Stag Party – a Dalmore tasting

LA Scotch Club – ClubMez Dalmore tasting and paired dinner at the Far Bar

EventFlyerWell that was a mouthful, and so was the evening.  I’ve always liked Dalmore, but it never made a distinct impression on me until now – and now I even know why. Through conversation I learned Dalmore chill-filters and uses coloring additives. I find the later more disturbing that the former – but it does explain the uniformity of color across the six drams offered.

And for the taste – while chill filtering can remove some of the particles and oils that can add distinction to a dram, I learned every bottle of Dalmore has been  in at least two barrels, American oak, then sherry.  I think this tradition is what leads to the sameness of flavor throughout expressions . . . but I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Tasting Notes – Bruchladdich 16, Bourbon Cask and Highland Chief.

Tuesday night Raz and I went to a local saloon (Johnny’s in Huntington Beach, CA) for a nightcap and had a rather surprising experience.  As we usually do at Johnny’s, we ordered drams of something new – or at least something from bottles we didn’t recognize. (Johnny’s is rather dark, and though they have a remarkable whiskey collection, the staff is not always knowledgeable of same.)  What we ended up with were two very drinkable drams on quite different ends of the price spectrum.

NOTE –  There won’t be too much talk of visuals because there is more light coming from the TV screens than from any interior lighting.

B16BCCadillac
When I asked the bartender about the bottle, he said something about a “cask” and I thought it might be a quarter cask. It wasn’t until I had my first sip that I walked around and studied it that I saw it was a Bruchladdich. At about $100 a bottle, I should not have been surprised how pleasant the taste was – but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The dram looked pale, but looks can be deceiving. Once it got even close to my nose the sweetness was very dominant, hints of vanilla, notes of the oak, and a promise of iodine, but I found the predominant aroma to be sweet cream.
The promise was kept on the palette too, the creaminess counterpointed with iodine all surrounded with vanilla and oak.  While the iodine was too much for Raz, we both agreed this dram was right up my alley. The flavor was full and round, with the wood and vanilla notes turning around the yin and yang of iodine and cream.  I’ve had Bruchladdich before, but I haven’t been this impressed with it in the past.  I’m guessing the age and bourbon cask gave this dram the sweetness and richness that I can not wait to try again.
Sadly there was no water to bloom with, and the Old Fashion glass was too thick to really get it warm enough with my hands.

 

HondaHighlandChief
I initially passed on the Highland Chief based on name alone – it was obviously a blend, and sounded like a cheap one too.  I also have no great fondness for the cheaper Highland scotches, so I passed.  Raz decided to take the chance, and we are both very glad he did.
So impressed with his reaction, I begged for a sip and found a surprisingly satisfying dram.  A smooth veil of smoke covered a mild spice and citrus flavor that lasted just as long as the whisky was on the tongue.  It was simple and short, but such a nice taste that I’ll be adding this bargain basement bottle (as low as $10, never over $20) to my shelf soon.


PDX Whisky tasting event, Sept. 16, 2011

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

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

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Auchentoshan Three Wood

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

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Highland Park 15 All American Oak

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

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

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

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Bowmore 20 year (A.D. Rattray bottling)

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

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


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!


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.

 


kill da bottle tasting (or something completely random)

Raz – Hmmm, Whisky Sugar cookies are good. I’m starting with the Edradour series we are here to kill and proceeding on to the Edradour 16 for good measure. No tasting notes here sorry but it’s good to see so much good stuff on the table just on the fly.Meliko – Going though the Edradour series was very interesting; they’re all quite different.  Least fave was the port, most fave was the burgundy, with the chardonnay and sauterne also both relatively pleasant.  The 12 year had the most readable story: sweet and caramel to the nose, initially mellow then gently smoky on the tongue. Fergus- The 14 year Balvenie is sweeter then the 12 and is improved when you try a rum before tasting the 14. Trying it with a 72% dark chocolate does not seem to improve the taste and if you try  it with chocolate the whiskey seems to avoid the areas the chocolate cover. The Balvenie 12 signature being better then the 12 double wood has the opposite  effect from the 14 balvenie  the whiskey is improved by the chocolate and the whiskey layers itself on to the chocolate flavor. Raz – The flaming heart (Compass Box) is like being bum rushed by a dorm full of exchange student co-ed fetishists. Jean  – I concur with Fergus’ opinions on the Rumwood with the chocolate.  The Rumwood on it’s own is complex, but adding water eliminates the complexity and makes it flat.  I really enjoyed the Balvenie Signature with the chocolate – very smooth and buttery.Overheard: ‘Oh, dude – uh, oi’   G – The Balvenie signature 12 starts without the bite of so many others. It rolls smoothly through the mouth and departs with a gentle kiss; a definite favorite. The add of the dark chocolate broadens the flavor. With this start, sampling the nose of the Edradours was all that I could contribute to that particular effort. A sip of the Dos Maderas (yes, rum) was a great post-food flavor. The additional ‘sweet’ made for a good dessert, so the sip fit very well. And the Welsh Penderyn seems to simply be a glass of water that happened to be in the room when some poor sot opened a Laphroaig.