Aging my own whiskey: weeks 1, 2, and 3

Jason/Seamus here again… I know I missed a few weeks of tasting notes, so I’m playing a little catch-up to share what is happening inside my little 1.875 liter barrel from Woodinville Whiskey Co.

I last left off right at the beginning. I had just set two 750ml bottles down in the charred new oak barrel and began the process of waiting. I’ll tell you, that first week of not taking sips was tough! I was dying to see what the oak was doing minute by minute! I -was- however to steer clear of any tastes that first week, leading to a fun discovery on day 7 when I was finally able to pour a wee dram: Colour!

 

Pictures of week one:

Here are the tasting notes from week one (May 30th, 2011):

  • Colour: Light caramel colouring very similar to the levels of colour in Knappogue Castle and other lighter Irish whiskies.
  • Nose: Sweet and floral followed by a bit of iodine.
  • Palate: Toasty chocolate with a light oak. Woody, still mash heavy, but clean and hot.
  • Finish: Short story, as expected at this point. Finishes very clean with a mild caramel way at the end, almost as if the dram realized it ended its story too soon and came back to finish it.

 

Week two I ended up tasting two days early, and as I didn’t discern much change between the first week’s tasting and this one five days later, I opted not to write down my findings (really, I had no findings other than ‘no discernible change’).

 

Which brings us to week three (June 12, 2011):

  • Colour: Light caramel, again much like a light Irish whiskey similar though ever-so-slightly more rich than week one though barely even worth a mention.
  • Nose: Light oak notes followed by a heavier corn mash / rye spice overtone (which is odd since I don’t believe any rye is used in this distillate). Still young.
  • Palate: Initial sense is of the corn/wheat/barley mash, moves into a light oak with a brief bitterness in the middle reminiscent of week one’s bitterness, only slightly more muted.
  • Finish: sweet and hot. Not as clean as week one with the mouth-feel imparting more lingering oils.

 

Since week three was a slight disappointment in terms of changes seen (not surprising mind you, but I was hoping none-the-less), I opted to cut another taste with water at a 1 part water to 2 parts whiskey ration to bring it down from the 110 proof to a more reasonable 80 or thereabouts.

  • Nose: Floral notes become more evident after cutting. In this case the water really did ‘bloom’ the dram and coaxed it enough to release those florals.
  • Palate: Still hot, but with a diametrically opposed watteriness. The alcohol bites, but the rest of the dram tastes thin now. Only hints of toast followed by the mash again.
  • Finish: back to the clean finish of week one with greatly reduced oils, but still a big alcohol burn to contend with.

 

So there you go. At this point I think I will sit on this for a while before coming back to taste again. Woodinville indicates a finished product in 3-6 months, so I’ll likely cut down the frequency of tastes to once a month at this point in order to keep enough distillate in to actually fill a bottle when the process completes! Of course I’m also starting to think ahead of this run and see what I may change and do differently in the next run… my main idea being use of a different distillate…

 

 

If you’re dying for even MORE whiskies related content, you can also check out the 3DC’s “Whiskies News & Reviews Daily” over on paper.li: http://bit.ly/k3XNbj It is a GREAT way to stay abreast of all the cool things going on in the world of whiskies!

 


The Gospels according to Seamus; Chapter the Fifth- Pilgrimage to the southern lands (Whiskies of the World, 2010)

As it were, Seamus and Siobhan (heretofore hence referred to as Jason and Jean) awoke at a decent hour and prepared for their journey south to the lands of sourdough and fog. Arriving at the port early enough to enjoy the first meal of the day, we sat ourselves at our favourite bar within the confines of the secured areas, and made our orders of 2 bloody marys, eggs hash and toast, and a hot pastrami on rye. Yes, dear readers, the trip did indeed start with just a hint of the hedonism to come.

A quick 3 hours later, and we were on the ground in San Francisco having met up with Kevin and Margaret, and rushing to join with Raz and Maggie whom had already boarded BART due to some mild confusion. As it is with all 3DC, luck prevailed and we met up just in time for the ride into the city from SFO. We made it to our hotel and checked in with relative ease, and then began our yearly tradition of making the Irish Bank our home for the weekend; first and foremost Irish coffees, then onto ordering lunch!

Friday saw the arrival of most of our group in various waves, each resulting in loud exclamations and toasts to friends. Suffice to say, we never really made it out of the Bank Friday night; as far as we got was the sushi restaurant at the end of the alley where the Bank is located, where we ate, and drank, and then headed back to the Bank for more drinks. Yes, this is indeed typical of every Friday night the 3DC have enjoyed during the Whiskies of the World trips in years past. Be careful, though, if any of you ever dare to join us, as Saturday mornings come very quickly and can be quite painful if you are ill prepared.

This particular Saturday morn, I opted to sleep in a bit whilst my lovely wife ran around the Ferry Building with the small group of 3DC that were able to make it out for a late breakfast. I later caught up with part of the group at Pier 39, as they had wanted to do some of the touristy bits of the City. A quick jaunt to Fisherman’s wharf later, and we met up with the rest of the earlier morning crew and headed up to Ghiradelli Square, and then over to Tiernan’s pub since the Buena Vista opted to ignore Raz’ attempts to get us a table.

In no time at all, we noted that the day had gotten away from us and so we taxied our way back to the hotels to dress for dinner and the Whiskies of the World Grand Tasting…  As we accumulated in the lobby bar of the Hotel King George, I couldn’t help but notice our entire group was simply stunning in their evening attire. I must say, we all do clean up quite nicely indeed! In such an amazing group of people, I truly count myself lucky to call each and every person who came out for this trip a friend.

