Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Highland Park Scotch

Highland Park Scotch

If you are looking for a really good scotch that can become your own personal scotch, the one you reach for to celebrate, commiserate, or just plain enjoy, Highland Park is an excellent choice. Distilled in Kirkwall in Orkney which is an island off the Northern coast of mainland Scotland this award winning scotch is a keeper. Orkney is a wonderfully historical place with its Neolithic village remains of Skara Brae, standing stones, and other Neolithic treasures. HP is available in 12, 15, 18,21,25,30, and 40 year old varieties and they use bourbon and sherry casks for the aging process. They are one of the few distilleries that actually does their own maltings although I did read that they do mix their malt with other malt bought from the mainland which I believe is done to cut the smokiness component owing to the fact that they do their malting over locally dug peat. Highland Park is not a super smoky scotch it is much more in the sherry cask family. I have only enjoyed the 12 year old but look forward to getting to try one of their older varieties in the near future.
The Highland Park distillery runs a scotch boot camp that I saw them talk about on Single Malt TV and it is reported to be a vigorous intensive experience described as enjoyable of course but a lot of work and effort as well. I would love to do that, just imagine the knowledge and experience one would gain, it must be incredible!
You-Tube is chock full of Highland Park videos where they taste each vintage and provide a ton of great material. I highly recommend that you take some time when you can and watch these videos. They also explain in the absolute best way I have ever seen how to nose and taste whisky and they aren’t shy about cutting out all the crap and doing it 100% correctly. They give you hints and instruction on tasting that can serve you throughout your whisky enjoying lifetime. Please do take a look, just go to You-tube and do a search on Highland Park and that should hook you up. I cannot imagine a more enjoyable or rewarding life than making whisky at a world class distillery like Highland Park. I think I would leap from my bed each morning and speed to work every day with a huge grin on my face! Just think how wonderful it would be to really love what you do for a living every day and looking forward to going to work instead of dreading it like so many folks do. If they would hire me at the most minimal of living wages and I could get the papers to work in Scotland, well….that would just be wonderful.
Highland Park does not bottle on site but ships in bulk to mainland bottling facilities like most of the other distillers do. Macallan and Highland Park are two fine whiskies that go into The Famous Grouse blend (which probably explains why a British citizen once told me that The Famous Grouse is the nominal choice for a really good blend in Scotland and the rest of the UK !) HP also supplies top quality whisky to other blends but I do not have a complete list of them to share with you otherwise I would have done so.
I must admit when watching the tasting video for the Highland Park 40…..I have never been so envious of another person as I watched and listened to their expert tell me as he tasted (chew, chew, chew, chew ) {that will make sense to you after watching the videos}, how wonderful the 40 year old whisky was. He stated that color is not a good indicator of anything and gave complete details on how one should taste whisky pointing out that it is a quite different process than tasting wine. Please watch the videos, your education level will soar and your enjoyment of whisky will be enhanced as mine was. They do make most if not all of their whiskies in a miniature version and feature a variety pack of mini’s although here in “Dogpatch” where I live I deeply regret that my local liquor stores do not stock such wonderful things. ARRRRGH! I shall find them eventually, probably in the Orlando area.
In summary, Highland Park is an outstanding award winning whisky that is distilled by fantastic people in one of the most wonderful places on Earth. You should drink it because it tastes good. Try it and see if it doesn’t become your go to whisky. If you are a whisky lover (and yeah I know, not everybody is), I think you are really going to love this one.
The Whisky Warrior.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Glassware for your whisky

So you are moving into the wild wonderful world of whisky (ey) and want to know what the best thing to drink it from is? Or you are a seasoned veteran of whisky and just need a memory jog about which glass is the right one to use. The snobs will not like my answers for this but here goes. Being a lover of whisky (ey) I have been known on occasion to tip up the bottle and drink straight from the source, hell if I could get my mouth to a tap on the actual cask I would probably drink it right from there on occasion. This is of course not recommended behavior while at a bar or eating establishment or at an office party or friend’s dinner party…..no no! Honestly though there is something really freeing and satisfying about hoisting a $70.00 bottle of Macallan Fine Oak 18 year old and just taking a grand swig right from the bottle. It feels great and it tastes great and yes if you have never done this you should do it as soon as you have the time and the proper mood descends over you. There are of course times when we must pour our whisky into a container and drink it from the container. A good flask is another great way to enjoy a swig of whisky and folks have been known to bring such things to sporting events or concerts use judgment any time you drink and consider any consequences such as having your flask confiscated or being tossed out of a game or event.
That is all well and good but what other alternatives are there? First and foremost if at all possible never ever drink whisky from a paper cup, plastic glass, or from anything made out of any material other than pure plain glass. Crystal is ok too and many prefer it but it is pricey. Several manufacturers make a wide selection of glassware and a highball glass is a pretty good choice for enjoying whisky. Highball glasses are the shorter glasses, no stem, just about 4 inches or so tall and are more than adequate for straight whisky, whisky and spring water, on the rocks or with spring water and on the rocks. There is nothing wrong with buying some really good heavy shot glasses for those times you just want a wee dram or two. These days you can get what I will call a large shot glass which holds 2 or 3 shots but retains the shot glass shape with a thick glass bottom that reduces chances of spills.

