Archive | July, 2009

The Tale of Old Pulteney – 21-Year

31 Jul
Once upon a time, Scotch Finder received an e-mail from his trusty partner in crime regarding an excellent article she ran across while reading local newspapers online (see the article).

This magical article sparked interest in Scotch Finder and the Associate. The Associate decided that he MUST acquire all five single-malt scotch whiskies in the article (as described in the article by Garret M. Graff for The Washingtonian):

  1. Lagavulin 16-year-old—From Islay, it’s delicious, smoky, and full of peat. It pairs particularly well with cigars because of its strength.
  2. Highland Park 18-year-old—Rich and smooth with a deep amber color, full of honey with some caramel and salt.
  3. Glenmorangie Sherry Finish (aka “Lasanta”)—Hints of maple, toffee, and nuts fill this 12-year-old. Perfect for a lingering after-dinner sipping session with dessert or cheese.
  4. Old Pulteney 21-year-old—Hints of fruits and vanilla and just a touch of the sea in the finish of this Scotch from the old herring port of Wick.
  5. Ardbeg’s Uigeadail—So thick and flavorful, it’s almost chewy. This Islay whisky, its fans say, has an aftertaste measured in nuclear half-lifes. Add a few drops of water to open it up.

Let’s be honest, after reading such gushing reviews, what scotch whisky fan wouldn’t crave the experience? Plus, look how pretty the bottles are!

One little call across the river to Pearson’s Wine and Spirits in Washington, D.C. and a couple hundreds of dollars later, four of the five were obtained by my Associate without incident. Which of the four was unavailable? You guessed it…

…the elusive Old Pulteney 21-year! Dum dum dummmmm.

I make call after call and stop after stop at local Virginia ABCs, Pearson’s, and other random places I walk by that sells single-malts. Nothing. I ask each one if they could obtain this random spirit. All respond with “doesn’t look like it” or “I don’t even see that in any of my lists” or “never heard of that one. Nope not here.”

So a trip to Ohio for a wedding proves oddly lucky. A stop at an Ohio state-run Hyde Park Wine and Spirit near some friends of mine in Norwood, Ohio, resulted in the usual my becoming friends with the manager. (SIDE NOTE: I tend to stalk single-malt sections in stores and bars resulting in my becoming oddly close with proprietors, bartenders, and store managers.) After a few minutes of my inquiring about a few bottles–one being the Old Pulteney–she invites me into her office to check her computer’s stock list. Nothing shows up on the computer. “Have you tried The Party Source in Kentucky?”

1 minute later, she’s on the phone with The Party Source on my behalf. They have one last bottle in stock! They put it aside for me, I thank the HPW&S manager greatfully and head to Kentucky.

On the way down, I call my Associate and ask “Do you have $117 to blow?”

“On what?” he replies.

“The Old Pulteney 21-year.”

Without so much as a second to take a breath or thought of consideration, “Ohhhh yes.”

Fast forward to a few weeks later, we finally sit down and open the bottle for a little taste. We were expecting classic saltiness and a wonderfully complex whisky. Hard work to pay off…

*Sip sip*

We both look at each other in confusion. There were no whisky fireworks going off. There was no magical experience blowing any one’s mind. It sort of tasted like an old book.

The moral of this overblown and drawn out story is that you can search your rear off for a desirable whisky, obtain it under seemingly magical domino effect situations. But ultimately, one man’s whisky heaven can be a slap on the tongue with an old wet book for another.

Find your flavor. Once you do, your trusty buddy won’t let you down.

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Proper Scotch Whisky Drinking: Neat vs. Ice vs. Splash of Water

30 Jul

I have received a lot of e-mails already asking how to properly drink scotch.
Unfortunately–and depending on how you look at it, fortunately–there is no strict answer to this. I can not write the liquor drinking instruction equivalent of “you can only put unleaded gasoline in your car or it will not work.” You should drink scotch whisky however and whenever you want according to your personal taste. There are, however, several widely accepted ways of drinking scotch whisky in public that would ensure that you do not get yourself into a brawl by drunken neighbors. As a side note, most scotch whiskies are served as a 1 oz. to 2 oz. serving (around 1 shot).

“NEAT”

Drinking single-malts “neat” is the most basic, and in my opinion, the most satisfying in the short-run. Ordering–or serving–a drink “neat” means ordering the liquor with no sort of outside mixer. This means the liquor is served alone; not even ice.

By drinking a single-malt scotch whisky neat, you are able to experience the full impact of the dram (editor’s note: “dram” meaning a small glass of whisky) without the dilution of adding water or ice. Drinking a whisky neat can reveal a lot about its character that water can sometimes push to the side.

