Not a member? - Register and login now.
All registered users can read our entire magazine archive.

Scotch Tasting Gone Wild - what order do I choose

Your tastes and our tastes are discussed here, so make sure you share your pleasures with us.

Scotch Tasting Gone Wild - what order do I choose

Postby WiskyB » Fri Oct 21, 2005 3:28 am

Hello all.

First off, thanks up front for helping me out. I've been surfin' the net for awhile & it's high time I settle in and start contributing to a message board.

Short version: I'm throwing "Scotchtoberfest 2005" & need to rank the tasting order of 14 bottles (!).

Explanation:
Even though I'm far from a scotch expert, last year I organized a little "Scotchtoberfest" (bring your own bottle & we taste) for my mostly non-Single Malt Scotch friends. I recieved suprisingly good feedback and a lot of scotch drinkers were born that night. It was the one party everyone talked about all year. So I'm doing it again this year. But now everyone & their brother wants in on the action. It's gotten a tad out of hand, but what am I going to do, tell the guy who wants to bring The Balvenie Port Wood 21 yr that we don't want him to come? There is even talk of printing Scotchtoberfest 2005 t-shirts. They look pretty bad-ass actually.

The Plan:
Obviously we can't expect to get much from tasting 12 scotches, so my plan is to break out into 2 groups. Each group tastes 6 scotches & picks their 2 favorites. Then we break for an hour our so & eat some dinner (Venison Stew), maybe some cheese or whatever, water, etc. The goal is to clean the palate and then reconvene and taste the final 4 as a group. We can vote if we feel the need but I don't know if that serves any purpose. Following the 'formal' tasting we'll break out & play around w/ whatever we want to taste twice (add water, different glassware, second taste, whatever), and eventually break into the cigars to close the evening. Does this sound like a workable plan? Any random suggestions are welcome, we are all relatively new to the scene, except for 2 or 3 of us.

What hints can you give me on order of tasting? I'm thinking Lagavoulin first, Balvenie Port Wood 21 last. Here's the Dirty Dozen.

Lagavoulin 16 Year Old
Laphroaig 15 Year Old
Scapa 12 Year Old
Caol Ila 18 Year Old
Highland Park 18 (!)
Cragganmore 12 Year Old
Aberlour a'bunadh, cask strength, no age statement
Macallan 12 Year Old
Deanston 17
Glenfiddich 18
Balvenie Port Wood 21

1) Lagavoulin 16 Year Old
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)
7)
8)
9)
10)
11)
12) Balvenie Port Wood 21
User avatar
WiskyB
New member
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri Oct 21, 2005 2:51 am
Location: Waterloo, Ontario and Grenada, Caribbean

Postby Lord_Pfaffin » Fri Oct 21, 2005 3:59 am

I'm thinking; unpeated then sherried followed by peated.
Lord_Pfaffin
Silver Member
 
Posts: 498
Joined: Sun Mar 27, 2005 10:54 pm
Location: Toronto

Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Oct 21, 2005 5:44 am

Yeah...who's going to taste anything after Lagavulin?

I suggest you make it a two-night gig, over two weekends if necessary. Work up to sherry one night, peat the next.

Night one:

Deanston 17
Cragganmore 12 Year Old
Macallan 12 Year Old
Balvenie Port Wood 21
Aberlour a'bunadh, cask strength, no age statement

Night two:

Scapa 12 Year Old
Glenfiddich 18
Highland Park 18
Caol Ila 18 Year Old
Laphroaig 15 Year Old
Lagavulin 16 Year Old

Or something like that.
Deactivated Member
 

Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Oct 21, 2005 5:47 am

...Funny how that #8 comes out.... Be sure to put a really cool dram there! 8)
Deactivated Member
 

2 nights = tough sell

Postby WiskyB » Fri Oct 21, 2005 5:55 am

I completely agree about the 2 nights thing. But I think it would be like herding cats to get several of the spouses (not mine :D ) to let their S.O. out of the house for a second evening. Come to think of it, half will be coming from over an hour away.