There are special nosing glasses that look pretty much like a tulip shaped wine class and these are used by experts and novices alike to “nose the whisky” and these are the folks that come up with the words like “hints of vanilla, toffee, honey, with a light caramel finish loaded with hints of dark chocolate.” If that is you and you enjoy that sort of thing then that is wonderful. I have yet to taste any of those things in any scotch or other whiskey but I fully admit that is probably my fault for some arcane reason. As I have stated before I do pick up oak, sherry, Madeira, smoky, and maybe a few times a slight sea saltiness but never any of the candy store flavors or shoe polish (an actual taste that some report – who the hell would want to drink shoe polish???), banana oil, or a host of other tastes that I regret to report I have never tasted in whisky. I would even admit to maybe…..maybe picking up a bit of vanilla extract….maybe. At any rate to nose the whisky and seek this carnival of tastes and smells one would use a nosing glass and there is even a small glass disc that one may obtain to place over the top of the tulip shaped nosing glass that is supposed to hold in the bouquet and concentrate it so that when you lift the glass disc you get the concentrated blast of aroma and then you use your nose to “nose” the whisky. As you may guess I don’t really do this much. If you like doing that, then that is wonderful, enjoy. This blog is all about what you like and I know some folks really want to learn to do that sort of nosing and tasting and for them I suggest Single Malt TV, a web TV channel that one can watch shows about whisky, or a magazine (paper or online) called “ The Malt Advocate”, or a magazine called “Whisky Magazine”. I love both magazines and the web TV channel and I read and watch often. They are great!!! They can take you further down that path of enlightened nosings and tastings. I am here as a simple whisky loving man to discuss whisky (ey) with you and revel in the glory and pure enjoyment of it through discussions and us helping one another find new and different whiskies to enjoy.

While I want to share my experiences and likes with you I really am serious about wanting to know what you like or don’t like. Please comment to any of our articles often and let us know what you think. We do care (for real – no kidding) about what you think and what you drink. So highball glass for nominal whisky drinking or go visit Crate and Barrel or Bed Bath and Beyond or any store that sells glassware or look online and pick out some glasses you like and get 2 or 4 of them and take them for a test drink (I won’t say test drive for obvious reasons) and use what is comfortable for you. Recently I was served a glass of Compass Box blended scotch (excellent stuff) in what I believe was a brandy snifter as the bar keep (publican to you British and Irish folks) noticed I was trying to nose it and that worked great. I’m sure the authorized, venerated, and official nosing glasses do it best but sometimes you have to make do with what you have. One note of exception to all this, if you are going to enjoy your whisky around a pool area of at the beach then maybe it would be ok to either use a good quality plastic glass or your metal flask as to avoid injury from broken glass to you or others. My whisky glasses used to be Flintstone Grape Jelly glasses that used to come with your Welches brand grape jelly and they work but once we started making over $20K a year I splurged and bought real highball glasses. After all, friends and neighbors, it’s all about the whisky, everything else is just foo-foo. Enjoy!

The Whisky Warrior

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

So you want to start drinking scotch?

