Monday, September 27, 2010

Is Bland Better? Does the Diet Matter Before Dramming?

One thing that I have learned is not to try to sell a friend on single malt after an Indian or Mexican meal!  My first glass of Chivas Regal was ruined by a spicy meal.  It took me a decade, perhaps longer, to believe that any form of scotch could actually taste good. 

As a result, I became a tea drinker. Pettigrew, not Jackson or Murray was my guidebook.  I still enjoy loose tea and favor Keemun with Souchong, in the morning, but it depends upon my mood.

If there is one thing that I noticed for me is that a bland diet is best before tasting single malt. I have heard a blender, or another professional, comment on one of Mark Gillespie's Whiskycasts that he has the same challenge, so he avoids spicy food.  In addition, Official Macallan tastings often start with bowls of walnuts? Is this an attempt to revive the tastebuds?

If I have that samosa or salsa, then single malt may turn into a spicy oblivion of near useless heat. At that point, I'm no longer tasting, I'm wasting.  When I fear the worst, I usually test my tastebuds and if they aren't working, I not drinking single malt.  Maybe beer or wine, but not scotch.

How bland will my diet need to land? I'm unsure.  Salt seems less destructive. How long must you stay away from that burrito or hot and sour soup? What seems to mess up your tastebuds?  If you're striken, then how long do you take a licking?  Do you notice a difference?

For me, it seems like I have to wait the better part of a day, arguable longer, before I can savor the flavor, again.  So do you remain bland and enchanted? Or are you able to find single malt contentment as you haul down the jalapenos?

Is the Chivas Regal Gateway/Portal Down?

Has anyone succeeded in getting past the gatekeeper portal and onto the Chivas Regal Website?  I am 'going gumby' trying to reinstall Adobe Flash and enter my DOB. Is a secondary entrance or a more questionable gateway?  Does Chivas need to upgrade,to A-Flash 10 or contact its internet guru?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dalmore and America - When Will the Bolder Better Buy Expression Bolt Forward?

Let me confirm that at least ten, likely more, Dalmore bottles grace my cabinet shelves. I now stock a 'six pack' of Old Dalmore 12 after the packaging changed and the price lurched forward. Is it the same twelve? I also have a few Cigar Malt bottles.  There is no question that I enjoy Dalmore. Yet, I am unable to justify the price point, on my budget, for the bottled expressions that I like the best.  What can Dalmore do to blend and bring a Balvenie Signature Reserve Batch-type bottling to retailers?

Some may call me an indignant, yet aging member of the nouveau pobre class, who will limit travel to the U.K. until the kids hit 18, if ever!  However, for those of us who are more stingy, and not single;  that is, those who had that sip of too much too good. . . .well . . . will we see a best buy Dalmore bottling in limited quantities in Binny's, Beltramos, Park Avenue,or Federal? Will Richard anoint an annual bottling with somewhat surrealistic grace for those of us in the U.S. who want to taste?  Will his distributors and overlords have compassion to the more attentive drinkers who want to do more than look at their Dalmore bottle and fantasize?

Richard Paterson assures us that Cigar Malt and Gran Reserva are one in the same.  A bite of chocolate while imbibing works well with this expression.  My last Cigar Malt v. Gran Reserva test may have been tainted by bad glass or an overwhelming number of other Dalmore expressions.  Perhaps, LeBon's Mind Theory took control since some in our group were noticeably skeptical that they were one in the same.  However, there were about nine bottles at that evening's tasting.  Memories fade, and palates numb, as do the positioning of indistinguishable snifter glasses.  Since Kingfisher took control and brought back the Whyte and Mackay moniker, where do Dalmore aficionados go until the renaissance begins, if any?

I wish to find fruitier honey-filled fields in more affordable Dalmore distillery expressions.  I recognize that it costs money to age single malt whisky.  Most of us know that some have found a way to put Dalmore on shelves in less consistent, yet extremely worthy expressions.  This fortunately allows the more sensitive public to go outside the distillery expressions to private bottlers like Chieftain, G&M, MM, Dewar Rattray, the Single Malt Scotch Whisky Society of America, Whisky Fair, etc.

I have tended to favor the private bottlers when venturing beyond The Dalmore twelve.  I prefer to give more of my Dalmore Dollars to Whyte and Mackay, so I'll continue to taste and hopefully justify an eventual discretionary purchase.  However, if it eclipses $150, then the flavor better be more 'spot on' for the value!  Too many distilleries seem to have done better on the retail front, even if I know that Dalmore can outdo them. As a result, Old Dalmore 12 still sits on smaller Chicago Area Liquor Retailer's Shelves in need of owners.  At this point, these are the values, since the 12 is no longer below $35.

