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theScotchlife

Enjoying Scotch Whisky and a few other things

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Scotch

Fathers Day Scotch Whisky

This is a public service announcement for Americans. Many will go out and buy dear old dad a bottle of whisky this weekend to thank him for the years of pain and suffering you have put him through. The only problem is you have no idea what to buy him. You think he likes Scotch whisky?

Ok. Now if you know the brand he likes just buy that. Don’t get all fancy or try to one up your brother and get him something terribly different. Now if you are taking a stab completely in the dark you had better choose wisely. First off, dad may be too kind to grimace at the bottle of J&B if he only drinks Famous Grouse. However, I’d recommend a crowd pleaser like The Macallan or Glenfiddich (the 12 years aged or no age statement is fine, in other words the cheapest).

Want to spend less? Grants or Ballantine’s could work. I honestly would drink them.

So if your Dad is a big scotch whisky drinker, and blogs about whisky, wink, wink, nudge, Nudge! You might want to go in on a bottle of Bruichladdich Octomore. Any of them!

This has been a Scotchlife PSA. You can go back to your regular programming.

Glenmorangie’s Extremely Rare 18 year aged Single Malt Scotch Whisky

I was reading a fellow blogger’s notes on this product and it reminded me that I had yet to open the one I picked up this past November. I’m glad his comments spurred me to open it! While Glenmorangie is not a BIG scotch whisky it is a quality one.

Extremely Rare 18To me, the Glemorangie line falls into the “approachable” category for non-whisky types.

Light, fruity, almost a dainty touch of fragrant flowers flowing from the most beautiful waterfall in your dreams. That’s what “Glenmo” is to me. A far cry from the gritty, earthy, peat that is heaped upon fires in Islay on whisky such as Ardbeg, Laphroiag, Bowmore, etc….. So once in a while I let me “flowery” side run free for a dram or so and this 18-year-old Glenmo was perfect!

To me this is the perfect complement to a well made dessert or after dinner cheese plate. It just screams with flavors that a great Chef can work with. It’s a 43% ABV whisky that has an influence of Oloroso Sherry Cask that really does a great job. If a whisky can be described as pretty, this is it. Pretty as in Princess Kate pretty. Descriptive enough?

This is a whisky I will bring out sparingly, most likely to try with a special cheese I have found or due to me finding time to whip up a Crème brûlée! Glemorangie’s notes and accolades for this whisky can be found HERE.

Cheers Kate!

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Kate Middleton’s Biography.com profile picture. Doesn’t she look like “The Whisky Woman?”

Bowmore 100 Degrees Proof Scotch Whisky

20130610-201724.jpgSo recently on Islay I spent a few minutes in the Bowmore Gift Shop. What to buy? I can only fly back with so much whisky and I have the opportunity to go through “Duty Free!” You always wonder how much whisky can you get back into the States and since I was carrying precious whisky I didn’t want to push the limits. I ended up with this monster, Bowmore 100 Degrees Proof. Bowmore at 57.1% ABV is quite an experience.

The nosing of this product alone is a warning in itself. Though in the nose you can smell some amazing things if you linger long enough, you feel like you are about to experience a powerful and peated whisky. To me, this is a serious whisky. You don’t pick this up because you want a challenge, you pick this up because you appreciate what Bowmore does and you want to see what happens when you go full throttle on their product.

Well, it delivers! It delivers a sort of burnt sugar (that is still burning) as you drink it. It’s so hot that it flares up in your esophagus. Yes, I drank it neat. Then, I added water. Adding water to it brings out the peated barley quite forcibly. The water magically releases the malted and peated barley and just sets it free! You also get a nice rush of salty ocean air from Loch Indaal. The added water does not “water” down this whisky, it releases it. The taste is markedly different and really approaches what this spirit should taste like. Far be it from me to dissuade you to drink this at full strength, but, if you want the true spirit of Bowmore you will find it after adding some water. Oh, if you are wondering why the 100Proof moniker?! Well, that goes back to testing rum rations on ships, mixed with gun-powder. Yep, at full strength, this whisky tastes that powerful! It’s marketing….. so, if you are into Bowmore and want to see what a full cask strength taste is like, here you go!

The finish is warm, lingering, and full. If you are a Bowmore fan and love a full expression whisky, this is it. Bowmore’s notes are here.

Cheers!

Bowmore Distillery Tour and the No.1 Vault

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For me, visiting a distillery is like a child going to Disneyland, I just cannot wait to get there. At the end of my Ultimate Adventure courtesy of Bowmore, my colleague Lucas and I were treated to a grand tour led by none other than Eddie MacAffer, the Distillery (and legendary) manager. If you have done a distillery tour, or several, you know the progression, malted barley, drying floor, washbacks, and then stills. It’s a great lesson if you are passionate about whisky as I am. This tour was more like a back stage pass though. Not only did I turn the malt on the malting floor, I got to go into the fire pit underneath the drying floor, drink from the #2 Washback and then drink the new spirit from the whole process (if I didn’t know, I thought I’d been drinking a light gin). Eddie went through great pains at each station to explain the significance of each part of the process. He is a dear man and passionate about making his whisky and that is enough for me.