One of our readers commented with a question recently stating that they wished to start drinking scotch as they were trying for a low carb diet and wished to switch away from beer. The reader asked which ones were good starter scotches and in the reasonable price category. I did reply directly via comment box but thought this topic might lend itself to a more in depth discussion in an article so here we go.
First you dieters will be pleased to note that scotch only has 80 calories per serving which is the lowest of all the hard liquors so selecting scotch as a diet aid is a good start. In general scotch comes in several categories depending on which part of scotch you are discussing. There are single malts which are all bottled from the same lot from the same distillery and there are blends where master scotch blenders take various barrels of scotch perhaps from several different distilleries and blend them to get a particular taste they are looking for. For taste there are oak, sherry, Madeira, peaty (smoky), and multiple barrel selections (where they put it in oak a while, then sherry, then Madeira, etc.). There are younger whiskies and older whiskies with usually 12 year and younger being less expensive than 15 year and up and of course 25, 30, and 50 get really expensive.
Today we will address the more reasonably priced scotch that would be most likely to taste good to the beginner. Remember please that there may be some scotch we don’t mention that you might think is wonderful and we don’t mean any disrespect but we can only recommend what we have actually tasted. If you see a scotch that costs less than $16.00 a bottle for a fifth or a liter just put it down and slowly walk away. Stay away from the bottom shelf at first. You can try those selections later on and you may find one you really like but not for your first go as it might prejudice you negatively against all scotch and we are trying to get you into the hobby not discourage you from it. So let’s stay with the middle shelf for you beginning experiences. First the blends should be considered. Ballantines, The Famous Grouse, Grants, and Dewar’s are four that I have tried on several occasions and I feel these would be a great starting point for your journey into scotch. You should be able to get these from around 18$ up to the mid 30’s depending on the bottle size, state taxes, etc. Remember it’s better to have one bottle of something you will enjoy than a whole case of undrinkable swill. For single malt whisky we almost have to go to the top shelf; The Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Glenmorange, The Glenlivet, The Macallan (10 or 12 year, Glen Keith, Long Morn, Tobermory, and Highland Park are all good but will cost you a bit more than the blends in most cases probably between $28 and $45 is a good estimate. None of these are the Peaty flavor which in my opinion the novice scotch drinker should wait a bit on the smoky ones until they have sampled the non-peaty scotches for a while. Some folks love the smoky scotches but they may be a bit overwhelming to the beginner. Any of the ones listed here should provide enjoyment to the drinker and remember you can add a bit of spring water or even ice at first if you wish. Mastering scotch takes a while for most beginners and scotch and spring water on the rocks may ease you into the hobby and later you can remove the ice, then the water and get down to just plain scotch and glass. Take your time, it’s not a race and you have plenty of time to try different brands and ages and flavors to find what is right for you.
A word of warning is offered at this time to you all. I have spent a bit of time this week looking at some of the other writings about scotch out there. Some are quite good especially those affiliated with magazines and distilleries. I was appalled though to see people recommending Crown Royal, Makers Mark, and Canadian Club as being really good scotch selections. Crown Royal is good but its Canadian not scotch, Makers Mark is good too but its bourbon not scotch and Canadian Club……..gee can you guess where it’s from???? I have enjoyed all three of those products and they have their own special place in my liquor cabinet but they are not scotch. To be scotch the whisky must be distilled in Scotland!!! So use care where you get your drinking related information. I might make an honest mistake once in a while and when I do I will be glad to retract and apologize for it but damn some of these folks don’t really seem to know anything about the subject. You are the best judge of what you like to drink and we will offer suggestions and welcome your ideas and suggestions in return. We don’t claim to be experts or whisky snobs but we are huge fans of whisky and have our own experiences to share with you and look forward to reading yours as well.
What am I drinking these days? Well I just bought a bottle of Tobermory 10 from my local liquor store and I am enjoying that and a bottle of Sheep Dip and Pig Nose.
All three are really good and by the way, I did buy some stock the other day so I really do have an interest in a few brands of scotch but I have not written about any of them in any articles on this blog to date as I have not tried them yet. When I recommend anything I own stock in I will tell you. Happy drinking and let us know what you are trying and what you like we are always looking for new ideas.
The Whisky Warrior

Monday, April 19, 2010


One of my favorite scotches is Glendronach. They produce their original and a 12, 15, and 18 year and are supplier of quality scotch for blending with Teachers blend. They have a couple of versions of the 12 and the one I like has a good sherry finish (but I haven’t tried them all so I don’t know if they all have that or not). The 15 year old is the best for me and it is 100% matured in sherry barrels and I guess it is no big secret that the sherry finish is my favorite version of scotch in most cases. I really enjoy the wonderful aftertaste that the sherry finish offers. I have not yet had the pleasure of being introduced to the 18 but look forward to it with relish. I cannot say enough about how good this scotch tastes. It is really a joy to drink. Please try it soon and no I don’t own stock in the distillery I just love their scotch.
Glendronach produces about 1,400,000 liters a year so there should be plenty for both you and me to enjoy. They use coal fired stills and floor maltings. For anyone who doesn’t know, the process of making the barley moist and then heating it slowly to get the sprouting started is what malting is. As it has been explained to me on various distillery tours the malting is simply a method to get the grain to its highest level of sugar content which best supports the distilling process to follow. Often on tours the guide will allow the huddled masses of scotch fans to sample a few grains of the malted barley and it does taste sweet. Once upon a time all distilleries malted their own barley but today many just buy it from other sources. From what I have read Glendronach does their own. The peaty or smoky flavored scotches get that smokiness by the grain being malted over peat fires. Peat of course is pre-coal dug up from bogs around Scotland and dried and is still used today in fireplaces to heat homes although one can buy a compressed version today that looks more like coal than field peat. Peat started forming in about 800 BC or so and before that Scotland and Ireland had a very different, warmer, and dryer climate. I digress a bit since Glendronach is NOT a peaty flavored scotch it has no smokiness at all to my taste and as stated I love the sherry finish that Glendronach does so well.
The distillery was started or should I say legally started in 1826 with more colorful distilling occurring pre-1826 by persons who will remain nameless in this writing. Suffice it to say that by 1826 the folks in the area knew how to make good whisky. The distillery was bought out in 2008 by the Benraich Distillery and remains under their good guidance to this day. Glendronach is a Speyside Distillery which simply means it is located in the area of the Spey river in North Eastern Scotland just a few miles East of Inverness and Loch Ness. There are many distilleries in this area and it has the whisky trail that one can wander and visit many of the distilleries. Remember not all distilleries are open to the public so look them up online before you go so you know which ones to visit and what the touring hours are for each. One can also book a guided tour for a few days complete with bus and driver and first class accommodations so one can enjoy all the whisky they wish without worry about driving duties. I have not used the tour services to date but would imagine that would be fun and I hope to try it either this year or next. There are also many bed and breakfast and hotel locations throughout Speyside so just use your computer to find exactly what you are looking for and enjoy touring and pick up a bottle of Glendronach at your local liquor supplier to try out in the meantime as not to suffer too much thirst while setting up your tour. Enjoy!
The Whisky Warrior

