trip next year; Google Wave. It’s proving quite useful and helpful in organizing and planning things. I started my Elizabethan Irish Usquabetha personal project, which reminds me I got to pick that stick back up soon. The world of whiskies at large is still expanding. I just got word of another new Irish coming to market in the US; Dingle. We’ll have to wait and see what they come up with for us yanks. Many new Scotches have hit the shelves and a few have faded away as is the norm of the past decade so far.
Looking forward, we’ll have to see what this last year of the decade holds for us and with luck we’ll get a better idea of that at WoWE coming up in March. WoWE 2009 was a spectacle to be sure. We had very strong numbers and we all learned quite a bit on the boat and off despite the poor distiller turn out due to the economic down turn. Time spent with John Glasser is not to be missed. WoWE has been sold to new blood so we’ll have to give them a chance this time around and see what they have in plan for the future of the event. It is not on the boat this year and is again just a one day event. Our hotel of choice is the King George Hotel just a block or two from the event itself. Estrella is coming up just before the WoWE and I hope all that are going are going to remember the funny. I know our member out here in Caid are given some of the plans I’ve been hearing about. I haven’t been made privy to any plans for anEstrella tasting this year as I’m unable to attend. The year following however I’m already planning to attend. We simply must set something up for 2011 Estrella. Plans for GWW are in development. Adrian has some scheme or other I’m sure he’ll be making you all aware of the details down the road so keep tuned.
That’s if for me save to say “Thanks for all the funny this year.”
You’ve seen us using them at Whiskies of the World in San Francisco, and other tasting events we attend, now get your own so you won’t forget what you’ve tasted and more importantly, what you thought of the taste! Simply said, these are essentially blank notebooks designed to guide tasters through their own note-taking while tasting various whiskies. The notebooks include free-text sections as well as basic rating scales to capture your own reactions to the whiskies you are tasting.
There is more information about this new offering below… I’ve a personal beef with tasting notes and ratings as are currently done by the whiskey world at large; eg: Would I like a given “98” rated whiskey? Would it be good on a hot summer afternoon? Is it thick and warm or thin and refreshing? Is it complex or curt in its story? The “98” really doesn’t mean anything to you unless you were the one who tasted the dram or at least know what scores in each of the individual categories the reviewer has used that then where added up to the 98. I’m pretty sure we, the 3DC, can do a damn site better than that. I find that some whiskies that rate highly I don’t like while others that do not rate so highly, by the experts at least, are rather enjoyable and visa versa on both these statements.On the most rudimentary level what I’d like to know about a bottle of whiskey I’ve never had is how thick the dram is, how strong the taste is, how long the story is. I find that I prefer a stronger, thicker dram in the winter and a lighter more complex one in the summer so knowing the viscosity, boldness and length of story goes a long way towards picking out a dram I’m not familiar with. Additionally, these are categories that can be reviewed with far less subjectively. We’ll use a 1-5 scale. For example, if it drinks like a 10W40 motor oil, as far as viscosity is concerned, you’d give it a 5 and if it was thin as water you’d give it a 1. The same scale will be used for Boldness and length of story.
From there, more traditional tasting notes regarding descriptive verbiage of the nose, flavor and finish can come into play when deciding between drams I already know to be appropriate to my mood’s general requirements at the time. I should be noted that the evaluations, 1-5, in the categories above are not indicative of quality or approval. A 1 is no better than a 5, just an empirical take on the dram’s properties. This is what makes our system drastically different from the status quo as well as makes the future database a much more useful tool.
The last category, and notably the least important, is an indication of how much we liked the dram based on own personal taste with an A-F scale. This is simply intended to be a reference or reminder of our overall impression of the dram as time passes and also a means for others to get to know our individual preferences while reviewing the database. For example, Seamus really likes the Balvenie 21, and so does Fergus, so Fergus looking over Seamus’ favorable review of the Edradour 10 cask strength would lend Fergus to think he may well want to try it too. Simple huh?
We are also, in time, going to be able to start logging these tasting notes onto our web site for others to reference. The idea here is that you can try things that others have tried and get to know each other’s tastes and preferences. Once you get to know the others preferences you may be inclined to try something you’d not normally have tried simply because someone with similar tastes as your own rated it favorably regardless of what the late M. Jackson or J. Murray has said about the dram. Not that they don’t know their business. As Fergus and Seamus will tell you, I’ve nothing but the highest admiration for Jim but his tastes have developed far beyond my own and his sophistication of pallet is also well out of my current personal reach. He has highly rated things I don’t care for and has panned some of my favorite drams as well so as much as I like the man, I can’t rely on his ratings to determine whether or not I’m going to like what’s in the bottle in front of me. I just know if Jim liked it.
For those who don’t read enough books; the first written record of making whisky is attributed to Friar John Cor who was recorded on June 1, 1496 as procuring supplies for the making of copious amounts of whisky for his Majesty, Jimie the IV. Not particularly an event of note excepting that this is the first known record of whisky production and indicatory of a healthy and long established tradition of distilling whisky in Great Briton, else wise he’d not been making 1500 bottles of the stuff.
In honor of this, the 3DC has decided on mass to start honoring this man and this recorded event for the first 3 days of June. I myself will have at least one different dram a day for the 3 day festival and record the results in my tasting book. I think with some thought and planning we may have to set up some event going forward to do this properly, but this year at least we are flying by the collective seats of our collective pants.
Now for the bitching part of this: the British do not deserve to have anything to do with the history of their own country as they are evidently criminally negligent and painfully ignorant of anything that doesn’t wear either a toga or a horned helmet. It seems that the collective British citizens are so jaded by the history all around them that they disregard it like Las Vegas does 10 year old casinos or Hugh Grant does a lady of the night in the back seat of his car.
Back to Friar John. He did his distilling in Lindores Abbey (http://www.darkisle.com/l/lindores/labbey.html) along the Tay in Fife. An abbey that has through neglect(well and a crippling attach in 1559 by John Knox) been allowed to crumble and ruin. The significance of the Abbey was lost some time after that until the early 1990s. The owners (For the last 100 or so years) didn’t know or care about the history of the abbey and only discovered it by a chance web search. Now to their credit they have have gone out and tried to contact the governmental powers that be to ask for some assistance in restoring or at least preserving the site and received typical indifference. They even went so far as to go directly to the whiskey industry itself and also found no one cared.
Since the Mid 1990s the owners have in attempt to spread the word, and make a buck too I’m sure, started bottling blended whisky that is a rare dram out there on the market. Now this would be nothing like the whisky Friar John made but at least they are making an attempt at getting the tradition going again. Hey it’s a start, right?
Well, you’ve got a year to make your plans. Mark it down in your calendar; June 1st-3rd = Friar John Cor’s Day.