Yes, I AM rushing in order to get to the meat of this post, which is what I know you all care about; my notes on the Whiskies of the World 2010 expo…

Overall, the tasting was enjoyable for me as I found a large number of new drams which I’d not had opportunity to taste previously. That said, there were a number of issues right from the start that tempered any glowing review of the night:

First and foremost was the inefficiency of how the entrance to the tasting hall was run. As VIP ticket holders Jean and I were slotted in the second wave of entrances, the first being for Dram Club members at 5pm. Our tickets indicated entrance at 5:15pm, which in reality was 5:45 due to the serialized nature of the check-in desk and how ticket holders who had not signed their ticket were dealt with (the entire queue waiting as they addressed and signed their tickets). While an annoyance, this alone is nothing I’d be overly irritated with had the rest of the night gone without issue. Sadly, I must tack the inefficiencies of the beginning to the rest of the evening in order to properly impart the impact of the evening.

The other main issue was inside the main hall its self. In years past, the event has been held on a docked paddle boat moored to one of the piers in the bay. This location, while admittedly a tad odd, has always been excellent as the boat provided for 2 full floors of tasting space, a full floor of tables and chairs for the dining buffet, and a top deck for cigars and views over the bay. This year, the tasting was moved to the Hotel Nikko and hosted in a 3rd floor gala/event room. Unfortunately, the change in location also seemed to bring with it a shift in the available space for the event, as it was now pared down to a single room where the aisles between tables were more compact and difficult to navigate with the number of attendees present. While prior years have always allowed for decent conversation between the reps and participants, this year the conversations were much more difficult do to the volume in the room and the difficulties in getting up to the tables for a pour in the first place.

For many of you who know me in person, you are all likely cringing at the thought of seeing me in such an environment, as I am typically not comfortable in situations with substantial crowds. Oddly enough, after the first five minutes and down my first taste, I found a rhythm to the madness and went with it. I had my focus, and was able to adjust my expectations and work differently to obtain my desired results; which is to say I put on my big boy underpants and sucked it up. Of our entire group, I can assure you I was the last person you heard complain about the crowds… a very rare occasion indeed! I have each and every one of you to thank for that, as it was my mission to sample and note each dram I tasted in order to come back to you with my thoughts on the night; that gave me the mission I needed to get me through the evening unscathed.

With that, I present to you my admittedly sparse and simple tasting notes from the evening. While I say that the crowds didn’t bother me much, that is obvious from the notes I took, that I was simply kidding myself. As you will see below, my ability to accurately and clearly define the various whiskies I tasted suffered badly Saturday evening, and not from an abundance of alcohol. Rather my ability to pause and really focus on the whiskies was substantially reduced by the noise and crowded pathways. (Ok ok, that was a long and verbose caveat to basically say “I know my notes here suck, but they are all I have, so deal with it… it wasn’t MY fault I swear!”)

Each table below reflects a single bottle from the night. The numbered ratings are on a 1-5 scale, 1 being less, 5 being more, and the letter grade is on a typical A-F scale with A being the top mark (all of which is explained in the foreword of the 3 Drunken Celts (blank forms to fill out) tasting notebooks available here):

.

Bottle: Tomintoul 27yr
Nose: Iodine, complete lack of oak.
Flavour: Soft, mild oak with a slight charred note followed by subtle spice
Finish: Clean, vanishes, then returns with spice again, finishes with a bite reminiscent of a cask strength bottling.
Viscosity: 2
Boldness: 2
Length of Story: 2
Personal Taste: B

.

Bottle: Tomintoul 31yr
Nose: Spice and caramel sweetness
Flavour: Soft and chewy, with mild oak moving into caramel
Finish: Starts the finish harshly, but evens out into caramel
Viscosity: 3
Boldness: 3
Length of Story: 2
Personal Taste: B-

.

Bottle: Suntory Hibiki 12yr
Nose: SPICE!
Flavour: More spice and moving into heavy caramel sweetness
Finish: Short finish that ceases nearly abruptly. Simple, lacks complexity
Viscosity: 3
Boldness: 4
Length of Story: 3
Personal Taste: C

.

Bottle: Eades Double Malt, Speyside
Nose: Apricot and slight iodine
Flavour: Fruity moving into hard oak
Finish: Alcohol finish, not too complex but yet still has some interesting notes
Viscosity: 4
Boldness: 4
Length of Story: 3
Personal Taste: B-

.

Bottle: Benromach “Organic”
Nose: Stringent with mild iodine hints
Flavour: Earthy peatiness, a bit challenging for my palette
Finish: Peat moving into a long oaky finish.
Viscosity: 5
Boldness: 4
Length of Story: 4.5
Personal Taste: C+

.

Bottle: Glenmorangie “Nectar D’Or”
Nose: Orange, but not citrusy, caramel sweetness
Flavour: Fruitiness followed by medium oak. Good, but pedestrian.
Finish: Same as the nose, but followed by more oak.
Viscosity: 3
Boldness: 3
Length of Story: 4
Personal Taste: B

.

Bottle: Sheep Dip 1990
Nose: Smoke and iodine
Flavour: Caramel with iodine and smoke
Finish: Reminiscent of an Ardbeg smokey finish.
Viscosity: 5
Boldness: 3
Length of Story: 3
Personal Taste: C+

.

