Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Edradour - Madeira, but No Tokay. 700 ml Need Not Apply for Import

Brett told me that I should try this one, since Edradour was not distributing its Tokay finish in the U.S. I found the Edradour Rum finish to be more palatible than the Edradour Madeira. You can taste the grape finish. but the rum finish is more lively. Duke of Perth in Chicago sells drams of the rum finish at a reasonable price. If any good acquaintances have any interest, the Madeira bottle is in my collection. Binnys sells both finishes at its South Loop Shop at Jefferson and Roosevelt.
I think that I appreciated and regret the subtle ways that free trade is stiffled in the Single Scotch Malt Industry. It seems that the U.S. decision to size its bottles at 750 ml and limit all imports to that size has eliminated distributors rights to easily import, distribute, and sell European 700 ml bottles.
The excuse cited by some is that it is easier to formulate taxes on a standard 700 ml bottle. Of course, the end result is that Scotch Whisky is limited in variety until ATF agrees to allow a given distilled single malt and vintage to be sold in the States. A simple form by the distributor that says we are selling should be enough. Product liability laws will stiffle any desire to mess up on quality.
Of course, if you are fortunate enough to be able to get on a plane and fly to the U.K., you can bring a few bottles of Edradour Tokay home VAT free from Royal Mile. And for those daring enough not to fear confiscation, sanctions or other penalties, you can order from some other overseas retailer. For all of this aggravation, we wait for a compassionate scotch drinker in ATF to liberate hobbiest from this misery. Many of us have challenges regularly imbibing on the other side of the pond. Not enough bottles get enlarged to a U.S. marketable size with a distiller or distributor who has enough patience to cut through all of the red tape.
Until then, we will be stuck with an occasional distillers choice every few years from Talisker until it gets too frustrated and tries to encourage us to tempt our better judgment, among other concerns that merit repeal of this Tory tax by ATF. The Scotch Revolution will not be Televised or will it? Perhaps, I am waiting for Godot on this one.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Auchentoshan New Releases Debut in Chicago

Binny's of the South Loop blessed its single malt patrons with the first U.S. tasting presented by Jamie MacKenzie on October 1, 2008. Jamie is an eight year veteran for Morrison Bowmore, which runs this distillery for Suntory as of 1994. For those unfamiliar with 'Aukie," (pronounced "och 'n' tosh'n" and rhymes with the Jewish Purim Pastry, Hamentashen), it is a Western Lowland single malt scotch distillery. Achentoshan Distillery has pride in its triple distillation process. Located in the vicinity of Glasgow, Scotland, It was founded in 1825 near Kilpatrick Hills. Fortunately, Mr. Mackenzie saved the best for last; I now know why he wears his Bowmore Shirt with pride. However, I suspect that there are a few killer casks in Aukie's Warehouse worthy of a premium bottling.

Suntory's Auchentoshan Distillery is run by six men; its senior blender, Iain McCallum has many years of experience for a 32 year old. Aukie presently ages its malt in bourbon casks from Heaven Hills Distillery. Tonight those present at Binny's were able to officially taste five of its new introductions. However, those able to pay the modest charge were lucky enough to test three additional selections.

The first selection was the Aukie Classic. This is the youngest and lightest version of the five primary selections for 2009. I nosed the Classic as Testor's Model then Mucilage glue followed by Tie Guan Yin Tea, then cucumbers and a slight mint. The dram was light to the palate, but smooth. I don't recall the alcohol content, but it seemed like watery honey, but arguably vanilla-like to the palate.

Of all the selections, the Classic seemed the mostly likely to be treated as a mixed drink. Some have mixed this single malt with a concoction of mint, lemon, and honey. One claimed that cane sugar and lime worked quite well. The bottle will retail for $29.99. I like drinking my scotch neat; I was not that much of a fan and found it watery as it tingled and lingered, when it was imbibed neat. Please bring the mint, lemon and honey; build it and some of us may reconsider. However, I agree with Iain McCallum's position that Aukie Classic is more of a summer scotch based upon the fragrance and flavor.

