The 3DC Invade Las Vegas in February…

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

Menu:

  • 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.

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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 atrazness@yahoo.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.


Order your kit, and get ready for the first 3DC Virtual Tasting!

Today we solidified the details for our very own virtual tasting. Here’s the break down:

Date & Time: January 28th, 2012 at 7pm PST  (Facebook Event Listing)

Location: Virtual! Hosted by the 3 Drunken Celt’s Google Plus (G+) page Hangout-on-Air

Drams: 

  • Amrut Single Malt
  • Singleton 12 Year Single Malt
  • Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban
  • Suntory 12 Year Yamzaki

How can you taste-along? We have worked closely with Forrest Cokely over at Hi-Time Wine Cellars to build a mini tasting kit comprised of 50ml minis of the drams noted above. You can order this custom built kit, for only $23.99 here: http://www.hitimewine.net/product.php?productid=68133&cat=268&page=1

Some logistic points of note: 

  • We are limited to 40 of the Amrut Single Malt, which will limit the number of kits available.
  • Google Hangout-on-Air is limited to 9 participants via web-cam, all others can watch via live feeds.
  • Some people are already planning “in person” type meet-ups to expand the number of live video participants. There is to be one in Orange County, CA and another up in Santa Barbara, CA. Anyone out East want to set up a meet up point?
  • If enough interest is shown for regional in-person meet-ups, full bottles could be substituted for the mini-kits to ensure everyone is able to taste. This would be the responsibility of each local organizer to handle.
  • Of course you don’t have to drink… with this setup you can just join and watch if you don’t want to order a kit or don’t even drink… in any case it should be an interesting night!

Once you order and receive your kit, hold tight, January 28th will be he before you know it!

In preparation for the tasting, you may want to join Google Plus and circle the 3 Drunken Celts page so you can see and join the Hangout. While there, you may also want to familiarize yourself with the hangout feature (who knows, we may host smaller unannounced test tastings leading up to the day) so you’ll be ready to go and join in on January 28th as we sample each dram and share our notes virtually, North to South, East to West, and across the globe!


PDX Whisky tasting notes from December 9th, 2011

As you’ve likely come to expect month to month now, here is the anticipated notes from the tasting event hosted by Ian of PDX Whisky fame.

This month was a bit unusual for us, as it was a bourbon, not scotch whisky, centric tasting. Additionally different was that Ted of Big Bottom Whiskey fame was also on hand to lead us through a tasting of his line of bourbons. As always, neither Ian nor Ted disappointed at the event. This go around we tasted five different expressions, with an added 6th ‘from the barrel’ brought by Ted. Following are my notes on each:

Big Bottom American Straight Bourbon, Batch #5 (3yr)

  • Nose: Some mild Rye and surprising hint of iodine/bactine followed by honey.
  • Flavour: Heavy honey into bubble gum on the front, followed by rye spice and into light toast
  • Finish: Nice balance of spice and toast, then followed by a rich honey sweetness at the end.
  • Viscosity: 3
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 2
  • Personal Taste: A

 

Big Bottom Port Cask Finish Straight Bourbon, Batch #2b (3yr)

  • Nose: Hot and heavy on the port followed by a hint of honey.
  • Flavour: Tannins hit immediately, then into the deep port from the nose, followed by mild but balanced rye spice.
  • Finish: The spice moves back into the port, which fades into oak tannins again, an hour glass effect of flavour.
  • Viscosity: 4
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 3
  • Personal Taste: A

 

Elmer T. Lee, Macadam Bourbon Bunch, Single Barrel (NAS)

  • Nose: Strawberry and bubble gum followed by mild rye.
  • Flavour: Oak and light toast, none of the sweetness implied by the nose.
  • Finish: Light and watery with heavy tannins.
  • Viscosity: 2
  • Boldness: 2
  • Length of Story: 2
  • Personal Taste: C-

 

Van Winkle Special Reserve, Lot B (12yr)

  • Nose: Char and honey sweetness, again the rye spice at the back.
  • Flavour: Wet hay and char, fades in to a rich chocolate
  • Finish: Heat, then nothingness. It slowly vanishes then returns a bit later with a surprise bitterness to the end.
  • Viscosity: 4
  • Boldness: 3
  • Length of Story: 4
  • Personal Taste: B+

 

Jefferson’s Presidential Select (18yr)

  • Nose: Vegetation, a slightly ‘green’ odor, followed by toast.
  • Flavour: Sweetness of light honey, followed by tannins as expected from an 18 year
  • Finish: A bitter back to the finish (akin to an underaged white dog bourbon like I tasted from my home aging kit at the 2 week mark.)
  • Viscosity: 4
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 2
  • Personal Taste: C-

 

“Barrel tasting”of Big Bottom Port Cask Finish Straight Bourbon, Batch #3 (3yr, cask strength at 115 proof)

  • Nose: Sweetness of port and richness of fig.
  • Flavour: Hot and rich caramel, big flavour and a huge mouthfeel.
  • Finish: Char followed by chocolate into fudge.
  • Viscosity: 5
  • Boldness: 5
  • Length of Story: 4
  • Personal Taste: A+

 

Clearly from above (and not so clearly from my lack of description of the rest of the group’s feelings) the big winner of the night was Big Bottom Whiskey. You may think I expected this to be the case, given how much I enjoy Ted’s product, but given it was tasted along side of two twelve year olds and an 18 year old bourbon, this was clearly an upset in the making! The group as a whole, and the majority of individuals all agreed that Big Bottom Whiskey was clearly the dram we’d all buy and stock on our shelves, while the other bourbons ran the gamut from “I might buy it” to “Nope never paying money for that one”.

