The gospel, according to Seamus: Revelations- No longer a 3DC in exile

I landed Friday at noon, feeling the familiar pang of excitement for the weekend ahead as I let the past week’s stresses slough off, slowly but surely. I was, once again, in the city to meet up with some of my chosen family; those with whom I’ve shared many a drinks and laughs over the past 16 years sine we started this silly tasting club. Yes, it was time for another Whiskies of the World adventure in San Francisco, and I was gearing up for some serious professional level drinking this weekend.

Friday started as it has in the past: with many of us getting into the city at different times, all meeting up in whatever venue we happen to be in at the time. For me, as the first one to arrive, this meant loitering around the hotel lobby waiting on the next. When Rhawnie and Brian arrived, we began the weekend in the hotel’s executive lounge with wine and beer to while away time before the next round of friends arrived. Having a slow start to the weekend isn’t always how things go when we arrive (often times jumping right into on the plane or even on the way to the hotel), but this time it felt right as we all eased back into familiarity and away from our real life worries without grinding too many gears as we gained traction. Little by little others began to filter in, and our little party grew in numbers as we collected friends on the way.

Dinner was had at the Irish Bank, our local go-to spot where we either begin or end every day when we are in the city. While it started as an intentional choice, our collective ability to end up at the Bank has become a default setting. It is the 3DC home-base, always the first place to look for anyone if they aren’t where they said they’d be, or just to assume that is where we should meet up unless otherwise specified. We shy away from calling this tradition, as we’ve found that trying to force anything as tradition typically fails in spectacular ways. As such, we merely find comfort in the familiarity of a space like the Irish Bank that has a decent whiskies list, good food, and a space in the back that can accommodate a large and fluctuating group such as ours.

Over dinner, we ramped up the evening with Raz and Fergus who had joined us earlier at the hotel. It was a later dinner, so after a few pints we decided to move on out since Fergus was falling asleep at the table and needed motion to remain conscious. It was at that point as we made our way out of the Bank that we received the best recommendation of the weekend: the bouncer at the door told us the checkout the Rickhouse a block and a half away, noting their spectacular cocktails and whiskies list. Let me tell you here and now, he wasn’t joking.

The Rickhouse is an interesting bar on Kearny st. in San Francisco; consisting of a front bar, back bar, and little known downstairs bar, the tenders at all three are slinging some of the best cocktails I’ve experienced. Raz immediately ordered a whiskey sour and in doing so ingratiated himself to the staff who inquired if they could use egg whites, to which Raz’ reply of “well, are you going to make it right?” was met with adoration. That adoration didn’t ware off either, and somehow transferred to the rest of the group as we moved downstairs and continued to order old school whiskey cocktails that were delivered with exceptional precision and care. The downside here is that I can’t recollect the specifics of what I had, as I was ordering bartender’s choice, and they were riffing on Old Fashioneds and Manhattans in new and amazing ways. All said, after having a sip of Raz’ Whiskey Sour, I have to agree with his statement that it was indeed the best whiskey sour I’ve ever had.

It is while we are in a world of mixology induced ecstasy that the remainder of the 3DC crew arriving on Friday finally show up. It is with warm welcomes, hugs, and exuberant effusive exclamations that Sean and Justin enter the lower bar. As when more in our group arrives (regardless of location) a scene is made and the bar pauses to determine if the commotion is a threat. Quickly determining that there is no threat, nor celebrity sighting, the bar goes back to ignoring us and we continue to passionately imbibe and share our cocktails as if we were Ponce de Leon discovering the fountain of youth. And, perhaps in that moment, we really had discovered the mythical elixir, as for me at least, it was as if I were thrust back into the wonder of it all 16 years prior; a them I found would repeat itself throughout the weekend. Having drunk our fill (and being herded upstairs as they closed the lower bar), we opted to move on and head back to the hotel for more drinks in Fergus’ room where he had some special bottles waiting…. but alas, we were sidetracked on our way.

Another not-quite-tradition ran us into a delay as we were derailed from our due course into an alley bar boasting a bright blue flashy light as the siren song for Sean. You see, Sean has a history with the 3DC of leading us all into some of the worst bars we’ve encountered, one of the more magnificent failures being a hair salon serving beer in the back. We know this will happen, and are always expecting it, but are never really prepared for when it happens. In this case, we only spent a few minutes in the bar (enough for one drink, though a few of us declined to imbibe there), and we were soon enough on our way back to the hotel were we found ourselves once again among quality whiskies and a less-divey more subdued environment in Fergus’ hotel room.