The Aukie 12 year old has now replaced the 10 year old. This new introduction for the U.S. was rather complex to nose. There was a tinge of one day cut grass with an arguable tinge of mucilage glue with vanilla. I agreed with Mackenzie's tastebuds that the dram palated walnutty and another observer who tasted ornosed candy corn, but the bottling was noticeably complex and reasonably smooth for an economical offering. Water brought out an apple tast in this single malt. It was valued at $49.99. This was an improvement on the Classic, but not my dram of scotch, yet. However, an excellent food pairing may win me over.

The Three Wood was iffy. The manufacture of this Aukie is a bit more seductive. This single malt is aged for ten years in bourbon casks, then transferred to an Oloroso Pedro Jimenez PX cask for 1.5 years, and finally finished in a sherry cask for six months. This is more of a digestif that tastes sweet in the front and finishes 'chewy.' The amber Three Wood is touted as a cigar malt. This is dark and arguably noses fig, carmel and toffee. This measures at 43% alcohol, but is marketing to both men and women drinkers. I was not infatuated with the Woody, which retails at $59.99.

Moving on, I will abreviate the opinions of the 18 and 21 year olds, which retail for $99.99 and $129.99, respectively. the 18 year old has a mix of 85/15 bourbon-sherry cask aged malts. I nosed carmel tootsie rolls, but the 18 year old flavored my tongue sweet and orchardy with slight licorice twig on the finish. The 21 year old was arguably eucalytus, but I found it nosed like one day old smoked almonds. Of all the affordables, the 21 year old, which retails at $129.99 was the most conceivable seller. Again, I was left with interest, but not compulsion, except for two of the three extra choices not officially on the tasting.

The Aukie Select and 1957 bottlings were not presented at the tasting, when I was present.

Of the three, all were great, but two were more tempting with an emphasis on the 'White.' Two were presented as test samples from two casks, one was amazing, like hickory smoke and salt, but an Aukie with an 81.2% alcohol content. It was bazaar in that I have never drank such a potent yet palatible single malt. What an outrageous proof! The second tester was a 69.1% Bowmore, which was worthy, but not as memorable. The final knockout turned out to be the upcoming Bowmore White. White will also be a 42 year old likely aged since 1966. This was the hands down 'shot across the bow!' The entire tasting seemed like a trivial exercise without the 'White!'

The fruit on the Bowmore White is a rare pleasure. I wish that the Bowmore Whites and Blacks were allowed to mature and appreciate in value on more experienced collector's shelf at a more affordable price. These selections retail at over $5000 and are limited. The 2007 Bowmore Black was a 824 bottle offering. I guess the most astute collectors in the Far East place a premium on this distillery. I agree! You won't read about Black or White in Michael Jackson's Tomes. The hickory smoke scented Aukie and Bowmore White were the stellar tastings that made the evening. The Hickory rates at 98 points.

I now appreciate why Suntory bought out Stanley Morrison. I hope that we will eventually see such exceptional offerings as the White for $500 to $750 or less. Perhaps, I need to look at another distillery. I have thoughts. I recognize that the family from Japan has found an incredible series of 1966 casks that undoubtedly rate 100 pts. Hopefully, I will get another opportunity to have a wee bit more, since I cannot recall a better dram. However, with four years of experience and devoid of a single trip to Scotland, I need wee bit more time with the Johnson's Tot in hand.

Jamie Mackenzie did us all a favor last night. We need to communicate with those distillers who hord the uber drams of this world. Some of us appreciate the effort and skill, but must put their funds into the mortgage and the trip to Leith, among other priorities. For those who are not convinced that Bowmore is worthy, you missed its complete vindication!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Scotch Chix Diss Edradour? Not I. Not Yet.

I had the chance to read The Scotchchix Blog. I have yet to try the 12 year old, that is the Edradour, of course.

However, I tried the Edradour Old Rhum Agricole Cask, which I found amazing. For those who know, the Scotchchix only allow "team members" to comment on their blog. This is understandable, but a disappointment until permission granted, if ever. I had hoped for the opportunity to politely quibble. It is unclear how one earns enough esteem to become a "Team Member." I provide my tasting notes, below.