 

As always, a fun and enlightening night was had. Anyone within the Portland area should really “Like” the PDX Whisky Facebook page and join us in January when the next event is scheduled and posted! Y’all are missing a great time!

 


PDX Whisky tasting notes from 10-28-2011

Ah, whiskies… where would I be without them? Well, likely with a larger bankroll and more time on my hands, but alas, I can not ignore the siren calls of local tastings! None of you will be surprised then, as I share my tasting notes of the four bottlings we tasted during the latest PDX Whisky event, this time hosted by Amit Armstrong, Ian Itchner’s whisky cohort.

As usual, the light dinner provided was outstanding (both Ian and Amit are exemplary cooks, Amit’s specialty being Indian cuisine), and the group of both new and old faces was as talkative as ever. Each of the PDX Whisky tastings I’ve been to this year has seen around 5 or 6 regulars, and another 10 or so people who filter in and out making each tasting a new adventure in meeting people and sharing our different takes on the drams presented. Always such interesting perspectives followed with some great laughs as well.
But I digress, on to the tasting notes….

 

Auchroisk 20yr, 118 proof. (59% abv) Cask Strength

  • Nose: Caramel and a hint of smoke, some slight almost negligible brine
  • Flavour: very hot, but a pure speyside profile of balanced sweetness, with a hint of peat and smoke
  • Finish: sweet richness of graham cracker, toast, and more peat
  • Viscosity: 2
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 4
  • Personal Taste: B+
  • Extraneous Notes: Darn good dram. Water adds a bur to the nose that didn’t exist before. Also adds caramel and butterscotch flavors to the palate.

Stronachie 12yr

  • Nose: Light toast, mildly sweet, talc with a hint of banana with a rich spice back (like banana bread)
  • Flavour: hot, deeper rich spiced bread in to a chocolate back evocative of 88% cocoa.
  • Finish: falters into nothingness. Surprisingly short story that just vanishes.
  • Viscosity: 3
  • Boldness: 3
  • Length of Story: 2
  • Personal Taste: B+
  • Extraneous Notes: This was a sleeper. Very tasty, far better than initially expected.

Penderyn, Aur Cymru, Madeira cask finished

  • Nose: Over ripe cantaloupe, a waxy sour greenness.
  • Flavour: Heavy oak then mimics the nose of slightly rotten fruit.
  • Finish: A final hit of caramel, but comes too late to save the dram.
  • Viscosity: 3
  • Boldness: 2
  • Length of Story: 2
  • Personal Taste: C-/D+
  • Extraneous Notes: This dram can’t figure out what it wanted to be. Too many competing flavours fighting for center stage rather than working in conjunction to be stellar. No single bad taste, just quite neurotic as a whiskey.

Redbreast 15yr

  • Nose: Rich spice, vanilla and mild pepper, balanced and complex.
  • Flavour: Caramel and mild chocolate into a bit of oak, slightly hotter than expected.
  • Finish: Heavier chocolate notes linger with a long balanced story. Complexly warm and rich.
  • Viscosity: 4
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 5
  • Personal Taste: A
  • Extraneous Notes: The exception to the rule of light Irish whiskies with grassy floral notes, this is the darker more angry big brother that brings the bottom end of warmth and richness to the party, proving once again that you just can’t go wrong with Redbreast.

As a closing point, if any of you reading are local to Portland, Or. or find yourself in the area during one of these tasting events, you’d be a fool not to stop by. The settings remain intimate and conducive to connecting with everyone attending, making for both a technical tasting as well as a social event for any level of whiskies enthusiast. You don’t need to know a thing about whiskies to enjoy the PDX Whisky events, even though there’s a level of technical tasting going on as well that would appeal to the more experienced enthusiasts. Somehow the group always strikes that perfect balance for newbie and expert alike. I hope you’ll join us at the next one!


PDX Whisky tasting event, Sept. 16, 2011

Last Friday eve was another great PDX Whisky event. If you are local to Portland, Oregon and are interested in learning about whiskies, I will heartily urge you to follow PDXWhisky on Facebook, where Ian sends out the event notices (while you’re there, don’t forget to ‘Like’ the 3DC page too!). Really, come join us! The ‘events’ are informal, casual, and comfortable for all levels of enthusiast and are some of the best ways to try out whiskies you may not have access to otherwise.