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So during the process I found that I’m not meant for the malting floor (too aggressive) but I did seem eager enough to prompt Eddie to let me drink from the #2 Washback. I have to say, one may be hesitant to drink something that doesn’t look all that attractive, but, when else would I be given the opportunity!? It wasn’t bad really, basically an unfinished beer but not something you’d want to taste all the time.

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The distillery itself is polished and clean, well-organized, and run by people who move with a purpose. I like that. I also like Eddie’s candor about the whole process. He doesn’t hide anything, doesn’t dodge any question, and wants to make sure you understand everything.

What came at the end of the manufacturing process really had me excited. We approached the famed No. 1 Vaults and all I could think is how long I have waited to see behind this door. The No.1 Vault is the oldest holding area for aging casks on Islay, and for that matter almost all of Scotland. There is a rich history in this vault, it was originally part of the distillery and I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the details and history of the vault, I do apologize.

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Walking into this area is walking into the area where the most valuable and cherished whisky lies maturing. It is from this vault the most valuable and desired Bowmore products age. It is here where Eddie educated us on their operations, and then, he opened a cask. Not just any cask, but a 13 yr aged cask. It was a bourbon cask from America. I will keep some of the secrets to whence it came from in America. Eddie extracted the whisky and poured it into a tulip glass. We passed it around, nosed and drank. It was simply marvelous. But then it got better.

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Sitting next to the bourbon cask was a sherry butt that had been resting for 18 years. We drank, we swooned. Just a simply amazing product.

I wondered around the No.1 vault and marveled at the numerous resting casks that were producing some of the most desired whisky in the world. I secretly wondered, if I just hide, would they notice?

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So like most things in life, the tour had to come to an end. The experience was amazing though! I do hope to visit No.1 again, and maybe this time, I will hide.

Cheers!

The Balvenie Islay Cask Scotch Whisky

Islay Cask
Islay Cask

Heaven. End of review…… This is one of my all-time favorite Scotch whiskys. I had this a couple of years back, or so, at an event in Vegas. The Balvenie reps had rounded up all the 17 year releases and we did a tasting of them all. This was, and is, my favorite. I was fortunate enough to have a collector round this bottle up for me in an auction in the UK. Yes, I paid a few bucks for this one.

So I’ve been waiting for an occasion to open this and I finally thought, well, I’ve been to Islay so now I should open this. Basic reasoning really. So I did, and oh, it’s just as good as I remember it.

So if you are familiar with the 17 year aged line of Balvenie you may actually have never seen this one. You probably have seen the Peated Cask which replaced this original. This bottle inspired the peated cask but the peated cask is no Islay cask, no sir.

This lovely Balvenie classic spirit was finished up in a Laphroiag cask. Affectionately  known as “lafrog,” the very essence of Laphroiag is a strong punch of the sea and earth on your palate. What is great about the Balvenie honeyed spirit slipping into that barrel for a spin is the sweet peat finish takes on a gentlemanly charm and drops the t-shirt for the tails in this bottle.

I’d go on and on about how it tastes, but, chances are you have had this, have it but not have opened it, or will never have the opportunity. Pity.

Bowmore Tempest Batch 2 Scotch Whisky

Tempest Batch 2
Tempest Batch 2

So to kick off World Whisky Day 2013 I decided to pull out a new favorite I discovered while on Islay experiencing the trip of a lifetime. First things first, do not let the “Aged 10 Years” statement prejudice your mind! This is not just another 10 year offering. In fact, it’s quite unlike anything in the Bowmore line and reminds me of the forward leaning Bruichladdich whisky’s just across Loch Indaal. It’s bright, lemony and honey-peppered. It is a first fill whisky which means the cask is ready to give all flavor over to it. It’s a little warm and the finish is bright and flavorful. It’s like having a young Angelina Jolie. No disappointment there!

This whisky is a bit expensive (I paid $114 USD) but there is reason why. When you take the very best casks and this is the first new spirit from the Distiller (in this case Bowmore) it sees. The previous American Bourbon Spirit’s conditioning of that cask is ready to produce an excellent product. In this whisky, only first fill is used, that is what makes it exceptionally brilliant. Then on top of that these casks were aged in the famous No.1 vault that lies right next to the Loch Indaal waters that constantly thrash just meters away. These factors come together brilliantly and produce one of my favorite products that I discovered while in Islay.

I took this picture while the rain started to fall this Saturday morning and that along with the bottle’s label had been roughed up at some point seemed at home with the Tempest labeling.

So this is batch 2. I did not catch batch 1 and batch 3 I had while on Islay. I really like this batch 2. It is 56% ABV! So it is a sipping whisky. Bowmore describes this batch as:

Tempest Batch No. 2 – 56% ABV

On the eye warm gold.

Breathe in dry peat smoke perfectly balanced by delicious zesty lemon pepper.

Sip initial bursts of lemon pepper followed by the signature Bowmore peaty set salt tang. The citrus returns at the end adding balance and complexity to the mouth feel.

