...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Las Vegas, Day 1: The Whisky Attic

"I hate to travel, but that's probably because my dad used to beat me with a globe."
--Dave Attell
Okay, neither are true for me.  I LOVE to travel.  And I was beaten with a blue agave plant.  That's probably why I hate tequila.

Did the annual pilgrimage drive to Vegas yesterday.  Started bright and early yet still hit a ton of LA traffic.  But, man oh man, every time I hit Interstate 15, I get Vegas geeked.

I prefer driving here, even if it's without a car partner.  The gas expense is similar to roundtrip plane tickets, but I don't have to deal with the debaculous McCarren Airport.  I don't have to wait in the awfully long taxi line then get charged a bundle for the cabbie sitting in traffic.  And I gain some level of control over my trip.  One has very little control over everything else in this city.  Speaking of which...

Running Tally:
Video Poker - EVEN.  Was down almost $60, then made it all back.

Due to financial restraints, I won't be doing much gambling this weekend.  But I have set aside cash for some excellent endeavors.

The first endeavor......


The Freaking Frog sits just to the west of the UNLV campus.  To call it a bar would be an insult.  They have 1000 beers on the menu.  And lots of live music.  Oh yeah, and they have The Whisky Attic.

The Whisky Attic is by-appointment-only, but it's easy to set up.  There's a couple hundred whiskies up there.  Quite beautiful.  At your appointed time, the boisterous brilliant owner, Adam Carmer, leads up there unlocks the door, then frees your mind.

Since whisky nosing/tasting officially began around 50 years ago there's been one way to do it:  Look at the whisky, nose the whisky, taste the whisky.  Adam has discovered a second way.  And it's 100% legit.  I am a believer.

Sourced from Facebook
So who is Adam, exactly?  He's the Wine & Spirits professor at UNLV.  He opened the Frog first, then the Attic later as the collection expanded.  He also has a ribs place nearby.  He has a book coming out next month on his Method.  When he's not teaching he's meeting with Master Distillers and Blenders in Ireland, Scotland, and Kentucky who want in on this Method.  And he has two patents pending.

Because The Method (also known as CSTEM - Carmer Spirits Tasting Enhancement Method) is in the patent phase and I want the guy to sell some books, I'm going to avoid spilling the beans.  BUT some googling will direct you to some sites that attempt to explain the process.  There's even a video floating around out there.  These things give you a hint but they don't do it justice.

I will say this, if you go drinking with me, I'll walk you through it.  It takes some practice.  Practice with whisky.  OR you can set up an appointment with Adam next time you're in LV [check out the Freaking Frog's website and/or drop me a line].  He'll set up a "tasting" per your specific palate.  And your whisky mind will be melted.  And the price (and I am a cheapskate) is excellent, considering the spirits and two hours of the man's time and what you take with you.

He lined up a set of enormous-palated whiskies since he surmised that I would man-up and enjoy the challenge.  Mere flattery?  Truth?  Either way works for me.  Here is my worldwide sensory experience in order:

Dalmore Gran Reserva
Tyrconnell 10yr Irish Single Malt, Madeira Finish
Big Bottom Bourbon
Balvenie 14yr Carribean Cask
Rowan's Creek Bourbon
Willett Straight Rye
Ledaig 15yr
Amrut Cask Strength Indian Single Malt
Laphroaig 10yr Cask Strength
Ardbeg Corryvrecken
Ballylarkin Irish Whiskey Liqueur
Tomintoul 27yr

Yes, that's a lot of drink.  But it wasn't unreasonable.  It was glorious actually.  And due to his Method, I could easily discern and remember every whisky's characteristics.  And still can actually.  Here are my notes on the highlights:

Dalmore Gran Reserva - can FINALLY taste the Dalmore orange peel character, never was able to before, a graceful malt, one of the better sherried malt experiences I've had
Tyrconnell 10yr Irish Single Malt, Madeira Finish - never been the biggest fan of the fancy wine finishes, but this is delicious; there are flowers blooming in my olfactory bulb, and fresh fruits melting on my taste buds
Big Bottom Bourbon - best bourbon experience I've had yet; it's bourbon, but I can taste more than generic Bourbon, especially the sweets from the corn
Balvenie 14yr Carribean Cask - milk chocolate! lots of it, and cinnamon, all the sweet spices in the cabinet
Rowan's Creek Bourbon - okay, maybe this is the best bourbon experience I've had, I could nose this for days on end
Willett Straight Rye - that's it, I'm sold on rye; I have found an American whisky that I've enjoyed at first blush, it's like a havdalah spice box
Ledaig 15yr - always wanted to try Ledaig, and this was no disappointment; a little soapy and dusty around the edges, but a beautiful peat at its center, a fresh peat if that's possible, grasses and growing vegetation
Amrut Cask Strength Indian Single Malt - for all of its 62% ABV this was very easy to do thanks to the method, the layers expanded with each sip
Laphroaig 10yr Cask Strength - ah the Quarter Cask has a competitor now, dynamite, a whole different animal than the regular 10yr, no more bandaids instead replaced by coal and wood smoke and smoked fish, has one of the best finishes I've ever experienced as it keeps transforming
Ardbeg Corryvrecken - we have a winner, holy s***, despite being one of the heaviest peated malts in history The Corry's peat doesn't dominate, it's one element in actual whisky bouquet, I just used "bouquet" to describe a Scotch, Corry's a damn whirlpool enveloping this drinker, *sigh* I'm going to have to save up for a bottle of this one
Ballylarkin Irish Whiskey Liqueur - Scotch candy! Lychee and canned peaches, shows Adam's sense of humor for putting this one next to The Corry
Tomintoul 27yr - a bonus sip, wasn't supposed to be part of the tasting; very nice malty malt, more enjoyable than the 33yr, very tiered with a burst of pear at the end

Okay, so I realize that's of limited help to the reader.  But I wanted to show you that the whisky alone would cost two or three times as much in LA......if you could find a bar that carried any of them.  All of this for less than a good seat at Cirque de Soleil.  Much cheaper than a terrible 30 minutes at the tables.

And keep in mind, I violated every rule of whisky nosing beforehand.  I wore (too much) cologne.  I ate fish and chips (at his recommendation).  He cooked up a bunch of garlic and onions at the bar.  And none of that, none of it, hindered the whisky adventure that followed.

I can easily enumerate the seminal whisky experiences in my life:
Glenfiddich with Cousin Jon almost 15 years ago; Scotland and Ireland in October and November 2003; Splitting at least a half bottle of Johnnie Walker Green Label with Bernardo; Royal Mile Whiskies visit in May 2011; Peat reek finally clicking with the Signatory Bowmore; and now learning this new sensory method.

I'm still mulling over this.  It's like being able to see new colors.