Monday, September 7, 2009

Islay be back!

In addition to the illustrious Colonel's previous post regarding the recent Islay tasting night, I thought it worth putting down a few other interesting notes which I learned during the evening. One point of interest were two tasting plates located on each table containing identical looking grain. During the course of the presentation we were invited to try the grain from both plates. Turns out one contained natural barley and the other smoked barley (which is used in the production of whisky). The taste difference between the two was extremely obvious even though they looked the same. One was sweet and tasted like the malted milk powder. The second tasted very smooth...and smokey...and charcoal like. Was actually very pleasant and we enjoyed a few extra handfuls.

Another interesting point was that most of the whiskies we tried were actually bottled by a third party company, namely Tartan. If you have been to Dan Murphy's recently you will have noticed a large selection of whisky's from companies such as Hart Brother's (incidentally one of the sponsors for Whisky Live) and Old Malt cask. These companies approach various distilleries and purchase stocks of their whisky. They then store these whiskies for a little while longer, and then sell them under their own label. This allows for different expressions of whiskies to be created, which wouldn't otherwise be created by the distilleries themselves. For example, we tasted a 7yr old Laphroig (best malt of the evening for me)! In most cases, the price of these third party labels is lower than an equivalent expression produced by the distillery itself.

One thing I was slightly disappointed by, was that this was an Islay whisky tasting experience. To me I was expecting whiskies of which Islay is renowned for (i.e. Arbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroig). Real smoke and peat. Although there was a delicious 7 yo Laphroig expression, the evening was absent of Ardbeg and Lagavulin. This absence didn't take too much away from the evening, but to me it would have added a little icing on the cake. In saying that, I'm unlikely to ever try a 36 yr old Bowmore again - and for that I am truly glad (it retails for over $400 a bottle)!

This is the second formal tasting evening I have been to and I find them extremely engaging and good social events. It was obvious that some of the other participants were truly well versed whisky lovers and I found it a great chance to listen and learn from these masters.

El Capitan