Saturday, 10 January 2015

Ardbeg Uigedail

Over the holidays we decided to get a treadmill in the house. We got a boxing day deal on a decent one with the aim of "deageing". The other day  I was running on the treadmill and during the cool down I was checking out Phish's 2014 Halloween show. I clicked on one of the songs, Your Pet Cat and was immediately blown away by the funk. So much so that I decided to keep the treadmill going, even though my workout was complete. I had to find out more.

Phish have a tradition of playing another bands album in its entirety on Halloween. This is called the "musical costume". In 2013 they did something a little different. They played their own (yet to be released) album. This past performance (2014) was different still. They composed their own instrumental music set to "Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House", a Disneyland album of sound effects and narration from the 60's. Not only do they play fantastic music but the stage set is out of this world. The whole stage is set up like a cemetery complete with dancing zombies and a haunted house as the centre piece. The band plays the set from inside the haunted house, which eventually has its roof blown off and then they are playing on top. There was so much creativity involved in this show that I had to do more than just hear the music. I got a hold of a video of the performance and tonight's whisky will be paired with not only a soundtrack but a video as well.

To stand up to the multiple stimuli I decided on the Ardbeg Uigeadail. This whisky is one of my all time favourites and I know that it has the complexity and strength to stand up to the show. It is also named after a nearby "mysterious" loch. Strong and mysterious, I think that's quite apt.

Nose: After pouring the dram I can smell the smoke before even picking up the glass. As I raise it to my nose I get notes of raisins and wine. There is pine or cedar in there, as well as a good dose of coal tar and leather.

Palate: Smoke is blended with the spiciness of a chili pepper. Notes of chocolate and red wine dance with cedar.

Finish. The finish is smooth and long. The cedar remains and there is a buzz of clove that kicks in and hangs on.

A really beautiful whisky. I can't help but love it.The whisky also works very well with the show. Although I am certain that the smokiness that lingers constantly on the palate is different from the smokiness at the show it is still very appropriate.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Gibson's Finest 12 Year Old

With Christmas coming up I figure I will present a whisky that was gifted to me. A friend and colleague of mine presented me with a small bottle of Gibson's Finest 12 Year Old last summer. This kind gift was something to keep me company while on a road trip. Very kind indeed and many thanks.

Seeing that this is a Canadian whisky I thought that it would be a great opportunity to also test out my Glencairn - Canadian whisky edition - glass.The Gibson's distillery is located in Windsor, Ontario and so I also couldn't resist pairing this whisky with the music of the psychedelic rock band The Tea Party.

I remember really enjoying the music of The Tea Party in my younger years. "Splendor Solis" was the album I recall the most. The mixture of rock with middle eastern influences was quite captivating for me. What is also exciting is that while I was looking into the band I found out that they recorded their ninth album at a studio (Metalworks Studios) about two blocks from where I lived for a few years in Mississauga, Ontario.

Well lets see if two Windsors can make a match...

Nose: Very light I get notes of peaches, oak, vanilla, pepper and oddly olives.

Palate: Initial notes are sweet and then a spiciness takes over. The spices that come to mind are black pepper, nutmeg and vanilla. Their is also a fair amount of wood.

finish: The wood and spice linger on for a long time leaving behind the fading tingle of the spices.

This whisky is decent enough. It`s not very complex but makes up for this in its approachable nature. The music hits the spot. It brought in a bit of complexity while the eclectic tones worked well with the spices on the palate.        


Thursday, 18 December 2014

How Whisky Brings People Together

This past Sunday was a big day for me in terms of whisky activities. I took part in a twitter tasting and then joined my whisky club for our annual whisky Christmas party, dubbed "The Twelve Drams of Christmas.

Back in the end of November I received an invite to take part in a cross Canada twitter tasting of the Ardbeg Supernova 2014. In all 15 people from across the country were chosen to give their opinions on this whisky which Ardbeg has called it's peatiest. The tasting was hosted by Ardbeg and none other than the wonderful whisky fabric spreading Whisky Lassie.

Ardbeg Supernova 2014

When it came time to begin the tasting I felt much of the familiar feelings of excitement that come with trying a new whisky. This time though the feelings of apprehension, timidity and anxiousness that I experienced on my first couple of twitter tastings were not present. I knew what to expect and now I felt like I was in my element. I was eager to share my thoughts and to learn from some of the knowledgeable participants. One thing I learned was that the peatiest whiskies are often younger and so lighter in colour.  Overall I enjoyed the whisky very much and this was the fourth expression I have tried from the Islay Distillery . As I had tweeted "I have never met an Ardbeg I didn't like." I will say that I still prefer the Corryvrekan but that's a hard whisky to top. Tasting notes for the Supernova are as follows:

Nose: Honey sweetness is followed by pine, coal and wood smoke. Given time notes of spices, particularly cinnamon become pronounced. 

Palate: Mouth feel is smooth and offers good creaminess. My initial impression is like a wave of crystal sugary honey, this leads into a smoky bonfire of pine and spruce. Reminds me of the Yukon.