This past event was no different and provided for some great laughs over the course of the evening. I won’t bore you with the comedy bits, you’ll just have to attend next time to enjoy the funny! As for the tasting notes, we enjoyed 4 bottles over the night in the order they appear below:

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Auchentoshan Three Wood

  • Nose: Brilliantly balanced caramel with subtle smoke and an unpretentious oakiness.
  • Flavor: Peat on the front, into oak (of course) and a hint of iodine.
  • Finish: Nice soft caramel, light peat and oddly harsh after clearing the palate with water.
  • Viscosity: 4
  • Boldness: 3
  • Length of Story: 4
  • Personal Taste: A
  • Extraneous notes: Palate was off due to having recently finished baklava for desert.

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Highland Park 15 All American Oak

  • Nose: Nicely balance smoke. Rich but bright, hint of vanilla and orange.
  • Flavor: Oak first, light and watery/thin. Evocative of a Christmas chocolate orange.
  • Finish: a tad hot then trailing oak into a hint of spice.
  • Viscosity: 3
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 3
  • Personal Taste: B

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Douglas Laing Double Barrel (Highland Park and Bowmore, no additional details given on the bottle)

  • Nose: BBQ consiting of cumin and vinegar, red spice, heated rubber.
  • Flavor: simplistic smoke and brine. Very distinct and separate.
  • Finish: iodine and then smoke, second taste brings out a bit of surprise chocolate.
  • Viscosity: 2
  • Boldness: 3
  • Length of Story: 3
  • Personal Taste: D (*C)
  • Extraneous notes: *improved the second go around. Odd bottle, however, as the double barrel concept seems to cause the two to compete with each other rather than blend into a single different dram. Surprised at how it improved with another taste, but not enough to really be enjoyable beyond a technical tasting.

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Bowmore 20 year (A.D. Rattray bottling)

  • Nose: heavy iodine followed by smoke
  • Flavor: peat forward into brine and the suggestions of a wafting of spice
  • Finish: stays briny into a balanced smoky oakyness, but relatively light on tannins.
  • Viscosity: 4
  • Boldness: 5
  • Length of Story: 4
  • Personal Taste: C+
  • Extraneous notes: This seemed to be the top of the 4 for the night, though not for me. Not to my taste even though I can appreciate the complexities of the 20yr in comparison to the 30yr and even younger. A good dram to be sure, just not for me.

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Overall, I stick by the recommendation I came to the tasting with: The Auchentoshan Three Wood is a solid, relatively inexpensive dram which drinks far above its price point. You’d be best served to have a bottle in your house and at the ready for any whisky drinker. While not the top of the night, it was my personal favourite and was unanimously enjoyed by all at the table.


Another PDXWhisky tasting event 8-12-2011

First off dear readers, great apologies for the delay in this recap of the recent PDX Whisky tasting event held at Ian’s house on August 12th, 2011. Because of the delay in writing this post, it will be less detailed than prior posts, as my recollection is a bit muddied now. I promise in the future to be more vigilant in my note taking, and subsequent write ups.

I do have an extra special gift for you all, however… multi-media! Yes, a picture… in a post even! Will the wonders never cease?

Compass Box Magic Cask

Ah, dear friends, if you know me (Seamus/Jason) or the 3DC at all, you know our fondness for John Glaser and Compass Box whiskies. So this past PDX Whisky tasting was a real treat for me. No, not because Ian had some Great King St. to share, but because he had a bottle of Magic Cask; a bottle I should note is unavailable in the US, as it was only released to our Canadian neighbors. Any chance I have to taste something I can’t get is a privilege, especially so when it is from one of my favourite producers of the lovely water of life.

A quote from “The Scotch Blog” regarding this bottling:

“The Magic Cask was a special release for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) and is only available in Ontario. Because John Glaser created this product as an experiment, he wasn’t quite sure what to do with it until the LCBO opportunity presented itself. Because Canadian whisky makers are allowed to use up to 9.09% flavouring (i.e. other whiskies like bourbon, wine, fruit juice, etc.), many don’t, but they can if they so choose, John thought this would be a good product for this limited Canadian release. “

Read on at the link for their tasting notes which you’ll see are a bit different from my own.

In typical PDX Whisky style, we had four bottles to taste (though we had additional once the main 4 were sufficiently discussed). Notes on the four, in the order we tasted are below:

Tasting notes:

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Karuizawa, 15yr 40%

  • Nose: Hot, heavy sherry, moves into oak then immediately into a vanilla finish.
  • Flavour: Vanilla and Sherry into oak, then toast and corn.
  • Finish: mild toast with a distinctly corn finish.
  • Viscosity: 3
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 3
  • Personal taste: C+

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Compass Box Magic Cask – 17yr Linkwood, 14yr Brora, 46%

  • Nose: Begins with a little brine then hits you with a mild heat, finally some green olive.
  • Flavour: Spicy, a bit watery but hot, almost like a cut oaked rye.
  • Finish: Hot finish here with oak and a floral hint to toast, with a touch of brine on the back.
  • Viscosity: 4
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 4
  • Personal taste: B+

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Glenmorangie Finealta 46%

  • Nose: Iodine and brine
  • Flavour: Oak and toffee/caramel.
  • Finish: light green apple, but hot.
  • Viscosity: 3
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 3
  • Personal taste: B-
  • (side notes: not worth the cost, forgettable)

