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theScotchlife

Enjoying Scotch Whisky and a few other things

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December 2012

2012 in review for theScotchlife blog, Thanks!

WordPress.com kindly wraps up the year for you with stats. I thought I’d share it, the power of a simple blog is amazing. I took months off this year because of many things but started back up recently. I’m really enjoying it and have started a running blog to keep me motivated and to write more (its called Running to finish). I will hopefully spend a lot more time posting in 2013! I do tentatively have a trip planned to Scotland courtesy of Bowmore Distillery, you can be sure I will be blogging a LOT about that trip! Anyhow, if you read this blog, thank you!

Cheers!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 16,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

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The Macallan Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky

I’ve been craving, of late, the distinctive character of Macallan Scotch Whisky, and so went to the liquor store to satisfy that urge. I had fully intended on picking up the 12 year product when the Cask Strength bottle caught my eye! I immediately remembered that I’ve heard it is being discontinued in the U.S. and I needed to pick some up soon. I really don’t know why, but I don’t ever remember purchasing this product. I’ve seen it several times but with all of the different whisky out these days I’ve usually come away with something else.

Now I love The Macallan, and I am very fond of the 12 year product that can be found almost anywhere. I think that perhaps this product may be in the same circumstance as Glenmorangie Astar, the alcohol content is high and the price is not low. However, these offerings are special and you should enjoy both before the disappear. It cost me about $95.00 USD.

So the Cask Strength Macallan comes in at 60.1% ABV, or a 118 proof. That’s very high considering the usual Macallan 12 year offering is only 40%ABV or 80 proof. This product is “uncut” and “unchill-filtered” so you are enjoying it as Nature has made it. The Distiller’s notes are as follows:

Color: Red Mahogany

Nose: Dried fruit, with chocolate, orange, vanilla and wood spice.

Palate: Rich and smooth, with fruit cake, vanilla and a hint of wood smoke.

Finish: Full and lingering, with dried fruit and spice.

In other words, classic Macallan mostly. The color along gets me going. I just love the color that the Sherry Oak casks from Jerez, Spain deliver! It is such a rich looking whisky.

The notes on the bottle advise enjoying this dram with a splash of water. As usual, I will try it without and then I will take their advice and see which one I like better.

WOW! It takes a remarkably well done whisky to accomplish the mouth-feel of this offering. And considering its alcohol content, I can keep this whisky in my mouth for as long as I want and enjoy it! That shows me the class of this whisky. It’s extremely well-rounded and beautifully complex. This product is so good, I don’t feel like adding water. I did, it does reveal some nice flavors, some that burst and some that linger. Very nice! I prefer it uncut though.

I believe, age wise, this is a ten-year product. It does not state it on the bottle but the web-site shows it as a ten years product. I’m guessing that they removed the age statement for Americans because most Americans believe you can only drink a scotch that has aged at least 12 years. It’s an unfortunate misunderstanding to say the least.

As I said earlier, this product, from my understanding, is being discontinued in the U.S.A. If you appreciate really good whisky, you will want one of these!

Cheers!

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Bruichladdich Port Charlotte PC10 Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

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So another evening at Jack Rose Dining Saloon is like being a kid, just figuring out what to drink is an adventure. This particular night, Harvey Fry and I were chatting and he said the PC10 was in and was very good. I took his advice and ordered up some with my dinner. Harvey was keen on this one, which should have told me one thing, it’s bottled at the higher end of ABV%(59.8%).

There was indeed a very high kick from the alcohol on the nose! I was able to normalize though and the nose became very pleasant after adjusting to the alcohol. Tasting PC10 was a very hot experience, Peppermint, a flood of flavoring comes through on my palate, but not unbalanced or rude. This spirit is a ten-year product, the remarkable thing about tasting it is that it is rather complete. In other words, ten years is all you need for this product. Often I’ll taste something and I’d wish it would have additional time in the cask, but this one isn’t the case at all.

‘To say this whisky needs to age more is like saying Elizabeth Hurley should be prettier. It is perfect, and so is Liz.

I would drink this neat, the ABV% may spook you, but try it neat first. I think it is wonderfully done and it went great with scallops!

Cheers!

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Glenmorangie’s Astar, Single Malt Scotch Whisky

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In the States we have this crazy custom on the Friday after our Thanksgiving Holiday which is celebrated every November, on the fourth Thursday of the month. We call this Friday “Black Friday” because for some retailers the sales receipts on that day push them from being in debt to being profitable for the calendar year. On this particular one, I learned that the Virginia liquor stores, which are regulated and run by the State, were having a sale on all products and some particular specially discounted items.

Now let me be clear, I do not like to get up at the crack of dawn on a day off to go shopping, but we’re talking whisky people! So, off I went! And boy am I glad I did.

