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Enjoying Scotch Whisky and a few other things

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bunnahabhain

Bunnahabhain 12 year Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

For starters, it is pronounced, Bun na h-Abhainn. Hope that helps. As with my last post, this is another whisky from Islay. And as I mentioned previously, Islay scotch whisky is typically associated with lots of Peat taste from burning it to dry out the malted barley. I also mentioned that not all of the whisky produced in Islay shares this method, this 12 year is a good example of that.

Certainly a finer scotch but not outrageously expensive. Especially for single malts. This one however has one quality shared with the Laphroaig and it comes from the alcohol content. The nosing of this dram reveals its 46.3% ABV. And it doesn’t go away. In a nosing glass it stays strong, and in a larger glass it is more bearable. But the ethanol is so strong that its hard to pick up on what’s about to hit your palate. There is a little smokiness that come across, but unlike some drams, I do not know what to expect.

When the whisky hits the tongue, it’s a mini-explosion. Tastes do come out but this is a fairly hot whisky and its one where the smoke has to clear so that you may enjoy the finish. To me, it comes across a bit thin. Lightly floral, but not exactly what I’d call rounded or complex. It’s a bit spicy and I think this would go well with spicy food.

According to the Bunnahabhain website, this is a repackaged product. I know there are some people out there that really like this brand and I tasted the whole line some time ago. Like then, I think it is a good mid-player in the single malt whisky arena but not on par with some.

I added some water to see if the nosing would improve, it did, but not wildly. I do enjoy this a bit more with water, some of the flavors that I did not notice before are coming out. This is definitely a whisky that I would add water to forĀ  enjoyment. It is non-chill filtered and I do like that aspect of it, I just can’t say this is one of my favorites or a “go to” whisky. But as I always tell people, try it, you make like it!

Cheers!

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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