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Glen Spey 21yr 50%

  • Nose: light brine followed by chlorine, green vegetation into thin rubber followed by banana
  • Flavour: Banana into oak, then brine
  • Finish: Hot, mashed green banana.
  • Viscosity: 3
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 4
  • Personal taste: B+
  • (side note: need to revisit)

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Now, it should be noted that once we’d completed the ‘official’ tasting, is when things got a bit rowdy… my memory is a bit poor of the whole evening, but at one point, a bottle of “30 year old Chinese distillate” made its way out of the box and around the table. I will refer you to my wife’s tasting notes as she posted on Facebook: “Tasting notes – anise, bubblegum, Limburger cheese, stinky feet of an 11 year old girl. That shit was FOUL! http://t.co/KVqhUmi” followed by a clarification: “Chinese moonshine. 30 years old, apparently? J called it “challenging”. I worry about that boy.” And indeed it WAS challenging. Most/everyone at the table hated it; there was a permeating stink to it which makes me happy I didn’t spill any on me, but I wouldn’t classify it as bad per se, simply challenging. That said, I refused the bottle when I was told I was taking it home… so, you know, it was -very- challenging.

Thankfully there was still some Magic Cask to wash away the taste 😉


A PDX Whisky tasting, from a 3DC perspective

Friday night, I -finally- had the pleasure of attending a PDX Whisky tasting, hosted by the incomparable Ian Itschner. I’ve been trying to get out to one of Ian’s tastings since moving to the Portland Metro area in 2007. Yeah, four years of trying, and four years of bad scheduling luck as it would seem I was always booked those weekends Ian would put on a tasting. But no more. I finally made it and am happy to report back a successful gathering.

 

Because Ian hosts at his home, the atmosphere is far more intimate than a traditional seated tasting, and he goes out of his way to ensure guests are comfortable, and fed. For a paltry $25 donation, Ian provides (what he calls) a light dinner and a 4 bottle tasting course. At the caliber of bottles he is providing, the fee is indeed nominal for an evening out. With a capacity of sixteen guests, I think we hovered around nine or ten Friday evening, just enough to make a round-robin tasting table alive with one conversation, not the multiple sub-conversations which you may see with larger groups.

 

After some early ‘getting to know you’ time over dinner, we gathered round the outdoor patio table and dug in to the four bottles of the evening:

 

First up was the Nikka, from the barrel at 51%abv:

  • Nose: iodine, but only slightly medicinal, a hint of brine
  • Flavour: toasted new wood oak, not much else.
  • Finish: hot and bitey. A few drops of water adds a mild floral sweetness into caramel.
  • Viscosity: 4
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 3.5
  • Personal Taste: B/B+

 

Next, we moved on to the an Cnoc 16yr:

  • Nose: peat, hint of oaked caramel and then into a hint of brine.
  • Flavour: young and vegetative, into oaky lumber. Hot, but oddly thin on the mouthfeel.
  • Finish: Citrus, then burnt chocolate, almost espresso
  • Viscosity: 1
  • Boldness: 3
  • Length of Story: 4
  • Personal Taste: B+

 

We followed the an Cnoc with the Balvenie 17yr Sherry cask:

  • Nose: big caramel, small oak, hint of iodine on the back.
  • Flavour: sweetness of the sherry comes through heavily, into toast, combining into Pepsi.
  • Finish: Toasted malt and sherry butt, finishes with fairly heavy tannins leaving a dry mouthfeel.
  • Viscosity: 4
  • Boldness: 3
  • Length of Story: 3.5
  • Personal Taste: A-

 

And finished off with the Oban Distiller’s Edition, 1993:

  • Nose: Hint of orange citrus and vanilla, chocolate, then raspberry.
  • Flavour: wet sherry, not as much of the oak coming through, then into a toasty richness
  • Finish: heavily sweet caramel, followed by mild oak tannins, a quintessential Speyside flavour profile though it is a Highland.
  • Viscosity: 4.5
  • Boldness: 3
  • Length of Story: 3
  • Personal Taste: A-

 

While I said ‘finished off’ above, what I really meant was finished the ‘official’ portion of the tasting, as we then moved on to a few other bottles from Ian’s collection after conversation brought certain bottles to the forefront of our attention. We moved on to a German distillery, called Slrys:

 

Slyrs, 2007 3yr

  • Nose: 1950’s locker room, old musty oak. Young mash but with a heavy mash complexity to the nose. Diner pie crust
  • Flavour: Smoke and peat. Not much complexity. Hard angles. Very German.
  • Finish: Short, structured, technical. (interested to see what their 12yr will produce)
  • Viscosity: 2
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 3
  • Personal Taste: C+

 

And then on to the Brora 20yr, cask strength at 58.1%abv

  • Nose: Hot, brine.
  • Flavour: quite medicinal. peat, then heavy peat followed by brine.
  • Finish: Hot. the flavours simply vanish into the heat of the 58.1% alcohol.
  • Viscosity: 3
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 3
  • Personal Taste: C+ (I didn’t bother cutting at this point, likely would be into a ‘B’ range when cut)

