Recap of the 3DC Vegas Invasion of 2012 Parts the 1 & 2

The 3DC Vegas Invasion of 2012….  February 18th & 19th to be more precise.

The 3DC had arranged two events coincided with an SCA event happening in Boulder City, NV just 30 or so miles from the strip. The first of these was a 6 dram paired tasting at the Ri’Ra’ (Mandalay Hotel/Casino), and the second night was to be a visit to the Freakin’ Frog’s Whisky Attic to take advantage of the 850+ drams Adam Carmer has sitting on the shelves just waiting for folks like us.

To that end, and having had a grand time swishing and a poking all day at the Practicum of the Sword event. It really has no comparission, we both have a good amount of experience on sites like online-casino-sverige.se but playing live is such a thrill! Jeff and I (Raz) trundled back to the Hotel in Henderson to get cleaned up and grab a light snack to prep our tummies for the drams that were to follow. After doing so, and courtesy of Melissa’s kind offer of transport and Stephen’s equally generous offer to be the designated driver for the weekend, we set off from Henderson. With Saul at the wheel we charged down the 215 to the Ri’Ra’ and valeted our golden chariot, then strode into the hotel lobby and, via a misstep past one of the worst bar bands in living memory, we made it to the bar about 45 minutes early. Scott (Ri’Ra’s manager) met us at the front door and showed us right back into our own private side room. It was kind of like a toss back to the 1970s stylistically but had it’s own wee bar staffed by our own wee Irish bartender. A round of cider was ordered to whet the palate and we had great conversations with folks as they trickled in. In the end we numbered a scant 8 actually participating, but Scott was OK with it since they haven’t done more that a couple tastings before and were looking at our event as a way to gain more experience. 3DC luck plays out in out favor again it seems.

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To the meat of the matter then, the pairings:

  1. Dalwinnie 15 and the Irish Salmon. The dram was better than I’d remembered it. Personally I didn’t like the salmon at all, which is no surprise to me at least, but those who actually like salmon said it paired well and was quite tasty.
  2. Macallan 12 and the (lamb) Sheppard’s pie. A wonderful smelling dram (ended up dabbing a bit on as a cologne) and paired quite well with the pie. The pie itself was spectacular. There was some extensive conversation around whether the dram helped the pie or if it was the other way around. The consensus around the table came out in favor of the influence of the dram this time.
  3. Talisker Distiller’s Edition and the Irish Cheddar. The dram hit the table ahead of the cheese so we sipped on it. This was powerful and full of brine like an angry sea. The table seemed to agree that we wouldn’t likely be getting all the way through this one. It really was grabbing us by the balls after the Speyside in the last pairing. The cheese showed up and was very salty and very tasty too. That’s when the magic happened. This was the paring that most surprised everyone. The greatest impact one to the other of any of them on this evening. The conversation about which was the greater influence reared it’s ugly head again, this time falling in favor of the cheese. Far from not finishing the dram as it turned out, we ran dry before we’d finished the cheese. I’d give this one the award for most astonishing pairing of the evening.
  4. Jameson’s Gold and Pork Belly / spinach. The fist pairing of the evening to fall a bit short. Partially, at least, in the execution. The dram itself was quite good, full of spice and vanilla as would be expected. The pig however was a bit cold and underdone. The fat did not pair well with the dram; contrarily the few burnt end pieces actually did pair quite well with it adding complexity not originally in the dram. The spinach was actually more complex than the dram so that kind of took away from it. All in all, it was kind of nice to have this pairing not work as it showed us both possibilities. A huge improvement in #3 to a degrading of the dram here. I think if the belly was end pieces or even proper Irish bacon it would have worked much better.
  5. Tullamore Dew 12 and a creamy tomato soup. This also did not pair well though not because of the execution. The tomato soup may possibly have been the best I’ve ever had. A truly wonderful concoction. Paired with the dram though all kinds of acid and sharpness was present. An utter failure of a pairing. That being said the soup was far too good not to eat, so I shot the dram, had a sip of water and enjoyed the rest of the soup at my leisure.
  6. Compass Box Hedonism and dark chocolate cake with a dollop of fresh cream and a thin shaving of strawberry. This was likely the best pairing of the night and I was so very glad to end the pairing menu on this instead of #5. This was a wonderful cake and a wonderful dram that when paired together was ecstasy. I can’t recommend this pairing highly enough, but it was a pretty safe bet.

