Friday, June 18, 2010

Glen Keith...its like an old friend

Glen Keith
Glen Keith distillery was started in 1958 out of an old mill building. It was the first distillery to be started in the last century. Their product was a triple distilled single malt scotch. Originally the Chivas Brothers opened the distillery but in 2001 it was sold to Pernod Ricard where it remains today. I believe that Glen Keith is used as one of the components in the making Chivas Regal. Glen Keith is what I call a true Oak Scotch having one of the strongest oak flavors of any single malt that I have tasted. They also put out several other versions but I have only had the pleasure of trying the Glen Keith 10 year. There used to be a seafood restaurant in Cape Canaveral Florida that had a nice little bar upstairs and they put in “The Malt Collection” back in the 1990’s. Longmorn and Glen Keith were in that collection but I don’t recall the others. There was a really nice wooden holder that sat on the bar with one bottle of each of four Speyside single malt scotches. So it was fun to go into the bar and watch the cruise ships sail in and out of the port while getting to try new whiskies. Of these Glen Keith and Longmorn became my favorites. I enjoy the woody taste of the Glen Keith as it seems to give it a good clean dignified taste. A taste to be valued, enjoyed, and treasured either by the ocean side or in front of a roaring fire place shrugging off a deep winter blizzard. Is it the best scotch in the world? No but then I am not the best person in the world but like me (and you) this scotch has real value. We don’t all like or enjoy the same things and you can ask a non-scotch drinker if you don’t believe me on that one. Glen Keith is like an old friend with a few faults. You over look the faults and just enjoy the friendship. It is like your favorite shirt or pair of pants that are hugely comfortable but you wouldn’t be able to wear them to a fancy affair. Glen Keith is like a child’s favorite worn out toy, not the best toy but if the house were on fire it would be the one you would grab as you hurried out the door. (Then go back in and get the wife!)
I read the tasting notes of other folks and all I can say is phooey. Some folks are so intent on telling you why they don’t like something they forget to tell you what they do like about it! “Disappointing nose” one fine fellow says…..well amigo I don’t pour the scotch down my nose so no scotch has ever disappointed my nose. My nose doesn’t really care what scotch I drink, but my lips, tongue, and throat care a great deal and they agree that Glen Keith is a winner and a great comfort scotch that will never ever let you down and will always be there for you just like a good friend….unless you drink it all of course but then old Glen will be right back as soon as you trip out to the liquor store and back. Try Glen Keith and see if you can strike up a bonnie friendship with this amicable barley boy from Scotland. It is a great go-to Scotch or what some would call an everyday Scotch. Enjoy
The Whisky Warrior