Another factor to keep in mind is your palate. If you are planning to enjoy more than one dram from different bottles and desire intact taste buds and for them not to be utterly destroyed, you may want to use a splash or two of water. High alcohol content, such as that found in straight whisky (especially cask-strength), has a tendency to cause your taste buds to burn out after a glass or two. You will find a higher enjoyment over the course of a tasting with a little help from dilution.

SPLASH OF WATER

There are times, however, when the whisky is high in alcohol content (i.e. any bottles that you read that refer to the contents as being “cask strength”). In these cases, drinking the whisky neat is not always the best option and may require a splash of water to tone down the impact of the alcohol on your palate. I find it best to use water from a highly filtered source as to not add notes of chlorine into your fine single-malt. In a pinch, Aquafina is very good as a bottled water to have on hand for such an occasion. If one splash of filtered water does not bring the palate explosion down to a reasonable level, splash a little more until you are comfortable. By splash I am referring to just that–a splash. Imagine you are squirting the amount of a full small eye dropper one full dropper at at time. I also recommend never crossing the 50/50 threshold of whisky to water or you will most likely destroy the characteristics of your malt!

ICED SCOTCH WHISKY

This is the hardest style for me to accept since I very much dislike this approach personally. Drinking your dram with ice should follow the same rules as the splash of water–try not to cross the 50/50 threshold. Unfortunately, single ice cubes are very difficult to get that are not going to over-dilute your whisky to the point of nonrecognition! I recommend trying to find the artificial chiller cubes (usually plastic) that do not physically melt. As you can imagine, using flashy-blinky Bacardi fake ice cubes might be pretty embarrassing!

My recommendation is to approach each new tasting as a progression downward:

  1. Try each new dram “neat.”
  2. If the drink is a bit too strong, add a splash of water.
  3. If the drink is a bit mediocre, uninteresting, and you just want to finish it so you can have a margarita, add an ice cube to it.

Are you picking up a bias in my writing? Oops.

Coming soon: Proper Glassware Reviewed!

My Current Stock 7/29/2009 & The Rusty Nail

29 Jul

You can never have too many single-malts in your bar (says the person who writes for a blog called “Scotch Finder)!” Here is a picture of my current stash:

Ardbeg – 10-year
Ardbeg – Uigeadail
Balvenie – Single Barrel – 15-year
Bowmore – Legend
Caol Ila – 18-year
Dalwhinnie – 15-year
Glenkinchie – 12-year
Glenmorangie – Extra Rare – 18-year
Highland Park – 18-year
Isle of Jura – Superstition
Lagavulin – 16-year
Springbank – 15-year
Talisker – 10-year

Yum! Yum! Yum!

I have a few blended scotches (not pictured) that I keep on hand for mixed drinks right beside my trusty bottle of Drambuie. My favorite scotch mixed drink is a Rusty Nail:

1 1/2 oz Scotch
3/4 oz Drambuie
Garnish with citrus wedge or twist

The flavor is extremely sweet and tastes quite similar to a scotch/Yeager/triple sec mix. Make sure you put it on lots of ice.

Rusty Nails are a very classic drink and not for the faint of heart–you will notice by the recipe that the drink is basically straight liquor. More than once I have been accused of drinking an “old man” drink when I make it. I recommend using a low-end blend (Dewars or Black/Red Johnnie Walker) and not damaging the integrity of a fine single-malt. I compare putting a fine single-malt in a cocktail like putting rare tequila into a margarita…

…what’s the point?

Bowmore – The best bang for your buck?

28 Jul
I find that many people I run into are very skiddish about trying single-malt scotch whisky. Not necessarily because they think they are not going to like, but rather they believe that single-malts are going to be too expensive. Fearing that if they do not like their expensive new bottle, they just wasted $100. Plus, what do you choose? There are so many and they all have names that most people have never heard of.

GOOD NEWS!

Fear not the flavor! Fear not the wasting of money! Fear not missing out on great tasting whisky any longer!

Presenting…

Bowmore – Legend (40%vol)

Bowmore – Legend (sometimes also marketed as an 8-year) is an Islay (pronounced eye-luh)whisky. What this means is that it was produced on the Isle of Islay in Scotland. The Islay whisky “style” is heavily peated. What this means is that the barley was toasted over open flames and therefore really soaks up the smokiness. Smokiness? Ah yes. If you have not had an Islay-style scotch whisky, you are missing out on one of the great characteristics that make single-malt scotch whiskies so unique and flavorful.

Bowmore whiskies can be found in most liquor/spirit stores that sell single-malts. The Legend bottling will run approximately $25.00 USD. However, if you find the Bowmore 12-year ($30.00 USD), spend the extra $5 because it is very similar in nose and body but just a little better in flavor.

