Friday, December 10, 2010

2010 in review

I set out this year with the goal of holding a dozen tastings, and managed to come very close - merely one short, including the co-ed tasting I ran in August. Big thanks to all the guys who helped out (especially Max) and everyone that participated - 22 different scotch club attendees, and another 15 or so from the co-ed tasting! It couldn't be done without you.

With well-over 60 whiskies tasted this year between scotch club and "private research," I've learned a lot. I research notes pretty seriously before our tastings, and give the guys a write-up on each distillery. It's been a pleasure, and a whole lot of fun, and has given me a pretty good working knowledge of a number of whiskies. I'm going to share the most important things I've learned from the whiskies I've tasted in the past 12 months.

Best whisky: Port Charlotte 6. This is best thing I've drank this year and possibly my favourite of all-time. The only thing that might beat it is the Caol Ila 18 I had with my brother about 5 years ago. Do not pass up a chance at that bottling, because it's hard to say what the next will taste like as it will be done at a different distillery (see below).
Honourable mention: Ardbeg Uigeadail. If I hadn't tried the PC6, this would be the top for sure.

Best Distillery: Bruichladdich. I am amazed to be saying this, as my brother and I tried the 10-year-old about 3 years ago and we hated that bottle. I never hated a bottle of scotch before, or since. However, Max brought back some strange bottling unique to Alberta, which was fantastic. They distilled the Port Charlotte 6 and 7 that are both amazing. And we hit the Octomore, which was absolutely brilliant as well. I figure Jim McEwan must be doing something right!
Honourable mention: Bowmore. Such consistency, and the Tempest this year was brilliant.

Best Value: The Black Grouse. Unavailable here in Quebec, this beautiful bottle runs a mere $33 in Ontario (and less for a litre if you're passing through duty-free). Without knowing, many people would probably think this was quite an expensive single malt, from the Highlands or possibly Islay. It's complex, sweet, slightly smoky and smooth; a complete package.
Honourable mention: Redbreast 12. Damned fine whiskey at $43 for the bottle.

For The Ladies: Cragganmore Distiller's Edition. This was a huge hit at the co-ed tasting I ran, especially among the novice scotch drinkers. If they don't have a taste for the wonders distilled on Islay, then you won't go wrong with this one.
Honourable mention: Ardbeg Uigeadail. For the ladies that have acquired the taste.

Most Disappointing: Alberta Premium 5. With the rave reviews from Jim Murray, maybe I let my expectations run too high. Not a good whisky unless you're planning to mix it with some ginger ale.
Not-so-honourable mention: Old Malt Cask Highland Park 23. Again, maybe I let my expectations run a little too wild...

Worst Value: Glenlivet 21. An expensive bottle with elaborate packaging hiding a mediocre whisky.
Not-so-honourable mention: That Highland Park 23... it wasn't cheap!

Most anticipated for 2011: Well, given the list that Max and I compiled on his trip to Calgary over the holidays, there's a lot of great things to look forward to! Two things that top my list of whiskies that have just recently become available have to be the Port Charlotte 8, which should be just fabulous given the showings of of the 6- and 7-year olds; and the first bottling of Kilchoman, a brand-new Islay distillery established in only 2005. Both will feature in tastings either this month or possibly February.

Slainte and best wishes for 2011!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

December 2010 Tasting

Once again, there was tremendous interest in our December 3rd tasting. Due to a little bit of burnout and scheduling conflicts, we missed a tasting in November. In the new year, I think I will keep the tastings to once every 2 months, I think we'll have more consistent interest and is will be a little less work for me over what will be a busy time. If we somehow end up with an accumulation of bottles, well, maybe we'll organize a little something to take care of the "problem."

Big cheers to Dara for hosting, Max for procurement (again, this time at the LCBO), and to Laurent for his tenth and final scotch club. One of our founding members will be taking a position in Paris (congrats!) and will be sorely missed; we sent him away with a taste of the only Canadian single malt and a couple of Speysides (his favourite region).

Attending: Me, Max, Laurent, Derek, Allard, Dara, Kevin, Norm, Ian M, Joe, Jesse, Stevens, Dave C

Glen Breton Rare 10 (Nova Scotia, Canada)
It was only a matter of time before we got around to tasting Canada's only single malt whisky; the fact that Dave C had a bottle laying around and it was appropriate to send someone out of the country with it convinced us that it was time.

Nose: Strong bite, but complex - herbal, floral and almost perfume-like aromas over honey.
Palate: Smooth and a touch sweet, maybe a little ginger. A bit lacking, but completely unique as far as anything I've ever tasted.
Finish: Woody, but not unpleasantly so. Herbal/floral character returns.
Overall: A unique whisky with interesting character; if it reminds me of anything, it would be the P&M from Corsica. Worth trying, but more on a novelty basis. 8/10.

Mortlach 13 (Speyside)
An old friend of mine (and Max & Norm) brought a bottle of the 16 over a couple years ago, and we found it to be fantastic. Max was all over this when I gave him the shortlist of whiskies for this month. This one was bottled exlcusively for the LCBO, so it was nice to have a taste of this rare whisky.

Nose: Some heavy alcohol and esters over a nice grain background, hints of vanilla.
Palate: Smooth arrival and soft mouthfeel. Sweet with malts and a touch herbal.
Finish: A little wood coming through before some serious alcohol takes over. Lacks subtlety.
Overall: A little water did wonders to this in my opinion (though not Laurent's). Once it clouded up a little, the malts got bigger and sweeter, the wood was longer and richer. Went from a solid 8 to an 8.5-9/10.

Glenrothes 1985 (Speyside; 2005 bottling)
The Glenrothes is coveted by blenders and single malt lovers alike, it has a smooth character and is aged mostly in sherry casks. I was pretty excited for this bottle, the taste of the Select Reserve I had at the Black Watch tasting had whet my appetite for their single malt.

Nose: Smooth and rich. Big sherry notes, a bit nutty.
Palate: Fantastic arrival. Berries and grapes over a nutty background. Sweet, smooth and wonderful.
Finish: Beautiful. Archetypal Speyside. Nothing dry, smooth to the point of almost lacking character.
Overall: Maybe not as fat and juicy as the Glenfarclas 25, but a fantastic showing. Classic Speyside quality. 9-9.5/10

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

October 2010 Tasting

Our October meeting was held on the 22nd, once again hosted by stalwarts Max and Pat, whose apartment is rapidly becoming more or less our home. Thanks so much for the hospitality, guys. A big cheers to Mark, who enjoyed his tenth tasting tonight and his 32nd whisky with the club.

