The first classic single malts class of the season is always exciting. Usually a class full of people who received their ticket as a gift over the season, this class provides an opportunity to really talk whisky and get into some of the more interesting parts of Scotch distillation. This night we had an exciting virtual tour of Scotland through a whisky medium. The choice spirits of the night, ranging between the prices of $50 all the way up to $120, took our class on a flight from the Highlands to the Islands to Speyside finally ending off on the mysterious island of Islay. With the eager tasters raring to go we delved into our first exciting dram.
AnCnoc Peter Arkle No. 4 – $84.99
An all rounder, this single malt was the perfect primer for the lot of us. Well rounded, spicy and sweet with all the nuances of a well balanced Highlander. With a little kick at the end from that zesty citrus this whisky lifts it’s kilt and leaves nothing to the imagination offering all it’s flavours up front. With all the dancing enthusiasm on the palate I can easily say this was one of my favourites of the night.
Jura Elixir 12 Year – $61.99
A little sherry cask action was needed next to contrast that American oak of the AnCnoc, this wee fellow from the isle of Jura came into the scene hollering with a ton of character. Not to be outdone by his Highland brethren, the sherry cask sweetness stole the scene kicking it up a notch with baking spices and milk chocolate coated ginger. What really got to me were those maritime oils, soft and sultry leaving a fudge like finish. This fellow really shows the Islands have something to brag about!
The Benriach 12 Sherry Wood – $78.99
Well, this guy was kind of a ringer. Everyone was watering at the mouth before they even tasted the darn thing just by looking at the colour. Dark and robust, it gives one the idea of a deep, rich dram. And that it is, peacocking all the delicious characters of a wonderfully selected sherry barrel. Dark chocolate, Christmas cake, dark fruits and demerara sugar meet headlong in an explosive battle royale on the palate. What else can be said about this one except it was second favourite of the night, who would have guessed?
Adelphi Clynelish 16 Year – $110.99
I threw this in the lineup thinking it would be a great example of a coastal whisky. It did that, and much, much more. Being the first cask strength whisky of the night one would think it might be an overbearing boozer after the delicate natures of everything before it. To our surprise, this full strength bomb was much deeper than just an alcohol kick, offering sponge toffee doused in a citrus rich reduction, full of grapefruit and passion fruit. With oceanic oils aiding it’s profile, the final verdict decided by the class was “A sea side tropical treat full of white fruit and savory beauty, hinting at the salty nature of the coast.”(romanticized by yours truly). A huge hit for everyone attending and myself, though I must admit I am a little biased when it comes to this coastal gem.
Glendronach 2003Pedro Ximenez 11 – $114.99
With some whisky tastings, it’s always a good idea to hedge your bets with a known favourite. Everyone loves a good Glendronach, it’s pretty much a scientific fact. Our cask has proven time and time again that no one can turn their nose up to perfection. With a deeply woven sherry influence, this beauty and beast story offers up notes of sultanas, brown sugar and cinnamon to begin. Next begins the sirens call, unable to back off after the sumptuous nose, waves of raisins, gingerbread, sticky toffee pudding alongside an assortment of the after dinner treat tray. Once again, the cask strength bomb shells shell out another clear winner of the night, this one coming in first according to one and all.
Bruichladdich Islay Barley – $74.99
On recommendation this whisky was thrown into the mix in the last few days of choosing the line up. Now usually Bruichladdich doesn’t find itself near the end of a lineup with it’s usually softer character and nature. This was not the case for this Islay spirit masquerading under the guise of it’s usual style. Atypically peated, this supposedly unpeated scotch shows us all what a little water and barley can do when it comes from the legendary isle of Islay. A nose of an age old forest after a rainfall, mossy with wet leaves and old trees comes to the fore front, alongside a lemon curd sweetness, cloying and interesting. After seducing your nose with it’s mysterious ways, the palate offers more with beachwood, washed up on shore, creamy vanilla, hints of tar and lemon lime tarts mingle along young barley sugars. With all the balance of an excellent and sophisticated dram, this spirit still has that pep and pop of a youthful Islay spirit.
Bowmore Small Batch – $54.99
The final whisky of the night, I had to show the crowd that price is not everything. Huge value is always coming out of Bowmore, with releases such as their Devil’s Casks and Laimrig always stealing the show for price. This is just another example of Bowmore, doing their thing, the thing that we all love, releasing amazing whisky for crazy prices. This no age statement whisky offers some interesting notes on the nose, reminiscing heavily of olden Bowmore. Think things like heather and lavender from the spa, smoking in incense form only to slowly draw the veil on a savory hickory like character lingering in the background. A palate of deliciously sweet smoke and ripe pears, fresh from the orchard show they mean business while the salt and white pepper busy themselves in the background holding together an already tightly constructed structure. For being the most inexpensive whisky of the night and a peated one at that, this was surprisingly the third pick for favourites of the night. I have to say it is rare for a classic malts class to have a whisky as one of their favourites let alone anywhere near the head of the pack. Very cool!
Like that the tasting was done, with a fair few people feeling a fair amount happier about their Thursday night plans. After trying seven single malt scotches, I feel like a lot of people went home happy with some awesome whiskies sampled and interesting knowledge of the scotch industry acquired. My only question would be if anyone remembered what we talked about in the morning!