Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On Whisky

I got some great responses regarding my interest in a little more compact beverage for the road. Proving that many of my readers either have wide tastes or a penchant for alcohol :) Thought I'd post some of the comments for easier reading (and finding).

A great one from Fin Lumsden that gives a good overview:

Ah, whisky. Now you're talking! (Note lack of 'e' in spelling - whisk'e'y is for Irish or rye, whisky is for Scotch whisky). Glenrothes happens to be one of my favourites - as with The Macallan, it seems to improve massively with age. The Glenrothes (based in the Speyside town of Rothes) release their product with a 'vintage' mark (eg. 1989, 1992 etc) rather than the more usual age statement (12yrs, 18yrs etc). It's a 'big' whisky but not in the slightest bit aggressive. It's spicy, full, rounded with lovely plummy, fruitcake flavours and a lovely creamy velvety mouth-feel. Try the 1989 vintage if you can - all the major characteristics of G'rothes there in full flow, but it shouldn't break the bank. If you're feeling flush (and who is in these straightened times...) go mad and find a 1973 or a 1978.

Another big spicy malt is the Dalmore (dal-MORE). A few years ago they released a 'Cigar Malt', designed to compliment the smoking of good quality cigars (not that I condone smoking...), but what they came up with was, by necessity, a big-hitter of a whisky - caramel, chocolate, pepper, leather, sultanas - it has the lot!! It might be just what you're looking for if you want that malty, full stout flavour.

The Islay (pronounced EYE-la) malts are very much love 'em or hate 'em. These malts from the Scottish island of Islay, include Laphroaig (la-FROY-g), Lagavullin (lagga-VOO-lin), Bowmore (bow-MORE) and the imperious Ardbeg (ard-BEG). All are massively flavourful, but are almost medicinal in their impact. They come under the classification of the "Phenolic malts" - phenolic as in 'phenol' as in 'trichlorophenol' as in, you guessed it, TCP... :) They make great winter-warmers (especially Ardbeg) but are very much an acquired taste. (An exception to the Islay rule is Bruichladdich (brook-LAH-dy) - it has the peatiness, the slightly briney character that comes from maturation halls that sit cheek-by-jowl with the seashore, the things which mark out an Islay malt, but it's as if someone has turned the volume control down slightly. Well worth a look.)

Hope that's been useful to you. I was born and brought up about 150ft from a whisky distillery (Deanston) and can still leave my front door, turn right and see the still room :o) I love the stuff!! :)

From Sweet William. The link he provides has some tasting notes:


Anything from Islay is going to be big and peaty, with Laphroaig being the prototypical beast.

Something like The Macallan is more mainstream and, frankly, less brutal.

Another place to go is brandy - the French stuff is pretty expensive but some other countries have some real bargains - eg Angove's XO 7 (from Australia c. $60US)

With all of the barrel aged spirits, time in the barrel is a strong determinate of quality.

http://www.physics.uq.edu.au/people/nieminen/spirits.html is a good place to wander down the wrong stack
If you want something "dessert" then Oporto, Jerez, Tokay and all the antipodean hybrids using Solero systems are very intresting. If sticky and sweet.

Josh Mitchell has some great stouty/bourbony beer recommendations:


A bottle of either of the following takes literally hours to properly enjoy (so one of enjoying on these is like three I-Stouts):

Harviestoun - Ola Dubh
(12, 16, or 30 year reserves)

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
(yearly production, released in november-ish)

There are some others of similar vein. However, I can't remember the other ones that don't come in a large bottle (ala, Boulevard's Smokestack Series) at the moment (check the limited edition PDF - bourbon barrel quad was quite good).

Oh, and typically these have a higher alcohol content (for instance the Bourbon County is 13%).

You might check out the Beeradvocate.com review of those as well.

Mephistopheles' Stout is another. Though it's not cask aged like the two above, it's still pretty good.

bmike with his favorites and some tasting notes:


Taliskar - sharp, warm, nice heat in the throat - used to be my favorite
Oban - has a great heat, esp after it goes down, sharp and peppery
Bowmere - smokey, peat flavor - I appreciated it but I thought I was drinking distilled dirt
Glenmorangie and Glenfedich - 2 different brands, slightly different flavor, solid and you can usually find it when out - bonus if you can get the Glenmorangie in the port or sherry finish - not something I'd drink all the time - but lovely
MacAlan 12 or 14 - a good standbye when the 18 is too $$ or not available
MacAlan 18 - my all time favorite, warm, a bit of smoke flavor, smooooooth going down, I drop some $$$ on a bottle and keep it in the house and sip it on special occasions

2 comments:

Tex69 said...

Two words for a whiskey discussion: Kentucky Bourbon

Jesse said...

Indeed, I'm surprised that Bourbon hasn't come up yet. While Islays certainly fit the roasty requirement, they can be a bit pricey. (Though Lagavulin is definitely my favorite whisky!)

Bourbon is delicious, affordable, and widely available. Most of the distilleries have small batch versions that are a step above the average. Woodford Reserve, Blantons, Bulleit, and Basil Haydens are some of my favorites (of the few that we can get here in PA with our wacky liquor laws)