Community of scotch drinkers
Scotch tasting events are more than just trying out a lineup of samples…they’re about learning things about the brand, the production process, and the expression itself. In the relatively short time that I’ve been going to tastings, both formal (like the Laphroaig tasting event at the New Hampshire Highland Games & Festival that started me on this journey) and informal (Whisky Wednesday at Gordon’s DTX), I’ve learned so much…from how whisky is made, to the importance of cask influence, to the difference between the regions of Scotland. However, there is one aspect of whisky tastings that so much more important than education — sharing the tasting experience with others. Those others start out as strangers, but if you go to enough Whisky Wednesdays or brand presentations, these like-minded people start to become acquaintances, then friends. And that’s where the real joy of tasting events lies.
I’ve been going to Whisky Wednesday at Gordon’s DTX since I first discovered there was such a thing. I had stumbled across this liquor store while exploring the Downtown Crossing neighborhood of Boston (DTX, see?) with my husband. This area is roughly located between the Boston Common and the Financial District, and is an area that is both rather run-down and upscale. Gordon’s itself is located on a side street near a couple of trendy pubs, a chops house, a brewery, and a wig shop. It’s a beautifully presented shop with wood shelving for the wine (with free wine tastings available!), a large selection of spirits and beer lining the walls and cold cases, and even a snack case of charcuterie and cheeses. It was such a delightful find in the middle of a street I wouldn’t have thought to go down. But go down I did, and boy am I glad I found it.
Free tastings on Whisky Wednesday? Count me in!
It was here that I discovered people can come and taste whisky and bourbon for free each week. And that first time I met the “regulars”…people who had been coming to the tastings since the program began. Now I’m the first to admit that I’m terrible with names and faces, so it took me a couple of weeks before I knew who was who (or is it whom? I can never remember), but soon I started recognizing people from week to week. These people were so welcoming, and they began to serve as mentors as I started navigating the Wide World of Whisky (side note…shouldn’t that be a TV show on Saturday afternoons? Just sayin’…). I learned to be patient as I developed my palate, that what I tasted could be different from others (and to be OK with it). I started looking forward to Wednesday afternoons not just for the whisky, but for the camaraderie. For the friends.
So why am I blathering on about my whisky community? Because, Dear Reader, it was because of this crew that I found myself out last Friday evening at a single malt scotch tasting hosted by the North Shore Whisky Club (a group I found out about from my Whisky Wednesday friends) and presented by Erik Greenstein, Brand Ambassador for 375 Park Avenue Spirits. I sat a table completely filled by my friends from Gordon’s, and, as they say, a good time was had by all.
Here’s some brief information into the 375 Park Avenue Spirits lineup:
- established in 1790, the oldest distillery in the Highlands
- Edderton, Highlands
- “Balblair” means “battle”
- Old Pulteney
- located in the maritime community of Wick, Highlands
- a wide portfolio of various age expression and styles, including maritime theme exclusives
- distillery sits directly on the border of Speyside & Highland regions, uniquely reflected in the whisky style (noses like a Speyside, tastes more like a Highland)
- Knock-Banffshire, Highlands
- “anCnoc” (pronounced an-knock) means “the hill”
- smooth and fruity in style with broad, easy drinking appeal
- Rothes, Speyside
And now…to the glasses!
Single Malt Scotch Whisky Tasting
Hosted by North Shore Whisky Club, presented by Erik Greenstein, November 3, 2017
- Nose: honey, white chocolate, light citrus, cotton candy, hay
- Taste: light body, honey sweetness, white pepper rises, hay and grass notes
- Finish: lasts softly, clover honey on the back of the tongue, menthol at the end, fades out to heat
- Comments: nice & light, tasted like summer, easy to drink…some heat, some sweet
Old Pulteney 12 yr
- Nose: raisins, cooked fruit, cover honey, a little bit of mocha
- Taste: creamy, thick, sweet plums, rich & spicy
- Finish: the raisin/chocolate flavor lingers, fades to roof of mouth warmth, flavor fades quickly
- Comments: not a sherry bomb or cloying, pleasantly balanced, is chill-filtered (when so many other single malts aren’t)
Balblair 03 10yr
- Nose: prunes, burnt sugar, slightly floral, butter
- Taste: soft entry, pine rises, light body, vanilla fudge sweetness
- Finish: fades to soft black pepper then slightly sweet
- Comments: the nose doesn’t match the taste…my expectations were surprised, nicely approachable, not a spice hit
Speyburn Arranta NAS
- Nose: honey, light & sunshine, grass, butterscotch
- Taste: oily, thick body, brown sugar, nutmeg-topped egg custard
- Finish: cinnamon kicks in, fades to creamy custard
- Comments: excellent, like melted vanilla ice cream
Old Pulteney 17yr
- Nose: coffee, molasses, rum distillery
- Taste: dark chocolate, banana, medium body with oil, white pepper
- Finish: fades quickly, vanilla cream lingers, no burn or heat
- Comments: dark & stormy with lots of character, good scotch for beginners to try, really quite good
Balblair 90 25yr
- Nose: raisins & cooked plums, deep caramel, dark chocolate
- Taste: medium body, pumpkin pie spices, vanilla bean ice cream custard
- Finish: fades to light caramel, very lightly astringent at the tail end
- Comments: deep color, but not a sherry bomb, I liked it very much
anCnoc Cutter NAS
- Nose: mountain campfire, pine, menthol, oak and prunes peek out
- Taste: smoke dominated, sweet floral notes rise, thick body, oily
- Finish: the sulfer/ash returns, lasts long on the mid tongue
- Comments: peated @ 22.5ppm, this was my favorite of the lot
One of the wonderful things about going to these tastings with friends that are experts and collectors is that sometimes one will bring something from home for us to try. My friend, Norm Simonton, is one such generous soul, and he brought two wonderful bottles for us to try.
Glen Grant 32yr
- Nose: molasses, coffee, cooked fruit underneath
- Taste: light spice, pine, currants, ginger, liquid molasses
- Finish: fades to black licorice
- Comments: absolutely fabulous with lots of taste! Like a liquid gingerbread cookie
- Nose: butter, pineapple, green grass, citrus
- Taste: butterscotch, bright hay, apple tart with flaky butter crust
- Finish: pine at the end, some spiciness, candy corn
- Comments: so soft but extremely bright, lots of flavor layers
Now when I go to Whisky Wednesday, I try to welcome and engage with the new people I see at the tastings. I introduce myself (and hand out my card about this blog, a bit of shameless self-promotion), then ask about their thoughts on what we’ve tried. I usually ask their names again (remember bad name/face recognition), and before they leave I tell them I hope to see them again next week. Because it’s nice for the crew to grow.
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!