Thursday, 24 January 2013

You can even taste whisky on the internet...

Good evening everybody. It’s a rare Thursday post for me this week, since tomorrow I’m hoping to be heading to a secluded cottage in North Wales straight after work (weather permitting), so there won’t be time for any of this blogging nonsense – just time to pick up a bag and grab a few bottles of hooch to keep the missus and I warm.

Shall we get on with it then? This week’s post is a collection of a few random and some specific thoughts in relation to the Manchester Whisky Club’s recent online twitter tasting. Here we go.

Prior to the first physical meeting of the newly formed Manchester Whisky Club (due later this month), we first had a Thursday night Twitter tasting. Thursday is the new Friday, and indeed a great time to drink whisky - hey! It's Thursday tonight! Excuse me... [squeeeeak, pop, pour, sniff, sip, aaaaah!] 

Club founder Andy had already provided each member with two mystery drams that had arrived in the post, all mummified in bubblewrap and sellotape, and finally, after about 2 months of them sitting there in my booze cupboard, it was time to take them out and put them in glasses. Exciting times.

This would actually be my first ever whisky tasting of any kind – other than those that have just been me, in my house, tasting whiskies, occasionally with one or two friends there – and an excellent chance to get some kind of impression of what the club and its members would be like – not to mention finally finding out what this whole Twitter jobbie was all about.

You may remember in my earlier Manchester WhiskyClub post that I was wondering if there would be any female members. Well, there are. I have to admit to being a little surprised – pleasantly, I might add. No, I’m not looking for any [happily married, thanks for asking, and there’s only room for one whisky drinker in my house], but it’s a relief that this pursuit isn’t going to be one of those things that only men do – like golf. You see women playing golf, but you can’t help thinking; why are they playing golf? Not that they shouldn’t – in spite of what some of my friends might say. No, it’s just a bit weird.

There weren’t too many members joining us for the tasting (I’m not going to check, but I think it was 6-9), but I’m going to say it was a successful first event. I’m sure everyone had a lot of fun, and I think Andy has got to be optimistic about how this whole thing is going to pan out. It was a nice group of people, and I’m sure everyone enjoyed it.

What happened then, was that we all gathered around our computers with our tasting glasses, logged into Twitter just before 7pm, and waited for it to begin. I poured both of my samples into glasses at the same time, just to let those aromas develop a little.

I got my Dulux colour cards out ahead of time, and tried to see if I could find a match for each sample. Sample 1 was very pale, and mapped very tidily to ‘Desert Island 4’, while sample 2, easily the darker of the two, turned out to be one of the few shades Dulux haven’t mastered yet. There are no photos to show you of that, but if it doesn’t make sense, check this earlier post for a bit of context.

After a brief welcome then, we got started on the nosing of sample 1. Being hopeless at nosing, I wasn’t able to identify any smells in particular, but everyone else had a damn good go, and I found it quite educational, just seeing what they had to say.

I think I moved on to the actual tasting way ahead of everyone else, but whaddayagonna do? I was ready. There was something very familiar about it that I couldn’t quite place. It was soft, oily and mouthcoating – very classy, but perhaps one that I might not have appreciated fully in the past. Light and summery, I believe was the consensus among the other members.

All my impressions soon made sense when its identity was revealed; Speyside’s anCnoc 12 year old. I had had it before; I remember Mrs Cake buying me a bottle one Saturday when I was in a foul mood. I think we’d had a disagreement, and she was trying to cheer me up. It’s not related, of course, but it was the same day she bought her dad a bottle of Ledaig 10 year old. She took it to Canada for him, where he had one taste and decided he didn’t like it, before sending it back with her for me. I thought it was delicious.

I couldn’t recall being so fond of the anCnoc on previous occasions, but it was well over a year ago, and it’s only just over a year ago that I stopped putting ice in my whisky. This is definitely one to get again some time.

We spent half an hour on the first dram. I was finished well in advance, and couldn’t wait to get started on number 2. On nosing it struck me as being quite complex, but I couldn’t detect anything in particular. While the others participants showed me up with mentions of vanilla, caramel and spice, I got into the tasting.

Salty at first, I found that it developed as I allowed it to sit on my tongue before finishing with a touch of (not unpleasant) bitterness at the end. Very different to the first, but in my opinion no worse for it. I couldn’t actually decide which I preferred (possibly the 1st, but I’d need a few more tastes to be sure).

On the reveal I learned something that I’d been meaning to test for some time – that I can’t necessarily tell a blend from a single malt. I always thought it would be easy due to the bitter grain taste – which perhaps explains the slight bitterness on the finish of this 2nd dram. However, the bitterness was not even out of the ordinary for some single malts, and the complexity and smoothness was unlike any blend I’ve found up to now. There were also reports that a drop of water would eliminate the bitterness, but I wasn’t really bothered about trying that.

This 2nd sample then was the 13 year old Whyte and Mackay which should retail around £20. That’s damn good value. It actually reminded me of the 12 year old Balvenie, though I was pretty sure it wasn’t that, as I actually liked the sample immediately.

Yeah, I’m struggling to get into that Balvenie. I kind of feel it’s like a puzzle that I have to solve, and for that reason, if I don’t know which of my whiskies to dip into on any occasion, that’s the one I’ve been going for.

Whisky probably shouldn’t be like a puzzle, should it? You should just be able to enjoy it. Puzzles are good too though – as long as you can solve them. Otherwise they leave you with feelings of inadequacy. I don’t think it’s as important to get the Balvenie as it would be to be able to finish a Sudoku puzzle though. My feeling on Sudoku is always, what’s the point, why don’t you just read a book? But I’d really want to be able to finish one if I ever started one in the first place.

Come to think of it, I did start one once, but just decided it was stupid before I wasted too much time on it. I ask you; putting numbers in boxes. Tsk.

Once again, time will tell and presumably, thanks to joining the Manchester Whisky Club, tastes will develop. I’ve got a lot of tastings to attend over the next 12 months, so as ever, I’ll keep you posted.

So that’s it for now. Check back next week, when I’m planning to return to the subject of distilled pomace, and describing what happened when I tasted a budget grappa alongside a very cheap orujo. Not to be missed, I’m sure.

Have a great weekend, and don’t forget you can now follow me on Twitter - @alcothusiast.


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