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.