Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday Night Sexy Time - I Did It My Way

Lining up for the evenings private tasting.

Recently I had the opportunity to run a mini tasting session for a good friend, Osheen, who wanted to learn more about whisky. He's a bit of a Vodka man, he needed schooling in the fine arts of the water of life. So I had to think, should I do a Tasting Session or a Sensory Experience? He probably did not expect the level I was to going to, but for me a Sensory Experience is how it should always be, or at east for an introduction. I have been to a lot of tasting in the past few years and they do all tend to be the same thing over and over again. This needed to be special. It needed to be intimate. I wanted it so bad and he did too. I dug down deep to drawn on my inner Sinatra and I did it my way. This night I was to be The Whisky Crooner.

I was in a mild but excited quandary over what to choose and how to order it, I had never done anything like this before. Drawing on my semi ample reserves, and a neat borrow from The Grey Bush, I first needed to establish a format and flow. Format was simple enough: Hand selecting a range of whiskies that displayed the wide and varying world of what makes whisky so special on a personal level.

One of many sensory plates.
I raided my pantry, garden, and local tire shop for essential elements that we can build our descriptors on. Honey, cinnamon, green banana, mandarin, salt, coriander, pear, chocolate, hazelnut, dates, vanilla bean, ginger, nor (seaweed), raisin, mint, rose petal, thistle, jasmine flower, and the list goes on as well. Let us not forget the stinky piece of car tyre for that rubberised sulphur smell. Scratch it, sniff it, rub it, crush it, and taste it was the aim of the game. Experimentation with these flavour profiles during the tasting was encouraged.

2 glasses and one beer. Tragedy in the making.
Kicking off a palate cleansing was in order because god knows what goes in and a round Osheen's mouth prior to arriving. I choose a Duval and matched it with a sharp cheddar cheese. Duval is one of my go to choices for a good clean beer that helps to amplify those tastes buds but also be a little bit fancy. Duval is a beer that has a good clean finish but a well balanced malt body. Of course as a double edged sword we all know whisky is beer before it is distilled so it was a no brainer that beer should be on the menu. I have always found though you need a beer with a wee bit of malt in it to build the relationship to the whisky.

Secondly knowing about bourbon is an essential requirement as well. Like it or hate it, Scotch is more often than not aged in ex bourbon casks so knowing about American white oaks vanilla influence is an important step to understand. New American oak vs European oak is remarkably difference in textures and influence on a whisky but it is usually the white oaks that come first. A good old reliable Woodford Reserve I felt was in order. High in corns and sweet vanillas.

Roses, mint, thistle, and jasmine. Some of those Speyside notes.
Third up I naturally introduced a mainstay whisky on my shelf, The Glenlivet 12yo. Neither complicated or aggressive the florals, honeys, vanillas and light oaks is a great introduction.

Progressing on we then sampled a Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban to start to see what a finish does to a whisky while introducing those port notes of sweet raisins. Again one of those whiskies I really love so why not push that love on others.

Yeast, honey, salt, coriander, coffee, and cocoa.
Next was The Balvenie Golden Cask I just happen to have open at the time. A great example of whisky aged exclusively in a Rum cask. The complexities and elegance of The Balvenie made for  a real highlight before we really made a extreme jump into the unknown.

Leaping from one peak to another I had to include a peated whisky in the mix and what else should I go to but the Ardbeg 10yo.  At this point we had seen a steady climb in flavour and complexities and al in and around the same region. I think this may have been Osheen's favourite as we shall see later. Masses of peat smoke as you well know too well including salts, iodine still touched with those clean sweet vanillas. A laphroaig 10yo would have been a great option too but Ardbeg is always a crowd pleaser.

Chocolates, raisins, and dried apricots. A few of my favourite things.
At this point a breaker was needed so a ground up a nice cup of fresh espresso. Coffee is a great palate neutraliser I have found and I often will take a pocket of coffee beans to chew on when attending a whisky event like Whisky Live. You may note that when in a perfume store a bowl of coffee beans or grounds is provided to nose in-between testers for the same reason. Too many flavours and the palate is shot.

With the coffee now downed it was time to really give a complete 180ยบ swing and introduce the sherry monster that is Aberlour A'bunadh. Cask strength in all it's glory here is syrupy christmas cake in a glass. Coming in strong after a coffee is perfect for this baby and a handful of hazel nut and raisin chocolate went down a perfectly with it.

Trouble is you never have enough of the same glasses.
To top off the evening I gave Osheen a sample empty sample bottle in which he could fill with which ever whisky he wanted to take hope. I was not surprised when he took the Ardbeg 10yo.

Personally I need to do more of these, but maybe not actually drink as much whisky while being the host. Maybe that was just the Rat Pack coming out in me. By the end of the night we were near rolling off our chairs. Thank the gods for that chocolate and cheese.

The Baron aka The Whisky Crooner