 

We ended the event with more great conversations and another cider. Not sure how, but no one really was all that tipsy. This was a grand evening and we learned so much.

Special thanks to Melissa for taking notes as we went along so that I could reference back to them here. A huge thanks to Stephen for getting us home safe. Another huge thank you to Robin Robinson and Compass Box for the bottle hookup. It really saved our tasting.

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Sunday, after another fun day of swinging swords about, we met the gang back out in front of our hotel and opted for dinner at Freakin’ Frog’s ahead of meeting up with Adam in the Whisky Attic. A moment to further endorse this little off strip dive bar, the food was really good. I would warn you against to the nuclear hot chilli fries unless you are looking for that kind of experience. The Dogfish Head Sah’tea beer I had with my dinner was amazing. Ask Saul if you don’t believe me. I’d ordered it blind from seeing just the top of the bottle not realizing it was a 750ml bottle so I needed the help. My new favorite beer EVAR!

Sometime just after 8PM we told Adam we were ready and we scaled the stairs passed the velvet rope up into the wonderland that is the Whisky Attic. By the time the evening was done we numbered a pleasant 13 or so in our group. Adam was a wonderful and quite funny host. Normally he runs structured seated tastings but given our reputation, he opened up the bar and let us wander around the shelves each picking drams willy-nilly. Jeff stumbled onto what was probably the best way to do a freestyling trip to the Attic. He picked a dram and then asked Adam where he should go next. Adam put together a 4 dram journey of flavors building in intensity and ending in an unexpected far off land. I however, arrogant as I am, knew what I wanted: drams to which I don’t normally have access.

  1. I started with the best whisky in the world (to my palate) the Bunahabhain 25. It’s like the 18 but +100 points for, oh I don’t know, everything. An expensive dram to be sure but as someone who generally doesn’t necessarily appreciate the more pricey drams over munitions grade fare, I was blown away.
  2. I chose as my second dram I picked the Sheep Dip 1990. A hefty dram to be sure. Not subtle at all but not harsh either.
  3. For my last dram of the night I let Adam pick for me and he gave me Heart Brothers bottling of a Glen Turret Cask Strength 10 year. A surprisingly soft and smooth dram for a cask strength dram. Down the Speyside road for complexity.

A very nice way to end my visit with Adam and all in attendance seemed to have had a great time and we all learned a lot and had things we didn’t know existed.

Adam wrote me a note thanking us for the visit and saying how much he enjoyed our group and that he’d love to see us anytime. I’m thinking next year we let Adam set up a tasting for us and I’ll coordinate it with the SCA event. I’d be interested to see how Adam runs a structured tasting. I’m sure I could learn a lot.

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Thanks to all the 3DC and friends there of who came out and played with us. The great conversations I had each night were what makes all this worthwhile for me.

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PDX Whisky Blind Tasting, Feb, 24th, 2012

This past weekend was another PDXWhisky tasting hosted by Ian Itschner. As always, we had a lively group show up, all interested to see what this blind tasting had in store for us.

Unlike prior PDXWhisky tastings, this time around Ian went to pains to obfuscate the Distilleries/brands to keep preconceived notions away from the drams and allow our senses to do all the work; to find our favourites without the benefits of advertising or other biases. Of course that didn’t stop us from guessing and taking pot shots based on bottle shape, the colour of the whisky itself, or the general characteristics of the dram once we were tasting. (After all some bottles are so distinct in shape, you just KNOW if it is a Highland park, a Bruichladdich, or a Glenfiddich… its hard NOT to guess!)

To help you get the sense of what I’m talking about here…. these are the four bottles as presented to us:

You’re guessing already, aren’t you? See, it’s hard NOT to immediately start in with those biases and preconceptions! I’ll bet you even have some good guesses based on #2 and #4’s shape, as well as #1’s neck height, don’t you? I know we did! But don’t let that cloud your mind… work through it and you WILL be rewarded with some fun surprises.