My workaround was to split things into 2 groups, each tries 6 (the magic number as per my reading) & vote 2 favorites. Then we break for an hour or more, eat, drink some water, etc. Then reconvene to try the best 4.

Do you think a palate might clear in an hour or so like this?
User avatar
WiskyB
New member
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri Oct 21, 2005 2:51 am
Location: Waterloo, Ontario and Grenada, Caribbean

How about something like this...

Postby WiskyB » Fri Oct 21, 2005 6:17 am

Maybe what I need is 2 lists (?) We would be limited to tasting 6 scotches, which is cool for a tasting, do the voting thing and break to eat a bunch of stew & dark chocolate. Then come back together to taste the 'best' 4 as 1 big group and call it a night.

But I must admit I'm totally lost on the order. I saw some good advice on a thread a couple weeks ago about the novice looking for 6 scotches for a tasting, but it's difficult (fun) to try to figure out what I'm dealing w/ and how to plan it out. What do people think about the most complex gets to go 3rd or 4th (I believe from Tom's suggestion in the aforementioned thread).


Group 1
Deanston 17
Macallan 12 Year Old
Aberlour a'bunadh, cask strength, no age statement
Glenfiddich 18
Caol Ila 18 Year Old
Laphroaig 15 Year Old

Group 2
Cragganmore 12 Year Old
Balvenie Port Wood 21
Scapa 12 Year Old
Highland Park 18
Lagavulin 16 Year Old
I'm missing one from the list... & I have to sleep, I'll check in tomorrow.
User avatar
WiskyB
New member
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri Oct 21, 2005 2:51 am
Location: Waterloo, Ontario and Grenada, Caribbean

Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Oct 21, 2005 12:11 pm

Personally, I find that after whisky no 3, my tasting ability deteriorates badly. I wonder whether it is fair on the sherry mosters and peat monsters to always be tasted at the end of a session. At home, I tend to pick one whisky and stick with it through the evening - two whiskies at the most.

The whiskies that you are proposing to taste all seem to be quite strongly flavoured. You might be better having some lighter ones. The ordering doesn't look quite right. Glenfiddich is sweet but quite light and wouldn't give much of itself after the a'Bunadh. I think the idea of having one group looking at the sherry and one looking at the peat is an excellent idea. The final session, though, is likely to have two sherry mosters and two peat monsters each trying to spoil the other. Your participants might prefer to finish the evening off just reprising their own group's favourites. Next time/next year you could reverse the groups and let the ones on the peat try the sherry and vice versa.

I hope the people travelling have made arrangements to avoid tasting and driving.
Deactivated Member
 

Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Oct 21, 2005 3:09 pm

Well, that's what the spouses are for, Nick! Somebody has to be sensible, and it's the measure of how foolish we men are that we always leave that up to women. (Try to work that logic out.)

I jest, of course...please don't hit me!

Yes, I like the the idea of having one group do sherry, and the other, peat. Let them sign up for whichever they want on a first-come, first-served basis. Or have them draw straws. And yes, the final tasting will be as ordered and sensible as the Battle of Harlaw, but I'll bet that no one much cares at that point. Maybe let each side report their findings, and then let each person try whatever he wants from the other group.
Deactivated Member
 

The plan

Postby WiskyB » Fri Oct 21, 2005 6:59 pm

OK, I think I'm going with the separate "sherried" and "peat" group approach. I would have never come up w/ that on my own. One guy switched his bottle of Deanston for Bunnahabhain. See if you agree w/ my updated lists:

Group one: Sherried
Cragganmore 12 Year Old (Isn't this a bit on the peaty side?)
Macallan 12 Year Old
Bunnahabhain
Balvenie Port Wood 21
Aberlour a'bunadh, cask strength, no age statement

Group two: Peaty
Scapa 12 Year Old (Isn't this a bit sweet?)
Glenfiddich 18
Highland Park 18
Caol Ila 18 Year Old
Laphroaig 15 Year Old
Lagavulin 16 Year Old