Monday, April 12, 2010

Alcoholic Friends

I have been enjoying alcoholic beverages for many years now and in that time I have enjoyed the drinking company of many fine people. I am not an alcoholic and as much as I enjoy a good quality drink I actually go days or even sometimes weeks with no drinks at all. When I do drink I usually limit myself to between 2 and 4 drinks in one day partly because I don’t really like being totally drunk and partially because I am not fond of throwing up and having terrible headaches. I have had my share of horrible morning afters and they used to happen several times a year when I was in my 20’s and 30’s and then I got a bit wiser (I won’t call it smarter) in my 40’s to where I only had a bad morning after maybe once or twice a year. Now I rarely have any negative occurrences from drinking but that is wholly due to limiting my fun. 2 drinks are always ok for me, 3 on occasion, and 4 for major celebrations. I think I owe this mostly to coming to the conclusion at about age 38 that having one drink of something I really like that is very expensive is much more enjoyable than 10 times that much liquor of doubtful quality. Or to put it another way a little of really good booze is better than a whole ton of lousy tasting booze. My stomach would never allow me to be an alcoholic and that is that.
I have had many alcoholic friends. Back in college there was one fraternity brother who after just two beers got mean and very violent actually throwing real darts at people and another brother who I never saw without a can of PBR in his hand except maybe in class. I don’t know but I suspect at least the violent one was an alcoholic, the PBR brother probably was not but damn he sure did put down the beer but then in college a lot of people do that. I lost touch with all those folks and I hope they are happy and well.
I was once invited to a party at a friend’s home in Indiana when we lived there back in the late 70’s and I brought the drinking board game “Passout” to the party. We had played the game before and it was usually fun with the point of the game to roll dice, move your little avatar, and end up reciting tongue twisters such as “Betty Blue Blew Big Black Bubbles” and that sort of thing. Upon failing to perform the tongue twister correctly one was “forced” to take a drink. Now a drink is whatever you want it to be, a sip, a gulp, or a whole beer and we always left it up to the player what portions they personally wanted to partake of when the time came. We had played 20-30 minutes and I noticed that (I will call him Roy – not his name) Roy was slamming a highball or ½ of one at least on every failed reading which of course there were many in a short time. This went on for a couple hours and Roy said “I gotta go to the bathroom” and got up ostensibly to take a piss. The rest of us watched as Roy stumbled into our host’s daughter’s bedroom (the daughter was staying at grandmas that night and was not there). Roy was just about to relieve himself in the closet when the host rushed in and ushered him in to the bathroom where upon Roy locked the door and passed out on the floor. This was about midnight and we stayed for a while longer while the host and Roy’s wife tried to wake him with no luck and there was no key for the bathroom. We left about 1 A.M. I found out later that while Roy was gainfully employed and never missed work, he drank a fifth of whisky every night and passed out on the couch but rose and showered and shaved and made it to work every day. Roy was an alcoholic.
Back in the very small town we were living in Indiana there was an older man I believe in his 70’s and I will call him Mr. Judd (not his real name). He used to go to the little tavern in the town and play euchre with the guys most evenings. I saw him go outside to pee and puke several times coming back in with soiled overalls on more than one occasion. A very nice man but his son Bob (not real name) told me that Mr. Judd drank a case of beer and a fifth of Seagram’s VO every day of his life for the last 37 years and attributed the fact he was still alive to the fact that he drank very good whiskey. Mr. Judd had a bum liver and was an alcoholic.
I have let it be known far and wide to my circle of friends that we have this whisky and wine blog and please to visit and make some comments. One friend emailed me to say he really liked the blog but had been sober now for 7 years and had gone through the whole 12 step process and all the good things that AA can do for a person. He had quite a story to tell about how his life was really turned around.
So my point to telling you these stories is simply that when we drink, even if we can handle it, some of those around us may not be able to handle it. I’m not talking about the occasional over indulgence or a slip of the tongue when someone is loaded. What I am asking is that you observe your friends that you drink with and when they are sober broach the subject to them and find out if they even know they have a problem. You and I may be causing others harm or enabling them to harm themselves and others. Let us be aware of what our enjoyment of liquor may be doing to others who should not be partaking.
I know that you and I saying something to an alcoholic may just get us rebuffed or worse may get our friends angry with us and there is a limit to how much you can push it as many people struggle for years with this problem. I don’t think it hurts to at least let them know you care and you are there for them if they need you. Their families are the ones that really need to intervene and they know the issue better than we friends do.
If you suspect you are an alcoholic please try to get some help and if you have a friend or relative who you believe is an alcoholic please try to help them. There are resources on the web you can Google “alcoholism” and find tons of resources.
Whisky, wine, liquor, and beer are wonderful things for most of us who don’t overdo it but can kill you if you abuse them. If you are an alcoholic, less than 21 years of age, get mean or violent when you drink, or insist on driving drunk, you do not need to be drinking alcohol at all. Getting help doesn’t make you weak; it shows how strong you really are. Waiting until you are 21 to drink is really tough but you are breaking the law if you drink before 21 and it is really not worth it. Booze usually brings out ones inner or real personality so if you are funny or loving when you drink that’s cool, if you are mean or violent you need to stop drinking and/or get some help. There is no excuse for violence ever. Finally driving drunk is the dumbest thing that any of us do. Just don’t do it, get a designated driver or call a cab. Plan ahead and save yourself a lot of grief. Not only can you kill some other innocent people and maybe kids but when you get arrested for DUI you are in for a very expensive world of hurt and many companies today will even fire you so it is just not worth it.
If you are a responsible drinker of legal age, then by all means enjoy the hundreds of choices that are out there for us to sample today and please write up your experience as a comment to one of the articles on Flask and Cask we would love to hear from you and all about your latest find. The Whisky Warrior