The Scotch Chix only refer to "DC Scotchchick" as having a less than fond "revisit" with Edradour, so to speak. I intend to revisit the above selection. However, I succumbed and purchased the Edradour Takaji Finish on a whim. I look forward to revealing the source. One day, I'll try the 12 year old, but I am less than enamored by the youngsters.
I will not infringe on SC's copyrighted masthead. It incorporates a photograph of my favorite malt glass, the Johnson's Whisky Tot. This whisky glass is available at the Malt Advocate Website's Marketplace for $25 per glass. The glass is effective at getting the dram on the most desirable part of the palate for tasting Malt.

This following is a reply to the above post for those who are sympathetic to some of the Edradour Casks put out by this quiant distillery:

As stated, I tried the Edradour Old Rhum Agricole Finish with the Chicago Scotch Malt Whisky Meet Up Group last week at Duke of Perth. They are a great bunch for Scotch afficionados in search of comraderie and the perfect dram. I usually prefer Talisker, so I also imbibed the Talisker 18 year old. To the Scotchchix, I am proud to stock one of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society Leith selected Highland Park Cask bottles. Therefore, there must be some palate left in me. HP, for Scotchchix fans, now seems to be a favorite.

Michael Jackson rated the Edradour 12 year at 81. He labelled the color of that product as "full golden." He also nosed it as "peppermint" and "minty-clean" to the palate. The Edradour Distillery's home is in Perthshire, which is located in the South Highlands.

The Edradour Old Rhum Agricole Finish at DOP was particularly memorable to me in a favorable way. It appears bright yellow. I felt that I may have nosed lemon rind or citrus, but it was sweet like honey to the palate. This Edradour dram was the second of two drams for the evening. It also followed the DOP fish and chips. I am tempted to buy a bottle. However, this encourages me to do a double take for the exact vintage, since Binny's has the 1996, which may be the only vintage.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Johnson's Whisky Tot - Any Comparisons to Glencairn, etc. Glass, nosing?

In order to 'nose' scotch (create, detect, imagine, and identify the distinct aroma), hobbyists have joined the trade with one invention, book, malt, or another. David Johnson's Whisky tot (photo, left) seems like the most recent innovation. For those of us who just bought into the Glencairn glass (pictured in blog home page, upper right), this is one more excuse to figure out a better way to enjoy single malt whisky. Perhaps, even Bourbon, as well. Has anyone seen any of these, let alone held or drank from one?
The idea is once you have 'nosed' single malt whisky, you try to get the lip of the glass or tot into your mouth so that the whisky lands closer to the center of your tongue. This is where taste buds tend to better distinguish the flavor that is imbibed. This is based upon the SMWSA materials often provided at events. Usually, if single malt hits the tip of my tongue, my sense of taste gets screwed up. In addition, I have yet to taste a multiple distillery blended scotch* that I could derive much enjoyment from.
Just one more creation to keep the enthusiasm generating until the next bottle is researched and purchased or the next event takes place. Is there anyone in RP who has traveled to Kentucky or Scotland just to tour the distilleries? Just curious if anyone reads this blog given the sporadic posts and time limits on writing?
Perhaps, scotch drinking seems like a dry and stodgie subject for the less experienced.
*-I forget the proper phrase for this more commonly sold scotch whisky.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Caol Ila Sold at Martini Park

For those who like Talisker, among other smokey single Malts, Martini Park sells it. SMWS sells bottles from selected single casks in limited quantities. Of the Smokey scotches, I have yet to try Clynleish, which is supposed to be more peaty than the others according to some. Of the smokey single malts, I have tended to prefer 1992 Talisker Distillers Choice at this point.

Does anyone have other recommendations for a smokey single malt similar or arguably better than Talisker Distillers Choice? Are there any single casks of Talisker or the other Smokies that are more worthy?

Talisker Distillers Choice 1992 and Cantelope

I was toying with this combination this evening. It is worth the effort. Cantalope absorbs the Talisker Distillers Choice very well. Just make sure that the Talisker hits the center of your tongue.