“Why is that one so cheap, Scotch Finder?” Great question. The answer is, “I don’t know!” The only thing I can figure out is that the whiskey is quite young in age and therefore costs less to maintain? I really have no idea. What I do know is that Bowmore Legend and Bowmore 12-year are quite unique and flavorful for such a modest price.

Why would you spend $200+ on a bottle of blended Johnnie Walker Blue just to say, “That’s pretty decent, but I’m not sure why I blew $200 on it” when you can say, “I just spent $25 and this Bowmore rocks my socks off!”

Oh yes… and don’t forget to dance your family jigg in celebration of a wise decision.

Duty Free Tease

27 Jul

So my friend, Brian, got back from London and brought me back a nice little present from Duty Free. I begged him to bring me back something for me and he had agreed. I gave him a 100 pound limit, a list of distilleries that I really enjoy, a list of what I already had, crossed my fingers, and set him loose.

He was nice enough to take a picture of it sitting on his busy computer desk to tease me…

A Highland Park 21-year (47.5% vol) and Talisker Double-Matured Distillers Edition (45.8% vol) bottled in 2008! Excellent work, my friend. I have never tasted either one and I have never been more excited. The Talisker Double-Matured seems to have been placed into Sherry casks to affect the flavor. I am so pumped.

I am having dinner with Brian on Wednesday so I will keep you posted. It is making me crazy knowing that those two bottles are out there and I have not tasted it, yet!

Brian knows this fact.

Caol Ila – 18 year!

27 Jul

UPDATE: As of 8/4/2009, I have been notified by a colleague that the Caol Ila 18-year is now sold out.

So today, I went on a little trip around the DC metropolitan area and made a couple of stops. I made an interesting find in an unlikely spot!

First stop was at Pearson’s Wine and Spirits on Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington DC. Pearson’s has a very nice selection of every day scotches: Ardbeg, Glenmorangie, Talisker, Lagavulin, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Glenkinchie, Cragganmore, and Laphroiag to name a few (view website listing here). The Lagavulin 16-year is probably the best price I have seen it anywhere ($69.99). However, I was unmoved by anything “special” there in the store so I walked away without a new purchase.

I must start this next stop with a little back story. I have been searching for a bottle of Caol Ila 18-year (pronounced “cull eel”) for several months now. After reading about it in Michael Jackson’s Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch, I felt that I would really enjoy a bottle. I soon found out by several proprietors of liquor stores that finding it was described to me as “impossible. You might as well forget about that one.”

Very long story short, if you are interested in this “rare” finding here in the states, you can find it in the Virginia ABC store at the intersection of Lee Highway and Old Dominion here in Arlington, Virginia! As of today, July 26, 2009, they have five bottles left at $66. They also have their 25-year Caol Ila on sale for $159 or so.

Caol Ila reminds me of Laphroiag with a little less smokey Islay flavor and a little more sweet. Don’t get me wrong–the Islay smoke is there, it is just not upfront like Laphroiag or a Lagavulin. Also, the 18-year trumps the 12-year Caol Ila (which is a lot more common) by a large leap, though they share many of the same characteristics. The body is medium-rich and the finish is very long and delightful. The potency of the alcohol is very nice and not overwhelming at 43%. Many authors describe this whisky as an aperitif, but I would actually prefer it as a great nightcap.

If this strikes your fancy, check them out or give them a call! (703)875-0129

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=4709-B,+LEE+HIGHWAY&sll=38.89673,-77.09512&sspn=0.012191,0.019205&ie=UTF8&z=14&iwloc=A&ll=38.908333,-77.118101&output=embed
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Purpose for blogging about scotch

26 Jul

My mission statements are pretty simple:

  1. Learn as much as possible about single-malt scotch whisky and enjoy it to the fullest.
  2. Find great single-malt scotches and share my discoveries with anyone interested.
  3. Helping anyone interested in single-malt scotch on their own personal journey.
  4. Drinking good scotch.

I have recently discovered that scotch makes me extremely excited and happy. I am not only referring to the obvious effects of alcohol, but I also find that the learning experience has been quite delightful. More often than not, I find myself getting into excited conversations with perfect strangers about The Water of Life.

If you are into scotch and you just want to discuss it with someone, let me know!

  • Flavors
  • Regions
  • Suggestions
  • Looking for a recommendation
  • Paring with food (suggestions or requests)
  • Aging
  • Finishes
  • Brands (distilleries)
  • Where to find rare bottlings
  • Scotch tasting ideas
  • Questions regarding single-malt scotch

Happy drinking!