Max also distinguished himself once again in procurement, picking up three whiskies in Calgary that all looked pretty fantastic. Some big Highlands and Islays, all bottled at cask strength around 55%. Without a full roster of guys, some ended the evening somewhat worse for the wear. Bad enough that the tasting notes got a bit lost for about a month... Still, a great tasting overall with big, ballsy whiskies. And some experimental habanero cheese that burned the crap out of all of our tongues as well...

Attending: Me, Max, Mark, Laurent, Derek, Allard, Norm, IanM, Pat, Dave C

Edradour 16 (Highland)
Probably Scotland's smallest distillery, Edradour has only 2 employees and distills about 90 000 litres per year. I'd never tried anything from this distillery before, something that happens to me less and less these days. I wasn't sure what to expect, but had been recommended this distillery by a cute waitress once, and so had high hopes.

Nose: A bit spicy. Some wood, great berry and cherry-type flavours.
Palate: First sip is lovely, but it starts to get rough - some good toffee and subtle wine notes are washed out by a big mess of alcohol, ester, and ketone.
Finish: Woody, a bit of acetone. Some nice flavours, but big alcohol feel doesn't make it flow too smoothly.
Overall: Mediocre at best. The worst part is that the first sip or two actually taste fantastic, and things quickly go awry. Probably would have been a similar story with the waitress. 8/10

Springbank 16 Oloroso Finish (Highland)
Another distillery I hadn't encountered, Springbank is a family-run establishment and the last surviving still of Campbeltown. This bottling was exclusive to Kensington Wine Market, they bought the contents of an Oloroso cask and had it bottled and shipped over. Another cask strength with no chill filtering.

Nose: A little Bowmore character over some big wine notes. Huge sherry, maybe some spice in the back?
Palate: Great wine and and malt flavours: fat and rich. Touch of smoke and phenol towards end. Just fantastic.
Finish: Some Bowmore phenol here, too. Big and juicy.
Overall: What a great sherry-finished whisky should be - almost succulent. Great complexity and balance with some peat bubbling through all those great sherry flavours. 9/10

Bowmore Tempest (10-year-old, Islay)
An Islay that has escaped the tastings so far, Max and I were looking forward to this as we're big fans of the 12-year-old. This is also a rare bottle, with only one shop in Canada selling it. We're not likely to tire very soon of Max's Calgary visits.

Nose: Big toffee and a little citrus over Bowmore's signature (Murray calls it "Fisherman's Friend") aroma.
Palate: Amazing mouthfeel. Thick, rich and oily. Big toffee before the signature distillery flavours take over. Near-perfection marred by a touch of acetone towards the end.
Finish: A little raw, but complex and satisfying. Lingering toffee, iodine and phenol laid over subtle oakiness.
Overall: A great expression from one of my favourite distilleries. Huge character, incredible arrival, really just a fantastic whisky altogether. Between 9 and 9.5/10

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

September 2010

Our September 24th tasting took place at Max's, where we profited from his fine procurement skills. Another trip to Calgary's Kensington Wine Market saw us hoping to pick up a rare repeat whisky along with some of its siblings - the Port Charlotte 5, 6 and the 7-year-old we tried back in March. Sadly, the 5-year-old was no longer available, so we tried our palates with another one from the same distillery: the Bruichladdich Octomore.

This was our first stab at a "horizontal" tasting, where all the whiskies come from the same distillery. The first run of Port Charlotte was distilled at Bruichladdich on Islay; and all three of them since they came under new management. All are bottled at a cask strength of over 60%, meaning we more than got our money's worth in terms of "bang for the buck." Oddly, a lot of us found these strong, young whiskies had great character that wasn't improved by water at all.

Joe and Jesse both attended their 5th tasting (16 and 15 whiskies sampled, respectively) and newcomers Dave C and Peter seemed to enjoy themselves. Many thanks to Max and Pat for hosting; and another cheers to Max for a fine procurement - these were 3 top-tier whiskies, although if you didn't love the Islays, it might have been a tough night.

Attending: Me, Max, Mark, Dara, Derek, Allard, Norm, Joe, Jesse, Stevens, Pat, Ardeshir, Peter, Dave C.

Port Charlotte 7
As mentioned, we tried this back in March and it was very well-remembered by myself, Max, Allard, Joe and Stevens... the other lads had heard about it and were pretty stoked to have another shot at it.

Nose: There's that toffee/caramel, spice, smoke... everything. Yum.
Palate: Sweet, smoky, balanced and almost a hint of bacon in there. Just a fantastically complex and balanced whisky.
Finish: Chewy peat, huge phenol and nice oak background. Long, complex and beautiful.
Overall: As good as remembered, meaning among the best whiskies I've ever had. 9.5/10

Port Charlotte 6
Another gem from Port Charlotte. Even better than the 7, which was a surprise - I didn't think it got much better than the 7. The overwhelming favourite of the night.

Nose: Fantastic. Great sweetness; the peat blends well into complex malt sugars with big alcohol notes.
Palate: Sweeter than the 7-year-old, maybe some citrus as well. Complex and beautiful as the peat eases into the fore.
Finish: Fantastic peat, mouth-watering, rich, complex and chewy. Fuck yeah.
Overall: What a whisky. Big flavours, big character, incredibly well-balanced and just downright amazing. Did I mention AMAZING? A must-have for Islay lovers. 9.5 or 10 on the 10-point scale.

Bruichladdich Octomore
Supposedly the most heavily-peated scotch ever made (at the time) with a whopping 131 ppm phenol. At 5 years old and something like 64% alcohol, I wasn't sure what to expect from this beast. I attempted making a 131 ppm phenol solution in the lab to compare this two, but I couldn't get a concentration on the Tris-saturated bottle we use for DNA extractions... but this definitely lived up to expectations.

Nose: Like a phenol/alcohol solution from the lab, with some interesting citrus notes.
Palate: A little hot and sweet with the enormous alcohol content, but then balanced and complex flavours have a go 'round before the phenol takes over.
Finish: Nothing complex or layered here, just fantastic phenol goodness.
Overall: Despite the high-phenol warnings, this is a complex and well-balanced scotch, truly a pleasure even at 64%. Not for those loving a mellow whisky. 9.5/10

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Quiet summer?

