Honestly, I don't recall how I first heard of this tasting – maybe it was from an advertisement in one of the whisky magazines I read. In any event, I figured that it would be the perfect event for me because:
- I like whisky
- I like whisky tastings
- The timing was right
- The event was held right across the street from where my office is currently located
- The price – although not cheap – was reasonable enough for me to afford
All of these above considered, attending was a no – brainer.
During registration, we were handed booklets containing a menu of the evening's tastings; each page had a short blurb about the bottles brought from the various manufacturer, plus a small space to write your own notes about the nose, the taste, the finish, etc. Additionally, each attendee was given their own nosing glass and a small plastic clip for the glass – the idea behind the clip was to act has a holder for the glass; the clip would then be attached to your plate so you didn't lose your glass (they weren't handing out replacements if you lost yours). As if all of this wasn't already good enough, we were also given a discount coupon to St. Andrews, a well – known Scottish – themed restaurant in midtown Manhattan, famous for its wide variety of Scotch as well as its haggis.
After Registration, we went into the hotel's ballroom, which was set up for a buffet – style dinner; obviously, the idea here is to feed everyone before the tasting so that folks won't get too tipsy after having all of the whiskies available. The dinner included roast beef, turkey, rice, pasta and steamed vegetables. They also had bottles of water available near the buffet section, which many people used on the whiskies they sampled throughout the evening. There was always plenty of food around – as soon as a tray got close to being empty, a waiter would replace it with another tray. The food was reasonably good – always hot, filling you up for an evening full of drinking.
At the tasting, I tried a few variations on some old friends but of course, welcomed some new friends as well, sampling whiskies from America, Canada, Scotland and Japan. Ireland was also represented in the form of Bushmill's; somehow, I managed to miss the Crown Royal table – how that happened, I can't tell you. I can only blame it on my lack of organizational skills once overwhelmed with so many new and outstanding choices. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
Among the variations on old friends were Laphroaig, Bowmore and Chivas Regal. The new friends included a Japanese whisky – Suntory's Yamazaki 12 year old – something called Big Peat by Douglas Laing, and Jefferson's Bourbon.
Perhaps the most surprising was the differences between Chivas 18, 21 and 25 year olds. The 25 was without a doubt, the smoothest of the three while the 21 was unusually sweet, making it a real stand-out in a comparison tasting between the three. For me, the sweetness of the 21 ruled it out as a quality Scotch. It's an almost pointless distinction for all practical purposes, however, because neither the 21 nor the 25 would be affordable for me; in fact, the 18 would be stretching the budget a bit (but would certainly be well worth it). The 25 is the newest of the group and was one that the Chivas representative was pushing the most.
The recent tasting in New York City seems to have been the final one for the spring; I don't know if they will hold another tasting during the summer, but if they do, I strongly encourage all whisky fans to attend – otherwise, keep an eye out for other tastings that might be in your area during the autumn.