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Posts Tagged ‘scotch’

Finish Versus The World

April 18, 2015 17 comments

Liquid Pleasures Beyond Wine: Scotch Whisky

March 6, 2015 7 comments

Scotch in Glencairne GlassDuring 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project was closed and  even the web site is down, but as I still like the posts I wrote, I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into the mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” and “Forgotten Vines”. The post I’m offering to you today was from the mini-series called “Liquid Pleasures Beyond Wine”, and the subject of this post is Scotch Whisky.

Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

Moving from grapes to grains (last week’s subject – Brandy), now is the time to talk about literally my favorite spirit: Scotch Whisky, or simply Scotch for a shorter name. Scotch is a part of a broader category of spirits which are called Whiskey, which is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the fermented grains. While Whiskey can be produced anywhere in the world, Scotch Whisky can be produced … yep, only in Scotland (by the way, note the spelling difference – Whisky versus Whiskey, and make no mistake using the right spelling when talking about Scotch – it is Whisky).

First mentions of the Scotch Whisky (will just refer to it as Scotch from here on) go all the way back to the end of the 15th century, so this alcoholic beverage has quite a bit of heritage and knew very turbulent times in its half a millennia history. Scotch can be made from different grains such as barley, wheat and so on, but many particularly famous Scotches are made from malted barley, and typically are called “malt”. And then if you ever paid attention to Scotch, I’m sure you heard of a “single malt” – that is a Whisky which is made out of malted barley at a single distillery. So just to emphasize – “single” here refers to a single distillery, and an opposite of single would be “blended”, in case Scotch from two or more distilleries is blended together. By the way – don’t be afraid of the blended Scotch – a lot of them are on par with the best single malts.

Making of the malted Scotch starts from the barley, which is steeped with water for some time to start germination process – during this process, complex starches will be broken down and converted into sugar. Next step is drying of the barley, which is typically done in the pit, using heated air. The heat is coming from burning of the peat (fossil fuel), which imparts the smoky flavor on the grains; later on the smoke becomes the part of the flavor profile of the final product – the intensity of the smoke varies greatly among different areas and different producers. Dried grains are coarsely ground and will be steeped with the hot water and will become a sugary liquid.

Next step is cooling off and then start of the fermentation process, which technically results in the beer with 7%-8% alcohol. From here on, the liquid goes through the first and second distillation process, which will get the level of alcohol anywhere between 40% and 94%, and then it is put in the oak barrels to age. The minimum age for Scotch is 3 years, but if we are talking about single malts, majority of them would age for 10 or 12 years (12 years seems to be a very popular demarcation line for introductory level Scotch from a lot of producers), and from there it can continue aging until it reaches 18-19 years (anything in between also goes). 25 and 30 years also seem to be a popular option, and 40-50 years old are not so rare – but keep in mind that the age of the Scotch will be appropriately reflected in the price (you expected that, right?).

Before Scotch is bottled, the decision is made regarding the strength of the alcohol in the final product. Sometimes it can be released at so called “cask strength”, which can be anywhere from 50% to 60% ABV or even higher. But more often than not, it is diluted with water to get to 43% – 46% of alcohol in the final beverage. One important note – unlike wine, Scotch doesn’t age in the bottle – however, once it is opened, again unlike wine, it doesn’t spoil and can be kept indefinitely in the bottle, just don’t forget to put the cork back every time you pour a glass.

With the same process used across the board (fermentation of the malted barley and [typically] double distillation), and the “fruit” (err, grain) being effectively the same (barley) versus many hundreds of different grapes used in the winemaking, would you expect that all the Scotch of the same age will taste the same? Well, it truly does not. What makes Scotches taste different? First of all, it is water, which is different in every Scotch-producing region. Then it is the type and intensity of peat smoke used for drying of the germinated grains. Of course the number of distillations matters, but more importantly it is the type or types of casks used for aging (some Scotches undergo aging in a few different types of casks before they are bottled) and the time of aging. Lastly, it is the type of filtering (or no filtering at all) which will also affect the taste of the final product. Oh yes, and a little bit of magic.