Sunday, April 11, 2010

How to throw a wine tasting party

This weekend I threw my first wine tasting party.

Food recommendations:
French bread, grapes, lots of cheese, veggies, dip (spinach artichoke), and some mini quiches.

Have a good variety. Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz, Chardonnay, Muscat, and perhaps a bottle of Chocovine! Dont' forget to let your reds breathe, if you dont have an aerator on hand.

Grape vines, small plastic grape clusters, wine corks in bottles or glass jars.

These wine cookies:
from Baked on Etsy

I also made some cupcakes with icing grape cluster on them:

You can actually give your guests pads of paper and pens so they can take notes and write down a wine if they fall in love with it.

I also had custom wine glasses made with some wine appropriate art work on them! Adorned with hand made wine charms from Sunmoonstars on etsy

Also, I designed my own invitations. Now, as far as invitations go, you can spend as much or as little as you can afford. I ended up ordering mine in "extra large postcard form" from overnightprints.com (glossy with rounded edges). Super cute and inexpensive. If you want to go more fancy, try messageinabottle.com to have a custom message placed inside a mini wine bottle. Too cute!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Personal Fantasy

My personal fantasy a work of complete fiction:
The following story never really happened but oh how I wish it were true!

I was seated by the fireplace one late December Saturday evening enjoying a dram of Tobermory Scotch while staring at the coals in the fire watching them twist and turn and pop when the phone rang. It was Angus McDonald my good friend who works at the Mccallan distillery and he was franticly delirious. Angus could barely speak and he was bubbling over like cheap champagne in his excitement. His Highland brogue was thicker than normal and his voice a full octave higher than I had ever heard it before.
“Angus!, Amigo!, slow down man I can barely understand every third word, what the hell has happened are you and your family alright?” I asked. “Aye..were all fine…you must get on a plane as soon as possible and make your way to my house.” He replied. “ I can no say more over this phone suffice it to say a bloody miracle has happened and you must get here in person and NOW!” I said “Ok guy, I’m pulling up the airline schedules on my computer now and I can be there around 10 am day after tomorrow and I trust you implicitly are you sure you can’t tell me more on the phone or in an email?” “I wish I could but it would be dangerous to say more just trust me your trip will be worth it 1000 times over…trust me man trust me!” Angus said. “Ok partner I will see you soon, I gotta go pack and call work to take some time off.” I hung up the phone and was still reeling from this surprise call but now I was getting excited for Angus would never call and insist I fly to Scotland in Winter at once unless something really amazing was going on and when a friend asks for you to fly to their aid you do it….it’s the Celtic way, honor and all that and besides my curiosity was killing me so off I went to make my arrangements. I caught the 7PM flight out of Orlando which flew me directly into Edinburgh landing about 6:30 in the morning. After about an hour of finding baggage, getting some strong tea to wake up and walking the very long way to the car rental area I procured my rental car and was off for Angus’ home. Of course the Highlands are always beautiful and this time of year with lots of snow capped mountains making it all the more enjoyable. Traffic was light except for the skiers I saw heading for Ben Nevis near Fort William. It was cold in a way that is only found in Scotland. A winter wind that could cut you in half and a spit or two of snow every now and then forced me to manually turn the windshield wipers on and off just often enough to be aggravating. I finally saw the antique lantern decoration at the end of Angus’ driveway that was my clue as to where to turn off the main road. A short drive up the lane and I was standing outside the McDonald household’s door knocking away in the middle of their evergreen holiday wreath. The door swung open and Diana, Angus’ wife greeted me with a warm hug and a mug of hot tea. We exchanged pleasantries and I said hi to the kids who were playing a video game in the living room next to their roaring fireplace. Diana said “ye best be gettin down to the cellar, Angus has a great surprise for you and I am pretty sure you are gonna love it and I’m also sure Angus will explode if he has to wait much longer! “ She laughed which made her beautiful green eyes sparkle with mischief making her look like some fairy princess from a Tolkien book. “Ok, Ok I’m off to the cellar…wouldn’t want to be scraping Angus off the walls now would we! “ I joined in the laughter, tossed my bag in the corner, and dashed down the stairs. “Angus!” I shouted. “Thank God you have come! I am so glad you made it. “We shook hands and Angus motioned for me to sit in a large soft chair facing an old rug covering something in the center of the room. “Ere ye ready lad?” He said with that same twinkle in his eye that Diana had just a moment before. “I am ready amigo, I am very freaking confused but I am more than ready!”