In the spirit of the evening, I am going to present my tasting notes in the same blind fashion: showing you the notes without indicating the distillery or other bottling notes:

Bottle #1

  • Nose: Hotter than expected, and briney with mild caramel, cereal comes in late and then a light char.
  • Flavour: Hot and bitey. Some brine then light smoke and bran.
  • Finish: Toast into balanced cinnamon and smoke. Some said redhots, others said a higher quality cinnamon instead. The room was divided.
  • Viscosity: 3
  • Boldness: 2 (despite being so hot, not exactly a bold dram)
  • Length of Story: 2
  • Personal Taste: B-
  • Extraneous notes: On nosing I guessed this was at 45%abv, on tasting I upped it to 50%abv. First guess was Auchentoshan, then I scratched that out and changed a second guess to Kilchoman.

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Bottle #2

  • Nose: Grilled plantains, presenting a mild vegetative sweetness
  • Flavour: light and watery, hint of caramel, but rather bright and crisp.
  • Finish: middle oak and lingers with mild tannins
  • Viscosity: 2
  • Boldness: 2
  • Length of Story: 3
  • Personal Taste: B+
  • Extraneous notes: No abv guess here as it generally felt like a standard 40%abv. I took a guess at the region rather than distiller and put this in the Lowlands and aged at 12- 14 years based on the tannins that came out at the end.

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Bottle #3

  • Nose: Port, then heavy port, into wet dirt with a side note of ‘red fruit’.
  • Flavour: Brine and port, astringent and hot.
  • Finish: Heavy but wet tannins at first, which then dry out to the end. A constant port finish through out.
  • Viscosity: 4
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 4
  • Personal Taste: B+
  • Extraneous notes: This was another hot one, but a bit more mild than the first. My guess from nosing was at 41%abv while I upped it to 45%abv on the palate. Normally I love port finishes, but this one threw me for a loop as it nosed like a Speyside, but drank like an Islay. My guess put this as an Islay with a port cask finish aged 16 years.

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Bottle #4

  • Nose: Fruit, a smokey apple hookah tobacco type scent.
  • Flavour: Immediate anise, which moved straight to peat and then into fruit with semi-sweet almost bitter chocolate (akin to a 77% cocoa)
  • Finish: Balanced oak and sweetness of fruit without the acidity.
  • Viscosity: 2
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 4
  • Personal Taste: A
  • Extraneous notes: This was quickly noted as my favourite of the night, guessing region as Highland and aged 18 years given the balanced sweetness with a hint of peat.

 

… and to push the reveal text far enough down so as you can’t see it while reading the tasting notes above, here’s another look at them:

There, now that you have the tasting notes, and obfuscated images of the bottles I’ll stop the torture and reveal what each bottling was in relation to my guesses above. So, without further ado, the BIG REVEAL:

 

 

  • Bottle #1: Auchentoshan Valinch, 2011 limited edition, bottled at 57.5%abv
  • Bottle #2: Compass Box, Great King Street
  • Bottle #3: Glen Scotia, 19 year, single cask port finish, bottled at 59.5%abv
  • Bottle #4: Ledaig 10 years, 46.3%abv

 

 

I should have trusted my first instinct on bottle number one and not second guessed my distillery choice as I was apparently right on with my initial guess! I WILL come clean and note that was primarily driven from the bottle shape and my knowledge of what Auchentoshans typically taste like. Still, I was surprised to have been so close on my first guess.

The second bottle was a bit of a shock as I’d gone through two bottles of Compass Box’ Great King Street with friends since November. I’m a bit settled by the fact that the bottle is comprised of 51.4% Lowland grain whiskies, letting me breathe a bit better when I guessed lowland as the region. Unfortunately, not having done a proper tasting note for the GKS, I don’t have a personal taste comparison to show how close or off this blind tasting was. I’m guessing that blind, this rated a bit lower than I likely would have rated it otherwise, given my predilection to towards anything Compass Box produces. Nice to keep me honest. That said, even at a B+ I’m absolutely going to continue buying this bottle for whisky & sodas!

The Glen Scotia came as a real surprise being a Cambeltown, not an Islay. This one to me was like a Johnny Walker Green: I loved to nose it, but wasn’t pleased with the palate at all. That said, I did guess the port finish correctly, and was even a bit closer on the age than I expected with my guess of 16 years versus the actual 19 years.

The real surprise for me came with the fourth bottle: the Ledaig 10 year. After the Glen Scotia at 59%, its no wonder this one didn’t rate as hot for me, coming in at 46%. Colour me shocked, however, that I’d guessed 18 years when in reality this Ledaig is only aged 10 years. And again, it is an Isle of Mull whisky when I’d originally guessed it as a Highland.

