Whiskies I have Known
I tried single malt Scotch whiskey in July 2004 when visiting Edinburgh Castle. The whiskey shop in the castle was having a tasting and I tried Mortlach (aged 15 years). What amazing stuff! It evaporated on the tongue, and suddenly, I felt warm even though it was a rainy, cold, windy day. No wonder this was invented in Scotland! I bought some to take home...but not as much as I should have!
When leaving England in August, I bought my first expensive bottle of Scotch, a Balvenie Double Wood (aged 12 years). It's quite good with a really rich and complex taste and smell, but I didn't enjoy it as much as the Mortlach. It doesn't have that same evaporation-and-warmth that I found so amazing in Edinburgh.
For my birthday in September, I bought myself a bottle of McClelland's Lowland single malt. McClelland's seems to have whiskey's for each of Lowland's, Highlands, Islay, and Speyside. (I also bought a bottle of Candian whiskey to try, but I was less than impressed.) This became my favorite bottle of Scotch – it's smooth and has an aftertaste that lasts approximately forever. I also bought myself a copy of Jim Murray's 2004 Whiskey Bible. I found that the bottles that I had so-far rated no better than 85 on his 100 point scale.
I took the Whiskey Bible with me when Barb and I went on a cruise to Mexico and the Grand Cayman's in November. I figured that I might do well in duty free shops. In Cozumel, I got a bottle of William Grant's Family Reserve for $24, which Jim Murray said is very good and I should ignore all the single-malt-purists. In Georgetown, Grand Cayman, I got a bottle of Glenmorangie Single Highland Malt Scotch Whiskey (10 years old) for $12. Both are ranked as 95's in the Whiskey Bible. The Glenmorangie is good, but a little sharper than I'd like. I'm completely with Jim Murray on the William Grant's! It's just amazing – I like it as much as the McClelland's Lowland. Both have an amazing "nose" – whiskeyphile speak for "smells good!"
I've now tried some others – Dewar's a couple times, Glenfidditch on the cruise. The former was a little whimpy (right taste, but weak nose and not complex or with a long aftertaste), and the latter a bit too sharp and biting for my taste.
December 2004: We went to Blue Mountain, Ontario, to ski, and there was an Irish pub in the (faux) village at the base of the slopes. I decided it was time to try Irish Whiskey. My brother-in-law, Mike, and I went in and asked for a shot of good Irish whiskey. They told us that, for shots, Tullamore Dew was better than Jameson, so we tried that. The nose wasn't nearly as interesting as a good Scotch, and while the taste was good, it wasn't as complex or interesting as a Scotch. I bought a bottle at the duty free leaving Canada, then looked it up in the Whiskey Bible – just a 75/100. Okay, but not stellar.
England Summer 2006
I have tried other whiskies in the two years since I last wrote here. I've learned that I don't like peaty scotch, but I do like Dalhousie. I'm back in England (Blogging: Oxford-Summer-2006), and last weekend in Cambridge, I picked up some scotch samples (miniatures) to try.
- First one: Ancnoc 12 years, a Highland single malt. Powerful nose, slams into you with the first taste, but then the aftertaste is delicious and melts away forever. Not at all fruity, to me, despite the label. I think of honey and oak.
- Sainsbury, the local supermarket, has their own Scotch blend and Irish whisky. Could you imagine "Kroger's Scotch"? Anyway, the Scotch is awful – it's like caramel colored flat beer. The Irish Whisky is quite nice–not complicated, but inviting and warming. I've been enjoying it.
- I've actually been enjoying ales a lot here. Not enjoying many bitters, and I'm not finding a whole lot of draft beer options (at least near me – if I walk across town to the Turf Tavern, there are an amazing range of options), but every store here has dozens of ales (Ales! Not lagers! Woo hoo!) that I've never heard of. Last night, I had a Spitfire and today, one whose name I'm blanking on. Both were downright fruity, which was really a wonderful taste in an ale – almost like a good blanc beer.
Now I'm trying Edradour, 10 year, a highland single malt. It's the smallest distillery in Scotland. The shopkeeper in Cambridge said that it's 7 guys who work 9 months a year and two are named "John." (Go figger.) It's a really, REALLY nice whisky. A fruity nose, a huge complex of flavors at first sip, and a long smoky aftertaste. I'd like it a little more complex in the aftertaste and more tastes I can discern at first sip, but it's still very fun.
Auchentoshan, 10 year, a Lowland Scotch. Not much of a nose–quiet and subtle, with a touch of fruit. Downright fruity (lemony and honey and maybe berry?) and sweet taste! No smoke at all. Long aftertaste and warming. On a cold night of soccer, after Tech loses to UGa in the rain – just what the Dr. ordered.
I'm back in the States now, but brought some back with me, so still tasting some new things.
Bowmore 1992. 12 year, from Islay. Clearest (least amber, almost yellowish) scotch I've ever seen. The nose is light, not overpowering. Clearly of scotch and peat. The taste is peat-y, but much less than other Islay's I've had. It's a long aftertaste, that's more woody than peaty. Very nice – perhaps my favorite Islay scotch.