Sometimes it is really nice to have good friends! Last week, a handful of us got together to celebrate a friend’s birthday….and we did it in style with a wonderful “little” selection of whiskies, of course. I emphasize the “little” because, with this group, we usually end up tasting an extensive, and often exceptional, line up of various whiskies and sometimes other spirits….and last week was no exception, we had a fantastic tasting with some great whiskies!!! (Don’t worry, we taste small pours and use dump buckets!)
To get the ball rolling, we started with a shared bottle of Founders KBS Flavored Stout. This is a limited, annual release Imperial Stout, clocking in at 11.2% abv and with an IBU rating of 70. Brewed with chocolate and coffee and then aged in bourbon barrels, this is a surprisingly effervescent beer with medium body and rich flavors. The chocolate and coffee are very evident, with a moderately hoppy bite, and a beautiful, long finish.
Next, we sampled a bottle of Deschutes Brewery “The Specialist” which is the fourth of their “Pub Reserve Series” releases – meaning you can only find these at a Deschutes Brew Pub. Based on the Bachelor Bitter recipe, this beer is barrel-aged in Bourbon, Pinot and Sherry casks, making for quite an interesting beer. In addition to the core, there are great notes of vanilla, grapes, and dried fruits. An intriguing experiment. Medium bodied, the finish is really complex.
The beers were good, but then the “real” festivities started! This is just a quick run-down of what we sampled:
Glen Elgin, 17 year-old, Signatory Vintage, distilled 19.09.1995 and bottled 07.11.2013, matured in a hogshead, cask #1640, Bottle No. 60 of 362, and 46% abv ($70 Specs). A very nice, brightly fruity Speysider. (86)
Kavalan Soloist ex-Bourbon Cask, B090929022A, distilled 2009, Bottle 165 of 182, 57.8% abv ($160 Dallas Fine Wine & Spirits). Quite simply, just another excellent Kavalan whisky and this one ranked in the top three of the evening for most of us. (90)
Kavalan Soloist Vinho Barrique Cask, W09112761A, distilled 2009, Bottle 010 of 211, 57.1% abv ($140 Dallas Fine Wine & Spirits). For me, this was a highlight, showcasing a wide and complex array or aromas and flavors with a great mouth feel. (89)
Kavalan Soloist Sherry Cask, S081205024, distilled 2008, Bottled 104 of 505, 58.6% abv ($160 Dallas Fine Wine & Spirits). This is the third version of sherry cask whiskies from Kavalan that I’ve tried. All three have been uniquely different, making them tremendously fun to try! This one was a less sweet, nuttier version which I really enjoyed. (88)
Yamazaki 1984 25 year old, distilled 2004 bottled 2009, 2692 of 3000 bottles, 48% abv (3000£-4000£ – auction only!) Derek kindly brought this one back from the Nth Whisky Show in Las Vegas to share. As this is now extremely rare, we were all appreciative of the chance to try it. Each of us got a small taste that really showed how exceptionally good older, mature Yamazaki can be. Even the empty glass just continued to offer up wonderful aromas! (Too small a sample to score)
Ben Nevis 17 year-old, Cadenhead Small Batch bottling, distilled 1996, Bottled 2014, matured in a Bourbon Hogshead, 1 of 252 Bottles, 54.1% abv ($125 Specs). A quirky Highlander, fruity, spiced and with a nice earthy/vegetal/farmy note that I really enjoy. (84)
BenRiach 26 yo, Exclusive Casks, distilled December 1987, bottled 2013, Cask #1507, 54.7% abv, ($175 Total Wine). Another very nice bottle; fruity and complex with excellent balance. (85)
BenRiach 10 yo, Official Bottle, Bottled circa 2004, 43% abv ($n/a). Despite the relative low abv, this one held its own when paired against its older sibling. Surprisingly, it showcased a quite different profile than the 26 year-old Exclusive Cask bottle. (84)
Clynelish 17 yo, Exclusive Casks, distilled October 1996, bottled 2013, 1 of 624 bottles, 53.3% abv ($115 Total Wine). Fantastic bottling of Clynelish showing some gorgeous depth. (86)