Ah, well, you win some, and even when you lose in this game, well you still win! In fact, I was so pleased with the Ledaig after this blind tasting, I opted to pop over to my local whisky shop and pick up a bottle (shock of shocks, they actually HAD it!). I have to say, this was also the least expensive dram of the night, generally around $50/bottle. Seeing As to where it was my personal favourite of the night, how could I not grab a bottle?

 

All images used by permission: (c) 2012 PDXWhisky.com


The 3DC’s G+ Hangout Virtual tasting recap

I (Jason/Seamus) owe a huge thanks to Raz for working hard to guide us through the drams, and to Fergus for organizing such a stellar group meetup in the Bay area. All in all, I had the easy part: some basic marketing and logistic coordination to get it up and running, which was made nearly painless by Google.

From my perspective… all in all I consider our first virtual tasting to have been a mild success. While it was great to see so many people gathered for the tasting, I didn’t get the deeper interactions we’ve experienced at more official seated tastings. Our largest hurdle was some of the tech issues with sound, causing some feedback and echoing through much of the event. This helped to focus the 3 larger groups within themselves and treat the camera as merely another observer rather than using the camera to speak directly to the other participants.

So, what went well? Logistically, we were able to gather and get the hangout up and running easily. The kits were all shipped on time and contained the right products. We had enough connection slots for those who wanted to join thanks to organizing in groups to minimize the overall number of connections (hopefully something we won’t have to worry about in the future if Hangouts on Air are rolled out to us).

What didn’t work as well? As noted about, the sound issues prevented clear communication. Some groups rushed through the drams and some lagged behind, creating a disconnect in attempted discussions. I found that the discussions were so chaotic at times, that I was unable to take proper notes in my 3DC Tasting Notebook, leaving me without clear ideas about the whiskies we tasted, just general impressions. And, overall, we didn’t lead as well as we could have.

So… what, then, can we do differently to improve? Glad you asked 😉

First off, I believe any of our future virtual tastings need to be run like a proper conference call (I blogged about how to do this over on my work blog). Defining a specific speaker/host, ensuring everyone is muted unless speaking, and really focusing on guiding a collective tasting will take us far. A free for all is simply too chaotic.

Secondly, while the group environments helped to make the tasting fun for those in the groups, the dynamic unfortunately left our individual attendees faltering about for a bit while the groups talked amongst themselves. Again, this is where a driven leader, combined with controlled and focused groups would help us provide a much greater benefit to all attendees/participants.

I do believe that with a little more effort and a bit more focus we can run some really great and educational hangouts via GooglePlus. The tough part, as I see it, will be in retaining that 3DC personality to ride the line between fun and chaos.

 


Week 16 update- Age your own whiskey

Week 16 came and passed without an update on the whiskey sitting in the barrel I got as part of Woodinville’s “Age your own whiskey” kit. But can you blame me? I mean, there’s been a lot going on with the 3DC, especially as we ramp up into our annual tasting at “Great Western War” (the SCA event in Bakersfield, Ca.).

Have no fear, just because the weeks have come and gone does not mean I missed taking a sample of the distillate. I did indeed take notes, and even pictures to provide you all an update as to how the baby whiskey is maturing in the 1.7 liter oak barrel. The first round of tasting notes after weeks 1, 2, and 3 can be found here if you missed them, or just want to come up to speed for comparison. The initial setup, etc. can be found here.

 

Woodinville White dog, Aged 16 weeks in new American Oak.
(Casked on May 30th, 2011. Sampled Sept. 11th, 2011)

  • Nose: All alcohol. Expected for a 130 proof distillate. Caramel follows the initial shock, the if you can push through, there is a distinct corn mash of the original distillate.
  • Flavor: Chewier mouthfeel than prior tastes. No longer think and watery, but now shows great body and an oiliness expected from a proper bourbon/whiskey. The pallate is still very distillate heavy, but is showing more promise with a far heavier caramel body, though it is followed by a disappointing bitterness.
  • Finish: Caramel, with an increasing bitterness with every taste. Like a vegetable with all the sugars removed.
  • Viscosity: 4
  • Boldness: 4
  • Length of Story: 2
  • Personal taste: C
  • Extraneous notes: Dramatically different from earlier tastes, but still not ‘good’. Needs more time on the oak to mute or remove the bitter after notes. Looking to revisit in late November or December.

