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.