 

By this point, I scribbled in my tasting notebook: “palate gone”, indicating that the ability to pick out any sense of refinement in my tasting notes wasn’t going to happen from this point forward… which is probably a good thing as we moved on to a comparison of Arbeg’s Supernova, and Bruichladdich’s Octomore. Having imbibed in the Supernova first, I’d have to set the Octomore as less smokey and more to my liking as a decided non-peat head. Though, from this posting over on All things Whisky, I may have to change my tune soon as I am beginning to fall into the descriptors of a peat head. We’ll see how that pans out in the next few years I guess 😉

 

All said and done, it was a fabulous night out enjoying fines whiskies with some great conversation amongst like minded individuals. We laughed and carried on as though we’d known each other for far longer than the few hours of Friday night. And yes, I am kicking myself for not rearranging my schedules in the past to accommodate this tasting. Oh what I have been missing!


A TOAST event… a non-official 3DC tasting

On Friday, I had opportunity to attend TOAST, The Oregon Artisan Spirit Tasting event held in the Tiffany Center’s Crystal Ballroom in Portland. Joining me was my good friend Corey, whom also shares a taste for whiskies like myself, as well as gins and tequilas and beer.

The event was similarly structured to Whiskies of the World, so I was immediately familiar and comfortable with the atmosphere. Specifically, it was a single price entry, and the various distillers were free-pouring rather than the pour-by-ticket method employed by other events. I made an initial lap to get a feel for the offerings at each table, and begin a basic game plan. Realizing quickly that I had just begun walking around, leaving Corey in my wake, I paused to explain my intent and reasoning: I am looking for whiskies first and foremost, as well as to prioritize and make sure I got to the most interesting ones first.

There were a number of American Whiskies, bourbons, and ryes showing at this event. Enough so that I was able to focus nearly all my tastes on just the larger whiskies class and not concern myself with the gins and other liqueurs until the end. Of all the distilleries showing their wares, two really struck my interest: Woodinville Whiskey Co. and Big Bottom Whiskey.

The first of the two, Woodinville Whiskey Co. made a great initial impression on me. While their whiskies were well crafted, what made the impression was their “Age your own whiskey” kit. What a great concept! Provide some clear distillate, an oak barrel, and let the drinker manage the aging process on their own. While no one will be going into business based on the final product from the kit, it is sure to bring a new aspect to the home connoisseur, not only for what the kit will produce, but even after you’ve run the 4-5 uses for whiskey/bourbon you can likely even use the same barrel for even more experimentation with barrel aged cocktails and the like… Yes, I already have my name in for a kit once they become available.

And their whiskey? Yup, that’s darned good too… but you’d expect that from a distillery which can boast  mentorship provided by David Pickerell, master Distiller of Maker’s Mark fame. Unfortunately, I did not bring my tasting notebook and as such have only a vague recollection of the whiskies I tried here, noting only that I really enjoyed them as a newcomer to unaged whiskies, bourbons and ryes.

The other distillery to really stand out for me was Big Bottom Whiskey, based locally out of Hillsboro, Oregon. Two things struck me about this particular distillery: the whiskies and the people.

First the whiskies: Offered were two bottlings; the first a 3 year aged American Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Being new to bourbons this one struck me as rather mellow in comparison to some I’d tasted earlier the same evening, and with a rather tempered sweetness followed by some distinct tannins on the finish as I’ve come to expect. The second, however, is where the impression was really made on me:  this was a 2 year Straight bourbon whiskey Port cask finished. Now, being a Speyside and port wood finish fan, I was eager to taste a bourbon finished in a port cask, and I will tell you I was not disappointed. One would never mistake this bourbon for a scotch, but the similarities were striking to me. Again, there was a tempered sweetness which brought this drink closer to its port wood finished scotch brethren than most bourbons. While unmistakably bourbon, this one showed a complexity I’ve most typically encountered only in the Speyside port finished scotches. Of course, Big Bottom share a not-so-secret relationship with Woodinville as they also used David Pickerell as a consultant when creating Big Bottom. Hey, its a small community, and when you share, everyone wins!

You can bet I will be taking up Ted on his offer to call him around the time his next batch of port finished bourbon will be ready to taste… and maybe lend a hand in the bottling as well!

I did say two things struck me about Big Bottom Whiskey, and indeed the second was the people, though that may be a bit unfair as they don’t really come second to the whiskey, rather it seems to be equal footing. If you are reading this blog, you likely already have a good understanding of who the 3 Drunken Celts are and how, as a group, our attitude and outlook can be a tad contagious if not overwhelming to some… well the fine people at Big Bottom seem to share that zeal. Ted has the same crazy “what the heck, let’s try it” attitude which is the very same reason we love Jim McEwan of Bruichladdich. Like the 3DC, Ted doesn’t take any of this too seriously; he lets the passion and enjoyment come to the forefront of his creations.