Finish:  Sweetness lingers beyond the smoke. in the background is a slightly bitter medicinal note.

This whisky really reminded me of making out with the sweetheart by a roaring bonfire. Their is beauty and warmth that can only come from sharing an intimate moment by a fire in the great outdoors.

Now as if that wasn't a great enough highlight of the weekend I was then off to the Whitehorse Fine Malt Society annual Christmas party. This is a low key get together where I feel privileged to hang out with some very warm, interesting and fun individuals. There is also always a fantastic spread at this pot luck style event. At this party we get an opportunity to try the December whisky, and all of the other whiskies that were tasted throughout the year. On top of that we always have a special guest whisky.  Decembers tasting was the Macallan Cask Strength and the special whisky presentation was the Balvenie 30 year old. 

The Twelve Drams of Christmas

The Macallan packed a punch with its 60.1 percent ABV; however, it remained classy and refined as well. I didn't keep a copy of my tasting notes but will say that I recall Christmas cake was a big tasting note and that it was delicious.

The Balvenie 30 year old broke my heart. I had picked this bottle up at a duty free shop in St Thomas, in the US Virgin Islands. I was so proud to be presenting it and when I popped the cork off I was devastated to see it break. I had not only been denied that lovely pop sound that happens as the cork slides out but was now faced with the prospect that the whole bottle would be ruined. It was suggested that a corkscrew be used to get the remaining piece of cork out. This only seemed to push the cork in further. I attempted to remove some debris from the rotting cork before another attempt at its removal and then "plop" it fell in. I was so upset. I felt embarrassed and ashamed. Like I had let my whole group down, like I had failed them. In my state I became focused on trying to remove the cork from the bottle. Another attendee then suggested a technique for pushing the cork piece to the side so that we could pour ourselves a drink of this exciting dram. That's when the light went on. In my panic and frustration I had forgotten that we could still drink this whisky and that the world was far from over. Life could still be pretty good. I was surrounded by good people, delicious food and a line up of whisky that would make most connoisseurs green with envy. So sit down and drink the 30 year old Balvenie we did.... And you know what? It was freakin' good.

Nose: Lemon zest, peaches and cherries. Fruity and delicious.

Palate: Cherries, wood, barley, and salted dark chocolate. so smooth in the mouth.

Finish: The wood and barley notes hang on and in the back I detected a slight hint of mint.

This was definitely a quality whisky and I was very happy to have had the opportunity to try it.

The Horror
There were several other whiskies available for tasting and they were good too. I won't go into specifics here as I feel I've already gone on long enough. What I will leave off with is this: For me the attraction to whisky goes beyond the artistry, craftsmanship and science that is involved. I do love the way it triggers my senses with colours, tastes and smells but I find that the the most important quality is how it can bring people together. That is the true beauty of whisky.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Jura Superstition

The island of Jura is located north east of neighbouring Islay. The whiskies produced there although peated tend to be less so than their neighbour. The Superstition expression is described on some of the packaging as being lightly peated. I have had this attractive bottle for some time and I recall when I first tasted it appeared to me to be sweet and malty. Later tastings produced notes with an aspirin like medicine taste that I was not particularly fond of. I have recently been revisiting this bottle and have been enjoying again. I suppose this is evidence that the passage of time really does affect the whisky in the bottle once it is opened.

I have recently been plagued by certain superstitious thoughts and this gave me the inspiration to introduce this whisky. It sometimes seems to me that all of the sports teams I follow tend to lose when I watch them. This is of course nonsense. The Toronto Maple Leafs have always suffered from terrible slumps and Hull City has lost more games when I haven't watched than when I have. All the same every once in a while I find this pervasive superstitious train of thought creep into my mind that the poor results of the teams I cheer for is directly linked in some way to my energy, karma or luck. I know I'm not the only one who thinks this way from time to time, and always find it interesting to hear how people seem to share that level of connection with their teams.      

As for musical accompaniment I instantly found myself considering Stevie Wonder. That seemed a bit too obvious though and so I decided to play some Gospel music. Religions from around the globe describe miraculous events that defy the laws of science, at least as we know or understand it. The music that is based in these tales and cultures is often so beautiful and powerful that it can move even the biggest doubters. The album is BB Kings Swing Low Sweet Chariot. It is a collection of 9 gospel songs performed by BB along with various others. The sound quality of this album is quite poor. This is really unfortunate but it does not entirely destroy the passion in the music. Perhaps a little superstition will fill in the rest?

Nose: The slightest whiff of smoke is hidden behind a layer of sweetened grains. The sweetness seems to remind me of black cherries coated in dark honey. I also detect a note of white pepper.

Palate: The whisky has a nice full mouth feel. A spicy kick like white pepper hits first this is joined by a honey sweetness.

Finish: Rather long the spice hangs on for some time as it fades in a cereal grain direction. Slight notes of smoke can also be detected.

