Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Whisky & Jazz



Whisky, jazz and chocolate – if you spent an evening with any one of these three, you’d probably have great fun. But what if you experienced all three in the same evening? That’s what I did recently when I attended a tasting called Whisky & Jazz at New York City’s Union Square Wines & Spirits . During the tasting, we were treated to a variety of single malt Scotches paired with various chocolates contributed by Pure Dark while we were entertained by the jazz styling of The Ralph Williams Trio.


Against my better judgment – and to the strains of the jazz trio’s version of “My One And Only Love” wafting in the background – I started with a real palate-killer from Islay, Lagavulin aged 16 years. As any dedicated scotch drinker knows, Islay is an area of Scotland that’s famous for being The Home Of Peat, contributing to a considerably smoky taste to almost any scotch manufactured there. Nicknamed The Smoke Bomb, Lagavulin is often compared to Laphroaig; generally, Laphroaig (my own personal go-to) is considered just a little bit better than Lagavulin, but anyone who enjoys their scotch with a powerful smokiness can’t go wrong with Lagavulin, by any stretch.


Next was a real treat –The Cask Of Dreams 2011 from Glenfiddich. A limited release 97.6 proof whisky, this was by far and away the most expensive scotch I tried that night at $140 a bottle. This consists of a blend of several 14 year old single malts that are finished in new American Oak barrels for its last few months. On its nose, you can detect notes of vanilla and apricot, while its taste suggests raisins. I found that it almost tasted like a brandy. If you can afford this one, it’s a real treat and something very different from Glenfiddich.


My favorite from the night – and the one I wound up purchasing – was the Springbank from Campbelltown. This 10 year old has a bit of a salty taste – your tongue might detect hints of iodine and brine; this ocean influence comes from being on the coast of Scotland, not terribly far from Islay. Additionally, it’s got a very pungent nose – I dare you to breathe deep with both nostrils!

Finally, a single malt from Islay that’s NOT peated. Yep, you read that right – this one is Bruichladdich’s Un-Peated 92 proof. To someone like myself, this seems like an incredible waste – after all, the reason why a scotch lover would buy something from Islay is specifically for its peatiness. According to the story from the distributor’s representative, an Islay-based factory was shuttered back in 1994, but was eventually re-opened in 2001; by then, however, all of the big scotch manufacturers in the region had already gathered up all of the peat to be had to make their own brand. As a result, by the time this factory had re-opened, there was none to be had. Although un-peated, it nevertheless does have the slightest suggestion of smoke to its taste.


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