If it is one thing I’ve learned over the past ten years, and which was highlighted in the last two tasting events I’ve attended, it is that while the whiskies are a great thing, it is the people and the passions they carry which really make this a fun, interesting, and exciting endeavor for us all. From the distillers to the critics to the connoisseurs, if you don’t have the passion and can’t find the funny, well your enjoyment of any dram is going to diminish as quickly as you can drink it… keep the passion and find the funny, and that same dram will last you far longer than the simple drink ever will.

Now, I think I need to go find some bottles so I can revisit and provide better tasting notes. I am really sad now that I didn’t bring my notebook with me… But I hadn’t expected such interesting things. Ah, yes, another lesson learned. Oh well, at least I had a good time, and I know Corey did as well since our conversation lasted the entire way home on the Max line as we compared/contrasted the various drams, and discussed the overall industry with admittedly inebriated gusto. Yes, it was indeed a good evening 😉


kill da bottle tasting (or something completely random)

Raz – Hmmm, Whisky Sugar cookies are good. I’m starting with the Edradour series we are here to kill and proceeding on to the Edradour 16 for good measure. No tasting notes here sorry but it’s good to see so much good stuff on the table just on the fly.

Meliko – Going through the Edradour series was very interesting; they’re all quite different.  Least fave was the port, most fave was the burgundy, with the chardonnay and sauterne also both relatively pleasant.  The 12 year had the most readable story: sweet and caramel to the nose, initially mellow then gently smoky on the tongue. 

Fergus– The 14 year Balvenie is sweeter than the 12 and is improved when you try a rum before tasting the 14. Trying it with a 72% dark chocolate does not seem to improve the taste and if you try  it with chocolate the whiskey seems to avoid the areas the chocolate cover. The Balvenie 12 signature being better than the 12 double wood has the opposite  effect from the 14 balvenie  the whiskey is improved by the chocolate and the whiskey layers itself onto the chocolate flavor. 

Raz – The flaming heart (Compass Box) is like being bum rushed by a dorm full of exchange student co-ed fetishists. 

Jean  – I concur with Fergus’ opinions on the Rumwood with the chocolate.  The Rumwood on it’s own is complex, but adding water eliminates the complexity and makes it flat.  I really enjoyed the Balvenie Signature with the chocolate – very smooth and buttery. Overheard: ‘Oh, dude – uh, oi’   

G – The Balvenie signature 12 starts without the bite of so many others. It rolls smoothly through the mouth and departs with a gentle kiss; a definite favorite. The add of the dark chocolate broadens the flavor. With this start, sampling the nose of the Edradours was all that I could contribute to that particular effort. A sip of the Dos Maderas (yes, rum) was a great post-food flavor. The additional ‘sweet’ made for a good dessert, so the sip fit very well. And the Welsh Penderyn seems to simply be a glass of water that happened to be in the room when some poor sot opened a Laphroaig.  


Johnnie Walker – Journey of Taste

The clock hit 5pm on Thursday afternoon, and I high-tailed my way out of work. I rushed home, showered, and donned my best suit so I would be appropriately attired for the night’s festivities. Fearing the worst of L.A. traffic, I didn’t have any time to spare, so I sped off armed with a pack of RedBulls at my side. I arrived at Raz’ place by 7pm, which gave us just an hour and a half before we had to be in line for the Johnnie Walker Journey of Taste set to start at 9pm in Hollywood. From Huntington Beach, the drive is a good 54 minutes by the map, which assumes a common freeway speed of 65mph. As you can guess, this left us with only a 30 minute fudge factor if we encountered any accident or other traffic inducing road hazard on the way. As it turns out we made outstanding time. Not one ounce of traffic hindered our progress, which meant we made it to Henson Studios spot on 8pm, giving us an hour before the next tasting began.With that hour downtime, Raz and I chose to make the most of it. Between sitting on a mock stoop and chatting about the future of the 3DC, we nosed our way around the studio grounds opting for a picture or two here and there. We even got the main door bouncer (decked out in a full tuxedo) to snap two pictures of us in from of the Johnnie Walker sign, and another in front of the Chaplin studio sign. Two points of note here: 1. always make friends with security early in the night, this will help later in the night, and 2. always be aware of your surroundings. The former will be discussed later, but the latter is important now. Not being much of a film geek, but enough that I know the value of true Hollywood history, I was thoroughly enjoying just BEING at Jim Henson’s Studios. That alone is worthy of note, but more importantly, is that a bit prior to becoming Henson Studios, the same lot and studio buildings were known as Chaplin Studios. Yes, THAT Chaplin. So not only were Raz and I geeking out over Jim and his Muppet magic, but also over being in the same location where the late great Charles Chaplin worked. (Pictures should be forthcoming once Raz gets the cable he needs to download them off of his camera.)