Savour fresh lemon pepper.

I had this whisky before I experienced at 5:30am hail storm on the beach one morning. I smiled during the storm and said, ah, yes, Tempest.

Cheers!

Bowmore Darkest 15 Single Malt Scotch Whisky

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Though Bowmore whisky will always be special to me, the Darkest 15 will always be the whisky that takes me back to Islay, Jura, and Scarba Islands. We enjoyed this whisky throughout the day, I’m talkin morning, noon, and night! This is the perfect late night whisky around the camp fire or modern fire pit. The trademark subtle peat of Bowmore dances with the Sherry Cask wood that it was finished in creating a unique finish. I’m actually writing this out on the porch on my iPhone and listening to the nighttime din of insects. It’s simply perfect. I hope you can find this whisky in your market! If you love a sherry finish and peat of Islay, this is your whisky. Head over to www.bowmore.com for the tasting notes because its too dark out here for me to read them off the bottle.

Cheers Ken, Colin, Lucas, Joe, and Ali!

Whisky Guild River Cruise in Washington D.C. 2013

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There are certain places you expect a tasting, of any kind, to be held at. Nice hotels, private clubs, resorts, etc… The Whisky Guild hosts tastings on boats. In Washington D.C. they use a fairly large vessel that comfortably holds hundreds of people. There are two tickets, a VIP which pre-boards an hour early and then a regular attendee. The tickets include a dinner and quite a lot of whisky. The boat really does it for me honestly, I just love boats and drinking on a boat seems as natural as breathing to me. I go with the VIP because I’m always hoping something rare or special shows up from one of the distributors and being an hour ahead of the regular crowd has its benefits.

Well, I think that all boarding early this year got me was more whisky. Problem? No, well, yes, it’s not like there is a lack of whisky on this boat!
I was a little disheartened, though I knew ahead of time, that there wouldn’t be any rare whisky there. There was some very nice people there though. The Highland Park table featured very good whisky and great camaraderie. The “rock star” table for me was the one with Ewan Morgan of Diageo. Ewan is an Ambassador for Diageo North America and was a great conversationalist despite being tired from travels and two big shows that had taken him back and forth from East coast to West Coast.20130417-204333.jpg
Unfortunately this event happens after two weeks of big shows in the States and many of the distributors do not send their “A” team. I’m referring to the Brand Ambassadors who are the foremost experts on their products. Also, many notable brands just didn’t show up.
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I should say that I was surprised at the amount of American whiskies on the boat. I always thought this to be a scotch whisky event but this year I swear 30-40% of the exhibitors were there with American whiskies. I think they were rather surprised themselves, I do believe the buzz was primarily at the Scotch whisky tables. I came away with two great impressions from whisky that I have not had prior to the event. First I met the Single Cask Nation. You can check them out, I really liked their offerings and have seen much press about them as well as a blog they run.
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The star whisky of the night was from Bruichladdich. It was the Black Arts offering, aged 22 years, it was the most delicate, sophisticated and “special” dram of my evening. I had already enjoyed a bit of whisky before I’d arrived at a table that had the offering on it, and it still made a very big impression on my palate. I will be seeking this one out! It is a 22-year-old Oak aged beauty!

20130417-204458.jpgWell, I enjoyed the cruise, I just wish it could be on the weekend, this middle of the week stuff kills me! See you next year?

 

Cheers!

 

McClelland’s Single Malt Lowland Scotch Whisky

Today was the nicest day in the Washington D.C. area since the alleged Spring season had begun. We have had, much like the UK, a very frigid beginning to spring this year and it was nice to finally have a warm spring-like day. I knew it felt like spring because I all of a sudden was craving a Lowland’s whisky. Slight problem though, I finished off my bottle of Auchentoshan Classic a week ago! Off to the whisky store!
So as I go up and down the Scotch whisky aisle (which is much too small and has Irish whiskey in it also) I was pained to see that overwhelming evidence that there just is not enough Lowland’s whisky produced or distributed these days. Thanks to McClelland’s, subsidiary of MorrisonBowmore Distillers of Glasgow, I was able to pick up a Lowland’s whisky for a very reasonable cost.

DSC_6556The analytic side of my brain started to race, I started to think maybe this is heavily influenced or even derived from Auchentoshan stock? Well, I’ll say this, it’s at the very least a cousin of Auch’s Classic! Most importantly, this is exactly the whisky I was looking for today and with warmer weather I really look for Lowland whisky because it just seems to be a great summer whisky. In short, this is a wonderfully tasting whisky and I will have a good stock of this throughout the season. If you are looking for a Scotch whisky to have in your bar or would like to enter the world of single malt scotch, this would be a good place to start.

The distiller’s tasting notes are as follows:

Nose – Fresh nutmeg & ginger, tangerine zest

Palate – Sweet perfume of roses & lavender

Body – Light, fresh and smooth

Finish – Mouth coating oiliness

I have to concur with their notes, especially the “body.” It is a very clean, crisp and enjoyable dram.

So, Cheers!, and please go out and buy some Lowland whisky! Maybe Diageo will build a distillery there!

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