Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Gentle Dram and Old and New Favorites

OK, so I'm a little behind here; offline deadlines and such. With that abbreviated apology for the delay, here's the report of our latest scotch tasting albeit a week late.

Before I get to the details though, I'd like to clear of the whole concept of what is going on here. Really, these tasting are not just an excuse for wannabe whisky snobs to get wasted on a Sunday afternoon. Really, I mean it. If mass drunkeness is involved, it's usually a non-compulsory activity that occurs after most of the expressions have been sampled and the gathering becomes more of a scotch drinking.

With that out of the way, on with the report. All the usual dram-o-philes where in attendence (John, Steve, Damon, and I got started just a little bit early with our own special expression). Once that was out of the way (we spent a lot of money on it, so we have to drink it sometime right?), we proceeded to the day's expressions.

First up was Tomintoul a 16 year old Speyside whisky. This whisky, used mostly in blends which makes single malts too few and far between, is nicknamed "The Gentle Dram." I'd have to say that it lives up to its nickname; it's a warm, light spicy malt with a bit of sweetness. Its short finish and presence on the front of the palate makes it a great starter scotch.

Next up was a 14 year old Scapa (from the Orkneys). Although we've tasted this before, it has been a long time, so it's return was welcomed. Being an island scotch, the dryness and slightly salty taste was expected, as was the spicy odor. It only had a hint of peatiness though (too little for my personal tastes). The reason for this? The peat actually comes from the source of water for the distilling, not smoking the malt. This one also had a very looooooong finish, in which the flavors continued to bloom.

Then, we had the return of one of our all time favorites, an Aberlour (an easy top 5). This time, we sampled a 15 year old sherry wood finish (a slightly different expression than we are used to). The smell? classically balanced Aberlour. All things considered, this is a very balanced scotch and the nuances only become clear as the taste lingers. You only get a hint of the sherry wood. It is very smooth, crisp, and clean, though it can be a bit anaesthetic at first.

The Glenmorangie 12 year old madeira finish was up next. This expression was also a bit salty and peaty with a short burst of flavor and a quick finish. All and all a good expression. Its main attraction is that it's available at many bars, whereas some of the others we sample aren't. That gives it a few extra points.

The real surprise of the afternoon was the Caol Ila 12 year old Islay (pronounced cuel weela and meaning the sound of Islay). We'd heard of this scotch in Iain Bank's book, but we had never seen it in Atlanta. As luck would have it, Green's started stocking it recently, so I rushed to pick up a bottle. It has a very peaty nose without the smokiness that can be found in the other Islay scotches. Once tasted, the peatiness carries through even though it is very dry. The taste can best be described as "chewy sweet" (thanks Christian!), and it is more creamy than bitter. The sweetness surprised us all the most. It is also very light on the brininess usually associated with Islay scotches. It has a mellow, long, smooth, and buttery finish and has a hint of a minerally taste. The consensus? A new favorite.

Finally, we tried the Dalmore Cigar Malt (no age given), and we didn't even have any cigars. The color of this was almost orange, so we were expecting a strong taste (to fight off the flavor of a cigar). It had a very earthy nose with a good dose of smoke [Ed note: did they put the cigars in the malt?] with a hint of herby, greenleafy essence such as tobacco itself [Ed Note: Way to be precise Damon]. The taste was actually very buttery and sweet and smooth with a hint of spice and clove, making for a very christmassy taste. Our only test for the cigar part was cigarettes, and it did hold its own with them.

NP: "Sometimes" by Ash

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