When Joshua Hatton leads a tasting, I know I’m going to learn a lot. This Exclusive Malts whisky tasting from the North Shore Whisky Club didn’t disappoint
Speaking out against hate…again
Before we start this week’s post, I have to express my horror, sorrow, and anger about the massacre in a Pittsburgh synagogue last weekend. I’ve had to speak out against hate before, and I can’t believe I have to do it again. A pathetic, cowardly excuse for a human decided that he could express his hate-filled worldview by taking the lives of those with whom he had no grudge other than that they existed and worshipped differently than him. On a holy day of rest. At a baby-naming, no less. That I can identify with the people in that temple, just wanting to celebrate a joyous occasion with family and friends in a house of comfort, makes the possibility of it happening here (or for that matter anywhere) so much greater. The hate in our daily discourse, the demonizing of the “other,” has no place in civil society, especially by those who call themselves our leaders. I long for the days of mutual respect for our neighbors and reasonable discussions amongst ourselves, not the lies, hysteria, and hyperbole we have now. Please people, it just takes one madman to shatter the peace of a happy moment, or the words of another to incite someone to act horrifically. Please people…vote.
** SIGH ** Ok, I’ve taken a deep breath, and I’ll get off my soapbox. I hope I can put that soapbox into storage for a while!
A conversation with Joshua Hatton
Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Exclusive Malts whisky tasting hosted by the North Shore Whisky Club and presented by Joshua Hatton. I’ve been to Joshua’s tastings before (see Playing the Field and (Mostly) Single), and have benefitted from his generosity with his time and advice (he introduced me to the good folks at ImpEx Beverages and Westland). I had decided that I wanted to start interviewing some of the notable people I’ve met so far in my whisky journey, and Joshua was the first person I thought of for my new People of Whisky talks.
I started by asking why Joshua emphasized his Jewish heritage in his business (which is ironic considering what happened the following day…see above), and he answered that he and his partners wanted the Jewish community to know that their company, Single Cask Nation, was looking out for them. After all, of the three partners, two are Jewish and the third has a Jewish wife, so it was a natural fit. In fact, they started the Whisky Jewbilee because the WhiskyFest New York (a large festival with upwards of 2000 people with about 40% of them observant Jews) moved the day of the festival from mid-week to Friday (the Sabbath, when observant Jews wouldn’t be able to go). Also, at the Jewbilee, the food is Kosher and bourbon barrel aged whisky is prominent because it can be Kosher (while sherry cask aged isn’t necessarily due to the fact that the wine used to make the sherry may not be Kosher). Thus, Jews who keep the Kosher dietary laws can fully enjoy themselves at the gathering without worry. It’s about being inclusive.
The other question I asked involved how Joshua developed his descriptors when he’s tasting whisky…if you listen to the podcast he and his partner, Jason Johnstone-Yellin, produce (and I highly recommend you do!), you’ll notice his almost encyclopedic memory of every spirit he’s tasted, and he can describe them to you in amazing detail. Joshua said he’s always been fascinated by how things smell, and how the aroma can change when different ingredients are combined. He even claims that when going to a restaurant or a grocery store, he’ll pick up his plate or a grocery item up and just smell it! It might look odd, but I think it’s a smart way to catalog different aromas in your memory.
Ok, enough chitchat…let’s get to the whisky!
Exclusive Malts Whisky Tasting
Hosted by the North Shore Whisky Club, presented by Joshua Hatton, October 26, 2018
42.3%ABV, Single grain, shuttered distillery, 1974, corn distillate, made like bourbon but put on old oak barrels
- Nose: floral, heather, honey, caramel fudge, light cream
- Taste: thick, butter, pecan pralines, sharp white pepper, hay, musty
- Finish: cream brûlée, brown sugar
- Comments: creamy flavors on top of brown sugar
Glen Keith 22yr
47.9%ABV, single malt, goes into Chivas, only bottled by independent bottlers
- Nose: green pine, vanilla, hay, pineapple
- Taste: thick & chewy, pineapple, a little smoky, almond extract, cream peeks out
- Finish: doesn’t linger except for fruit
- Comments: the fruits dominate, but it’s tempered by cream and almonds
50%ABV, Not the distillery, but the region
- Nose: tropical fruit, hay, heather
- Taste: med body, grassy, brown sugar syrup,
- Finish: fades to fresh cut grass and vanilla glaze
- Comments: very rare, so sweet, but tamed with fresh grass notes, summer sunshine in a grassy field
- Nose: anise, ash, pine, vanilla, musty, caramel underneath
- Taste: thin body, smoke, ash, caramel, high black pepper
- Finish: pepper continues w/ the mustiness, fades slowly to moss
- Comments: strong nose & big flavor, lots of layers: water takes the pepper off the nose & enhances the smokiness with a thicker body
55.4%ABV, The name comes from the braes of glenlivet (Braes=hill); Speyside used to be the region of Glenlivet
- Nose: light nose, easy green grass, slightly dusty, lemon oils
- Taste: oily, thick body, lemon pepper, herbs
- Finish: peppermint & lemon zest
- Comments: it’s hot to sip, herbal and oily
- Nose: raisins, light beachy campfire
- Taste: oily, ocean bonfire , caramel rises, raisins, plums, white pepper
- Finish: dark fruit and thick smoke lingers
- Comments: the smoke adds body, the cooked fruits add character, layers and layers of flavor
54.3%ABV, Single Cask Nation bottle from the Speyside Region, sherry casks
- Nose: prunes, green leaves, light lemon oils, floral honey
- Taste: prunes, pepper, eucalyptus, thick body, cinnamon
- Finish: fades to menthol and cooked fruit
- Comments: green leaves linger pleasantly with prunes; water tames the heat to raise the prunes, cinnamon, and forest quality
What’s up with Independent Bottlers, anyway?
During the tasting, Joshua explained how independent bottling works. In a nutshell, these companies (like Single Cask Nation) buy from distilleries the casks that fall outside their normal flavor profiles. That’s why even if you see a distillery name on the bottle that you recognize, that whisky might not taste like what you’d expect from that distiller. Independent bottlers buy the outliers, as it were. One other note, Exclusive Malt whisky is going to get scarce…Joshua told us that this independent bottling company is going away. Luckily there’s Single Cask Nation and others to pick up the slack!
Many thanks to Joshua for giving me his time and advice. It today’s environment of “looking out for number one,” it’s so nice to know that there are people willing to help others. Keep an eye out for my next People of Whisky talks…until then I’m heading to the grocery store, but don’t judge me if you see me smelling things!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!