For the next hour or two we imbibe in some of the most spectacular whiskies around: a flight of Knappogue Castle, beginning with the 1954 and working our way to the 16 year, with a number of other Knappogue Castle expressions in between. Since it was so late at night, I didn’t bother with any proper tasting notes. There are some times and situations where it is simply more important to experience the whisky in the moment, enjoying the company and passion surrounding you than focusing on documenting the tastes. This was obviously one of those moments, and truly one of the main reasons the 3DC do what we do; it is the bonding of lifelong friendships with the excuse to come together imparted by the whiskies, not the whiskies themselves.

Moseying to bed around 3:30am, I slept the sleep of the intoxicated; deeply and impervious to the snoring in the bed next to mine. As is normal for traveling (even after such a late bedtime) I was up, showered, and out the door by 9am. Gathering in the lobby awaiting the others, we finally collected and headed out to find sustenance. With the group moving rather slowly, and relatively ambivalent about where we chose to eat, we soon found ourselves looking for any place without a wait. Luckily we stumbled upon Original Joe’s where we found meals in abundance over our appetites. I don’t think any of us actually finished more than half of our plates.

Bellies full, we determined the hotel was an appropriate place to be, some of use noting that naps before the event Saturday evening would be a solid idea to ensure the rest of the day and night were not wasted. I can vouch for the fact that rest was indeed the right idea at this point and in no way impugns my status as a professional drinker. With an hour and a half of an air-conditioned nap, another shower, and a 5-hour energy drink behind me, we made our way out to yet another non-tradition that seemingly sneaks up on us every year: early dinner at Kennedy’s Irish Pub and Curry House. You may think curry before a whisky tasting is a bad idea, but I assure you it hasn’t impacted our experience at Whiskies of the World in the least and in fact serves us well to have a light dinner before hand. It was at this point even more of the group came together, and I was able to introduce two friends from Portland (Carrie and Courtney) to the wonders of the 3DC and a Whiskies of the World weekend.

I was really looking forward to Carrie and Courtney’s visit as it allows me to see the event through the eyes of first-timers and renew the passion and once again find the wonder in it all as seen through new eyes. Mind you these two aren’t any slouches when it comes to whiskies; they have now hosted a few PDX Whisky events themselves and have proven their own preferences and tastes fit right in with the 3DC crowd. These girls know their whiskies and because of that level of knowledge I was very interested to see how they reacted to Whiskies of the World and the immediate barrage on the senses when you enter the boat.

Having finished our dinners and reconvened at the boat to queue up for entrance, the final remainder of our group began arriving, making introductions and chatting through the wait for the doors to open. Lots of disparate conversations were to be had and I found it difficult to pay attention to many, rather finding myself focusing in on a small group at a time, which of course meant I didn’t get to interact with as many people as much as I’d have preferred. Ah, one of the few down sides to a group as large as ours. Even so, once the doors open, our group takes the free for all approach and tries not to move in packs as that tends to slow everyone down. Instead we flow through the tables finding what we are individually looking for, then as we cross paths during the night, trade information about any new discoveries or fantastic drams we think the others would enjoy. This always ends up with ad hoc small groups coming together for 10 minutes, then splitting off again, only to reform in a different group minutes later.

This particular event was different for me, however. While I’d normally taste and note down my findings in our 3DC Tasting Book, I found this year I was more focused on the experiences and talking with a few of the reps and distillers presenting their products. It’s no surprise why this was my focus, especially once I realized how many new American whiskies, and specifically American single malts were being shown. I’ll admit, I was initially deflated when I realized how many were there, as my own business was built with my partner to focus on an American Single Malt Whiskey when there were none on the market. So, to see so many now was a bit like the wind in my sails had just been taken by larger ships in the same tack. It took me a moment to regain my composure and remember that competition like this is what our company thrives on; that it just pushes us to do better and improve at every opportunity. So, with renewed vision, I was very please to make another observation: the hit tables of the evening were all the American distilleries. While the Scotch tables were busy, some being busier than others, there were also a number of tables from what I’ll call the “big boys” in the industry which were virtually unattended; no lines, no queues, no one clamouring to talk with those reps… just open space around them while the crowds gathered around the small independents who are admittedly putting out some remarkably good drams.

