Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Scotch Tasting

Last Friday I experienced a booze trifecta. Scotch + food + free = trifecta. My friend Todd called me up and had two comp tickets to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society's 15th annual tasting extravaganza downtown at the Rainier Club. These tickets are normally around $150, so this was quite a score.

We didn't know quite what we were getting into other than that there was a buffet dinner and a tasting event. Upon entering the Rainier Club, we were handed a 40+ page pamphlet listing many of the whiskys being sampled (with room for tasting notes), a tasting "snifter" and a token for cigars. Well, well, well, we thought. This is starting off well.

We went straight to Macallan to begin. Nothing was less than 15 years old. They had a 17-year-old aged in oak that was a little too peaty for me. The 18-year-old aged in Sherry oak was more my speed.

So, about this "peaty" taste. As far as I understand Scotch Whisky gets it's nutty, smoky flavor from peat, which is added to the fire as the malted barley is being dried. Scotch is also aged in oak barrels (casks?) that were used for aging bourbon. I am not a fan of the really smoky whiskys, but the Scotch Whiskys that are aged in casks that formerly aged Sherry or Port are really tasty. The smell of smoking peat is quite pleasing and at the tasting, the Laphroig distillery had some peat smoking at their table (see photo below)
There were probably 200 people at the tasting. About 85% were men and there were at least 20 or 30 guys wearing kilts. Every distillery had a table and were pouring 3 or 4 or more whiskys. They expected you to taste each one. Good grief. After our stint at Macallan we needed food. Once we filled our bellies though, we got back to tasting.

Scotch enthusiasts are well, enthusiastic. We met this guy Bruce (below), who was fully decked in his kilt and carrying this HUGE snifter. We saw a few people with these snifters and asked Bruce to tell us more.
This glass is ideal for giving you the full range of aromas when you smell the Scotch before tasting it. So, Todd filled his snifter with the same Scotch Bruce was drinking (Aberlour 16-year) and we smelled from Todd's teeny snifter and then from Bruce's ginormous snifter. There was a HUGE difference. Bruce walked us through the aromas we would smell from the top of the rim to the bottom. I can't remember the exact order but the smells were things like wildflowers, tobacco, leather, fruit and on and on and on.
My tasting notes are pretty sparse, but a few notable tasted stand out: Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban and Nectar d'Or, Aberlour 16-year and Tomatin 1974 30-year. Good gawd the Tomatin was like a revelation. I suppose it goes without saying that they weren't pouring seconds on that one.

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