Archive | August, 2009

The Ardbeg Committee’s Newest Member

23 Aug
I received my first packet from the Ardbeg Committee in the mail today. You are reading the blog of the Ardbeg Committee’s newest member, #392084! I am not entirely sure how serious the Committee is, but I am looking forward to being notified about all of the interesting drinks that come out of this wonderous distillery.

The pamphlet the Committee sent me with the Rules and Regulations was quite humorous, especially the part about hiding my special bottles I am unwilling to share under preganant ladies’ skirts and under the covers in a newborn baby’s crib. Awesome.
Not to mention I got an aweseome sticker!

Where I’m going to put it, I have no idea.

In case you live in a hole, Ardbeg is a very popular Islay single-malt scotch that you can find in almost any liquor store. Their flagship, Ardbeg 10-year, runs around $50-60 a bottle in Virginia ABCs. It is generally very smokey with a slight iodine nose to it. Definitely not for the faint of heart. I highly recommend placing one of these bottles in your collection.

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Scotch Gifts 101 & 105

21 Aug

I am not going to lie. This post was entirely inspired by a friend of mine.

SCENARIO #1
So you want to get your friend a gift. You think it would be fun to get this friend a nice bottle of scotch because you remembered that they drank an entire bottle of your Dewar’s White Label–that had been in your liquor cabinet for 4 years–at your last party.

What a nice friend you are! I already respect your judgment.

But what do you choose? You don’t want to spend a fortune. You want something good. You want to make an impression… And you know very little about scotch besides that it is a liquor.

Highland Park 12-year is your no-fail very nice gift choice. Not only is it normally priced between $42 and $50, it is rated in the lower 90s by whisky connoisseurs. It is sweet, smokey, heathery, with honey notes. The finish is fantastic and has almost everything you could ever want in a perfectly price whisky. The only downside about starting your new journey down the scotch highway can really be tainted by this wonderfully balanced whisky. I compare starting with Highland Park whiskies like having your first car be a Porche.

SCENARIO #2
Your scotch-loving boss is having a special event and you want to get him a nice bottle of scotch of scotch as a gift that he’ll respect you for.

This one is a bit tougher. Do you know what he has in his stock? That knowledge would be quite helpful when making a decision.

Big scotch drinkers tend to lean towards the Islay malts: Laphroiag, Lagavulin, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, and the extra-rare Port Ellen.

If you are looking to impress, I would highly recommend finding a Port Ellen of any age. The distillery was shut down in 1983 so each bottle is special by default. Also, your boss is less likely to have one. The only downside is the price. I have not seen one for less than $110, and that was by a bottler that I had never heard of and bottled at a very young age (around 11 years).

Okay. I understand. Port Ellen is a bit on the obscure side and you may not want to fork up that kind of money. So what now?

Lagavulin 16-year – This is your fail safe. If your boss is a cigar smoker, this is the perfect scotch. If you boss is snobby, this is the perfect scotch. If your boss is a discerning scotch drinker, they will really appreciate the thought. Not because they do not like it, but probably because they already has it in their stock. Having a second bottle on hand of Lagavulin 16-year never hurt anyone and now you are less likely to drink yours quite as sparingly. Everybody wins!

Now you are armed and dangerous. Go grab someone a bottle of something fun!

Do you have a favorite bottle that you would recommend as a gift? Let’s hear it! Drop a comment!

UPDATE 8/23/2009:
On a recent visit to Scotland, John from Mt. Clemens, MI met a few Scots who remmended: McIvor, Old Pultney, The McCallan, Glen Farclas and naturally, Highland Park. Thanks for the input, John! Your new friends have great taste!

New York City Trip – Summary – Awesome.

17 Aug

I would say the trip was exactly like we had planned, but I would be lying.

