Thursday, 27 January 2011

Robbie Burns Day [Belated]

   Happy Robbie Burns day (belated) to all.  As a special treat I shall recount my special evening with a few good friends at The Hunt.  I was cordially invited by a gracious couple (anuptowngal and wineguyTO), and their father-in-law to a special night with a tutored nosing and meal in honour of the Scottish poet Robbie Burns.

    The evening began with an address by The Hunt's very own Marcel Bregstein (the emcee for the evening and the club Sommelier), to the crowd.  Highland dancers followed, with traditional dancing and colourful outfits all lead in by a piper.  The piper then read the Address to A Haggis, and promptly had it distributed amongst the guests (small tastes only; sadly).  This being my second time having Haggis, I noted that this one seemed a wee bit on the dry side, but still quite excellent.  I am willing to admit that this is an acquired taste (and not one that I figured I would have acquired),  but it is quite delicious when prepared and splashed with a bit of Scotch.  Think of it like Kishka, a meat and meal sausage, made with heartier meat and a dash of blood.  Haggis is sheep's pick (heart, liver and lungs) mixed with onions, oats and spices all baked in a sheep's stomach.  Doesn't sound delicious?  If you think of it as eating a sausage, (a very rich and hearty sausage), it's quite delicious and makes for a very satisfying meal.

    The main guest was introduced next by the Sommelier.  Todd McDonald from PMA Canada, a 20 year veteran of scotch sales, on behalf of William Grants & Sons.  With him he brought a selection of Balvenie (12 Year old Doublewood and The 12 Year old Signature) and a selection of Glenfiddich samples (the LCBO available flight of 12-21 Years).  Being the proud owner of the entire flight (save the 18), this was not a blind tasting to yours truly.  We were treated to a visual tour of the Balvenie operation and explained how Scotch moves from grain to glass, through the distillation process.

  The beginning of the tastings started with the Balvenie 12 year old pair (Both the Doublewood and the Select Cask), which was to show us the difference in flavor between the two 12 year olds.  This expanded to include the Glenfiddich 12 to show the flavour comparison to it's sister distillery.  The 12 Select was sherry heavy casks, while the unique half and half maturation of both bourbon and sherry casks in the Doublewood was quite mild on the palate.  This was compared with the fresh and crisp flavours of the Glenfiddich 12 (lots of green apples, and sweet crisp malt).  We were enlightened to their particular methods of nosing whisky, some of which were a bit hard to wrap your head around.  Our speaker suggested that we water down the whisky to about 25% (oft called drowning a whisky), so that the aromas could easily escape the glass.  I let mine fly what was left of it's full colours (40% ABV isn't really much to call FULL colours).  Our taster was also an avid swirler, slightly teetering onto the aggressive hot tub swirling side.  I tried their method and ended up with one glass of wonderful aromas of honey and spice, but the spirit had become undrinkable as it was mostly water with a dash of whisky flavour.

    That aside, we carried on in our nosing class moving to the Glenfiddich 15 (the step up the line for those who seek richer notes than the 12).  This is a favourite of mine (having a wonderful blend of sherry, bourbon and fresh oak casks married together in a Solera vat), featuring a much richer malt note with lush sherry and honeycomb.  The marketing spiel of the Solera vat never being emptied was also dispelled at this time; noting that they build the flavour profile from the selected casks and then fill a vat; settle the whisky and bottle it all.  We then moved into the connoisseurs single malt (the Glenfiddich 18), which is comprised of 98% bourbon and 2% sherry.  An sharp whisky, not my favourite as the heavy wood notes dominate the palette, but still quite nice nonetheless.  Concluding with the 21 Year old Havana Cask (no longer called such in order to import to the US), which was a smooth and delicious finish to the tasting.  The demerara and rum notes sparkle through on the nose, and there is a fantastic scent of banana in the background which almost turn herbal (into banana leaf).  The smooth mouth feel and the long and sumptuous finish have made it a favourite of mine; so much so that I grabbed a bottle earlier this year.

  The dinner was fantastic; featuring spinach salad with a fantastic Glenlivet vinaigrette, Salmon in a champagne sauce with braised leeks, and finished with a whisky chocolate mousse and butterscotch ice cream.  Incredible evening with incredible friends, and a fantastic way to celebrate Mr. Burn's birthday.  I think I'll have to draft up some notes on the 21 year old in the future.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Presented without comment......

Glenfarclas Highland 40 year Old

Tasting notes to follow; in the future.... once the drooling stops.  I recently hit my overtime bonus, and decided to indulge myself.