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Enjoying Scotch Whisky and a few other things

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andrew weir

The Balvenie Roadshow tasting in DC at Poste

As October ushered itself into Washington D.C. so did the fall-esque weather complete with 50f temperatures and cool rain. It was only fitting to have a Scotch tasting that was originally planned for outdoors at the Poste restaurant in the heart of the city. After arriving soon enough to see the Morgan off-loaded from the truck and driven through the portal which takes you to Poste, I was in no way deterred by the mist and was genuinely happy to see this fine hand-made car take its place in the outdoor dining area that it would have to ultimately spend alone.

Though the weather was gloomy the crowd and especially the host of the evening Andrew Weir was not. Andrew has one of the best jobs in the world (excluding constant travel) and that is to be the Balvenie Ambassador for the Eastern Coast of the U.S. Unlike some reps that I have met in the whisky or cigar industry Andrew is genuinely welcoming and eager to share his knowledge of his product. I also appreciate Andrews’ unwillingness to talk bad about any competing product (which I’ve heard numerous times) and his attitude towards “you enjoy scotch how you like it, because you paid for it!”

Due to the rain the tasting was moved inside to what equates to a bar/entry to the restaurant. The noise from the main dining area was an incredibly unwelcome obstacle for any speaker but everyone there tolerated it and though Andrew merely fakes a Scottish accent we could at least understand some of what he said. Just kidding Andrew. The drams that were to be had were Balvenie’s current offerings of Doublewood 12 year, Single Barrel 15 year, and Portwood 21 year. They are three very different offerings but all very Balvenie. The Doublewood is the perfect scotch to start drinking when you are just starting your journey into scotch. I believe Andrew called it the “gateway” scotch into Balvenie. I would call it the gateway into seriously good scotch! Reportedly this is one of David Stewart’s favorite products which says a lot for a Master of 50 years. The Doublewood has spent most of its life in an American Bourbon barrel and finished up in an European Sherry cask. It is a delightful dram and one I would consider a “go-to” scotch.

The Single Cask 15 is a very different taste because it does carry the kick of a single cask. The ethanol alcohol level is a bit higher and if you like that you will like this offering. I really prefer this to the Doublewood because I do enjoy the kick. It is also different from Doublewood because it only matures in American Oak. No Sherry. So you are going to get more vanilla upfront whereas it is a bit hidden by the Sherry Oak in the Doublewood.

The Portwood 21 is good. Period. It has won several awards and in my mind is a first-rate contender with anything on the market in the premium category. It has spent time in rare Port casks that impart a deliciousness that comes across as honeyed raisins. This is the scotch you have with the Duck and Creme Brûlée. It is a bit pricey but you should experience this scotch, it can be found by the dram in your better bars.

The evening went well despite the din of the restaurant and aside from the whisky nerds (myself and one other gentleman) I believe some whisky novices were very pleased to have discovered this tasting.

As an aside, the appetizers from Poste were extremely well prepared and after the tasting I did enjoy a grass-fed cheeseburger that was actually cooked the way I ordered it, medium. It was delightful! I have found that if a nice restaurant can produce a great burger then you can be assured their other offerings are great as well. If you were wondering if you should try this restaurant out I would encourage you to do so. They also have a great selection and variety in scotch.

The evening was great and as Andrew was leaving he slipped me a gift. It really took me by surprise and was totally unexpected. Let’s just say it has something to do with a future offering and I will be tasting it this week. I have also embedded the video from Balvenie about the roadshow, it’s a great video and I hope you enjoy it, preferably with a Balvenie!

Cheers!

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Whisky Guild Classic tasting Cruise Washington, DC 2011

Yesterday evening I had the fortune of being on a large boat with a lot of whisky. Now, fortunately this was a tasting cruise, not a vacation cruise and many tasting booths were set up with reps from each distiller or distributor who were eager to pour and talk about their product. That being said, I would first like to thank The Balvenie, Highland Park/Macallan, and Ardbeg for sending out great ambassadors to represent their products. Though this surely wasn’t the level of tasting that the more premier tasting events hold, the Nth being my favorite, the fore mentioned companies spare no cost to send out the best reps for their products and I think it says a lot about them and their products.

As far as the food, I’m glad I had the company of Andrew Weir of The Balvenie to chat with while I ate. The conversation and previous hour of tasting helped facilitate the buffet.

As opposed to a premier event this was an opportunity to catch up and experience some newer expressions that are contending for shelf space with the Johnny Walker Red and Dewar’s crowd. There were too numerous new expressions I saw and unfortunately I can’t remember them all but then again, some of their reps seemed as clueless as I was about their product. Unfortunately, Scotch has grown so popular that there seems to be “products” popping up that advertise as if they were the lost product of Scotland that only some sages know about and now are available for an unbelievable price! Their reps aren’t sure though what kind of cask they are aged in, or if they have a cask at all, and truly this rep was picked for their salesmanship but not their ability to educate you on their product.

The highlights of this cruise were seeing the fore mentioned Ambassadors without whom I would have serious questions about the events status. Martin Daraz of Highland Park/ Macalland was a great surprise to see. I first met him in Las Vegas at the Nth event and there is no doubting his credentials or passion for whisky. I look forward to his chocolate and scotch pairing again at the Nth.

Other than that, I sampled a lot of new brands that I most likely will never buy but at least I have given them a go. Some notable that were new or somewhat new to me were Aberlour who had very friendly reps and also poured Scapa which I would probably never buy but recognize as a great summer scotch or beginners scotch, Bunnahabhain, whose lovely rep seemed tireless over the event and also introduced me to Tobermory, Deanston and Ledaig. The Bunnhabhain 25 was definitely the pick of the table. I think the Burns Stewart Distilleries selection is a reputable one, however, I can’t say that any one of them, other than a Bunnhabhain will sit in my collection any day soon. I do think that they should not overlook the possibilities of The Black Bottle, their inexpensive and quirky blend to do contention with lower price point whisky’s, I think they could be successful.

So I was very disappointed that no Alligator showed up at the Ardbeg table but totally understand why. I did have a good time speaking with David Blackmore and enjoyed pours of Uigeadail and Ten. After a pour of Uigeadail I walked over to Compass Box and asked for a sampling of The Peat Monster. Now, I explained to their rep I had just finished some Ardbeg and wanted to compare The Peat Monster. He seemed offended that I would even dare compare the two and with little hospitality poured the Peat Monster. Yes, it’s no monster at all compared to Ardbeg. However, its is an enjoyable whisky, and that was my point. I just don’t think I would have titled it “peat monster” with the likes of Laphroaig and Ardbeg around. He seemed very displeased with me, so, I left. So I have no idea if any other compass box offering is any good and it will most likely be a long time before I find out.

I did have a good conversation with Jason LaRue of Interbev about their offerings of Balblair and Hankey Bannister. After some googling this morning I see that the HB has been around for awhile and I have to say it is a very good blend. The Balblair was a very pleasing whisky also.

I had a good time at this event, if it would have been longer I could have taken time to focus also on the Irish and American offerings but I tend to forget things if I get off track and decided against it. I did get a chance to talk to Catoctin Creek locals about their fine spirits and promised them a visit soon.

So if you are looking for a booze cruise I would recommend the Whisky Guild’s cruise which is in major cities in the States. They can be found at http://www.whiskyguild.com

Cheers!

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