There are five official areas where Scotch is produced – Lowland, Highland, Speyside, Campbeltown (never tasted anything from this area) and Islay. There are also a number of small islands which produce Scotch in a very distinct styles (like Skye, Orkney and others), but they are technically considered the part of the Highland region. Each distillery produces Scotch in its own unique style, but there can be some general similarities between scotches. If we paint flavor profile for the different regions, using very wide brushstrokes, we can say that Scotches from Highlands are typically very balanced and round, with good balance of acidity, flavor and spiciness. Lowlands flavor expression is usually toned down, and Speyside are very delicate and nuanced – Orkney scotches (Scappa) are similar to Speyside in their expressions, but probably add a touch more body. Islay and Skye produce very powerful and assertive scotches, exhibiting tremendous amount of peat (read: smoke); those who like them (me!) find them very pleasant.

When you are looking at the bottle of Scotch, you would typically be able understand if this is a single malt or not, how old it is (10, 12, 14, 15 and so on years), or the year when it was distilled and when it was put in a bottle, as well as the type of finish  – Madeira, Jerez, Port and many others types of barrels this scotch was matured in. Of course alcohol content, cask strength or not and type of filtering would also be typically denoted on the bottle. Well, as a popular trend, that exact age statement can be nowhere to be found on the bottle nowadays – but this should be a subject for a separate post…

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There are hundreds and hundreds of distilleries making great single malt and blended Scotches. If you want to learn about all of the distilleries, you can start from Wikipedia link, or Malt Madness web site. At the same time, I would be glad to share the list of some of my single malt favorites: Ardbeg Alligator (Islay), Cardhu 12 (Speyside), Lagavulin 16 (Islay), Laphroaig 16 (Islay), Glenfiddich 15 (Speyside), Scappa 14 and 16 (Orkney), Talisker 10 (Skye). Of course the world is not limited by the single malts only. When it comes to blended whisky, there are a number of Whiskies which I can recommend – Johnnie Walker (Black, Gold, Blue), Chivas Regal 12 and 18, Monkey Shoulder, Compass Box, Blue Hanger, Black Bottle – and many others.

I hope I was able to share my passion for the Scotch Whisky  – but I’m curious to hear what do you think about Scotch? Also, just so you know, in our next post we will insert only one letter ‘e” into the word Whisky, to discover to whole huge world of Whiskey. Until then – happy dramming!

Cheers!

 

Looking for Liquid Pleasures Beyond Wine

March 3, 2015 1 comment

Cognac scotch tequilaDuring 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project was closed and  even the web site is down, but as I still like the posts I wrote, I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into the mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” and “Forgotten Vines”. The post I’m offering you today was an opening post in the mini-series called “Liquid Pleasures Beyond Wine”.

Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

So far in this blog we mostly talked about wine, wine as an experience. We tried to uncover some of the hidden secrets of the wine world, such as Rioja, second labels of the famous wines, or French sparkling wines. We looked at the wines which were famous, then almost disappeared and now slowly coming back, such as Madeira and Jerez. We also searched for wine values, by comparing wines made from the same grape but coming from the different places. Did we explore enough the world of wines? Not really, we didn’t even touch the tip of a tip of an iceberg. Nevertheless, as we are looking for experiences, let’s take a step outside of the wine world, and let’s take a look at the other “liquid pleasures”.

I’m talking about the group which is collectively called “spirits”, otherwise also known as “distilled beverages”, which is a name which is used in Wikipedia. Overall distillation is a process of separating liquids with the different boiling points, and its application goes way beyond the world of alcoholic beverages. Distillation first was uncovered about 2000 years ago, but first use for production of the “spirits” happened less than a thousand years ago. When applied to the wine or any other fermented substance (meaning that some degree of alcohol is present in the liquid to begin with), the end result of distillation is a liquid with increased concentration of alcohol.

Historically, such high-alcohol liquids had various uses – one of the most important ones, which also has nothing to do with drinking the liquid, was medicinal. Strong alcohol is an excellent antiseptic; it is used in order to disinfect the area of the body, to kill any potential bacteria thus preventing any possible contamination. However, while this very important, such applications are completely outside of the scope of this blog, so let’s go back to the stuff we drink.