Most of all, we're going to have fun with this. I'm not going to be too anal about how people approach the tasting. It's a can't miss recipe for a fun evening. Thanks for the help. Oh, and as to the driving home thing... It's funny how it's rarely the people that have to drive an hour home that you need to worry about, they almost always make a good decision. It's the ones going across town that tend to be a problem. Fortuneately, I think I've talked everyone into staying over or having the aforementioned S.O.'s come pick them up.
User avatar
WiskyB
New member
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri Oct 21, 2005 2:51 am
Location: Waterloo, Ontario and Grenada, Caribbean

Postby Mr Fjeld » Fri Oct 21, 2005 7:49 pm

......but Balvenie 21 Portwood is finished in port wine casks/pipes and will differ from a "sherried" whisky. Bunnahabhain is matured in borboun casks isn't it?

Skål!
Christian
Mr Fjeld
Cask Strength Gold Member
 
Posts: 4249
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 2:08 pm

Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Oct 21, 2005 8:04 pm

Picky, picky. :roll: The idea is to work up the ladder in each case, so a bourbon-cask malt for starters would be okay. (And the Bunny should be in the number one position.) It provides the baseline. The Balvenie will fit in as a variant of fortified-wine-cask finishing.

On a similar note, one of the distilleries I visited recently told me they get all their American barrels from Jack Daniel's. Now, that's not really a bourbon cask, is it? But even Mr Picky isn't going to hold them accountable for that.
Deactivated Member
 

Postby Mr Fjeld » Fri Oct 21, 2005 8:10 pm

Picky?
It wasn't meant as criticism but rather an effort to be helpfull. If you're a beginner and asks for help on "sherried" whisky would you suggest the Balvenie 21 and Bunnahabhain?
Your point has relevance but then it would be better to suggest peated and unpeated whisky as categories wouldn't you think.
Skål!
Christian
Mr Fjeld
Cask Strength Gold Member
 
Posts: 4249
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 2:08 pm

Hmmm...

Postby WiskyB » Fri Oct 21, 2005 8:26 pm

Perhaps you can educate me a little, why would it be a problem to taste port finished scotch side by side w/ a sherry finished scotch? Or are you just hinting at a different order within the group? True enough that they are finished differently, but I'm painting in broad strokes. I have to work with what people are bringing. I unfortuneately don't have the flexibility to split things infinitely (i.e. to separate sherry finished scotches & port finished scotches). Actually, I seriously doubt we'd even know if we mixed sherry & port finishes. The main thing I'm trying to do is to not mess up the whole evening with the "wrong" order or arrangement. We can't just blow through 12 scotches, but 6 seems pretty manageable. I just want to present the tasting in a logical order & approach.

The big issues are to define 2 groups, which 6 scotches to put with each group, and in what order. Peaty & sherried was one idea. Another thought I had was to have 2 similar groups, but split similar bottles between the two. For example, one group would get Lagavoulin and the other would get Laphroaig.
User avatar
WiskyB
New member
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri Oct 21, 2005 2:51 am
Location: Waterloo, Ontario and Grenada, Caribbean

Re: Hmmm...

Postby Mr Fjeld » Fri Oct 21, 2005 8:49 pm

Hi WiskyB :)
WiskyB wrote:Perhaps you can educate me a little, why would it be a problem to taste port finished scotch side by side w/ a sherry finished scotch?

It isn't really a problem. I was merely suggesting that it would be slightly incorrect to make people believe they are eating apples when they in fact are having pears. I'm not at all "fixed" on categories but I thought you were looking for two distinct categories with corresponding "typical" whiskies. If anything I would suggest that the "category" was renamed. Just an idea.
I just want to present the tasting in a logical order & approach.

The proposals in this thread are very good and qualified and I cannot add to their expertise.

Enjoy the tasting!

Skål!
Christian
Mr Fjeld
Cask Strength Gold Member
 
Posts: 4249
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 2:08 pm

Postby Admiral » Sat Oct 22, 2005 1:00 pm

why would it be a problem to taste port finished scotch side by side w/ a sherry finished scotch?


It would be no problem at all! Both whiskies will have a winey sweetness infused into the malt, and there's no reason at all why you couldn't have them together.

