If there is anyone in the Dallas area who claims to be a whisky fan and doesn’t know about Trinity Hall, a fantastic Irish Pub located in Mockingbird Station…..for shame, for shame! You’d best turn in your whisky-fan card! Marius Donnelly, the highly esteemed Publican and Head Dishwasher-in-Charge of Trinity Hall, is a big whisky fan himself, which means that he always has a great selection of whiskies. And in addition hundreds of bottled and tap beers, including a set of Rotaters, Trinity Hall has a whisky menu with over 200+ bottles to choose from, and Marius often has bottles of the newer releases coming to market, so if you have your eye on a bottle of something and want to taste it before plunking down your hard-earned cash, chances are Marius can help you out!
The other great reason to know about Trinity Halls is that, as part of a set of ongoing activities, Marius hosts a Whisky Tasting on the first Tuesday of each month. The tastings generally consist of six 3/4 oz pours (and usually a 7th “surprise” whisky). The menus for the tastings sometimes following a general theme, other times they are a set of random selections, and now and again, a Brand-specific, Ambassador-hosted tasting. In addition to the whiskies, Marius also serves tapas-style snack plates. And the cost is reasonable! These tastings run just $35!
Anyway, this past Tuesday was the first of the month, so I hopped in the truck and ventured down to Trinity Hall for this month’s tasting. Braving the worse than usual rush hour traffic on 75 South – a car fire on the shoulder and two other accidents – I eventually made it to the Pub! I found myself a seat and readied myself for the fun. For this month’s “theme”, Marius decided to hold a Blind Tasting in which Marius provided us the names of the six whiskies along with a set of tasting notes. Our challenge was to match the set of whisky notes to each unidentified whisky…..trust me, it sounds easier than it is! Regardless, we were game and so I, along with about 20 other guests, and my three table mates Mark, Chris, and Al, studiously and enthusiastically engaged our highly evolved senses, assured that we would master the challenge and correctly identify all six whiskies!
Here is the list of whiskies in the order in which we tasted them. Obviously, I now know which is which, but let me give you a bit of the details about each one before I go into our Blind Tasting results:
Edradour Barolo Cask 2006 Vintage – Distilled in March and April, this 2006 Vintage was aged in Barolo Hogsheads for around eight years before being bottled in April 2014. Total out-turn was 2450 bottles. This was bottled at 46% abv with no chill-filtering.
This was a challenge to peg to the accompanying tasting notes. Full of fruit notes, including a lot of red berries, some sweet vanilla, and quite a bit of herbal and peppery spices, it seemed to fit several of the provided descriptions. As this was the first pour, meaning we had nothing to directly compare it to, all the herbal spice and pepper led us to initially think that this might be the rye…until the rye actually arrived and we knew this was not a rye. But the fact that this was not the rye caused us a lot of head-scratching, especially when we compared this one with the second whisky.
Teeling Single Grain – A single grain whisky fully matured in Californian Cabernet barrels The whisky is bottled at 46% and with no chill filtration.
This second whisky was the other source of significant confusion to us, along with the Edradour. As with the Edradour, this whisky had a lot of vanilla, some floral aspects, and was also full of fruit and berry notes. There was a great deal of similarity to the Edradour, although without quite the same peppery bite. It was the prominent berry notes in both this one and the Edradour that hung us up. The provided description did not mention the wine barrel maturation, but discovering this information at “The Reveal”, it made sense that this and the Edradour were so close in profile.
Compass Box Great King St, Artist’s Blend – a blended scotch whisky by one of my favorites, Compass Box, the Great King Street Artist’s blend is composed of whiskies matured in first-fill American Oak, first-fill sherry butts, and finished in new-headed French Oak barrels. The whisky is bottled at 43%, it is not chill-filtered and has no e150a caramel coloring added.
This was the third whisky served and, with some similarities to the first two, this one had sweet vanilla, berries, and subtle spices, but we picked the correct description for the whisky. Although it shared some common notes, there was more floral/grassiness on the nose, it was more roundly sweet and maltier on the palate, and throughout, the vanilla was more direct than the first two. Given the set of provided tasting notes, this one was quickly pegged as the Compass Box by our table.
Bulleit Rye – First released in 2011, Bulleit Rye has already generated quite a loyal following. Although I believe Bulleit is now distilling its own rye whisky, this bottling is still a “sourced” whisky that was produced at LDI. On the label, you will note that this is a 95% rye whisky – with the remaining 5% being malted barley (as is common, malted barley is used to facilitate fermentation). The whisky is bottled at 45% abv, and caramel coloring is likely added.
