...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Two Whiskiest Weeks of My Life

Alright, get comfortable.  There's been a lot of whisky had.

The Glenmorangie Taste Off

To begin my recap of these whisky weeks, I should start with my actual blog posts.  The Glenmorangie Taste Off was as educational as any 'Off I've done.  I learned:

1.  I like the The Original a lot more than I used to.  I wish I would have had a bottle of it during our extended summer.  It would probably make for a better summer house malt than Glenfiddich 12.
2.  The Lasanta experience was disconcerting.  I'd enjoyed GlenMo's sherried whisky for years, but having now come back to it after two years of intensive whisky tasting, I no longer felt anywhere near the same level of joy or appreciation while drinking the Lasanta.  Will my palate shift back some day?  Or will the whisky change as consumers' palates and purchases make their own adjustments?
3.  Quinta Ruban mostly supported my continuing issue with port-finished whisky, as well as short-term wine-finished whisky.  I've only experienced one port-ed whisky that felt like an excellent convergence of wine, wood, and whisky (and I hope to report on it before the year is out!), but the rest of the port finishes I've had smell and taste like whisky + low-grade port.
4.  The Astar is an All Star.

A somewhat public whisky tasting

Two weekends ago, I attended an eight-part whisky tasting, mostly consisting of Ian MacLeod's products.

It was here that I had my first sip of the Isle of Skye 8 year.  I was sold on it, quite literally.  I purchased it, promptly, and it awaits its turn as a potential Johnnie-Walker-Black-Label-Killer.  There will be an official Taste Off between the two before the year is out.

We tried a few Chieftain's bottlings, my favorite being their Ben Nevis 13yr 1999 bottling.  It appears as if I wasn't the only fan, as it has sold out at Hi Time Wine Cellars, while K&L has only 5 bottles left.  It had a bit of citrus, white fruits, and flower blossoms in the nose and mouth, along with significant vanilla and brown sugar notes.  My single issue with it is the pricing: the 75-80USD range for a 13yr non-cask-strengther.

We also sampled three Arran single malts, my favorite being the 14yr, full of toffee and honey.  It's priced at $70 at all of my usual haunts.  The price is neither terrible nor super, but the quality is definitely there.  Also, to quote Serge V.: "excuse me but with this kind of quality, I guess they could now start to drop the wine finishes."

The winner of the night was probably Kilchoman Machir Bay, already lauded on this site.  But those above three whiskys (all different styles) provided some good competition.

A flurry of crazy purchases

So, yeah, let's get down to the meaty part.

Two weeks ago, a bunch of carefully planned purchases fell into place.

While my dear Kristen was in the UK for business, I just happened to find a little shop in Yorkshire that sold the now dead-for-eight-years Ledaig 15yr bottling for a reasonable price.  The shop agreed to ship it to Kristen's hotel.  And she couriered it back to me.  I have it!  Woo hoo!  My wife rules.
Pic courtesy of Wright Wine and Whisky Company
my source for this great bottle.
That same day, a shipment of two out-of-production peated whiskys arrived from The Netherlands.  I had been working on getting those to me SINCE AUGUST and now they are in my possession.  I'm keeping them a secret for now, but they've both been mentioned in passing on this site previously.  And I hope they'll be mentioned again soon...

Then, three days later......

Well......I'll just list the text I sent to Kristen:
Your husband drove to Boyle Heights at 9am to rescue two dusty whisky bottles from neglect at a corner liquor store.  And got to work ten minutes early.
I still can't believe I did that.

I can't believe I got to work ten minutes early.

That marks the end of my whisky purchases for the calendar year......

......okay, aside from the bottle of Thomas H. Handy rye I just discovered at a place that shouldn't have had it, at a price they probably shouldn't have been charging if they're hoping to turn a profit.

This past weekend

The whisky continues.  I met up with a bunch of old buddies, including one of my original Scotch mates from the East Coast.  There was a bottle of 2011's Talisker 18yr that had been burning a hole in my whisky cabinet since August '11.  I'd been waiting to open it until my friend (a fan of Talisker 10yr) visited the West Coast.  Open it we did, and a bunch of us did some damage on Saturday night.
On the afternoon before the Talisker-ing, I met up with Florin, a brilliant whisky man and a frequent commenter on this site.  And Oh My Whiskey, we drank some goodness!  We have similar palates when it comes to Straight Rye Whiskey, so that must have inspired him to share a magnificent Virginia Whiskey.  HOLY ABRAHAM BOWMAN AND HIS PIONEER SPIRIT!  People, I am not exaggerating when I say that THIS is the best American whiskey I have ever tried.  It was over 68% ABV, but a very delicious 68% ABV.  Sour Mash Manifesto has a review of it here, SKU has his review here.  Thank you very much to Florin for this and all of the grand whiskies (including a very impressive house vatted malt)!

Now I sit here...

...on Sunday evening, a little tired, a bit under the weather.  My senses have been compromised.  Sleep depravation, un-wise dietary choices, abrupt weather changes, and an almost excess of liquid pleasures have gotten the better of me.  I regret not a thing.

