Archive | September, 2010

The Whiskies I Cannot Live Without

20 Sep

You can look to the right of this blog and see my current stash and recognize fairly quickly that I am not someone who just dabbles in scotch whisky. I can never seem to get to a place that makes me feel like I have experienced everything I want to experience with the Water of Life.

There are several bottles listed, however, that I am certainly glad to have experienced but would not feel any sort of impulse to replace them upon their certain bottle of emptiness doom. Much like humans in life, the end is inevitable!
On the other hand, there are several bottles and types of whisky that upon completion, I feel not only an empty space in the bar where one of my favorite single-malts were housed, but also an emptiness in my heart (or belly, whichever seems to make the most sense for you). The following list is not a ranking by any means; they all play an important roll in filling a special taste craving and appreciation that should last through the ages.
Ardbeg 10-year
Ardbeg 10-Year from Port Ellen on the Isle of Islay

The Ardbeg 10-Year shown above is an amazing blast of peat and smoke. The heavy earth flavor and taste of tabacco makes this an absolute gem. Put a $50 price tag on it and you get more bang for your buck than almost anything out there. See this one for under $50 and you would be a fool not to purchase it.

Talisker 10-year
Talisker 10-Year from the Isle of Skye
Ah Talisker 10-Year. This one holds a special place in my heart due to my first bottle arriving during my bachelor party weekend with my best of friends. Of course, none of my friends were into scotch at the time, so I mostly drank it alone that weekend. Since then, many of those same friends have fallen for this wonderful concoction from the Isle of Skye. It has so much peppery goodness wrapped in its delicate smoke, I just replaced it this week at random join in Baltimore that had it on sale for $45. You can’t buy this in Washington, DC for under $65. Welcome back, Talisker! You were sorely missed!
Highland Park 18-year
Highland Park 18-Year from OrkneyHighland Park 18-Year is nearly the most perfect scotch on the market. Sweet. Smokey. Well balanced. Even body. Almost simple in presentation with the most complicated of flavors for any scotch nut and any scotch beginner. It can get a little pricey and, from what vendors have been telling me, Highland Park is raising its prices and screwing things up. The bottles are not moving as fast and a once $85 bottle has now become a shelf duster at $100+. I have seen it on store shelves for $115 before. That makes me sad. This is too good to start hiking prices and thinking that you are The Macallan with your fancy schmancy name and history. Alas! This one is almost too good for me to drink sometimes. I nurse this bottle like it is the last one on earth.
Lagavulin 16-year
Lagavulin 16-Year from Islay

I am almost tired of writing about this guy. It is big. It is smokey. It has a wonderful brown color. It is always good. If you do not have it, put it on your shortlist. MRSP $69.99. If you see it for any more than that, keep looking. If you see it for under $60, buy the entire stock and let me know.
A Sherried Highland Speyside
The Macallan 12-Year Highland SpeysideI have a picture of The Macallan 12-year above as a representation ONLY. It may be one of the better and bigger sherried highland speyside out there, but it is also a cliche to me. Sure it is good. DAMN good, even. But when I see this sucker at every bar in America where the bartenders don’t even know what it is, it makes me sad. It is like the Heinz Ketchup of trash bars who want to look cool or have something decent on hand when Mr. Dad O’College Student stops in before taking their kid home for the summer. Other really nice sherried highland’s worth having on hand (and a matching nice price tag to boot!):
  • Abelour 16-Year Double Matured
  • Glenmorangie Lasanta
  • Balvenie 12-Year Double Wood

A Highland costal gem
Old Pulteney 17-Year distillery bottling from the northern highland coastal regionOld Pulteney 17-Year is pictured above because it is probably my favorite coastal highland. These tend to have a sea salt landscape with sweetness and ease of drink. Very relaxing, very tasty, very every-day-yes-please. Another wonderful example is Clynelish 14-year.

All of the ones I’ve mentioned I have been able to find for between $40-$100. The market demand is driving up prices and not making things very easy for the non-filthy rich so make sure you get some while you stil can!

What are your favorites?


Letter: My Advice to an Uninformed Restaurant

15 Sep
I was a recent patron at your restaurant’s bar. First of all, let me tell you what an amazing location your restaurant is! An amazing view of the city and the Potomac River. My friends and I really enjoy popping in for an early evening casual drink.

I recently visited your establishment and skipped (almost literally) straight to the bar to scope out your scotch selection. As I had remembered before, you had the same blasé single malts (The Glenlivets of a few boring ages and finishes) and the expected blends (Johnnie Walker Red, Black, and Dewers *YAWN*). On my last two visits, this is was quite literally the only place in town that had Talisker 25-year (approximately $250 / bottle) on the bar for a reasonable price (approximately $25-27 per glass).
It is quite obvious where this is going; it was gone! Okay. I am not going to panic, I see a nice bottle of Laphroaig 10-year smiling at me on one of the upper shelves. Here is an artist’s rendition of the moment:

An amazing drawing of my Laphroiag memory

So I sigh at the lack of Talisker 25-year, and inquire of the price of the yummy Laphroaig 10-year. The elderly gentleman behind the bar informs me of the $22 price tag.
I politely asked him to repeat himself. Same answer. $22.
“I’ll have a beer, then.” $5.
A bottle of Laphroaig 10-year costs approximately $50 at a retail store. I am too lazy to calculate the mark-up on that price per glass, but WOW. Quite frankly, I was actually offended at that price. Just because it is a single malt, doesn’t mean that people are stupid and will empty their wallet for it. I would have paid as much as $15 out of desperation to go with the great view, but crossing the $20 mark was just offensive. Harry’s Tap Room holds this same dram at $8.50. Harry’s food and establishment (excluding your view) is leagues of classy above yours.
Please get your scotch act together. You are just embarrassing yourself out there. If you need some help, shoot me an e-mail. I may answer you. But then again, I really wanted that Laphroiag that you dangled in front of my nose before slapping me in the face with a dead wet fish.
Not so truly yours due to your scotch selections,
P.s. >:-Þ

