The Gospels According to Seamus: The Exiled years (Whiskies of the World, 2009)

The Gospels According to Seamus: The Exiled years

(Whiskies of the World, 2009)

 

(To follow along the timeline of events, use Twitter search to locate all our Tweets posted with the #3DC tag: http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%233dc )

 

A panoply of emotion washed over me before my departure for this year’s event. My excitement was still present, yet not as palpable as in years past; I was muted by an underlying exhaustion from a looming deadline, one which I was determined to ignore once I locked the door to my house.

 

My expectations for this year’s event were lower than they’d been in the past. I knew well in advance that the economic climate would result in lower attendance from the paying public as well as distilleries and distributors, etc. Of course my expectations for the fun to be had outside of the grand tasting were just as high as ever.

 

My friends, I am here to tell you, the weekend did not disappoint!

 

Friday really got off to a slow start for me. Out the door at noon, after working some that morning, saw me at Don’s bar (Caper’s Café) in PDX waiting for my flight. A few good random conversations about the upcoming tasting started to really get me in the mood for things to come. And the Bushmills that was waiting for me as I sat down didn’t hurt either 😉  A quick flight later and I found myself in Oakland waiting on Raz to land. I was actually a bit smart at this point and sat down in baggage claim and got a solid 45 minute nap in between reading. A good prep for the long night I knew was to come.

 

And that long night didn’t disappoint. In typical 3DC fashion, we donned our utilikilts (well, Fergus and I did) then found and took over a corner portion of Nihon, a self-proclaimed sushi whisky bar, which surprisingly enough could indeed be easily called one or the other without compunction. Once we’d filled our gullets with fish, sake, and beer (oddly enough), we made the tough choice to head to the Irish Bank to really get the night going.

 

Everything started well at the bank, but we quickly found ourselves being hushed by our waitress Zoe, at the bequest of management. Mind you, we were in the back room, signing Irish traditional songs, in an Irish pub, and buying lots of booze… you’d think management would understand that. Awe well, we just continued signing and ordering drinks, and the threat of getting kicked out seemed to pass.

 

As normal, we ended up back at the hotel quite late, still enjoying the night. Fergus immediately began opening up some small flasks and challenged us to guess what each contained. Admittedly, I was something like zero for 3, while impressively, James nailed them. Seems he hadn’t quite destroyed his palette yet. At around 2.30am we finally turned in, and the giggling commenced (I had hoped to have the video link available here, but –someone- hasn’t uploaded it yet). Like 12 year old school girls we are…

 

Saturday morning came all too quickly, but with relatively little pain. My previous 3 years’ worth of experience paid off this time around and allowed me a pleasant, if not tired morning. After gathering the crew and milling about the Whisky Shoppe, we made our way to the traditional Irish coffee and Lark in the Morning run. Having not yet checked the store hours, we arrived about 45 minutes early, and so opted to wait it out at a pub down the road where we enjoyed the worst Irish coffees I have ever had, and a rousing round of Whisky trivia from the game Sean had purchased just an hour before. (We had so much fun with the game, I returned and bought a copy for myself!)

 

After Lark in the Morning, it was back to the Bank for a –quick- and small bite of lunch, then to the hotel to get ready for the evenings festivities. Suits donned, we hopped the cabs to our next tradition: a light dinner at Kennedy’s (an Irish pub and Indian restaurant). Yes, typically Indian foods wouldn’t be advisable just prior to a whisky tasting, but we’ve never been ones for convention, and to be honest, it has never caused us a problem. The key is a –light- dinner; just enough to satiate you for the next 3 hours until you’re on the boat and can maintain a solid balance at the buffet there. Plus, I like to think that a bit of curry livens up the palette and gets you ready to really dig into the tasting. I AM starting to sense some dissention among the ranks regarding Kennedy’s, so that may well change next year.

 

Once dinner was complete, we trekked down to see the Museum Mechanique, and moseyed amongst the tourists as Fergus was on another mission to find more tiny flasks to use during the tasting as storage for some of the better drams. Fresh out of luck, it was time to head to the boat and queue up for our 5:30pm entrance time.

 

The line was shorter than years past, as was to be expected this time round. The economy seemed to have culled the crowd down to just the serious aficionados and the lucky few who haven’t felt the tightening of the belts. 

 

Once on board, the fiscally conservative times were felt even more dearly. There were not quite as many booths set up this year, though the two decks were still both utilized; that, combined with a lower attendance made the event feel sparse.

 

Personally, that initial impression set my tone and temperament for the evening to a more muted experience. I focused directly on just the tastes and didn’t bother talking to any of the ambassadors, distribution reps, or any others manning the booths. Instead, I would shoulder my way into a booth, obtain a pour, and then immediately back out to a location where I could set my glass down and take some quick notes without being jostled or feeling like I was in someone’s way.