From the blog, you would think that it would have been a quiet month or two. I assure you it hasn't been, with 15 whiskies tasted in the last 5 weeks. I didn't really preoccupy myself in taking proper notes for them all, but I'll mention the standouts as I get around to them.

A blasphemous, but strangely enjoyable co-ed tasting was held Friday August 13, with mainly colleagues from work. Scotch Club regulars included myself, Kevin, Laurent, Ian M, Jesse and Rich; a total of 22 people participated in the tasting. A great time was had by all, and the women raised the tone of the discussions significantly. For the $20 admission, tasters got an ounce of An Cnoc 12, Cragganmore Distiller's Edition, Dalwhinnie 15, Talisker 10, and Lagavulin 16. A big thanks to Laurent with the help in the procurement and to Carine for generously hosting the event.

The important lesson here was that the vast majority of the 10 or so female tasters enjoyed the Cragganmore the most. So speaking broadly, if your girl isn't sure whether she likes scotch, start her on something sherried and not too smoky - a Macallan, much of the Diageo Distiller's Edition series, maybe a Mortlach or a Glenrothes. I felt truly blessed as we finished up the tasting with the Lagavulin; more than a couple of ladies didn't take such a strong liking to it and I gallantly allowed them to divest themselves of the offending spirit in my own glass.

Then on September 17th, in a highly-anticipated event Stevens invited us along for, a tasting was hosted by his stepfather Claude and the 78th Fraser Highlanders at the Black Watch Armory. A spectacular selection of 10 whiskies were on offer, accompanied by appetizers and excellent company. Scotch club regulars included myself, Stevens, Allard, Nick and Joe.

The venue was really quite impressive, but was overshadowed by the selection: Yamazaki 12, The Black Grouse, Black Bush, Glenkinchie 12, The Peat Monster, Bowmore Legend, Glenrothes Special Reserve, Old Pulteney 12, Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, and Highland Park 12. About a half-ounce was served of each for the incredible bargain of $40, with proceeds to St-John's Ambulance. There was even a raffle with prizes including single malts! A big thanks, congratulations and slainte! to Claude for a well-run and truly impressive tasting.

Real standouts included my first tasting of a Glenrothes and the Bowmore Legend. The Glenrothes impressed with big, nutty and smooth Speyside flavours; the Legend turned out a very respectable showing in the "affordable Islay" category. The Peat Monster lived up to its name and I found it reminiscent of the Laphroaig Quarter-Cask; I can see it making an appearance at Scotch Club one day.

We go back to what should be a monthly routine with a big Bruichladdich tasting next week, taking me to some 18 whiskies in 6 weeks - 19 if you count the Snow Grouse Dara kindly brought back over for me from Europe!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

July 2010 Tasting - Blends

Our July 23rd tasting proved to be quite a popular event, with a full 12 people attending. We had a couple bottles in reserve that had been sitting for 2-3 months: a Corsican whisky that Laurent searched out in France in May, and bottle Stevens picked up at a duty-free not long after that. With 2 bottles of blended whisky in hand, only $90 spent, and a full roster, I looked through the SAQ site to see how to best spend the rest of our budget. Max and I thought it might be fun to go with a selection of blends, and so the idea of a "blend night" was born...

Knowing the dangers of a 4-bottle scotch club, we nonetheless forged bravely ahead into a tasting we knew would be quite painful. Thanks go out to Stevens and Laurent for procurement (and patience!) and Max & Pat for hosting; cheers to Max for our 10th "official" event and to Ian M for attending 5 consecutive tastings since his first invite in March.

Attending: Me, Max, Mark, Laurent, Dara, Derek, Allard, Ian M, Joe, Jesse, Nick, Pat

The Black Grouse
Made by the same guys that do The Famous Grouse, I had tried this before on a trip overseas when I read it was a good and inexpensive blend with a nice peat quality. I resolved to have someone pick up a bottle for scotch club on their next voyage out of the country to taste with the club as an example of how great a blend can be. Everyone I've introduced to this scotch has enjoyed it thoroughly, and it was rated #1 on the night (albeit by a fairly narrow margin). It's now available in Ontario for $33/750 ml, making it the best buy in whisky. Period.

Nose: Pleasant and balanced, with sweetness and malt overlying pure and beautiful peat smoke.
Palate: Malty caramel with a little spice. Beautiful smoky notes in the back. Light phenol is enough to be heard but not overwhelm.
Finish: Smooth, sweet and gentle. Lingering peat over great oaky tones. Absolutely beautiful.
Overall: If your friends like whisky, keep a bottle of this around at all times. They will thank you. A magnificent whisky for magnificent price. Slightly over the 9/10 mark.

Ballantine's 17
I don't mind me a Ballantine's, and drank a fair amount of their Special Reserve before I discovered the Black Grouse. Being that the 17 is an award-winning whisky that Jim Murray was pretty excited about (13-18 Year Old Blended Scotch of 2010), I wanted to include this in the tasting. A strong showing, but it narrowly missed the favourite of the night to a bottle less than half its price.

Nose: Oaky and good vanilla. Slight traces of sherry and peat.
Palate: Sweet, smooth and silky. Honey, oak, a dash of phenol and a pile of malt.
Finish: Smooth, warming and tons of rich malty flavour.
Overall: A great scotch, but a little lacking in character. Great balance and complexity but maybe TOO subtle. Just short of 9/10.

Usquaebach Reserve Blended Scotch Whisky
This started popping up on the SAQ site a couple of months ago. An expensive blend, I had never heard of it and found nothing substantial about it anywhere on the net or in the Whisky Bible, either. Apparently the illness of the brand owner made it unavailable for years, and it has recently come back on the market. Between the lack of information, the way it fit our budget, and the amazingly cool clay decanter it comes in, we had plenty of great reasons to try it.

Nose: On the fruity side - apple, pear and ester qualities. Nicely balanced by a touch of smoke.
Palate: Smooth with honey and a bit of bitter, dry oak. Pleasant and balanced.
Finish: Beautifully smooth, but short and lacking.
Overall: Like a new nerdy guy at work treading around lightly trying not to offend anyone. Doesn't cause any friction but is ultimately a bit boring. No more than 8.5/10

P&M Blend Supérieur (France)
A little-known distillery from the island of Corsica distills this whisky from beer mash and ages it in French oak, some that has previously contained various eaux-de-vie produced at the same distillery. Procured by Laurent, we thank him for keeping it untouched on his shelf for so long!

