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

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