Enjoying Scotch Whisky and a few other things


March 2011

Pairing: Famous Grouse with Top Sirloin Steak, flavored rice

Riding home today I was thinking I need to pair some food and whisky tonight. After my last post with The Glenrothes Select Reserve and rockfish, which @TheGlenrothes wanted to have more information, I thought I’d give a little more detail on the fish. Rockfish are a common fish, close to shore and are similar to bass in structure and taste. This is a popular fish in Asia and is gaining popularity in America. I have always found the fish pleasing, and easy to cook. It is usually cheaper than other premium fish also. I cook fish usually the same way every time. I usually heat up a griddle with some vegetable oil of the healthy variety and season the fish with either a sea salt mix or a mix that is popular in New Orleans called Zatarain’s. On this occasion I used Zatarain’s lightly on the fish and it gives it a nice little kick. It was a nice combination with sweet potato.

So tonight I swept by one of my grocers and picked up a top sirloin steak that was on sale and had been well seasoned with green pepper, black pepper and other unidentifiable seasonings. Anyhow, I grilled it outside on the gas grill for roughly 8-10 minutes on no more than 300 Fahrenheit, which gave me a nice medium rare steak. I tossed some rice with broccoli in the microwave and steamed it.

As for the whisky, I was bent on using Lagavulin but at the last-minute switched to The Famous Grouse. Now, this is, as I understand it, the most popular whisky in Scotland. In the liquor store it is displayed and marketed to where one would believe this is a slightly inferior product. I had a dram of it in Las Vegas in a chocolate pairing class (will write about later) and was quite surprised with how well a product it was.

Tonight was no exception. Wait, let me back up. I poured a generous dram of it while I was cooking and though I did not have the proper nosing glass did pick up on a sweet candy like smell. Sweet, maybe syrup. Anyhow, tasting it was only confirming the nose and maybe some light oak coming through. I enjoyed the texture. Slightly silky and very well-rounded. Smooth, but not creamy.

After I set the glass down it swirled and left perfect legs dripping down the glass like it had rehearsed it before. I did add some water to it later and the nose diminished but the texture turned slightly more creamy.

The pairing balanced well. I felt that neither the steak or the whisky were fighting or negating each others existence. I found the pairing pleasing, nothing to WOW about but certainly satisfying. If I were smoking a cigar tonight I would go for a medium wrapper, I think a Connecticut wrapper would be too light but a maduro too much.

The finish of the two, plus the rice and veggies, left a toasty caramel with sautéed mushrooms impression with me.

So, go out and get yourself some steak, some Famous Grouse and enjoy! And if you are unsure of the cigar choice, go for a medium blend and I think you will have a pleasing experience.




The Balvenie 17 year releases – tasting notes

At the Nth in Las Vegas recently, I was in a Masterclass with The Balvenie Ambassadors. The gentlemen had scraped together their resources and brought us the entire 17 year line of Balvenie offerings. I have to say, although I have admired the marketing of Balvenie for some time I have never been one to try varieties of The Balvenie. That has changed.

We started the tasting with the Madeira Cask. At first, the Madeira Island is off of the coast of Africa. Not in Spain.

The nose offers up floral and fruits. The actual taste is a bit different, some plums, raisins, and cigar smoke. Confusing. Though this sounds heavy the finish was very light. Of all of the 17 this was the only one I have notes on as having a light finish.

Then we have the 17yr. Rum Cask. As you would expect, brown sugar, caramels, and bananas jump out of the glass. On the palate, bananas and I thought liquorice. It was a very different scotch offering for me, I’m sure some would really enjoy it, rum lovers come to mind.

I have a greater appreciation now for Olosoro Sherry wood. The 17yr Sherry Oak really shines with fruit. On the nose, Sherry wood, caramels, and creme brulee. On the tongue, I got caramels and again, bananas. Very fruity, very much a dessert type of scotch. This one really breaks the mold of what the average person thinks of as scotch.

And now, Oak, yes, American White Oak. It is a wonderful thing! The 17yr. New Oak is a real crowd pleaser in my eyes. Very light on the nose, and smooth, silky cream with slight smoke on the palate. I think that this is an easy introduction to scotch for a non-scotch drinker.

And for the record, I really like Bourbon. The 17yr. New Wood Balvenie really hits a bourbon drinker in the sweet spot. Having used bourbon barells for a considerate time. This spirit has a very sweet vanilla taste. I was told that possibly Jim Beam barrels were used. The finish left a nice butterscotch  and sugars on my tongue. I really like this one!

