Greetings! Mr Tattie Heid addresses you from the psychiatric wing of his local hospital. Ha ha! Not really. But I feel like it...and no doubt many of you will think that the appropriate address for me.
Some of you may recall that I reported a while back on my effort to cut down on alcoholic intake, and the unexpected psychological side effects. It seemed that on the nights when I did not drink, or drank very little, I was okay, but when I then engaged in an evening of "normal" drinking--say, three beers and two or three drams--I became edgy and depressed the next day. I wonder if anyone has ever had a similar experience. I am still struggling with this. Seasonal affect disorder may play a role as well, although I can't say for sure.
All of this to say that Victoria, as much fun as it was, really threw me for a loop. I'm afraid I was poor company my last two nights in Seattle for Ron and his marvelously tolerant posslq, although Ron is so laid back as to be perfectly oblivious, anyway. I have been on the wagon since I got home, and am to this moment feeling a bit wobbly. If I happen in the next days to say something stupid--I mean even stupider than usual--or start rambling incoherently about my mental health, as I seem to be doing right now, I hope you will forgive me.
Yes, Victoria. I went largely for social reasons, and it was absolutely marvelous to meet Lawrence, West Van Dave, Badmonkey, and Wendy. My greatest regret is that we all didn't have occasion to sit down together and just hang out. It seems we barely had time to shake hands and say hello, although I feel safe in reporting that they are all just great folks. You might even include Ron in that. I couldn't possibly comment.
I have three points to make about the Murray tasting.
1. Murray asked us to grade the whiskies the way he does, on a 25-point scale for nose, taste, finish, and balance. I could not and would not do this--it simply makes no sense to me. You could do the same thing for paintings, judging them on composition, color, light, and clarity. If The Night Watch rated 92 and Guernica 89, what would it mean? Absolutely nothing. I feel pretty much the same about whisky. Different whiskies please me for different reasons. A scoring system like this could never account for that.
I marked the whiskies to which I reacted negatively with a - , and those I liked with a + . Ones I liked a lot got ++ or +++. Iffy ones got a ~ . That's about as sophisticated as I can get.
2. Murray intended to make a point, even surprise us, that high-quality whisky does not necessarily mean single malt Scotch. Each whisky was tasted and rated blind, after which we were told what it was. Therefore, there could be no prejudice. And at the end of the day, I was able to confirm that I like single malt Scotch. The two bourbons I found unpleasant, and the two Canadians, very unpleasant--they tasted of witch hazel. The blend and the Irish I was indifferent to. The Six Isles was a mild + . The malts all got at least one + , except as noted below in point 3.
This is not a matter of having the attitude that Nick disparaged a while back, that "all malts are better than all blends [or whatever]". (God knows I've had a few bloody awful malts.) It's simply a matter of saying I like apples, and not oranges. Whiskies are made in different ways for different reasons. I will always try to keep an open mind to any whisky put in front of me, but on the whole, I feel more secure in saying that I know what interests me, and will never feel guilty or apologize for it again.
Incidentally, after this experience, I have absolutely no doubt that if Murray rates Teacher's 95 and Ardbeg 10 93, then he honestly believes that Teacher's is, by his criteria, marginally superior to Ardbeg 10. Needless to say, I don't share his criteria.
3. Fourteen whiskies was just way too many for me. Quite aside from the quantity of alcohol consumed and my current residence here in the loony bin--after all, I could have spit, and the total amount ingested couldn't have been more than about five or six ounces anyway--I simply couldn't taste them all in any remotely objective way. (Ignore for the moment my longstanding position that there is no such thing as an objective tasting.) When it was announced that #13 was Ardbeg 10, I was shocked, and certain that a mistake had been made. I know Ardbeg well, and this was not Ardbeg, or so I felt certain. #14 was Lagavulin 12, a malt I have enjoyed greatly, and I found it hideous, all smoke and harshness. I don't know of anyone else who had this experience, but for me, it was like watching a movie that has you going right up until a really bogus ending, which destroys any appreciation you might have had for the rest of the movie. I wouldn't say the end effect was that extreme, but I did at that point question all of my previous perceptions. Did I really think the Glenfiddich 18 was that good? I never did before. If I buy a bottle of BenRiach 20, will I think as highly of it as I did on first impression? Maybe those bourbons weren't so bad. Well, let's not get carried away! I think the palate fatigue was just at the very end, but it was very real.
I hope all this doesn't sound unduly negative--it was really quite an interesting experience, on the whole. I am only trying to be critical, in the broadest sense of the word. That's what we do with the drink itself, is it not?
Wendy, I'm sorry I didn't think to rescue your mat. I saw what you were doing and knew that you intended to keep it.
Fatigue overtook me on Saturday, and I didn't enjoy the consumer session as I ought to have--I just wasn't in a schmoozing mood. But on the whole, I will echo the sentiment that Lawrence and his crew did a marvelous job. It was my first such festival, and I have a better idea now of what to expect should I attend another. --If they ever let me out of this rubber room!