 

Overall, I’m not exactly disappointed, but not overly pleased either. I am hopeful that more time on the oak will help it mellow out further and become something worthwhile. Otherwise, I’ll have to admit defeat, bottle it up, and move on to a different distillate to see how a second round fairs.  That, of course, means finding a better raw distillate to work with, with means testing some cask ready samples from various distillers. Oh the pains I go to for this hobby 😉

 


Part the 2 – Freakin’ Frog’s… Raz’ Las Vegas vacation with a slant towards whiskies

In continuation from Part One here

Stop 4: Freakin’ Frog’s. Nestled in a strip mall a couple miles off the strip and just across the street from UNLV, almost hidden, is a little bar. A very special little bar to be sure.

Friday night, Ginger wasn’t feeling all that great and wasn’t of a mind to explore and was considering a nap so I struck out on my own. I walked right up to the front of the Trop and hopped in a cab and asked him to take me to Freakin’ Frog’s on Maryland Blvd. He had no idea where it was. I said the major cross streets were Tropicana and Maryland and if he’d start off I’d pull the addy from the web. He dropped me off in this dingy little strip mall (after passing the place up and having to make an illegal U-ie to get me there) and (despite feeling a bit uncomfortable on the inside) I girded up my loins and put on a smiling mask to the tatted up bouncer and full of 3DC confidence walked on into the bar. It was soul music night and the place was about 3/4 full locals as the show was just getting started I slipped in pretty well unnoticed. This place was definitely a toss back to the 70’s. I noted a set of stairs that (very non fung sui) lead straight up to what looked like an office / store room excepting the fact that there was this old set of theater line poles and a dingy padded rope hung between them barring access to them. The bar itself might as well have been a biker bar, save the clientele was a fairly well mixed set of locals. The bar staff looked pretty tough too, though most seemed on the other side of questionable decisions one might make in one’s youth. I slid down tot he end of the bar by the stairs and asked if there was any way I might be allowed a peak at the Whisky Attic. The barman said I’d need to talk to Adam about that but he didn’t think they were taking anyone up there tonight. He said he’d ask though. He went out and talked to a guy clearing tables and generally being the kind of active engaged manager I can appreciate. He returned and said if I’d wait, Adam would take me up in 10 minutes or so after the room was set for the show.

About half way through the first song. Adam walked on over and said “let’s go”, dropped the rope at the bottom of the stairs and we climbed on up. The room at the top of the stairs was about 15′ X 40′ with a table and chairs to the left and a bar about sectioning off about a third of the room to the right. On the far wall and all the walls beyond the bar were oak shelves. On these shelves were bottle after bottle of different expressions. 750 or so Adam told me and he indicated he had another 300 hundred or so in the office he’d not yet been able to shelf. I asked if I could take pics and he said I could, though in hind sight I think I only took 3 pics in total, so awe struck was I by the selection all around me. He invited me back behind the bar to get a better look at it all as we talked about the 3DC and what his goals were for this collection. I’m not going to go into all that we spoke of, you’ll just need to go talk to the man himself to get all the details.

After looking about and reeling from the realization that I was amongst several hundred drams I’ve never had, I noted a selection from the same distiller / bottler from India and he said he had a special on those, a flight of them for $100. I think I said, “let’s do it”. He then said he intended to change the way I tasted whiskies. Adam, you see, is a professor over at UNLV as his day job and has spent a significant amount of time thinking about the subject. His rationale is that the reason we look, smell, then taste harkens back to our caveman days when we were just trying to suss out whether or not what we were about to ingest was poisonous and that the fact that we acknowledge that he was not intending on killing me and that mankind has thousands of years evolving since those times that perhaps there may be a better way to go about such things. I encourage each of you reading this and that have even a passing interest in whiskies to go and meet and learn from this man on your own or in groups as your druthers dictate, but do so. I don’t expect to be able to do justice to describing his method of tasting, but I will say it works better for me than the 3 or 4 methods I’ve used to date. That and I intend to be using as my primary technique going forward. If you hit me up in person, I might be able to show you, but I don’t have the words to put it to paper so you’ll have to be content with this much.

