Some friends of mine asked me to put together a curated scotch tasting for them and some of their friends. Fun for me in that I get to share my love of good whiskey with others. Below is tonight’s menu. My idea was to expose them to a cross section of great Scotch whiskies and I have recommendations for other whiskies they might like. Should be great fun!
A Curated Scotch Tasting by Brad Drell – July 7, 2017
Some definitions: Scotch is any whisky made in Scotland. Malted scotch is scotch made solely from malted barley and no other grains. Single Malt Scotch is malted scotch made at a single distillery.
Monkey Shoulder – is a malted scotch that is a blend of Balvenie, Kinnivie, and Glenfiddich, which are all Speyside distilleries and is representative of that style. Approachable and easy to drink, it is currently the rage in the UK among younger folks. The blue jeans of scotch malt whisky. If you like this, you might also like Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Glen Grant, Glenfarclas, Glenlivet.
Aberlour 12 year old double cask finish – a Speyside scotch aged in ex-bourbon and sherry casks. Rich and fruity with cinnamon and ginger notes with a light finish that is sort of like a guest leaving your house who makes the bed and cleans up the bathroom before they leave. A very good representation of sherry finished scotch from the region. If you like this, you might also like Macallan 12, Tamdhu, GlenDronach 12.
Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban – named for the former farm on which the distillery sits, the port wine houses (Quintas) where the port casks come from, and the Gaelic word for Ruby. This highland whisky is distilled in the tallest stills in Scotland, aged for ten years in used barrels made from American Oak trees and previously leased to Jack Daniels. The whisky is then aged in Portuguese port casks for two years. The whiskey has a slight purplish hue and tastes of dark fruits, Seville oranges, and dark chocolate, with a long fruity finish. Dr. Bill Lumdsen, the master distiller, has a Ph.D in biochemistry and has been a leader in using different wood casks to create new nuanced flavors. If you like this, you might also like anything from the Glenmorangie line (which is extensive, including their annual special releases which you should buy wherever you can find them), Balvenie Port or Caribbean Cask finish.
Oban 14 year old – named for the town of Oban on the west coast of Scotland, which is Gaelic for Little Bay, Oban Distillery is one of the smallest commercial distilleries in Scotland that is partially in an old cave where early humans lived 5000 years before Christ. The town grew up around the distillery so Oban has been unable to expand and still uses only two stills for its whisky. The whisky is very representative of scotch as a whole to me; it has the fruity notes of Speyside and other Highland malts, a whiff of peat and smoke (Oban is the jumping off port to Islay where smoky peaty whiskies are the norm) and the salt flavors of the sea that other coastal and island distilled whiskies have, but without going overboard on any of it. To me, this is a perfectly balanced traditional scotch. If you like this, you may also like: Old Pulteney, Bruichladdich, Dalmore, Glenlivet Nadurra, Hazelburn 12 from Springbank, and other Oban bottlings such as Little Bay (aged in smaller ex bourbon casks); Oban 18 (an ultra smooth version of Oban.)
Highland Park Dark Origin – Made at Scotland’s northern most distillery on the Isle of Orkney, this is a peated sherry finished scotch. Island and Islay (pronounced E-la) scotches tend to be peated because of the lack of wood or coal on Scotland’s islands for fires to dry the barley malt before creating the mash for fermentation. These whiskies have a smoky campfire quality along with phenols that taste and smell like Band Aids. For many, though, this is a feature and not a bug of the whisky. If you like this, you may also like Talisker, Bowmore, Ardbeg, Springbank, Lagavulin, Caol Ila, Laphroaig, Kilchoman, and other Highland Park bottlings. Mind as you go though, as the other recommendations are much stronger on the peat and iodine flavors.