Why I Drink Single Malt Whisky

14 Sep

It seems like every time I whip out a single-malt, someone is bound to ask one of two questions:

  1. “Which single-malt is your favorite?”
  2. “Why are you so obsessed with single malt scotch whisky?”
In order to pick my favorite whisky, you would you have to catch me on a certain night and ask me then. It depends on my mood at that moment. It is almost easier to choose which ones I don’t like, which are few and far between.
Basically–for me–that question does not have an answer. I wish I could choose one, but the Ardbeg Uigeadail and the Talisker 25-year both have qualities that I covet. Constantly. Not in the alcoholic way. Yikes! What? Look over there.
The second question above is a bit more easy.
I really enjoy the taste, sure. The nosing really super fun for me seeing that I have a beak-like nose with the scent-sensing of a grizzly bear (though I wish I could just discern the “nuttiness” that every scotch whisky reviewer seems to note… what freakin’ nuts are you smelling?!?). Is there a bit of a pretentiousness to it? You bet.
My obsessiveness towards whisky is something I never expected:

That’s Luke (I’ll use a pseudonym so no one gets hurt or offended). You are witnessing his first taste of Ardbeg 10-year out of my stash. Needless to say, he enjoyed it quite a bit. Our other newb in at the class, Scott, sent me a text message about how he bought his first bottle, the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban the day after our get together. Awesome.
I love sharing my obsession with others for some unknown reason. Converting others into enjoying whisky and creating new whisky drinkin’ buddies has become an absolutely passion.
Drink it.
Scotchfinder out.

Blended vs. Single Malt

10 Sep

So what if it is blended, the scotch whisky is STILL a bunch of single malts put together, right?

So what makes them different? What they put in them, that’s what. If you search around long enough, you could probably find some educated guesses or a few leaks from the blender as to what they include in their blends. If you read the Johnnie Walker Wiki, you will see that they use so many single-malts (30+???) in their blends, no individual label is going to jump out even to an avid drinker of single-malt scotch…
…and that’s the point. Back in the day, scotch distilleries were very unpredictable with their productions. This caused people like said Johnnie Walker to get what he could from wherever he could and blend the ones he could get his hands on in such a particular way to create more consistency from bottle to bottle. Otherwise, someone may wait ages and ages for that special single-malt bottle of Talisker from Skye.
So which do you choose–blends or single-malts–and/or why?
Let’s face it, there are some really good blends out there! One in particular caught my eye while I was in New York City a couple of weekends ago: Sheep Dip 1990. No, not this kind of sheep dipping:
Who wants a sniff?? Yuck.
But more like this tasty buddy:

Yummy AND smokey!

My friend and I were shopping at Astor Wine and Spirits (which I still highly suggest a quick run through if you are in the New York City area) and the sales person stocking the shelves went on and on about this special Sheep Dip blend of whisky.
Sheep Dip 1990 is a blend of Dalmore, Fettercairn, and Ardbeg. Yes. I said Ardbeg. My friend, Brian, was very generous enough to give me a few little tastes of his glass of this little booger while visiting the Brandy Library last month. I must say, VERY nice. The Dalmore gives it your Highland flavors of barley, light peat, maybe some dried fruit. The Ardbeg really kicks up the smoke levels to a fun level for a peat-head. And the Fettercairn… well… is the filler. I know very little about Fettercairn, but what I have found is that this whisky ranks fairly low on the Richter scale. I found one decent review for a 33 year in Jim Murray’s 2010 Whisky Bible.
So what do you choose? Blend or single-malt?
Since this is 21st century and technology is somewhat reliable, I tend to favor the single malts. Not so much that they are of a higher quality per se, but more for their differing flavors. Taste a Macallan (any year) and then immediately take a sip of Lagavulin (any year) and you will immediately know what I’m talking about. I do not have several blends around because they are so different, I have one or two (at most) around in my War Chest (see the War Chest article) for my casual dram when guests over and do not want to whip out a $200 bottle of something that I’m probably going to spill it all over myself anyway. My blends taste good but not too good. I would rather concentrate on a conversation with someone than using my brainpower to wrap my head around some complex set of flavor explosions coming out of my throat and making my eyes water…
How are you doing, Cindy? No, I’m not crying. This 120 proof dram is really shooting up my nose right now and it…blah blah blah Cindy thinks I’m an idiot. *EDITORS’ NOTE TO WIFE* Cindy is a fictional character made up for this example ONLY.

Michael Jackson said it best: single malts are arias and the blended malts are the symphony orchestra. You can have more than one orchestra play the same piece and have them sound reasonably close, but a soloist on the stage is more likely to sound original and like no-one else.
So which do you choose, why, and when?

The War Chest Article

8 Sep
It saddens me to see that the last time I posted was during my work peek time of year, so I am going to vow to make up for it with a few rapid fire postings…
Since I am currently at work, however, I am going to direct you to one of the best articles I have seen on What Does John Know? The article is called “What’s in Your War Chest?” The premise is that you should have varying types of whiskies on hand for varying levels of drinking.
  1. Special occasions
  2. Every day whisky
  3. Unwanted guest whisky
  4. Etc.
This is a very awesome read! Check it out.
Posts to come soon, I promise!
Special thanks to Brian for sending the me article link!
Coming soon! My 2nd trip to New York City (I actually made it to Park Avenue Liquor Store!) and my advice to a confused local bar that wanted to charge me a bit much for a bit too little.