I have also tried Dalmore's Cigar Malt with chocolate at the 2007 SMWS Extravanganza in Chicago. Has anyone had success with matching single malt scotch with fruit or other foods?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

SMWS Annual Chicago Event October 2, 2008 and Tasting Thoughts

This will be my fourth Scotch Malt Whiskey Extravanganza in October. There are well over a hundred and fifty different bottles to imbibe, one from Glenrothes retailed for over $1000; most don't. If you thought that scotch is an obnoxious and pretentious drink with very little variety, then think again. My interest started when a colleague brought me to Delilah's on Lincoln Avenue.

The nose (scent) on a unique cask of scotch is distinct. Most single malt scotches have significantly more flavor than blended scotch, IMHO. I was never a Chivas Regal nor Johnny Walker drinker. However, I will try a high end blend this year to confirm my preference. Keeping an open mind, I attended the 2005 event. Since than I purchased Michael Jackson's book and recently secured a used copy of David Wishart's "Whiskey Classified" on for around $11 plus $3.99 shipping.

Wishart is the most useful to me, but Jackson has more listings. If you prefer a particular distillery's scotch, then Wishart's book will refer you to others that are 'similar' in nose and taste. After my third year at the Extravanganza, I finally bought my first bottle last fall. I now have 12 bottles, some of which I inherited from family that visited Scotland, but chose not to open their Glenfarclas and Glen Grant. I did, but will likely hold onto them for others. Not all of my restaurant scotch orders have resulted in preferred discoveries. I find that the events make it easier for me to choose.

Personal Interests from 2005-2008

In 2005, I tended to prefer Balvenie, because it promoted its stock that was aged in Port infused, among other uniquely infused wood casks. Over the years, I found that other distilleries also used re-used casks. In the last year, I tend to prefer Talisker's Distiller's Choice and Glenrothe 1972, which are both distinct. I have tried the others, but tend to gravitate to those distilleries. However, I also felt it worthwhile to secure a bottle of Abelour "Abundah," which I also drink, as well.

I recently bought two more bottles for the Society's reserved casks that were chosen from Caol Ila (pronounced "kowel-EEL-ah") and Auchroisk (pronounced "oth-RUSK"). The former was chosen, because it had the same taste pattern as Talisker. I have secured a bottle of 1977 Dallas Dhu; this distillery was demolished and is no longer in production. However, the remaining Dallas Dhu casks are stored or already bottled by Signatory, among others, and remain affordable for the time being. Unlike wine, scotch has a following, but not as much and the bottles 'usually' last much longer.

Using a Glencairn Glass seems to make drinking a dram of scotch more enjoyable. The base makes it easier to agitate your dram to test the nose. If you allow scotch to touch the tip of your tongue, it can be unpleasant. You want the scotch to land in the center of your tongue based upon my experience and reading. It may look questionable, but it works. This glass makes it easier to position the scotch, so your tastebuds actually work. Although some insist on drinking scotch with some water, I have tended to drink it 'neat.' The society has downloads that help those with an interest to learn how to appreciate single malt scotch.

If you drink responsibly, that is a dram or two, a day, then it seems easier to appreciate and understand it. However, it is probably best appreciated in the right settings with others. The Society's events include a buffet of food geared to the scotch. Those who who study and are keen to this may try to select food to match the scotch. I have yet to figure the food thing out. I have the same challenges with matching food to tea when I follow Pettigrew's directions on drinking bulk teas.

Last year, Dalmore encouraged members to drink its Cigar Malt with chocolate. That was different, but amazing and it seemed to work. Since I gave up smoking manduros in 1997, the chocolate was better appreciated. In addition, the distilleries pass out anything from golf towels, polo shirts, and other Scotch knick knacks. The Society issues each guest a tasting glass and other items depending upon the year. In addition, it also has books, shirts, and bottles for sale to members and guests based upon my recollection.