There are many different kinds of the spirits produced in the world. Some have more universal appeal and can be produced in many countries following the same basic methodology, but some can be also unique for particular place (but if it is any good, it is extremely hard to keep a secret). Let’s take a quick look at the various types of the spirits – we will discuss some of them in detail in the subsequent posts.

Let’s start with Brandy – brandy is a spirit which is produced from wine. This can be an actual grape wine, or it can be a fruit wine – both can be used for the production of brandy. For instance, Cognac and Armagnac are both made from the grapes, and Calvados, another famous French brandy, is made from apples. Brandy is produced in France, Spain, Italy (where it is known as Grappa), Georgia, Armenia, US, Mexico and many other countries.

Next spirit we need to mention is Whisky, which is made out of grains (barley, rye, wheat, corn). This group includes Scotch, which is made in Scotland, and then Whiskey, which can be made in many different countries – for instance, Irish whiskey is made in Ireland, and in US you can find both Whiskey, which is often made from rye, and Bourbon, which is corn-based. Whisky is also produced in Japan, India, Canada and other countries.

Then comes Vodka – made all around the world, from all possible ingredients. It is made in France, Russia, Poland, Italy, US, Canada and many other countries. It can be made from grapes, fruits, grains, potatoes and probably some other ingredients we can’t even think of. Vodka is often called a “neutral spirit” as it is typically produced flavorless (some flavor can be infused before bottling), and thus it is a popular component in many cocktails.

To complete the “big scale” list of spirits, we need to mention a few more. Tequila, which is produced from the Blue Agave plant, is a very popular spirit coming from Mexico. I can’t resist to mention Mezcal, which is also made in Mexico using Agave plants, but it has distinctly different taste (and very hard to find). Then we need to mention Gin, which is also a popular cocktail ingredient and has a very distinct taste as it is produced from Juniper berries. And last but not least comes Rum, which is produced from sugarcane, and yet another popular cocktail staple.

As we are looking for the great experiences, should we even look at all these “hard liquors” as they often called in the United States? Absolutely. Moderation is a key when it comes to alcohol (this universally applies to any kind of alcoholic beverages – beer, wine or spirits) – but once this is understood, one can definitely enjoy immense richness and variety of flavors coming from all these spirits. They definitely create a lot of great experiences and unique memories, and they bring lots of pleasure. In the coming posts, we will take a closer look at some of them – and until that time – cheers!

 

Of Great Wine and Whisky

December 9, 2013 4 comments

I’m sure everybody loves the holiday season – at least in the US, where the holiday season is typically the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. While there are many reasons for that, I think the wine lovers can have their own additional reason. All things wine make the perfect gift, and the wine stores want you to remember that – particularly, by running a lot more wine tasting events and bringing out more interesting wines!

Along these lines, I had an opportunity to taste a few of the great wines and whiskies, which I want to share with you here. Let me start with the wines first.

NV Ayala Brut Majeur Ay Champagne, France (12% ABV, 45% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier ) – Champagne lovers, rejoice – as the New Year is getting closer, the opportunity to taste Champagne will be only increasing. But when it comes to this particular Champagne Ayala, this wine is a reason to celebrate on its own. Beautiful nose of everything you want in Champagne – baked bread, touch of yeast, a fresh apple. Considering concentration and complexity of all these flavors on the nose, it was more resembling a vintage Champagne than a regular NV (the fact that this AYALA Champagne ages for 2.5 years on the lees is probably a contributing factor). Fine mousse on the palate, light, effervescent, delicious – I had to ask for the refill of my tasting cup. At around $30, this well might be the best Champagne the money can buy. Drinkability: 8

2011 Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc North Canterbury, New Zealand (14% ABV) – I know that not everybody like the pronounced grapefruitiness of the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. So If you still want to experience the bright and uplifting character of New Zealand SB, sans the grapefruit, this might be the wine for you. Light straw color in the glass, the nose of lemon with some grass notes, vibrant acidity, clear cut lemon with a bit of a lemon zest on the palate, medium to full bodied, refreshing and invigorating. This wine will be great with food and on its own. Drinkability: 8-

