Broadcasting live: a 3DC tasting you probably missed

As many of you know, we’ve been moderately active over on Google+ testing out their Hangouts, and most recently the Hangouts On Air features.

Well, last Friday (June 1st, 2012) five of us got together for an on-line interactive tasting to celebrate Friar John Cor Day, which we broadcast using the On Air feature. Since we didn’t promote this in order to protect ourselves from catastrophic failure, you likely missed it. Well have no fear, the On Air feature automatically saves the broadcast to our Youtube channel for posterity! While we don’t expect you’ll wish to sit through the full hour, we would ask that you take a gander for however long you are able and give us some feedback. If you enjoy it, we will likely hold more and open it up to more participants… suggestions to improve are also welcome! In either case we want to hear from you!

The 3DC go through a few bottles of tasting notes in honour of Friar John Cor’s Day (June 1st)
You can get…..

 


Recap: TOAST (The Oregon Artisan Spirits Tasting)

This past weekend was TOAST (The Oregon Artisan Spirits Tasting), an event put on by the Oregon Distiller’s Guild (like them on Facebook here) and touted as the largest craft spirits tasting in North America! The event featured over 55 local and national artisan producers, all told pouring over 170 different unique spirits. How, I ask you, as a founding 3DC member can I pass this up… I mean it is almost an imperative that I go, learn, taste, and report back, right? Well, I’m not going alone, so I dragged Jean and Corey along with me (ok maybe not dragged, more like enabled).

This is the same event where last year my friend Corey and I met Ted Pappas of Big Bottom Whiskey along with a few others, so I was very pleased to see some great whiskey representation by even more makers and distillers this year. It seems our local craft artisans are really doing some great work and growing by leaps and bounds. The event itself also seemed to indicate this with a shift in venue to the Portland World Trade Center as well as the critical addition of an on-premise bottle shop.

From my view as an attendee, the addition of the bottle shop was the perfect compliment to the tasting hall as we were able to immediately buy bottles we enjoyed, without the burden of having to remember them for later 😉 I can only hope the addition of the on-premise shop proved beneficial for the vendors as well since the convenience of purchase would likely make for some good sales likely missed if an attendee would have to go searching their local stores for some of these bottlings.

Since this is a whiskies blog and tasting group, I won’t bother with the details of all the other spirits we tasted on Saturday, instead will focus on just the whiskies side. You’re also in luck, as I didn’t bother with my normal tasting notebook, you’ll not have to bear through the specific tasting notes of each dram I had, which given the expanse of the event is likely a good thing for us all!

Our initial whiskey of the day was Cabin Fever Maple Whiskey which is an 80 proof maple infused rye whiskey that is aged in uncharred barrels and then chill filtered to remove excess sugars. This one was simply too sweet for my palate to be a sipping whiskey, and really struck me as the perfect cooking ingredient (or breakfast dram to pour over your pancakes if’n you swing that way).

Next we moved on to Dry Fly Distilling where we sampled their Washington Wheat Whiskey. I recall discovering Dry Fly a few years back at Whiskies of the World where they were pouring what must have been thier first commercial run of the Washington Wheat. I’m happy to note here that they’ve really begun to fine-tune the dram and are producing a very pleasant, very smooth wheat whiskey that eschews much of the bitterness of corn based mashes leaving a nice soft story the whole way through.

Then it was over to Big Bottom to harass Ted, Taylor, and Monique. I’ve discussed Big Bottom’s merits in detail before, and it always seems strange to go to tastings where I’m so familiar with the pours being served. Luckily Ted always seems to have some small surprise for people like me and pulled out a brilliant New York cocktail to sample, with Big Bottom as the core bourbon base of course. I’m quite glad we could only sample that in our small shot glasses, as it is one of the tastiest cocktails I’ve had in a while and may just have hung out there the rest of the day had I a larger glass…

Luckily we were able to peel away and head off to more vendor tables, this time stopping at Ransom Spirits to sample their Whippersnapper Whiskey. This was an interesting one to me as it uses two different base distillates: one Kentucky whitedog corn based mash which is re-distilled, and the second being a recipe of malted and unmalted barley mash distilled in Oregon. This combination, as well as the use of use bourbon barrels and their own Pinot Noir barrels makes for an interestingly complex dram that still has the soft sweetness you’d expect from an American whiskey but without the bitter finish so many bourbons can leave you with after aging. The year average in the barrels definitely does this dram right.

A hop over to Few Spirits caught us a bit off guard as we found their Whitedog whiskey to be better in flavour and finish than their aged bourbon. If I recall correctly (I’ve been unable to verify this online *edit below because I was wrong*) the whitedog is actually made with a mash created from Oat flour rather than solid grains. Whatever the case, this whitedog is one that is just as easy sipping as any of the bourbon and American aged whiskies in the rest of the show. Truly a happy surprise.

*Edit* I knew I kept Corey around for a reason 🙂 He just informed me that Few Spirits was unaged only, with the interesting gin along side. The aged at that table was Old Pogue, which was good, but the unaged still won me over.
It was actually Stone Barn Brandyworks which was the source for the oat flour based whiskey. Their 100% rye was the one better as unaged. Both were surprising and wonderful drams to be had. If you find yourself in Portland, they are a must try.
Thanks for the updates and corrections, Corey!
*/edit*

Next was Mischief Spirits where we sampled both their Fremont Mischief Whiskey as well as their John Jacob bottling, both rye spirits. This stop exemplified for me that most American whiskies do best aging between 1 and 8 years, no longer. I say this as their Fremont Mishief whiskey is aged eight years and to my palate was on the way down from what may have been a peak aging at 6 years, leaving me to prefer their John Jacob offering which I don’t recall showing any age statement, most likely around 12- 24 months in the barrel. While both were good, John Jacob came out the clear top to me.