Two of note for me were the Westland Single Malt and Peated Malt whiskies, as well as the Wayward Single Malt by Venus Distilling. Both companies are created some wonderful expressions right in line with my own. Of course I also sought out Corsair Artisan Distillers since they have been a very influential part of my own focus on innovation in the industry. Speaking with Jason, the Director of Sales for Corsair, he walked me through all of their expressions including their newest gin and the barrel aged version of the same. Having the opportunity to sample their line of products was a highlight for me even though I could have obtained them easily elsewhere… but here I was able to talk about them with Jason and experience them anew next to Courtney and Carrie whom had found space at the table as well and were eagerly enjoying the samples as I was.

For the early part of the night, I moved from table to table alone; but quickly connected with James, my friend from our old LiveJournal days who shares a love of The Balvenie with me, and we then moved together from table to table comparing notes and ideas about what we were experiencing. Just as I enjoyed experiencing the event through others’ eyes, it seems James was enjoying seeing it through mine, with more of a technical, business, and production focus than I’ve had in prior years. Again, not entirely surprising.

As happens, the later the evening gets, the more our group tends to congregate and linger together with one or two running off to discover a new dram we’ve all been talking about, or to nurse our waters and while away the remainder of the evening until it is time to disembark and head on out to the next watering hole. The pack migrated from the 3rd floor down to the stern of the boat, outside as we waited to collect the others. Just outside the door, as the attendees were leaving, Sheridan took it upon himself to remind all participants about the “Irish whiskey tasting tomorrow morning… details are on the site”…. There are few pure amusements as watching Sheridan troll inebriated whiskey fans with so much confidence and unadulterated deception.

Here’s where I skip ahead to the Rickhouse as Courtney, Carrie, James, and I were the first to arrive. The bar was busy as you’d expect for a Saturday night, but the cocktails didn’t suffer (the wait might have). As we were waiting on the rest of the group, the main bar erupts in a loud chorus directed at a single individual… “RAZ!” we hear the bartenders shout, as the godfather himself enters the bar. A true 3DC rockstar entrance if there ever was one. Mind you, we’d only been to this bar once before and Raz is already being welcomed like a famous regular. Unfortunately, after another 40 minutes of waiting for drinks, we determined that the Irish Bank was going to be better for the group, and so made our way the block and a half over, where we find more of our group had already landed for a late night bite. The remainder of the evening was spent in inebriated bliss, surrounded by friends and chosen family singing Irish drinking tunes, inducting new members, and feeling like home is not necessarily a place but a feeling when events/circumstances/and people align just right. For those fleeting moments, I realize that I am no longer a 3DC in exile, but rather a 3DC at home when 3 or more gather with the passion of friendship and whiskies surround us.

Like the night before, the evening ends with us in Fergus’ room drinking whiskies. After all, there were new people to share the Knappogue Castles with! Pizza was ordered, and consumed, more whiskies were imbibed, and at some point we all made our way to our respective rooms and passed out…. again at 3:30am. It was a long day, but a day that will continue to bring me down to the city for fear of missing such amazing people and experiences that you just can’t plan. Weekends like this are organic in their flow, and any attempts to force the flow one way or another are met with disaster…. following it like an inner-tube on a lazy river always rewards with rich experiences.

Sunday comes far too early, but most of us are up, showered, and at the hotel’s breakfast buffet by 9:30am. A nice leisurely meal is had while our group filters in and caffeinates, rehydrates, and takes sustenance for the trip home. As most of our group is leaving in mid afternoon, we opt to take a quick walk through China Town, partially in hopes of having a drink at Li Po, but alas they were closed when we passed by. Without much fortitude for thought at this point, we all opt to go back to the hotel, collect their bags, and have some final drinks at the hotel bar before it is time to depart. When everyone flitters off, Raz and I are left and we decide to go find a late lunch which involved another walk through China Town, only to end up back at the Irish Bank for a last meal. A nice, quite time for us both as we chuckle, recap, and reflect upon the weekend. I can’t help but consider myself unbelievably blessed with such an amazing group of friends that can come together as we have, time and time again, to enjoy life in a hedonistic frenzy of whiskies and love for one another. We really do enjoy a very special kind of life together.