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Laphroaig 10 Year

Laphroaig 10 year
Laphroaig is called by some the most flavorful scotch in the world. I received two or three bottles of Laphroaig 10 as Christmas gifts from relatives a few years ago and that was my second introduction to the brand. This is an Islay scotch and like most of its kin has a strong peaty taste. This taste is not for everyone. Those that like it seem to really love it and those that don’t care for it avoid it. For most folks the whole world of scotch is an acquired taste and I am still trying to acquire the taste for Laphroaig. I am not saying it’s bad whisky I am just saying that most smoky tasting scotches are not high on my “to buy” list as I am a sherry or other wine finish and/or oak finish fan in a huge way.
Laphroaig tasters have reported an iodine taste with the smell of fresh new band-aids mixed with smoke, sea air, and occasionally some oak flavors. As I taste it I certainly smell the often reported medicinal smell and of course the whisky’s overwhelming smokiness comes through like a freight train. Actually my very first contact with smoky scotches was in October of 1997 when I was snowed in at a Double Tree Inn in Colorado Springs. A blizzard had interrupted my business trip and I barely made it to the hotel before several feet of snow struck in a hellatious blizzard that raged all night. The power kept going out and the fire alarms kept going off throughout the night but no fire, just lots of wind. 8 people lost their lives that night in that blizzard so it was not a fun thing. The next day there were 15 foot snow drifts and I was to spend the next three days at the hotel before the airport could be plowed and flights could resume. I had hit the snack bar/ souvenir shop right after I arrived as I suspected I would be stuck a few days. I bought up chips, crackers, sodas, and an armload of cookies and such.
Well the good news was that some of the great staff at that hotel made it in or never left so I got a hot breakfast the first morning and the bar was opened later that day with huge TV screens showing the World Series. This bar had a huge selection of scotch and I got to try probably 20 different ones over the three days I was there as well, there wasn’t anything else to do. Laphroaig was one of the memorable ones and I tried hard to wrap my mind around the smoky flavor. I wanted very badly to enjoy it and embrace the smoke but in the end I went back to my sherry based favorites. It is an interesting flavor and I think after a big meal would be the best time to enjoy a smoky scotch. I have a hard time trying to understand why anyone would purposely make a scotch that tasted or smelled like band-aids and smoke and I guess that just shows my lack of sophistication. I am still learning and trying new whisky whenever possible. I will even go back and try Laphroaig again as I still have a bottle at home. People’s tastes change over the years and I know my tastes definitely change as some whiskies that I thought I did not like 5 years ago when tried today I find I greatly enjoy. Love of whisky is a journey down a long and winding road that is well worth taking and sometimes determination and the refusal to give up on that journey are greatly rewarded in the end.
So if you have tried something and did not like it try it again at some later date and see if your tastes have changed as well. I should mention that Laphroaig has several other varieties including its “new” quarter cask in which at some point the whisky is transferred from its old Maker’s Mark Bourbon barrels into ¼ sized oaken casks. This process is supposed to speed up the later part of the maturation as more of the whisky is in more contact with the oak. I will take their word for it. I have not tried the quarter cask yet, only the 10 year version but if I get the chance I will try the quarter cask soon.
As a side note I do enjoy Talisker which is an Island of Skye scotch that has a smoky flavor. If you find Laphroaig too smoky but still enjoy the smokiness then try Talisker as a less smoky but full flavored alternative.
If you love a smoky scotch then Laphroaig is definitely for you. If not then try it by all means but buy it by the glass before you go buy a whole bottle.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Canadian Mist

Canadian Mist
This Canadian blended whiskey has been around for quite a while and at least as long as I have been of drinking age. Folks used to say that the only difference between Canadian Club and Canadian Mist was that Club is bottled in Canada and Mist is bottled in the USA after being shipped over in bulk. Well, that and the price as Canadian Club cost more than Canadian Mist. In fact Brown-Forman imports and bottles Canadian Mist so that much of the scuttlebutt is true.
Canadian Club has many varieties and ages to choose from and Canadian Mist really is a one product line. We drank Canadian Mist way back when I was in my 20’s because it was more affordable and we enjoyed it. That is what this blog is all about, enjoying what you drink, not being an uppity snob and only drinking very expensive whisky (ey).
Yes most expensive liquor is good but a lot of the less expensive liquor is also most enjoyable and should not be counted out simply because it’s cheaper to buy.
People are people and I guess snobbishness is just a human characteristic and people will often buy products because of price or fame not just because they really like it better. I used to prove this to my Budweiser drinking friends. I would take 7 different American beers all at the same temperature and put them in small glasses for them to try. I would put the brand names on little card and hand the cards to my friends and they would taste the beer and place the name card by the beer that they felt it went with. 9 times out of 10 my hard core Budweiser drinking friends not only could not pick out Budweiser from 6 other beers but in almost every case they chose Old Milwaukee as being the Bud!!
Now back then Old Milwaukee was as low as 88 cents a 6 pack and Bud was about 3$ a sixer but did my little taste test get them to switch? Nope, they still drank the Bud even though they more often than not thought Bud was Old Milwaukee and vice versa. I will be honest the only American beer I have been able to pick out of that kind of a line up time after time without fail is Falstaff which has a unique taste in my opinion. I can’t pick out any of the others either.
So people will drink a brand name or something they are familiar with or something with memories attached or something expensive over something that just plain tastes good and is less expensive to buy.
Canadian Mist accompanied my friend and me on a camping trip once in Indiana. We set up camp one Saturday morning and started drinking wine and beer and about noon switched over to the bottle of Canadian Mist we brought. Back in those days most everyone had a prescription from their doctor for some type of amphetamine which was still legal back then. Like now, no one wanted to be overweight and we were taking these pills daily. Now they are illegal so don’t do this!! Also you could die so don’t do this! We drank the 5th of Canadian Mist and were still stone cold sober so we went to a local bar/package store and bought another 5th of the Mist. We took that back to camp and drank that and were still sober so back to the liquor store we went and got a 3rd 5th of Canadian Mist and drank that back at camp. We never got so much as a buzz even though we enjoyed the taste of the whiskey immensely. Normally one fifth would have been way too much for us for one day but this was a lesson in chemistry. Also some would say it’s just a waste of good whiskey not to get any buzz at all from it.
I have enjoyed Canadian Mist every now and then since that day and I do like the taste. So try it and if you like it then drink it and if you don’t then you can try Canadian Club or one of the other good quality Canadian Whiskies. It has been said that Canadian Whiskey as a group are the smoothest and most drinkable whiskies in the world and while some might argue they are incredibly smooth and very drinkable. Canadian Mist does come in all sizes of bottles some glass and some PET plastic for ease of travel and safety. If nothing else I would encourage you to buy a miniature bottle of Canadian Mist as that is a great way to try lots of different whiskies without a huge investment.
Then you can always go back and buy what you like later. I do that all the time to try to find new and interesting whiskies to drink. Then I do go back and buy the large size of the ones I truly enjoy. Try the Mist I don’t think you will regret it.
The Whisky Warrior.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Glenmorangie (and the 16 men of Tain)

