Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Armsby Abbey - mmmm good

Prior to the Scotch dinner last Friday evening, we stopped in at Julio's Liquor to take a look around. I have to admit, it's a sick collection of fine beers and whiskey, enough to cause some minor hyperventilating when I walked inside. It was approaching the lunch hour so we asked Tom, one of Julio's very qualified beer experts for a recommendation and he advised we check out Armsby Abbey in Worcester.

Armsby Abbey come to find out is one slick eatery offering a menu comprised of incredibly delicious selections made from farm fresh ingredients; much of it sourced locally. That's the cake. The frosting is the superb beer selection to pair up with any of the great menu selections.

Back many years ago I did quite a bit of overseas travel with numerous trips through the middle east. That's where I learned to love hummus. Outside of my foodie experiences overseas, the hummus I've had here in the States is good, but not great. Ordering the hummus appetizer at Armsby Abbey resulted in a surprise; some of the best hummus I've ever had with a perfectly balanced mix of olive oil, garlic and lemon. The chickpeas were not mixed to a creamy mash but had a good consistency to it. I paired the appetizer with a Heady Topper brew. Not being a fan of hoppy beers this one was very nice with huge, fresh cut grapefruit on the nose and a very good balance of hops.

The menu description for my lunch selections was "Slow Roasted100% Grass-Fed Adams Farm Beef, Homemade Horseradish-Bleu Cheese Aoli, Roasted Sweet Onions, Bacon Vinaigrette dressed Arugula served on Homemade toasted Baguette"......hungry yet? I paired my sandwich with an pretty tasty Belgium Quad, Straffe Hendrick. Both were very enjoyable.

If you find yourself anywhere near Worcester Mass.....do yourself a favor and drop in and visit Armsby Abbey, it's worth the trip.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Drink Whisky....Skin That Cat

This past weekend I made a short flight from Dulles International to Logan Airport in Boston to attend Julio's Liquor Go Whiskey Weekend. This is an annual event that spans a couple of days. This year, Ryan Maloney, event host and Julio's owner added a kick off dinner on Friday evening.

I arrived a little early with a buddy of mine and we were dressed business casual (well, business casual light) sporting dockers and a golf shirt. Other male attendees....Kilts, bow ties and knee high socks. To be honest, they looked rather sporting.

Within a couple minutes of arriving, bagpipes flared up and dominated the space. Fun fact, bagpipes have to be warmed up before formally playing which is probably why Ryan Maloney yells out within a couple of minutes "isn't that cat skinned yet?"

Let's talk about whiskey. Scotch whisky. The featured guest was Fred Laing from Douglas Laing and Co. Ltd. Featured that evening were a string of selections from their line of Douglas and Old Malt Casks. The lineup was as follows:

The Arran 13 year Old Malt Cask - cask strength with understated peat, summer fruit, honeysuckle and mild spice on the finish. Very nice.

Bowmore 11 year 100 pf - Very pale in color, peat and smoke in moderation (maybe a wee more than I like), oak presence on the back of the palate. Not bad.

Mortlach 18 year - A Speyside that exhibited fruity nose, a touch fungal, earthy with very mild peat. Sweet on the palate. (note: Speyside is the backbone of Johnny Walker Black).

Rosebank 20 year cask 111.2 pf - pale golden color, sweet fruit notes on the nose that pops on entry with a creamy compliment. Well balanced, long finish. A real nice offering. I picked up a bottle of this.

Macallan 33 year 92 pf - unlike most Macallan's, this whisky was aged in bourbon hogshead giving this selection a very bourbon like quality. Honey, vanilla, mild oak dominated this lush and silky smooth pour. Simply delicious with a long lingering finish. Out of my price range....too bad.

Glen Grant 36 year Cognac finish 100 pf- this Speyside selection was finished in Spanish Brandy casks. Dark fruits, sweet entry with brandy undertones throughout made this a very enjoyable pour. Very smooth with a long finish.