“And now for something completely different!” – MP.

The Balvenie 17yr. Islay Cask. (pause) yes, lets take Balvenie and let it rest in a Laphroaig cask. Brilliant! This is a hard to write about, but a wonderful peated scotch from Balvenie is a rare, and unusual thing. I have yet to get my hands on this one but will look for it. If you come across it try it. Or buy it. If you don’t like it, you can find a buyer, I promise.

Finally, a peated offering called Peated Cask. 17yr. and a bit lighter than the Islay cask. The Balvenie architects came up with a special peat rendering to develop this one. It has a traditional vanilla and smooth texture to it with a kick of peat. It is nice.

All seven of these Balvenie’s share a common DNA. That of Honey Sweetness, and of course the guidance of David Stewart. It should be noted that Balvenie is not owned by a corporation. They are family owned and enjoy that freedom. I am particularly fond of their traditional marketing and attention to detail in how they craft their whisky. I do entrust that they will continue their excellence.

As a side, The Balvenie is having a bit of a “road trip” through America with two ambassadors. You can find out more at their home page. I will probably post something exclusively about that event soon.

I would encourage you to explore these offerings and if you have any of them, you might want to secure  some more if you can. They are limited(hint).

Up all night!

The problem with being an “A” type personality is, well, being that….. I decided, for the second time to move my blog and I hope that WordPress is its final resting place.

Pairing: The Glenrothes with Rockfish and sweet potato, perfecto!

I recently sampled the Glenrothes line and was very pleased. Although I had many vintages then, I’m not so lucky here in Virginia, less selection no doubt. But the Select Reserve was on sale so I bought it. I checked the company’s website and watched a video about the Select Reserve, in a nutshell it is supposed to represent the soul of The Glenrothes.

I really love the bottle, short and squatty, which just looks like a jug that wants to be your friend and used frequently! Also, in a pinch taken to a white linen affair. The tasting notes are on the front and are quite accurate to my taste. They are “ripe fruits, citrus, vanilla, hints of spice.” I’d say they know their product. Cannot add much to help.

So I picked up some fresh pacific rockfish and a sweet potato. Yes, the meal was delicious, but what I did not know is that I had selected a perfect single malt scotch whiskey to pair with it. The nose of the select reserve is so pleasing and the citrus vanilla complemented the sweet potato so well. It was so perfect I just had to write about it. Well, go pick up some Select Reserve and sweet potatoes and enjoy!

Bowmore Gold 1964 Distillation Tasting

I was recently faced with a problem most whisky drinkers have not faced. Which one of these whisky’s do I take a free sample of. The list read like an All-Star team of spirits, most of them aged for two, three, or four decades in Scotland. The one I’d focused in on was the 1964 Bowmore because it was a brand that I really admire. I love peaty scotch, and the delicateness that a Bowmore produces in the Islay style is unique. I’m sure I’d been very happy with some of the others but fortunately I would get the opportunity from a few gracious individuals to try many others for just a smile and a show of true appreciation.

This tasting occurred at the Nth event in Las Vegas and I felt like I’d won the lottery at the opening of the event. Suddenly surrounded by scotch producers, some very familiar, some I’d never heard of, I set out in freshman like frenzy to try as many as I could. Set with some notecards, pen, and my DroidX I started taking notes, and, then after a few, alas, I’d forgotten to take notes. Blame it on the whisky? Well, at least I have my recording from the Bowmore Gold to remind me of that first kiss.

So the Gold is matured in bourbon and sherry casks. I think about 50% in Sherry and the casks, again I belive, were Heaven Hill casks. 701 bottles are being released.

The nose was very floral and fruity.

The taste, beautiful. Very complex, and well rounded. A very creamy vanilla highlighted on the palate and then the finish was the equivalent to the finest ending ever concieved on film. It wasn’t until a minute afterwards that the peat of Islay turned around and winked. Blown away I was, and very happy with my choice.

Is drinking a whisky aged 44 years living The Scotch Life, you bet!

RT @spirit_speyside: The sale of a £13,000 bottle of Gordon & MacPhail Generations Glenlivet

RT @spirit_speyside: The sale of a £13,000 bottle of Gordon & MacPhail Generations Glenlivet 70 Years Old, launched earlier this month,. …

Just had a Sam Adams new “Wee Heavy” stout, based on a Scotch Ale recipe. Very nice,

Just had a Sam Adams new “Wee Heavy” stout, based on a Scotch Ale recipe. Very nice, they use peated malt. Now some Bowmore!