This whisky is rather simple. This simplicity makes it approachable and able to match the music in theory but it lacks the complexity to compliment the passion of the music.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Chivas Regal 12 Year Old

Quite some time ago I stated that I would post a Chivas tasting. The time has come.The famous Chivas Regal is well known for its smooth and approachable nature. This is a whisky that I have been acquainted with and enjoyed since my later teen years. It has appeared under many a Christmas tree wrapped in shiny paper, never failing to elicit a big grin. For me this is a great go-to or everyday whisky. What it lacks in complexity it more than makes up for in comfort.

In order to match the smoothness I have paired this tasting with the smooth grooves of Portisheads' first album "Dummy". This group from Bristol, England is well known for their Trip Hop sound. The beats and grooves mixed with the beautiful, emotive voice of Beth Gibbons rarely find themselves in situations where they are out of place.

Nose: The honey sweetness of the grains is accompanied by notes of vanilla and a slight minty quality. I also detected an ever so subtle touch of smoke.

Palate: Very smooth. The nose does not lie or hide any surprises.

Finish: Very smooth, not too long and not too short.

It is no wonder that this whisky is so popular. It is incredibly smooth and easy going. As I had said earlier it is not overly complex but it certainly provides comfort and warmth.

The pairing with the music works too. The music provides a fantastic backdrop for the whisky. The brooding emotion of the voice blended with the steady beats never overwhelm yet never completely disappearing.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Master of Malt 50 Year Old Speyside (3rd. Edition)

After eight months and trying numerous new whiskies I have reached the highlight and end of the Advent Sessions. Today I will try the oldest whisky I have ever had the pleasure of trying. This 50 year old whisky is a Master of malt "mystery" distillery release. I have no idea who made this whisky, although I have heard someone suggest that it was Mortlach. It doesn't really matter as I will likely never know the truth and it is exciting all the same. This whisky is much older than I am and so it deserves a lot of respect. I haven't taken to calling it sir, but I will take my time to get to know it.

I also struggled with finding suitable music to pair. I didn't want the music to detract from the whisky, and I at one point was contemplating not having music at all. I wound up deciding on classical music as I felt it would be appropriate. The piece I went with was Beethovens' 9th symphony. I'm not sure which orchestra is playing here. I chose this piece because of the memories it brings to mind. I recall a gentleman speaking about the Glenfiddich 50 year and likening the taste of it to being kissed by an angel. This leads me to think of those moments when you are so taken with a scene you swear you can hear angels singing, for instance walking into a room with a large collection of fine malts. The fourth movement of the 9th symphony always makes me think of angels singing. I recall a time were my wife and I were in a hotel in Chiang Mai watching a movie called "Copying Beethoven". During the movie there is a scene where the 9th is played. When the Choir began singing we both had tears in our eyes. The piece never fails to move me.

Now lets taste this potentially heavenly dram.

Nose: Wood, Creamy vanilla, plum cobbler, some pepper and citrus, and all around is a floral perfume reminiscent of an old church lady. Delightful. Fills the nose with thoughts of a church bake sale. Am I getting close to the angels singing? After letting it sit a while the whisky develops a buttery note adding to the bake sale theme.

Palate: The first thing I am struck by is the mouth feel. WOW. It is silky, velvety and creamy. Sugary sweet wood and vanilla are the first notes I can identify, The wood notes develop a burnt edge after time. This in turn yields notes of raisins and other dried fruits.

Finish: The liquid goes down the throat like water. It is very smooth and leaves behind notes of wood and a slight metallic bit that lasts a long time. Sugary notes are also present and let themselves be known intermittently.

A beautiful whisky for sure. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to try it. I can't really say that I heard angels sing. I am not certain that the age has made a profound difference but I am so happy to have been able to try a whisky that has until this day been something of folklore to me.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Clynelish 1997 Oloroso Sherry Distillers Edition

Today I will be tasting the second last whisky from my advent calendar. That means that the next tasting will be the 50 year old... Very exciting.

Back to today... the guest of honour is the Clynelish 1997 Oloroso Sherry Distillers Edition. This whisky was distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2012, which makes it a 15 year old (or possibly 14 depending on the months). I have only had the pleasure of trying a Clynelish once before and I was very happy with it.

For music I am listening to Pink Floyds' Atom Heart Mother. This is Pink Floyds' fifth studio album. The cover features a simple (albeit beautiful) photo of a cow in pasture. There is no writing on the cover. Sound wise it sounds like a movie soundtrack. It also makes great driving music. Now to see how it pairs with whisky.

Nose: Orchard fruit that is lightly spiced. I also got notes of raisins, charred wood and a hint of an almost candy like aroma. Delicious.

Palate: A mouth watering blast of delicious fruit that is tapered by baking spices and honey. It is like the flavour profile of a home baked strawberry rhubarb pie with cherries and boysenberries. There is also a leathery quality hidden within layers of vanilla and wood.

Finish: The finish is very smooth and long. It is also quite dry. It leaves me with notes of burnt raisins and perhaps some milk chocolate.

I am really happy with this whisky. I found it to be very complex. It also reminded me of fresh baked pie and that has to be worth a bunch of extra points. The music is enjoyable. It seemed to take a back seat to the whisky, content to just linger in the background supportive but not really involved. I think this album is best suited for times were I am able to just focus on it.