Clan Denny 50 year single grain 103 pf - This particular Scotch at 50 years old had to be re-barreled three times over the course of it's maturation. When I asked what grain, the answer was "corn or wheat". Profile exhibited lush qualities of toffee, vanilla, brown sugar. Back in 1961, these single grain mashbills were used as blending agents. This particular whisky was very light in color considering its age, had a deep long finish with bourbon like qualities. Very well balanced considering its age. Not for sale and even if it was, I'd have to sell a kidney to afford.

The evening ended with a retreat to the cigar lounge for a stogie and conversation. A good start to a great weekend. More to come.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Greenore 8 year single grain - blind tasting

This is the first in a series of posts I'll be doing on Irish Whiskey. My fellow enthusiasts primarily indulge in all things bourbon or rye. In an effort to broaden their whiskey tasting experience, I volunteered to host a virtual Irish tasting that encompasses 8 different selections. My picks span a broad range of Irish expressions (as much as I could with only 8 selections) in order to give the tasters a good experience.

All these tastings are conducted double blind. So there's no confusion, that means each participant receives 8 bottles simply labeled with a number; they know it's Irish but that's it.

The tasting panel spans drinkers who are hardcore bourbon and rye drinkers and those that dabble or delve into other whiskeys like Scotch or Irish.

Greenore comes from Cooley distillery and is the only single grain Irish Whiskey in production. BTI scored this one a 91-Exceptional. Additionally, this whiskey won a double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2008/2009 coupled with a best in class & gold medal at the 2009 IWSC. I chose this one due to the fact it was single grain and age stated.

Here's how the group rated this particular whiskey

95-100 Classic Whiskey 0
90-94 Excellent Whiskey 1
85-89 Very Good, Above Average Whiskey 1
80-84 Average Whiskey 4
75-79 Fair Whiskey 2
74 and Under - Pass on This Whiskey 1

Some comments from the panel:

"Very little flavor overall and would be a good drink for a non drinker. Taste like water."

"Does not really fit the profile I had of an Irish whiskey; I might had thought I was sampling a Canadian whiskey."

"Soft and creamy mouth feel but does not coat the palate. Tons of sweet fruit. Beautiful flavor that transitions very well front to back."

"This is my first go at Irish so I have no idea what this is but I wouldn't kick it off the bar."

"Clean and bright. Good flavor on entry that exhibits nut, fruit and a touch of citrus and honey"

The whiskey is available in most retail that carry a broad base of whiskies. Comes in 750ml bottle and runs about $45. For those that like bruiser pours, this one isn't it. If you can appreciate a finer more delicate dram, this one may please.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dark Side Monday

My company gave me the day off yesterday which provided a good excuse to conduct a little tasting. A good friend of mine has poo poo'd Scotch for quite a few years being a big fan of bourbon. During a recent trip to Florida, he was introduced to two Scotch's that turned his head ever so slightly; Highland Park 12 year and Glenlivet Nadurra. The light bulb went off and he found out that not all Scotch is loaded down with peat and smoke. Surprise!

So, as a way to reinforce his new found interest, I suggested a little Scotch tasting to kill some time.

Most of the selections encompassed Highland region offerings with a Speyside and Lowland thrown in for good measure. Absent from the selections was any Single Malt Islay's. That peaty maritime flavor profile is a real turnoff.

Over the course of the afternoon, we sipped on the following:

Johnny Walker Blue - The high end blend from JW that is heavy in Islay with Speyside blended in to add balance. A good whiskey with low levels of peat and smoke.

Glenlivet Nadurra Speyside- Amber color, nose piled high with fruit. Entry is honeysuckle, citrus (orange?), very bourbon like in the profile; makes sense since it is aged in used bourbon barrels.

Rosebank 14 year Cask Strength Lowland- What a fantastic expression. Heavier peat influence but not overly done. Again, fruit and malt on the nose but more muted than some of the highlands. I like this one.

Glenmorangie Nectar d 'Or Highland- Great nose of spice and fruit. Entry is sweet/tart with spice, cream and dark fruits. Somewhat complex and interesting pour. I like again.