2012 Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir North Canterbury, New Zealand (13.5% ABV) – light garnet color in the glass, this wine was a quintessential Pinot Noir for me. First and foremost characteristic of this wine is a perfect balance and harmony, both on the nose and on the palate. Hint of cherries on the nose with the touch of mushrooms and earthiness – one of the wines you want to smell forever. On the palate, both red and black cherries, red plums, perfect acidity, soft tannins, medium body, overall extremely round and supple. Super dangerous – I’m sure the bottle will be gone in no time if you are just left alone with it. It is also a steal at $19.99. Drinkability: 8+

2010 Ferrari-Carano Siena Red Wine Sonoma County (14.1% ABV, 74% Sangiovese, 14% Malbec, 8% Syrah, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon) – dark garnet color int he glass, inviting nose of fresh dark fruit, very balanced on the palate with chewy cherries and touch of black plums. Good structure and acidity, overall very pleasant. Drinkability: 7+

2011 Damilano Barbera d’Asti DOCG (14% ABV, 20% aged in 225L Frenchbarriques, 40% aged in second use 225L French barriques, and 40% aged in 500L French tonneaux) – I would call this an ideal Pizza wine. Light cherries on the nose and the palate, with the addition of the tart blackberries, noticeable but balanced acidity. Drinkability: 7

2011 Produttori del Barbaresco Nebbiolo Langhe DOC (14.5% ABV) – excellent rendition of the young and approachable Nebbiolo. Brick color in the glass, earthy nose, good amount of dark fruit on the palate withaddition of leather and tobacco. Very enjoyable. Drinkability: 7+

2009 Damilano Lecinquevigne Barolo DOCG (14% ABV, aged for 24 month, 80% in 10,000L oak barrels, 20% in second use 225L French oak barrique) – this wine is a blend of fruit from 5 different vineyards, all from Barolo DOCG designated zone (Castellero in Barolo, Monvigliero in Verduno, Fossati in La Morra, Ravera in Novello and Cavourrina in Grinzane Cavour). This wine was [expectedly] similar to the previous Nebbiolo wine, but with “more of everything” – higher concentration of fruit, nice power, well integrated  after few hours of decanting, tobacco, leather, ripe cherries, hint of violet – a full package of an excellent Barolo. Also, at around $30, it is pretty much a steal. Drinkability: 8-

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And now, here comes Whisky. I will present to you 4 different whiskies – care to guess where they came from? I will give you a few seconds to think about it. So they actually came from … Scotland (of course), Japan and North Carolina!

Blue Ridge Distilling Defiant Whisky, North Carolina (41% ABV, 100% Malted Barley) – what a treat! This Whisky has a great story, which is well captured on the distillery’s web site and in this Huffington post article, so I will have to defer you to those sources for the full information. I can only tell you that this is a very young distillery (a bit older than one year), which uses a unique ageing process, where toasted white oak spirals are used instead of a cask to impart the color and character. This was a perfect whisky – smooth, round, with a touch of sweetness and perfect, oily, silky viscosity and texture, which is the trait of some of the best Scotland single malts. If you like whisky, this is something you have to experience to believe it. Outstanding.

Nikka Whisky Taketsuru Single Malt 12 Years Old, Japan (40% ABV) – Japanese Whisky are so hard to find! I have most of my experience with Yamazaki and Hibiki, both of which are some of my favorite. This Nikka Taketsuru 12 y.o. was nice but rather simple, without much of the explicit character. At around $70/bottle, this might not be the best choice for the money.

Nikka Whisky Yoichi Single Malt 15 Year Old, Japan (45% ABV) – this was a lot more interesting than the previous one – playful on the palate, with good power, hint of caramel, crisp acidity, nice and balanced. While this is a good dram, the pricing still makes the value somewhat questionable – at around $115, I’m not sure this would be the best investment.

The Lost Distillery Company Auchnagie Blended Malt Whisky (46% ABV) – in a word, spectacular! One of the best whisky I ever tasted, one of the very best! It also comes with the great story. The Lost Distillery Company has its mission to recreate the whisky made by some of the best distilleries in Scotland, which are long gone (actually, there are hundreds of those). Auchnagie, which existed for almost hundred years, 1812-1911, was a farm distillery located in Highlands. Recreation of the Auchnagie whisky was one of the first projects undertaken by The Lost Distillery Company – I can only direct you to their web site where you can read pages and pages of detailed research information. And to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t dare to describe this whisky from that few second I had to taste it (it was mostly a moaning session). I will hopefully get a bottle at some point and will write the whole dedicated post as this beverage deserves. But – if you are a whisky aficionado, I have only two words for you – find it! It is truly spectacular and you don’t want to miss it. Also, at around $65 /bottle, it worth every penny for the countless amount of pleasure it will bring.

