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Enjoying Scotch Whisky and a few other things

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richard paterson

WhiskyFest NYC 2013, Noteable Scots and “first fill” love

Well, it has been some time since I posted. Life mostly gets in the way and due to the American Football (NFL) season I tend to get very distracted. So I have attended only one event, electing to not go to a couple of more due to time and the fact that many of these events really do not bring anything new or exciting to someone who has had more than a few tastings of every major scotch whisky. Most scotch whisky distillers are enjoying record sales, new markets in India, China, and of course the Americas keep on drinking. Blended whisky is still king and that’s fine, I just tend to stick to single malts and love to see new expressions that many of them keep churning out. I do think that a few distillers are trying harder to keep coming up with something unique but unfortunately their products mostly hit very limited markets and aren’t very affordable for an everyday drinker.

So WhiskyFest NYC was the first WhiskyFest event I have attended. I went to the general event as time and money prohibited from attending all the “extra” classes. I think it’s rather amusing that you must pay a lot of money to sample and hear people go on about their products when they need you, the consumer, to be excited enough to buy them and spread the word. But anyhow, there is a market for everything and their show seems to work for them, however, they tried to do a multi-day event this year and I don’t think it met their expectations. They did put out a comment saying something to the effect that they were disappointed that they did not have enough new and unique whisky available at the event. I agree.

The highlight of my three-hour “taste-a-thon” was meeting Jim McEwan. He is a legend and rightly so. What I didn’t know was how personable and caring he is. He was extremely friendly and entertaining. He shared with me his time as Master Blender at Bowmore and his amazing resurrection of Bruichladdich. He is what I so love about Islay, in a word, pure. The work he did at Bowmore is evident in their excellent aged whisky on the market today. The work that he has done at Bruichladdich is nothing short of brilliant in my opinion. If you are looking for a brand to dig into, and enjoy the peaty single malt whisky from Islay, dig in. The range is varied and offers something for everyone. You can go from the Laddie Ten up to the Octomore range. I am in love with the Octomore line, I think it is one of the most well done expressions that can only be a result of years of experience.

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It’s hard to get a clear picture at a whisky event.

The Nose, Richard Patterson was also in the house! I have met Richard a couple of times and spent some time enjoying his gregariousness and had a few drams while he entertained a few patrons. He is pure fun! It was also great catching up with David Blackmore, Global Brand Ambassador for Ardbeg & Glenmorangie. He does an excellent job and is a very kind soul. I ribbed him about not having anything “special” but I was more than willing to have a pour of Uigedail, possibly my favorite of the Ardbeg line.

The only spirit of the night that I was looking forward to tasting was the Bowmore Devil’s Cask. I had been told about this whisky while I was at Bowmore this past spring and actually tasted one cask that I was told would be very telling about the Devil’s Cask. It is a product of first filled sherry casks and the age statement is a 10 years aged whisky. DO NOT make the mistake at looking at the age statement, but look closely at the “first” filled sherry cask. Much like the most excellent Tempest (Dorus Mor in the U.S. due to trademark issues) this is a very small batch high quality product that is nothing short of extraordinary. If you get the chance, or have the means, acquire it.20131203-233421.jpg

Well I didn’t mean for this to go on so long but I’ve been silent for a few months. During this time, I’ve really focused on just enjoying the various Bowmore and Ardbeg products that are a staple in my house. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the new Balvenie 12 year single barrel “First Fill” product that came out this year. I intend on writing about it soon and intend on comparing it with the single barrel 15. One thing about this year pertaining to the marketing of “first fill” products. There IS something different about these products, it is a noticeable difference and I do hope this is a trend.

Cheers!

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P.S. if you did not know, Jim McEwan has made a Gin. It is one of the best I have ever tasted, no joke!

John Barr Blended Scotch Whisky

So today I finally got time to make a whisky run inside Washington DC and ended up close to the Maryland border so stopped in there also. My reward was picking up 4 bottles that I cannot pick up in Virginia, save one. One of these great finds was this 1.75L of Blended whisky. John Barr is new to me. Obviously it is nothing new in the UK and its story is worth mentioning.

As the story, albeit brief, goes there was a legal problem in the EU about Johnny Walker Red in 1977. While no great explanation is given, JW had to be withdrawn from a particular market. In came John Barr! It was evidently a label used for the market to fill the gap. The “brand” has been purchased by Whyte & Mackay, not sure when, who are experts in blended whisky. The very fact that W&M is involved in this endeavor made me purchase the product. If you do not know who Richard Paterson is, he is the master distiller for W&M and takes blending whisky seriously! If you don’t believe me, watch this.

John Barr, in the UK, comes in a choice of Red, Gold, or Black. What I found today just has a black label and no mention of “Black Label.” A quick Google search turned up an image of a bottle similar, yet smaller, that is described as a Reserve. This was tasted by tastings.com of Chicago and they rated it highly.

So? Is it any good? YES! A resounding yes! While I am not surprised due to W&M’s involvement I do feel some affirmation from trusting that W&M’s Paterson would never let an inferior product exist in his world. I mentioned a few posts ago that I was going to pursue less expensive yet good scotch whisky and I am so happy to report I have found one. This 1.75L cost me about $32 on sale, usually $40. At this price, you have a very nice daily drinker that you are not going to soon get tired of.