Bottle: Wild Geese Irish Soldiers and Heroes, “Limited Edition”
Nose: Sweet with a mild spice
Flavour: -Very- cloyingly sweet, nearly like a brandy, nearly tastes/feels like there is added sugar
Finish: Soft with lingering brown sugar
Viscosity: 2.5
Boldness: 2
Length of Story: 2
Personal Taste: B

.

Bottle: Compass Box Oak Cross
Nose: Iodine into oak, of course
Flavour: Caramel into oak as expected
Finish: Mild and soft oakyness that vanishes
Viscosity: 3
Boldness: 3
Length of Story: 3
Personal Taste: B+

.

Bottle: Compass Box Spice Tree (2010 formulation)
Nose: Ethereal mild notes of oak covered in hints of spce
Flavour: Iodine and peat with a mild hint of smokiness
Finish: Peat into smoke reminiscent of a Caol Ila and then back into a slight iodine on the end
Viscosity: 3
Boldness: 3
Length of Story: 4
Personal Taste: B+/A-

.

Bottle: Compass Box Hedonism
Nose: Spice and ginger love
Flavour: Caramel chewy but with a spicy cardamom note
Finish: Sweetness and love all over.
Viscosity: 4
Boldness: 3
Length of Story: 3
Personal Taste: A

.

Bottle: Bruichladdich 1998
Nose: Iodine and sherry?
Flavour: Oak sherry cask or port cask finish? Holds a speyside sweetness
Finish: Sweet sweet love, not what I expect from an islay!
Viscosity: 4
Boldness: 4
Length of Story: 4
Personal Taste: A+ (top of the night)

.

Bottle: Edradour 12yr Caledonia
Nose: Smoke and peatiness
Flavour: Caramel into a soft peat, drop of water blooms into much more oak
Finish: Peat followed into smoke and then complex oak.
Viscosity: 4
Boldness: 4
Length of Story: 3.25
Personal Taste: B

.

Bottle: Bushmill’s 21yr
Nose: Smooth sweet Irish
Flavour: Small peatiness then into the expected sweet
Finish: Simple but tasty oak
Viscosity: 3
Boldness: 3.5
Length of Story: 3
Personal Taste: B-

.

Bottle: Dry Fly “Washington Wheat Whiskey”
Nose: Oddly sweet, tough to place
Flavour: Vanilla oak and grass, distinct wheat note
Finish: Mild caramel and more grass
Viscosity: 2
Boldness: 3
Length of Story: 2.75
Personal Taste: B-

.

Bottle: Dry Fly Gin
Nose: Citrus and juniper
Flavour: Complex botanicals with a hint of apple
Finish: Clean and spicy, complex for a gin
Viscosity: x none noted x
Boldness: x none noted x
Length of Story: x none noted x
Personal Taste: x none noted x

.

Bottle: Bruichladdich 12yr
Nose: Iodine and brine, expected of a typical islay
Flavour: Smoke and brine
Finish: More brine, but a surprise finish into sweetness
Viscosity: 3.5
Boldness: 4
Length of Story: 3
Personal Taste: C+/B-

.

Yes, my total count of drams between 5:30pm and 9pm when Jean and I left  is indeed 17. Though not quite sober when I left, I can also assure you I was in no way drunk, and in fact moseyed back to our room, showered, and returned to the Irish Bank for more drinks to finish out the night as we always do.

Back at the Bank, we finished out the evening with Robin Robinson, the US Brand Ambassador for Compass Box Whiskies, and new friend of the 3DC, since John was unable to make the expo this year. Regrettably, I was sat in the corner and didn’t have as much opportunity to chat up Robin as Raz did, though I am sure quite the impression was made. I can only hope John had warned Robin of what he may be in store for if he befriended us… otherwise i think we may have scared him 😉

As one round of our group finished off and started heading back to the hotels, another round of the group arrived and the night continued on with the singing of Irish drinking tunes, as we are so often wont to do. By the end of the night, I am happy to say that the negative comments about the tasting had begun to dwindle and shift into an overall enjoyment once again (albeit still tempered by the logistic issues of the actual tasting) and the night ended on a higher note than when it had begun. All in all, ti was yet another successful year for the 3DC at Whiskies of the World!

Sunday morning, as you’d expect, came far too early again, though this time I was at least awake enough to head out to a late breakfast, and weaseled my way into a table next to Raz, Maggie, Cat, and Dave who were just finishing up. It has GOT to be 3DC luck, because there is no way I could have charmed the hostess enough to convince her to let Kevin, Margaret, Jena and I have the newly emptied table next to our friends at 10am on a Sunday morning in the middle of the City! The luck, we have it!

Newly sated, the two groups made our way over to China town for more touristy things, and ended up at a tea shop, as we did last year. Seems the whole group really enjoyed it and the tea perked us all up after breakfast and the activities from the night before. Of course it didn’t take long for us to completely undo the good from the tea, as we found ourselves in another bar whiling away the time until more friends could meet up with us; and well, we just HAD to have some drinks! By the time everyone met up with us, we were nicely inebriated and headed back outside to brave the hills of China town on our way to the Irish Bank once again…

Since Kevin and Margaret, Jean and I had dinner reservations at 6:15pm Sunday night, we bailed out from the Bank a bit early, went back to our hotels t change into nicer clothes once again, and then hitched a cab down to The Boulevard. I’ve been there before, and expected it to be great, but I had no idea what we were all in store for that evening.