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That’s all I have for you today. Happy Monday and a great week to all! Cheers!

Indifferent, Okay and Spectacular

November 10, 2013 7 comments

Over the last few days, I had a few of the “accidental tastings”, which I would like to share with you. Oh yes, and if you are wondering about the title of this post – read on.

It is not the wine we will be talking about today – instead, it is the other type of “liquid pleasures”. Well, actually, not even one”type”, but a few – Tequila, Scotch and Whiskey!

I have to admit, I don’t drink tequila all that often. When I do drink it, I don’t do shots (as I don’t see a point of pleasure in a quick gulp of an alcohol) – as wine, scotch or cognac, I like to sip and enjoy it slowly.

Tequila DeLeón is definitely not something to look at lightly. I would say that in the overall image presentation, starting from the bottle itself (take a look below – that top is so heavy, it can be literally used as a weapon), to the web site and all the marketing materials, Tequila DeLeón is an attempt to bring out the tequila, shall we say it, of Rémy Martin’s level, and not just any Rémy Martin, but all the way to the top – Louis XIII de Rémy Martin.

Tequila DeLeón bottle

Tequila DeLeón bottle

I had an opportunity to taste through the full line of Tequila DeLeón, starting from the tequila blanco, which is unpretentiously called Diamante, to the Louis XIII-like Leóna. Below is the complete list with the descriptions and suggested retail prices (sorry for the quality of the picture, but I hope you will be able to see enough – or go to the web site for more info):

Tequila DeLeón The Juice line

Tequila DeLeón The Juice line

Here are my notes:

DeLeón Diamante – touch of sweetness, the classic Agave notes of tequila are very muted, viscous mouthfeel.

DeLeón Riposado – nice herbal profile, had some lightness and touch of spiciness. One of my favorites.

DeLeón Añejo – mind you, this tequila is aged in the used Sauternes oak casks, and not just any Sauternes, but venerable d’Yquem. Interesting palate, but not smooth enough, some rough edges.

DeLeón Extra Añejo – very nice, excellent flavor profile, some spiciness, very good depth. Probably my favorite – which is not surprising, considering that it is compared with the Scotch in the official description.

DeLeón Leóna – this is simply overdone. It has a lot of oak. A LOT. Oak is the only thing I was able to taste.

Now, if we look at the prices, which are ranging from $125 for Diamante to $825 for Leóna, this is where Indifferent part of the post’s title comes into a play. I would gladly take Chinaco and Don Julio for the sipping tequila blanco any day (both are under $50), and I never tasted Añejo better than my favorite Tres Generaciones ( also under $50). I appreciate the art of the Tequila DeLeón, and yes, if you need to impress, go for it; meanwhile, I will have another sip of Chinaco.

So you know what left me indifferent. Now, for the Okay part, I tasted through a group of Scotches.  Here they are:

MacPhail’s Collection Highland Park 8 years old – very nice! hint of smoke, perfect balance, touch of sweetness.

MacPhail’s Collection Glan Grant 10 years old – herbal notes, smooth, nice acidity, very good.

Mortlach 15 years old – nice and simple, but somewhat one-dimensional.

Old Pulteney 21 years old – nice, very complex, interesting nose, spicy profile – excellent overall.

Glenlivet 21 years old – okay, so it is a scotch, but it doesn’t do anything for me.

The Macallan 21 years old – least interesting of all. Just boring…

Based on the notes, you can probably see why this is just “okay”. But if you like Scotch, I would definitely recommend the Highland Park 8 and Old Pulteney 21 – those are worth seeking out.