The Glenmorangie:
Whisky or some type of alcoholic beverage has been distilled in and around the lovely little Scottish town of Tain since the Middle Ages. Glenmorangie (pronounced Glen-More-Angie, Rhyme it with orangey) is the latest and many would argue the best of those efforts. Still it would be fun to hop in the old time machine and go back and try all the various libations available for the last 1200 years or so. But alas while that is not yet possible as all our brilliant young minds are eaten up with texting and yakking on cell phones all day instead of applying themselves to developing a time machine for my drinking pleasure. How terribly selfish of them to deprive me of this glorious drinking dream! Just as well with my luck I would arrive just as the Black Death hit and get burned at the stake as a witch for not speaking with the proper accent or being able to speak middle English or Scots Gaelic at all. Damn!
I had the great pleasure of visiting the Glenmorangie Distillery in June of 2009 along with my wife, two daughters and niece as we toured Scotland and deposited my father-in-law’s ashes in a place of great honor near a battle field in our ancestral home. The young lady that did the tour was Scotland gorgeous and an absolute delight. I mean well hell, a beautiful young lady that knows all about scotch and is articulate and friendly what could be better? It was a lovely tour and while a still is a still is a still, the tasting and sales room was very well done and the folks running the place were very nice to all of us while providing our dram at the end of the tour.
We even got to see a tanker full of scotch leave the compound headed for one of the big cities for bottling. Now there is a drinkers dream, a whole tanker of scotch. As Homer Simpson would say, “Scotch….Arrrggghhhhhhhhhaaa.”
On the label of a bottle of Glenmorangie one will find reference to the 16 men of Tain. This refers to an epic battle long ago that 16 men of Tain took part in and at the end of the battle only one man of Tain was left alive to tell the tail. Some believe that the TV and Movie series “Highlander” is based loosely on the story of the 16 men of Tain.
Tain is the home to the Ross Clan Museum. We have been there three times since 1996 as my wife’s Scottish heritage is that of Clan Ross. Ross in Gaelic is the word for peninsula so that is probably where the clan name came from way back when.
The production of beer started at the Morangie Farm in 1738 and in 1843 William Matheson bought out the place and converted the brewery into a distillery using two second hand gin stills and later renamed the distillery Glenmorangie. So while I have no great love for gin (it reminds me of nothing but evergreen trees doused with alcohol) I must say this was the best idea for the use of gin stills in the history of the Earth. I promise to give gin a try again in the near future just to be sure that I still don’t care for it, just to be fair.
The quality of the water is upper most on the ingredient list for top quality scotch and the Tarlogie Springs supply that good clean water for Glenmorangie.
All that hard work and dedication has paid off as Glenmorangie has a full 6% share of the single malt scotch market worldwide and produces around 10 million bottles a year selling around 65% of that in the UK.
It is not a smoky scotch and does come in several age groups and there have been some double and triple woods produced. I love the 15 year that spent 5 years in bourbon barrel oak, 5 in sherry oak and the final 5 in Madeira barrels. They don’t make that anymore as the lovely young lady explained to me people in Europe are not drinking Maderia as much so there just aren’t enough empty barrels to go round.
Whether you choose the single malt or one of their other fine whiskies you won’t be disappointed in any Glenmorangie product. If you are in Scotland the tour is worth the time and also visit the Tain museum in the little town anyone there can direct you. Stop by Harry Gow’s for some good pastries they are just a couple of blocks from the museum in the downtown section and there are 2 or 3 banks there you can change your money or use your credit card to get more. Lots of ancient Pictish standing stones are in this area too with one of them actually in the museum. It’s a really nice place with wonderful people and great world class scotch. You won’t be disappointed.
The Whisky Warrior