We started off with a round of cocktails as we perused the menu… then onto a bottle of Champagne which we had intended as our dinner drinks; that is until Kevin asked the waitress if there was a tasting menu available, and if not, would the chefs be up to making one for us. (As an aside here, Jean and I adore tasting menus and order whenever it is an option, but sadly I have never thought to ask when it wasn’t already presented as an option… I have learned my lesson!) Our waitress left to ask, and returned from the kitchen with a very affirmative answer, so we were well on our way to an outstanding night. She then returned again, having realized that we may want wine pairings with the tasting menu, to which we heartily replied nearly in unison with a resounding yes!

Over the next 4 hours we were treated to 6 courses (and paired wines) loosely built around their current menu offerings. From my recollection this included lamb, duck, scallops, foie gras, various cheeses, and a multitude of other items that have been lost in the annals of time and inebriation; as it was an off- menu tasting, I have no printed menu to assist my memory of the dinner here. What I CAN tell you all, is that each course was amazingly crafted and presented, and the sommelier paired the wines with a level of deft skill and thought that we found ourselves commenting on each presentation as to how we’d never have chosen those particular wines but that they worked so very well when paired with the various courses, the mark of a truly great sommelier! Finishing off dinner with some coffee and a single scotch between us, you couldn’t wipe the gluttonous and hedonistic smiles from our faces. Sitting back at the table, it occurred to me that this dinner had skyrocketed its way up into the top 5 dinners I have ever had… and believe you me, that top 5 spot is quite crowded nowadays!

After dinner we dropped Jean off at the hotel where we met up with Raz and Maggie, and headed over to Foley’s to finish out the night with a few more drinks, as none of us seemed in the mood to turn in yet; a classic example of pushing out the enjoyment of the weekend as long as possible before returning back to real life the next day.

Monday morning came without much issue, though we were running a bit behind… The hangovers really didn’t hit us until we were sitting in the terminal at SFO where it was unreasonably warm for both Jean and me. Mid-flight, we hit a big pocket of turbulence which really put those hangovers to the test, but luckily it was short lived, and by the time we were on the ground in PDX and more importantly in the cool air, all was right with the world again.

Looking back on the trip with just over a week in between now, I once again am finding myself with fond memories of the tasting, and the surrounding weekend as a whole. While this recent trip had a decidedly different feel to it than years past, it still retained the overall impression that i have come to love and crave year after year: true friends, joining together from far and wide, with one goal… to enjoy themselves to the fullest. To that end, we succeeded my friends, and each and every one of you is responsible for that. As we say when we are inducting new members: “there are no benefits, only consequences…”, but I am here to tell you, there really ARE benefits; I am far richer for being able to call you all my friends! THAT is exactly why Raz started this odd little grouping of people,  regardless of what he may tell you 😉 It isn’t the whiskies that keep us going, it is indeed the friendships we’ve built because of them! Thank you one and all!

-Seamus/Jason
p.s. Photos soon to be uploaded to the Photo page here once I have an opportunity to collate and organize, etc.


A Compass Box PSA: Did you know?

Compass Box Whisky Co. has a new Facebook fan page!

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Compass-Box-Whisky/310473912283?ref=ts

As you may know, the 3 Drunken Celts have a close affinity for John Glaser and his company, Compass Box. We met nearly 4 years ago now, and have been supporters of his efforts… and by supporters, I mean we not only drink his blends, but preach the quality of Compass Box to any and all who will listen! So, when given the opportunity, you KNOW we will do what we can to spread the word… so go check out their Facebook Fan Page now!

Sadly, it seems John won’t be at Whiskies of the World this year. Luckily, in his stead the brand ambassador, Robin Robinson, will be representing the team. I, for one, am looking forward to meeting Robin (as we have spoken via Facebook messages once or twice) and toasting a tipple to all who couldn’t make the event.

If you will be attending any of the events where Compass Box is making appearances, be sure to stop by and introduce yourselves to Robin (or John Glaser, or Chris Maybin, or any others representing the brand); let them know how you heard of them and that the 3 Drunken Celts say hello… after all, there ARE more than just 3 of us!


The 3DC on Twitter

Yes, the 3DC have finally embraced social media 2.0 and have created a twitter stream. Follow our real-time tasting notes as they happen at:

http://twitter.com/3drunkencelts

For those not familiar with the concept of Twitter: it is a website which allows users to update their current status with what they are doing right now, in 140 characters or less. The 3DC will be utilizing this social media outlet to post tasting notes on various drams, links to new blogs and news articles, and other random whiskies related content.

You can also join in the fun if you are on twitter by following us and entering your own content stream related to the 3DC by using the hashtag: #3DC


The Gospels According to Seamus: The Exiled years (Whiskies of the World, 2009)

The Gospels According to Seamus: The Exiled years

(Whiskies of the World, 2009)

 

(To follow along the timeline of events, use Twitter search to locate all our Tweets posted with the #3DC tag: http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%233dc )

 

A panoply of emotion washed over me before my departure for this year’s event. My excitement was still present, yet not as palpable as in years past; I was muted by an underlying exhaustion from a looming deadline, one which I was determined to ignore once I locked the door to my house.

 

My expectations for this year’s event were lower than they’d been in the past. I knew well in advance that the economic climate would result in lower attendance from the paying public as well as distilleries and distributors, etc. Of course my expectations for the fun to be had outside of the grand tasting were just as high as ever.

