Saturday, April 24, 2010

Whisky & Jazz

On Income Tax Day 2010, a bunch of us celebrated with a Scotch tasting at Union Square Wines & Spirits to commemorate the book Whisky & Jazz by Hans Offringa.  The author attended the tasting and also signed a few copies of his book on this evening. 

On this evening, a dozen different Scotch whiskies were served.  Try as I might to sample all of them, it proved close to impossible, even for someone such as myself, who revels in all types of whisky (or whiskey), but especially Scotch.  


whiskyjazz2 My first choice on this evening was Bruichladdich Single Malt Scotch Whisky Organic 2003 from Islay.  I chose this because I’m partial to Islay – based Scotches (Daddy loves his peat!) and partly because it had a shorter line than the first several selections on the list.  With a new ownership from this company, The Mc Ewan Family, this is its new brand; if you are familiar with Bruichladdich (pronounced “Brook-lahddy”), they have also tried to distinguish themselves by introducing a new label.  It is smooth with surprisingly little nose – but with good reason because for an Islay – based Scotch, it contains very low peat.  The low peat contents has nothing to do with the fact that it is an organic Scotch – they did this intentionally because they are traditionally low peat, but can make it high peat if they choose.  At $80, it’s a good Scotch, but not if you want something that will singe your nostril hairs. 

Second was something called The Resurrection Dram by the same company.  Vintage 2001, its the company’s first release.  At $90, I found it to be unusually light and fruity; it contains a little more peat than the Organic Scotch, but still quite subtle. 

Springbank Single Malt Scotch was recommended next by the distributor.  Aged 10 years, this one was a bit challenging due not so much to its taste but to its texture, which I would almost be tempted to characterize as “oily” – or “high viscosity”, as its representative referred to it, making me wonder if we were talking about Scotch or motor oil.  Maybe “thick” is the best way to describe this one.  Definitely a heavier taste, it had a stronger nose than either of the first two and higher peat content as well.  We’re not quite there, yet, but I do have a feeling that we’re definitely getting close. 

The last one from this particular distributor finally hit the spot.  Bruichladich’s Infinity [3] is very salty, which I’m given to understand is because it is a young whisky, aged only about five years or so.  Of these first four, this was by far my favorite because of the fact that it had the highest peat content.  At $95, it was stored in Bourbon oak casks which had also aged sherry; even though the Infinity is only aged between four to six years, you can taste the wood, bourbon and sherry in each and every sip.   

Switching tables, I ran into an old friend – Bowmore Single Malt.  A $34 Islay Scotch, this one is my go-to when budgetary constraints preclude me from affording any of its pricier cousins.  In case you’ve never tried this one before, don’t let its modest price fool you – it has all of the peaty goodness and heavy nose of the so – called “better” Scotches, but at a considerably wallet-friendly cost.  Definitely worth sampling, in my opinion. 

Next was a 12 year old Islay-based Scotch (have we noticed a pattern here yet?), Bunnahabhain.  If you like a Scotch with a long finish, this is most definitely one to consider; however, if you are a Lagavulin fan, you might find yourself a bit disappointed in this one.  It contains a disappointingly low peat content due to the fact that it has very little peated barley. 

Saving the best of the selections for last, there was the afore-mentioned Lagavulin.  An Islay-based Scotch aged 16 years, this is worth every penny of its $90 price tag.  With an exceedingly long finish and a fiery nose, I almost wished it was a bitterly cold mid-winter night, just so I could’ve enjoyed its warming quality all the more.  Without a doubt the smoothest of the selections, it is right up there with my favorite, Laphroaig, which, sadly, was not served on this night because (so I’m given to understand) it was a tad under-represented in the “Whisky & Jazz” book. 

My picks?  If you can afford the Lagavulin, then most definitely go for it.  Otherwise, if you’re on a tighter budget, then I recommend the Bowmore.  You won’t be disappointed in either one.