The flight was 6 bottles from Amrut and we’re all pretty darn spectacular. (I’ve found out that since March some of these drams have started making their way onto American shelves.) I’d heard so many bad things about Indian Whiskey that admittedly my expectations were pretty low, but there was no need for that. 2 were cask strength and 1 of those and 1 other were peated as well. Not a bad dram in the bunch.

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For the details of the Whisky Attic:
4700 S. Maryland Pkwy
Las Vegas, NV 89117
By reservation only, call 702-217-6794 to speak with Adam B Carmer and make an appointment.


Raz’ Las Vegas vacation with a slant towards whiskies: Part 1

Late last month Ginger and I took a trip to Las Vegas. I’m kind of getting over the whole gambling as entertainment thing these days, but I thought I may take advantage of the town, and the wife being occupied at the games, to explore some dram spots I have heard of in the interim as well as confirm a few that were old favorites back when the dinos walked the earth. Understand that I’ve not been to LV is quite some time, likely 7 years which is like 150 years architecturally in any other town in the world.

Stop 1: An old favorite, the Bellagio. This hotel casino has always been one of the better places on the strip to get a selection of whiskies. Not a remarkable selection, but they have more that any of the other major casinos put on the shelf and for that I recommend them. Any old whisky was not what I’d come for thought, I came for a dram of Loch Dhu (the black whisky). They’ve changed the layout of the casinos over the years and it took a while to find the little bar between the hotel lobby and the theater I have been sending people to for years to get a dram of this quiet still expression. You see back when it first was released to the US Market, Loch Dhu was very inexpensive, something like $25 if memory serves, and the bar manager liked it and bought a pallet of the stuff. Not too many years later, the distillery was bought by the French in order to get another expression and the black whisky fell out of production entirely. You could not buy a bottle today for less than $250, a nice turn if you were an investment collector. I’m not and I’m partial to this dram so I sit down and order one. The tender pulls the bottle and pours the last bit, just about a full shot, into a snifter and tosses the bottle. I then do what I’ve done every time I’ve gone and done this at the Bellagio, I ask if they will sell me a bottle. He says that they can’t do that because that was the last of it and they aren’t expected to get any more. This being the case, and me getting the last dram of the last bottle from that pallet of Loch Dhu, I tell him the story about how many 3DC over the years I’ve sent in to have a dram of this stuff and ask if I could have the bottle he tossed. Needless to say, it’s sitting in a place of honor on my shelf.

 

Stop 2: Nine Fine Irishmen at New York, New York Hotel Casino. This is a finely appointed Irish pub with the obligitory imported pub fixtures and furnishings. I was there for lunch and they were piping in a very good selection of Irish Drinking tunes. Everything from the Clancy Brothers to the Pogues so that bit was very good. The selection of whiskies was better than average and fairly competent in the Irish category. The bar had that tight confined space that usually makes a pub feel right and that you don’t generally get on the strip in Vegas, but alas, something seemed off a bit. I sat at the bar, ordered a Bushmill’s 16 and a corned beef sammy on rye. The food was tasty the dram fine but something was off in this place and I’m pretty sure I know what it was. The bar staff. Sure they were nice enough, but they didn’t seem to know how to run an Irish Pub. After gabbing with them a bit and unavoidably listening to two of them lightly bitch about their schedules, I discovered that the NY rotates the bar staff around the casino daily so they don’t really get to know each bar’s eccentricities and high points. Hell at one point they asked if I needed anything else and I said I’d have some vinegar for my fries if they had any and he responded “what kind?”. In a moment of shock and ill-composure I responded, “I’m sorry I thought for a moment I was in a pub.” He smiled and said “Malt vinegar, right.” That pretty sums up the Nine Fine Irishmen. It’s been managed into a bad place. A dedicated staff and a manager who knows what an Irish pub should be like could fix this place in a heart beat. As it is, I won’t be back unless I hear something to suggest they fix the management issues.

