Saturday, February 20, 2016

Tastings are back!

I finally got the right things lined up to start hosting whisky tastings again!

Currently, I'm hosting a series for MIT alumni in which we bring 10 folks to Gordon's Liquors at Downtown Crossing in Boston for a seated tasting of single malt scotch. Here's the lineup:
  • Balblair 2003
  • Balblair 1999
  • GlenDronach 15
  • Highland Park 15
  • Gordon & MacPhail Highland Park 1999 Cask
  • Port Charlotte Islay Barley
...plus a few other treats :)

This is a great lineup to showcase single malt scotch. It starts with the 100% ex-bourbon Balblair 2003, then introduces a bit of sherry with the 1999, a 15-year. Then we hold the age constant and go full-sherry with the GlenDronach. We then hold the age and the sherry constant and introduce some smoke with the HP 15, and then hold the age and the distillery the same but bump up the oompf with the cask-strength G&M bottling. Finally we round it off with a relatively young malt from Islay that has completely changed my view on the effects of terroir in single malt. (Compare the PC Islay Barley to the PC Scottish Barley and the difference is striking).


It's been great fun getting to know folks, and I'm looking forward to expanding my events repertoire to some corporate tastings and other private functions I have lined up!

The early arrivals at one of the MIT alumni tastings.

With some whisky friends (L to R): Sean (MIT alum), Bill Lumsden from Glenmorangie, David Blackmore from Glenmorangie, and Nick Taylor from Gordon's.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Getting back into the swing of things

Since we returned to the Boston area over a year ago, it's taken me a while to get back into whisky. First, there was the recovery from the punishing heat we endured in Arizona. Takes a while to get back into the warming effects of whisky after that. Then there were the headaches, which I think I've pinpointed as being due to a lack of proper hydration prior to consumption. I now gulp down two to three full glasses of water prior to any dramming.

Then there was just my general lack of ambition to restart what we had going in the 2010-2011 time frame. For anyone who attended our tastings, you probably remember that they were intimate, with Eileen and me doing all of the manual labor (setting up tables, pouring samples, putting out food and water, breaking down, and washing all the used glassware). Five years later, with a young child and a career, I'm too old for all that.

So I've gone looking for appropriate venues that can take some of the manual labor out of the equation, and have narrowed the field to a few front-runners. Keep your eyes peeled for some announcements, oh two readers of mine!

In the meantime, as I've been scouring the greater Boston area, I've run into some legendary characters from the world of whisk(e)y...like this one, Dave Pickerell!


Just happened to meet Dave Pickerell at The Hawthorne Bar in Boston!
(Thanks to fellow MIT alum Jared Sadoian for connecting us.)


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Whisky Reviews: Lots o' Stuff

I've been to quite a few tastings over the past month or so and would like to make note of my samplings. The good news is that I'm getting more and more encouraged that there are still good values in the world of whisk(e)y. The bad news is that I enjoyed them so much that my notes were often indiscernible by the end of the night...

So here are some short notes about whiskies I've tried, keeping in mind that these were not especially controlled samplings and may be subject to change in future reviews!

All ratings are out of 100 and are the first number after the name of the whisky.

Maltman Mortlach 15 Year: 88. Bourbon cask maturation. Nice wood spice and vanilla.

Maltman Glentauchers 17 Year: 89. This is a distillery owned by Pernod Ricard and this malt goes into Chivas Regal. Bourbon cask maturation. Very clean, reminds me of the G&M Dallas Dhu 1984 from the 2010 time frame.

Maltman Ben Nevis 17 Year: 92. 16 years in bourbon then in fino sherry for the remaining year. Whoa. Syrup, leather, tobacco. Nose is a plum/sherry syrup.

Maltman Linkwood 18 Year: 91 at first tasting, 89 at second tasting (2 weeks later). Diageo distillery, most goes into blends. 17 years in bourbon oak and 1 year in port. Nose is candied. Palate is oily and full: leather, good deep dark fruit, hint of peatiness. Little too aggressive on the port.

Maltman Highland Park 11 Year: 87. Nice, clean, sweet peat.

Big Peat Blended Malt Whiskey: 90. Blend of Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore, and Port Ellen. Iodine and peat.

Big Peat Christmas: 89. Peat plus some earthiness.

Edradour Barolo Cask Finish: 87. Baking spices.

Oban Distiller's Edition (Montillo Fino Cask Finish): 86. Peat and dark fruit.

Arran Sauternes Finish: 89. Bright fruit.

Benriach Dark Rum Finish: 85. Tastes like fino sherry.

Gordon & MacPhail Caol Ila Vintage 2001 13 Year: 84. Peat and a hint of sweetness on finish.

Bruichladdich Scottish Barley: 85. American, European, and wine casks, 6-8 years old. Young, fresh wood. Honey and young fruits.