 

 

And now, what you’ve all come here for:

Jason/Seamus’ tasting notes from the Whiskies of the World Expo, 2009.

 

Keep in mind that my notes are a bare minimum due to the structure of the event (ie, this is a meandering from table to table event, not a seated tasting), and as such my notes are typically made whilst maneuvering from one table to the next, trying not to spill… Additionally you will note how my tastes became slightly more amiable throughout the evening and my tasting notes less detailed, but more flowery.

 

 

Tullamore Dew, 10 year

            Nose: Very sweet, almost floral.

            Flavour: nice mild oak, a caramel sweetness follows.

            Finish: very short and simple.

Viscosity: 3

Boldness: 1

Length of Story:  1

Personal Taste: C

 

 

Compass Box, Hedonism Maximus

            Nose: some iodine followed by a richness

            Flavour: a lot of spice, followed by a modest apricot at the end.

            Finish: slight oak, and a very long finish

Viscosity: 4

Boldness: 4

Length of Story: 4.5

Personal Taste: A-

 

 

Tomintoul, 31 year

            Nose: iodine and rubber

            Flavour: anise, light clove, cornstarched rubber

            Finish: vanishes quickly, ends with a note of gnawed toothpick.

Viscosity: 4

Boldness: 3

Length of Story: 1

Personal Taste: C+

 

 

High West, 21 year Rocky Mountain Rye

            Nose: general spice, then a more solid clove, followed by medium sweetness

            Flavour: more spice, and the expected rye sweetness

            Finish: a bit sour, gently ends with sweetness reminiscent of sherry wood finish.

Viscosity: 2.25

Boldness: 4

Length of Story: 3

Personal Taste: B-

 

 

Bols Genever, gin

            Nose: LOTS of juniper (I have a lot to learn about gin, as all I get is the berry)

            Flavour: more juniper, slight bitterness.

            Finish:  still juniper

Viscosity: 3

Boldness: 4

Length of Story: 2

Personal Taste: C+

 

 

Glen Rothes, 1985

            Nose: mild brininess followed by mellowed oak

            Flavour: sweet followed by the same brine on the nose.

            Finish: rich, then a mild oak, followed by a slight caramel

Viscosity: 3.5

Boldness: 3

Length of Story: 3

Personal Taste: B+

 

 

Auchentoshan, 3 Wood

            Nose: rich oak (possibly French oak?)

            Flavour: deep oak layered complexity, sweet like the Balvenie double wood, but more refined.

            Finish: layered and lingering oak, sherry wood on the end.

Viscosity: 3.5

Boldness: 4

Length of Story: 3.75

Personal Taste: B

 

 

Auchentoshan, 18 year

            Nose: spice, followed by stale iodine

            Flavour: immediate iodine, then sweet like a Speyside, followed by solid richness

            Finish: more richness of subtle oak

Viscosity: 3

Boldness: 4

Length of Story: 3

Personal Taste: B-

 

 

Auchentoshan, 12 year

            Nose: typical 12 nose for a Speyside, oaky, spicy, and rich

            Flavour: sweet rich fruit

            Finish: spicy richness similar to the Jameson’s Distillery Reserve

Viscosity: 3

Boldness: 4

Length of Story: 3

Personal Taste: C+

 

 

Johnnie Walker, Green Label

            Nose: Floral sweetness of plum, cut grass, and apricot

            Flavour: just oak. Tastes like a low-end whisky, single note dram.

            Finish: worthless

Viscosity: 3

Boldness: 3

Length of Story: 2.75

Personal Taste: D

 

 

Aberlour, a’bunadh

            Nose: “My nose is done”

            Flavour: ginger/cinnamon, spice, iodine, rich but crisp

            Finish: cask strength closes the story early

Viscosity: 3.5

Boldness: 4

Length of Story: 3.75

Personal Taste: B

 

 

Scapa, 16 year

            Nose: sweet and floral with fruit, almost like the J/W Green label.

            Flavour: mild and light, sweet, tastes like the Green label should!

            Finish: fades slowly, gradually with oak and fruit

Viscosity: 2

Boldness: 2

Length of Story: 3

Personal Taste: B+

 

 

Tomintoul, 27 year

            Nose: -no notes taken-

            Flavour: -no notes taken-

            Finish: -no notes taken-

Viscosity:  -no notes taken-

Boldness: -no notes taken-

Length of Story: -no notes taken-

Personal Taste: B

 

 

Compass Box, Eleuthera (purchased at the Irish Bank after the Grand Tasting completed)

            Nose: -no notes taken-

            Flavour: iodine and mild peat, some smokiness

            Finish: -no notes taken-

Viscosity: 2

Boldness: 3

Length of Story: 3.5

Personal Taste: B+

 

 

 

I actually left the tasting about an hour earlier than in previous years. That should tell you something about my mental state and how the entire event came off to me. While I had a grand time, by 9pm I was over it and ready to move on to the next bit of fun.