“All right then…..here we go..!” Angus reached over and like a magician performing before a packed house he flung the rug off into the corner revealing his treasure.
Before us was the oldest looking whisky cask I had ever seen. It must be at least 50 years old I thought to myself. My heart was beginning to beat way too fast and I had trembling feelings like one has on their very first date. Yes I was excited! “What have you got here Angus!” Angus had a grin on his face that must have been close to a foot wide and had almost every tooth showing and it was easy to see that he too was very excited about whatever this was. “Well let me tell you how I came by this great treasure. As you know I have been in the employ of The Macallan for quite some time now and it is my task, among many others, to manage the warehouses where the whisky sleeps. We have many warehouses spread out around the area and one warehouse in particular has very old stone walls. Recently a forklift accidently smashed into the stone wall in warehouse number 11and of course it fell to me to get it fixed. I got some concrete and plaster and went in to fix the wall. As I was looking at the wall I thought I saw something behind that wall, something that looked very much like a cask of whisky! I took my hammer and tapped out a little larger hole large enough for me to get my head and my torch in so I could see what the hell was going on in there. Well it took me about an hour to knock out the hole big enough to actually get into the wall. It was a cask!! I rolled it out into the warehouse and started examining it and that is when I noticed the date on the end, the date when this cask was filled and stored in the warehouse. That date as you can see before you is 1909. This cask was filled one hundred years ago man! 100 years!!!” All I could say was “Oh my….God!!” Angus continued…”well I got it loaded into my truck and slipped out the side gate and here it is…..100 year old cask strength Macallan man….100 years old! Now I know it’s worth a fortune but it is worth much more to drink it than to sell it wouldn’t you agree? “ I nodded in agreement but had to then ask….” But aren’t you worried about your job being at risk over this Angus?” “Well frankly yes but then there are some things in this world that are worth a bit of risk and this treasure was sealed up 100 years ago and there seem to be no records that it ever existed and believe you me..I looked long and hard for anything in our archives that would point to this cask either ever existing or missing or any reference at all and there is no bleeding record anywhere!” Angus replied. It was then I notice the cask had been recently tapped and Angus was kneeling beside the cask filling two crystal classes with deep brown liquid.
He handed me a glass and said “Slanite!” “Cheers” I replied. I slowly brought the glass up to my lips and let the rich brown liquid pour into my mouth. I swear I could hear a heavenly choir of angels singing backed up by 1000 Highland Pipers as the ancient scotch reached by taste buds. “So…what do ya think?” said Angus smiling ear to ear. “ohhhhhhh..damn that puts all the scotch I have ever tasted to shame, its nectar of the gods, its manna from heaven, it’s…it’s….it’s wonderful!!!!!” I exclaimed. The angelic music and pipers were still ringing in my ears. There is no way to put into words how wonderful this scotch tasted. It was like I had been sick all my life and was finally well. It was so smooth you could pour a pint down your throat before you even knew your tongue was wet! We sat and just enjoyed the next few hours drinking way too much but it was cushioned a bit by the huge Scottish breakfast that Diana brought down to us exclaiming…”I thought you boys could use a bit of nourishment while you savor your treasure!” Angus poured her a glass and we all sat there in silence a long while savoring every delicious drop of this once in the lifetime treat. After a while I had to ask ….”Angus, I thought casks were only good about 50 years and they started to go bad after that time how can this cask even exist?” He said…. “Well all I can say is that it is a bloody miracle…a bloody miracle… you are right it should not be here, it should not have rolled into a wall and it should not have been sealed up and I should not have found it and the cask should have rotted long ago but here it is and here we are enjoying the treat of a lifetime.” “I can never thank you enough old friend, words are woefully inadequate for thanks for this glorious experience…thank you !” I said.
“Achhh you would do the same for me….you would do the same for me.”
I stayed a week with the McDonalds and we freely enjoyed the 100 year old treasure. At the end of the week Angus handed me a case of 12 hand filled bottles drawn from the miracle cask and we said our goodbyes and I was off to my home in Florida. I opened up a large safety deposit box at three different banks the next day after arriving home and put part of the treasure in each one least disaster or thievery deprive me of this irreplaceable booty. Of course I kept a couple of bottles at the house and even invited a couple of my good friends over to try it but would not reveal from whence it came even under intense questioning.