Glenmorangie Sonalta PX Highland - This is one of my favorites. Big fruit and spice on the entry and just a hint of smoke in the background. Profile is well rounded and engaging. Like again.

Macallan Cask Strength Highland - Big daddy profile, bold fruit and sherry right up front. Reminds me of Aberlour A'bunadh another cask strength sherry bomb but just not as bomb-y. Candied fruits, hints of chocolate and fruitcake. Like!

Macallan 18 year Fine Oak Highland - Not as sweet as the cask strength and the fruit profile is lighter. Sherry is in check and balanced overall. This is one I could drink all day long. Very elegant whiskey, easy to drink and full flavored. Like Like!

The Arran Malt Cask Strength Island - This one I picked up a year or so ago for a heck of a deal at $35 a bottle closeout. This whiskey is finished in cream sherry casks. The entry is spicey, with traces of salt, malt, bitter chocolate and a undercurrent sweetness. This is NAS but it drinks very nice. Like!

Balvenie 14 year Caribbean Cask Highland - I consider this one a crowd pleaser. Drinks very nice, fruity, with hints of dark sugar (Rum!), cooking spice and wood. Yah, I like.

Balvenie 15 year Singularity No. 66 Highland - The single barrel selection is called Singularity because according to the store that picked this barrel, they were the first to be able to pick a private barrel for bottling and they will be the last. Don't know if that true or not but who cares because this whiskey is freakin delicious. Summer fruits on the palate, mild spice and deep long finish. This one is double like.

Tomatin 1988 private selection Highland - This bottling was done for a private group and was not available retail. The color was very light, the nose reminded me of fruit salad. The entry was big on tropical fruit. This was surprised me and quickly made it's way to the top of the tasting. Big time like.

McClelland's Highland SMSW - This one was similar in nature to the other Highland offerings exhibiting fruit, spice and malt. This particular selection was above average but there were others I liked much better.

Cardhu 12 year Speyside - More malt that some of the other selections, moderate spice and average in experience. It was good but that was it. Nothing too engaging about this one.

Edradour Marsala Finish 10 year Cask Midland - This one is interesting in that it's kind of a mix between Highland and Lowland, thus Midland. Very light in color but the entry is big fruit, moderate spice, citrus with a creamy undertone.

Tasting through all of these selections, there were some that exhibited mild amounts of peat but most all of them had fruity profiles that ranged from mild to bold. While I'll always be a fan of bourbon, other whiskies are certainly getting my attention. I see Scotch as a slippery slope over the long term.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

More Whiskey Fun.....

I know it's been a while since I posted but it's the busy time of year for me and unfortunately, Bourbon Dork had to take a back seat for a spell.

In the coming months I have a couple activities that I'll be posting about. First up, I just kicked off a virtual Irish Whiskey tasting. This will be a double blind tasting with the first reviews due this coming Sunday. I'll be posting results as we progress. I sent out 8 samples so it will be interesting to see what a bunch of bourbon loving hounds think about Irish.

On February 24-26th, I'll be up in Boston attending Julio's Liquor Go Whiskey Weekend. Friday evening I'll be attending the Scotch tasting dinner that will feature a number of fine Scotch selections that includes a 1987 OMC Bowmore, Macallan 33 year and a Glen Grant 36 yr Brandy cask finish just to name a few. Saturday evening will be a meet and greet with various Scottish and American Distillers and then Sunday afternoon is the Grand Tasting featuring 200 Whiskies from around the world with over 20 Master Distillers in attendance to discuss the various selections. Should be a fun time. I'm going to have to pace myself in order to make my flight that evening.

The group's gearing up for our April trip to Bourbon Mecca, Bardstown KY for our spring 2012 barrel picks. We'll be visiting Buffalo Trace to select at least two Old Weller Antique barrels, Kentucky Bourbon Distillers and Four Roses. Last year was our kick off year and we had a great time. This year the group is even larger so I expect more of the same.

Today the Bowman barrel pick was bottled from our selection last October. I expect to have my allocation in the bunker within a month or less. I'll post tasting notes once I have it in hand.

It's gonna be a good spring.