1974 Ardbeg Cask 3541 Tasting

Go ahead! Be very, very jealous if you are an Ardbeg fan (for that matter a fan of scotch) and have not had the pleasure of tasting something as rare as this sample taken directly from cask 3541 and brought to the Nth event in Las Vegas. Here a select few, including yours truly, was able to sample this marvelous spirit. I did, twice, yes, I grovelled, but you would too if you were an Ardbeg fan. On my tasting mat I have the following words written down:

Aroma – Rum and raisins, brazil nut, toffee, chocolate, cherries. With water added, lavender, toffee, and cappuccino.

Taste – Milk chocolate, ganache, cappuccino, gentle smoke and orange oil.

Finish – Complex, orange oil, mature, bacon, pork.

These are words from the Ardbeg rep, I did not get all of them but wouldn’t contradict them. What I do remember about this product was the orange oil. It was really nice, really warm and very rounded. From what I gathered, you can own two bottles of 1974 along with a bespoke leather gun case, price, I think was around $16,000 (US). If you want some, I’m sure Ardbeg will be happy to talk to you! If you don’t know how to get ahold of them go to their website.

The Ardbeg story is interesting and its great to know that this distillery was in fact rescued (ultimately) by Glenmorangie. Although Ardbeg is working, production wise, from product produced after being resurrected around 1990, they are working miracles and winning fans (not to mention awards) with the guidance and expertise of Bill Lumsden and David Blackmore.

I have tasting notes for five other Ardbeg’s that I tasted and will share them soon. I personally have the Corryvreckan and have a bottle of the “Beist” on the way that I am very excited about. This is a product that I intend to own as many of the offerings that I can. The 1974…… In time.

The Nth – The Ultimate Whisky Experience

Sitting at the desk, looking out over parts of Las Vegas from a high floor at the Hilton, thinking; I came, I saw, I sipped, I tasted, I experienced.

There are those times in your life when you experience something, an event, that whether organized or random, that fundamentally changes the way you see things. The Universal Whisky event at the Wynn resort in Las Vegas, organized and beautifully executed by Mahesh Patel was one of those events for me. 

For a person who has always enjoyed scotch, even inexpensive blends, this was my introduction to the world of fine scotch whisky. What I knew was going to be a great education was so much more! And I have possibly ruined my taste buds appreciation for common scotch. For myself, it was a graduate level course taught by the people who actually matter.

Richard Paterson, Master Blender for Whythe & Mackay, introduced us many fine Dalmore products that are out there and some that have just been introduced. His passion and experience come out as he explains how he has tirelessly yet with great pleasure experimented and worked with fine spirits to produce stunning products. I’m typically a fast learner on any subject and have an intuitiveness that far outpaces my ability to study. My brain was in hyperdrive listening to Richard! One, because he is Scottish and I’m from Atlanta. Two, he covered so many topics in such a short time there was hardly enough time for my brain to tag the information as it came in. Richard’s main message was clear, these very fine whisky’s are to be sipped and enjoyed. And please, please, please!!! Bartenders around the world, do not put ice in this man’s scotch!! You will not like his response.

It is hard to come away with a highlight from this event, there are so many and its hard to quantify what was best, sampling Bowmore Gold from 1964 that is $7,000 (U.S.) a bottle or the Bowmore 1969 which will go on sale for $12,000, which was delicious and special for me because it is my birth year. There will only be seven bottles sold in the USA. Or was it sampling the launch of Sirius by Mahesh Patel? The work and pursuit of excellent whisky’s has enabled Mahesh to produce some stunning new whisky’s, two of which I was privileged to sample. The first was a 1965 Carsebridge grain whiskey that was wonderful. The second was a 1967 Dalmore that was not just incredible, it has an ABV (alcohol content by volume) of 60%. You would never know it!!!! These are single cask rare (Carsebridge distillery no longer exists!) whisky’s that are going to be available soon and it is exciting to see such a product is entering the market. Truly first class presentation and detail are associated with Sirius. This is what you buy the person who has everything! It would be a gift never forgotten. I will definitely be writing a lot on this event. I’m hoping my notes are better than my memory! When you sample that much scotch, things tend to run together no?

Alas, an event is only as good as its people. I met more fine people than I can recall, and hopefully have their cards or twitter account. The kind of people who are purveyors and students of the finer things in life were absolutely present here. This was an event that lives up to my idea of The Scotch Life.

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