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Enjoying Scotch Whisky and a few other things

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Hogs Head Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

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So I’d heard that a lot of scotch was finished in a “hogs head” cask from Scotland and in my curiosity to find out information about casks I started to search for this elusive Hogs Head. I had actually had a dram of it in Vegas at the Casa Fuente at Caesar’s. And that was the last I saw it once I got back to the DC area. Then recently on a trip through Georgetown I decided to walk around to the three liquor stores in the area and see what they were carrying. I stumbled upon a single bottle of the elusive Hogs Head whisky. It was priced fairly reasonable, I’m sure its a lot cheaper at home, but wasn’t a bad deal.

The nose is a bit strong but a wonderful “pure” scotch aroma. You can tell you are about to have a flavor explosion on your tongue. As typical, I have my whisky neat and in a proper nosing glass since my experience at the Nth. It is a vatted or blended malt of several whisky’s from Islay and a bit from the Highlands. Its a smokey, peaty experience and is not meant for the faint of heart. I’ve read one review that a younger gentleman posted and he said it was the worst whisky he had ever tasted. He evidently has not had a lot of whisky. There are some that are really bad and I have yet to write them up for someone out there probably likes it. I’m very sensitive to saying a whisky sucks because jobs depend on it and my palate is not everyone else’s.

Anyhow, the Hogshead is something I pull out from time to time and I always enjoy it. It can handle any full body cigar and will bury a medium to mild cigar so choose carefully.

Good luck on finding it in America and if you happen to see it at a bar, or happen to be at Casa Fuente in Vegas please try a dram and tell me what you think!

Cheers!

Balvenie Signature tasting notes

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It is with much admiration I write anything about The Balvenie products and this is no different. You can go to their website and you will see their marketing about how they control the whole production of their product from grain to barrel and in a world where so much is borrowed or outsourced it is refreshing that someone in this day and age can control costs and still produce a fantastic authentic product.

The Balvenie Signature which is aged 12 years is an absolute hit. I actually had to travel to Georgetown, DC and purchase it because Virginia’s ABC doesn’t stock it. That means I had to only travel five miles from my office so it’s not like it was a hike. I also picked up a couple of expressions that ABC of VA doesn’t carry also and will talk about them soon.

But back to the Signature. As with all Balvenie products it comes down to Malt Master Dave Stewart to produce their fine expressions and he really hit this one right. A combination of single malt barrels from three different cask types brings it all together. You can call it blended if you like but I do prefer the vatted or married analogy when you are talking about mingling single malts. The nose is very nice and very Balvenie. I quite like the spice of it that is stronger than their Doublewood and the spirit hits the tongue like a grand dive of an Olympian. It lingers nicely and absolutely begs to be drank neat to me.

The only problem I’ve had is seeing the bottle deplete so quickly. Luckily we’re not talking about a $100 product, I think I paid somewhere in the $30-$40 dollar range and can’t wait to get another one.

As an aside, I’ve smoked a couple of cigars with it, tonight was a Park Avenue 44 which kind of got buried by the scotch and then an E.P.Carillo which paired much better.

So to clear it up, this is a great DD or daily drinker. I will buy this product again and will continue my trek through the Balvenie lines. I do have most of the 17 year products now and recently snagged one of the few remaining Islay Casks from the U.K. thanks to a good friend.

Word on the street is the Balvenie boys tour with the Morgan will be coming to the DC area in the near future and I’m really looking forward to it. You can find information on their website.

Until next time,

Cheers!

Glenmorangie Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky – The Original tasting notes

So two reasons why I’ve picked out the ever present Glenmorangie “The Original” to write about today. First, it is in most bars in America that offer a Scotch above JW Black Label and two, the ABC of VA has it on sale this month. The whole line up of Glenmorangie to me is a very pleasant and approachable Scotch whisky line. This may be the whisky you choose to drink and its a great one to try out on your non-scotch drinking buddies.

The Original is ten years old and is a very mature one at that acting much like a twelve. The only thing I think that is truly ten-year about it is its considerable alcohol “burn-off” when nosing it. That being said, I do love the nose, it really jumps up and says here I am, I’m a good whisky. What I also enjoy about it is the mouth-feel. I really love an oily and viscous scotch and this one really delivers. I’d love to pare this one with some seafood…. (damn, I just remembered I have some seafood I need to cook!). Oh well.

The distiller notes/marketing content states that the Original has perfect balance and an alluring complexity. I won’t argue with that. It has an alcohol by volume rate of 43% and like I said earlier, it certainly lets you know on the nose and the first couple of sips. Then it seems more agreeable, and by the way, I do drink scotch neat, meaning without water or ice.

I really like this scotch and will most likely keep a bottle on hand at all times. You can find more info at http://www.glenmorangie.com

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!

The Dalmore 12 year and Alec Bradley Harvest Habano

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The other night I grabbed a healthy dram of Dalmore 12yr as opposed to the Gran Reserva (Cigar Malt) that I usually drink and headed downstairs with a Cohiba Puro Dominicana to spend some time talking to a neighbor. I have spent so much of my Dalmore focus on the Gran Reserva that I have not thought about the 12 year as much. While having a great conversation I started to realize how very polished and good the 12 year is and how well it was pairing with this Cohiba.

Tonight I poured another dram or two of the 12yr and headed downstairs with an Alec Bradley Harvest Habano to enjoy. The Dalmore 12 yr offering is so refined and a bit more elegant than the Gran Reserva in color and palate. The jammy fruit of the Gran Reserva is a bit more reserved in the 12 year and doesn’t linger or demand as much of your attention. The 12yr is a really good sipping whisky and I truly do consider it on equal footing as the Gran Reserva and probably a bit more crowd pleasing. Again, I do drink whisky neat unless it is overly high in ABV and then cut it with pure water.