Bruichladdich Islay Barley: 81. Barley from Islay (Rockside Farm) - grew in peaty soil, ~6 years old. Peaty but not smoky. Not a lot else.

Bruichladdich Black Art: 76. American oak and wine oak, 23 years old. Very winey, kind of tart. Doesn't mesh well - tastes like alcoholic grape juice. Disappointing.

Port Charlotte Scottish Barley: 86. 40 ppm phenols, American oalk maturation, peated version of the Bruichladdich Scottish Barley, 6-8 years old. Smoke but relatively light. Like a Laphroaig but not as tarry.

Port Charlotte Islay Barley: 87. Barley from six farms, 6-8 years old, 40 ppm phenols. Really clear/clean whisky, feels peatier than Scottish barley.

Octomore Scottish Barley: 86. 167 ppm phenols, 5 years old, edition 6.1. Band-Aid nose, pickling palate. Tight. Water brings out honey.

Octomore Islay Barley: 90. 258 ppm phenols, 5 years old, edition 6.3, Octomore Farm barley and Octomore Spring water (quarter mile from distillery), casked at 67% ABV. Band-Aid nose again, but palate is fuller and more mature than the Scottish Barley. Chocolate and smoke. Not as good with water.

The Botanist Gin (not whisky!): Meh. It's gin.

Glenlivet Nadurra First Fill Selection: 90. Needs water, and with water it shows velvety leather, tobacco, and ripe fruit.

Jameson Cask Mates: 84.

Jameson Black Barrel: 88.

Old Malt Cask Cragganmore 21 Year (Loch & K(e)y bottling): 84.

Glendronach Tawny Port Cask 15 Year: 86. Weird integration.

Glendalough Irish Single Malt 13 Year: 88. Cinnamon!

Benromach 15 Year: 91 at first tasting, then 87 at second tasting. 80/20 bourbon/sherry maturation for 12 years, then 100% sherry for 3 years.

Gordon & MacPhail Glen Grant 1989 25 Year: 89. First fill bourbon cask.

anCnoc Cutter: 90. 20.5 ppm phenols.

anCnoc 24 Year: 92.

anCnoc 1975: 92.

Bird Dog Bourbon: 89.

Bird Dog Chocolate Flavored Whiskey: 88. Dessert!

Tamdhu 10 Year: 91. Great sherry maturation for this new release of what used to be a great value bottle...

Cutty Sark Prohibition: 88.

Dewars 18 Year: 90. Super smooth.

Forty Creek Copper Pot: 90. Bright, spice.

Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve: 90.

Forty Creek Confederation Oak: 89.

Alberta Rye Dark Batch: 90.

Kavalan Single Malt: 88. Balanced.

WhistlePig Old World 12 Year: 94. Wow.

Balvenie Doublewood 17 Year: 89.

Glenfiddich 14 Year: 86.

Glen Garioch 1998 15 Year (Loch and K(e)y bottling): 90.

Glen Garioch Virgin Oak: 89.

Westland Single Malt: 86. 2.5-3 years old. Clean but not anything outstanding.

Westland Cask #266: 84. 2.5-3 years old. New American oak maturation. Has a bit of a bourbon profile.

Westland Sherry Wood: 88. 2.5-3 years old, 80% oloroso cask maturation, 20% Pedro Ximenez maturation. 80% pale malt, 20% of four other types of malt. Nose is definitely sugary: syrup and molasses. Palate is sherry but not as deep as I'd like...probably because the whisky is so young.

Westland Peated: 85. 2.5-3 years old, 55 ppm phenols before distillation, just uses pale malt bleneded with peated malt, ends around 20 ppm, peat from Higlands of Scotland. Tastes like an Ardmore with some hints of sweetness...but Ardmore is less than half the price.

Gordon & MacPhail Balblair 10 Year: 89. 2nd fill bourbon maturation.

Gordon & MacPhail Clynelish 11 Year: 89. Refill oloroso sherry maturation.

Benromach 10 Year: 88. 80/20 bourbon/sherry maturation for 9 years, then 100% sherry for 1 year.

Gordon & MacPhail Caol Ila 10 Year: 87.

Gordon & MacPhail Highland Park 15 Year: 90. 100% bourbon maturation. Unctuous.

Dad's Hat Rye (Gordon's Private Label): 86. Great nose, palate is nothing extraordinary.

WhistlePig Straight Rye (Gordon's Private Barrel): 88. Rye nose, flowery palate.

Knob Creek Bourbon (Gordon's Private Barrel): 90. Lots of spice and vanilla. Sweet but not cloying.

GlenDronach 2003 Pedro Ximenez Cask Strength, Single Cask (Gordon's Private Barrel): 93. Wow, sherry and deep darkness.

Hardy Cognac (not whisky!) Noces d'Or 50 Year: 91. Super smooth, deep fruit. Not too much life, though.

Plantation Rum (not whisky!) Stiggins' Fancy Pineapple: 87. Nice pineapple, not cloying.