As for the particulars: Colour is Golden/Amber, Nose is malty and cries out quality malt. The taste is malty, Speyside honeyed with some crisp explosions of spice, I’m also going to guess there is some weighted Sherry Butt (cask or barrel) finishing going on here. The ABV is 43% (which I think is perfect) and I drank it neat, of course. The mouth-feel is very oily at first and it coats the palate quite well. I wanted to go eat Bacon with it!

I think that this is one of the best, if not the best 1.75L offerings I have ever tasted. I would be happy to have this in a decanter! I have asked the company to send me more information. If I receive more exact information on this product I will update this post.

UPDATE —

I haven’t heard any information back on this product so I don’t have any more to share. The only thing I would like to add is that this is about half full now and I noticed a very strong alcohol presence when I drank it today. It really came across as rubbing alcohol. I’m not sure if this was just due to me noticing it more or the chemistry is changing as air is introduced. Advice, you do not want to hold onto this one for too long.

Cheers!

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Dalmore Gran Reserva – A Cigar smoker’s essential scotch whisky

I’m almost at a loss here because I could talk in wild rambling circles about my experience of meeting Richard Paterson in Las Vegas at the Nth event recently and sharing a cigar with him and the new upcoming re-release of The Cigar Malt by Dalmore. There are some things that defy words, or maybe the right vocabulary just escapes me, whichever, this is simply a whisky you must own if you smoke cigars and consider yourself a scotch drinker.

So there was once, The Cigar Malt, then, because of a mis-perception of what the scotch was all about (people actually believed they put tobacco in the scotch) they renamed it, The Gran Reserva. Well, then cigar smokers who enjoyed it said, WHAT they HEY! Where did it go, well, nowhere actually. So, I do not have the final marketing notes yet but rest assured that The Cigar Malt will find its way back onto this wonderful whisky. In the meantime, The Gran Reserva isThe Cigar Malt. Make sense? Well just go buy it. Damn.

In Michael Jackson’s Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch it is described as a “complement rather than a contrast” to a cigar. If you are not sure what that means, fire up a cigar and pull out an Ardbeg Corryveckran and you may get it. Please, only choose this combination if you know what you are doing. You might want to have a side of bacon ready. If you are an Ardbeg fan, you know what I mean!

The Gran Reserva whisky is comprised of a blend of single malt highland whisky’s between 10 and 20 years old. It, to me, is as balanced as a complex whisky can get. And surprisingly this is not an $80 USD whisky but drinks much better to me than some that command that price. I tend to favor a medium to full cigar that delivers good flavor. I tend to always like a puro Nicaraguan cigar but am surprised by some blends with the Nicaraguans also. This whisky may drown out a light cigar like a Montecristo #2 or Macanudo but certainly would be a better experience than a Glenlevit or Johnny Walker (pick a color).

Here are some of the notes from Michael Jackson’s Guide on the whisky:

Palate – Rich, rounded. A hint of rum butter, then dryish and firm. Hard caramel toffee. Hint of burned sugar. Faint smoke. Never cloying. Finish – Light, smoky, wood bark, ground almonds, dryness.”

I put that in there for those who actually like tasting notes, I’d describe it as frickin perfect!

As Richard would say, Slainte Mhath!

A must have for any cigar smoker
The Cigar Malt[/caption

Message in a Bottle: 100-year-old Whisky Reveals Its Secrets – With Photo

Message in a Bottle: 100-year-old Whisky Reveals Its Secrets – With Photo.

Sheep Dip Malt Whisky

At least once a week I hope to taste something “new” or not as well known and jot down a few notes about it. My last trip through the ABC store brought not only something new but something I found to be whimsical. In the Scotch section was a black and white fashioned box with the picture of an agitated sheep half way out of a whiskey barrel. The product was labeled SHEEP DIP, a Malt Whisky (notice the “e” is missing in Scotch) and it is woven from 16 single malt whiskies. The individual whiskies are aged anywhere from 8 to 21 years. This gives this product a certain maturity that I think should earn it some respect. This is evidently an old brand that has been discarded by a larger company and purchased by a smaller enterprising company.

I started with about an ounce and a half of the product and introduced a splash of cold brita water to open it up. In short, I found this product to be very pleasing! I was prepared for something harsh and not that complex. What I found was the opposite. I found this product to be a nice amber colored Scotch that had a slightly soft nose and bright aroma to it. As it rolled through my mouth I experienced full complex flavors and really imagined a warm spicy mature orange within the mix. The finish was very clean and as I waited for the after taste to set in, it gently rolled away to a nice finish.

SHEEP DIP was acknowledged by Whisky magazine as “seriously good stuff”

I would label this as a great buy, around $39 for the 750ml bottle which puts it in the same area as Johnny Walker Red. I think it would be better compared to the JW Black or Green in quality though.

You can best find out about this brand on Facebook by searching Sheep Dip Fold. This link may work. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2530406933



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