And now,  let’s talk about Spectacular. I was given to taste (blind) four different spirits, one by one, and the most I could say after each one was “wow”. They were one better than the other. Zak was looking at me patiently, waiting for me to guess what they were. The first one, I said, was a grappa. The second? Bourbon. The third? No idea – absolutely unusual profile. The fourth? May be a Rye? Then he put 4 bottles on the table, one by one. Here they are:

Catskill Distilling Company Spirit's Collection

Catskill Distilling Company Spirits Collection

When I saw what they were, I had to say “wow” one more time. All of the spirits were produced about 90 miles away from my house, in the town of Bethel, New York . It is amazing how far the local New York producers went. You probably read my rave review of Hudson Distillery – I will definitely make an effort to visit Catskill Distilling Company when I will have a chance. Here is what I tasted:

Wicked White Whiskey – this is six-grain (corn, wheat, buckwheat, rye, smoked corn, malt), un-aged whiskey. Absolutely spectacular nose and flavor – complete impression of delicate single-grape grappa with round sweet fruit and all around delicious. You have to taste it to believe it.

Most Righteous Bourbon (70% corn, 20% rye, and 10% malt) – round, clean, caramel, butterscotch, all perfectly balanced together. One of the best bourbons I ever tasted.

One and only Buckwheat (80% buckwheat, 20% small grains) – unique and different. Nose is absolutely unusual, reminiscent of sun flower oil. Viscous, roll-of-your-tongue delicious concoction. Great complexity, another drink you have to taste to believe it.

Definat Rye – a very classic Rye, with a touch of sweetness, but otherwise dry palate, some spiciness and good acidity.

All four spirits are reasonably priced ( from $19 to $38) and definitely highly recommended.

There you have it, my friends – my story of indifferent, okay and spectacular. Enjoy the rest of your weekend and cheers!

 

Of Scotch And Character

January 18, 2013 8 comments

Quick trip to Scotland, anyone? Seriously, do you want to hear the wind and embrace the land? This is easy – turn the sound on and click here.

Do you want to make your experience even more realistic? Pour yourself a splash of Bruichladdich (may be even while sitting next to the fireplace), and you are there.

You probably figured by now that today we are once again going to talk about Scotch. If last week I was talking about the art of blending, as present by Compass Box, today I want to talk about pure character. Few days ago I tasted some new Scotches coming from Bruichladdich, a distillery located on island of Islay. Islay is one of the main areas in the Scotch production (the others are Highlands, Lowlands and Speyside), famous for their Scotches to be very peaty, smoky both on the nose and the palate.

Bruichladdich distillery is about 130 years old, definitely not the oldest, but considering the number of new products and limited releases I would dare to say, one of the most innovative. The proof is in the pudding, right? Err, in the Scotch in our case. So in the tasting, I had 4 different Bruichladdich Scotches which I never tasted before.

Bruichladdich_Scotch

Bruichladdich Rocks was the lightest from the group – nice touch of smoke on the nose, very floral and mellow on the palate, as light and refreshing as Scotch can be (distillery tasting notes can be found here). .

Bruchladdich The Laddie Ten, as the name says, is 10 years old single malt – touch of iodine on the nose (not anywhere as medicinal as Talisker, with only a whiff of iodine), excellent, soft, round, with good viscosity, very gentle for what it is (distillery tasting notes can be found here).

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2006 – yes, it is a very young Scotch, which I’m not even sure has a specific definition in the world of Scotch. Not only this is single malt, but all the barley used in production of this scotch comes from one specific farm (a single farm single malt?). Really unusual (especially for Islay), pure caramel on the nose, round and delicious (while I really enjoyed it, it felt more like “ladies scotch”). Again, here are the distillery tasting notes.

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte – The Peat Project – ahh, pure classic. This was classic Islay. Perfectly peaty and perfectly restrained at the same time. Bacony smoke on the nose, round, smooth, elegantly peaty on the palate and delicately weaved. While you can read the distillery notes here, I can’t help it but to cite a line from the description: “bottled using Islay spring water from the Octomore field of farmer James Brown” – does it get any better than that?

Our tour of Islay is over, folks. Go grab a bottle of Bruichladdich and enjoy the spirit and the character of the land. Cheers!

 

Tasting Beaujolais Noveau 2011 and a Little Bit of Scotch

November 20, 2011 2 comments

Appearance of Beaujolais Nouveau bottles in the wine stores squarely underscores an important notion which is up in the air anyway: the holidays are here, and the year is going to wind up very quickly from here on. But the last six weeks of the year are not going away without a bang – there will be lots of great food and great wine everywhere.