 

That next bit, for me at least, is to head out to a nicer dinner. That started the first year when we stumbled into the Boulevard for dinner, and continued on for the next two at various other restaurants. This year Yan and Deb headed back to the Boulevard, while a larger crew was set on just heading back to the bank. I was ready for something else though, and conned James and Cat to accompany me to a new place, just down the street from our hotel (as it turns out).

 

We had a lovely, and relaxed dinner at the E&O Trading Company, which was very special for me as it gave me some quiet one on two time with Cat and James. One of the problems with a big group at a 3DC gathering, is the relative little time we all have to connect at any deeper levels; dinner Saturday night has kind of become that time for me where everything is a bit quieter and smaller, and I can enjoy the company in a more intimate fashion.

 

Of course, after dinner, the three of us walked back to the Irish Bank, where the rest of the group was waiting for us (having just arrived and seated nay 10 minutes prior). More drinks were quickly ordered and before we knew it, song erupted and a jovial time was being had by all; including Zoe and Tulasi who seemingly became our private wait staff. No shushing this time around as management was not on the premises, so we were free to whoop it up as we always do. After a bit, John Glaser darkened the doorway to a roaring round of applause and cheering.

 

John has become a bit of a friend to the 3DC and has been generous and gracious in sharing his knowledge and wisdom, oft times to some lively disagreement or purely contrarian jabs from Fergus, Raz, and myself. He still seems to get our sense of humour, and apparently enjoys us all the same, as this is the second year he has accepted Fergus’ invite to meet us at the Bank after the tasting to wind down (or up) a bit.

 

This time around, Fergus didn’t disappoint, and produced the last bottle of cider he had made, keeping the Dregs so that John could have a taste and those two could chat about finishing whiskies in cider barrels. Surprisingly, John stayed well past the time he had initially indicated he would. He always seems to do that around us… 🙂

 

Having had quite enough to drink, and quite a long day already, I attempted to head back to the hotel room earlier than normal. I was able to make it out of the Bank with a little chiding, and even made it down the alley way heading to the hotel, when my progress was waylaid by seeing James off in his cab, and encountering Raz heading back to the Bank after seeing Cat to her room (poor thing was really bad off by the end of the night due to a nasty cold-type illness coming on).

 

I’d thought Raz was done for the night when he walked Cat back to the hotel, but I was surprised to see he actually still had some life in him…  That really was all the urging I needed to turn around and go back to the Bank with Raz to close it out. And close it out we did.

 

Sunday morning again arrived well too early, though once again, lessons learned in past years came through for me in this one, and I was up and feeling great. No hangover and was hungry for breakfast, which was dealt with at Lori’s Diner.

 

From breakfast, the crew headed into China town for some shopping and general touristy stuff. That’s where we started breaking off and heading home, as Fergus took Eric and Sean to the airport, and Cat started her long drive back south, leaving Raz, Deb, Yan, and I to kill some time before Raz and I had to get to the airport.

 

To fill the void, we started heading to Yan and Deb’s hotel room for some sake, but were stopped short as we passed by and subsequently turned and entered a tea shop offering tastings. I am unsure how long we really spent there, but we must have gone through a series of at least 10 different teas to taste and walked out of the shop with a few bags of leaves and a LOT more knowledge than we entered with. In typical 3DC that serendipitous and yet random tasting experience proved to be another of the highlights of my weekend.

 

Followed closely to the tea tasting was enjoying the view from Yan and Deb’s hotel room while we all imbibed in some sake that they happened to have left over from earlier in the weekend. And damned if those two don’t have impeccable taste in sake. It was such a treat and wonderful way to close out our weekend in the city.

 

Of course, like every year, our weekend must come to an end, and with that Raz and I headed back to the hotel and made our way to Oakland airport on BART. Sadly, our normal drinking spot was under renovation, so we were forced to have a final drink at the Chili’s in the airport once we’d made it past security.

 

The flight home was only endurable by virtue of the complimentary wine Alaska provides. Otherwise the oversold flight would have been torturous, as I had the ill-fortune of an aisle seat making even a nap a difficult proposition in a small CRJ-700.

 

Sadly, once I returned home, it was back to the grind stone of work. Because things have been so busy for me, it really has taken me nearly a month to finish this write-up with any sense of completeness. I know there are a ton of stories I am forgetting at this point, but in all honesty, I just don’t have the wherewithal to write anymore even if I could remember them.

 

Stay tuned…. I am still hopeful that Raz and Fergus will finish their own write-ups one of these days. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll all get to experience the frivolity that is 2 giggling adult men at 3am after far too much whisky.


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