 

My friends, I am here to tell you, the weekend did not disappoint!

 

Friday really got off to a slow start for me. Out the door at noon, after working some that morning, saw me at Don’s bar (Caper’s Café) in PDX waiting for my flight. A few good random conversations about the upcoming tasting started to really get me in the mood for things to come. And the Bushmills that was waiting for me as I sat down didn’t hurt either 😉  A quick flight later and I found myself in Oakland waiting on Raz to land. I was actually a bit smart at this point and sat down in baggage claim and got a solid 45 minute nap in between reading. A good prep for the long night I knew was to come.

 

And that long night didn’t disappoint. In typical 3DC fashion, we donned our utilikilts (well, Fergus and I did) then found and took over a corner portion of Nihon, a self-proclaimed sushi whisky bar, which surprisingly enough could indeed be easily called one or the other without compunction. Once we’d filled our gullets with fish, sake, and beer (oddly enough), we made the tough choice to head to the Irish Bank to really get the night going.

 

Everything started well at the bank, but we quickly found ourselves being hushed by our waitress Zoe, at the bequest of management. Mind you, we were in the back room, signing Irish traditional songs, in an Irish pub, and buying lots of booze… you’d think management would understand that. Awe well, we just continued signing and ordering drinks, and the threat of getting kicked out seemed to pass.

 

As normal, we ended up back at the hotel quite late, still enjoying the night. Fergus immediately began opening up some small flasks and challenged us to guess what each contained. Admittedly, I was something like zero for 3, while impressively, James nailed them. Seems he hadn’t quite destroyed his palette yet. At around 2.30am we finally turned in, and the giggling commenced (I had hoped to have the video link available here, but –someone- hasn’t uploaded it yet). Like 12 year old school girls we are…

 

Saturday morning came all too quickly, but with relatively little pain. My previous 3 years’ worth of experience paid off this time around and allowed me a pleasant, if not tired morning. After gathering the crew and milling about the Whisky Shoppe, we made our way to the traditional Irish coffee and Lark in the Morning run. Having not yet checked the store hours, we arrived about 45 minutes early, and so opted to wait it out at a pub down the road where we enjoyed the worst Irish coffees I have ever had, and a rousing round of Whisky trivia from the game Sean had purchased just an hour before. (We had so much fun with the game, I returned and bought a copy for myself!)

 

After Lark in the Morning, it was back to the Bank for a –quick- and small bite of lunch, then to the hotel to get ready for the evenings festivities. Suits donned, we hopped the cabs to our next tradition: a light dinner at Kennedy’s (an Irish pub and Indian restaurant). Yes, typically Indian foods wouldn’t be advisable just prior to a whisky tasting, but we’ve never been ones for convention, and to be honest, it has never caused us a problem. The key is a –light- dinner; just enough to satiate you for the next 3 hours until you’re on the boat and can maintain a solid balance at the buffet there. Plus, I like to think that a bit of curry livens up the palette and gets you ready to really dig into the tasting. I AM starting to sense some dissention among the ranks regarding Kennedy’s, so that may well change next year.

 

Once dinner was complete, we trekked down to see the Museum Mechanique, and moseyed amongst the tourists as Fergus was on another mission to find more tiny flasks to use during the tasting as storage for some of the better drams. Fresh out of luck, it was time to head to the boat and queue up for our 5:30pm entrance time.

 

The line was shorter than years past, as was to be expected this time round. The economy seemed to have culled the crowd down to just the serious aficionados and the lucky few who haven’t felt the tightening of the belts. 

 

Once on board, the fiscally conservative times were felt even more dearly. There were not quite as many booths set up this year, though the two decks were still both utilized; that, combined with a lower attendance made the event feel sparse.

 

Personally, that initial impression set my tone and temperament for the evening to a more muted experience. I focused directly on just the tastes and didn’t bother talking to any of the ambassadors, distribution reps, or any others manning the booths. Instead, I would shoulder my way into a booth, obtain a pour, and then immediately back out to a location where I could set my glass down and take some quick notes without being jostled or feeling like I was in someone’s way.

 

 

And now, what you’ve all come here for:

Jason/Seamus’ tasting notes from the Whiskies of the World Expo, 2009.

 

Keep in mind that my notes are a bare minimum due to the structure of the event (ie, this is a meandering from table to table event, not a seated tasting), and as such my notes are typically made whilst maneuvering from one table to the next, trying not to spill… Additionally you will note how my tastes became slightly more amiable throughout the evening and my tasting notes less detailed, but more flowery.

 

 

Tullamore Dew, 10 year

            Nose: Very sweet, almost floral.

            Flavour: nice mild oak, a caramel sweetness follows.

            Finish: very short and simple.

Viscosity: 3

Boldness: 1

Length of Story:  1

Personal Taste: C

 

 

Compass Box, Hedonism Maximus

            Nose: some iodine followed by a richness

            Flavour: a lot of spice, followed by a modest apricot at the end.

            Finish: slight oak, and a very long finish

Viscosity: 4

Boldness: 4

Length of Story: 4.5

Personal Taste: A-

 

 

Tomintoul, 31 year

            Nose: iodine and rubber

            Flavour: anise, light clove, cornstarched rubber

            Finish: vanishes quickly, ends with a note of gnawed toothpick.