Nose: Surprising. Perfume, flowers, citrus and spice. Like nothing else in whisky.
Palate: Sweet, fruity and distinct oakiness. Like a strange liqueur that probably exists somewhere but I've yet to try.
Finish: A little hot with some grain liquor quality and strong chestnut flavour.
Overall: A unique whisky that shocks and thrills with unexpected flavours and tremendous complexity. Far from great, but certainly interesting. 8/10.

Monday, July 5, 2010

June 2010 Tasting

Just barely managed to squeeze a tasting into June, as I was trying to plan around a visit from an old friend and scotch lover and did something seemingly insane - plan Scotch Club for a Wednesday night. However, it was June 30th, the day before Canada Day. With most everybody off work on Thursday, we were free to celebrate with a highly-rated Canadian rye alongside a couple of fine single malts. Big cheers to Dara for hosting despite the arrival of his parents that evening!

We had a surprisingly good promised turnout, and I (perhaps foolishly) bought for 13 people attending. Some of these had last-minute issues - Canada Day is Moving Day here in Montreal, and Norm's movers screwed him over; Dara's dad was more or less dragged out by his wife - and another might have been a flat mistake on my part. As a result, several of the men put in more than the $30 we normally charge. Thanks guys, your contributions will be noted and some sort of bonus will make its way back to you.

Also thanks again to Erin for some great baking, and the ladies of Book Club for putting up with us afterwards at L&B. A last cheers to BetterMax, we unknowingly did our 10th event this night - 29 whiskies tasted and counting!

Attending: Me, Max, Mark, Kevin, Laurent, Dara, Derek, IanM, Stevens, Barry

Alberta Premium 5 (Canada)
Max and I were slightly sceptical about this whisky, being more fans of scotch than rye. However, Jim Murray talks about this whisky like ambrosia - statements along the lines of 'should be regarded as a national treasure' or words to that effect; and rating it an incredible 94.5. We decided that this was a better buy than the Glen Breton single malt whisky from Nova Scotia, and gave it a shot. At $30, why not?

Nose: Slightly sweet with complex sugars - maple and molasses maybe. Distinct grain liquor smell, though.
Palate: Sweet, nutty (one taster had coconut, too). Quite smooth and pleasant up front. Maybe some ketones towards the back.
Finish: Pure grain liquor, like a cheap vodka. Nasty, and seemingly immune to the addition of water or ice. Maybe some Canada Dry?
Overall: Whatever Jim Murray has to say, and despite a wholly pleasant palate, I wasn't a big fan. I compared it today to a girl who hasn't yet learned that teeth are no good in a blowjob. Sure, you enjoy it to a certain extent, but it's also painful and difficult to get off. Many guys didn't even want their second round. 6.5/10.

Lagavulin Distiller's Edition (Islay, no age statement)
Barry, who isn't normally a peat fan, was given the chore of picking up our 3rd bottle from the SAQ (sadly, he didn't get to London's shops before leaving). I think the promise of the sherry balanced with peat intrigued him, and I admit to wanting to try this expression badly. Lagavulin 16 is one of my favourite whiskies, and my discovery that I really enjoy heavily-sherried Islays - Ardbeg Uigeadail and Port Charlotte 7, for example - had me anticipating this pretty eagerly.

Nose: A little winey sweetness up front, and then big phenolic peat flavours. Lovely.
Palate: Sweet, smooth and calm at the outset. Maybe even weak. Builds to some serious phenol heights in a very enjoyable ride.
Finish: No lack of it. Loads of peat, but without that sorta chewy, lip-smacking bit that the best have. Something else I couldn't quite identify, but quite pleasant.
Overall: Good, maybe even great, but fell short of the high expectations set by the aforementioned whiskies. At the same price tag ($145 at the SAQ), you can get the Ardbeg Uigeadail, and get soooo much more bang for your buck. 9/10.

Talisker 25 (Highlands - Islands)
Another great buy by Max at Binnie's. $210 in Chicago compared to $400 and change at the LCBO. We were really looking forward to a bottle that broke our price record (previously about $190 for the Highland Park 23 and the Convalmore 21) and tied our age record (25 years, tied with a Glenfarclas). That's right, over $200 and 25 years old. Big pimpin'.

Nose: Strong, the 57% cask-strength bottling really shows up. A little berry, a little woody, a little... aldehyde?
Palate: Sweet and lovely in front, gets washed out by too much water. Quite peppery. Nice little smoke flavours with little in the way of phenol.
Finish: A little bitter with more of that pepper and some good solid wood and smoke flavours.
Overall: A brilliant expression of Talisker. It's smooth like a velvet suit and kicks like a gaudy, heavily-weighted cane. Feel lucky to have had the chance to drink some, but I'd never grab a bottle myself. 9/10.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

May 2010 Tasting

So it finally happened. We finally had such a poor turnout that we couldn't run a full-scale tasting; scheduling it on the Friday of May 24 weekend was maybe a bad idea in retrospect. It was a stretch to get even 8 guys to show up. We decided to scale the tasting back to 2 bottles and 3 rounds each, and indulged in the Caol Ila 12 and the Glenlivet 21 that Mark and Max brought back from Watertown. Then at the last minute, Mark had to back out due to an illness in the family. Still, the 7 of us managed to have a great time and came in on-budget. Thanks to Max and Pat for hosting yet again, we promise to give you guys a break next month. Good times were had by all; a lot of laughing about TB and speculation about what the Habs will do this off-season after their out-of-nowhere playoff run... and no keg this time meant that things weren't so bad the next day.

Attending: Me, Max, Laurent, Ian M, Jesse, Pat, Jason

Glenlivet 21 (Speyside)
Sold in a heavy hardwood case, this is one fancy-looking bottle o' scotch. Felt like maybe they should have spent the extra money on product before we even opened it up. I'm not a big fan of the Glenlivet 12, but was thinking that this should be an entirely different animal after another 9 years in the barrel. This bottle is from the same batch as Jim Murray tastes in the 2010 Whisky Bible, so it was fun comparing our impressions to his knowing it was the same stuff.

Nose: Vanilla, cream, honey. Heavy but imbued with an alcoholic sharpness I didn't appreciate.
Palate: Great arrival. At first I didn't get much fruit - mostly malt and heavy burnt caramel. Silky and smooth. Oddly, on the 3rd ounce, we started tasting some strong banana notes...
Finish: A little raw still, heavy alcohol. Some burnt sugar and that bitter wood you get in the 12-year-old's finish.
Overall: For once, I was completely behind the tasting notes on this one, although I didn't like the mouthfeel as much as Mr. Murray seemed to. Certainly didn't make up for the disappointing finish. 8 or 8.5 on 10.