As I mentioned above, once this glass hit our table, we knew we had the rye in front of us. The very pronounced herbal, grassy, and peppery spice notes riding on a wave of subtle, but sweet vanilla,quickly gave it away. It also didn’t hurt that I’d recently just finished bottle of Bulleit Rye, so the profile was very fresh in my mind! For me, just as a note about this specific whiskey, it is a nice rye, perhaps a bit light on the palate compared to some others, and not necessarily a standout when you have the likes of some of the Willett ryes, or even the Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond, to choose from. The good news is that this is another relatively good value for money rye that deserves a chance, if you like ryes.
Ardbeg Auriverdes – A(nother) non-age statement whisky from the Islay distillery, Auriverdes was released on the self-proclaimed “Ardbeg Day” 2014, continuing the series of one-off releases to hit the market in conjunction with Feis Ile, the annual celebration of music and whisky that takes place each year on Islay. Bottled at 49.6% abv, Auriverdes is the result of some experimental maturation steps. Distilled in 2002, so circa 12 years old, this whisky was matured in second fill American white oak casks that had the lids custom toasted, one lightly toasted to extract more vanillans, and one darker roasted to coax out some mocha/coffee-like notes.
Well, what can I say – this was a basic Gimme! The provided tasting notes only referenced peat and smoke in one description, so it certainly wasn’t very hard to pinpoint this one correctly. Even as the servers approached the table and before they set down the glasses, pretty much everyone in the room knew which whisky was coming.
I’ve had the Auriverdes several times, including my own bottle. Auriverdes shares with its siblings the expected characteristics you’d want to find in an Ardbeg whisky, peat smoke, iodine, brine, white fruits and lemon, hints of tar, and even wet rope, but for some it just lacks the oomph you’re expecting and hoping to get from it. Personally, I like it, because of the subtlety in its profile, but it is not mind-boggling. The Ardbeg 10 is bigger and more powerful, a “truer” Ardbeggian whisky, where this one brings a sense of elegance. However, from a price-value standpoint, I’m not sure this is worth the price charged when it is nearly three times the cost of the 10 year old….but that’s up to you.
Glenlivet Nadurra – Nadurra is a 16 year-old, cask strength whisky matured in ex-Bourbon American white oak barrels. This particular batch was bottled without chill filtration and, if I heard Marius correctly over the din, at rather sizable 55.6% abv.
Besides the Ardbeg, with its obvious peaty nature, the Nadurra was one we were relatively certain we would be able to identify correctly. For one reason, most of us had tried various releases of Nadurra, plus this was the only cask strength whisky in the lineup. My previous experiences with Nadurra, and which proved true here, too, is that this whisky is quite hot when neat. The alcohol strength is immediately obvious and overwhelms the whisky. But this one swims like Mark Spitz. Put in some water, then a little more water than you think it needs, and give it a few minutes. The result is a surprisingly engaging and vibrant whisky that exhibits its Glenlivet pedigree. Quite fruity – ripe orchard fruits, apples and pears – loads of vanilla, softly floral, and sweet with overripe banana and marshmallow notes. The upside to this bottle is that it is cask strength, so you can adjust the amount of water you like to add, tweaking it to your own preferences. The minor downside is that with water, for me, the Nadurra tends to become very similar to the standard Glenlivet 12 – a very nice, if not exactly the most complex of malts.
Tamdhu 10 – the Surprise 7th Whisky – not part of the blind tasting – was the Tamdhu 10 year old, a Speyside whisky matured exclusively in sherry casks and bottled at 43%.
I’d tried the Tamdhu 10 several times previously, but each time I try it again, I am reminded that this is a very good whisky, especially considering its price point. Tamdhu is a “lesser known” distillery, so they are seeking to establish a reputation. Certainly, given the quality that this whisky presents, they are on their way; this is a very nice, sherry-matured whisky that delivers a glass full of spice, dried fruit, and soft chocolate notes. Well-balanced and with a reasonable degree of complexity, this one stands up well to its more knows competitors.
As to the results of our Blind Tasting, I won’t bore you with too many details, but we actually did pretty well in matching the descriptions to the various whiskies – certainly better than I’ve done in the past when Marius has done one of these. The Ardbeg and the Nadurra were pretty simple, as was the Bulleit Rye, for the reasons noted above. The other three, however, were the real challenge for us. We were fairly confident in identifying the Compass Box, which left us to pick between the Edradour and the Teeling, but both has some rather significant similarities. With time running out, we were forced to make our educated guesses and see how we did. As Marius began to reveal the whiskies, our hopes for perfection were quickly dashed. While I can claim that I first put Edradour down as Whisky #1, I second guessed myself and switched it with the Teeling……and those were the ones I got wrong. When all was said and done, though, three of the four of us got Four out of Six correct – having missed on the Edradour and the Teeling. In fact, only one person in the entire tasting group managed to get all six right, so we finished moderately satisfied with our results.
This was another wonderful, fun, and interesting Tasting Session, and thanks to Marius for all the work that goes into setting these up!