I snagged a few items that day, one of these was the Glenmorangie Astar. Astar is one of the many offerings from Glenmorangie and is probably my favorite. It is evidently the product of specially chosen casks, made from a certain Oak grown in Missouri. After these casks are broken in with some American Bourbon, they are sent to Scotland to mature the Astar product.

The tasting notes from the distiller are as follows:

Aroma

Rich in toffee and crème-brulee, drizzled with fresh menthol, warm cinnamon and deep aniseed spices. Mint humbugs and a sweet honey-lemon complexity follows.

Taste

Crème-brulee with a burst of mouth-watering pineapple, poached pears and apricots, smothered with vanilla custard.

Finish

The finish is long and smooth with a lingering mix of honey and almond, coconut ice and traces of aniseed.

Colour

Bright gold

As usual, I can pick up on some of the flavors/aromas, etc….. but it all comes down to, do I like it? The nosing of this dram is a bit challenging due to the higher than normal ABV. It is a 114 proof product, yes, its got some kick! So nosing is not a casual thing, it’s daring. What is amazing is that once on the palate, this is an incredibly enjoyable spirit. Warm and spiced, it really energizes the palate and makes you want more!

This is a special whisky, not average, nor comparable to anything in general. You should go try this as soon as you can. Rumor has it, and it’s from a very good source, that this offering is being discontinued in the U.S. (you’ve been warned!)

Prohibition Party at Jack Rose Dining Saloon 2012

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On December 5, 2012, hundreds of Washingtonians crowded the dark paneled walls of the best whisky bar in America, Jack Rose Dining Saloon, for a celebration of sensibility. Rare, these days are words like “sense” and “obvious” in the seat of American government these days (have you heard of the “cliff”?) but on December 5, 1933 the United States Constitution was amended with the Twenty-first Amendment also known as the Repeal of Prohibition. The repeal was of the Eighteenth Amendment which was passed due to the conventional wisdom, and considerable political and religious pressure, to ban the manufacture of whiskey in the U.S. in order to reduce crime, improve the health and mental wellness of the American citizenry, and reduce healthcare costs (that sounds familiar). What the 18th Amendment did was the exact opposite of this and to the dismay of Senator Rockefeller and all the groups who rejoiced over their victory they could not wait to “un-do” the bad law that they had created and stop the bleeding.

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So, it is only fitting that such a grand bar could throw a Prohibition party in the year 2012. Why? Because I think we need to reflect on what we have, as citizens, let government do in our lives. As altruistic as man can be, often, he/she does the wrong thing. And in the case of Government, it usually is not corrected without a revolution or take-over. Life is hard enough, to take away the few things that unites and provides enjoyment for a large segment of a society is detrimental. So raise a glass my fellow Americans and never forget!

Now, that I’m off of my pedestal, I’d like to talk about this Saloon called Jack Rose. At the heart of this bar is Bill Thomas, proprietor of Jack Rose Dining Saloon as well as Bourbon in Georgetown. On this night, Bill really wanted a celebration of this date and a true theme running through the night to give it a Prohibition era feel. It started with a wonderfully cooked three course meal that I wisely took my server’s advise on and chose the Prime Rib. I had a three course meal for $20 USD. You can see the picture, the Prime Rib was ridiculously huge! I told Bill, you can’t be making money on this! He smiled and said, I really don’t care. He wanted people to enjoy this day, it wasn’t just another excuse to open the doors and pour drink specials. Bill loves whiskey and enjoys the company of those who do also. So, when you can have an intimate party in a bar that has a ridiculous amount of whisk(e)y in it. Why Not!

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As usual,the meal was wonderful, the appetizers unique and special. But what came afterwards really trumped it all.

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When Bill opened the Dining Saloon there was a basement area that in most people’s minds would be a great cellar/storage area. What Bill saw was an intimate setting where whisky aficionados could sit in relative quiet away from the main crowd and truly enjoy some spirits. I joined Bill downstairs and the bar truly carries the “speakeasy” feel. The door to the bar is recessed into the wall, and slides. There is a back door, no sign on the outside, with a buzzer. You get the picture. In this area, one can assembly 40 people and it feels like you’re in a New York City bar on Saturday night, only with a Washington vibe, not a New York one. Tonight, Bill was personally pouring a few unique scotch and bourbon offerings.

20121215-090626.jpgThe room was alive and the setting was perfect. Bill had brought in some Pre-Prohibition era American whiskey that he has in his personal collection and displayed it in a case (I’ve placed a few in this post). For entertainment, two lovely young ladies provided us with a 1920’s flapper themed performance that even silenced, even mesmerized the contingent and even produced a few ghasts from the women folk. It was at that moment I knew that nowhere else in this city was anyone having this good of a time. My iPhone doesn’t do justice in the picture of one of the ladies, but trust me, it was a show.