Of course, many of us us look forward to a Dalmore Dinner as the one recently promoted by Bowmore.  For me, being a bit older, taking flight to New York requires tedious planning and the wife's consent. It also requires funds that may be more wisely spent at Coach and Tiffany.  We envy Richard's position, but may not be able to justify or work with our significant other's expressions at the thought.

Richard Paterson's voyages to Chicago make a difference.  So do those of Willie Tait for Isle of Jura. Jura's Prophecy should take off, but at a retail value of $49.99 to $59.99, if possible.  The current $69.99 will pit it against hardcore Lagavulin and Talisker drinkers, who have too much brand loyalty to give Prophecy a much deserved tipple or two.

When push comes to shove, Dalmore has priced its upper level expressions into an area that makes it less marketable to those who might otherwise take the plunge into or above the twelve.  However, Richard Paterson's is one of the show horses, that is the Secretariat, of all single malt ambassadors.  However, Seattle Slew and Affirmed are nipping at his hoofs on the sales front, even if the presentation not as legendary.

I fear that this may be a distillery issue, but the need to create profit or whether enough profit is made remains unclear.  I have wondered whether hoarding plays a role.  I admit that I hoard way to much, so my passion is just as challenged, as Richard Paterson, among others.  At a certain point, it is important to not only sell but to get folks to drink the stuff. 

Yet, I am content to find time for the Dalmore Twelve, an occasional tipple of Cigar Malt and the privately bottled Dalmores until we win the lottery or something gives on the other Dalmore Expressions.  I'll be waiting and watching, but my current open Dalmore bottle is the Cigar Malt and its not emptying fast enough for me. Are there any other thoughts on my Dalmore Dilemma?  What is there to splurge on among the Dalmore expressions?

Laphroaig Ten and Chicago - Can it be More Affordable?

Laphroaig has been one of my preferred Islay Single Malts. My collection has favored Ardbeg due to the number of Ardbeg expressions on the market. Yet, this may be a sign to investigate Laphroaig. I know that Triple Wood will have a place in my single malt cabinet.  However, is anything going on with the distributor? Why is the ten priced higher in the Chicago Area?

The smoky, maritime-like sweet flavor and slightly oily texture works incredibly well for me.  Some woman claim Laphroaig is their 'go to' Islay.  Frankly, I just think that they just have good taste.  I hoard the stuff.  Laphroaig lacks the coal-like spicier Islay palate of either Caol Ila.  Talisker is a joy, but it is also spicier.  Nevertheless, CI, Lagavulin, Isle of Jura, Bunnahabhain, etc. all also have a place and purpose in my palate depending upon the expression and moment.  The peatier versions get my attention. The Laphroaig Ten challenge is the price disparity between the Midwest and the West Coast.

Chicago often sells the bottle for $20 to $30 above the West Coasts best price.  West Coast retailers can sell a bottle for as low as $29.99. How and why this is done is unclear.  Chicago has Laphroaig 10 year old, but the Midwest prices remain consistently above the West Coast.  What drives these prices? A difference in regulations? A desire to hike the price for the expression so that it remains on shelves and not on the palates of those who otherwise will drink it? Will it ever makes its way low enough for fans to more heavily stock it or buy it at their local watering hole?

Laphroaig has a place in bars that seek single malts for their patrons. However, not ever bar is going to pay a premium for something that it cannot sell for under $15 per dram/shot. $9 Laphroaig Shots make sense in Chicago. Any lower should make it the rage, but $9 may work!  Many pubs simply won't carry Islay single malt until something gives.  Could it be the distributor?  New taxes (this price difference existed b4 the tax)? Is it supply and demand? Ardbeg 10 tends to have seen a rise in the Midwest depending upon the location.  I am curious whether anyone knows or cares.

When Laphroaig Triple Wood hits the Shelves, where will it fit on the single malt price continuum?  I'll buy, but how much will be stocked and where it will find its place depends upon the distributor.  Any thoughts?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Benny's Chophouse on Wabash, Once Again, What Else is Known and Overlooked?

Who has been to Benny's on Wednesday? Seems like nice assortment at a reasonable price for a chop house along with the Wednesday oyster deal. It definitely puts the McCormick and Schmick Single Malt selection to shame. What is the Potin Stil in Rogers Park like? Enough whisky or whiskey? Any thoughts on Rogers Park watering houses with single malt?