Glenfarclas 17 yo, Official Bottle, 2014 release, 43% ($100 Total Wine). Great balance between sweet and dry sherry, spices and dried fruits. Classic ‘farclas. (85)
Dailuaine 28 yo, D&M Exclusive, 43% abv, distilled 1976, bottled 2004, Single Cask ($n/a). This was possibly the biggest surprise of the evening, winning universal praise. Unfortunately this bottle is no longer available! Bold, rich and vibrant, a soft, yet full mouth feel, and a great finish. I’ve now had a couple of really incredible Dailuaine whiskies! (87)
Macallan Cask Strength, 59% abv, bottled 2010 and Macallan Cask Strength 59.3% abv, also bottled in 2010. We decided to try both versions side-by-side. As noted, both of these were bottled in 2010 but are obviously different releases given the different abv rates. Being so close in abv and being bottled the same year, you’d think they’d be almost the same, right? Wrong! These two presented quite varied profiles with the 59.3% leaning more toward a sweeter sherried palate and the 59% much nutter, drier and sharper. (86 – 59.3%; 84 – 59%)
Laphroaig 30 year-old, Official Bottle, bottled circa 2004, 43% abv (rare, prices on internet searches range from $1,850-$2,600, €1000-€1500, and £1500). I’ve had the great fortune to try this several times and………….it is just absolutely spectacular! More sherried, delicately peated, big yet soft, complex and expansive. When I win the lottery, there will be several of these in my collection! (91)
Port Ellen 25 year-old, Chieftain’s, distilled May 1982, bottled January 2005, matured in hogshead, Cask #1522, 288 bottles ($325 – in 2013, no longer available locally). From the famous, but now closed, distillery on Islay. Gorgeous and bold, soft lemony-peater with a great finish. (88)
Port Askaig 19yo, “official bottle,” bottled circa 2013, 50.4% abv (£85 Master of Malt). Port Askaig is a proprietary, non-distillery bottling of (reportedly) Caol Ila whisky, although not disclosed on the bottle. This was really a wonderful, creamy, complex whisky. I’d heard good things about Port Askaig, particularly the 19 yo, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! (86)
Caol Ila 18yo, Montgomerie’s, Distilled 23 Feb 1996, Bottled July 2014, Bottle 74, Cask 3073, 46% abv ($115) A fresh, light, crisp, true Caol Ila, full of lemony-briney peat…always good! (86)
Bruichladdich PC 6, distilled 2001, bottled 14 September 2007, Bottle 15,238 of 18,000, matured in bourbon casks, finished in Madeira casks, 61.6% abv ($165 in 2012). Uniquely PC. Young, big, expansive, farmy, peaty….quite the thrill ride, and not for the faint of heart! (86)
In case you’re interested, and happen to live in or be visiting the area, we met at Kasra, a nice little family-run restaurant in Richardson specializing in Persian and Afghan cuisine. I’d been there before and had a nice buffet dinner (along with a belly-dancing show), but this time we ordered from the menu and had a wonderful dinner to go along with this great selection of whiskies.
We started with a couple of appetizers, a beautifully rich and creamy Hummus and a very nice Baba Ghanoush. The main courses ordered ranged from Joojeh, which is a charbroiled Cornish Hen, spiced with special Persian seasonings and served with Basmati rice; a Lamb Shank plate with a seasoned rice – the Lamb almost just melted off the bone; and Lamb Chops that were seasoned with Afghan spices.
I actually ordered the Lamb Shank, but a slight mix-up caused my dinner to end up in front of Pete and I got Pete’s chops. The staff quickly fixed the error by bringing Pete another plate of chops and leaving the shank for all to try. While the shank was great, I was almost glad for the error, because the chops were fantastic! If you are in the area and enjoy lamb, you should visit Kasra!
Kasra is a BYO restaurant….and the prices were very reasonable, too! www.kasracuisine.com
It was a great evening and thanks to Pete, Sorin, Derek and Greg for sharing….
…………and happy birthday, again, to Greg!