Caol Ila 12 (Islay)
Full disclosure: Caol Ila is my favourite distillery and this is likely a heavily biased review. The earthy, oily tones of their scotch produce a unique taste that I just love; there is some of it in the Port Charlotte and the Ardbeg Uigeadail we had this spring but it is much stronger in the Caol Ila. This was end up being the overwhelming favourite of the night, with all seven of us rating it higher than the Glenlivet.

Nose: Oh, so good... peat, malt, and that wonderful earthy, oily character.
Palate: Oily, smooth arrival with a gorgeous natural sweetness, then the signature Caol Ila flavours take over - oil, creosote, smoky peat, darkly roasted malt. Salty.
Finish: Nothing dry here - just that sweetness combined with the leftover oiliness and peat. Only wish it could last even longer...
Overall: A fantastic scotch and a steal at US$60. All the guys agreed this was something amazing, like a cute girl who's great in bed and enjoys cooking and cleaning - you want her around the house all the time. 9 or 9.5/10.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Apr 2010 Tasting

I was a little worried about numbers for this tasting - stalwarts Dara, Derek and Allard all took a pass on this one and so did 8 other guys, but I managed to get 11 together for the 16th with the late addition of Rich and newcomer Mood. Kevin pulled into a tie with Mark for second-most Scotch Clubs attended - and 19 whiskies sampled. Then Stevens had to cancel on account of food poisoning, leaving us with 10 total. He missed some great whisky, but as it turns out we were only $5 off-budget. Thanks go out to Erin for a nice spice cake, Max & Pat for hosting, and Max for pouring (usually my job) - I haven't enjoyed a blind tasting since Scotch Club 1.0 back in July!

Attending: Me, Max, Mark, Kevin, Norm, Jesse, Rich, Ian M, Pat, Mood

Penderyn (Wales, no age statement)
Norm brought this back from a conference in Wales, where Penderyn is the only whisky distillery. A nice treat we certainly aren't going to find at the SAQ! Sales began in 2004 of this small-batch whisky, and reviews are favourable although note a high variability between bottlings. It was well-liked, and rated equal to the Oban 14 we had beside it.

Nose: Whole ton of vanilla cream.
Palate: Smooth, slightly woody. Dry and a little bitter.
Finish: Smooth and short, a little herb or wood bitterness.
Overall: A nice whisky, especially at around $50, but not as pleasantly surprising as the $43 Redbreast 12 was last month. Inoffensive but ultimately uninteresting. 7.5 or 8 on 10.

Oban 14 (West Highland)
I haven't tried Oban since I started seriously drinking scotch and was looking forward to Mark bringing this in from Ontario for my less-naive palate to have a go of. While good, I feel like it wasn't all it's cracked up to be - I didn't find it particularly smoky or peaty. Maybe because we had it on the back of the Ardbeg. In any case, this whisky pretty much tied with the Pendryn and over twice the price, and we've had cheaper whiskies rated higher than this $115 bottle.

Nose: Woody, a little smoke with something sweet - custard?
Palate: Smooth, light, slight spice, oak and a little peat.
Finish: Smooth and alcoholic with a good balance of oak, peat and smoke.
Overall: Smooth and light, maybe because of the chill filtering. Easy drinking. It was good but somehow disappointing - like picking up a cute girl and it turns out she has saggy boobs. You don't kick her out, but there's a cloud hanging over the whole affair in your mind. 8/10.

Ardbeg Uigeadail (Islay, no age statement)
I walked into the SAQ with a Glenrothes I'd seen last month in mind, and saw this bad boy, Jim Murray's top whisky of 2009, sitting proudly on the shelf Thursday night. I hesitated over this selection for a while before realizing that Laurent, who has reservations about peat, would be absent for this one. I indulged in a mini-tasting and was blown away - the peat and iodine, the almost medicinal quality of the Ardbeg 10 was present, but tempered by a tremendous balance with a myriad of flavours from the sherry finish. An overwhelming favourite, with 9 of 10 guys rating it #1 of the evening. Shame about the $145 price tag at the SAQ, but it isn't exactly overpriced...

Nose: Sherry and dark fruits, Christmas cake, subtle smoke and phenol.
Palate: Absolutely enormous. Toffee, fruit, wine, and spices giving way to solid earthy, peaty and phenolic flavours. Deep, rich, well-balanced and more complex than quantum physics. Ridiculously smooth and drinkable at 54.2%.
Finish: Rich, spicy, with a lingering, chewy, lip-smacking peaty aftertaste that's just fantastic.
Overall: Holy #$%@. Wow. This is what Port Charlotte wishes it was. One of the 3 best whiskies I've ever had, and possibly a new number one. Between 9.5 and 10 of 10. Wow.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Irish Tasting - March 2010

In honour of St Patrick's and a truly spectacular number of birthdays in the month of March, we sampled two Irish whiskies, chosen somewhat at the last minute, and a fantastic scotch brought from across the pond by a friend of Max's. Thanks to Persian New Year, Dara and Ardeshir had to take a pass, whereas some of our other long-standing members had less interesting reasons. Except Mark, who was building robots. In any case, first-timers Sam, Ian M and Jamie seemed appreciative. Thanks again to Erin, this time for brownies.

Max's new apartment proved an excellent venue for scotch club (thanks to him and Pat, who had a wee taste of everything), and Joe finally managed to successfully identify a couple of whiskies (2/3 - somehow). We got a taste of the Irish, but found not everyone has a taste for the Irish... Laurent wouldn't even touch his second round of Bushmill's. With only 10 guys, I was happy to come in on-budget, and thanks to the "extra" whisky it got awful drunk out towards the end of the 2nd round. Plus we learned what "Frazzles" are. And no, they don't live underground eating the fruits of hard Dooger labour.

Attending: Me, Max, Kevin, Laurent, Allard, Joe, Stevens, Jamie, Sam, Ian M.

Bushmill's 16 (Ireland)
Grabbed at the last minute and mostly selected on the basis of budgetary constraints, the Bushmill's suffered from not having tasting notes prepared for the blind tasting. However, it turned out to be the favourite of the night - although scores were pretty tight. Personally, I wasn't a huge fan - but, unlike Laurent, still enjoyed getting a taste of this "premium" Irish whisky. Finished in Bourbon, Oloroso, and port casks.