We arrived in Manhattan several hours earlier on Friday than we thought we would. What better utilization of time, but to go to a quick dinner and hit the Museum of Modern Art (aka “MoMA”) on Target Free Ticket Friday? We saw several amazing masterpieces.
Why would I tell you this on a Scotch blog?
The next day (Saturday morning), Mrs. Finder and I wake up and walk down the street to a local wine and liquor shop so I can peak in and look at a couple of bottles’ prices from the night before. You know, for comparison’s sake… uh…. Wait… Oh no…
The doors were locked. Panic starts to ensue. “Oh no. NO.”
I immediately call Park Avenue Liquor Shop (where my entire afternoon was planned to be spent) and I receive the answering machine, “We are open MONDAY through FRIDAY… We are CLOSED on Saturday and Sunday.”
*Sigh* So basically I make a trip to New York City to go to the fabled Scotch store only to find out that they are the only liquor store in the entire world that is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
$*!&#^^!&!!!!@@@
As I sit there stewing in my own stupidity and on the brink of tears (I wish I was lying), Mrs. Finder begins looking up local shops to take me to to make my crushed little heart feel better. She has a great idea. Park Avenue Liquors may have an awesome selection, but with the plethora of local liquor stores scattering the city, I can probably find a better deal on something great at another shop. This is why she is Mrs. Finder. Rock n’ roll.
  1. Crush Wine and Spirits (I will discuss in a little more depth later this week).
  2. Astor Wines and Spirits – Their selection was not that fantastic or mind blowing, but nothing to shake a stick at either. Their prices, however, were phenomenal!

Here are the new additions to my scotch whisky single-malt family:

  1. Highland Park – 12 year old (an absolute steal at $31.99 USD!)
  2. Cragganmore 12-year old
  3. Clynelish 14-year old
  4. Old Pulteney 17-year old
and…
#5. Ardbeg Supernova! I did not even know about this malt until I spoke to the whisky pro at Crush Wines and Spirits on Saturday morning! From what I have read so far, this is an ultra-peated Ardbeg. Where the normally really peaty Ardbeg 10-year old’s smoke level is 25 ppm (parts per million), the Supernova is 100 ppm! I’m a little nervous it is going to be undrinkable, but I can’t wait to try it. I will definitely let you know when I pop it open.

Scotch Around the Clock – Why The Macallan?

13 Aug

House hunting in the Washington, DC, area is nasty. Either you feel like you are paying too much for too little, or you are paying just the right amount but you are living waaaaay too far away from anything to enjoy where you live. Currently, I live in a mediocre condo in an area of Arlington, VA, known as Clarendon. The area rules. My condo does not.

So after an evening after work, my wife, Sara F., and I go house hunting. While house hunting, my friend Brian L. texted me regarding a dram of The Macallan 12-year he decided to partake in. He decided the 18-year version just was not worth the extra cash and guilt. I agree whole heartedly. The 18-year version is nice, but hardly worth the large amount of cash for the slight increase in enjoyment.
After our evening of stress and big decisions, Sara and I decided we need a drink. We stopped in at the Eat Bar (attached to Tallula’s). I immediately check out the single-malt selection behind the bar and I am pleased to note that although they have only five to six bottles, they consist of Laphroiag 10-year, Lagavulin 16-year, Talisker 10-year, Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, a Balvenie (my eyes were not good enough to spot the type/age and I really did not care enough to ask), and Macallan 12-year.
Of the aforementioned bottles, my choice was The Macallan 12-year. Not because it was a favorite, but mainly because I had not had it in a while and maybe my “mediocre” personal rating was not fair to a single-malt that is highly regarded among scotch drinking freaks.
Upon first smelling, I was quite pleased. The oaky demeanor was quite pleasing to the nose and, actually, quite pleasing to the senses. Before tonight, I do not think that I was in the r
ight frame of mind to really grasp how good the drink was. The taste was medium bodied and extremely smooth. The finish was quite subtle and very satisfying.
Maybe I was wrong. The Macallan 12-year is quite decent. I would be rather interested to taste the cask strength version. Who knows, maybe the trip to Park Avenue Liquors shop will take me to an affordable version of The Macallan.
Affordable? Not likely. The Macallan prices tend to be outrageous for how common it is.