Stop: 3 Ri’Ra’ at Mandalay Bay Hotel Casino. Now this is a fine Irish Pub. A little plastic Paddy, but in a good way. The North wall of the main pub was a series of glass cases filled with a veritable cornucopia of whiskies. Scotch, Irish, American and more. There had to be over 150 expressions (I didn’t bother to count) and the feel of the place was outstanding. The food was great and the Knappogue 1993 was a perfect paring for my lunch. This place had a more open feel despite the main bar being a long strip that lead back into a larger hall, the ceilings were high and the decorations did not mantle over you like a vulture. There is a side room behind the bar that has a very club like feel to it and would seat around 40 comfortably. The reason I mention this is that the idea has bee floated that in coincidence with the upcoming Practicum of the Sword next year. To that end I spoke with the assistant manager, who said I should speak with Mark McElkerny (who was on vacation) on the topic but that it may be something they would be interested in hosting for us. It would likely be more costly to go this route, however it may be worth it as they could provide the food and the whiskies to our direction, leaving us with just showing up and enjoying our own event. I’d likely still want to blather on about something or another regarding the drams etc, but I’m good with that. There is fairly easy access to this location from 6 of the strip hotels via a tram as well giving people a wide choice of hotels to stay in. Something to think about. More on that later I guess.

Stop: 4 (and final) Freakin’ Frog’s Whisky Attic and Prof. Adam Carmer. Next time. This one warrants its own entry.

Read on for Part Two here


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:

.

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+

.

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+

.

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)

.

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)

.

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 😉


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

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

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

 

Pictures of week one:

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 


Part the second: Out of character – A whiskey guy goes wine tasting

So, we were at Evening land. Right.

This store was, while still in a dull grey warehouse, considerable better presented once you were inside than Fiddlehead. They had pleasantly Dim lighting and flowers in glass plates with rocks and water, display on a side table with some of the restaurant house wines they produce and the tasting L shaped cloth covered table with their own label wines on offer this day. (They had a much larger bit of warehouse space that would allow for this but that is neither hear nor there). Over all a nicer atmosphere than the first if you like classy joints, I’m impartial myself. They also had a $10 tasting fee and 5 wines uncorked. The odd bit about this one was that the lady running the store front needed to run an errand and the couple who’d arrived just before me had stopped her from getting in her car, now illegally parked right in front of the tasting room door. Apparently the couple were regulars and after I’d tried my first wine with the proprietor they offered to take over the pour for her and let her run her short errand which the proprietor accepted and scurried off leaving me with the other customer’s in charge. Not the strangest bit of decorum I’ve run into in the spirit industry but still a bit odd with the cash register just sitting there and all.

Since I was not in the hands of anyone working the shop professionally I contented myself with small talk about wine and whiskey and reading/discussing the tasting notes. As it turned out the woman pouring for me had a son who was enamored of whiskey and so I was exchanging my knowledge base for hers. They were heading up to the Portland area in a couple months and so I told them to keep on a look out for the micro whiskey distilleries that have been cropping up up there that Jay has been telling me about though the only name I could recall was Hog’s Head. The wines themselves save the first one, a 2009 Chardonnay – Borgogne Blanc (Blue Label) was the only one I actually liked at all and the others were not worth me noting down, so I didn’t. This company specializes in bottling house wines for various restaurants working directly with them to tailor the flavors to the dishes. Cool and all but I was hear to try something avant garde not what ever W. Puck was putting on the table. These were wines I’d tasted before and the reds were way too full of tannin flavor for me to deal with. This was not the place for me. They did however have a laminated map of the Wine Ghetto on the table which after a quick glance over I saw something of promise; “Flying Goat Cellars“.

I hopped in my car and drove half a block to another equally dull and grey warehouse with a poster depicting a purple square and a black goat jumping off the ground on the door, parked and walked in just 20 minutes before they were to set to close.

Despite my poor timing, the lady running the shop was friendly if obviously short on time and walked me through their 5 uncorked bottles. The decor was relaxed and a compromise between the first two shops. This one the decidedly more rustic of the three and most comfortable as it was at least twice the size of the first. Similar conversations took place as were had at Fiddlehead regarding me not particularly liking wine and preferring whiskey in general but being there to learn and so I did. We fairly quickly ran through the offerings, most of which were quite good to my pallet though my tasting notes seemed to have stopped at the last shop (and the fact that I’d stopped spitting when I got to the Goat Shed) as we were rushing a bit. I ended up getting a bottle of Pinot Noir, Solomon Hills-Santa Maria Valley, 2007 as a gift for Adrian as this was probably the most complex flavor profile of any of the 15 bottles I’d sampled this afternoon and had some characteristics and spice notes that made me think of some Speysides I’ve enjoyed over the years. I got nutmeg out of it, but hey that’s with my poor pallet. She corrected me saying “Cinnamon” but that she respects my pallet. I told her; “My pallet has been calibrated and was broken so there was no respect needed of it.” We laughed and I payed my $10 tasting fee and bottle price. I inquired after the name of the cellars and she said her husband, the blender / bottler used to have dwarf goats who had a tendency to climb up and jump off stuff. That’s a good a naming story as I’d like to have so I said my goodbyes. I went out my car right at her 4PM closing time and buzzed off to pick up Ginger and drive on over to the house to meet back up with the wake.