Viscosity: 4

Boldness: 3

Length of Story: 1

Personal Taste: C+

 

 

High West, 21 year Rocky Mountain Rye

            Nose: general spice, then a more solid clove, followed by medium sweetness

            Flavour: more spice, and the expected rye sweetness

            Finish: a bit sour, gently ends with sweetness reminiscent of sherry wood finish.

Viscosity: 2.25

Boldness: 4

Length of Story: 3

Personal Taste: B-

 

 

Bols Genever, gin

            Nose: LOTS of juniper (I have a lot to learn about gin, as all I get is the berry)

            Flavour: more juniper, slight bitterness.

            Finish:  still juniper

Viscosity: 3

Boldness: 4

Length of Story: 2

Personal Taste: C+

 

 

Glen Rothes, 1985

            Nose: mild brininess followed by mellowed oak

            Flavour: sweet followed by the same brine on the nose.

            Finish: rich, then a mild oak, followed by a slight caramel

Viscosity: 3.5

Boldness: 3

Length of Story: 3

Personal Taste: B+

 

 

Auchentoshan, 3 Wood

            Nose: rich oak (possibly French oak?)

            Flavour: deep oak layered complexity, sweet like the Balvenie double wood, but more refined.

            Finish: layered and lingering oak, sherry wood on the end.

Viscosity: 3.5

Boldness: 4

Length of Story: 3.75

Personal Taste: B

 

 

Auchentoshan, 18 year

            Nose: spice, followed by stale iodine

            Flavour: immediate iodine, then sweet like a Speyside, followed by solid richness

            Finish: more richness of subtle oak

Viscosity: 3

Boldness: 4

Length of Story: 3

Personal Taste: B-

 

 

Auchentoshan, 12 year

            Nose: typical 12 nose for a Speyside, oaky, spicy, and rich

            Flavour: sweet rich fruit

            Finish: spicy richness similar to the Jameson’s Distillery Reserve

Viscosity: 3

Boldness: 4

Length of Story: 3

Personal Taste: C+

 

 

Johnnie Walker, Green Label

            Nose: Floral sweetness of plum, cut grass, and apricot

            Flavour: just oak. Tastes like a low-end whisky, single note dram.

            Finish: worthless

Viscosity: 3

Boldness: 3

Length of Story: 2.75

Personal Taste: D

 

 

Aberlour, a’bunadh

            Nose: “My nose is done”

            Flavour: ginger/cinnamon, spice, iodine, rich but crisp

            Finish: cask strength closes the story early

Viscosity: 3.5

Boldness: 4

Length of Story: 3.75

Personal Taste: B

 

 

Scapa, 16 year

            Nose: sweet and floral with fruit, almost like the J/W Green label.

            Flavour: mild and light, sweet, tastes like the Green label should!

            Finish: fades slowly, gradually with oak and fruit

Viscosity: 2

Boldness: 2

Length of Story: 3

Personal Taste: B+

 

 

Tomintoul, 27 year

            Nose: -no notes taken-

            Flavour: -no notes taken-

            Finish: -no notes taken-

Viscosity:  -no notes taken-

Boldness: -no notes taken-

Length of Story: -no notes taken-

Personal Taste: B

 

 

Compass Box, Eleuthera (purchased at the Irish Bank after the Grand Tasting completed)

            Nose: -no notes taken-

            Flavour: iodine and mild peat, some smokiness

            Finish: -no notes taken-

Viscosity: 2

Boldness: 3

Length of Story: 3.5

Personal Taste: B+

 

 

 

I actually left the tasting about an hour earlier than in previous years. That should tell you something about my mental state and how the entire event came off to me. While I had a grand time, by 9pm I was over it and ready to move on to the next bit of fun.

 

That next bit, for me at least, is to head out to a nicer dinner. That started the first year when we stumbled into the Boulevard for dinner, and continued on for the next two at various other restaurants. This year Yan and Deb headed back to the Boulevard, while a larger crew was set on just heading back to the bank. I was ready for something else though, and conned James and Cat to accompany me to a new place, just down the street from our hotel (as it turns out).

 

We had a lovely, and relaxed dinner at the E&O Trading Company, which was very special for me as it gave me some quiet one on two time with Cat and James. One of the problems with a big group at a 3DC gathering, is the relative little time we all have to connect at any deeper levels; dinner Saturday night has kind of become that time for me where everything is a bit quieter and smaller, and I can enjoy the company in a more intimate fashion.

 

Of course, after dinner, the three of us walked back to the Irish Bank, where the rest of the group was waiting for us (having just arrived and seated nay 10 minutes prior). More drinks were quickly ordered and before we knew it, song erupted and a jovial time was being had by all; including Zoe and Tulasi who seemingly became our private wait staff. No shushing this time around as management was not on the premises, so we were free to whoop it up as we always do. After a bit, John Glaser darkened the doorway to a roaring round of applause and cheering.

 

John has become a bit of a friend to the 3DC and has been generous and gracious in sharing his knowledge and wisdom, oft times to some lively disagreement or purely contrarian jabs from Fergus, Raz, and myself. He still seems to get our sense of humour, and apparently enjoys us all the same, as this is the second year he has accepted Fergus’ invite to meet us at the Bank after the tasting to wind down (or up) a bit.