As soon as I got home, I went to straight to my bar and poured a small follow-up glass of Lagavulin 16-year. Sometimes you forget how much love a bottle until you have that special glass. If you enjoy smokey scotch whisky and still do not have Lagavulin 16-year, you have not had that which all others are compared. Go to Pearson’s right now and grab a bottle. Their price destroys all others for that bottle ($69.99, usually $90+)

Gearing up for Park Avenue

12 Aug

Two days and counting for my trip to New York City for a visit to the fabled (in my mind, anyway) Park Avenue Liquor Shop on, ironically, Madison Avenue in Manhattan. I am gearing up with reading my reference materials so I am armed and dangerous when I spot a sweet bottle of whisky juice that I absolutely must acquire.

Their selection is off the hook and I am making sure I bring lots of absorbent towels to soak up the drool that I am sure will be streaming from my mouth the moment I walk into the whisky aisle(s). (Check it out here)

This picture says more than my words can:

From what I have read, they are very renowned for having over 400 varieties of single-malt whiskies.

Wish me luck that I do not have a heart attack when I get in there.

Scotch Whisky Reading and Reference Materials

10 Aug

So you need to learn more. You found yourself at the liquor store and staring at the wall of single-malts–drooling–but having no idea what you were looking at. Did you feel overwhelmed? A fish out of water? Did you nearly pass out?

Well fret no longer, new pal o’ mine! You just need a little guidance from the master. No, not Scotch Finder!

Michael Jackson.

NO, not the recently deceased pop-singer, Michael Jackson:

THIS Micheal Jackson. The no-so-recently deceased Beer/Wine/Whisk(e)y connoisseur!

This guy obsessed over whisky for all our sakes, so you should perk up those ears of yours and listen! Here are a few of his publications and why you may want to pick them up:

  1. Michael Jackson’s Complete Guide To Single Malt Scotch (5th edition) and (4th edition) – This handy guide gives you an overview of basically everything you would probably want to know as a scotch lover. He also lists most scotches that you will find on the shelf and rates each one individually. The latest publication is the 5th edition, but I find that many of the bottles I find on the shelf are found in the 4th edition. This book is great for having around when you are staring at a huge selection of single malts and you have determination to bring a sweet bottle home with you.
  2. Whiskey: The Definitive World Guide – This book is covers all types of whisk(e)y and the distillation processes of all major whisk(e)y producing regions: Scotland, America, Japan, etc. He does not get as specific with listing as many bottlings as #1 above.
  3. Scotland and its Whiskies: The Great Whiskies, the Distilleries and Their Landscapes – As you can imagine, this book covers the distilleries more specifically. The book is full of vivid pictures and details that the other books (#1 and #2) tend to leave out..

If you are only going to pick one book, pick up the Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch.

Thanks, Michaels. For different reasons, of course.

Central Liquors in DC

8 Aug
So there I am, making a specific journey to Central Liquors in DC, when I see their old-timey neon sign poking from the side of their old-timey building.

What a cool place to swing through on my way to a friend’s I-just-quit-work happy hour at Buffalo Billiards in Dupont Circle. Their single-malt selection is fabled among some scotch whisky colleagues so I journeyed in to find their rightfully noted amazing selection (check it out here).
They have everything. Crazy amounts of Bowmore, an unheard of three different bottles of Ardbeg, four different Glenmorangie bottlings, every Laphroaig bottle I have ever coveted, several nifty Gordon and McPhail bottlings, etc. I was impressed to say the least.

Oh no, please don’t let their be a downside. There is a downside. But their should not be! But there is.

I have no idea why the prices were what they were, but every bottle was marked up nearly $20 above every price I have seen elsewhere! Say it ain’t so, Central Liquors! Your selection is so amazing–several limited edition bottles just sitting on the shelf for me to ogle!

Ah yes, but it is true.

A bottle of Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban was listed for $70+! This bottle can be purchased at a Virginia ABC store for $49.99! What the heck, Central Liquors?

To the proprietors of Central Liquors: are you buying bottles from the Virginia ABC and then marking them up? Pearson’s Wine and Spirits is destroying you in the price factor. I love your selection, but your prices are ridiculously high and I have to rate you very low on my list.
…And with that, I go to bed. Sad and disappointed in a local retailer.