Does anyone have a lesser known Chicago area favorite, with almost reasonable dram prices, other than Binny's South Loop, Captal Grille, Clark Street Ale House, Delilah's, Duke of Perth, or Peninsula Hotel?  If so, then why? And yes, I know a few more but appreciate the thoughts of others as well a refresher of what I may have missed out on.

When I have the time and someone who wants to walk more than a block from their condo. . . hint hint . . . I often, not always stop off at Clark Street Ale House. However, when I want to sit down and enjoy the furniture, I find myself in Peninsula, Seasons, or the The Wit.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Chicago Whisky Fest Week comes and goes,

Things were chaotic from April 19 to April 25. For those who participated, Whisky Fest Chicago celebrated its tenth anniversary. Among the bottles that greeted the early entrance holders were a Balvenie 1978 single cask bottling that was inspired and selected by a U.K. Beekeeper's Association. Portions of the proceeds were to help fund efforts to improve the lot of U.K. and Euro Bees which are apparently on the decline.

The list and floor diagram was released prior to the event. The Arran Rowan Tree Bottling was also poured, but with so many bottles and representatives, doing the rounds became challenging. In the end, I tasted things that were not even on the official list. I finished the event with a last walk around on the floor after Mickey Head's Ardbeg Talk. I also had time to attend The Glenrothes Class, as well. Apparently, Richard Paterson from Dalmore was stranded in Heathrow due to Icelandic Ash.

Due to work and family obligations, I made the wise, yet unfortunate decision to pass on the First U.S. Ardbeg Committee Meeting. It was just too far south for this Rogers Park Resident. For those who do not know, but appreciate single malt scotch, Binny's sponsors an near equally impressive event at its South Loop location the night before Malt Advocate's Whisky Fest.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

International Whisky Competition for Whyte & Mackay?

I could not resist the temptation. Does this look like one big marketing gimmick for Whyte and Mackay? We'll have to wait and see.

International Whisky Competition

Although, I appreciate and stock a number of Dalmores, Isle of Juras, and look forward to the release of Amhrut. Why have a stacked competition merely as marketing gimmickery, pomp and circumstance?

Should anyone with credibility get involved if no more entries show up? Who is Michael P. Petrucci?

Was there much creativity in this so far? Perhaps, it sounds interesting in theory. Who actually votes? The judges and the public? How and where will the public vote? Stay tuned, I'll speak with one of the judges, manana.

I would think that you'd get a line up of competitors or an organization worth its credibility, host it, and include those who can carry the day.

Who is missing?

James Murray
William Meyer
John Hansell
Mark Gillespie

I appreciate that Brett Pontoni has thrown his hat into the ring, but I feel like the field

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bill Lumsden's Chicago Audience, Sonnalta, and 10 yr. v. 10 yr. Comparisons

This presentation was a worthwhile experience at Binny's South last week. Dr. Bill gave a fascinating and in depth review of Glenmorangie's wood acquisition program. Glenmorangie is a good dram, but not always the distillery of the moment. It is certainly one that I favor over others, perhaps all, at times.

For me, my preference often depends upon both my mood and anticipated palate. This can be a bit off, at times, but I'm getting better.

When I have an opportunity, my bottle of Glenmorangie Astar will be opened. However, I may go "two deep" before this happens. That is, I want to have an extra in storage before I splurge. Astar is that good, even at a bit below $75/bottle. I have enough less expensive bottles that I have purchased and would drink, first.

Hopefully, Dr. Bill is working on my mood and palate concerns. Perhaps, value, as well, but Glenmorangie is trying to position itself as higher end single malt in the States. I bought a bottle of Astar, which is a no age statement expression. Last week, the Sonnalta was good, but my palate may have been a bit off due to the previous five that I tasted.

The flavor profile of any distillery is a difficult thing for a distillery master to meddle with. Each distillery has its fans and if you know what to expect, then you are more comfortable when you get it. In the interim, I'll have to await a new expression, a fresh taste of the Sonnalta (without distractions), or the right single cask release of Glenmorangie, among other things. In the interim, I hope that there continues to be interest in this Lumsden mastered Distillery.

I tend to favor Lumsden's Ardbeg, but that is like comparing apples to oranges! Quite a few acquaintances prefer the Glenmorangie ten year old to the other expressions. The friend who I invited prefers the La Santa finish. I was not as enamored with Glenmorangie 10 year old as I thought that I was with the Macallan 10 year old among the tens.
However, I have never done a side by side tasting, nor know that I would absolutely prefer one ten over the other at any given time. Which Macallan 10 is widely distributed in the U.S.? My memory fades from the last Macallan tasting. Any thoughts?