I think your idea of splitting into peated versus unpeated (where admittedly, almost all the unpeated whiskies also happen to be sherried/port finished whiskies) is a good one. Each group will be able to pick the best two of their range having kept things in the same context. When you all re-convene, you'll all be drinking the "best of the best!". The only problem will be deciding which of the first two groups to be in.

Oktoberfest is all about having fun. Scotchtoberfest should be similar! :D I agree.....let's not get anal about this, let's just taste some great whiskies; enjoy the festivities; and appreciate the like-minded company.
Admiral
Triple Gold Member
 
Posts: 2722
Joined: Wed Jan 08, 2003 2:01 am
Location: Australia

The Aftermath... Lessons from Scotchtoberfest 2005

Postby WiskyB » Sun Oct 30, 2005 7:33 pm

First off, a big shout-out to Admiral & everyone else who helped out. The evening was an unbelievable success & everyone had a great time. In 2 short years I've seen at least a dozen people (including myself) go from 'typical guy scotch drinker' to being somewhat refined in our scotch tastes. It's like wine tasting for guys.

It's been said that plan A never survives first contact w/ the enemy. I emphatically promoted the idea of holding separate groups for the tasting, something that the group did *not* want to hear. Eventually I convinced them to at least separate the two groups of bottles & alternate the bottle tasting, group 1, group 2, group 1, etc. At least we'd have the option to stick w/ one group. Most people did in fact try to go w/ one group, up until people started comparing the experience of tasting bottles such as Caol Ila 18 as being superior to sex. Then everyone just HAD to try it, and then the groups broke down. For the record, it was a damn fine scotch, but I wouldn't go THAT far.

I found that our palates were remarkably resilient if we didn't drink a lot of each scotch. In fact, I could taste everything pretty well right up to the point that we broke out the Lagavoulin, then all bets were off. I think you could burn through a LOT of different 'non-peaty' scotches & retain good tasting ability. But try Laphroaig followed by Lagavoulin & you're done.

The other remarkable thing is that we didn't even come close to finding a 'best' scotch. There were a half dozen bottles that were simply awesome, but that did something completely unique. For example, "The Bunny" had a superb flavor & a long finish with little 'harshness'. Not a lot of complexity, but a perfect scotch for sippin' on the deck (perhaps w/ a good cigar) talking to some good buds on a summer evening. The Caol Ila was amazingly complex, and had a mouth feel that was just incredible. But those complex scotches really forced you to concentrate on what was going on. It was a little exhausting on the palate. It was great, but different than The Bunny.

Once again, thanks for the help w/ the drink order, we would have certainly messed things up w/o your help. Actually people started lining up bottles on their own until I regulated a bit. Disaster averted.

The moral of the story is that anyone can run a remarkably good tasting event. Just come up w/ some creative emails, hype it, and then have "well motivated" people show up w/ their bottle for the tasting. I've found that requiring the purchase of a bottle over $45 guarantees 'motivated' participants. It really runs itself. If you can come up w/ cool stories for each scotch (what my girlfriend refers to as scotch 'foreplay') then all the better.

WiskyB

:D
User avatar
WiskyB
New member
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri Oct 21, 2005 2:51 am
Location: Waterloo, Ontario and Grenada, Caribbean

Re: The Aftermath... Lessons from Scotchtoberfest 2005

Postby Spirit of Islay » Sun Oct 30, 2005 8:21 pm

WiskyB wrote:....go from 'typical guy scotch drinker' to being somewhat refined in our scotch tastes.

you'll now be the odd one out on this forum..... :lol:

Congrats on a good tasting , glad it went well .
User avatar
Spirit of Islay
Triple Gold Member
 
Posts: 2537
Joined: Sat Dec 14, 2002 2:01 am
Location: Usually somewhere with Whisky......

Postby Admiral » Sun Oct 30, 2005 9:26 pm

In fact, I could taste everything pretty well right up to the point that we broke out the Lagavulin

But try Laphroaig followed by Lagavulin & you're done.


:D You can imagine the challenge our tastebuds had when the first meeting of the Australian branch of the Islay Whisky Club took place.

