My place was the setting again for this scotch tasting where we decided to focus on whiskies from the Speyside region. Having leaned on Andrew’s vast experience before this one, I tracked down the bottles, set up the venue, and – with my fellow eight scotchmen – began the tour. And, this time, I took much better notes.
- Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year
- Aberlour A’bunadh
- Glen Elgin 16 Year
- Glendronach Revival 15 Year
- Glenrothes 1998 Vintage (14 Year)
- Benriach Curiositas Peated (10 Year)
Three to open
We opened with the Balvenie Doublewood, a 12 year-old whisky at 40% ABV. It gets its name from beginning in an oak cask and finishing in a sherry one. The nose is sweet and has a taste to match, providing honey flavours on the way to a smooth finish. I first met the Doublewood at the Rocky Mountain Wine Festival a few years ago here in Edmonton and it was great to experience it again – it’s an all-around good, easy-drinking scotch to have in your collection. My ranking of this scotch on the night was tied for third place.
Next was the Glendronach Revival. At 46% ABV, this 15 year-old is aged in a sherry cask and really opens up with a bit of water. This is a very aromatic scotch (though I couldn’t pick out anything specific in the nose) where some of the gents could detect the toffee or chocolate orange as described in the tasting notes. Upon tasting, I picked up on some very different fruity flavours and detected a hint of coffee as it washed across my palate. Spices showed up to greet you on the way to this whisky’s bold yet smooth finish and, for me and a number of us, this was the number one scotch of the night.
Third whisky of the night was the Glenrothes 1998 Vintage (43% ABV). The bottle says distilled in 1998 and verified in 2009 which would normally imply bottling and make it an 11 year-old scotch. HOWEVER, this particular batch was bottled in 2012 (it says so on the label) making it a 14 year-old scotch. I did some research on this and – apparently – Glenrothes has a habit of transferring whisky from a primary cask to a neutral holding cask for up to four years before bottling. Mystery solved. Okay, onto the scotch now. It smells spicy right off the get-go and is a little sharp when it hits your tongue. The whisky tastes unsurprisingly spicy with notes of pepper and finishes long and somewhat oily. This one was a bit of a mix for me, still a good scotch, but ranked fourth on the night.
Bring on the big girls!
The Aberlour A’bunadh is the definition of a “big girl” by being 59% ABV. What startled everyone was that despite being able to clearly smell the alcohol on the nose it wasn’t harsh on your tongue. No kidding, you can almost drink this whisky straight without having to add water. Almost. But a little bit of water opens it up and lets you smell and taste the dark fruit and orange – in my case I could really detect cherries. Uniquely, it “pops” off your tongue when you taste it and finishes warm and oaky. On the whole, this was my number two of the night and many of the other gentlemen’s number one.
The second big girl – now into our fifth whisky – was the Glen Elgin 16 year-old at 58.5% ABV. What a contrast from the A’bunadh! The Glen Elgin is big, bold and needs water. The nose comes across peaty with a touch of vanilla and – what probably shocked me the most – is that my wife likes how this smells (and she dislikes scotch with extreme prejudice). The taste is, as I said, bold and with water lets you discover the woody and spicy flavours. It has a medium-length, oaky finish and tied as my third place.
Hello, my name is Peat
Our final whisky of the night was the BenRiach Curiositas 10 year (46% ABV). Holding the glass to your nose you can’t miss the peaty smell, it’s unmistakable but not overwhelming. But what came next shocked us all. The taste of the scotch starts quite peaty and then, abruptly, it dies. Zip, gone. Oaky, woody, and peaty – yes – but generally it’s thin and without much complexity. After the other five whiskies it was a bit jarring for the sixth to be like this and finished in last place for the group.
And with that, another successful tasting came to a close. Everyone got to experience five or six new scotches and a few individuals stayed around to sample a wee bit more of their favourite whiskies of the night.