...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Three whisky events in four days: Part Two

(Part One here)

And then there was...


If you are on the western coast of the United States and Johnnie Mundell is holding a whisky event in your town, be there.  He is and has been a rep for Morrison Bowmore and Campari America.  Like Martin Daraz, he's a hardy Scotsman who can handle a room, weave a tale, educate the mind, and pour whisky all at the same time.  I've been to three of his Bowmore events, one Glenrothes event, and now this Glen Garioch + Bowmore event.  I'm such a fan of this guy that I'm going to stop gushing before this gets awkward.

Too late!

On this particular evening, Johnnie climbed on tables...

...read Burns's "John Barleycorn"...

...and poured the following:

Glen Garioch 1797 Founder's Reserve
Glen Garioch 12 year
Glen Garioch 1994 Vintage
Glen Garioch 1991 Vintage

Auchentoshan Three Wood

Bowmore Legend
Bowmore 12 year
Bowmore 15 year Darkest
Bowmore 18 year
Bowmore Dorus Mor

He had these paired side by side as such:
GG Founders Reserve and Bowmore Legend
GG 12 year and Bowmore 12 year
GG 1994 and Bowmore 18 year
Auchie Three Wood and Bowmore 15 year Darkest
GG 1991 and Bowmore Dorus Mor

I've reviewed a number of these already, in fact I think I've reported on most of the Bowmores multiple times.  The only Garioch that I'd reported on before was the 12 year and I still find it bloody fantastic (maple syrup, vanilla beans, and dried apricots this time).  I'll try to focus on stuff newer to me.

Bowmore Legend ($25, 40%) and Glen Garioch Founder's Reserve ($35, 48%) are both in the 8 year range and carry their youth well.  Legend is a lot better than I thought it would be: some light peat, light on the sweet, and very drinkable neat.  The Founder's carries more oomph, due to its ABV and no filtration.  It's bready and full of cereal notes, some white fruits on the nose and a touch savory in the palate.

Likely my second favorite of the night, the Glen Garioch 1994 ($120, 53.9%) has a gorgeous nose:  a massive hit of salted taffy and butterscotch.  The malty palate has a touch of peat and salt.  The Glen Garioch 1991 (54.7%) isn't available in the states (yet) but was the softest and most graceful of the bunch.  Also lightly peated, there was a similar butterscotch character as well as some citrus juice notes.

The Bowmore Dorus Mor was the biggie, for me.  The limited release Bowmore Tempest bottlings are my favorite official Bowmore bottlings.  They are 10-year-old cask-strength first-fill ex-bourbon-barrel bruisers.  A year ago, a California winery named "Tempest" threatened suit if Bowmore was to release another Tempest whisky in The States.  So Bowmore responded by changing the name of Tempest Batch 4 to "Dorus Mor" on the US bottles.  The Dorus release will be even smaller than the previous Tempests and it's the first by the great Rachel Barrie since she moved over to Morrison Bowmore.  It's going to be released here very soon and it's not going to be cheap.  But it's very good.  I will have an official report on Dorus within the next week or so.

Many many thanks to Johnnie for all these great things!

For part three, we head West...

Three whisky events in four days: Part One

Three whisk(e)y events in four nights.  Pasadena, Costa Mesa, Santa Monica.  What a man won't do for a dram.  I'm sure my innards are positively pickled, so I will attempt a three part recap as I recover...


I had an awesome Robert Burns Night.  I hope you did too!

Though among the thirsty crowd at Beckham Grill in Pasadena, I had to reign in my whisky sampling due to a long drive home at the end of the night.  But there was great food, including haggis:

It looked like a cross between a scarab, a turd, and a baby's head.  Naturally, it was delicious.  A little lamb, a spot of liver, and a few shakes of black pepper.  And there was great company including Martin Daraz, the Highland Park rep responsible for structuring the evening's whisky appreciation.

I had heard so much about Martin and I really enjoyed meeting the man.  He was very honest and candid about the HP malts.  And he IMPRESSIVELY handled a crowd that was sprinkled with non-member hecklers.  Let me emphasize that the interrupters were still relatively sober and though they may have fancied themselves comedians, they just embarrassed themselves in front of Il Maestro Daraz.  Don't heckle a heckler.

Okay enough with the crabbing, onto the booze lineup.  We started with Famous Grouse as an aperitif.  Then we moved to the HP 18 for the toast.  During dinner, I helped pour the 12 and 15.

For dessert there was this:

And this:

I sampled some HP Thor.  But the fun surprise bottle was the Highland Park Bicentenary.  While the whisky wasn't 200 years old, its lifespan was actually 1977-1998.

The Bicentenary was GREAT, though I only had a whisper of it since I had to head out into the rain to drive home carefully.  The Thor was decent, probably could have used some water.  The HP 25 and 30 were magnificent; if you can afford whisky at that price......you lucky ducks.

Full disclosure: this was my first HP18 experience.  While it didn't blow my tastebuds out of my head, I did enjoy its finish better than that of the fancier bottles.  The hubbub and noise and smells prevented me from really digging in.  So I have a full-on HP18 report scheduled for this year and I look forward to a controlled setting.

I'd read some grumbles about the 15-year, but I liked the slightly different character brought about by sherried American oak.  And as usual, the 12 was reliably excellent.

I can confirm to you all that all HP is now using all ex-sherry barrels, each bottling has a mix of first and second-fills.  The distillery grassy-fruited-light-peat character was remarkably consistent from bottle to bottle.  Probably even more consistent than Laphroaig had been during December's once-in-a-lifetime verticale.

Ultimately, this was a lot of sherried whisky in one night for me.  The sherry and the HP spirit merge much better than most (or all?) sherry "finishes" I've tried.  But I'd love to find an indie bottling that was aged in refill ex-bourbon.

This Burns Night made for an excellent whisky social experience.  Thank you Martin for the whisky and the education.  Y'all need to meet this gentleman when he comes to town.

In Part Two, I'll travel South (in both California and Scotland)...