“The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whisky.
By diligent effort, I learned to like it.”
– Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister
Last night was our Newcomers Whisky Club May meeting – and a great big thank you to Rich and Laurie for opening up their home to our club!
Unfortunately we had a slightly smaller than expected turnout due to the severe storm, flash flood and tornado warnings we had all evening – which, btw, didn’t show up until early the following morning! – but for those hardy souls who did decide to “brave the weather”, we had a fantastic evening.
The theme for the evening was Spring Cleaning – which was quite simply a great excuse for me as an opportunity to reduce the number of opened bottles in my whisky closet! 😉
Although as I was doing a bit of “Spring Cleaning” from the “Closet of Insanity”, it was still an opportunity to share with the group some very good and very interesting whiskies – plus one surprise! AND…..the upside for those in attendance was an expanded line-up (we had 8 drams as opposed to our normal 6) that included a couple of whiskies from distilleries that I know our group had not tried before, and one particular bottle of whisky that I included even though it was above our normal budget – but I knew everyone would enjoy it, so it was a lot of fun on several fronts!
To start out the evening’s festivities, we started out with the “surprise” and went for a whisky “malternative” (to copy a phrase from Serge Valentin at www.whiskyfun.com – a great site that you should check out!). Instead of starting out with a whisky, we began the session with an Armagnac from Chateau de Saint Aubin; this surprise turned out to be a tremendously popular, and an enlightening, selection. Several folks commented on the fact that they had never had an Armagnac, while others talked about not particularly liking the Cognacs that they’ve tried in the past, but that they enjoyed the Armagnac a lot. So, chalk one up in the win column!
From there we moved on to the Mackmyra Special: 06, Summer Meadow, a Swedish single malt whisky that I had ordered from Master of Malt. (see the NWC review here for more detail) In truth, the sequencing here probably hurt this one more than I expected. I think that the boldness, the spice and fruits of the Armagnac overshadowed the Mackmyra, not allowing the delicate aromas and flavors to come through as well as they might have if I had put this one out first, or at least ahead of the Armagnac. Oh well, live and learn!
At the last minute I changed the order slightly from what is in the book insert (in case you’re looking at that) and moved the Signatory Vintage Glen Elgin 1995 17 yo up to third, ahead of the Aberfeldy, because the Glen Elgin is bourbon-cask matured. Originally it was going to fall between the Aberfeldy that has some sherry-matured components and the Longmorn that was a single-cask sherry-matured whisky. After the possible mistake in serving the Mackmyra after the Armagnac, I thought it made more sense to have the Glen Elgin after the Mackmyra and before the Aberfeldy and the Longmorn.
So, up next after the Mackmyra was the Aberfeldy 21 year-old, one of the few official bottlings from this distillery; this is another whisky that I reviewed previously. (Aberfeldy Review – here) The Aberfeldy is a key component whisky to the Dewar’s’ blends, offering a full-bodied, honeyed and softly floral core to their whiskies.
Next came a cask-strength bottling of a 17 year-old Longmorn 1996. (Reviewed here). Bottled by The Ultimate, a Dutch independent bottler, this was one I picked up during a trip to The Pot Still Whisky Shop in Vienna. The Longmorn is big, bold, and full-bodied, full of the spices and dried fruits notes you’d expect from a sherry-cask matured whisky.
Following the Longmorn, even though it was a low abv bottling coming on the heals of a cask-strength whisky, we sampled the Black Bull 40 year-old Batch 3 blended Scotch whisky. (Reviewed here) Now produced by Duncan Taylor, this was a bottle that is above the typical price range we have for our club’s whiskies, but I had one open, and it had been opened for a while, so I took this opportunity to share with the group. I knew that many of our members had never had a chance to try a 40 year-old whisky, blended or single malt, so I was very excited for them to try this whisky. As hoped, they enjoyed it tremendously.
From there we went to “the dark side” for a couple of peated whiskies. The first of our two peated drams was actually a peated Speysider, the Benromach Peat Smoke, an “undeclared” 8 year-old whisky – the bottle has no official age statement, but it doesn’t take too much digging to uncover the age. Certainly, without the age statement, it could have some whiskies younger than 8 years, but we’ll go with the information I could find on the web. Even though the barley for this whisky is reportedly peat-smoked to 67 ppm, the peaty/smoky flavors are not overwhelming. It is unquestionably a peated whisky, but there is a delicacy to the smoke – and a distinct difference in style from an Islay peated whisky. I will be posting a review of this one before too long, so you will have a chance to learn more about this Benromach release.
The final whisky on the menu was the Ardbeg Corryvreckan, one of the standard official releases from the distillery and possibly my favorite between the three official standard bottlings – the 10 yo, the Uigeadail and the Corryvreckan. The Corryvreckan is another one that I recently reviewed (Reviewed here). Even though I really like the Uigeadail with its sherry influence, the Corryvreckan, which is comprised partly of whiskies matured in French Oak, has this beautiful balance between the honeyed fruits from bourbon-cask matured whiskies and these wonderful, elegant herbal spice notes that just seem to hit the sweet spot for me.
Well, okay, even though the Corryvreckan was the “final” whisky on the night’s formal menu, Rich brought out a bottle of the standard Ardbeg 10 yo so that we could compare it with the Corryvreckan. The Ardbeg 10 yo – which is a tremendous value by the way – was unreservedly an Islay peated whisky; full-bore smoke, peaty, ashy, but with the underlying fruits and honey typical of Ardbeg. The 10 yo offered a stark comparison to the Corryvreckan, which showed an entirely different development and profile. Great fun to sample the two distinct whiskies in this way, so thanks, Rich!
As you can tell, it was a full, and very enjoyable, evening with some wonderful whiskies! And if you missed it, don’t despair, I have already begun planning our next meeting in July, so stay tuned!