Nose: Winey and sweet.
Palate: Spicy, hints of smoke, and something I just couldn't quite put my finger on.
Finish: Sweet but a little dry somehow, long and smooth.
Overall: Not a favourite for me, but a fairly smooth and interesting dram that ranks at least with the Jameson's 18 that I tried not too long ago. Oddly the first round tasted much better than the 2nd, which is normally not the case at all. 8/10.

Redbreast 12 (Ireland)
One of only 2 traditional Irish pot still whiskies on the market, I insisted we try to get a hold of this one for scotch club. I wasn't disappointed, and neither was anyone else as this whisky was ranked 2nd on the night. At $43 for the bottle, this is a whisky with great value and a lot of character. Impressive.

Nose: Cherries, raisins, plums; something creamy.
Palate: Big, smooth and sweet with some spice cake-type notes and dried fruit.
Finish: Short and smooth.
Overall: Wasn't sure what to expect from this whiskey and ended up enjoying it thoroughly. A bit Speyside-ish owing to the fruit notes and smooth character. Great value. 8.5/10.

Port Charlotte 7 Sin an Doigh Ileach (Islay)
I was sceptical about this whisky for two reasons. First, it's made by Bruichladdich, and I'm not a big fan of the 2 expressions I've had from them. The other, of course, was that's only 7 years old and from a brand-new distillery (opened 2002-3 from what I've read and deduced). However, the more I read about it, the more I got excited - the reviews were very positive. At 61%, this dram is more than drinkable, but is best enjoyed a bit diluted.

Nose: Toffee notes, with earth and campfire smoke. Bacon?
Palate: Sweet, with some earthy feel. Well-balanced with strong peat and smoke notes. Rich and complex.
Finish: Rich, sweet and a bit smoky. Long-lasting and chewy.
Overall: Hits the tongue like a good Speyside and rolls down the throat leaving Islay in its wake. The best of several worlds. Instantly cracked my top ten, and improved significantly with a couple drops of water. 9.5/10.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Feb 2010 Tasting

Finally, my posts have caught up with my journal. Our February tasting took place on the 19th at Max & Norm's place (thanks guys!) on Max's last weekend there. As I organized my journal and whisky lists, and out of a raging sense of curiosity, I tallied up all the single-malt scotches I have ever tried more than just a sip or two of. This tasting brought me to 50 different whiskies from 27 different distilleries.

This was one of our best tastings of all-time, second only to Christmas. The two cask strength whiskies (both over 55%) wreaked some havoc on us all the morning after, but all 3 whiskies were hits. Erin again sent some of her great baking over with Kevin, this time fresh cookies. Scotch Club rookie Jesse went 3 for 3 on the blind tasting with great confidence.

Attending: Me, Max, Norm, Mark, Dara, Derek, Kevin, Laurent, Allard, Jesse, Richard.

Glengoyne 12 (Highlands)
Bottled at some 57.2%, this is a powerful whisky that uses an entirely unpeated malt. It's distilled on the Highland line and actually matured in the Lowlands. Grabbed this at the SAQ after a mini-tasting (man, I love mini-tastings at the SAQ), where I found it outscored the Glenlivet Nadurra cask strength.

Nose: Light fruits - pears, apples.
Palate: Some sweetness - fruit, honey, a little caramel. Strong, but not unpleasant, alcoholic aroma over oaky herbals.
Finish: Long, dry, with oak and straw notes.
Overall: Smooth for its strength, this is a nice, light and enjoyable scotch. Good complexity for a 12-year-old. A solid 8.5/10.

Caol Ila Distiller's Edition 1996 (Islay)
We gave the Islays another stab, this time with my favourite distillery. This scotch has much broader appeal than the Laphroaig Quarter-Cask, being finished in Muscat casks and having far less phenol (around 35 ppm). This one was much better-received than the Laphroaig, scoring #1 or #2 on everyone's list. Can't figure out why it's $100 at the LCBO but $130 at the SAQ.

Nose: Some grape over great smoke and peat notes.
Palate: A little grapiness up front giving way to Caol Ila's signature earthy, oily peat smoke. Complex and balanced throughout with a little caramel and spice.
Finish: Long but not especially complex - good smoke and peat.
Overall: This is my favourite distillery, and this was no disappointment to me. It's like your girlfriend in a wig - you like that she's the same girl, but you like that she looks a little different tonight. Tied with Laphroaig Quarter-Cask for #4 and #5 on my all-time list. 9.5/10.

Convalmore 21 1984 (Speyside)
Bottled 2006 by Gordon & McPhail
We let Max go wild at an enormous liquor store in Chicago with $200 for a single bottle. He was like a kid in a candy store, and to his credit, picked up this beauty from Convalmore, which we'd never heard of. This distillery closed in 1985, so it was fun to get a taste of something we'll likely never see again. Another cask-strength bottling, this one weighed in at 57.1% and managed to be quite smooth despite that.

Nose: Grape and cherry, bright alcohol.
Palate: Caramel and dark fruits, going to oak and malts, with a hint of smoke. Round and balanced.
Finish: Alcoholic, some bitter oak and quite dry.
Overall: Easy to see why this was used so extensively in blends - nothing spectacular, but absolutely nothing unpleasant. It's nice, but I felt like the price tag had more to do with novelty value than quality. 8.5 of 10.

Jan 2010 Tasting

I made the best New Year's resolution ever this year: to drink more scotch. Specifically, I wanted to try holding a tasting every month. Scotch Club had really taken off by this point, with people clamouring for one of the 12 spots. There is an unofficial tier system where the founding crew of me, Max, Norm, Dara, Derek, Laurent, Kevin and Mark always get first dibs on the spots, followed by our other top tasters - Allard, Ardeshir, Joe, Nick and Jason.

This tasting, held at Dara's on Jan 29th, filled up immediately. Some of the guys from Christmas were pretty upset when they heard there were no spots open for this tasting - Jean-Martin offered me double the admission fee if I would kick someone out. Special thanks to Kevin's wife, Erin, for baking us some sweet snacks.

Attending: Me, Dara, Derek, Max, Mark, Kevin, Laurent, Ardeshir, Allard, Nick, Joe, Jason.