I see Raz off, and realize I now have the city to myself. I get a hold of James, who invites me over to a friend’s house where they are watching their children play and enjoying some adult time. This is big for me as I am finally able to meet James’ wife, but his nearly 2 year old child as well. I’m quite touched by the warm reception I encounter, and have a lovely late afternoon sipping wine and whiskey. James’ friend invites a neighbor over, who owns a wine and spirits shop in the city, to sample the whiskey I brought and we chat about the industry some. Such a random unplanned connection, that I am hopeful may help in some small way down the line. I only wish I had distribution set up already so I could get bottles into his shop! Truly, more 3DC luck, quite like what we have experienced all weekend long.

After a wonderful, but all too short visit with James, his wife, and kidlet, (in which they introduced me to a Hungarian brandy-type drink called Pálinka that made me feel like part of the family, though that could be the liquor talking), I found my way back to the hotel for a late dinner and an early night to bed. The next morning I travelled back to Portland, with San Francisco all but a memory now. Another year at Whiskies of the World under my belt, and another year of amazing memories in my head. Someone remarked during the weekend that it seems the actual event Saturday evening isn’t really what we all travel for… and they’re right. We don’t travel for Whiskies of the World. The event is merely the excuse we use to join one another year after year, to enjoy our chosen family and let loose of all the things binding us down elsewhere…. to partake in a safe weekend of debauchery in only the way the 3 Drunken Celts can. Cheers to you all, my brothers and sisters. You are the reason we do what we do!
Slainte’ Mhath!


The Gospels According to Seamus: Chapter the Sixth- Rinse and Repeat, a lesson (Whiskies of the World 2011)

Ah, March, how I’ve come to love you. But, I’ll admit, I wasn’t looking forward to March 26th and Whiskies of the World this year. Coupled with work stress, not a lot of down time, and the fact that this was a relatively last minute plan (having decided last year that we wouldn’t be returning), I found my frame of mind was such that any excitement I’d had for previous years was simply not to be found this year. Of course I KNEW I’d have a grand time, but there was still a lingering malaise which stayed with me until I was in San Francisco and checking into the hotel. After a serious power nap in the early afternoon, I was finally starting to feel the excitement.

This year was also a bit off anyway, as Raz was unable to join us, along with missing many others from prior years’ attendance. We were a small group this time round, in part due to the late decision to actually attend. That lent to us breaking a few traditions, though we kept two: dinnerlunch before the tasting on Saturday, and closing out Saturday night at the Irish Bank. But this year we didn’t live at the Bank like we have in prior years. Rather we ventured out to other places, explored new bars, and enjoyed the company we did have. (Fergus and I -did- share a drunk gigglefit just before bed Friday night, but nothing like years past…)

Suffice to say the dynamic was different this year, but neither better nor worse than other years. With fewer people it was easier to get tables for meals, and to go a bit more ad hoc in our plans in so much as we didn’t have plans prior or beyond the grand tasting Saturday night.  It was a relatively free flowing weekend which allowed us to follow our fancies and go with the flow of things. This was likely the most relaxed year for Fergus and I because of the lack of plans.

But enough of that… here’s Seamus’ tasting notes from the Grand Tasting Saturday evening. I’m going to caveat this right now, however… I noticed a trend in my notes from nearly the start and think my nose and palette may have been off a bit as I am suspect about of few of the notes which kept recurring in various pours which I’d expect to be dissimilar. So, consume these notes with a hint of suspicion, as I may need to revisit some of the drams to confirm the validity here… You’ll also note the last 4 tastings were from the Craft Distiller’s Master Class panel and are bottlings not commercially available at present.

 

With that said: Seamus’ Whiskies of the World Grand tasting notes

Distiller/bottling: Bulleit Rye

  • Nose: Mild coffee and toast notes
  • Flavour: Green grape, hefeweizen, and slight anise
  • Finish: Long slow burn, rich with the crispness of apple
  • Viscosity: 4
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of story: 2.5
  • Personal Taste: A

Distiller/bottling: Edradour 10 Port finish, Signatory bottling

  • Nose: All toast with some iodine and a hint of port
  • Flavour: Bite of caramel and cherry chocolate
  • Finish: cherry syrup and reprise of toasted malt
  • Viscosity: 3
  • Boldness: 3
  • Length of story: 3
  • Personal Taste: B+