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To finish off a near perfect night, Bill pulled out a pre-prohibition bottle of American whiskey. Though the label and history had worn off, Bill knew it was distilled somewhere between 1915 to 1930. The magic was not in its nosing or tasting, but in just knowing that  you were able to imbibe in a whiskey that old and surrounded by so much controversy. I really do thank Jack Rose for bringing attention to a historic date and doing its best to help reconnect our generations with those back then. I cannot wait til next year!

Cheers!

Dewar’s 18 Year Old Double Aged Blended Whisky Review

 

Limited Edition Dewar's gift box. I'm one of 25. Lucky Bastard.
Limited Edition Dewar’s gift box. I’m one of 25. Lucky Bastard.


I was recently contacted by Dewar’s as to if I would accept some gifts from them, I was more than willing. Little did I know they were about to launch a massive ad campaign and they pulled in some folks who they considered worthy of being described as “Drinking Men.” Sometimes you feel lucky. Now as some of you know, I drink a LOT of single malt scotch. It’s not because I don’t appreciate blended scotch whisky. I do. But I have an affinity for single malt’s, and more specifically single casks.

To make a blended whisky takes some skill. I have the utmost respect and envy for men and women who can perform the task. As of recent, it has been established that the words “marrying” or “vatting” should be dropped in favor of simply “blended.” I do agree in part, terminology can be confusing and I believe an educated and happy consumer is better than a confused one. Still, some will continue to call a blended single malt (a whisky containing only single malts) vatted and will refer to a whisky that has single malt or malts blended with a grain whisky simply blended. Confused? Perhaps I should explain further in another post……

So, back to the Dewar’s. Dewar’s is the most widely sold scotch in the world. You can find it on most any flight, in your hotel mini-bar, and most sports bars. Let’s just say, its distribution is stellar. I know I’ve had it on at least three continents. But today I’m tasting, courtesy of Dewar’s, the 18 year Double Aged offering. Dewar’s calls this a “rich whisky with a long finish.” The double aged process, according to the literature, is placing the newly blended whisky together (malts and grains)  back into vintage oak casks to mature. So, in plain terms, how I read it, is that they blend years old whisky and place into previously used American casks? Or place them in refills? How long? That would be a trade secret most likely, but I’m sure someone out there knows.

So Dewar’s tasting notes include the words, Honeyed, Marzipan, and Creamy. Most people can relate to Honeyed as well as Creamy. BUT if you happen to live in an area outside of the UK, the Marzipan may throw you. Does me! So to describe it better, Dewar’s includes  in the tasting notes (concerning Marzipan) “Almond and vanilla cream with smooth butterscotch. Soft, buttery and sweet.” Well sign me up! So, now I’m excited to taste this 18!

As usual, I will drink any whisky, yes any whisky without water first. REGARDLESS of the damn ABV%. Sorry, that was aimed at a certain society who insists on squirting water into my snifter before I can get my nose in it.

Before I nose it, I do admit it’s a nice job in the packaging. Although, some of the fonts are a bit small and hard to read under low light, especially on the box. As far as the whisky’s color, its a nice honeyed hue and a whisk around the snifter leaves some stringy legs. As for the nose, it’s quite delightful! I can tell I’m dealing with a quality whisky here. It should have a very nice body to it. It’s ABV% is 40 so you can really stick your nose in there and let it play around, it’s very gentleman like and doesn’t kick.

The actual taste is very close to the smell, I thought it may be a bit deeper but it is most definitely buttery and smooth. I held it in my mouth for at least 30 seconds, it coats the tongue perfectly and the finish has a faint touch of grain to it. It’s very nice and is true to its tasting notes from Dewar’s. This type of scotch whisky is a good drinking whisky. I would be pleased to sit around with friends or pull out a nice medium to full cigar and partake. This is a smooth, creamy whisky. It is not sweet and I think the grain content may be a factor there.

Whatever they have blended, it works. If you are looking for a quality scotch whisky and enjoy very popular offerings such as Dewar’s, Johnny Walker, Grant’s, then you will be very pleased with this 18-year-old. I’m not sure of the price point yet, In the UK I think it goes for around $100 USD. That’s about twice the cost of their 12 year but I assure you it is measurably better.

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Dewar’s The Drinking Man’s Scotch

Many thanks to Dewar’s for sending this my way, they also included a few goodies, I have put the picture below. I do feel honored to be considered worthy of a special flask and other swag, but it’s really the 18 that has done the work here. I’ve found me a new friend and am honored to be considered “A Drinking Man” by Dewar’s. Do check out their videos/commercials, if you are a drinking man like me, you will identify with the message. www.dewars.com

Cheers!

John

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