Up until I was about 28, I never had a taste for whisky.

Then I went to Ireland – specifically the Bushmills distillery in Northern Ireland, and over the course of a 1/2 hour tasting, fell in love. While I was a student, I didn’t really have the budget to stock my liquor cabinet with more than an odd bottle now and then, but in the last few years of gainful employment I’ve had fun sampling my way through some very nice bottles. Things I didn’t know before I took up tasting:

  • The Irish spell “whiskey” with an “e”, but the Scottish spell “whisky” without the “e”. Americans generally spell whiskey with an “e” and Canadians generally spell “whisky” without the “e”, (but we’re a fickle bunch and can go either way).
  • Irish and Scottish whiskies are made primarily with barley. Bourbon is corn based and Canadian whisky was traditionally made of rye mash.
  • Just like wine- it can be a whole lot of fun to get together some bottles and have a tasting.

My appreciation of whiskey has been nurtured to some degree through my friendship with Rumon (who recently blogged on Tequila…. let’s just call him an Renaissance man, shall we?). Rumon and I decided some weeks ago that we wanted to have a night with our friend Rolf, and struck upon holding a whiskey tasting. So we convened on my deck and made our way through these bevy of beauties:

Rumon was in charge of pouring (lightest to heaviest). I tried to take notes… a task which I’m sure you’ll understand got a little more challenging as the night progressed. Rolf was in charge of making appreciative noises and passing his camera around. Here’s what I can tell you about the whiskey’s:

Glenrothes – Robur Reserve: “easy drinking, sweet vanilla, dried fruit. Gentle start, it’s embers, not fire on the tounge. No lingering finish.”

Glenrothes – Select Reserve: “Like going to the best western after the Westin. like watered down rum. like a limp handshake.”

Aberlour 12: “creamy in the middle, caramel and vanilla. the finish is present and balanced, with woody oaky flavours”

Glenmorangie – Quinta Ruban: “happy yellow color. Fire comes on early, burns in a welcome manner throughout the finish”

Auchentoshan 12 – “tastes like a wet sweater. more peat off the nose, though balanced with a soft finish. Steel wool, not singing into my tongue” [Erm, I think this is where I started to struggle with the note taking!]

Ardbeg 10: “Like hard iron, it will dispel your demons… it will kick you in the balls. Bracing peat bomb. Strong nose of smoke.”

So there you go. Everything from light vanilla to something that could emasculate lesser [wo]men. If you are new the the scotch world, I’d recommend taking home a bottle of the Aberlour. I think it’s fantastic value and is quite yummy.

As for the tasting… well it went on for about 6 hours. We had Strawberry shortcake at one point. Later we paused for crackers and cheese. We told stories. We bored Rumon’s dog Nevy. We likely annoyed the neighbors. We took lots of photos. We told more stories.

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[photo credits : maybe me. Likely Rumon. Could be Rolf… lets call it a group effort…]

And then when things started to look like this, I went to bed!