Monday, October 29, 2012

Scotch Flights - Bowmore, Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch

Fall is already upon us, and Winter will be soon to follow.  More so now, with a hurricane rapping at my windows, it's a perfect time to be drinking Scotch.  When there's not a fire to be lit to keep one toasty, a dram of a fine scotch will suffice for warmth and smoke.

I was recently invited to a wonderful scotch tasting at the Nomad Hotel, hosted by Iain McCallum, the Master of Malts for Morrison Bowmore Distillers.  With a title like that, I knew I was in good hands.

Tastings are an excellent way to learn about products you've never tasted, I cannot recommend them enough for those interested in learning more about food and beverage products (cheese, wine, whisky etc).  The three whiskys I tasted at this event were ones I had never tasted before, and was surprised by all of them.  In all honesty, I have not ventured into Scotch as much as I should (being a self-proclaimed lover of libation), and I can tell you that after this flight of incredible Scotches, I am determined to become an expert.

We started off with Auchentoshan ( "ock-un-tosh-un") 12 Year Old (40% alcohol).  It's triple distilled in pot stills and then matured for over 12 years on the Auchentoshan Estate near Glasgow.  The nose is sweet - I smelled a bit of pear, citrus, and caramel.  On first sip it's nutty - flavors of almond, caramel, a little bit of spice, orange and lime, with a round creaminess.  It has a dry finish, with a spicy gingery bite.

Auchentoshan To-Go

Then we tried Auchentoshan Valinch 2012 - Cask Strength (57.2% alcohol).  This mark is aged in first fill American Bourbon casks and naturally has strong vanilla notes.  On the nose there's a bit of caramel and spice - a touch of nutmeg.  On the tongue there's citrus, and a sweet creaminess.  I personally thought it was similar to a Rye whiskey - a bit spicy with the zest of the citrus.  There are only 1,300 bottles of Valinch 2012 for the US market, so if you see it, buy it.  It's bound to disappear quickly (especially retailing at $60!)..

For those who are curious, a Valinch is the tool used by the whisky masters to taste the potation straight from the barrel to taste and determine if the barrel is ready to be bottled. 

Next on the list was Glen Garioch ("glen geery") 12 Year (48% alcohol), one of my favorites from the evening.  It's aged in American Bourbon barrels and Spanish Sherry casks - the combination of which softens and adds the flavors of pear and oak.  The nose on this one is very light - just a touch of heathered honey and citrus.  On first taste it's very creamy and smooth, coats your tongue with honey and pear, it has a long finish.  It has a very smooth finish, and pairs very nicely with a salty cheddar cheese.

Glen Garioch To-Go

Onward to a very special treat - 1986 Glen Garioch Vintage.  Glen Garioch is one of the oldest distilleries still in operation, one that before 1995 used smoked barley.  It is aged for 25 years in American oak, and bottled at cask strength (54.6% alcohol) in 2011.

The aroma is of creamy caramel, spice, lemon, coconut, and floral notes.  The palate has smoke, caramel, salt on the sides of the mouth, with fruity notes of pear and banana.  This is an excellent choice for anyone who appreciates a smoky scotch with a smooth creamy structure.

Look for the 1986 Vintage in mid November.  

Another one of my favorites from the evening was Bowmore.  I have been wanting to try it for some time, so I was delighted to hear that it was on the list.  Bowmore is an example of a whisky that has a flavor profile that is clearly influenced by the location of the distillery.  Bowmore is the capital of Islay, and means great sea rock.  The Bowmore 12 Year was an epiphany - it tasted of the open salty sea air, creamy vanilla, and almost a taste of a beach bonfire (at least that's where I was immediately transported).  I found myself suddenly craving wood fired oysters drizzled in salty butter - (note to self, get thyself to Mas La Grillade).  Bowmore 12 has a minty finish to all that salt and fire - a clean finish to an excellent pour.

We then tasted another special bottle - Bowmore Dorus Mor - Cask Strength.  This mark is based on a 10 year small batch sold outside of the US called the Tempest, now re-released under the name Dorus Mor, a Gaelic expression for rough, wild water.  The Bowmore distillery is right on the water, getting both the benefits and abuse of the Atlantic ocean.  This whisky is aged in first fill bourbon barrels for 10 years, bringing it flavors of smokey peat, and the sweetness from the oak.  It is chill filtered and bottled at cask strength, 55.1% alcohol.

Now, on to the tasting.  This gorgeous bottle has a nose of sea salt and caramel, dry peat, and salty citrus.  It tastes of caramel, spice, vanilla, salt on the top of the tongue. 

The Dorus Mor is available in mid-October, with 2,400 bottles available to the US market. 

Both Bowmore marks paired very well with dark chocolate.  The salt of the whisky and the the sweetness of the chocolate created a delicious and addictive combination more commonly known to exist in the Reeses peanut butter cup (known to make the strongest of men weak of resistance).  We also hear that Bowmore pairs very well with ginger beer - that's something we will have to test - you know, in the name of science.

That sums up some amazing scotch selections.  If you too are in the line of this hurricane, we recommend you find an open liquor store and provision.

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