That concludes my fantasy and of course it never really happened……...did it?
Come over sometime and I will share with you my best.
The Wisky Warrior

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Road Trip #2
This time we traveled to Oviedo Florida and I got to try 4 different whiskies.
Our first stop was at an eatery that will remain nameless. Nameless because either the waitress just did not understand my order or they water down their whiskey. I ordered Seagram’s VO because it was one part of their selection that I had not tried in many years. Unfortunately it was somewhere around 2/3 or more water. I had ordered my drink straight so it was most disappointing. I do not want to mention the name of the place because there is a chance that something got misunderstood and I don’t want to say anything bad unless I am really sure it is bad. So after a quick snack we made our way to Medici’s Cigar Lounge and Bar where their friendly staff was wrangling a large selection of whisky, bourbon, and lots of beer. The bartenders were very knowledgeable about single malts and had some good things to tell me about a blended scotch that I was able to try that night.
I started out with a dram of Caol Ila which is Gaelic for “the sound of Islay”, Islay being an island with several distilleries off the Western coast of Scotland. This was a 12 year old and has a serious peaty smell and taste to it. It is lighter in peat than say Laphroaig for example or maybe even lighter than some of the other Islay scotches. I apologize to all you peaty scotch lovers but it is just not for me. I have not yet mastered drinking the peaty scotches. I’m sure if you like a good peaty scotch then Caol Ila is probably a very enjoyable dram for you. Give it a try. Next up was a dram of Oban 14 year old and that was more to my liking. Oban is located on the West coast of Scotland and is one of the places to catch the ferry for the outer islands.
Some say that they can taste saltiness from scotches that are aged near the sea and I don’t disagree but cannot honestly say I could taste the sea salt in the whisky. Perhaps I am not trying hard enough, but I can say it was really good and I could certainly taste its oaky goodness. Oban 14 is a single malt I can highly recommend and if you have never tried it please do so at your earliest opportunity.

Finally I get to the blend that the bartender told me about and it has been featured in magazines that deal with whisky lately so check your favorite one and read all about it.
I am referring to Compass Box. Its color was light and in fairness to Oban and Caol Ila, which are both high quality scotches it was the 3 rd one I had tried that evening but it was the best. I say best in that it was best suited to my individual tastes and I certainly would buy it again and will try to pick up a 5th next time I go to replenish my ever evaporating stocks of scotch at home. I keep buying scotch and it keeps disappearing or maybe I just keep drinking it. At any rate I am almost due a restocking trip and this light colored right fine tasting blend will be on my shopping list. Try it and I do not think you will be disappointed. Even if you drink single malts all the time this blend is worth a try. Hedonism was the particular version of Compass Box that I sampled that night and I really liked it. They have other choices and only you can select the one that is right for you and that include their “Peat Monster” which should give all you smoky loving folks the taste you desire.
We were treated well at Medici’s and all of us enjoyed talking with the knowledgeable bar staff so give them a try. They had sports on TV a great selection of cigars and good spirits to enjoy. You can find it on Google with ease.
The Whisky Warrior