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Singleton

The Singleton
I have been promising a taste test of The Singleton single malt scotch whisky for a few weeks now, so here it is.
Last night we were watching a movie on TV followed by a couple of comedians (Black and Titus, very funny) so it seemed to me like the perfect time to try out that bottle of The Singleton that I bought a couple of months ago. I will be honest, I thought it was a blend when I heard of it and I think one of my friends told me that but it is a single malt aged for 12 years in bourbon and sherry casks. I love the sherry taste in a good whisky so this is right down my alley. Diageo imports this whisky into America and after my tasting I definitely will buy this again. I guess I really haven’t found a sherry aged scotch that I don’t like, at least not yet. This is another Speyside product meaning it comes from East of Inverness in the area by the Spey river along with a lot of heavy weight top quality scotches. The water from the Spey and its burns (creeks) is really quite good and good water and good barley are the main two ingredients for a top notch scotch. It is made at or near Glendullan. If you are of a mind to do the whisky trail and visit lots of distilleries in Scotland Speyside is a great place to do that. Dozens of great whisky houses to visit and a very interesting cooperage where they make and repair casks that is also open to your touring and the cooperage has a nice little tea room/eatery out back that was a lovely place to have a snack.
Tasting notes?...............well I don’t really do that like the “experts” do but here are a few things I noticed. This whisky has a good clean smell, an honest here-I-am-love-me-or-leave-me smell and of course a whiff of sherry comes through. I do smell spun sugar, maybe some vanilla, and the smell of good quality candy is also there for me. I think people smell things that are usually individual to that persons likes and dislikes but that’s just me. Good smooth sherry taste comes dashing out of this very attractive bottle. I tipped up the bottle and drank an ounce or so right from the source at first and was very pleased at how smooth and delicious this scotch is. Then I poured some in a glass and had another sip of straight whisky. Again, I loved it. Next step for me is to add a splash of water and smell and taste again. The water did not drown it but like those rascally experts say “it opened the bouquet to me.” Next since a lot of people do drink their scotch with ice I added some ice and drank about 3 glasses in this manner effectively killing off between ¼ and 1/3 of the treasure at my first sitting. Not too heavy, not to light, just right. Perhaps a little less heavy than Glendronach (another sherry scotch see article dedicated to it elsewhere in this blog), and maybe a bit heaver than Glenfiddich (a very popular scotch also discussed elsewhere in this blog). No smoky taste or smell to this scotch and while that is probably greatly disappointing to your smoky bears out there I promise we will rate some more smoky whiskies later this year. We did a few already please do go back and look at our older articles they stand on their own and we would love your comments to any of our articles. My drinking was done at home and no pedestrians were harmed in the making of this article . While I’m pretty sure Diageo is not interested in talking to me and probably the good folks at The Singleton aren’t clamoring to tell me how much they appreciate my thoughts on their product……… I must rate this a top notch scotch in the 30 to 40 dollar a bottle category. One of my friends has been drinking this regularly for quite a while and continues to marvel at how good it is at such a reasonable price and I have to agree. Buy this scotch next time you want a good one. It will stand up to ice and water and is really good straight up or right out of the bottle for you folks who care about as much for sophistication as I do.
Remember life is very short, make the most of every moment. The meaning of life is very simple. Be warm in the winter, cool in the summer, have plenty of good things to eat and plenty of good things to drink, someone to love, comfy clothes to wear and a roof over your head. Everything else is just crap. All the best, stay safe and do your drinking at home or with a designated driver at the wheel. Try The Singleton, I think you will really like it. I know I do.
PS. Saw another article on this scotch and they said (have no idea if its true or not) that The Singleton will be making a whiskey in America releasing it later this year…….let me know if you see it or try it.
The Whisky Warrior