Sunday, November 02, 2008
This event was so much fun that I don't think I needed to come up with my own "creative" title for the entry. It was a great session; Andrew Ferguson from the Kensington Wine Market was very knowledgeable about scotch and scotch tasting, and he squeezed in a lot of interesting facts and knowledge as he led us through the six scotches we tasted that evening. He also whipped out a map of Scotland to show us where the different scotches were made, which reminded me of a similar map in my Intro Microbiology course pack (Yay Niven! - The related article's on page 12) And of course, the chocolate and desserts provided by Nectar were divine. Again, I'd like to apologize for the lack of pictures, but to make up for it, the organizers were kind enough to provide us with little forms and golf pencils so I could take good notes!
We started the evening off with a taste of Famous Grouse 12 Yr, which is fairly well-known/accessible compared to the other ones we would try as the evening progresses. Didn't take any notes here, I guess at that point in time it just tasted like scotch. Paired interestingly with the white chocolate ("Ivoire") that we had on the table.
Next we tried two scotches from Edradour, the smallest distillery in Scotland. The difference in these two scotches was the casks that they were finished in; one was a Port Finish (i.e. a cask that used to hold port) and one was a Madeira Finish (Madeira is a Spanish wine where they "do everything possible to fuck it up" and for some reason it's really good.) Both are bottled at "cask strength" which means they bottle it right out of the cask instead of filtering it and all that fancy stuff like they do with most scotches. This means that more alcohol is left in the scotch and in the case of the Edradour Port Finish, it was 57% alcohol and you could smell it right away. For these stronger scotches, Andrew taught us the trick of sprinkling in a few drops of water to "cut through" the alcohol, which then brought out the more spicy notes (See, I'm getting good at this.) The scotch was very strong and spicy, which surprised me a little because I'd expected it to be sweet, being a Port Finish and all. It went well with the dark chocolate we got, Manjari, which is a 64% chocolate that has a bit of sourness/fruityness when you have it by itself.
The Edradour Madeira Finish was 65% alcohol, but compared to the Port Finish, it smelled/tasted a lot more mild. My notes say, "Nose: Rum; Palate: Sweet" This was my second favourite scotch of the night, but nobody else's first or second favourite, which made me feel a little alone when we had the mini-vote at the end. Both the Edradour scotches cost $88.49/500 mL
My favourite scotch of the night was the KWM Tullibardine 1987. It was 54.6% alcohol, so after "cutting it" with a few drops of water came the fruity and "sherry-like" (I haven't had sherry really, so don't know what that actually smells like) came out on the nose. In my notes I wrote "refill", which I'm guessing means that this came from a cask that was already used once for scotch already, which will affect its flavour. Apparently in the States you're only allowed to make whiskey in new oak barrels (way to love the environment, Americans!) and so that's why their whiskeys tend to be more one-dimensional than scotches, who can buy these used barrels from the Americans, or from anyone else, really. (In this case they just reused their own.) The Tullibardine was my favourite not because it's almost as old as I am, but because it tasted creamy, and when I had it with a bite of the flourless chocolate cake with pink peppercorns (not as good as the Dolfin chocolate bar version of that flavour combo) it made it taste even creamier! It was so crazy to taste the difference of a pairing that worked. Unfortunately at $189.99 per bottle I don't think I'll be getting any for my birthday.
The last two scotches we tasted were very smoky because they used a traditional drying process involving peat instead of the "newer" drying process that uses coal. Andrew told us a story about the Secret Stills Isle of Skye (1986!) that I vaguely remember; I think Secret Stills is a separate bottling brand owned by beverage company Diageo who also owns Talisker, the only distillery on the Isle of Skye (thanks Wikipedia!) I think since Diageo only sells a certain amount of scotch as Talisker, it uses this Secret Stills brand to sell any overproduction? I don't know, I'm unfortunately still at the stage of my life where I drink to get drunk/be social, not so I can tell you the history of what I'm drinking. Anyway, the scotch smells like it's really from an island. You do get that peaty smoky smell first, and then you smell the sea salt. Fortunately when you taste it it's not salty scotch, but it has this smoky flavour that is just really neat. This was Tiffany's favourite and when she found out it costs $230 she was like, "Damn expensive taste!" (Haha.)
The last scotch of the evening was the Finlaggan Cask Strength, which is actually distilled in Islay. Finlaggan is actually small lake in the middle of Scotland with very tiny islands where a very powerful family ruled a bunch of land in Scotland/Ireland back in the day. There is actually an artist's interpretation of the island on the bottle and the island is just basically a tower, it's so tiny. Anyway, the flavour was very similar to the Secret Stills Isle of Skye because of the peat, but it had a bit more bite. On the first sip it was kind of fizzy and reminded me of Coke. And then afterwards it lingered longer in my mouth like I was breathing in really humid sea air. Very cool, but again, not something I can afford at $85.99.
I'd hoped that it would be a more tag team sort of thing where they got someone who knew about chocolate as much as Andrew knew about scotch because the chocolate was kind of left by the wayside. In addition to the Ivoire and Manjari, we also got a milk chocolate (Jivara), 70% cocoa chocolate (Guanaja), cocoa nibs, and some weird chocolate-coated rice krispie things (they were just tiny little balls) to try with the scotches. None of them really stuck out for me as an exceptional pairing, but it was interesting to note the difference in taste when you combined a piece of chocolate with scotch. We also got pieces of Nectar's really yummy smoky chocolate tart with salted caramel (so good) and towards the end they brought out a milk chocolate ball in honey and a dark chocolate ball drizzled with reduced balsamic vinegar.
All in all, it was a good night and I was glad Tiffany and I walked a few blocks through awesome Inglewood before heading home (I was thankful there was a bottle of water in the car too!) I did feel a little miserable in the morning, but that might've been because I stayed up to do a bit of homework!
1216 9 Ave SE (upstairs)