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.