We queued up after a small handful of other people began arriving. We didn’t need to be FIRST in line, but also didn’t wish to be last either. Turns out this strategy worked well for us, as we were ushered over to deposit our required donation, and then directed towards one of the Walker girls who was ready to check us in. No muss, no fuss, no line either! It was this point in the night were we first saw our friend Dirt (who as you will recall, we met at the WoW expo last March, and who was kind enough to put forth the invite to us and our group). I chatted up Dirt as Raz checked in, and came to find out that we had chosen the best night and time to take part in the tasting. As 3DC luck would have it, Thursday night’s 9pm ‘show’ was to be attended by members of ‘tu Ciudad’ an up and coming Latino magazine for Los Angeles. The best part being that after the tasting, ‘tu Ciudad’ would be hosting an open bar after party where the entire Johnnie Walker line would be flowing freely! I attempted to impart this knowledge on Raz, who was a bit too busy making Leroy laugh behind us to really let it sink in…

Within minutes, the velvet ropes were drawn back and we were handed our token for a drink during the cocktail gathering prior to the tasting. I really have to say this setup was a perfect idea. Each guest was limited to one drink, to ensure their palates wouldn’t be ruined prior to the tasting event, but at the same time, we were given drinks which woke up our palates and got us in the mood to taste. As Raz staked out a table for us, conveniently next to the bar, I got us both a Johnnie Black label neat (as they were only serving Black and Red label at the beginning). Sitting at the bar-height table, we continued our people watching and noted at the diversity of the crowd. There was a good mix of nationalities as well as gender and age. While the average age was probably about 26, there were indeed a few older ones who obviously were experienced tasters. The whole vibe for the night was fairly youthful though, from the music to the types of drinks being poured for the guests. I noted quite a few whisky sours, ginger-ales and whiskies, as well as typical whisky on the rocks. Very few whisky neats were seen, Raz and I being two of them. The mix of people and drinks began to give me a good idea as to what we were in for.

Before we get into the tasting proper, Dirt makes his way over to us with a friend of his whom we “have to meet”. Ian Stewart (or Stuart, not sure of the spelling, sorry lad!) is introduced to us as a gent who will be making a name in the industry. While he doesn’t have a job quite yet, word has it he is poised to be part of a reputable Speyside organization, with promises to let us in on exactly which one upon confirmation of getting the job. After a bit of chatting and learning that his father recently retired from work at the famed Cardhu distillery, we are happy to say that Ian is indeed a true friend of the 3DC! Raz had a chance to bend Ian’s ear a bit more, as we were ushered into the tasting and the two sat next to each other snarking away during the presentation. I would have been annoyed if I hadn’t immediately enjoyed Ian’s company and stories. Plus he seems to “get” whiskies like we do, which is always a good thing in my book! (By the by, he lives up in the Bay Area, so Fergus should get into contact with him for future events…).

Which brings us to the core of the event; The Johnnie Walker Journey of Taste.

We were escorted to our seats (just behind the VIP section, not a bad turn of more 3DC luck!) which were white pleather bench seats with a bench in front to act as our tasting table. Each bench was imprinted to appear like a card with the standard 5 glass tasting layout, though specific for Johnnie Walker’s products of course. As a visual aid, I was able to find a picture of the tasting setup (courtesy of Johnnie Walker’s site: http://www.journeyexperience.com/ )

From this visual alone you get the feel that the entire night was geared more towards a vibrant, edgier crowd than we are typically part of. All the seats were configured in a square with an open center for the presenter. Behind each of the quadrants were three large projection screens displaying the ‘Striding Man’ logo which Johnnie is known by. (GREAT marketing by the by! The logo is memorable, classy, and easy to reproduce on damned near anything!) Over the course of the tasting, as an introduction to each label, mini promo spots were projected with loud music and minimal narration in quick successive images and moving pictures reminiscent of the MTV style of television/commercials nowadays. Truly, Johnnie is marketing to a younger generation now. The entire atmosphere was a bit too “hip” and trendy for my tastes, but still I was impressed at the balance between trendy and the presentation of a proper tasting.

Steve, the Johnnie Walker Ambassador for our showing, began to walk us through the tasting. Note that the opinions below are my own and –not- necessarily what was presented during the show. The actual tasting and presentation was designed to point out the various odors on the nose and tastes on the palate of the different expressions and teach some of the people new to tasting how to do so (as a typical guided tasting should do)…

First up was the Johnnie Walker Black label… and then continued in order…

• Johnnie Walker Black Label — this is a perfectly drinkable blend of as many as 40 whiskies, each aged at least 12 years. At the heart of Black Label lies the 12 year old Cardhu. I was quite surprised by this expression, as I had it in my mind that ANY JW label was inferior to my beloved single malts. As blends go, this one is quite enjoyable as an everyday dram. Not exceedingly complex or refined, but as good a whisky as any blend I have enjoyed.

• Johnnie Walker Red Label — a bold combination of spicy and smoky malts (the core being Talisker), designed to be mixed. Not a complex drink by any stretch, but rather full of simple and bold flavours which will punch through any mixer of your choice to reveal a distinct whisky drink. Presented with both Pepsi and Ginger-Ale in carafes to mix with; this particular expression seemed to sit well with Raz, while I found it a bit too overstated for my palate at the time. I may need to revisit this whisky to really nail down an opinion on this. Either way, it mixes as well as John, Mark and Robbo’s “The Rich Spicy One” (which for the price point would be my choice over the Red Label).