The cigar, AB’s Harvest Habano really scored with me tonight. This cigar impressed me unlike others have in awhile. Its like a fine peace of leather that you want more of. It has a balanced and pleasant smell and the smoke is not offensive. The flavors are subtle but pleasing and it is definitely a cigar that I smoked down to the nub. This is a cigar I will smoke again, because I do have another one, and would jump at a box if given a good deal. You won’t be disappointed.

Jura Origin 10 year whisky notes

Around the world there are small islands and areas where tourists love to go. Most of these areas are simply visited for their beaches or isolation, Jura is most visited for its whisky. In the packaging of the Jura you start to get the picture of a small (200 people) town that is isolated and as a result shrouded in myth and mystery,which of course carries into the whisky. Words like nestled, slumbering, and bewitching attempt to describe the island and the Jura whisky. It’s very well done and paints a picture very strongly, strongly enough that the whisky has a lot to live up to.

I, like a lot of people, think that most whisky is good somewhere around the 12 year mark and gets better with time, so a 10 year offering interested me. In short, it did not disappoint. The nose and the taste are complex and vivid. There is a certain excitement in the whisky which I think may owe to its youth. Whatever it is, it works quite well and is a very solid, well-built whisky. There are lots of interesting tastes and tinges in this whisky, the mouth never gets dulled with it and you will find yourself pouring a few drams of this one. The last whisky I remembering having this sort of mouth feel and warmth was The Glenrothes Select Reserve.

I have paired this with a couple of cigars that are medium to medium-full and it was very complimentary. This is an agreeable whisky that does not have a lot of peat in it that makes smoking a cigar somewhat challenging if it is not a full bodies cigar.

So do give this one a try, It may be the best 10 year whisky you have ever tried.

La Flor Dominicana Ligero L500 notes #cigars

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Smoked a LFD L500 last night and was left begging for more. It is a ligero leaf series cigar and is in the Cabinet collection.  The L500 is a large oily cigar that has a wonderfully complex and rounded taste. I seriously enjoyed this cigar with some Famous Grouse whisky and thought that if I could make a cigar this is very close to what I would strive for! I am very surprised to find many who do not think this cigar is exceptional. It will become a permanent resident of my humidor and join favorite status which has been extended to the Cain F and the  Cortez of late.

Edradour Natural Cask Strength, Bourbon Cask, a challenging dram

In coming up with some tasting notes and thoughts on this single malt that was bottled at full strength I found myself struggling. My struggle was two parts, first I paid extra for an unknown whisky to be shipped to me from the UK so I expected it to be interesting. Secondly, I found this whisky to be very challenging to categorize. I like to be able to taste a whisky and say, this is what I would do with this whisky (drink with meat, seafood, and I’d smoke it with this or that cigar or type of cigar). After tasting this single malt that was aged solely in a bourbon cask from Kentucky I’m not sure that what I tasted lived up to what I thought it would taste like.
Having tasted a Bushmills Malt 10 that was aged in some Kentucky bourbon casks I probably had more of that feel in mind and what I actually got from the Edradour was not even close. Nosing the whisky is a bit familiar, soft vanilla notes etc… I did not pick up any Highland notes and thought that most of the nose was coming from Kentucky.
I previously said I ordered this product hoping it would be interesting, well, when I tasted it I got what I paid for, only the interesting led to some confusion. This was not a product my palate found familiar. I was actually at a loss, the best I can say is that it has a lot of heat (alcohol burn) and a bourbon mixed with scotch sort of finish. Not what you’d call stellar notes! Like other whiskies or cigars that have left me confused I thought I’d wait, try it again and see what happens.
Well, tonight I poured myself another generous dram and nosed, sipped, same reaction, then it occurred to me, the ABV(alcohol by volume) is fairly high, I might put some water in it. So I did, and then thought, maybe just a little more (I don’t think I’ve ever done this). Bingo. All of a sudden with the alcohol content knocked down I could really start to see the flavors. It all made sense to me and I found myself pleasantly pleased that I had found a fix for this whisky.
By the way, the whisky is a bit viscous or oily. I think this would be a great whisky with pork. I did rather enjoy this alongside a CAO La Traviata maduro and think that it would mate well with full-bodied cigars at the full strength. To me, and I’m not sure I will ever say this again, but I’d knock down the alcohol content with some fresh water and enjoy it with a variety of foods and even some medium bodied cigars. That is, if you are in the UK. I don’t think you will find this one washing up on American soil any day soon.

Pinwinnie Royal Scotch Whisky

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Once in a while, someone pulls out an old whisky that they got from a parent or friend that is so old no one is sure where it came from or what it is. Some time ago a family friend who knew of my interest in scotch offered me an old and odd bottle of whisky. The graphics were obviously dated and the bottle looks like it had aged more than the actual whisky. The name read Pinwinnie Royal Scotch Whisky and still had the advertising/marketing information with it. I was eager to try it and was very surprised to find it a very drinkable whisky.

This Easter I had it again at his house and googled it and promised him I’d find out some information about it. Turns out it’s a long discontinued whisky that was handed over from the original Pinwinnie distiller to Inverhouse and has since been discontinued. From the packaging and marketing, I think it is from the late 1960’s.

The whisky is surprisingly good, very soft and rounded. When I nosed it I thought it may be a Speyside product, I was happy to see I was somewhat correct in that. I actually enjoy drinking it and actually get a kick out of it being a bit odd. I love finds like this one, they are uncommon and for someone who is inquisitive its a fun pursuit to find out information about it. If you have any, enjoy, there isn’t any left! And yes, I do intend on getting the rest of the bottle from him, if not, I will just keep visiting.

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