Highland Park 23 1984 (Highlands - Islands)
"Old Malt Cask" bottled 2007 by Douglas Laing & Co.
Our first crack at a private bottling, the "Old Malt Cask" series are whiskies from single casks purchased from various distilleries and bottled at 50% without chill filtration or colouring. I was expecting big things from this bottle, being such a Highland Park fan. At $190, this is still our most expensive scotch to date as of this writing. It was liked, but didn't seem to be a standout for most. The alcohol was a bit strong, and water didn't improve the flavour profile at all. Max tried it on the rocks (the lack of chill filtration was immediately apparent), and pronounced it to be fantastic.

Nose: Vanilla, honey, some background peat and wood. Great balance.
Palate: Malted sugar and honey at first, becomes herbal and woody with a little peat in the back. Smooth.
Finish: Heavy oakiness, nice peat presence. Very dry. Long, but not especially complex.
Overall: A little like dating a high-maintenance girl who's no good in the sack. A good scotch but not worth the price tag. I put it between 8.5 and 9/10; whereas the Highland Park 12 is a solid 9 IMO.

Glenfiddich 18 (Speyside)
There's a lot of scotch drinkers that turn their nose up at Glenfiddich, because we all outgrew the 12-year-old at some point and wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole anymore. I wouldn't have either, until Laurent gave me a taste of this at the pub. I agreed it was far better than the 12, and we also agreed that strangely, that one was better than the bottle we had tonight. Dara and I had a taste of this beside the Glendfiddich 21 at the SAQ the night before, and found it actually superior.

Nose: Fantastic. Wine, grapes and dried fruits. A little oak but subtle.
Palate: Mellow fruitiness gives way to solid oak. Quite smooth.
Finish: Huge, solid oakiness characteristic of Glenfiddich, but smoother and warming in this expression. Little complexity.
Overall: Honestly, I remember this having more dried fruit flavour in the finish that came off a lot richer and more satisfying. 8.5/10.

Laphroaig Quarter-Cask (Islay)
Max and I are both big Islay fans, and we thought that it was time to introduce the guys to peat. My brother and I picked up a bottle of this at Christmas, and found it to be absolutely spectacular - and a great bargain at $65. Beware, though, as this is a big fat nasty peat-packing monster. I've read in some places it has around 65 ppm phenol, and when you have a dozen glasses of it under your nose, you smell it pretty well. It was at least an educational experience for some (Kevin hated this one), but it received the most votes for favourite of the night.

Nose: Phenolic peat smoke punches you in the face. Jim Murray describes it as "a crofter's fireplace," which makes me think those guys (whatever they do) must have short lifespans.
Palate: Just a touch of sweetness up front (caramel or toffee; without coffee or chocolate notes) before an exquisitely well-balanced shitstorm of peat, smoke, and oak goes slam-dancing on your tongue. Salty.
Finish: Tons of peat and oak blending into a chewy, never-ending finish. Astounding.
Overall: This is a whisky with enormous character, but absolutely no middle ground that people will either love or hate. I'm a lover, and rate this at #4 or #5 on my all-time list. 9.5/10.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Christmas Tasting

My brother is also a scotch lover, and I love to torment him with tales of the great whiskies we get the chance to sample. He was visiting over Christmas, and likely would have murdered me if I hadn't organized a tasting while he was here. Because of the season (and our department's party the same evening), many of our stalwart members couldn't attend, but we got a full twelve guys for the first time and had a now-legendary tasting with three of the best whiskies we've ever done. Thanks to Joe and Max D for taking hosting duties. I did actually manage to hold onto some notes from this tasting, or at least generate them the next day.

Stevens was a big hit in his kilt, and Jason's cigars were thoroughly enjoyed beside the Lagavulin. However, cigars are best enjoyed outside and we learned that sitting outside in the winter can really deaden the flavours of a great scotch.

Attending: Me, Max (B), Mark, Allard, Norm, Max D, Joe, Jeremy, Jason, Stevens, Jean-Martin, Jean-Francois.

Talisker Distiller's Edition 1996 (Highlands/Islands)
I like the Talisker 10 a lot and wasn't sure what to expect from this sherry-finished expression. I'm not a big fan of wine, and I'm not usually into sherry-finished whiskies as much as their "unsherried" brethren. This is one was well-liked by everyone though, and would have been a favourite of the night if the rest of the selection hadn't been so spectacular.

Nose: Sweet and fruity, loads of the sherry finish.
Palate: Lots of fruity character, with some bitter chocolate.
Finish: Long and smooth, Talisker's signature smoke without peat is here.
Overall: The sherry might have done the Talisker some favours, but I'll need to taste them side-by-side one day to be sure - and that's going to be a great day. 9/10

Glenfarclas 25 (Speyside)
My brother and I had the 15-year-old a couple years ago, and we were slightly giddy when we picked this one up - when it was bought, this was both the oldest and most expensive whisky I'd ever laid my hands on. We've since bought more expensive whiskies for the club, but this is still the oldest. It was a big favourite on the night for those that don't prefer the Islays.

Nose: Sweet, creamy vanilla
Palate: A bit of peat in the background under big, creamy, fruity flavours.
Finish: Long and complex. Absolutely amazing.
Overall: This whisky was just stunning. I described it at one point as like eating a piece of cake. Some whiskies suffer when they're too long in the barrel, but this wasn't one. #3 on my all-time list as of this writing. 9.5/10

Lagavulin 16 (Islay)
I love Islays and Lagavulin is one of the best. I first had this whisky when I was about 21 and it was a major reason I began getting interested in scotch. This was also a very well-received whisky, and is a great one to bring to novice tasters. It illustrates perfectly the peaty, smoky characters of Islay whiskies without being (too) overpowering.

Nose: Phenol, smoke and herbs.
Palate: Heaps of phenolic peat, but well-balanced with a malty sweetness and great smoke flavour.
Finish: My tasting notes from the evening read "me love you long time, baby!"
Overall: In my opinion, this is one of the great whiskies that make life worth living (to quote Jim Murray). #2 on my all-time list. 9.5/10

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Scotch Club 2.0

Graciously hosted by Dara, the Oct. 23rd tasting was almost our first full-scale scotch club. Eleven guys this time, with 3 guys from Iran, which in turn led to a fair amount of racist commentary - which is one of the things scotch club is about. As long as everyone's being insulted equally, it's healthy.

