For this scotch tasting I pulled out all the stops: twelve men, six whiskies, two appetizers, and all in three hours. The whisky was selected from people’s personal favourites (or ones they wanted to try) and I procured them from Vines in Riverbend, Sobeys Liquor Store, and Superstore Liquorstore. This was the first tasting I’ve ever done where I had to turn people away and there are folks who’ve already expressed interest in the next yet-to-be-scheduled tasting. No big deal.
We started with the Auchentoshan Three Wood, a 12 year-old spirit from the Lowlands bottled at 43% ABV, which is a great whisky to get someone started in the wonderful realm of scotch. The nose is sweet with scents of vanilla, honey, and butterscotch. The taste features those same flavours and adds oak on the way to a long, smooth, creamy finish. One of the gents described it as the perfect way to start your day, a “breakfast whisky” in his exact words. Relative to all others, this one finished fourth on the night for me.
The Jura Superstition from the Island region came next at 43% ABV. Interestingly, it’s distilled only one month out of the year and is made with two malts – one that’s 13 years-old and one that’s 21 years-old – which are to represent the superstitions people attach to numbers. That bit of intrigue aside, the nose is peaty, spicy, and leathery; a marked departure from the Three Wood. The taste is a mix of smoke, pepper, and spice. The medium finish gives traces of nuts and a saltiness which installs itself in the top and back part of your mouth. Overall, this was my bottom choice and not one I’d go to any lengths to find again.
For our third of the night we sampled The Laddie Sixteen, a 16 year-old whisky at 46% ABV from my dad’s favourite distillery, Bruichladdich, courtesy of the Islay region. Sweet fruit and a hint of caramel greet your nose and sits light and sweet on your tongue. Vanilla, oak, fruit, and honey all come together and lead into a medium finish of a whisky that, while not very complex, is still quite enjoyable. “This one has grip” was one comment, but it didn’t grip me enough to be more than my second-last choice of the night.
I thought this thing was going to be catered
We checked the clock after the first three whiskies and were surprised to discover only 45 minutes had passed. Usually we experience each whisky over 25 or 30 minutes so it was time to take a bit of a break. The group devoured the first of the appetizers (homemade spinach dip with unsalted tortilla chips), stretched its legs, and reassembled for the next scotch of the night: the Glendronach Parliament 21 Year.
Number 1 with a bullet
Holy shit, wow. This 48% ABV whisky from Speyside was the number one whisky of the night of almost the entire group, myself included. “It’s too easy to drink,” “well, that was awesome,” “that’s frickin delicious!” were sentiments shared around the table. The nose is of plums and other dark fruits with the faintest scent of leather. Adding a bit of water opens up the whisky allowing it to coat your tongue and letting you taste the plums, spicy cinnamon, leather, and nutmeg. At the end of its long, warm finish you can detect a light spice which caps it off wonderfully.
Rounding out my top three
Fifth of the night – and second choice for me – was the Dalmore Cigar Malt. I love the red colour of this 44% ABV Highland whisky which spends between 12 and 15 years in a cask. The nose is a mix of sweetness and light smoke, hinting at what’s ahead. Cinnamon and cigar are first on your tongue before giving way to subtle leather and a very-present dry tobacco leaf taste. It exhibits a longer finish featuring a smoky, salty flavour. By far this wasn’t many people’s second favourite of the night (fine, more for me then). The only thing I wish was better about this whisky is the price – let me know if you can find it for less than $120.
Last whisky of the night and occupying the final spot on my podium was the Lagavulin 16 from Islay. This is your dad’s scotch and one I’d add to my scotch closet. Bottled at 43% ABV, the nose is peaty, smoky, and salty which you can smell soon after uncorking the bottle. The taste is quite impressive and consists of smoke, smoke, pepper, smoke, spice, saltiness, smoke, sweetness, and, oh, did I mention smoke? Surprisingly though it isn’t overpowering and lets you enjoy the different layers as the medium-length finish fades to smoky wisps with a latent sweetness. A few of us agreed that the ideal place to drink this whisky would be around a fire.
Please sir, I’d like some more
And with the six sampled, we enjoyed the second appetizer – homemade chicken-and-pork meatballs – and gave everyone the opportunity for another dram of their favourite whisky. So as to not empty the Glendronach, we agreed to draw names and limit consumption to two people per whisky. I chose the Dalmore Cigar Malt and couldn’t have been happier with my choice – the Glendronach was just too good and I knew that few others would pick the Cigar Malt. We then closed the night by drawing names of six men, each of whom got to choose a bottle to take home, and bid one another a safe trip home and a good night.
One comment on my rankings for the night: it’s almost unfair to have to compare such an amazing and solid line-up of whiskies. They were all great in their own right (with the exception of the Jura Superstition, that was a miss) and I’d gladly add each to my scotch closet should I suddenly find myself awash in Sir Robert Bordens.