We then scooted over to the next table for what turned out to be my show favourite: Angel’s Envy. With a name like Lincoln Henderson behind this distillation it shouldn’t be any surprise that this dram topped my list. But it should surprise you, as on paper this dram is an amalgamation of everything I dislike: It is aged in new oak barrels with a 3-4 alligator char. It is a 72% corn mash bill, with a meager 18% rye content. And to be perfectly fair, it comes from a ‘big name’ in the industry. I’m not a fan of heavy char (preferring a light 2 in the barrels), I gravitate to high rye content whiskies, and love the passion of the boutique distillers who haven’t been broken by the industry yet. Well, Lincoln is doing some crazy stuff with a reinvigorated passion which really comes out in the dram. There’s some madness in his combination of mash bill, 4-6 years aging on heavy char, and then finishing another 3-6 months in Ruby Port barrels from Portugal. Just goes to show that you can’t judge a dram by its recipe. This one truly struck me as inspired insanity. So much so we went home with a bottle from the on-premise store, not wanting to wait for the next day to enjoy it again 🙂

Next, we moseyed across to Eastside Distilling, where we sampled their Burnside Bourbon. I was pleasantly surprised by this bourbon, as it finished quite smoothly without hint of the bitter finish I’ve come to expect from high corn based mashes. Unfortunately the two reps manning the table weren’t able to provide more specifics on the mash bill, so I was unable to verify if it truly was a high percent corn mash or if it had a substantial rye content. Surprisingly (or not) I didn’t even noticed that it is bottled at 96 proof… that either tells you how soft it really is or how much I’d had by this point.

To round out the day we finished off at Bull Run Distilling since I was already very familiar with their Temperance Trader Whiskey. It should come as no surprise that I enjoy this ‘high rye’ whiskey given the commentary above. Like Big Bottom, this bottling from Bull Run is not distilled on premise, but rather is a selection of distillate from outside sources. Given the selection that the boys at Bull Run have made, I’d say our palates are very much in line, as this is a wonderful dram to sit back and sip, or to add in as a base for some outstanding cocktails. Plus, Lee and Patrick are good guys to chat with, obviously passionate about what they do, which is brilliantly obvious in their on-premise distilled vodka and rum, both which drink as if they were top shelf whiskies. Also doesn’t hurt that they open their doors to Stuart Ramsay for his Whisky Academy series of lectures and tastings… makes for building a nice little community and connection between enthusiasts and the creators.

All in all, not a single truly disappointing dram was to be had. Obviously some shined more than others, but when it comes down to it our local distillers and artisans are really knocking it out of the park with their varied and quite unique products. I enjoyed the show so much these past two years, I may have to make a point of really promoting it next year to get some of our SoCal contingent to drive/fly up for the weekend and enjoy it too… seems a shame to keep this all to myself 😉

I guess I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a picture of my lovely new decorative purchase from Essential Oil, another local shop… yes, I might have a thing for copper, why do you ask?

image credit “TOAST”: All rights reserved www.OregonDistillersGuild.org

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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, 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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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.

 


The 3DC Invade Las Vegas in February…

OK Whiskies lovers, we can finally give out some more concrete details of our “3DC Invade Las Vegas” events on President’s day weekend 2012:

First excursion: Paired tasting at the Ri’Ra’ (Mandalay Bay)

When: Saturday, February the 18th, 8PM

Menu:

  • Pairing 1. Dalwinnie with Burran’s Smoked Salmon from Ireland
  • Pairing 2. Macallan 15yr with Shepard’s pie (lamb)
  • Pairing 3. Talisker distillers with Kerry gold sharp Cheddar Cheese from Ireland
  • Pairing 4. Jameson Gold with Pork Belly
  • Pairing 5. Tullamore Dew 10yr with Tomato Basil Soup
  • Pairing 6. Combass Box (Hedonism*) with a Dark Chocolate Desert – details pending. *Confirmation outstanding

$60.00, “all in” (includes taxes and gratuity)

Dress: Something stylish would be appreciated.
**Note: Food portions are sample sized and the drams are 1oz ea. We are limited to 25 seats at this event (cause that how many 1 oz drams you get in a bottle) but we need have at least 12.

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Second excursion: Field trip to the Whisky Attic at Freak’n Frogs

When: Sunday, February the 19th, 8PM

What: Field trip to the Whisky Attic at Freak’n Frogs and Adam’s 750+ expressions just waiting for you to choose from.
Open format. We can bring as just about as many people as we’d like so the more’s the merrier.
$?, pay as you go for the drams you order. The education you get from Adam is free. 😉
Dress: It’s a dive bar downstairs, your call…

Please email Raz atrazness@yahoo.com with your RSVP in the affirmative. No negative RSVPs are needed.

The official 3DC hotel is the Fiesta Hotel Casino, Henderson if you feel inclined to grab a room near us. (This as chosen as a convenient compromise location between another coincident event for the SCA that many of us are attending as well.)

***Note: This, as all 3DC events to date, is a not for profit venture. You pay for what you get and we don’t take a dime. Also note, to your advantage (should you attend) +Compass Box Whisky has been kind enough to comp their bottle for the tasting. Thank you very much to Robin Robinson of Compass Box for making that happen for us.


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

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

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

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

Drams: 

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

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

Some logistic points of note: 

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

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

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


The 3DC’s social channels you may or may not know about….

Have you seen? The 3DC are all over the social spaces! Come like us, follow us, and circle us!
We can be found at:
Want to be ‘in the know’? Connect with us so you don’t miss out 🙂

/marketing hat

-Seamus

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


A PDX Whisky tasting, from a 3DC perspective

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Slyrs, 2007 3yr

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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