Kevin, having done a degree in Kentucky, was kind enough to introduce us to some fine bourbon whisky in addition to our normal selection of scotch whiskies. I was very happy to have a taste of some good bourbon, as opposed to the Jack Daniels which comprises most of what we know north of the border. It wasn't very popular, but sampling different whiskies is what scotch club is about. That and racial slurs.

Attending: Me, Max, Dara, Derek, Mark, Kevin, Laurent, Ardeshir, Nick, Houman, Cameron.

My notes are again missing from this tasting - 4 bottles left us all in rather poor shape. This night is the reason that we stick to 3-bottle tastings.

Woodford Reserve (USA, bourbon)
Not being a scotch, I approached this whisky without any strategy or expectation. I learned a fine bourbon tastes a bit like cognac, a lot of very sweet and fruity notes. Tons of roasted sugar flavours from the charcoal. Personally, I quite enjoyed it; it wasn't a big success with the crowd. I can see how one of these on the rocks would be part of a great reward for a hot day's work well-done.

Cragganmore 12 (Speyside)
My notes on this are lost to the toll of the ages and drink. Suffice to say I'm not a huge fan and rate this young Speyside around a 7.5/10. Has a lot of character though, and tastes like it could be interesting after another couple years in the barrel.

Benriach 16 (Speyside)
We ended up with this bottle by virtue of it costing the closest to the $85 budget I had for our last bottle. I started with a different bottle at $87.50 and brought it to the counter, only to have it ring up as $67.50. The guy working the counter had a great laugh when I told him it simply wasn't expensive enough and took it back to the shelves... given an $85 whisky budget, I'll spend $85 every single time.

Nose: Very nice, dark fruits mixed with vanilla.
Palate: Strong up front, with nice vanilla notes in the middle. Very big.
Finish: Strong and complex - wood, smoke, peat - the works!
Overall: This whisky was more than a pleasant surprise. I haven't had the chance to try most of the expansive selection of Benriach products I've seen at our liquor store lately, but this whisky gave me more than a little interest in this distillery. Between 8.5 and 9 out of 10.

Highland Park 18 (Highland/Island)
Highland Park is one of my favourite distilleries, mostly for their 12-year old which is a great whisky and a bargain. I was really looking forward to the 18-year-old and, although it's a fantastic whisky, wasn't quite what I was hoping for.

Nose: Extremely rich, toffee dominates.
Palate: Smooth, with more of the toffee. Lacks much of the character of the 12-year-old.
Finish: Long, rich and sweet. Absolutely gorgeous.
Overall: Smooth, rich and beautiful, but this one had lost a lot of the dried fruit and nutmeg/cinnamon/clove flavours that make the 12 such an amazing whisky. Closer to 8.5 than 9 out of 10.

Scotch Club 1.0

Our first try at a full-scale tasting took place July 17th 2009 at Max & Norm's place. We managed to get 12 men to sign up, but three had to bail out, leaving us a bit in the lurch. The 9 of us went ahead with the tasting, and so got a little extra whisky in the deal. This was the only time we had any leftovers, and I learned Saturday around lunch in a drunken voicemail that Mark and Max were holding scotch club 1.1 with said leftovers, which apparently did wonders for their hangovers.

Attending: Me, Max, Norm, Dara, Derek, Kevin, Mark, Laurent, Allard.

Yamazaki 18 (Japan)
Max and I had been hearing about this Japanese distillery for quite some time from a friend in London, and we were more than a little sceptical. Max came back from a trip to the US with a bottle of Yamazaki 12, and we found it to be absolutely spectacular. We were both really excited to try the 18-year-old, and to showcase a great whisky from Japan, of all places.

The whisky went alright with the group - one comment was "Those Japs make a mean whisky. Who knew?" Max and I were crushed, though, as we found it far inferior to the 12-year-old expression and about twice the price. Another lesson learned: older whisky isn't better by definition.

Nose: Amazing. Lots of wine and fruit. Rich.
Palate: Started smooth, but then goes bitter and woody. A little smoke in the back.
Finish: All big bitter wood and burnt sugar.
Overall: One of the best-smelling whiskies I've ever run across, but this one has been too long in the barrel. Woodier than me in the morning. No better than 7.5/10.

Macallan Fine Oak 17 (Speyside)
One thing about the Macallans is that they are smooth. I've yet to sample a Macallan I didn't like, and this is the smoothest expression I've had to date. Went over very well with the group, especially the scotch novices. Derek picked this up at the duty-free, and a good thing too - this one is around $170 at the SAQ.

Nose: Tons of vanilla. Fantastic.
Palate: Incredibly smooth. Lots more of the vanilla, maybe some honey.
Finish: Sweet and smooth, but quite short.
Overall: This whisky is like a pretty girl without any brains. Sure, I'd go out with her once, but the lack of substance and character wouldn't bring me back for a second date. Around an 8 or 8.5.

Aberlour 15 Sherry Finish (Highlands)
The least expensive whisky of the night, picked up by Dara at the duty-free. I didn't expect much from this one, and was as pleasantly surprised by it as I was disappointed by the Yamazaki. This was the best-scoring whisky of the night, once again demonstrating that expensive isn't necessarily better.

Nose: Sweet, with raisin and figs.
Palate: Rich, complex and satisfying, there's a bit of everything in here.
Finish: Disappointingly short.
Overall: One of the better sherry-finished whiskies I've had, this was round and rich like an overweight heiress. Just wished the finish was a little longer. A solid 8.5/10.

Scotch Club 0.1

"Scotch Club" was an idea I had floating around in my head for a couple years, and it was at a friend's birthday party that I realized I knew enough people to actually pull it off. I love whisky, and I know a lot of guys love the idea of whisky - and if it weren't so damn expensive they'd love the reality of whisky on a much grander scale.

So we started in May 2009 by getting about a half-dozen guys together with 2 bottles of Bowmore, just to get a feel for how a larger-scale tasting would work. We learned some valuable lessons at this event: firstly, eat before - and not during - the tasting. Secondly, most of us agreed that the younger (and less expensive) 12-year-old was significantly better than the 15. Thirdly, keep a supply of water, ice and beer on hand. Lastly, take your tasting notes early in the night and put them in a safe place.

Since I didn't follow that last piece of advice, we don't have the notes from this first stab at a scotch tasting. But I'm still a big, big fan of the Bowmore 12 and consider it one of the best values in single malt scotch whisky.

Attending: Me, Max, Norm, Dara, Derek
Served: Bowmore 12, Bowmore 15 "Darkest Islay"