Distiller/bottling: Aberlour 1990/20yr, cask strength, Signatory bottling

  • Nose: Heavy iodine and caramel
  • Flavour: pear, toast, then leads right into peat.
  • Finish: caramel into a very long burn.
  • Viscosity: 5
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of story: 3
  • Personal Taste: B

Distiller/bottling: Aberlour 18yr, sherry cask

  • Nose: Complex wine and toast with a hint of iodine then moves into caramel.
  • Flavour: bitter, chocolate covered espresso bean and caramel.
  • Finish: more bitterness.
  • Viscosity: 3
  • Boldness: 3
  • Length of story: 4
  • Personal Taste: C+

Distiller/bottling: Amrut Fusion

  • Nose: Heavy smoke and iodine
  • Flavour: Peat followed by more iodine.
  • Finish: Vanishes. Moves from the peaty iodine, straight into a heavy Laphroaig style in the middle, but finishes quickly with lingering caramel on the end.
  • Viscosity: 2
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of story: 4
  • Personal Taste: C

Distiller/bottling: Highland Park, 1991, Signatory bottling

  • Nose: Oak then slight iodine.
  • Flavour: Heavy, heavy peat into caramel
  • Finish: Sweet, but mellow caramel
  • Viscosity: 3
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of story: 3
  • Personal Taste: C

Distiller/bottling: Pritchard’s Tennessee Whiskey

  • Nose: Typical sweet and sour of a bourbon but with a bit of anise
  • Flavour: oak heavy, sweetness of maple syrup.
  • Finish: heavy on the tannins from oak, a surprise of chocolate just at the end.
  • Viscosity: 3
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of story: 3
  • Personal Taste: B+

Distiller/bottling: Copper Fox Applewood Whiskey (14 months)

  • Nose: Toasted pear and a tad bit of cherry on the end
  • Flavour: fruit forward then a great balance of fruit and mash
  • Finish: long finish lasts into perfect apple.
  • Viscosity: 1
  • Boldness: 3
  • Length of story: 4
  • Personal Taste: B+

Distiller/bottling: Balcones Brimstone Texas Blue Corn Whiskey

  • Nose: A little iodine into toasted oak, but ends with a brine of corn sugars
  • Flavour: sweet and oakey, more vegetable sugars.
  • Finish: Tortillas right at the start of the finish, toasted corn and balanced sweetness.
  • Viscosity: 3
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of story: 5
  • Personal Taste: A

Distiller/bottling: St. George Bourbon (4 months)

  • Nose: Sour corn and a hint of iodine again
  • Flavour: Young. Bites hard, but has solid sugars.
  • Finish: Toasted malts, but not pleasantly so.
  • Viscosity: 1
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of story: 3
  • Personal Taste: C+

So there you have it. Not many tastes this year for me as I focused more on a few particulars I was interested in and had some multiples to try and get a clear understanding of them. Of course after a few cask strength/51%abv drams, it became more and more difficult to find that clarity.

Since my return from this year’s tasting, I’ve have a non-trivial number of friends and acquaintances ask me how to start learning about whiskies. Most of these people have only had a tenuous introduction to whiskies by way of Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, or possibly Johnny Walker; not exactly a proper introduction in my book, and likely why most have never followed further down the whiskies walkway. So, in an effort to help some of the newcomers I’d like to provide a quick start guide to learning more about whiskies and enjoying it in the process.

Seamus’ 4 step starter course on whiskies appreciation:

  1. Find a friend who also wants to learn.
  2. Go to a bar, start ordering whiskies, neat.
  3. Sip, and discuss.
  4. Rinse and repeat… practice, practice, practice.

While there ARE more subtleties to the above 4 steps, the key is to drink whiskies you’ve not had and compare them. Soon you will find that you are able to discern particular flavours you like, and some which you don’t. One of the biggest lightbulbs for me was the realization that knowing what you don’t like is even more important than knowing what you do like; and the only way to figure that out is to try a many as you can.

A decent bar is a great place to start learning as it is cost efficient and you aren’t going to be stuck with bottles you don’t enjoy. Heading to a bar with a friend and ordering two whiskies (neat, so you can actually taste the whiskies as ice/cold dulls the taste buds) will give you both opportunity to talk through what you are tasting and compare your notes with each other. Don’t be afraid of price or to order glasses of bottles you’ve not heard of; in fact seek them out! Remember you are here to learn and sip, not shoot and get drunk. Try not to order the same dram twice unless you really want to revisit it to see if you really liked it. After all, practice does make perfect, and the more whiskies you taste, the more you will refine your particular preferences for your drams. That doesn’t mean you’ll be a snob, it means you’ll learn more about what you like in your whiskies and will soon be able to articulate the flavours you enjoy and the ones you don’t.

