Scotch tasting, demystified Saturday, Dec 17 2011 

I wanted to post yesterday but I was too busy juggling all of these:

After all of the samples arrived, the count exceeded 50 expressions — obviously way too many to try in one sitting, and unnecessary considering the goal: The resulting article will focus very generally on Scottish single-malt whisky available to Chicagoans and will possibly be syndicated nationally, which means that none of the limited-edition whiskys or out-of-production stuff (a few of which had been collecting dust at my cubicle for a few years) would be of use.

Throwing those out, I was left with an even 40 — still an unrecommended number, but my tasting panel (10 folks total) managed to weed a few out along the way by pure exhaustion.

In order not to kill everyone, I wanted to feed them all night long — which proved to be almost as complicated a process as the tasting itself. I couldn’t find a single, legit article on scotch-paired dinners, and so many blogs contradicted each other. All I was able to glean were some basics according to region: salty/mild for Lowlands, sweet and/or meat for Highlands, etc. I wound up seeking some professional guidance in Aaron Sherman, the sommelier at NoMI at the Park Hyatt (if you’ve been, you know: it’s a force to be reckoned with), who helped steer me toward some tangible edibles to keep the evening moving along. Thanks, Aaron!

Based on my own research and Aaron’s suggestions, this is how I organized my 40-scotch tasting:

Lowlands — mild/salty pairing
Smoked trout, creme fraiche & pickled onion
Olives (green, Kalmata, Nicoise)
Salted almonds

Auchentoshan Classic
Auchentoshan 11 year Bordeaux cask matured
Auchentoshan 12 year
Auchentoshan Three Wood
Glenkinchie 20 year
Islay — earthy pairing
Wild-mushroom bread pudding
Smoked almonds

Laphroaig 10 year
Laphroaig 18 year
Bowmore 12 year
Bowmore 15 year darkest
Bruichladdich The Laddie Ten
Bruichladdich Port Charlotte An Turas Mor
Lagavulin 12 year
Lagavulin 16 year
Islands — soft/mild cheese pairing
Water crackers

Talisker 10 year
Talisker 30 year
Jura 10 year
Jura 16 year
Jura Superstition
Jura Prophecy
Highlands — semi-sweet pairing
Pears w/ honey
Red grapes
Milk chocolate

Dalmore 15 year
Dalmore 18 year
Dalmore King Alexander
Ardmore Traditional Cask
Glen Garioch Founders Reserve
Glen Garioch 12 year
Balblair 1997 (12 year)
Macallen 12 year
Oban 14 year
Speyside / Sherried — sweet/dark chocolate pairing
Fresh figs w/ goat cheese & peppered honey
Dark chocolate
Sea-salt caramels

Glenrothes 1995 (15 year)
Glenrothes Editor’s Cask
The Balvenie 21 year portwood finish
Glenfiddich 15 year
Glenfiddich 18 year
The Balvenie 12 year doublewood
The Balvenie 17 year peated cask
Auchroisek 20 year
Craggenmore 12 year
Cragganmore 21 year
Glen Spey 21 year
Glenlivet 25 year

Did we survive the evening?? Stay tuned…


Free bird Tuesday, Dec 13 2011 

Why, hello there!
I bet you forgot this blog existed. I know I did. And lord knows the home bar inventory has exploded since it was last updated…

But guess what? I just left my desk job at the Chicago Tribune to become a free agent (!), which means a lot more time to work on the things I love — including detailed musings about cocktails, spirits & their lore.

As for the blog: Needless to say, I have fallen terribly behind on updates regarding its M.O., the Central Park Cocktail Club, which for the record had an impressively productive 2011. I am proud of us. This Friday marks our December meeting, which will focus on something that, prior to all of the research I’ve done today, I knew very little about: SCOTCH.

These books have been super-useful, by the way, especially the top one, Charles MacLean’s Great Whiskeys (Dorling Kindersley), which I wrote a blurb about last summer when it was released.

Currently on my scotch spreadsheet (yes, I made a spreadsheet) are 46 iterations from almost as many distilleries all over the world. All of this is for an article that no doubt will be pared down to only the most important kernels of information, but that’s what blogs are for: behind-the-scenes junk.

More to come soon…and I do mean soon-soon. Not, like, months from now, but probably days from now. No joke.