Friday, April 2, 2010


Probably the first single malt whisky I ever got to try. There was a time not oh so many years ago when Glenfiddich and Glenlivet were the only single malts one could find in local bars if any at all. Gradually scores of other brands eventually joined these two pioneers on our local bar and liquor store shelves and life became oh so much better than it was before. For this article I was to stay with Glenfiddich which means “glen of the deer” which is kind of a nice thing and there is a picture of a deer on the bottles. I had the great joy to visit the Glenfiddich distillery in 1999 and it was a great experience. Admission at that time was free and the place was super clean with duck ponds and freshly painted buildings along with a beautiful tasting room that greeted us at the end of the trip. You see I was with my wife and her 83 year old father on that trip as we motored though Speyside in Scotland where lots of wonderful distilleries are located and neither my wife nor my now late father-in-law are devotees of scotch so everywhere we went I not only got to enjoy my taste of whisky but I got to enjoy theirs as well. That was a most wonderful trip! Everything about the Glenfiddich distillery was first class from the tour guide who knew his whisky well to the great gift shop. Now I have to be honest, once you have seen a few distilleries and all the washes and rises and wonderful copper stills that look like gigantic Hershey’s Kisses they start to kind of look the same. Well this one will claim the tallest stills in the world and that one the biggest around stills in the world, or the most northern stills in the world or the oldest, or newest, or something special about each and every one. You will find though that the processes used to make whisky are to at least some degree quite similar from one distillery to another. So while a tour of dozens of distilleries on the same trip might be great fun for me and some of you, your spouse or non-whisky drinking friends may get a bit bored after the first two or three so have an alternate plan. Dump them off for a day of castle touring or horseback riding or shopping in Inverness and looking at all the cool thrift shops and you and perhaps a designated driver go have at the whisky tours. Or just take a guided bus tour and that way you don’t have to worry about the driving. One thing that does make Glenfiddich a bit different is that it is the only scotch that is bottled on the site of the distilling process using the same water from the burn (creek) as was used to make the whisky in the first place. Now Balvenie scotch is distilled right next door to the Glenfiddich distillery so they are also bottled at the Glenfiddich distillery but technically not at their own distillery.
There will be another article on Balvenie later stand by; I’m drinking as fast as I can…. Ah….I mean writing as fast as I can. Ok both. Any brand has its fans and its detractors and I’m sure Glenfiddich is no different. It is my opinion that the 12, 15, and 18 (the only ones I have had the privilege of enjoying so far) are quite good and perhaps are the standard against which other whiskies are measured. Personally I usually enjoy older whisky more than younger simply because I like a really smooth whisky that has real robust taste and smoothness is often the product of years in the cask. The 15 year is quite good marrying 15-year-old Glenfiddich from American bourbon, sherry, and new oak casks in a large Solera vat made of pine from Oregon. That vat is always at least ½ full ensuring the excellent quality that Glenfiddich has been know for throughout the world. The whisky folks who claim to taste or smell such things talk about vanilla, fruit and spices, I might be convinced about the spices but I do taste the nice sherry undertone and good solid oaky flavor. You will have to make your own mind up about things like vanilla and fruit and chocolate and shoe polish that “experts” taste in whisky as I have yet to experience that. Perhaps my nose is defective or perhaps I just enjoy the taste of whisky without even thinking about what spices or fruits or candy it reminds me of because it doesn’t. The local folks around the Glenfiddich distillery will tell you that the correct pronunciation is Glen-fid-ahkkkkkkk which is not the correct phonetic spelling but basically one says Glen and then fid and then makes that sound one makes in the back of one’s throat right before hocking up something unpleasant. If you don’t spray a little when pronouncing it then you are doing it incorrectly so the lady at the cooperage down the road a little piece from the Glenfiddich distillery told me. It’s Gaelic after all and I hear that most classes in Gaelic are conducted with the folks in the front two rows wearing yellow rain slickers like tuna fishermen do to avoid being soaked during the lectures on correct pronunciation. By the way the cooperage is a great tour as well showing you how they make the oak barrels for the distilleries in the area and they have a great snack shop out back. Glenfiddich also sports some older versions including 21, 30 and 50 year and you can imagine the prices go up accordingly and I can only imagine how wonderful they are to actually sample and providence willing someday I will get the chance to try them as well. My thought is that Glenfiddich is probably the very best starter scotch for those wanting to begin the exciting journey on the single malt trail. Start with the 12, then the 15 and if you can swing it, the 18, and from there the only your wallet will determine how much enjoyment you will have.
The ducks on the Glenfiddich duck pond seemed way too happy so I am afraid there may be a leak somewhere in the cask storage area that makes its way to the duck pond either that or the sneaky little beggars have learned how to tap a cask. At any rate they seem very happy to live there. I hope you enjoy Glenfiddich soon. Please let us know what you think about Glenfiddich and what your favorite is.
The Whisky Warrior.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What is an Independent Bottler?

In the never ending quest to satisfy the thirst of Scotch Whisky fans, the independent bottler plays an important role. They can offer a huge selection of really great whisky from mothballed distilleries and thus save a lot of really good scotch from going the way of the Dinosaurs. They buy up casks and either continue the aging process or blends them into a wonderfully delicious product and sells it under their own label. Some of those labels (and names of independents) are: Blackadder, Clydesdale, Ian MacLeod, The Master of Malt, Whisky Castle, and Whyte and Whyte. There are many others but you can always look them up by simply Googling “Independent Whisky Bottlers” and read all about them. Recently the independents have expanded more into the popular cask strength whiskies which are a lot of fun to sample. Best recommendation for cask strength is to add just a bit of spring water to the whisky before enjoying. Yeah I know most of us like our whisky straight, but with cask strength it really does make a difference for the better. So try it for yourself. Pour yourself a straight dram of cask strength and sample it, then add about 1/8th to ¼ ounce or more good spring water to it and see the difference. I honestly believed I would like it straight better but once again (like so many times before) I was wrong, the little bit of water actually unlocks the tastes of the cask strength whisky and makes it even more enjoyable. After you try this please comment to us and let us know how it worked for you and which way you enjoy it most. Remember this blog is not about what we like rather it’s about what you like and how you like it. We really want to hear from you and that is selfish on my part because I am hoping you will tell me about a new whisky or distillery or something I have never tried and I am chomping at the bit to get deeper into this wonderful hobby of whisky (ey) enjoyment so please share your thoughts with us. Thanks.
Some distillers or companies offer private labeling so you or your company can have a case or a few cases made up with your special label on a right fine whisky and you can give them as holiday gifts to your customers or valued co-workers, or well hell, you can even give a bottle to me! (Never turn down free whisky is rule number 327 as we all know). I digress but having a few cases of your own private labeled scotch cannot be anything but fun. Amaze your old high school or college chums that you have made it in this world so well that you even have your own private whisky. Again you can find these companies by Googling “private label whisky” and you should know that these companies may or may not also be independent bottlers so there can be a difference between independent bottlers and private label companies but then who really cares about that? They are both fun things to do and that is what is important. Here is hoping you all enjoy your time on Earth and may your love of whisky grow with each passing day.
The Whisky Warrior