 

This time around, Fergus didn’t disappoint, and produced the last bottle of cider he had made, keeping the Dregs so that John could have a taste and those two could chat about finishing whiskies in cider barrels. Surprisingly, John stayed well past the time he had initially indicated he would. He always seems to do that around us… 🙂

 

Having had quite enough to drink, and quite a long day already, I attempted to head back to the hotel room earlier than normal. I was able to make it out of the Bank with a little chiding, and even made it down the alley way heading to the hotel, when my progress was waylaid by seeing James off in his cab, and encountering Raz heading back to the Bank after seeing Cat to her room (poor thing was really bad off by the end of the night due to a nasty cold-type illness coming on).

 

I’d thought Raz was done for the night when he walked Cat back to the hotel, but I was surprised to see he actually still had some life in him…  That really was all the urging I needed to turn around and go back to the Bank with Raz to close it out. And close it out we did.

 

Sunday morning again arrived well too early, though once again, lessons learned in past years came through for me in this one, and I was up and feeling great. No hangover and was hungry for breakfast, which was dealt with at Lori’s Diner.

 

From breakfast, the crew headed into China town for some shopping and general touristy stuff. That’s where we started breaking off and heading home, as Fergus took Eric and Sean to the airport, and Cat started her long drive back south, leaving Raz, Deb, Yan, and I to kill some time before Raz and I had to get to the airport.

 

To fill the void, we started heading to Yan and Deb’s hotel room for some sake, but were stopped short as we passed by and subsequently turned and entered a tea shop offering tastings. I am unsure how long we really spent there, but we must have gone through a series of at least 10 different teas to taste and walked out of the shop with a few bags of leaves and a LOT more knowledge than we entered with. In typical 3DC that serendipitous and yet random tasting experience proved to be another of the highlights of my weekend.

 

Followed closely to the tea tasting was enjoying the view from Yan and Deb’s hotel room while we all imbibed in some sake that they happened to have left over from earlier in the weekend. And damned if those two don’t have impeccable taste in sake. It was such a treat and wonderful way to close out our weekend in the city.

 

Of course, like every year, our weekend must come to an end, and with that Raz and I headed back to the hotel and made our way to Oakland airport on BART. Sadly, our normal drinking spot was under renovation, so we were forced to have a final drink at the Chili’s in the airport once we’d made it past security.

 

The flight home was only endurable by virtue of the complimentary wine Alaska provides. Otherwise the oversold flight would have been torturous, as I had the ill-fortune of an aisle seat making even a nap a difficult proposition in a small CRJ-700.

 

Sadly, once I returned home, it was back to the grind stone of work. Because things have been so busy for me, it really has taken me nearly a month to finish this write-up with any sense of completeness. I know there are a ton of stories I am forgetting at this point, but in all honesty, I just don’t have the wherewithal to write anymore even if I could remember them.

 

Stay tuned…. I am still hopeful that Raz and Fergus will finish their own write-ups one of these days. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll all get to experience the frivolity that is 2 giggling adult men at 3am after far too much whisky.


An Absinthe Review from Jean/Siobhan

Seamus suggested that I write up a review of the three different types of absinthe that we have had the pleasure of trying thus far. This subject came up as we were discussing our most recent purchase from the local liquor emporium of a locally distilled absinthe. Since I seem to have such strong opinions on the subject (Opinionated? Moi?), it was suggested that I share my experience with the 3DC at large.

The first that we tried was Lucid, which we purchased online from DrinkUp NY. Incidentally, they probably sent us the bottle in error since they really shouldn’t be sending spirits to Or.; but I digress… this is one of the first true absinthes to be produced after the US ban was lifted, so how could I say no?

There was a fair amount of experimentation on Seamus’ part. What is the proper amount of water? Sugar or no sugar? You definitely shouldn’t drink this stuff straight – I imagine it would taste something like battery acid. Seamus settled on a 3:1 ratio of water to absinthe, over one sugar cube. The predominant flavor of the Lucid is strong anise. I normally do not like anise (at all), but there was enough herbal character in the bottle of Lucid to keep it interesting.

After about 10 minutes of sipping, WHAM! Suddenly my vision was extremely clear, and I felt alert. There was no gradual progression, it was just THERE. Not an unpleasant feeling by any stretch, but very unusual if you aren’t used to it. There were no negative after effects, and no standard feeling of intoxication, just a little buzz. I think that bottle of Lucid lasted us two weeks, tops.

The second that we attempted was an absinthe distilled in Switzerland named Kubler. After my positive experience with Lucid, I had high expectations. Sadly, I was disappointed. The anise flavor was harsh, and there was no discernible wormwood content to speak of, so I ended up with a nasty taste in my mouth and drunk to boot. I have not had any since the first taste, but Seamus has been picking at it a little, since he is partial to anise in any form. I think we still have at least 1/3 of the bottle left.

The third is a bottle that I was going to keep my eye open for, because it is distilled in good ol’ Portland, OR. Seamus and I went to the local liquor store in a strip mall by the house to pick up some gin and bourbon/scotch for mixing.

{tangent} OMG, this liquor store has the most amazing selection of scotch that I’ve seen in a little podunk liquor store. I almost fell over. And the prices! Did I mention there’s no sales tax?{/tangent}

They had FIVE different kinds of absinthe, including the Lucid. And a few bottles of the local version – Trillium.

Of course we had to grab a bottle. After my previous experience, I was careful not to expect too much. But I was not disappointed this time. The taste was pleasant and more nuanced without being too overpowering. The “effect” was definitely there, but more subtle than the Lucid – I realized I was holding the Aran sweater I was knitting close to my face because I could see every little fiber of the wool. All in all, a very nice bottle.

