Thursday, November 12, 2009

Scotch Tasting

Last night we had our Scotch Tasting at Grand Cru. A good time was had by all.

Glenn and I arrived early, and knew it was going to be a long night when the waiter remembered both me and Debi (Blueberry Cha?) from the last time we were there.

I opened with a classic Laphroig (Neat) because I knew we were dealing with Speysides tonight and I wanted to get my "Peat Bomb" in early.

Glenn went with a Gimlet based on my past Gin Article, and I recommended Hendrick's Gin. He seemed to like it, and the next round I ordered the same while he sampled a different Gin, Old Raj from Cadenhead. He immediately said he like Hendrix better, so we swapped.

Old Raj was interesting, more of a traditional style of Dry Gin vs the crystal clear stuff you see today (like Bombay). The color reminded me of Gordon's and it had a very unique (spicy)taste, which I learned is due to a unique ingredient...saffron. The addition of the saffron is undertaken personally by the Company Chairman, in order to ensure a consistency in flavor and color each time Old Raj is bottled. Another interesting thing about Old Raj, it is bottled 55% ABV vs the 40% ABV or less of regular you know it packs a punch.

Debi, Jennifer and Jason showed up and we had another round (I have to do something about Jason always drinking Jack and Coke) before the tasting.

What stood out from this tasting was the fact that it wasn't put on by a distributor , but instead by a representative of William Grant & Sons. Impressive.

Tim Burckhart walked everyone through the basics of scotch and had interesting tidbits of information through the night. He was very knowledgeable (I told you Debi they were all Speysides) and willing to take a few minutes to talk about the various brands. If you see him out and about, buy him a drink.

We actually tasted 5 Scotchs, although the 5th addition was a last minute and I missed the name/year. I think it was the Glenfiddich 21 year old and if Tim happens to lurk into the blog, perhaps he will share what it was.

Here are my notes and thoughts of the others:

Balvenie 12 year old double wood - This Scotch had a very creamy texture and you could really distinguish the Barley and Vanilla flavors. Initially the nose smelled of Almonds, but when I added water I was reminded of those chocolate oranges you get at Christmas.

Balvenie 17 year old Madeira finish - The oaky nose left me totally off guard for the sweetness of this one. Sugary is what I deciphered from my notes, and I could definitely see this one being part of a dessert service.
Glenfiddich 15 year old - Smooth coat of whisky on swirling. Not many legs forming, although Debi taunted me for doing it....saying all drinks have legs. Medium-to-light peat smoke taste and water brought out the honey flavors and a citrusy nose. This would probably be the one I would pair with a cigar at the end of an evening.
Glenfiddich 18 year old - A darker color than I expected from a Glenfiddich, the Oak flavor really comes out in this 18 Year Old, probably due to the aging process...20% of which is done in Spanish Oloroso wood casks and the remaining time in the traditional American oak casks. The taste was good, a Spiced Apple with a cinnamon finish, but was a little lacking in peatyness for me.

Overall, I came away with a great liking for the Balvenies, particularly the 17. It's a little pricey, at $125, but well within my drinking budget. It was noted around our table that Balvenies seemed almost "Personal" while the Glenfiddich had a mass produced feel. I know it seems odd to say about a Scotch, but it's the only way to describe it. I will add that I had become accustomed to Glenfiddich 12 (the Green Bottle), so this was an eyeopener with regards to the rest in their range and will definitely be looking at 21 Year Old.

The night was a great success....I want to thank Grand Cru and Tim for a great production.

I cant wait for the next one :)


  1. First, the additional Scotch we tasted was a Balvenie 17 year with a Rum cask finish. It was not to my taste... it had a much more harsh aftertaste where the other Balvenie's had a degree of smoothness that the Glen's did not.

    I'm not much of a Scotch man... I prefer Bourbon, Vodka and Gin. That said the Balvenie Scotch is very, very nice with the 17 year old Madeira being the best by far and one I'd really enjoy. That $150 (125 was the special price for last night) tag on it seems a small problem with a spirit that good.

    All in all it was a good time and an education... I enjoyed it greatly. Thanks for the invite Ed.

  2. See, I thought it was a Balvenie also, but when I was doing research, I came across this:

    This exceptional 21 Year Old single malt Scotch whisky has been finished for four months in barrels that once contained rum from the Caribbean, infusing the whisky with a rich and indulgent toffee sweetness. At this age, Glenfiddich whisky develops into an exquisitely rich and creamy single malt with a luxurious vibrancy.

    No Grant and Sons own both, so maybe they are trying the rum casks on multiple products.


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