A couple of weeks ago a friend and co-worker hosted a Scotch tasting party. Besides being a lot of fun, it was a great opportunity to learn more about scotch without having to spend a fortune. Each person bought a bottle or two and got to take their bottle(s) home with them. We also had cottage pie, haggis and neeps, and scotch eggs.
The original goal was to taste one single malt scotch from each of the six whisky producing regions of Scotland (Speyside, Lowlands, Highlands, Campbeltown, Islands and Islay). Obviously, we ended up with quite a few more bottles than that.
The first bottle we tried was Dalwhinnie. Dalwhinnie is from the Highlands.Our bottle was aged 15 years. It was a very smooth and pleasurable scotch with no bite or after-burn.
My friend Rob described it as a lady’s scotch. I rated it 8/10.
Next came The Ledaig (pronounced ‘let-chick’), a 10 year old bottle from the Isle of Mull.I found this bottle quite wretched. There was so much peat in this whisky that it was like drinking cigarette ash.
The smoky smell was so overwhelming that I had to wash my glass out with soap so as not to taint anything that came after.
I gave the Ledaig a 4/10.
I bought this next bottle, <a href=”http://www.springbankwhisky.com/”>Springbank</a>. Springbank is the oldest independent family owned distillery in Scotland. It is also the only distillery in Scotland that executes the full production process on the one site. It is also the only distillery to have never chill filtered. Springbank was the only bottle we sampled from Cambeltown. It was a 15 year old single malt. I found it very nice – strong with a slight sweetness. I rated Springbank a 9/10.
The fourth bottle was a 12 year double cask matured <a href=”http://www.aberlour.com/”>Aberlour</a> from the Speyside region. This scotch was creamy with hints of apricot and butterscotch. It was amongst the least expensive of the whiskys we tried and worth twice its cost. I rated it 9/10. I enjoyed this one enough to buy a bottle for myself, the next day.
The scotch I am most familiar with is <a href=”http://www.glenfiddich.com”>Glenfiddich</a>. I’ve long had a liking for it and tended to buy it exclusively, whenever I passed through a duty free store. This bottle was a 12 year old. I liked it, but I was amused to find that in comparison to a lot of the other bottles we tried, it was rather non-descriptive. I gave it a 7/10.
The Strathisla suffered a bit before we even opened it. The bottle is unattractive and loudly proclaims that it is a product of Chivas Brothers. On tasting, I found the Strathisla to be not bad, but a little smoky and not really memorable. I won’t be in a hurry to buy a bottle for myself. I gave it a 6/10.
I quickly learned that I’m not a big fan of scotch with a lot of peat. The 15 year old Bowmore was too smoky. I didn’t enjoy it and gave it a 4/10.
Number 8 in our tasting was a 12 year old double casked Balvenie. This bottle had a hint of vanilla and a nice burn. Quite pleasurable, I gave it 8/10.
<a href=”http://www.auchentoshan.co.uk”>Auchentoshan</a> came across as the port of scotch. I would call it a dessert scotch. It was a three wood, doing its final aging in Spanish sherry casks. I wonder if the sherry casks contribute to its sweetness. Auchentoshan is one of only three remaining distilleries in the Scottish Lowlands. Quite nice, I gave it a 7/10.
This next bottle was the oldest (and most expensive) that we tried. It was a 21 year old Glenlivet. Glenlivet is the biggest selling single malt whisky in the United States and second biggest in the world. Over six million bottles are made, each year. Very Nice. I gave it a 9/10.
Bottle number 11 was also a Glenlivet, but this time a 15 year old Glenlivet Nadurra, natural cask strength. This one also earns a 9/10, but since it costs about half as much as the other Glenlivet, it really should be ranked higher. I enjoyed this one enough to buy a bottle for myself, the next day.
The MacAllan</a>, another from Speyside, was also cask strength. It was strong and spicy.
I gave it an 8/10.
The final bottle was the Talisker. This was another peat heavy scotch that only received a 4/10 from me.