If I were to compare all the bottles, and toss in a wine analogy, it would go something like this:

  • Lucid     = a bold, punch-you-in-the-face Syrah.
  • Trillium = a complex Pinot Noir. (Support the local economies!!!)
  • Kubler   = like going on a date, drinking some Mad-dog 20/20, expecting to get laid, and just coming home drunk and disappointed.

-Jean/Siobhan


Call for Information on Melrose Rare Diamond Whiskey

I was recently contacted by an individual in search of some information about a particular bottle of Whiskey. If anyone has heard of a whiskey named “Melrose Rare, Diamond 12, Blended Whiskey”, please send off a note via the Contact link.

Unfortunately, the person requesting the information had a break-in last year. During the robbery, six bottles which had been his late father’s, were stolen. While we are certain this is no longer made or sold retail, the gent is trying to get an idea of its value.

Some of the details of the bottling can be seen in the two photos below:

Melrose and Company
Successors in Business to Records and Goldsborough
est’d. 1885

Melrose Rare Diamond Twelve
12
Blended Whiskey
Bottled by Melrose and Company, Aladdin, Fl.


The Gospel According to Seamus, Chapter the Third. The rise of the 3DC.

The Gospel According to Seamus, Chapter the Third. The rise of the 3DC.

“And lo, Himself did bestow upon us the heavenly tome of whiskies, and it was good.”

This weekend started as few do: with a purchase of a ticket back in October 2007, setting my vacation date in stone. With work being as busy recently, and my travel up in the air (ha!) at times, preparation for the Whiskies of the World Exposition in San Francisco had been minimal at best. I packed my bag with my tickets, my tasting notebook, and my Whisky Bible, and headed to the airport.

This year was already going to be different from years prior; in this case we would be meeting a much larger number of 3DC in the city. That is to say, this year it would be substantially more people than Raz, Fergus, and me. All said, there were ten 3 Drunken Celts in attendance. The dynamic of the group would surely change…

Continue reading


Whiskies of the World, March 28th-29th, 2008

Yes, it is indeed that time of year again. It is the time of year when YOU need to be getting your affairs in order and making hotel, plane, and WOW ticket reservations, NOW! (click the image for more info)

WOW 2008

Don’t wait! Order your tickets now so you don’t miss out on the fun AGAIN this year! Come join the 3DC at the best West Coast tasting event of the year… you won’t regret it.

The 3DC will be staying at the Hotel Des Arts again this year. Book your room before the fill up! An added benefit to staying at the Hotel Des Arts is the easy access to the Irish Bank bar, the 3DC’s home away from home… Really, do want to be the only one left without a WoW expo story?


Raz’s Whisky Barley Stew

Raz’s Whisky Barley Stew

 

Ingredients:

1 lbs cow meat (1/2″-3/4″ cubed)

1 onion (I used a yellow one, chopped course)

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1 turnip (1/2″ cubed)

2 good sized red potatoes (1/2″ cubed)

1 Can Beef Broth

1 Can Tomato Paste

1 tsp Pepper

1 tsp Salt

3 1/2 cups Water

1/2 cup whisky (should most likely be a full cup)

1 good splash Olive Oil

1 cup Pearled Barley

 

 

Directions:

Place Olive-Oil, Salt, Pepper and Garlic into a large stock pot and heat up a bit.

Add the Onion and Meat. Brown until onion begins to caramelize (5 min for me)

Deglaze the pot with the whisky, being careful to not expose the liquor to open flame.

Add the water, beef broth, turnip, potato, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a simmer (covered) for 2 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.

Check the moisture level. If the stew has thickened considerably, add water at this point to ensure the barley will cook properly and to get the consistency you prefer in a soup or stew.

Add Pearled Barley and simmer (covered) for an additional 1 ½ to 2 hours, stirring regularly. It’s done when the barley is soft all the way through.

Eat. Enjoy. Blog about it…

 

 

Raz’ Notes:

  1. Adding some highland whisky in at the browning section would probably be really good. If you try the whisky addition let me know how it comes out.
  2. This is based on a Scotts recipe I found on the web. I changed a few things, most notably adding the spuds because spuds are good.
  3. Towards the last 15 minutes the broth had become quite thick so I added a half cup of water and stirred it in. The original recipe called for 1 ½ cups of water.

 

Seamus’ Notes:

  1. I added 1 tsp dried Thyme, 1/2 cup Caol Ila 18yr. Scotch, an additional 1 1/2 cups water
  2. Use the Scotch to deglaze after caramelizing the onions and meat. Add the water/broth/etc. only after deglazing with the whiskey. 1/2 cup of scotch may be too little. Next time I will add a full cup and see how that fares.
  3. A bay leaf should probably be added next time. If this is done, put it in when the initial water is added.
  4. Following the directions, I added 2 1/2 cups of water at the beginning, and then found it necessary to add another cup of water when the barley went in to ensure proper saturation. This is a full 2 cups more than the original recipe.
  5. I added an Islay Scotch (Caol Ila 18yr.), not a highland. After cooking off the iodine nose, the end result was a fairly mild smokiness without any sweetness added by the whisky. Next time round, I think I will try adding a Balvenie to try and capture the sweetness too.
  6. I’d recommend using only potato OR only turnips. Using both increased the amount of food substantially and tended to make the dish a bit more complex. Next time, I think I will remove the potato and use only turnips for a more accurate representation and to simplify the dish.

Pictures of the process…