Will I give up the hobby? I don't know. I hope that I can find the time to visit Leith. However, the Annual SMWS Chicago Events allow me a chance to appreciate this acquired taste and the unexpected varieties. Hopefully, others in Rogers Park will appreciate scotch. This way, we may eventually plan our own event with the interest and support of the SMWS.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

SMWSA - Three Years and One Annual Event or Road Trips

Last Fall marked my third Chicago Scotch Malt Whiskey Society Event. The Union League Club of Chicago has hosted the event for the last three years. However, the Scotch Malt Whiskey Society and The Robb Report sponsors the event along with the membership and guests who attend. I finally joined SMWSA and purchased about 6 bottles from Binny's based upon my tastes. I am not into blends and can't stomach Chivas Regal unlike old grandad. In spite of the local political babble, I soon realized that my thirst for a good single malt scotch has not disappeared as long as I have someone in tow.

Contrary to popular belief, scotch drinkers are not all stodgy old pickled characters with monicles. I found that it is how you drink scotch whiskey and which scotch is selected that can make or break interest. To this day, my dad thinks that scotch is for WASPs and that it tastes as good as formaldehyde. I guess that we have different tastes, but try to avoid drinking alone. I thought that encouraging a bit of interest in something other than the debatable length of Joe Moore's nose might be a good thing.

I was pitted between appreciating the challenges of The Heartland Cafe and Craig's desire to keep eager rats out of the alleys, among other questionable characters east of Clark and Morse, among other places. Of course, I realized that my nearby neighbors to the west don't know the difference between a rat and an oppossum.

Having signs repeatedly pronged into our parkway lawn and watching one political incumbent enter a nursing home at the time that it served as a polling place created some wind of concern. I also got tired of seeing important issues over looked for the sake of a city-wide foie gras ban possibly co-sponsored by Loretta Swit. Eventually, Kevin Erskine ran dry on Delilah's, so this may be where I pick up Chicago's interest in scotch whiskey.

I think that every party or position has someone who advocates on its behalf. That is why "politics makes for strange bed fellows." However, if I read or write too many political rants about some screwed up political endorsement or inconsiderate political trespass, then I think that I am going to choke on the verbal vernacular. Believe me, good scotch won't do it.

I am searching for scotch afficionados, who 'will' put down their political sceptors (if there is an inclination) and refrain from comments for a dram or two. I have an undying fondness for my neighborhood and its diversity. I think that people who remain in the neighborhood want the same, but my hope is that neighbors can find common ground and not spew frustration. In an effort to encourage comments from locals about single malt scotch and Chicago/Rogers Park retailers, I have started this blog. I am also interested in the descriptions of and preferences for certain untapped casks of Balvenie, Highland Park, The Glenrothes, Talisker, among others. I will gratuitously post my choices. In fact, I may go into the tea direction, as well, since I drink more tea than scotch these days.

To start, I point out one of Rogers Park's more fascinating scotch whiskey finds, which is located at Rogers Park Fine Wine and Spirits at 6733 N. Clark, which is on the northeast corner of Clark and Columbia. The owner is down to earth and it is a good option to a road trip to Binny's in Skokie complete with driver. I also want to point out Delilah's

I also encourage those in Chicago, who want to find a common location to do comparisons, schedule an even plan an event at Binny's or 6733 N. Clark, to begin to open up communication. This offer is open to all, even to our Alderman, among others, with the promise to push no buttons other than to pay a bill.

It may also offers some businesses and restaurants the option to make some money on food or rental of their space. I understand that we can now seal our open bottles and take them home. Perhaps, bars or restaurants can charge for corking and sealing unfinished scotch bottles, but I have not reviewed the newer Illinois Statute, yet. Perhaps, someone can eventually host. However, you can't house all scotch under one roof.
I am open to suggestions, but my intention is to post preferences, discuss how to use your nose and tongue, evaluate some local retailer's selections, perhaps, and do what I can to promote a few who want to share a few bottles. Over the years, I have amassed about four high grade bourbons and fifteen scotch whiskeys, among a variety of vintages that may have turned to vinegar over the years. Perhaps, there are others with the same experience, since it seems like the brothers from the University have gone in different directions.