“Too much of good whisky is barely enough”. Mark Twain
I went to the HopScotch Grand Tasting Hall event in Vancouver last night: quite an adventure. There were over 250 samples of beer, scotch, spirits (vodka, bourbon, rum, et cetera), and food. My wife came along, probably to ensure I didn’t attempt to try all the samples available…
I was only interested in malt whisky and most of the familiar distilleries were there (Ardbeg, Aberlour, Balvenie, Benriach, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Cragganmore, Dalmore, Dalwhinnie, Glendronach, Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Glenkinchie, Glenlivet, Glenmorangie, Highland Park, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Macallun, Oban, Springback, Talasker, et cetera). Even though I planned to be well below the legal limit for driving, I never drive after drinking any amount of alcohol: we used the transit system to get there and back (SkyTrain and bus).
There was an incredible mass of people at the event, all well behaved (there were a few slightly ’wobbly’ individuals, but this was a tasting event, not a guzzling competition).
My initial goal was to sample five single-malt scotches, but I eventually decided to try a blended Indian whiskey and three single malt scotches: Amrut Fusion (the Indian blended whisky), Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or, Highland Park 18 Year Old, and Ardbeg Uigeadail.
My tasting notes:
Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or. A 15 YO scotch that is first matured for a minimum of 10 years in ex-bourbon casks, and then is finished in hand-selected Sauternes wine casks. Glenmorangie is a very popular distillery in Scotland.
Colour: Gold (of course)
Nose: Honey-wine, peaches, and orange/lime/citrus tones
Palate: full and deep; fruit-wine, citrus, sweet-vanilla.
Finish: long and smooth: warm honey, fruit.
$88 in B.C. Liquor Stores.
The influence from the Sauternes casks is delivered wonderfully: a sumptuous experience. I closed my eyes and felt like a decadent gentleman lounging in his private study enjoying a dram. A very satisfying sample to set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Highland Park 18 YO.
Color: Pale gold
Nose: Sherry and honey, sweet fruit, coffee, some smooth peat and campfire smoke, sea air, and delicate floral notes.
Palate: starts out quite dry and vanilla-oaky, but submits to its sherry-oak influence. Delicious sweet notes of honey, a hint of salt (reminiscent of sea air), some peat, and pleasant campfire smoke.
Finish: very smooth smoky peat, ending with a slight honey- fruitiness
$150 in B.C. Liquor Stores
This scotch is outside my price range (unless I discover a roll of bills in an old pair of pants), but it was a treat to have the opportunity to sample it.
Amrut Fusion: an Indian whisky that is a ‘fusion’ of Scottish peated malt (25%) and unpeated Indian malt (75%). The two malts are mashed and distilled apart, and then married in American oak barrels where the whisky is left to mature for three to five years. The hot climate in India is thought to drive whisky maturation quicker than that experienced in Scotland (some believe it matures more than twice as quickly). Interestingly, due to the heat, the ‘angel’s share’ (the amount lost to evaporation) can be as high as twelve percent.
Nose: Strong: exotic sweets and spices, vanilla, subtle smoke.
Palate: Figs, spices, coffee, dark chocolate, a wisp of smoke. This whisky is a bit of a kick-in-the-pants (similar in tone to Nikka‘s from the barrel, but with a definite Indian flavour).
Finish: medium, citrus/orange.
$85 in B.C. Liquor Stores
An intriguing whiskey; quite different than my expectations.
Ardbeg Uigeadail. An Islay peated single malt that takes its name from Loch Uigeadail (Oog-a-dal), the source of the water used in the production of the whisky.
Colour: Deep amber
Nose: Complex: Peat, citrus, seashore
Palate: Salty, spicy, fruity; unbelievably intricate!
Finish: I imagined myself in the leather and smoke of a gentleman’s den, with the agreeable heat from the fire distributing the scents of salt, citrus and ginger.
A wonderful whisky; a bit salty for my tastes, but, given the opportunity to work past the salt through months of sampling a bottle, it might become a favourite; unfortunately, it’s outside my price-range, but it was an enjoyable experience!