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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?

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.

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.