Of course you can also ask a friend who has been doing this for a while to help setup and guide you through a starter tasting. I know a number of us have enough bottles in our private collections to run a brilliant personal tasting and many would be more than happy to share a dram with a friend who wants to learn! Heck, if there’s enough of a demand, a few of the 3DC may even be swayed into hosting a starter class for you and help you get your feet wet with your first foray into the world of whiskies beyond Jack, Jim, or Johnny!

You’ll soon come to see why we’ve been attending Whiskies of the World for so many years now: there’s always something new to learn, and you can never get enough practice to improve your skills and enjoyment of the liquor of life we call Whiskies.

 


Whiskies of the World is on the horizon: March 26th

In just over 5 weeks, Whiskies of the World, San Francisco will be underway. Like years past, the 3DC have made a commitment to attend, though a bit late on the draw this time around. Because of that, we expect our numbers to be a bit less than last year.

Adrian and Jason (Fergus and Seamus) are working behind the scenes now to figure out lodging for the weekend, so if you are interested, please contact us to join in on the fun. (Commenting here will be sufficient if you don’t have our contact info elsewhere.)

If you’ve never been to Whiskies of the World before, don’t miss this opportunity to attend. Only General Admission tickets are available, as VIP and DramClub have sold out.  GA tickets are $110/ea, but rest assured you will get your money’s worth!

Saturday, March 26th, 2011 is the date of the Grand Tasting, but the 3DC tend to make a party weekend out of it. We begin arriving Friday morning and don’t leave until late Sunday/early Monday, playing around the city when not at the Grand tasting. It really IS a great time to reconnect with friends and let loose for a bit. We hope to see you there with us this year!


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!


Whiskies of the World 2010 attendance planning is underway!

The 3DC are using GoogleWave to coordinate our planning for attending the 2010 Whiskies of the World event. If you want to attend and join in on this planning, please contact us for an invite. We will also be collaborating on extra curricular activities around the event, tickets, and travel, so don’t miss out!

Reservations are currently being made individually at the King George hotel, however we are also in discussions with the group sales coordinator to determine if we can condense our reservations into a more compact area and at a better pricing. Our recommendation presently, is to book your room on your own, but make sure you are in contact with Raz/Randy to ensure you are included in any group rate/coordination which may come about.

Additionally, now is a great time to not only make your reservations at reduced rates, but to buy your tickets to WotW at reduced rates as well! I expect to see ticket prices climb after the holidays, so why not make the tickets part of a Christmas present for that special someone, or treat yourself (you KNOW you deserve it)!


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.


Whiskies of the World, 2009 planning info!

Greetings 3DC,

Well plans are getting finalized for the Whiskies of the World Expo 2009 (Date:3-28-09). Heck, I’ve already bought my plane ticket. As to event tickets, if you plan on attending, please contact Fergus directly. He is our ticket coordinator for this event and is intending on negotiating with the event staff directly on our behalf. If you are intent on getting your own ticket you can do so on the event’s site. The official 3DC hotel this year is the Hotel 480 as recommended by our Local 3DC rep theJamez. Thanks for the leg work James.

We’d love to have as many of you attend as can make it. This is after all the end all be all of whisky events. It makes our wee little shin digs look like nap time at the preschool. Even Mathias thought he’d seen it all until last year and he was blown away at what he saw and learned. Ask him yourself if you like.

Event information:

VIP Ticket Price: $120.00 ($115.00 General Admission so just pay the extra $5)

Event ticket site:  http://celticmalts.com/shop/category.asp?catid=43

Hotel: Hotel 480, stumbling distance from the Irish bank. The hotel itself is under renovation but this should be done before the event. We can get the cheaper, pre-renovation, prices by booking now.

Hotel site: http://www.hotel480.com/

As an alternate places of lodging I’d suggest either that the Hotel Des Artes (http://www.sfhoteldesarts.com/index.php) or Hotel Triton (http://www.hoteltriton.com/). We have 3DC members who have stayed at both of these hotel on prior trips and they are also very close to the Irish Bank, our “bar away from our home bars” and each has something good to be said about it.

Raz-


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…

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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?