Thursday, March 31, 2011

March 2011 Tasting

One of the dangers of not spitting out your 6 ounces of scotch after tasting it is that you tend to get a little drunk. You might get drunk enough to, for example, pass out or break a glass. Or even lose the tasting notes. Anything can happen. Frankly I'm surprised it hasn't happened before; and a damn shame it is because we tasted some real crackers in February: Ardbeg Supernova, Ardbeg Corryvreckan, and the Glenmorangie 18. The Corryvreckan was defintely the star of the evening, monstrous character and staggering complexity. Fantastic whisky, a 9.5 or 10 for sure.

The March 25th tasting finally knocked off a whisky that had again been haunting Max: the Glen Isla 29. Ably hosted by Dara, we ended up with a spectacular lineup and all the whiskies were hits. Cheers to Max and Mark for procurement, Dara for hosting, Stevens for pouring (haven't had a blind tasting for a while), and Ian M on Scotch Club #10 (of the last 11). Less so for Nick on #5 of 15.

Attending: Me, Max, Mark, Derek, Allard, Dara, IanM, Norm, Joe, Jesse, Stevens, Nick, Rich, Camran, Mitch

The Peat Monster (Compass Box, no age statement)
I tried this at the Black Watch tasting back in September and was pretty impressed. American John Glaser has some highly unorthodox ideas about whisky and it makes the Compass Box lines pretty unique. It's a real shame you can't get this in Quebec, because the $65 price tag at the LCBO makes this a pretty good deal. Definitely worth trying if you like the Islays.

Nose: Slightly herbal on the huge peat aroma, some gristy malt and vanilla.
Palate: A little young and sharp up front. A nice, subtle roasted sugar base under the big Laphroaig-type flavours - strongly herbal, medicinal and obviously enormous peaty goodness.
Finish: Bittersweet malt and big chewy phenol. Yum.
Overall: Not a complex whisky, but a damned fine one. I can't decide if it needs more time in the barrel or less, but it feels like it could develop further and lose a bit of the raw alcohol notes up front. 8.5/10

Caol Ila 14 Cognac Finish(Islay; Gordon & MacPhail)
I know - cognac finish?! Never heard of such a beast. That's why when Max saw it in Illinois, we agreed to put it first on the list. Caol Ila is probably my favourite distillery, and so getting hold of this bottle was, well, just magic. An absolute steal at US$80 and the clear favourite of the night.

Nose: Unique. Beautiful combination of smoke and a fruity, juicy malt sweetness.
Palate: Sweet, juicy malt, big fruity wine notes overtop of the expected Caol Ila tarry, earthy peat flavours. Great balance, fat and sweet and smoky all at once.
Finish: Still fat and juicy and magnificent. Smooth finish, with pleasant lingering peat and a rising oakiness. Beautiful.
Overall: We've gone wrong with private bottlings before (Old Malt Cask Highland Park 23, for example) and I figured this bottle would be either stunningly magnificent or completely horrific. Fortunately, it was the former. The most complex offering I've had from Caol Ila, and really a unique and fantastic whisky. 9.5/10.

Glen Isla 29 (Speyside; Signatory)
Another private bottling, this whisky is a peated number from Speysiders Glen Keith distilled back in the 1970s. Apparently a number of Speyside distilleries experimented with "the dark side," making some peated whiskies for a time. Apparently they didn't get what they wanted out of these experiments, as the practice didn't continue long. A little piece of whisky history bought at an amazing discount price because it lacked the box (US$220; would have been $600 in the sleeve). Both the oldest and most expensive whisky we've sampled to date.

Nose: Soft caramel and pear. Some ketone notes that fortunately evaporate quickly. Roasted malt and just a mere trace of phenol.
Palate: Smooth as silk. Sweet and a bit woody over subtle malt and hints of smoke. Deep and complex, with new stuff in every sip.
Finish: Pleasant oakiness with lasting phenol. A little ester or ketone present, but doesn't ruin it.
Overall: As with some other whiskies we've had, the price is more for the unique and novel nature of the whisky and the age statement. Although a good whisky, and fun to think we've had some of the last of this whisky on the planet, not worth $220 (let alone $600!). 9/10