So many more opportunities out there.  I want to be in shape for them.  Thus it's time to dry out and recharge.

Did I mention that I also tried my first Rosebank?


  1. Sounds like a pretty amazing time.

    I've been talking up Isle of Skye for a while now because it's just such a good value. I really need to try the 12 YO version now to see if it's worth the extra $10.

    Did you try Arran 10 YO? I found that I actually like it a bit more than the 14 YO, as there's some more bitter notes to balance out the sweetness of the 14. But with that said, the 14 is hard to beat for straight dramlaxing, well, except for the price tag (thankfully I picked up my now-gone bottle when it was only $50 in OR).

    Sadly this has been a fairly booze-free week for me due to a strep throat infection. Looking forward to getting back to reviewing in the not-too-distant future.

    1. Yep, you're the first one to recommend Isle of Skye 8yr to me. It's interesting that the Skye 8yr gets the raves, but almost no one says anything, good or ill, about the 12yr. If the same malts are involved, then it's probably pretty good. Please let us know if or when you take the plunge!

      We didn't try the Arran 10, but we did try the Port cask and a 15yr sherry-ish single cask. I liked the 14yr much more than those two. In all cases though, I was really impressed by their whisky, so I'll keep an eye out for the 10.

      Hope you feel better soon. I'm on the fairly booze-free train this week too and I hope it's a short ride.

  2. Ooh, a Rosebank. I've got two bottles, the Diageo Special Release Rosebank 21 yr. and a Chieftan's Rosebank 20 yr. sherry butt, that I'm saving for a special occasion. Can I ask which one you got to try or is the big reveal being saved for the review?

    Even though Port Ellen and Brora get more love from the malt enthusiasts, the fact that the late Michael Jackson called the closure of Rosebank a "grievous loss" got my attention so it rocketed to the top of my Must-Try Closed Distilleries List.

    1. When I saw that both Jackson and Murray had raves for Rosebank, I was much intrigued. I actually had another indie company's bottling of the Lowland Rose (I don't know if I just made that name up). I'll post the report sooner than later. I've seen a 20yr Chieftain's bottling at HiTime and it's very tempting. Curious to hear how the malt dances with the sherry.

  3. It's never too early to get back on the horse. Costco is having sales this week on Oban and Lagavulin. Speaking of getting back on the horse, apparently, there's a bar in Pasadena called The Blind Donkey now doing Islay flights. I say we rent ourselves a couple donkeys and go check it out at some point.

    1. I'm easing back onto the horse, though my whisky purchases are probably done for the year. But that shouldn't stop you from nabbing a bottle of Lag16 for $56. Yeah, The Blind Donkey just opened -- kinda quietly -- a week ago. We do need to scope that place out, and also meet up at Rosewood Tavern too.

  4. Michael, what a great Saturday afternoon, drinking and talking whisky together!
    And - this is an amazing coincidence! - I have also not touched whisky ever since. What are the odds?!
    I'll probably let the whisky fever cool off for another week or so, but just wanted to stop by and say 'hi'!

    1. Hey Florin! Just had a little bit of bourbon last night. Going for my first Scotch tonight. It's been a rough work week, so I've decided I deserve something swell. Thanks again for all of that great whisky. I just sent you an email too. Cheers!

  5. What a great flavor, especially the finish. Little known fact, Tasliker 18 pairs well with Miller Lite and Papa John's.

    1. Specifically extra cheese, pepperoni, and tomato pizza delivered from the Hillcrest location. Specifically.

  6. I was really sure Ralfy had a thing to say about Lasanta and Quinta Ruban but it wasn't in his review of Glenmorangie 10. Then I started rewatching his Old Pulteney 12 review and found the comment. Specifically, Ralfy states his feelings that both wood finishes mask and dumb down the complexities in the Original.

    1. Those wood finishes really do the malt little service. They have a good thing going, but then they hide it. They won't stop now, though, since those finishes are big sellers.

  7. Beltramo's recently selected a 17 year old Ben Nevis from AD Rattray and I grabbed a bottle. Don't ask about the price.... okay $119.99 which isn't too insane for a cask strength indie bottling. I was extremely curious because peanut butter was listed under the nose on the tasting notes and I am a sucker for peanut butter.

    1. I'm a big Ben Nevis fan and AD Rattray is one of my favorite bottlers, but man that price is getting to be on the steep side for me. Ben Nevises are always entertaining, so at least it'll be a fun one!

    2. By the way, this Ben Nevis DOES smell of peanut butter. It's not something I would ever expect to nose in a whisky but it's there. Now if only I could solidify this whisky and put it between two slices of bread.

    3. That's cool. I've gotten walnut or almond or hazelnut notes in single malts. There's a peanut-ish thing going on with some Beam bourbons sometimes. But I've never smelled peanut butter in a whisk(e)y. That would be awesome. Ben Nevis wins again.