In quick summery; The 3DC tasting notes work quite satisfactorily on wine and I think could readily, without altering any significant alteration, be applied to this segment of the spirit industry. Fiddlehead had the most interesting and compelling expressions and were the most refined on my pallet save the bottle I bought for Adrian at Flying Goat Cellars. Evening Land had the classiest tasting room but lacked inspiration (to my pallet anyway) in the bottles. Flying Goat had good heart and love of the craft that showed through in their expressions even if most were not quite as sophisticated as Fiddlehead but in the end they got my money.


Out of character… A whisky guy goes wine tasting

Raz posting here (a rarity, I know):

So, I did something odd on Friday; Wine tasting.

After going to a morning funeral (for a dear sweet lady who welcomed us without hesitation into her family) and associated wake in Lompoc, CA. Ginger was feeling wiped out so I took her back to the motel. The Family headed back to the house and Casey went along with her Grand Parents while I took Gin back. I didn’t need to get straight over to the house and I’d seen on James May’s wine show recently something about a wine ghetto in town. I happened to have seen a sign directing us to where it was on the way into town earlier that morning and I needed to get Adrian a present too. Further I’d been toying with the concept that the 3dc tasting note format should work equally well with other spirits et. al. and I had my notebook with me as I’d not taken it out of the suit case since WOW last year. Thus all things seemingly lined up to accommodate the whim, I decided to give a go at a wine tasting, alone.

I drove back to the other side of town and turned into the industrial complex behind the Home Depot where Hwy 1 dumps into the South Eastern side of town. There in these bland blue-grey corrugated warehouses are around 12 boutique wine makers / blenders / bottlers that are treating the wine industry much the same way John Glaser seems to be going at the Whisky biz. I did not remember the specific one James May visited (though I would have liked to from the interview on the show, as they seem like 3dc peeps) so I drove about and sort of randomly picked a street Packard to follow into a tasting room.

First I went into Fiddlehead Cellars. A very congenial Kiwi stood behind the bar. By bar I mean a simple couple planks of wood on some barrels with the typical wine racks behind him for selling what was on sample in a room about 10′ X 15′. Friendly, but definitely not fancy. He handed me a tasting sheet and let me know that there was a $10 tasting fee and asked me a few questions as he poured me some wine into a glass. The conversation went something like this:

FH-Q: What kind of wine to you like?
Raz-A: I don’t really like wine; I’m a whiskey drinker, but (setting my tasting note book on the bar) I’m hear to learn.

FH: Well we do Sauvignon and Pinots exclusively so we’ll teach you about those.
Raz-A: OK then.

The first glass was the Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from a mix of barrels and stainless steel aging. It was a very sweet wine but not cloying. Not particularly dry, just the kind of deserty drink I usually go for. The second was the Honeysuckle 2005 put in all new oak aging. This was dry and clean, very light and subtle, especially in regards to tannin (which I hate). I liked this one as another deserty, though much dryer drink than the first. The Gooseberry, all Stainless Steel aged Kiwi wine was then poured. this was not particularly to my taste and though sweet and a bit sour was a bit too much like a candy from the 70s (that I can’t recall the name of). Next on pour was the Pink Fiddle Pinot Rose’ thing. Not really to my taste, very dry and oddly tasted “pink” whatever that means. Lastly was the 728, a Pinot. This was about the best of the lot for me personally. Very complex long flavor profile and despite the deep red color the tannins were very subtle. The most subtle tannins of any of the reds I had that day from any of the shops. This was by far the best overall quality, by my standards anyway, of the three shops I popped into.

Next post will be the next shop in line; Evening Land.