So what do you think about Beaujolais Nouveau 2011? Here are my impressions. To begin with, I like the label of the Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2011 – it is very bright and attractive, purely an urban statement with graffiti lettering. As as the wine itself is concerned, it was okay, more in style with the years prior to 2010. Let me put it this way – the Beaujolais Nouveau 2010 was real wine of a good depth, a thought provoking wine (here is the link to the post about 2010 wines) – 2011 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau was just that – a Beaujolais Nouveau wine which can be gulped quickly without much reflection. Bright fresh fruit, very grapey – but in need of an overall balance.

I liked the taste of Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau 2011 more, as it was combining brightness of the fresh fruit with an overall structure – this wine had legs to stand on, had a nice balance with good acidity and some earthy notes – this will be one of the wines I want to see on our Thanksgiving table (we will talk about Thanksgiving wines  in the next post). In any case, drink your Beaujolais Nouveau quickly – these wines are not meant to be kept for the long time.

If you are puzzled by the title of this blog, let me explain. No, Scotch has nothing to do with Beaujolais Nouveau – I just happened to stop by Cost Less Wines last Wednesday and try more Scotches from Douglas Laing. Here are some which I would like to note: Linkwood 13 from Speyside was very light, with a hint of smoke and most interestingly, with grape finish. It is very interesting, as it was not finished in any of the wine barrels – it was actually finished in used bourbon casks.

Next, outside of getting into “smoky” category, the Scotch I liked the best was Clynelish 15 from Highlands – it was both very complex and smooth. Complexity is something which I really enjoy in the Scotch (this is why Macallan is never my favorite – I don’t find enough complexity in the taste). Finally my most favorite Scotch from this tasting was Caol Ila 14 from Islay – pronounced smokiness and power, a great scotch if you are into smoky flavors at all. Overall, it was great #WhiskyWednesday, as they say it on Twitter.

The next time I want to talk about Thanksgiving wines – but please tell me, what wines will be on your table on Thursday?

#WineWednesday or #WhiskyWednesday? No Matter, As Long As It Is Tasty

September 8, 2011 2 comments

If you follow social media, especially Twitter, I’m sure you’ve noticed big amount of #WW tags in the messages on Wednesday. This abbreviation stands for Wine Wednesday or Whisky Wednesday, depending on who and when is using it, and it means a special dedication to one’s favorite beverage of the day.

What is so special about Wednesdays and wine ( or whisky for that matter)? I honestly have no idea. I think any day is a good day for a glass of wine (or whisky), but may be people feel like they need a special declaration of sort “I will be drinking this Wednesday, instead of waiting for Friday”. Anyway, my take a simplistic one – any day is a good day for wine or whisky, as long as it tastes good. Sometimes, even that can be “bettered” – that is when you have a tasty treat and learn something new.

So on Tuesday (!) I tried very good Scotch and made a discovery (fine, not by myself, I was simply educated by my friend Zak). Until Tuesday, I thought that single malt scotch can come only from Scotland or Japan. Then I learned that it can also come from … India (ha, I’m sure you didn’t expect that).

Enters Amrut, the only Single Malt Scotch from India. Word Amrut means “Elixir of Life”, and actual scotch which I tried, was quite lively. Amrut scotch is produced in Himalaya, at about 3000 feet above sea level. The combination of the high altitude and tropical climate doesn’t allow for extended barrel aging – the scotch evaporates at much higher rate than it matures. Despite that, even in the young form, it really tastes like an actual Scotland classic.

I had an opportunity to try four different Amrut scotches, and here are my notes:

Fusion – nice and relaxed, very reminiscent of a Highland scotch, such as Glenlivet. Feels like it is 12 yeras old, while it is not

Cask strength – on the nose, first is a sensation of pure medicinal alcohol. Then it is very nice on the palate, with good oak notes. Feels like it has a lot of glycerine oils, I guess due to not being chill filtered.