• Johnnie Walker Green Label (a.k.a. Pure Malt) — a vatted malt whisky that consists of approximately 15 individual single malts, the core malts being Talisker, Cragganmore, Linkwood, and Caol Ila. All malts in this particular blend are aged 15 years or older. Amazingly beautiful nose on this dram. It brings a woodsy heather and cedar along with the greenness of a newly cut lawn. The nose on this is so pleasing that it could be used as a cologne or aftershave. But that’s where this dram ends. The palate is disappointing at best with a heavy iodine taste completely divergent form the woodsy nose. That being said, I’d buy a bottle just to nose, but never drink.

• Johnnie Walker Gold Label — a blend of over 15 single malts which has at its heart the very rare Clynelish malt. Served at freezing temperatures, this whisky is lost to the cold. While interesting to drink as a novelty (really, who drinks whisky like a vodka?) this is actually better warm, but not by much. As it turns out, the cold masks the inferior nose and simplicity of the whisky. A fun drink to try, but this will never become one of my staples.

• Johnnie Walker Blue Label — at the heart of Blue Label is Royal Lochnagar a malt distilled near Balmoral. Now this is what I call a complex blend of rare malts. This expression has everything a high-end blend should have: a complex palate which tells a story that lasts for a good 30 seconds, a smoothness which whispers refinement and dedication to getting the palate just right, and a viscosity which gives a slightly thick mouthfeel letting you know there is more here than water. As enjoyable as this was, I am still partial to the Midleton Very rare expression as put forth by the Jameson’s Distillery for around the same price point. I will still, however, come back to this dram a few times “just to be sure”.

At the end, Steve invited all guests to hang around and enjoy the after party put on by the good people at ‘tu Ciudad’. Well, who were we not to oblige? Gods forbid we turn down and open bar pouring Blue label! With that, we adjourned back to the cocktail area where the bar tenders were waiting, bottles in hand. After getting our initial pours, Raz and I split from Ian and walked around the place chatting and generally just enjoying ourselves. At one point well into the night, we made our way outside where we happened upon Leroy, the good gent who had taken so kindly to Raz mocking me (in the sardonic way which Raz mocks me) when we were queued up for entrance at the beginning of the night. Come to find out Leroy and Raz share the same middle name, which they bonded over for a brief time. We met Leroy’s lady (whose name escapes me, but her necklace proclaimed “Mercy”) as well as Leroy’s mother, who also seemed to be fully enjoying the drams of the night. By the end of these conversations, I think there may be another 3 people looking for us at the Whiskies of the World expo come this April! (We already know that Ian will be there assisting Steve and Dirt in some fashion.)

As the night was winding down, we found ourselves back inside since it was warmer and less crowded than earlier. We headed back to the bar for one last drink, where we discovered that the earlier announcement that they had run out of Blue was not actually the case. When we got to the bar, the tender happily poured us two last snifters of Blue with a smile on his face, almost as is he had held some back just for us. Now, I wouldn’t delude myself to think that was the case at all, but rather, that’s just how it came off. In either event it was once again good to be 3DC.

By this time, we had commandeered another table around which we held closing court. Ok, again, not really, but given that everyone we had met earlier came by and chatted with us, it kind of felt like it. To top off that feeling was watching security begin moving people out so they could clean up and go home. As they swept by our table, they looked around made eye contact with Raz and myself, nodded at us and said, “You guys are good”, and moved on, leaving us to continue our conversations and finish off our drinks. Once again, the 3DC close out a bash with only the hosts around. Remember, make friends with security at the beginning, it WILL come in handy at the end!

We did hang around a bit longer, mainly to use the restroom and to drink a bit more water (and another red bull) before heading home. Or, I should say, before heading to dinner. I was hungry, and so was Raz, plus we both had Friday off and so we recapped the evening’s events over dinner and breakfast at Norm’s. By this point I was stone cold sober, but Raz was still enjoying the lasting effects of Johnnie Walker Blue, and continued to do so well past the point when I dropped him off at his door I am sure. I made it home by 3:15am, and was dead asleep by 3:30am. A long day to be sure, but well worth the sacrifice of sleep if for nothing else than to pimp the 3DC in style once again!

It seems at every event we attend, we meet some astounding new people and this was no different. We walked away, not only richer from the experience and enjoyment of the tasting, but from the friends we made along the way. Friends, whom I am sure we’ll be seeing again soon… and that, my friends, is the way of the 3DC. It’s not the whiskies, it’s the people you meet because of the common love for life!

Slainte’
-Seamus

Update!

As promised, following are a few pictures from the Journey of Taste event:

This is Raz and I prior to queuing up for the beginning of the night. The event was held through the hallway to the right of the image:

Raz and I being geeks over the fact that this is CHAPLIN Studios!

The core portion of the evening was the guided, seated tasting in the square:

I am not fond of this picture by a long stretch, but it is the only one we have of our new friend Ian:

Larger versions of all 4 pictures can be found here: The WaywardCelt Galleries

-seamus