There before us on the table were six different expressions of Laphroaig, two of Lagavulin, three Ardbegs, two Caol Ilas, two Bowmores, a Longrow and a heavily peated Jura.

Try picking the bones out of that!!! :D

Glad you had a great night!

Cheers,
Admiral
Admiral
Triple Gold Member
 
Posts: 2722
Joined: Wed Jan 08, 2003 2:01 am
Location: Australia

Re: Scotch Tasting Gone Wild - what order do I choose

Postby patrick dicaprio » Mon Oct 31, 2005 1:26 am

WiskyB wrote:Hello all.

First off, thanks up front for helping me out. I've been surfin' the net for awhile & it's high time I settle in and start contributing to a message board.

Short version: I'm throwing "Scotchtoberfest 2005" & need to rank the tasting order of 14 bottles (!).

Explanation:
Even though I'm far from a scotch expert, last year I organized a little "Scotchtoberfest" (bring your own bottle & we taste) for my mostly non-Single Malt Scotch friends. I recieved suprisingly good feedback and a lot of scotch drinkers were born that night. It was the one party everyone talked about all year. So I'm doing it again this year. But now everyone & their brother wants in on the action. It's gotten a tad out of hand, but what am I going to do, tell the guy who wants to bring The Balvenie Port Wood 21 yr that we don't want him to come? There is even talk of printing Scotchtoberfest 2005 t-shirts. They look pretty bad-ass actually.

The Plan:
Obviously we can't expect to get much from tasting 12 scotches, so my plan is to break out into 2 groups. Each group tastes 6 scotches & picks their 2 favorites. Then we break for an hour our so & eat some dinner (Venison Stew), maybe some cheese or whatever, water, etc. The goal is to clean the palate and then reconvene and taste the final 4 as a group. We can vote if we feel the need but I don't know if that serves any purpose. Following the 'formal' tasting we'll break out & play around w/ whatever we want to taste twice (add water, different glassware, second taste, whatever), and eventually break into the cigars to close the evening. Does this sound like a workable plan? Any random suggestions are welcome, we are all relatively new to the scene, except for 2 or 3 of us.

What hints can you give me on order of tasting? I'm thinking Lagavoulin first, Balvenie Port Wood 21 last. Here's the Dirty Dozen.

Lagavoulin 16 Year Old
Laphroaig 15 Year Old
Scapa 12 Year Old
Caol Ila 18 Year Old
Highland Park 18 (!)
Cragganmore 12 Year Old
Aberlour a'bunadh, cask strength, no age statement
Macallan 12 Year Old
Deanston 17
Glenfiddich 18
Balvenie Port Wood 21

1) Lagavoulin 16 Year Old
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)
7)
8)
9)
10)
11)
12) Balvenie Port Wood 21


"Scotchtoberfest"??!! are you a fan of The Simpsons?? they made a joke about a scotchtoberfest on an episode.

Pat
patrick dicaprio
Silver Member
 
Posts: 298
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2005 3:22 am

Simpsons Rock

Postby WiskyB » Mon Oct 31, 2005 5:11 am

I love the Simpsons, but I must have missed that episode. Let me guess, Scotchtoberfest "works on so many levels". I forget how the name came up. We may have been drinking... Everyone wants to do it more than once a year, so we may have to do "malt madness" in March.

Holy wah Admiral, if you can get too much of a good thing you must have been close that night.
User avatar
WiskyB
New member
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri Oct 21, 2005 2:51 am
Location: Waterloo, Ontario and Grenada, Caribbean

Postby Admiral » Mon Oct 31, 2005 7:13 am

Holy wah Admiral, if you can get too much of a good thing you must have been close that night.


You have no idea! :wink: :D :lol:

(I only mentioned the whiskies I could remember!! :twisted: There were at least 8 or 9 other bottles on the table too! )

Cheers,
Admiral
Admiral
Triple Gold Member
 
Posts: 2722
Joined: Wed Jan 08, 2003 2:01 am
Location: Australia

Return to Whisky Tastings

Whisky gift and present finder