Peated – feels like pure charcoal on the nose and the palate. It is different from Islay Scotches, I would call it “liquid fire”. Of course it is not surprising that the smoky component feels different, as I’m sure that Islay peat exists only on Islay – nevertheless, this was probably best of tasting Scotch.

Peated cask strength – it seems that “cask strength” should be the only difference with the previous one, but it appears to be an entirely different scotch – lots of sweetness on the palate, wood power comes only in the back – it doesn’t even feel peated. Again, substantial mouth feel of glycerin oils.

Amrut is making it’s way to US – if you like Scotch, I highly recommend you will make an effort to find it and try it. And let’s toast great discoveries, any day of the week – cheers!

 

Tasting Series At Cost Less Wines – Part 2, The Hills of Scotland, or Glenlivet Tasting

December 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Continuing our tasting series courtesy of Cost Less Wines, we are now moving from Champagne region in France to Speyside in Scotland. As a group, Speyside scotches usually mild, with nice and round character, and not very peaty. Subject of this tasting was The Glenlivet, oldest (and legendary) legal distillery in the region (as usual, Wikipedia provides wealth of information about the distillery, and also you can take a look at the company’s web site, even though I find it no so easy to use).

Four scotches were represented at the tasting – 15, 18, 21 and 25 years old. Such a tasting is a great opportunity to explore, experience and learn. Effectively, at this tasting you had an opportunity to try a “vertical”. I understand that wine category “Vertical”, when you try wine from the same winery made in a succession  of years, is not applicable to scotch. But it is amazing what every 3 years in the cask would do to the actual taste. In the event, there was nice and noticeable progression in the taste – starting from smooth and simple Glenlivet 15, gaining complexity with the 18, and being super-rich, complex and round with 21.

To my taste, Glenlivet 21 was probably the best. It had very complex but clean taste profile (yes, it was my favorite in the tasting and it has great QPR at $110). However Glenlivet 25 was beyond complex. It had a lot of stuff going, including oily substances on the palate – or may be I simply didn’t spend enough time with it.

Does Glenlivet 25 worth $300? I think the answer is rather yes than no. At the same time, one have to really understand the virtues of taste of the fine scotch, in order to fully enjoy it. But in any case, it makes a fine present, especially for “someone who has everything”. I will be glad to try it again if I will have the opportunity, but for now – there will be more tasting events at Cost Less Wines, don’t miss it!

Norma Jean – Best Place for Scotch and Food in Israel (and Beer too!)

July 30, 2010 9 comments

Let’s set things straight – this post will be more of a photo report. The words fall short to describe an amazing experience at Norma Jean, Bistro/Bar in Tel-Aviv. The best place to sit is in the bar, as stuff is extremely friendly and knowledgeable. You can start with the beer, which comes form all over the world, and needless to say, each served in its own proper glass. While you enjoy your first beer and glass and waiting for the food, your eye can rest on the walls full of scotch:

Among many bars, I’ve seen those where you will pay $500 for a shot, and but I never saw the one with such a selection of really great scotches which you can actually afford!

And then comes food – all fresh, succulent and great tasting:

Bread with Feta Cheese

calamari

and sausages

Of course the next step is the scotch. Based on the friendly recommendation, we couple of new scotches which we never had before. First one was coming form Speyside, a belnd of three different single malts, called Monkey Shoulder in the honor of those who developed a “monkey shoulder” condition throwing peat with the shovel, while making a great scotch for the rest of us:

Monkey Shoulder – very smooth and delicate, with the hint of smoke at the end

The next one was Laphroaig Triple Wood, matured in the 3 different kinds of wood barrels, as you can see on the label:

The smoke flavor and bite on this one were immense, like breathing the air coming from the smoker (or may be just chewing on the cigar :)). Too strong by itself, addition of 3 drops of water made a miracle – the scotch opened up beautifully, with big flavor profile and lots of depth.

And then… yep, a special dessert for the scotch lovers! Tartufo, made out of the best Belgian chocolate with addition of pepper and scotch:

Great way to finish the evening of great tasting food and drinks.

I know that the picture worth a thousand words, and this is why you can see a lot of pictures. However, one should really experience the taste, this is where picture fails short – and this is why, if you even the smallest opportunity – head to Norma Jean in Tel-Aviv, you will not be disappointed.

Cheers!